"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yes, M'am.


That would pretty much be it!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

ACT TWO: No Business Like Show Business!




I. Loved. Theater. I REALLY LOVED THEATER! I loved the idea of theater~from the masks and robes of the ancient Greeks to the early Medieval and Renaissance Mystery and Morality plays and pageants, I loved Commedia Dell'Arte and Shakespeare. I loved Antigone andMother Courage. I loved Sarah Bernhardt and Maude Adams, Helen Hayes and Ellen Terry. I loved theater for eternally examining the questions of human existense, for letting us see ourselves as we were, and are.

There were plays other than these, whose titles I've forgotten, and no pictures were taken to remember them by.

Teahouse of the August Moon featured Clark Howat as the young soldier, Lisa Liu as his Japanese sweetheart, and Jerry Oddo as Sakini, the narrator. I played one of the Japanese children. I wore latex eyelids, and dyed my hair black and went barefoot. The play ran for eight or nine weeks, and when it was over, the black hair-dye wouldn't wash out, and turned my blonde hair green.

Aria Da Capo, by Edna St. Vincent Millay: A lovely play with an anti-war sentiment. One of the lines I remember: "Columbine, your mind is like an escallop of oysters--first a layer of oysters, then a layer of crumbs...." I was Columbine. Still am.

I played the Prioress in Gregorio and Maria Martinez Sierra's The Cradle Song, a "perfect gem of a play," a "wonderfully touching piece of theater" in which an unwanted infant girl is left on the doorstep of a convent and is raised by Dominican nuns. We actually went to a convent, where the sisters taught us how to move, what to do with our hands, the melodies of their chants, the beads of the Rosary...they let us wear their clothes. This is a beautifully-written, delicate play I did twice, playing different roles: at the University of Utah a few years later I played Joanna of the Cross.

Easter Song was the West Coast Premiere. I was Sarah Brute, a sort of Medieval witch who believed that sacrificing little girls would insure good crops. My roomate Janet was in this one with me, playing Kie, the wife of Soren. (She later named her first little girl, Kie--pronounded key-a). Johnny Mercer's daughter Mandy played one of the children. Her big line was, "I hate oak bark soup!" And her famous dad came all the way from Hollywood to hear her say it! During one performance, the back set wall began to fall down, and I was so "into it" I never noticed. Janet thought it was a lot funnier than it did. I hope that was not the night Johnny Mercer was in the audience.

Idiot's Delight was set in a lavish hotel in Switzerland just before the onset of WWII. Harry Van, a two-bit American entertainer is stranded there with his travelling all-girl troup, Les Blondes. I chewed a huge wad of gum and carried a stuffed dog. One performance, one of Les Blondes zipper snapped while we were dancing our stuff, and she did all the bumps and grinds with one hand behind her back, holding her costume together. But she was a real dancer, and knew what she was doing.... The play was filmed in 1939, with Clark Gable doing Harry and Norma Shearer doing Irene (E-rain-a). It ended with the bombing of the hotel, and my friend Edmund Guerrero played Wagner's Flight of the Valkuries on the piano while the bombs exploded all around us. Off the set, he taught me how to play it, but it never sounded as good. My favorite line, said by Irene: "O-ma-ha? Vere dat? Persia?"

Oedipus Rex: I am lamenting, "Where did you get the courage to put out your eyes?" Backstage, we ripped off our chitons and changed costumes without dressing rooms. Nobody seemed to notice that we were all half-naked back there.... I changed with Paul Price, who later earned some fame as one of The Village People, and on Sesame Street.

Summer and Smoke was written by Tennessee Williams. I played Nellie. In Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker, I played Dolly Levi. The Purification was a dark play written in poetry by John Steinbeck. Three Men on a Horse was a comedy, in which I was Mable, a sort of Gun-Moll, here with Gary Necessary (who I had a crush on). I used to see Gary's name on television credits once in a while. He worked on one of the Olympics. Paul Price is shown here with Edith somebody, who lived next door in the dorm. One night I accidently locked myself in the bathroom. I could hear her singing away next door, our windows were practically on top of each other. I yelled for help for the better part of an hour--she never heard me--so I wrote poetry on the toilet paper until midnight, when Janet finally came home. She saved the toilet paper, saying, "Someday you'll be famous, and I'll have an original!" Poor Edith. She once had to cry on stage and carried an onion wrapped in a handkerchief to help her out. Everyone kept saying, "What's that smell?"

Roses for Johnny Johnson was an allegorical anti-war play. Johnny was Everyman.

And, there's Janet, doing Italian Straw Hat. I can hear her yet, wailing "But Papa, I don't want to get married!" And beautiful Myrna Fahey, who I dressed, in Holiday for Lovers. Myrna was a graduate of the Playhouse, and was in several movies and television shows. SHe did The Fall of the House of Usher with Vincent Price, the TV series Father of the Bride and in TV's Batman, she was False-Face's assistent, Blaze, among many other roles. SHe died of cancer, at 40.

There are other plays, for which I have no pictures: Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, The Sandbox, The Cherry Orchard, Bus Stop, Of Mice and Men, Glass Menagerie, Look Homeward Angel.

I loved the amber magic of the lights, the make-up, the costumes...and the applause. And if I live to be a hundred I will never fill that void.

.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

ACT ONE: Ordinary People




"There was, too, a wonderful simplicity of desire. It was the last time that people would be thrilled to own a toaster or waffle iron."


-- Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid


Bill Bryson writes: In 1951, when the averge American ate 50% more than the average European, Americans owned 80% of the world's electrical goods, produced more than 40% of its electricity, 60% of its oil, and 66% of its steel. America's 5% of the world's population had more wealth than the other 95%. In fact, 99.93% of new cars sold in 1954 were U.S. brands. By the end of the 50's, GM was a bigger entity than Belgium, and Los Angeles had more cars than did Asia -- cars for a gadget-smitten people, cars with Strato-Streak engines, Strato-Flight Hydra-Matic transmissions and Torsion-Aire suspensions. The 1958 Lincoln Continental was 19 feet long. And before television arrived (in 1950, 40% of Americans had never seen a television program; by May 1953 Boston had more televisions than bathtubs).

