HOUSTON? WE HAVE A PROBLEM

We are old, but still have a senior in high school.  In my entire life with children, this is the first time the advantage of public transportation to school could be utilized.  At first, it seemed like a miracle.   But even then, the experience was a little weird.

bus

Our drive is more than two-tenths of a mile, off a dirt road, and off a state highway.  The students are not allowed to stand on a two lane highway to wait for the bus, so our driver comes down the dirt road to pick Garrett up and turns around in our drive, also dirt.  My bad:  our drive is pure sand; one cannot ride a bicycle down it.  Where we live used to be the bottom of the ocean.

The driver once tried to use the circle drive accessing our three buildings and with a tight radius, with the bus.  Nightmare for a gardener.  She almost took down half of an adolescent live oak tree, and a group of bridal veils. We all decided she would pick up Garrett down by the mailbox.

We first met our driver when signing up Garrett before his junior year in high school.  She was eating her lunch at the receptionist desk in the public area of the school.  She IS the receptionist.  And she drives a bus.  And she is the manager of the bus system for the school.  Lucky, she is her own boss.  And therein lies the problem.

We went to early Thanksgiving dinner at school last week.  On the way to the cafeteria, my husband spoke to the receptionist/bus driver.  She looked down, ashamed.  She knew what was going to happen.  We are trying to figure out how she looks at her job in this middle class institution of a public school.  She goes through the motions of running a bus on a route.  But running a bus on a route is NOT the job, the picking up of students on that route and getting them safely to school is the job.  Often she will come around 15 minutes early to our stop (or a little more or a little less). Garrett not being there, she turns  around in our drive, and leaves.  We can hear her back-up warning through the woods.

Glenn has been around the block (so to speak) with her many times.  He called Garrett’s old school in Missouri and requested the bus schedule handout that all the parents get at the beginning of each school year which shows the bus route and the window of time for arrival at each stop.  They were amazed, but they sent it for Glenn to show this bus driver and manager of busses.

Cultural differences run deep.  The idea that if she is running early, that she should sit at a stop for a few minutes (who knows?  Maybe the students on that stop will have time to make the bus) so she arrives at the rest of the stops in the correct window of time is beyond her (and her boss).  We think that part of the problem down here in SC may be that rural students simply do not go to school when it is cold. That would make her early if many stops did not have to be made.  Hard to believe, but this is South Carolina.

What she said to us at the Thanksgiving lunch is that her new aide on the bus is always on time, so they always leave “early”.  Digest that statement!  OK, so no notification of any kind to let us know about the good work habits of the aide?  No, we just smoothly slide by each stop wondering (or maybe not) why there are no students waiting.

It happened again this morning, after our little talk.

 

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MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

dad's car

That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”

THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

And now some of us are 64?  Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Where the hell did all the time go?  Have you listened to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lately?

1-grandview plaza

How appropriate that this center of our young lives was also on Route 66.  It adds to the romance.  We could, and did, walk here, but it was a long cement trek.  It was very near to our high school. The Grandview Cinema (which would materialize about where the little floating sign suspends above) did not open with the shopping center; it was built a little later.  There, we dated.  We shopped at Penney’s.  We stared into the mostly matte black windows of the Jet Lounge, and wondered what was going on in there.

The most evocative part of the picture above is what is surrounding Grandview Plaza: the pattern of houses.  They marched on for miles.  No one lived much differently than anyone else.

I begged my father’s new 1967 Le Sabre Convertible soon after I got my license for some unimportant task.  Took that car top-down to Grandview, parked it and strolled around Penney’s.  It wasn’t until looking for my keys on the way out that I realized they were left in the car.  With the top down.

dad's car

grandview plaza postcard

You can see the sign in this postcard in the lower left of the first image, across from the gas station.  Image is sure more important now.

Much more fun to take the bus, changing once at the exotic Ferguson Loop and go to Famous-Barr in the Northland Shopping Center in Ferguson.

northland

We’d save up our money, have lunch in the mezzanine between floors; there were drawings of women shoppers; angular, a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Barbie carrying hat boxes.  Later, during the British Invasion, there was a shop for juniors mimicking Carnaby  Street.  You just had to use the bus to get that kind of fashion interface!

glenns accident

Glenn had his first accident in the area just under the Kresge sign.  Years after this picture was taken, but we remember the Christmas candles on the roof.  And it was Santa in the helicopter.  This was probably the first year Northland did this.

northland 3

Northland was destroyed in 2005.

My now thirty year old son was maybe six when he realized that my youthful world was not actually black and white.  He was very perceptive.  In a way, the sixties WERE very black and white.

MANY THANKS FOR THE AWARD

Misscommoncents nominated me as a versatile blogger, for which I am very grateful.  This characteristic is antagonistic to being a clear and easy voice on the web. Trying not to be, there is this thing though.  Some idea rises to the top and it will not be discouraged.  Even when there are other seeds of ideas, the purging of the dominant one just must be heard.  Exorcism.

http://misscommoncents1.wordpress.com

This is my experience in visual art as well.  Often, it wastes a lot of time.

For this award, the obligation is to tell seven things about myself.  Since my writing is all over the place, hence the award, past blog posts might do the trick.

1.  Love art history

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/09/16/oh-man-caravag…otally-the-guy/

caravaggio

2.  My digs are a composition, too.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/the-space-between-things/

comp

3.  Love cats.

//leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/katy-is-a-heroine/

1-katy

4.  South Carolina politics are simply absurd.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/only-in-south-carolina

joe wilson

mark sanford

5.  I have the gene for colon cancer.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/for-you-dad/

dad

6.  Families have “stuff”.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/autism/

pool

7.  Love to garden.  All the time.

https://leemalerich.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/working-tree-pees/

one

Many thanks for understanding my various interests, Miss Common Cents!

