Posted in life

Learning to fit in

When I was 12, we got a new camera. We went into the backyard and my mom started taking pictures. It was one of those Polaroid Instamatics, so, unlike in the past we didn’t have to wait a week for the pictures to be developed.

My mom pointed the camera at my sister and she (my sister) just stood there. She clicked the button and 60 seconds later there was a picture of my sister – standing there stiff as a board.

While my mom was taking the pictures of my sister, I was practicing various poses in my head. When it was my turn I did a Betty Grable akimbo pose. Mom was not happy. She dropped the camera and let it dangle from the cord around her neck.

“Bob, please don’t do that”.

“Why not”, I asked.

“People will think you’re weird, or that there is something wrong with you.”

I want to cry, but didn’t. I felt bad. Like she was ashamed of me.

I had just started going through puberty, so there were all kinds of changes going on. The voice change and all that other mess. I also realized that my parents were becoming more concerned with my behavior. Maybe they always had been, but it was just now that I was noticing it.

My dad didn’t really hang out or do stuff with me. If he had any concerns he always voiced them to my mother, and everything was relayed to me through her. He was more in tune with my sister, so he did stuff and used endearments with her. I was just always getting in the way somehow.

After a while, I began to modify my behavior. I would go against what was natural for me. I would always think about what my parents would say or think about my behavior. Anytime we went clothes shopping everything I wanted was a NO. It had too many stripes, or plaids, or was too colorful. I wanted clothes that would make me stand out. They wanted me to have clothes that would make me fit in.

For a while, it was just my parents who were voicing concerns. It soon started happening with friends and relatives. I stopped talking about things that interested me.

“That’s stuff that girls do”.
“Only sissies like that.”

I wanted to play the clarinet, but picked the drums instead. I wanted to learn to twirl the baton, but joined Little League instead; even though I was awful at baseball. Everything I did was to fit in. I did however, practice with my sister’s baton – in the basement – when no one was at home.

About the time I turned 15 I decided, “This is fucking ridiculous”! I started doing things that I wanted to do. But, I still had that feeling of being wrong and different.

I began to realize why people were so concerned. Oh my gosh, they think I’m a faggot…and they’re right. Of course, we don’t really use that terminology nowadays, but back then it was everywhere.

So, again, I altered my behavior. I had pretend girlfriends. I started doing other stuff with kids and pretending I liked it. I did everything I could to fit in. But, I still felt like I was on the outside.

High School was a complete disaster. I hated it. Every day I would go and try to act like I thought I was supposed to. It was confusing and enervating. The only thing that really saved me was music. I was in the band, so I concentrated on that.

When I got to college, it was completely different. Somehow, I was popular. People liked me and wanted to hang around me. I was Vice President of my fraternity pledge class, and I was always doing something social. The whole time I was just being myself. Nobody seemed to care. Sure, there were a few times when people would say something, but I would just shrug it off.

When you get to be a certain age, and you’re away on your own, you start to become your true self and not care what people think. Or at least not as much as you did when you were younger. But, it has always stayed with me. There are still times that I alter my behavior to fit in. I still wonder, in certain situations, if I’m acting the right way. I guess everybody feels that way.

Posted in theater

Remembering the Drama

The Tony Awards are on tonight. I like watching them because it brings back memories of when I was in theater productions when I was in high school and college. Sometimes in the orchestra pit, and sometimes on stage.

In high school, I was in Bye, Bye, Birdie. I didn’t have a big part. I was in the chorus. Basically, I just stood in the background and sang.

In college, the first production I was in was Guys and Dolls. I got promoted. My character had a name (Liver Lips Louie) and I had a one line solo in The Oldest Established number.

During one of our performances, when we were to be dancing and singing in the sewer, the music started but the curtain didn’t open when it was supposed to. Some guys went out on stage and started the number and some guys didn’t. When the curtain finally opened about 1/4 of the way through there was major confusion. Guys started running on stage and trying to catch up. It was a big mess.

