Monday, August 27, 2012

What have you done since High School?

" well, not much...just walked on the moon!"  That's a response that Neil Armstrong could've given at a high school reunion, but after reading his authorized biography, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong by James R. Hansen, it's a safe bet that he wouldn't. 

Neil being a much private person, didn't care for publicity or the lime light and even fought off paparazzi. Yes, those flashbulb popping, rag reporters even went after astronauts. Given his propensity for privacy, it's astonishing that he'd authorize a biography of himself at all. But thankfully he did.

We learned quite alot about this man, this pioneer, this brave American from reading this book back in January 2010.  Can you imagine standing on the moon and looking back at earth? (Wondering, how in the heck am I going to get back there?!).  One can only imagine the feeling of taking that first step, that first step not on a country foreign to us all, but an entirely different planet!!!

How many of us remember the actual date of this legendary moon walk?

Did you know there are very few photos of Neil on the moon? For no apparent reason, his time spent strolling the moon surface wasn't photographed  as much as we think. Why? Well he was holding the camera most of the time. And one of the most famous photos of all isn't actually him. It's Buzz Aldrin. 

James R. Hansen, finely detailed 700 + page book, teaches us less about the final frontier and more about the man who 'cared more about flying to the moon, then walking on it'.

With the passing of Mr. Armstrong on Saturday, many tributes and rememberances have poured in, however here's one that tops them all... - - - on a clear night when you see the moon smiling back at you, think of Neil and give him a wink.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Teammates....Johnny Pesky

Johnny Pesky was a player, a coach, a broadcaster and a...teammate.  In critically acclaimed author David Halberstam's book,  The Teammates: A Portrait of a Friendship, learn how Pesky, Dimaggio ( Dominic , not Joe ), Bobby Doerr and Ted Williams became more than just teammates.

They became friends, a friendship that lasted 60 years. Halberstam tells of a trip Dom and Johnny took. A trip to see an old friend.  With Ted Williams ailing, Pesky and Dimaggio travelled to Florida, a 1,300 mile trip, to see their friend and fellow teammate...for the last time. Doerr,  stayed back to tend to his ill wife.

Baseball may not be of your literary interest, but The Teammates is more than baseball. It's about friendship, memories, love and respect.

Halberstam's book touches 'em all!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Almost Cut My Hair!

...Actually I did. About ten hours before the Crosby, Stills and Nash concert last night.
Not one to really conform, I do find myself with some trepidation, adhering to the corporate world, although I try to push that envelope as far as it will go, so cutting or trimming my hair was, gosh do I have to say it?, was to conform to a policy understood in the conservative world we call business. Now that conservatism is up for interpretation, but that's a subject for another day.

Back to cutting my hair or in this case, David Crosby's.  By the looks of him last night, I think he's only had a strand or two cut from his grayish white locks for the better part of  several years.  If long hair gives one strength as the biblical figure Samson has portrayed, well Crosby's long hair has strengthened his lungs.

After years of drug abuse, Crosby still belts it with the best of them and his lead vocal of "Almost Cut My Hair" was no exception.   Given what he's been through, self perpetuated or not, his vocals made your hair stand on end!  Need more? Check out Crosby's memoir's, Long Time Gone, or Since Then.

Him along with Graham Nash and Stephen Stills sent us back to the decade of long haired protesters and hippie-freaks.  I choose the latter moniker carefully as if I were to be of age during Woodstock , I too would've been among the hippie culture.

Playing all their hits and a few new songs, CSN didn't disappoint, well maybe.  The performance of Southern Cross, a lyrical portrayal of a man and his sailboat heading for southern islands, cut through the waters like a speed boat being chased by the DEA.  Stephen Stills for whatever reason chose to swiftly perform one of CSN's most loved tunes.  Perhaps listening to the song five or six times before the show set my expectations too high?

Nash, being one to always be political, kept the tone muted by commenting to basically get out and vote. He dedicated, In Your Name to the victims of the recent Sikh temple shooting in Milwaukee and introduced us to a friend who they'd met some twenty years ago in the same venue, singing Our House in her honor, with the crowd singing along.

An interesting anecdote to the song Our House  can be found in the book, Canyon of Dreams: The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon.  Think - flowers, a vase and a fire.

Stills added a Girl from the North Country, a Dylan cover, as he told a tale of traveling in northern Minnesota and did it justice, indeed.

A set list that included( in no particular order):

Almost Cut My Hair
Wooden Ships
DeJa Vu
Helplessly Hoping
Long Time Gone
Just a Song before I Go
Southern Cross
Love the One You're With
Daylight Again/Find the Cost of Freedom
Immigration Man
Our House
Girl from the North Country
Marrakesh Express
In Your Name
Lay Me Down
Teach Your Children

The nearly three hour show including a short break ended with an audience sing along of Teach Your Children and much to the disappointment of this attendee as well as many around me, the classic tune inspired by Judy Collins wasn't included. No, No Suite Judy Blue Eyes this time.

But, whether your favorite tune(s) was heard or not, CSN still gives us strength, long hair or short, to "Carry is coming, love is coming to us all!"