Consider what was new or not invented then: ballpoint pens, contact lenses, credit cards, power steering, dish-washers, garbage-disposals. In 1951, a Tennessee youth was arrested on suspicion of narcotics possession. The brown powder was a new product--instant coffee.

Unlike today, when everything edible, from milk to bad spinach and mad cows, has its moment as a menace to health, in the 50's everything was good for you. Cigarettes? Healthful. Advertisments, often featuring doctors, said smoking soothed jangled nerves and sharpened minds. (What WERE we THINKING?) X-rays were so benign that shoe stores installed them to measure foot sizes. In Las Vegas, downwind from atomic weapons tests, government technicians used Geiger counters to measure fallout. People lined up to see how radioactive they were. It was all part of the fun! What a joy it was to be indestructible.

And indestructible we were then. "People knew, without a warning lable," Bryson notes dryly, "that bleach was not a refreshing drink."

White House security precautions were so lax that on April 3, 1956, a disoriented woman from Michigan detached herself from a tour group and wandered around the White House setting little fires. When found, she was taken to the kitchen and given a cup of tea. No charges were filed. The 50's did have worries. You could get 14 years in an Indiana prison for instigating anyone under age 21 to "commit masturbation." And to get a New York fishing license, you had to swear a loyalty oath.

But yes, we were still indestructible.

In September of 1957 I met my very best friend (who remains to this day my very best friend) Janet Lane. We loved each other enourmously from the start. We shared a small upstairs room at the Playhouse Women's Dorm, with ugly orange furniture and a view of the Playhouse, three blocks away. She was 19, a year older than I was. Her hair was red, her eyes dark brown, and her cheeks had dimples. I thought she was very beautiful and very sophisticated. She thought her nose was too large. "It's
my father's nose," she used to wail. SHe smoked. Sometimes we talked all night long, whispered to each other things we had never told anyone else. She swore, and taught me to swear. (I don't swear anymore--much--but I still know how). She informed me which of our fellow students were "gay," and what being "gay" was. (I was dumbfounded and amazed. What an incredible and inconceivable revelation this was!) She gave me sisterly advice: "For Heaven's sake, fix yourself up a little bit, use some more make-up. Eye shadow. And don't wear pink! You look like Alice in Wonderland in pink."

"You glow on stage," she told me later.

The dorm, actually Hale Residence Hall, had rules. All meals must be eaten in the dining room, not in the kitchen, and on trays provided you. (Well, I always ate in my room, vegetable soup, cold spaghetti, directly from the can). The piano must be used ONLY from 7:00-8:00 p.m., the television must be turned off at 10:00 p.m., and of course, may not be played at the same time. Callers must always be out of the dorm by 10:00 p.m. (There was a ladder the girls used to climb out the windows, or to allow callers to climb in.) On SATURDAY and SUNDAY mornings, no caller is permitted in the dorm before noon...etc etc etc.

We worked hard, preparing to be famous. We rehearsed often until near midnight, and then went to "Tops" to eat French fries before going home to bed. We exchanged photo stills from whatever show were were doing. I worked with wonderful, witty, talented people: Myrna Fahey was beautiful, had done several movies, and was sweet to me. Gita Maynard thought I was lovely, and Barbara Drew signed her photo, "Joyce, you've been a darling...." Holly Harris was spectacular, Jerry Oddo, playing Sakini in Teahouse of the August Moon scrawled his autograph on a program cover, and wrote: "To my personal Alice in Wonderland. My love and kisses for being so wonderful to work with. You will find your 'cricket'." Lisa Liu was was charming and graceful as the Japanese sweetheart. From another old program cover: Holiday for Lovers. "All the best, from here on to the top!" I actually shook hands with Burt Lancaster, and Bette Davis, and Piper Laurie! Burt smiled broadly and looked right past me, Bette wore a turban, and Piper was--well, really, really beautiful. Well. We were nothing if not optimistic. Alice in Wonderland. It was an image that seemed to follow me around, and when I actually had the opportunity to be Alice at the newly-opened Disneyland, I turned it down because I was homesick, and wanted to spend the summer at home. Charlotte Stewart, who lived in the room next door grabbed it, and went from there to a regular role as the schoolteacher on the Little House on the Prarie TV series. My friend Makoto Iwamatsu, "Mako," did the best "Puck" I have ever seen in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and went on to be nominated for an Academy AWard "Oscar" for his performance with Steve McQueen in The Sand Pebbles. Margaret O'Brien and John Drew Barrymore did Romeo and Juliet on the Mainstage. Most of us you have never heard of.

I wanted to write. I bought a bicycle for five dollars and pedaled it down the hill to Pasadena City College, where I took writing classes from my first real "mentor," Helen Hinckley Jones, a marvelous teacher and friend, who had written histories of Israel and Iran, of Utah and the railroad, and another book about Iran, A Wall and Three Willows. She liked what I wrote, and took a special interest in me. She loved me, and I loved her. Years later, when I began to publish articles and poetry, and wrote Chrysalis, she wrote me letters of congratulations and encouragement. But that's a story for another day.

My roommie Jan was going with (and later married) David Isenhart, a young artist from San Francisco, who had studied painting with Richard Diebenkorn. His paintings were large and abstract, with thick swatches of color. He made pottery, fashioned himself a necktie out of brown yarn, cat hair, and popsicle sticks. He dripped colored wax candles over the tops of wine bottles. He read books by Lawrence Ferlinghetti,Kenneth Patchen, Jack Kerouac, and Alan Ginzberg. I read them, too. We were birds of a feather. Janet said we were the "only true beatniks" she knew. I kind of wafted from the end of the "beat" generation into the "Flower Children," and ended up becoming a "hippie" of sorts, and stayed that way. But that's another story for another day.

I ran around with sweet Bobby Giles, who was inescapably "gay," who wanted to be a writer as well as an actor, and who, bolt out of the blue, decided he was in love with me and wanted to get married. Kissing Bobby was like kissing a plastic doll. This was an unforseen event that surprise me, but we remained good friends until his death, writing letters, sending pictures and Christmas cards and such, even had a few visits in between his visits from the Philippines and Japan. The last time I saw him we lived in Provo, Utah. I was married and had three little boys, and was about eleven months pregnant with the fourth, another boy. Another story.