The night of the big mess up, James Bridges the director (The Paper Chase, Urban Cowboy, The China Syndrome, among others) was in the audience. He had gone to my college and he was in town to film a movie there (9/30/55). It starred Richard Thomas of The Waltons fame, Dennis Quaid, Thomas Hulce, and Lisa Blount, a girl that I went to high school and graduated with. My mom worked for her Dad’s laser company. It was to be her first role. She also appeared in An Officer and a Gentleman as Debra Winger’s best friend. She would later win an Academy Award for live action short film in 2001. She died in 2010.

Anyway, James Bridges was in the audience that night to find extras for his film. Two of the guys got small speaking roles. I was just in the background in the marching band and parade scenes. You can see me for about a microsecond in the movie.

We filmed for about a week and I got to see Richard Thomas in his underwear when we were changing into our wardrobe at the same time. Plus, the wardrobe lady told me that the pants I was wearing were worn by Paul Newman in one of his movies. I don’t know if she was lying or not, but I told that story to people for years.

The next year, I got a part in The Gingerbread Lady by Neil Simon. I played Manuel. It was a small part, but a had several lines. I always got big laughs. This is also when I learned that you don’t mention MacBeth, or whistle in a dressing room.

Then I did Three on a Bench. It was a one act play. I had to eat tuna fish sandwiches during the performance. During one performance I totally skipped ahead in the dialogue and it threw everybody off. Important plot points were totally left out.

I also did a play where I played a cop and talked some guy out of jumping from a bridge. I totally can’t remember what it was.

Halfway through my junior year, my advisor, and my percussion instructor told me to quit hanging out in the drama department and doing plays. They said it was interfering with my music education. So, I stopped.

But, every year I watch the Tonys I remember how much fun it was.

ps. Kevin Spacey was the host of the Emmys last year. What a weird and strange difference a year makes.

pss. and yes, I made this about me and not the Tony Awards

Posted in music

Convenient Music

I love my Amazon Echo. I pay the $3.99 a month for unlimited songs (for the most part) via Amazon. I love how specific it is. I can say play jazz from 1957 to 1963 and it will do it. You can even do it by month and genre. The only thing is that if different versions of a song are out there, it might play the song 2 or 3 times in a row. I’ve had that happen.

There are all kinds of games you can play on it, but I’m already over that. I use it mostly for music, or as the occasional timer.

I also have the iTunes music subscription. There are more obscure songs available on it. I can link the phone to the Echo to play them, but it seems like the sound quality isn’t as good.

I don’t really use Pandora anymore. Ads after every 4 or 5 songs. I don’t feel like paying for the no ads version. I have those other two subscriptions, so it’s pointless.

There are so many ways to listen to music nowadays. I even still bring out the vinyl every once in a while. Especially for jazz.

But, it’s just so convenient to say Alexa, play so and so…

I like all kinds of music. So, I go through phases. One week it might be nothing but metal; or the Beatles; or Jimi Hendrix. Sometimes I mix it up. I have playlists of my favorite songs. Sometimes I’ll listen to that. It all depends on mood, or what I’m doing. If I’m reading, crime, pulp, or murder mysteries I’ll listen to CSI music.

I remember how back in the day, I would sit around for hours waiting for my favorite songs to come on the radio, so I could record them on my tape recorder. The kind with a microphone. You had to be quiet as not to pick up background noise. I remember having cassettes of music with my mom, or sister talking in the background. Or somebody coughing or sneezing. When the straight from radio to cassette came out I was so excited. No background noise.

Now, it’s all so convenient. Younger people don’t know how good the have it.

But, I must admit, it was more personal and adventurous back them. I would get so excited when a song I liked came on the radio. Now, I can just tell some device to play it. Convenience kind of takes the fun and mystery out of it.

Posted in daily prompt

Archaic

Even those those photos aren’t necessarily Archaic, they are old. Two photos from me in the 50s. 1959, actually.

They are iphone pics of actually photos, so the quality isn’t really there.

I’m not sure where the first one was taken, but the second on was during a visit to my dad’s parents, in rural northern Arkansas. The girl on the tricycle is my cousin Debbie, who is only slightly older than me, and the other is my Aunt Ruth, my dad’s youngest sister. He was number 5 of 9 kids. Four of them still survive (Ruth is one of them). Continue reading “Archaic”