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goodbye Norma Jean....and Tony and Me, The Odd Couple

What was one to do during approximately 40 hours of flights and layovers during the last 10 days?  Read, of course. So early in the week of July 28th,   as I prepared for my first trip to the  country of Thailand, I glanced about my library, pondering fiction and non fiction.  Chose a Stuart Woods, a James Lee Burke, two of my first and his first Dirk Pitt adventures by Clive Cussler .

For non-fiction, I wasn't sure.  A small book by author/photographer, Lawrence Schiller has been at the top of the heap of literary selections on my coffee table for some time now and I thought, why not. Perusing my showcase of entertainment/media memoirs an odd thing struck me so I glanced at it and selected that book as well, a short remembrance by Jack Klugman.  Serendipitously, these two books connect on subject matter and with Schiller's book the date upon which I read it. More on that later.*

Now one could argue, six books in ones luggage is a bit much, why not a kindle or e-reader. Well, we've broached that subject enough - - no, no e-readers in this house.

40 hours of travel time I also thought, since I'm going with the wind, how about Margaret Mitchell's tome? I've never read it, so make it seven books.

With two pieces of luggage in hand(plus a carryon), one not quite full, the other a third full, off I went to Phuket Thailand via Tokyo and Singapore.

I cut my teeth on Cussler's first two Dirk Pitt (no relation to Brad Pitt, fiction or non) adventures in The Mediterranean Caper and Iceberg. Dirk Pitt - think, Jack Ryan of Tom Clancy fame, with a more oceanic flavor, a touch of James Bond and a bit of McGyver thrown in. Both great journeys, with Iceberg being my favorite of the two.

Another chapter in the life of Dave Robicheaux in James Lee Burke's, A Stained White Radiance. Burke captures a piece of your heart as you witness the growth of  his adopted daughter, Alafair. A young Colombian girl who he rescued from a plane crash in Heaven's Prisoner's.

Then there's a night at Elaines. No not Elaine Benes of Seinfeld fame,( don't you wish you could dance like her?)  but Stuart Wood's characters love for the famous eatery, in NY called Elaines.  The back drop for many if not all of Stone Barrington's crime solving exploits, this one being Lucid Intervals.

Somewhere above the south China sea between Singapore and Tokyo during my return flight, Lawrence Schiller's book found it's way onto my seat 32J's tray table. Schiller, one of the first to photograph Marilyn Monroe penned this short but insightful, pictorial experience in Marilyn & Me: A Photographer's Memories.

Schiller talks about being a true beginner giving us a glimpse into negotiating fee's for his photographs as he finds an opportunity to transport himself into the stratosphere of famous photographers that have gone on before him.   Having access to Marilyn both allowed and being a bit assertive, Schiller's works found their way onto the cover of Life magazine and many more. During the movie, Something's Got to Give, Schiller captures Monroe with co-star Wally Cox* and regrets the missed opportunity to spend dinner with them at Marlon Brando's home.

Learn about Marilyn's concern about her career fading as Elizabeth Taylor was making much more money per film than Marilyn and how she insisted that she approve his photos before publication.

I turned to what would be the final chapter and gasped. Having read Schiller's book on August 4th, the last chapter is entitled, August 5, 1962. The death of Marilyn 50 years ago today and here I was reading his book the day before the anniversary; serendipitously connected, I hadn't realized it!

Schiller provides shutter speed insight on meeting Robert Kennedy at Monroe's house , offers his opinion but appropriately closes the lens cap on the mystery surrounding her death and prefers to remember her just as he saw her, funny, playful and angelic.

I believe the jumbo jet had yet to land in Tokyo so I grabbed the other memoir, this one by Jack Klugman; Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship.

Just the thought of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall, makes you want to start humming the opening theme song to their show, The Odd Couple

Revealing how they both met and how each got their start in TV, Klugman in a soap opera , Randall in his breakthrough role in Mr. Peepers also starring, Wally Cox*,  Klugman opens up not only on his relationship with Tony, but gambling and his own shy and aloofness when it comes to trusting people.

Funny and ancedotal, Klugman tells of how they struggled to find the right style of clothes for him to wear as Oscar Madison. Then one day, they suggested he wear his own clothes! The producers actually bought his clothes from him to wear on the show!  The book also includes a DVD of outakes from the show.

After suffering the loss of his voice due to throat cancer surgery, Klugman credits Randall, with revitalizing his career and writes a warm loving, honest tribute to the man many of us know as Felix Unger.

Having survived the heat, the sun and humidity of this asian community, a round of golf at the Blue Canyon course, an elephant trek through a mountain range, the seediness of Patong Beach, an overindulgence of mango, banana, pineapple and the liquid that goes with them as well as the consumption of what seemed like a fifty pound bag of rice, it is good to be home.

I never got to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, but the simple reference to wind reminds me of Elton John's eloquent tribute to Marilyn...

 "And it seemed to me, you lived your life, like a Candle in the Wind..."

* so we connect two books and one which the day it was read, Marilyn Monroe starred with Wally Cox in the movies, Tony Randall starred with Wally in TV and Norma Jean dies a mysterious death on August 5, 1962,  all serendipitously connecting without forethought.