I went out (for a while) with some cowboy dude whose name I can't remember, who thought he was John Wayne, and who, on a hike in the mountains, left me stranded on a huge rock because he had no idea how I should get down. I figured it out. I went out (for a while) with a fellow from Cal Tech, a true egghead rocket scientist, whose apartment walls were papered with pictures of near-naked girls torn out of Playboy Magazines. I carried on a long-distance romance with a cute sailor named Chuck, who after we broke up sent me a long letter signed with a skull and crossbones. I went with an actor, a champion fencer, who drove an Aston Martin, whose mother was an opera singer and father was a biologist who researched regeneration of tissues by cutting earthworms into pieces (another story, probably best left untold). And another with a boy named Jerry Meyers, who kept an aviary of birds in his yard, who called me "Juice," made fishing lures with peacock feathers he kept in big bright green and purple bouquets. Jerry loved photography, loved martial arts, and had a black belt in Karate. He could break bricks with his fingertips. It was while I was with Jerry that I met the love of my life, the real deal.

Marv was an idealist, a dreamer with the soul of a poet. We ate Mexican at Ernie Jr.s, we had taquitos on Olvera Street, and shared one headphone at the city library, listening to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. I think of our time together as bonfires at the beach, waterfront carnival lights reflected in the water, seen from the top basket of the ferris wheel. He was folk songs on his guitar, and collections of sea-shells. He was long walks out to the end of the pier where little boys and old men threw fishing lines out into the waves, and he was the shrill cries of seagulls. I knew what his favorite color was, and he thought I was a "fairy princess." We sat in our shallow sandstone cave and looked out at the ocean. We ate tuna fish sandwiches, and he wrote I LOVE YOU on the brown lunch bag and hid it in a hole in the rocks. Sometime, we said, we'll come back, in fifty years or so, a little wrinkled white haired lady and gentleman, holding hands, to see if it is still there. Our bodies were covered with sand and salt. We laughed and were happy and alone in
the world. I never said "I love you" to anyone else.


.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Brother





Gaylen "A" Hatton (Excerpts from A Brief Overview of My Life)

"I was born in Osdick, California, on the 4th day of October, 1928. Osdick was named after Pete Osdick, who lived until the 1940's. Pete was an old miner who always wore a sprig of greasewood in his lapel to show that he was proud of the desert. For some reason the name of the town changed to Red Mountain, because of the big red mountain to the east. Main Street in Red Mountain was about a mile long, surrounded by mines, shacks, homes, and saloons (each with a red light)...the Shamrock, the Palace, the Owl, and Roxie's, which was across the tracks by the house where the old witch lived, and there was a dump at each end of town which I frequented, looking for treasures. Mattress Jack lived lived on Main Street in the remains of an old panel truck. He came up the street one day, and my friend Dale Edwards grabbed his hat off his head and ran with it. Mattress Jack tried, but couldn't catch him.

I thought curly hair was 'tough' & had my mother curl my hair with a curling iron, and dressed in a makeshift 'Masked Marvel' costume. I could lick anybody. Aunt Josie ran the Post Office. I sneaked in one day with my new cap gun, hid below the service window and rang the bell. When Aunt Josie came, I put my hand up over the edge and pulled the trigger. She almost died from being shot with a cap gun. I thought it was a pretty good joke. I can still remember hearing real gunshots at night while in bed, and I always worried about my grandfather, who was the Constable. He was supposed to have been in a running gun battle with someone, but I was never told the details. The only time I ever saw him shoot was when he shot a dying, rabid dog I found on my way to the dump.

I used to sell papers, magazines, etc. for spending money. I would hit every saloon on the street, and the miners and the 'girls' were always generous in helping me out. I was a pyromaniac. I set my dad's shed on fire. I set a fire in the back of our garage, which was put out just in time to avoid exploding some barrels of gasoline and heating oil. I set the whole desert on fire by throwing a match into a dry sage brush. Half the town had to help us put it out. I found an old automobile headlamp that used as oil wick. I put gasoline in it and burned off my eyelashes when it exploded. I whittled off the heads of matches to make small explosives. By putting them in a piece of pipe sealed at one end I could shoot out a wad of tinfoil that would penetrate an orange. I'd put match heads in 30-30 shell casings and hit them with a hammer to make them explode...Without TV or video games we had to be creative.

I found an old beach umbrella, took it apart, tied ropes to the canvas part to make a parachute, tied it to my waist, and jumped off the highest part of our garage. After hitting the ground hard enough to break my legs, the parachute unfolded in front of me. I decided I would have to jump from a greater height, and considered jumping from the headframe of the Santa Fe mine, which was about 75 feet tall, but I could never get up the courage.

My dad was a hard rock miner, and a great baseball pitcher. My mother was an artist. I thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world. She would sing as she worked at home, and I thought her voice was beautiful. I thought she should be a movie star, since she surpassed all of them in every way. I remember the Christmas when I received a pair of leather chaps. I was about four years old. I didn't know they were to be worn over one's pants, so I tried them on without any pants, rejoining all of the family with my butt showing through the back of the chaps.

We raised chickens and I sold eggs to the neighbors. We had a mean milk cow for a while, who kicked everybody who tried to milk her. She would get out of her fence and everybody in town would have to chase her. There was never anybody who had more love and sympathy for animals than my mother. She has influenced me greatly in this respect, and to this day I find it difficult to kill anything, and rarely do I eat meat.

Dad and I worked a tungsten mine about thirty miles North of Red Mountain, on the edge of China Lake. We worked that mine, just the two of us. I loved working with my dad. It was hard work, but I was in the best shape of my life. I could carry a bucket of tungsten high-grade ore in each hand down a mountain slope for some distance, and dump the ore in a special place. Each bucket would weigh as much as 150 pounds. I wanted to study aeronautical engineering, and planned to attend Cal-Poly at San Dimas. For some reason, I changed at the last minute and decided to be a music major at Brigham Young University. I have never been sorry. I got my B.A. Degree at BYU in STring Bass Performance. Then, my M.A. Degree at BYU in Composition. Finally, my Ph.D. Degree at the University of Utah in Composition with a minor in Philosophy.

