It Was The 50s and I Was A Kid, What Did I Know…

Front Porch (1)

It was the 50s, life was good. But I was a kid, what did I know…

I remember my mother waiting until supper was finished before contentedly sitting down herself, to enjoy a cup of tea and bite to eat. I grew up naively thinking that all mothers had the same routine; set, serve, clear, then eat. It was the 50s, and I was a kid, what did I know…

We never took a family vacation. However,  we were active as a family, bonding with simple, valuable, family activities: evening rides in our spacious Chevy station wagon for ice cream and hot dogs or to check out the wonderful countryside, fishing at local ponds, watching family television shows, playing games around the kitchen table, even venturing 40 miles to Boston for a baseball game.

We were part of a ‘blue collar’ community and’ living the dream’, it seemed. It was the 50s and I was a kid, what did I know…

june-n-stephen-1957

I watched ‘Three Stooges’ reruns and my father would scoff, “you’ll grow up stupid, watching that stuff”.  We watched Friday Night Fights together on a black ‘n white picture screen and listened on the radio when a Swede knocked out Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight crown.  I didn’t grow up ‘stupid’, nor did I become a tough guy.  The Stooges taught me how great laughter is and I learned nothing from boxing, except the cigar commercials caught my attention.  I would be tempted.  It was the 50’s and tobacco was still king. What did I know…

Annette Funicello, the prettiest Mouseketeer, surely saw me in the crowd at her K-Mart autograph appearance.  I had a crush on her, every boy did, I’m sure she winked at me.  But she never answered my fan letter.  Maybe it got lost.  It was the 50s, I felt heartbreak for the first time.

Big malls didn’t exist in the 50s. Neither did video games, but we had imaginations, enthusiasm and bicycles to take us places; museums, play fields, or downtown for stuff. Several of us went together for moral support when it came time to buy our first jockstraps for school sports.  It was the 50s, we were all kids, navigating our way…

The 50s was an exciting time for new fads, new music and new dangers.  Hula hoops became an instant craze and Elvis became an instant hit.  Parents worried about rock ‘n roll and morals while the government worried about a dictator named Castro. I worried about pimples.

mother-1951            dad-1957

Sitting on our front porch in the 50s, I would calculate my age by the year 2000.  Wow, that seemed old, I thought.  But that was a long road to travel and would take forever to get there.  With certainty, it came and went. I was so young when it did. At least, looking back now, it seemed I was.

The 50s were relatively calm and peaceful. The 60s were just around the corner. What possibly could change…

…but then, what do I know?

The Piano Tuner…a story of ‘angst’

Piano by Wilson Burgosphoto by Wilson Burgos (wilsonburgos.com)
Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I never witnessed a piano tuner at his craft until recently…I hope to never witness it again!

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The evenly paced rhythm, the same key played, incessantly, over and over, until it emits the right tone, then duplicating the process on the next key, and the next. There are 88 keys in a piano.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The house is quiet except for these monotonous sounds, each key tested for perfection, absolute perfection!

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

 Our old dog stirs, stretches and retreats to a distant room, grumbling his displeasure as he searches for seclusion under a table, his heavy, long breathing juxtaposed against the fixer’s abbreviated movements.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

I find myself a hostage in my own home, a prisoner to the repetitive plunking of a musical mechanic armed with an ‘ear’ for perfection.

I’m a writer, albeit a neophyte, nevertheless a writer. I ply my craft in a vacuum of calm and solitude, focusing on the word, the thought, the picture I create. He, the tuner, focuses on the sound, correcting it from what it is to what it should be. Both take time. The process is the work.

Plunk… Plunk… Plunk…

The constant tapping of the ivory, moving hammers and dampers against strings to make sounds, the same sounds, is tortuous.  Maybe, I’m too sensitive, too impatient, too digitized to today’s fast paced, instant gratification world.  Why is ‘art’ slow?

Louder! Softer! Faster! Slower!

High notes, then higher! Low notes, then lower!  The steady intermittence of it all is unsettling, fraying my nerves like the end of a severed rope.

Finally, the tuner demonstrates his keyboard prowess and plays a wonderful, but brief piece of music, a way of testing his tuning expertise and signaling the end, a climax to his dull and boring work.  The old piano sounds good, even soothing.  I can recompose myself and almost relax.

The ‘mechanic’ returns his tools to their clam-like black case, closes it with two loud deliberate snaps, collects his due and leaves, phantom-like.  The edge of his wide brimmed hat is rolled down and his collar is lifted against the intermittent rain. It occurs to me, as I watch him disappear around the corner, has he played at an opera house?

srbottch

…for a neighbor who urged me to find ‘angst’ in my life…

To Dance…

To dance is to love… (srbottch)

Dancing Shoes

What is it about men and dancing ? While women flourish on the dance floor and enjoy the spotlight, many men seem reticent to join them.  I was one of them…

It began with the Swing, ‘it’ being pressure. “Change partners”, instructed the instructor. I felt it…palpitations…perspiration… pressure!  I was petrified.

I had agreed to dance lessons with my wife, a natural dancer. Me, I’m a natural wallflower, a slug on the hardwood. And while I was willing to learn, I wasn’t expecting to dance with other women, even if it made me a better dancer. Dancing, not better dancing, was my objective.

Understand, I had never danced with another woman since our marriage more than 25 years ago.  I rarely danced with my wife. This was virgin territory. I wasn’t resisting, but I wasn’t just jumping in feet first, either.

We conquered (my words) the swing and other dances; waltz, foxtrot, cha-cha, and the ‘dance of love’, the rumba.  As our confidence grew, so did our repertoire, we added some samba, a little mambo, and the always exciting and fast paced polka. We only sat out when they played a tango.

Now, we were hooked and looking pretty good on the floor, at least in my mind’s eye. I bought dance shoes and took compliments seriously, while my wife’s ‘eye rolls’ kept me grounded.

But, like anything, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Some fractures, a fall, and some inconvenient surgery interfered just enough to upset our skill sets. Did I forget to mention memory? We just plain forgot stuff, too. But we persevered.

Now we’ve discovered ’round dancing’.  Unlike square dancing, we dance to  traditional ballroom rhythms, moving in a circle, not a square, to a ‘caller’, and we don’t change partners. I’ll repeat, I only have to satisfy one woman, my wife. How hard is that?  Even the ‘caller’ tells me what steps to do. So simple! No sweat!  No pressure!

Of course, I do have to know the intricacies of the steps. After all, it’s dancing, and that can be problematic for me at times. Sometimes, I go left when she goes right, I step back when she goes forward, I turn when she doesn’t.

We’re having fun, laughing, oftentimes at ourselves, enjoying the social mixing, and the challenge of learning something new. We’re getting exercise, physical and mental, both important to us.

And just as the dance moves in a circle, a symbol of eternity, so do we, one couple, in love with the dance, and each other.

Go dancing, men.  Take the ‘lead’…

As entertainer Craig Ferguson quipped,

“If a man doesn’t know how to dance, he doesn’t know how to make love!”

srbottch

Oct 2015