OCARINA?

What the heck?  My dad, a hard working government administrator, upright, publicly non-political,  fedora-wearing, came in the front door every day after work.  Just to the left of the entry of our moderately upscale tract house was the front closet.  It was mostly for the winter stuff and the vacuum cleaner.  He stowed his fedora in there on the top shelf, closed the door, and entered the family room.

There was other stuff up there; the hats that completed our brownie uniforms for example, and  there was much similar in the basement in the fiber drums we brought home from Japan.  We girls were pretty much low circulating hurricanes as we destroyed all that stuff.  My mother’s old dolls. The “Little Big Books”, whatever.

Looking for mittens or a scarf, one day I found an amazing plastic thing.  I got used to it being in there, in a little box, but don’t think there was any discussion about it.  It was just there.

ocarina

Why did dad save this?  He was not musical in any way.  He did not sing in church; he just stood there.  And why did  we not destroy this as we did everything else?  Well, it was kind of out of reach on the shelf, and who would know how to play with this thing?

Turns out every soldier during WWII was issued one on their way to Europe.  My dad was only old enough for the occupation, and it seems then that the administration should be most worried about the men.  Not enough to do, when you simply “occupy”.  The Army must have had a great musical notion.  Dreams of an ocarina band of 25,000!  Can you imagine?  How about the ocarina salesman who got THAT order from the US Army!  Art goes mainstream, for sure!

Well I know that my father was not playing his ocarina ALL the time.  He had a French girlfriend over there.  I think the ocarinas were given to counteract the French girlfriends;  such a pure time in which to have lived!

Our book group went to see  my friend Janet Kozachek  to look around her studio.  Aside from being a brilliant painter, she has fun making mosaics, Chinese (it would be sumi-e if Japanese) pen and ink drawings of tango couples, books, wonderful pattern on pattern pencil drawings.  And ocarinas from local clay.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/kozachekart?ref=search_shop_redirect

janets ocarina

Janet sent me the above image, and describes its features:

“This ocarina is a classic ten hole ocarina in the sweet potato shape.  Another fun fact about ocarinas is that the name comes from the Italian man who standardized the shape and scale – ocarina is Italian for “Little Goose.”  The ocarina pictured here is stoneware clay burnished with a rose colored terra sigillata glaze then pit fired.”
The ocarinas are like little personal sculptures.  And the one above is rather conservative in design, although a piece of art that is also a musical instrument has design limitations.  My favorite one was a face with imbedded pearls.  Emotional me wanted to buy that one, but I had the find the one where the aesthetics of the sculpture and the aesthetics of the sound were the best mix.  Mine is in the shape of a whale’s tooth.
1-my ocarina
The belly of the ocarina is the same color as the belly of my kitten, Pastel.  I love it!
1-underside of ocarina
The choice and range of animals in which Janet makes these instruments is amazing.  And she can play them!

FOR YOU, DAD

When running, Dad’s genes rise to the top.  Same thing happens when mowing the lawn.  Or is that learned?

Dad was an athlete, I am not.  While not a runner during his life time, my hope is he knows now somehow.  Basketball was really his sport, but he must have run to create endurance on the court.  One of my first memories is of him hurting his knee during a pick-up basketball game after work.

We also shared a disease, colon cancer.  Dad did not beat it, but I did.  Women do things differently.  Long story.

Dad was part of a very special basketball team in central Illinois, Decatur, in 1944-45.  He got a waiver from the Army to finish high school since he turned 18 while still a senior.  Do you remember the old movie, “Hoosiers”?  I don’t think that movie was based upon Dad’s “Cinderella” experience, but it could have been.  Basketball is as important in Illinois as it is in Indiana in terms of high school sports.  Illinois is like two different places:  there is Chicago and the suburbs, and then there is “downstate”.

So glad that I experienced a bit of Dad’s childhood neighborhood.  He lived down from Fan’s Field, a pine green colored structure where local baseball games were played.  How fine to be able, if not attending, to hear bats crack and fans cheer on a summer night!  Remember from cartoons the hole in the wall, and kids looking at a game through that hole?  You have the image.

There was a small grocery within a couple of blocks of his house.  It served the homes around it.  As late as when I was a child, each family had a little pad of invoices at the checkout desk.  Our name was on the binding.  What we bought was marked down, and the tab was paid once a month.  It was said that that little store carried many through the Great Depression.

When a child, we would go for a Sunday often, only a two hour drive from St. Louis.  Decatur stunk back then.  Don’t think it does now.  The “Soybean Capital of the World”,  it was Staley’s Syrup making the big stink.  To me, Decatur was on another planet, far removed from my baby boomer St. Louis suburbs.

So what did Dad do in high school?  His small town Decatur basketball team won the state championship, the whole state, even against those big and bad Chicago teams.  This was before the A or AA designation.  A Decatur radio station played that final game every year for a long time.

I have his trophy.  His was for being the “free throw champion”.

1-trophy-001

Dad never made it close to being in his fifth decade.  Now in my sixth,  I am finally winning medals for being an athlete of a sort.  Last year a surprise package came from the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston, SC.  It was heavy.  Had no idea, but the top five percent of each age class wins medals!  In my class, there were about five hundred women.  Placed 19th.  Surprisingly, my placement was the same this year, but my time was a lot faster.

For you Dad,  who knew?