My parents bought me a drum set when I was about four years old. I used to watch Mr. Moore chew on his cigar while he played the drums for my Dad's dance band, and I wanted to be a drummer like him. My parents played lots of 'feed the kitty' dances. I could accompany fox trots and waltzes quite well at the age of four. When I was ten, my parents bought me a trumpet. I loved it.

After graduating with my B.A. Degree, I was drafted into the army, and I found myself being shipped out to Germany. I was first stationed at Dachau, where the famous Jewish concentration camp had been located. The place had a terrible odor. I saw the ovens where the bodies had been burned, and the big tree that had died after the ashes of 25,000 Jews had been buried next to it. The European Band School was at Dachau. I had a choice of joining the 7th Army Symphony or going to a band unit in Frankfort, and I chose to go to Frankfort, where I studied Horn with Joseph Stegner, and string bass with Wilhelm Kramer...excellent musicians. I was transferred to a band in Verdun. I played parades and concerts, and played bass six nights a week in a local club. The Jazz combo consisted of four of us, piano, trumpet, bass, and drums. What an excellent group it was, playing mostly Be Bop. At first I got blisters on my fingers, then blood-blisters underneath, and finally callouses.

I came back to BYU from the army--I was considering going to France to complete my studies at the Paris Conservatory, but Dr. Leon Dallin urged me to study with Leroy Robertson at the U of U, where I could play in the Utah Symphony at the same time. Robertson was a great and inspiring teacher. My thesis work for my Ph.D. was a composition for ballet called Toxcatl, based on Aztec history, during the periodic 'War of the Flowers' between the little Republic of Tlaxcala and the mighty empire of the Aztecs. It was performed by the Utah Ballet, predecessor of Ballet West in May, 1963. I was invited to audition for third horn, and was hired by the Utah Symphony. Maurice Abravanel, the conductor, became a good friend, and was responsible for commissioning some of my orchestra music, and engaging me to do many special arrangements when needed. One of these, El Noche de
Los Tropicos,
I put together from stuff found in the New York City Library...music originally composed by Louis Gottschalk. The piece was recorded by the Utah Symphony for Vangard Recording Company.

While performing in the pit for a ballet performance, one young ballerina, Marianne Johnson, caught my eye. Sunday she attended a study group with me. Monday we were engaged to be married. We were married in the Salt Lake Temple on August 6th, 1958. We have four good children, Nannette, Keven, Heidi, and David, and several grandchildren.

We moved to Sacramento where I taught at Sacramento State University and played principal horn in the Sacramento Symphony. Marianne danced important roles with the Sacramento Civic Ballet. We were there for sixteen years, and continued to go to Sun Valley every summer, and then to festivals in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. In 1979 we returned to BYU, where I played in two faculty groups, Brassworks and Orpheus Winds. Brassworks, on several occasions accompanied the Tabernacle Choir on tours around the world, and Orpheus Winds was invited by the Chinese Minister of Culture to spend some time in China, lecturing and performing at three of the conservatories there. What a great experience for all of us, making new friends, seeing the Great Wall, and the clay figures at Xian. I have been fortunate to be able to play music in seventeen foreign countries, and around the United States, and Marianne has shared many of these experiences with me. I have performed with such great groups as George SHearing (on bass), Mannheim Steamroller (on horn), and have accompanied Margaret Whiting, the Lenon Sisters, Liberace, Ray Charles, and many others. I played a jazz concert once with Paul Horn, Conte Condoli, and Milton Bernhart...I could talk almost forever about my music associations and experiences. There are other things in life that are more important, but music has surely been a wonderful thing to me.

My Dad's family all came to Red Mountain from Utah to work in the mines, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even some friends. Some had been baptised into the LDS Church, some not. In any case, there was no LDS Church in Red Mountain. Occasionally, some Mormon missionaries would come through for a few days. WHen I was fourteen, President Bunker of the California Mission came to Dad's mine one day. He called my Dad aside, reached into Dad's shirt pocket, took out his pipe, and threw it off into the sage brush. Then he called my Dad to be the Branch President of the new Red Mountain Branch. We held our meetings at our house. About a dozen people would attend the meetings. At fourteen, I was baptised. Dad ultimately became the Branch President of the church in Ridgecrest, and then the Bishop. I returned to Inyokern when discharged from the army, and before returning to BYU to get my M.A. Degree, my Mother and father went with me and my sister, Joyce, to the Los Angeles Temple, where our family sealings took place.

I have had occasion to teach various Sunday School classes, youth classes, Priesthood classes, etc. I have led choirs, been a Bishop twice, and Branch President of the Fruitland Branch--before being made Branch President I was the finance clerk, priesthood leader, organist, Primany accompanist, and choir accompanist. I know the Gospel is true...that God lives...that Jesus is the Christ...that Joseph Smith was, and is, a Prophet of God...and that we are guided by a prophet today...and that it will continue to be so. That is my testimony to all that will hear it!


Oh, Cruel Thorns

Oh, cruel thorns, were thou upon my brow,
whose awful twinings on my Lord pressed down;
Might I not wish thee gone, nor hope to know
A sweeter death beneath thy crown.

Thou pierced hands, and body wounded sore;
The heart's blood spilling down as somber rain,
My heart and hands do reassure those scarlet welling drops
Fall not in vain.

O precious signs, so pure and undefiled,
Of holy flesh and blood in sacrifice;
May I become in faith a little child,
Partaking guiltlessly before His eyes.

And weary feet, who paid thy fearful toll
Upon the stony way to Calvary;
Set now thy prints upon my soul,
And I will walk in joy, to follow Thee!

--Onita Davis
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Letter from my Brother

October 13, 1957


Dear Joyce,

Thanks for the letter--I enjoyed hearing from you, and hope you are able to write often. I am happy that you like it there--it will be a wonderful experience for you, and you should get a great deal out of it. You mention that you suddenly find yourself among a lot of people more talented than yourself; this will alway be the case, so don't let it discourage you. Just as we are often most critical of those faults in others which we do not possess ourselves, it usually happens that we are likewise made very conscious of their virtues which we seem to lack. I have very good pitch discrimination; yet I have been discouraged by others who are gifted with absolute pitch. Many others memorize better than I, and while beginning to labor with languages I was very discouraged to make the acquaintance of a young man who had a fluent command of at least seven languages. I cannot memorize scriptures, and other people know the Bible backward and forward. I cannot play horn as well as many others, and I feel inadequate playing jazz on the bass. My ability to compose and arrange seems weak in comparison with others.

