Sunday, March 31, 2013

An Update to My January 13, 2012 blog post

We all know what happened to the Hogs after that post, and Dad and Jean are doing fine.  My clock is ticking along, and Nathan enjoys winding it when he’s here (as I did when I was at Granny and Gramp’s).


The update:

In that post, I referenced “St. Stephen’s Tower”, the famous bell tower in London at the Palace of Westminster which houses Big Ben (the bell, and the clock which went with it).


The tower was named for St. Stephen upon its construction following the devastating fire that destroyed the original Palace in 1834.  It remained so until 2012 (after my blog post).

For only the second time in the history of the Palace of Westminster (the seat of Parliament, Britain’s democratically elected government), a part of the building has been named for a monarch.

The tower is now the Elizabeth Tower, named for Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II.  (The first time, the much larger tower on the other end was named the Victoria Tower after Her Majesty Queen Victoria).  It’s the only public monument Elizabeth has allowed them to rename for her, and it was an historic move on the part of Parliament.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary,  Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith

In my opinion, well-deserved.  I’ve always loved the Royals, and the Queen is my favourite.  She has made very few mis-steps since coming to the throne at a very early age, following the death of her father.  She is roughly the same age as my mother, and I have always been a fan.

During her reign, the Queen has logged countless miles and hours visiting all parts of the world; she sponsors over 600 charities; at age 86 she keeps an appointment calendar of over 430 engagements per year; she presided over the breakup of the British Empire and the formation of the Commonwealth; she is one of the most popular monarchs in history.

In two years, she will surpass Queen Victoria and become the longest-reigning monarch in the History of Britain.

Her actual birthday is April 21, so Your Majesty, just in case you happen to be reading this, Happy Birthday!  and many more! 

Three cheers for Her Majesty the Queen!

Hip Hip, Hoorah!
Hip Hip, Hoorah!
Hip Hip, Hoorah!

God save our gracious Queen
Long live our noble Queen
God save the Queen
Send her victorious
Happy and glorious
Long to reign over us
God save the Queen

O Lord our God arise
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall
Confound their politics
Frustrate their knavish tricks
On Thee our hopes we fix
God save us all

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour
Long may she reign
May she defend our laws
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Roses 2013







Sunday, March 17, 2013

Random Memories Recently Revisited

It’s no secret that I love Disneyland.  Growing up, it was the Holy Grail for my generation (all pre-Walt Disney World).  We all grew up glued to the set watching the Mickey Mouse Club (we all had Mouse-Ka-Ears, they were available at every dimestore and Grannie could usually be counted on to come through with stuff like that, whereas Mother was a tougher sell). 

Of course, Sunday night, the whole family settled in (at 6:00 or 6:30, earlier than usual “prime time”) to watch “Walt Disney Presents The Wonderful World of Color”.  NOW, having researched, I know that Walt wanted to make a deal to broaden the appeal of Disneyland and prep the world for Walt Disney World and especially EPCOT (not the theme park we now know, but Walt’s “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”, Walt’s grand attempt at urban planning, which was scrapped after his death).  Walt wanted a better TV deal, and David Sarnoff was looking for ways to sell his RCA color TV sets, so Walt Disney presented the “Wonderful World of Color”.  It was a great show; we all loved it.

So Disneyland was a symbol for my generation, and a powerful one at that.  Even Mother and Dad had grown up watching the exploits of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald Duck (my personal favorite—as the current Disney stuff calls him, “The Original Angry Bird”).


On my last trip to Disneyland, I was doing my usual thing of wandering aimlessly (Fastpasses secured?  Yep.  Food?  Yep.).  I don’t like to get TOO planned; yes, you have your Fastpass times, and yes, I do tend to ride Soarin’ Over California multiple times at a sitting—but otherwise, I like to drift.  I’ll plan the major ones, but in between I like the Enchanted Tiki Room and the Jungle Cruise and the Haunted Mansion and, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean. 

So I was drifting down Main Street, USA, and of course the music was playing in the background.  A tune played, and played again as the loop repeated; I wound up hearing it multiple times in the course of one day.

It stuck with me.  I knew I knew it; it was from a movie, and one specific to the 1890’s, the era of Main Street, USA.  Which movie?  Couldn’t place it.  Hummed it to myself on the plane home.  Couldn’t get it out of my brain.

I turned to my standby expert on all things Disney, Nathan.  Sure enough, he came up with it on a Youtube video of “Main Street USA music loop” (the song in question starts at 5:25). 

And there in the comments was the explanation:  “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” from Hello, Dolly!  Hello, Dolly!, of course, was set in the 1890’s, and it was made into a movie, so yes, I had that part right.


Today, being lazy and bored, I decided to check and see if the movie version of Hello, Dolly! was available to watch.  It is, Amazon Prime, free.

Watched it. 

The last time I saw that movie was in the theater with my Mother and Dad (I think that is the last time we ever went to a movie together, the whole family).