However, I have recently acquired a changed attitude concerning these things which used to worry me so much. I find that I usually play better in tune than one person who has absolute pitch. It is difficult for me to memorize languages and scripture--but I was engaged by the symphony on the strength of an audition during which I played all their requested horn passages from memory. I have been complemented on being the best third horn played the symphony has had. And, I am getting compositions performed and commissioned even more than my teachers, who are recognized composers. And the best bass player in town, whom I have eulogized on occasion, has told several people that he wishes he played as well as I. So, you see, I have decided that while we all envy the talents of others, they envy ours in return--we are generally more talented than we think. It is healthy for a perfectionist attitude to spur us on--when we believe that everything we do is not quite good enough, and we try constantly to do better. It is not healthy when we degrade ourselves and become discouraged and quit. Many talented people have given up their work simply because they have felt they could never equal the work of other talented people. Not all writers can win the Pulitzer Prize--but most can be happy successful writers. Not all composers can win the Guggenheim Award, but they can still create and know the joy of hearing their work. Every pianist will not be a Rubenstein, nor can every violinist be a Heifitz. Most conductors will never wqual Toscanini, and every artist cannot be a Van Gogh or a Picasso. I could go on indefinitely--but what I am trying to say is simply that there is a lot of room in the world for talent of every kind, and everyone can be a success without necessarily being the greatest in his respective field. Anyway, who is to judge?

Well, enough of my sermon! All is well here. I am not in school this quarter, but I am concentrating on German privately instead. I would like to pass the exam in January.

I had seventy-five copies of the choral composition made up, and it should be sung definitely in January. I am enclosing one of the choral parts which lacks all the brass and timpani accompaniment. It will be recorded, and I'll send you a copy.

Abravanel just called and said I have definitely been awarded the Rosenblatt Award this year. It is a $250.00 award for the commissioning of a new work to be played by the symphony. I am in good company, since those receiving the award before have included Crawford Gates and Leroy Robertson.

Well, Joyce, I hope you continue to enjoy your work there. And please continue to write whenever you are able. I'll try to answer everything I receive. --Be good!

Love, Gaylen


(I think this was good advice, and pass it along.... The choral composition he mentioned was a poem of mine which he set to music, Somewhere Lies a Line. He also used a text of mine called Jael, for a short opera he composed. And most recently (April, 2000), I was pleased when he asked me to provide and edit the text for a piece called Apotheosis, based on the writings of Neal A. Maxwell, and performed by the Ricks College Chamber Orchestra and Collegiate Singers. A CD was made for Tantara Records, as part of the Heritage Series, called Three Sacred Works.)
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The Playhouse



SCENE: The Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts.
TIME: The Present.
CAST: About 270 future Sarah Bernhardts and Laurence Oliviers and (implied in the wings) a list of distinguished graduates whose names you have seen in neon.

As the curtain rises there is a brief flashback to 1916. In a funny little theater called the Savoy, there is a small troupe of professional actors led by Gilmor Brown. They are presenting a different play every week. Then, there is a rapid series of scenes. These show Brown trying to maintain at his own expense a producing group composed of a small nucleus of professionals assisted by a larger group of amateurs, the Pasadena Community Playhouse. As these scenes fade out like calendar pages being flipped up through the years, the action returns to the present. Brown, now an alert 83, sits in his memoir-lined office at the Playhouse.

Activity in the classrooms, rehearsal rooms, the small student theaters, and the main stage down below attest to the success that he has brought to his beloved theatrical institution. In addition to its fully accredited College of Theater Arts, which was established in 1925, the Playhouse has gained a notable niche in the theatrical world with its Main Stage productions. There have been more than 2600 of them produced there, 125 of which were world premiers. And many of the best actors and actresses have trod its boards either as students who carried spears and went on to fame, or as recognized professionals who have starred at the Playhouse out of respect for its reputation, or to take advantage of it as a recognized showcase for their talents with the orchestra seats teeming with movie talent scouts.

As a school, the college offers a two-year course in three phases of theatrical arts--acting, technical and television. There is also a three-year course that leads to a master's degree. It includes what must be the most fascinating "final exam,"--choosing and editing a script, producing and directing a play.

The first-year course is the same for all students. It consists of the basic techniques of acting, speech, history of the theater, stage movement, fencing, and dancing and make-up. In the second year, students select their major, receiving intensive and specialized training in the category of their choice--stage, movies, or television, or any of the technical aspects of any of them. The third year, of course, is devoted to continued development of the student's specialty.

Within the Playhouse are three tiny, but well-equipped theaters. They frequently serve as classrooms during the day, are opened to the public at night for student productions. And, of course, there is the Main Stage, where advanced students can compete with professionals in readings for coveted parts.

Students fence on the roof garden, bound and bend in the dance halls, listen to serious lectures in classrooms, go through wierd vocal exercizes to improve their diction, pour over the thousand of tombs on the theater that line the school's extensive library shelves, and, like students everywhere, chatter in the corridors between classes and gab in the snack bar.

That the Playhouse does a competent job of training is glaringly apparent from its list of illustrious graduates. It's impossible to name them all, but here are a few names you might recognize: Dana Andrews, John Carradine, John Conti, Victor Jory, Wayne Morris, Preston Foster, Robert Young, Lee J Cobb, Lloyd Noal, Onslow Stevens, and many others." To which I might add the names of Makoto Iwamatsu (Mako), who was once nominated for an Oscar for his role in "The Sand Pebbles," with Steve McQueen, and Dustin Hoffman, and Charlotte Stewart, who played the schoolteacher on the "Little House on the Prarie" TV series, who took on the role at the newly-opened Disneyland of "Alice in Wonderland" which I might have had but for homesickness.

(This article was written years and years ago for the Los Angeles Times newspaper, by Art Ryon. We went back to Pasadena and visited the Playhouse in 2000, the turn of the century, and found that nothing lasts forever. The theater is still going strong, but there is no longer a school. The student theaters are storage areas, the Playbox, downstairs, is a coffeeshop. But the great curtain with a picture of a ship, on Mainstage, remains.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

China Lake



"The base at China Lake lies 150 miles northeast of Los Angeles, just off U.S. 395. Founded in 1943, it was originally known as the Naval Ordnance Test Station, or NOTS; in 1967 this was changed to Naval Weapons Center (NWC). It's different from every other base the United States Navy runs. It operates under Navy command, but its history connects it to outside, civilian institutions, especially the California Institute of Technology, in Pasadena. Most of the population is civilian. Moreover, these people are all scientists, engineers, and technicians, "damned professors," as they were called in the beginning. But their achievements are undeniable, for China Lake has produced some of the most effective military ordnance in the world, from the
barrage rockets used in the 1943 invasion of North Africa to the explosive lens charges in the first atomic bombs and a vast array of guided missiles and bombs, Zuni, ASROC, Shrike; above all, Sidewinder (AIM-9, as it's known officially).

Most of these weapons are launched from aircraft, and this has dictated a good deal about the base, especially its remoteness and its size. China Lake is huge--more than a million acres, 1,800 square miles. This immense territory is divided into two great tracts, separated by a narrow civilian corridor running up the Panamint Valley through the town of Trona. THe range south of this line has been used to develop "stealth" technology and electronic warfare countermeasures, but its the northwest section that's the more important, for the airfield, the laboratories, and the community itself are all located here. THe upper northern half is tableland, rugged hills, and valleys where wild horses and burros still roam, and high up on the faces of the cliffs, which have names like Renegade Canyon and Cactus Peak, one can still see the strange etched drawings, called petroglyphs, made by a long-vanished race of Indians. To the south the hills give way; the land becomes flatter, merging with the desert; and finally, in an abrupt slope, it runs down to the depression that is China Lake itself. Of course, there has been no lake here for ten thousand years, although once this part of the Mojave was covered by a chain them. Now only the dried-up beds of these lakes remain, hard and hot, and gleaming white with deposits of borax, calcium, and silica. China Lake is perfect for the base's test ranges."*

* "CHINA LAKE," by Anthony Hyde



The petroglyphs are protected by the Navy. The coyotes weren't. We used to hear them howling at night, but now they're gone. My Uncle Frank and Aunt Lauree, and my cousins Burt, Jimmy, Frankie, Gary, and Delsa lived on the base. When I was little, and we used to visit them often, there was a big billboard just outside "the gate" that warned: Loose Lips Sink Ships. Uncle Frank was an engineer. Whenever any member of their family had an upset stomach resulting in quick trips to the bathroom, they always said they had "NOTS Trots." I thought that was funny!

Between the time I graduated from the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theater Arts, the the time I went on the road with a repertory theater company called The Bishop's Company, I worked for the Navy tracking missiles on film (I once tracked a speck of dust on the film, mistaking it for the missile, for a whole day), putting pilot's statistics into a computer, and inputting scientific articles about the "effects of radiation on living tissue." I sort of liked watching the Sidewinder speeding along on its desert sled, but the burnt "living tissue" falling off its bones stuff I just couldn't take, and I quit. Sometime after this, the High School was moved from the base to the town of Ridgecrest. A good move, if you ask me.
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The Twelfth of Never

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Strange Desires


Sherman E. Burroughs is the name of my High school. The school was on the Navy Base itself, you had to check in at "the Gate" before you could enter, and you had to have "a Pass." There were two distinct classes of kids--the Navy brats, and the rest of us, the outsiders. The Navy brats could buy stuff cheap at "the Commissary," which we were never allowed to go into. Girls who went out with sailors were considered "fast,"--the "bad" girls. The boys in school, with their packages of cigarettes rolled up in their T-shirtsleeves and their hair combed in DA's (Duck Ass's) were no competetion for the sailors, who were always after the older girls. I didn't fit in with any of them, insiders or outsiders. My High School major was Art. I was president of both the Art and Drama clubs, and we never had one meeting. I won several art competitions, lots of ribbons--even had a couple of paintings on display in Los Angeles and in the County Museum. This one was a winner, called "Marbles." In the Drama class, I was so shy and unfriendly I don't know how I ever won the lead in our big play, written by Mary Lee, our teacher--probably because I was a natural at playing a shy, disturbed girl who had a fear of guns and was very anti-social. I liked art, and drama. I liked English, and writing. I spent 90% of my time in Algebra writing poems. My teacher, Mr. Richardson, would walk by, look at what I was doing, smile, and walk on by (knowing I'd never be a mathematician.). He was right. Miss Lee wrote in my annual: "Joyce, a fine dramatist, a thrill to have you in the lead of our play." Mr. Richardson Wrote: "To a fine girl student." My P.E. teacher, Mrs. Haig, wrote: "The most spirit with the least noise--you're a pleasure in class." I was never on a "team," never in Pep Club, never a cheer leader. In my Junior year, my art teacher, Adeline Williams (who I adored) wrote: "You have the artistic feeling that is rare. Your art development has been everything I'd hoped for.Please keep on painting this summer. We have a big year ahead of us." And after our Senior year, she wrote: "Best Wishes for a very successful future! In whichever art fields you decide to spend most of your time, Good luck!" (From an article that appeared in the paper: "Mrs. Adeline Williams, arts and crafts teacher at Burroughs High School, was the Grand Sweepstakes Winner in the Kern County Art Show Festival, which was held in Bakersfield this month. Winning the Award for her oil painting, 'Fabulous City," the art teacher painted an abstraction of Las Vegas. Mrs. Williams, who has her masters in education from Loyola University in Chicago, received her art training at the Art Institute of Chicago and then studied privately with the famed California artist Millard Sheets. Mrs. WIlliams painting, along with Joyce Hatton's whose work won the Sweepstakes prize at China Lake, is included in the traveling art show which will be seen throughout Kern County.") Our ALMA MATER:

Beneath the High Sierra's
Our Alma Mater stands,
Encircled by the mountains,
Swept by desert sands.

Our colors show the green and white,
Our spirit stands for Truth and Right.
To Burroughs High, we lift our cheer,
Hail, Alma Mater, dear!