Despite the all-star cast (Gene Kelly directed!  La Streisand, then the hottest "mainstream" singer in the US and commanding huge salaries for movies, starred; Walter Matthau (?!) in a movie musical!  The incomparable Louis Armstrong playing “Louis”, the bandleader at the Harmonia Gardens restaurant!), and the 7 (seven!) Academy Award nominations, the movie was a big flop. 

First, the era of the "Grand American Musical" was just about over.  The "Studio System" which had produced them had broken up.   Vietnam was raging, rock music was "in", "...the times, they are a-changin'" sang Bob Dylan.  The grand downtown movie palaces were closing or showing porn.  The suburban movie theaters (maybe like the "General Cinema 1 and 2”, featuring a large theater and a small one) (General Cinema logos I grew up with) were being cut up into "Behind the Mall Cinema 16", a la Hot Springs, with tiny shoebox theaters and an aisle down the middle.  NOBODY wanted to go to the movies any more and they declined.

Second, the musical moviegoing public had literally grown up with Carol Channing in the role of Dolly Levi; the casting of Streisand was just so sacrilegious that America stayed away in droves.  It flopped.

Watching it today, (and it really wasn’t all that great, not compared with My Fair Lady or The Sound of Music or Singin in the Rain or many others), of course I was delighted with the “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” number. 

THEN I got to trying to figure out who the young actor playing the part of Cornelius Hackl (who sang “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” along with an ensemble including Streisand).  I knew I’d seen him in something else?  What.  Was.  It. ?

The young actor was a typical struggling actor; British; made enough off Hello, Dolly! to survive—until he lost all the money in bad investments.  He and his wife worked as upholsterers at one point, then he landed a role on a British soap opera that made his acting career “ok”.  He went on to moderately good success on stage and the occasional screen role.

He had a vocal coach, and continued with his lessons.  One of the coach’s other students was a Bright young star in her own light, and had a famous husband, who was a real cool Cat.  They arrived early for one of her lessons and heard the no-longer-young singer’s voice lesson.

The husband was casting for his latest stage-production/musical.  He was coming off an impressive string of smash hits.  He had seen the actor before in various productions and immediately cast him.

And that’s how the young actor/singer who sang, “Put on Your Sunday Clothes” in Hello, Dolly!, Michael Crawford, came to be cast in and originate the role of “The Phantom” in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, a role he reprised on Broadway (where I saw him) and Los Angeles.

Neat, huh?


Sarah Brightman (then Mrs. Andrew Lloyd Webber) and Michael Crawford, OBE, in Phantom of the Opera

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I Have Finally Said “Goodbye” to Little Rock

Having lived there for years, and having gone there literally all my life, I’ve always considered Little Rock/Central Arkansas “Home”.  No matter where life has taken me, I’ve always felt rooted there.  I lived in both Malvern and Little Rock, and am intimately familiar with both.  I always look forward to opportunities to return.

So, yesterday, I had a business trip to Little Rock.  I had intended to drive, but at the last minute decided to fly, thus getting into town around 4:30.  Got the rental car (I’ve got car fever a little, and the rental car was a brand-new Jeep Grand Cherokee, black with tan leather interior with all the electronic goodies; I wanted it badly). 

Since I had time, I decided to drive to Malvern and visit the Cemetery.  I do that about once a year.  I know, they’re not there—just monuments—but I still do it.

I’m told you never get over the death of your mother.  You cope, you understand, you live with it—but you never get over it.  I think that’s right.  So I had myself a good little cry.  I miss you, Mom.


I don’t know who put the flowers there, but thank you.

There are 7 generations of my family buried in that cemetery.  I won’t be; my spot is directly next to Dad’s, on the left, but I’ve decided funerals are just a waste of money.  I’m to be cremated; Nathan has promised to spread half my ashes over Mother’s grave, the other half over the Gulf of Mexico, with a small thimble-full to go on the field at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium—at halftime of an Alabama game when the Hogs are ahead.


After the quick trip to Malvern, I wound up back in “The Rock” looking for something to eat.  Went to one old haunt—gone.  Second—gone.  Finally wound up at a third, remembering the food there being good.  It was terrible.

Afterward, I just drove around aimlessly for a while.  Went by War Memorial Stadium.  Went by my old house.  Went by my old office.  Drove by the Capitol.  Up Cantrell.  Down Kavanaugh.  Up Markham.


They always say, “You can never go home again.”  They’re right.  It’s very weird.  I lived there a long time, but I don’t live there any more.  I know where everything is, I know where all the streets are; it is all infinitely familiar—but it does nothing for me.  It’s just another place, like Memphis, Tulsa, Birmingham, Baton Rouge—nice places, but just…places.  Not “home”.

I could not get over the feeling today at the airport in Little Rock; all I wanted to do was go home.  When the plane landed at Hobby, and I got into the hideous traffic on the Beltway, with the palm trees swaying in the breeze—that’s home now.  Houston is home now.  But probably not forever.

Home, now, is wherever I am.  I am cut loose from the ties.  I am a citizen of the world. 

And I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that.