The first great love of my life was a sailor. A green-eyed, blond sailor, who smelled wonderful, who talked with me on the telephone for hours, taught me to drive, told me he loved me, kissed my head when I had the chicken pox and my hair was tangled and full of calamine lotion, wanted to marry me, and when I decided to spend my time in the theater, and went off to school at the Pasadena Playhouse, he married someone else.

My love came up from Barnegat,
The sea was in his eyes;
Treading as soft as a tiger cat
And told me terrible lies.

His hair was yellow as new-cut pine
In shavings curled and feathered;
I thought how silver it would shine
By cruel winters weathered.

But he was in his twentieth year,
This time I'm speaking of;
And we were head over heels in love with fear,
And half a-feared of love.

My hair was piled in a copper crown--
A devilish living thing--
And the tortoise-shell pins fell down, fell down,
When that snake uncoiled to spring.

His feet were used to treading a gale,
And balancing thereon;
His face was brown as a foreign sail,
Threadbare against the sun.

His arms were thick as hickory logs
Whittled to little wrists;
Strong as the teeth of a terrier dog
Were the fingers of his fists.

Within his arms I feared to sink,
Where lions shook their manes,
And dragons drawn in azure ink
Lept quickened by his veins.

Dreadful his strength and length of limb,
As the sea to a foundering ship'
I dipped my hands in love for him
No deeper than their tips.

But our palms were welded by a flame
The moment we came to part,
And on his knuckles I read my name,
Enscribed within a heart.

And something made our wills to bend
As wild as trees blown over;
We were no longer friend and friend,
But only lover and lover.

"In seven weeks or seventy years--
God grant it may be sooner--
I'll make a handkerchief for you
From the sails of my captain's schooner.

We'll wear our love like wedding rings
Long polished to the touch;
We shall be busy with other things,
And they cannot bother us much.

When you are skimming the wrinkled cream,
And your ring clinks on the pan,
You'll say to yourself in a pensive dream,
'How wonderful a man!'

When I am slitting a fish's head,
And my ring clanks on the knife,
I'll say with thanks as a prayer is said,
'How beautiful a wife!'

And I shall fold my decorous paws
In velvet smooth and deep,
Like a kitten that covers up its paws,
To sleep and sleep and sleep.

Like a little blue pigeon you shall bow
Your bright alarming crest;
In the crook of my arm you'll lay your brow,
To rest and rest and rest."

Will he never come back from Barnegat,
With thunder in his eyes,
Treading as soft as a tiger cat
To tell me terrible lies?

--"The Puritan's Ballad," Elinor Wylie



Well, I learned you can't have your cake and eat it, too! I was physically sick about that for, oh, a month or two! All my great loves have been sailors! And he did come back, in 1984, with his wife, when I was named Utah Poet Laureatte, and "In Willy's House" had its concert reading at the University of Utah. He was a grandfather, and I had a husband and five young sons. What else can I say? That I still remember how he smelled?

LITANY FOR A SNOWMAN

"I have a problem. Everybody I ever loved
I still love." --Alice Morrey Bailey


What I wanted most was
First, a sort of lusty voyeurism,
To stare boldly
For a long time,
Neither of us speaking.
Then, for an icebreaker
I would have touched his hair
Where pale blond had silvered,
Would have taken his eyeglasses in hand
To better gaze on passions
We would not name. Without a word
I'd have taken his coat,
Have taken his hands in mine,
Turned them, looked a long time
At the palms, the nails, the backs,
Would have touched the hairs
Growing there, and touched
His arms. At last
I would bury my face
Against his chest and breathe of him
Until the inside of my head,
My lungs, my cells, were filled
With the scent of soap, after-shave,
Sun--whatever it is--
That makes me want to cry.


The last two years of High School I was the art editor of our yearbook, the El Burro. Time flies. This year (2006) is the 49th class reunion. I think, most of them never knew me THEN, why would they know me NOW? Those who did know me then were surprised when I (who had hardly spoken two words to anybody) went off to become a great actress! :)

"Is it not strange that desire should so many years outlive performance?" --William Shakespeare
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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Glen "A" Hatton (February 3, 1907 ~ September 15, 1982)


A COMMUNION OF STARS (for my father)


1. UNEXPECTED GUEST

There were nights on the Mojave
so bright we could watch the evolution of stars
above Five Fingers rising from the desert floor:
Bootes, Cassiopiae, Orion's Belt
with such an outpouring of energy and magnitude
that they will consume themselves
in only twenty million years
measured not by photocell upon a telescope
but by the naked eye

We used to sit and watch the sky
for signs and wonders
and now we know these happen
with predictable regularity
high above chaparrel and sage
watched by hawk and packrat

Papa burned brush in the woodstove
and the fire shot showers of sparks
like stars
Papa fixed his eyes on Polaris
poked the spitting fire and believed
in miracles

Before the moon
before the stars
before the earth even
was Papa with a pocket full of sweets
nothing's sweeter than an outcropping
of good silver-sulfide ore
the music of the gloryhole
harp enough for him
a pennysworth of carbide
lit in a tin hat like a star

I am an unexpected guest
at this festival of lights
a stranger out of time
grown large unwieldy unrecognized

Once as a child I tried to fly
upward from the valley floor
arms outstretched
a thousand tiny filiments of wings
flew about my sun-haloed hair

I didn't know then
words
would be my wings


2. COMMUNION

Not that it has a meaning
outside of this odd smile I find
a certain peace of mind

a rat came every day to eat from Papa's hand
lunch shared from a tin pail
a ham sandwich apples chocolate a thermos jug of milk
the dry rock they sat on hot
where the sun beat

under the earth is the sound of water running
see there where the wall is wet
water rises to meet cracks in the rocks
it does not freeze in winter
nor evaporate in summer but remains
sweet and cool without disguise

Face to face with the rat
eyes blinking from a mask of fine white dust
this gentle man and the rat
without greed without avarice
found this rare circle of breath
wide enough and room enough for two

In the purity of noon
nothing was wasted
ants found the chocolate crumbs


3. MEXICALI ROSE

Papa played the saxophone. Of all
his music he played Mexicali Rose best.
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

The desert wind blows from the west
In the wind I sometimes hear a slurred voice:
Stop crying....
I think of all I did not do
and did not wish to do
and wish to do now

The last notes are departed
the reed split the keys stuck
the saxophone lies on a shelf in the dark
of the closet behind a box
of almost forgotten dolls
Some night
splitting the universe in two
in a cave of stars
the flooding Pleiades all white about his knees
his pockets filled with little bits of sweetning silver
he'll take it up again
and every earthly thing will change
their dreams aroused to his slow music
a long lost voice

Mexicali Rose stop crying
I'll come back to you
some sunny day....

Friday, October 27, 2006

EVA PEARL WOLFE ~ 15 October, 1909 - 12 March, 1992




Personal Record of Eva Pearl (Wolfe) Hatton


I was born at home in Leonard, Colorado, October 15, 1909. My nine-year-old sister Josie, and my eight-year-old brother Ray, had been sent away from the house, and my sister said they were sitting outside betting on whether I would be a girl or a boy.

I was very spoiled. My mother had to work outside most of the time, and my sister had to take care of me. I remember once when she wanted to give me a bath in the tubs that we used then, and I wouldn't sit down, and I tore her dress badly, fighting with her to keep from sitting down.

The only bad disease I had that I can remember was scarlet fever. My mother and I were quarantined in a different house from the rest of the family for quite a long time. I think this disease caused me to lose my sense of smell and taste. I can only taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter things...not flavorings like garlic or vanilla. I can only smell things like eucalyptus oil, mentholatum, etc....not roses, honeysuckle, or skunks. My father was William Ray Wolfe, born in Nebraska someplace. His father was Silas Wolfe. His mother was Matie Elta Eldredge (or Phillips). My mother was Grace Ellen Mow. They were both good looking. My mother had red hair...also my sister and I.

We lived in sawmill camps a lot. My father had to keep track of long lines of figures, and he could add these figures up in his head almost as fast as we can use an adding machine now.

They used to have dances, and we would dress up in homemade costumes, and try to fool everyone about who they were. Once my mother and a friend dressed alike and danced once with their husbands, and then went and changed dressed and fooled everyone.

My brother worked from when he was twelve or thirteen. In the winters we moved to town. Colona was one where I went to school. I had a friend who had a teeter-totter, and we would put our legs in our sweater sleeves, and pull it on to look like pants, and really ride the teeter-totter fast and high.

I was never self-conscious until one time my brother told me I was red-headed, freckle-faced, pug-nosed, knock-kneed, and bow-legged, and I cried and cried, and from then on I was always bashful and self-conscious.

We moved to California (Randsburg) and we lived about two miles out of town in a tunnel for quite a while. I had to walk to elementary school, and I was always afraid I would meet a donkey (some were in those hills), but I never did. I graduated from eighth grade in Randsburg, California, and started to high school in Lancaster, California. I lived in a girls dormatory, and I was the youngest one there. There was one boy who liked me, and he was one who had a car, and he would come up the street, and we always knew he was coming, his car roared so. He used to come at night. Also some other boys did, and the girls would slip out to meet them. I think the others necked a little, but I wouldn't even let him hold hands. If I saw him coming down the hall at school I would turn off so I would miss him. I liked him, but I was too bashful in those days. After a while he got disgusted and got another girl...and I don't blame him (looking back). About my last two years in high school I had a great big football player for a boyfriend, and he never had a decent car.

After I graduated Glen and I were married. Lauree(his sister) and my mother went with us to Los Angeles, and we found a minister who came to our hotel and married us.
(Note* That minister turned out to be Reverend Lloyd C. Douglas, who later became famous for his many novels, some of which were made into movies, ie: The Robe, Magnificent Obsession, The Big Fisherman and many others.) We went to a show that night named "How to Hold Your Husband." At first we rented a nice house. Later we bought a little two-room house, and moved another room on it for a bedroom. Gaylen was born while we lived in this house. We didn't have washers then, and I had to washlothes on the washboard in the kitchen sink. which was made of cement. Glen worked in the mines then, and we didn't have very much money. We played for dances. We didn't have a radio, but my sister did, and we bought a speaker and hooked it up so whenever they had music we did.

After a while, they took the train out of that district, and Glen got railroad ties and built us a really nice place. His uncle helped him. It had walls as thick as the ties, and was stuccoed outside, and was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It had two bedrooms, a front room, kitchen, shower...and a big screen porch in front. We had no inside toilet in those days. It was a little outhouse in the back, and we had a long clothesline from the house out to it. Joyce came along when Gaylen was about eleven, and he used to hang a string of diapers from the house to the toilet for me every day. This was on the desert, and our water cost us one cent a gallon.

Gaylen went all of his first eight years to school in Red Mountain, California, to the same good teacher and friend. Then je went to high school in Barstow by bus, sixty miles each way, a day. The last two years he boarded down at Barstow with some people, and after he graduated he went to college at BYU in Provo, Utah, and later to the U of U in Salt Lake.

We moved to Inyokern, California in 1944, and had a service station and general store with my brother-in-law. The general store turned out to be with Glen's father and Glen. It was wartime, and the government brought in lots of Indians, and on paydays we would cash their checks for them. There would be a long line of them. Lots of them had long hair in braids and couldn't write or speak English.

I joined the Church on November 1, 1953. I was baptised in the gym on the Naval Base at China Lake, California. I played for the Singing Mothers, and Glen's sister Lauree was chorister for years. WE had, at one time, about 26 in the group. Once we put on an entertainment for the community, and it was a big success. Almost as soon as I joined the Church they made me organist, and I was supposed to play for Stake Conference in Barstow. I had never played the organ so I had to play the piano, and I was so frightened I couldn't keep my legs from jumping and my fingers from trembling.

I worked as a telephone operator for ten years (to date), and still working at it, April 22, 1961.


*More notes: In the picture where Mama stands on the front porch of the house in Colorado, about age 9, those in the photo are her sister Josie, her dad, his half-sister Eva and her husband Louis Courier, and their little boy. Aunt Eva used to save the catalogues for Mama to cut paperdolls out of.

The Girls in the picture are, L to R, Aunt Josie, Bacopickle, Aunt Louise (Ray's wife), her mother, Aunt Eva, and Mama.

Mama's best friend Irma, died in childbirth not long after this photo was taken.

Mama worked for Joe Apple in his store for a long time. WHen Eskimo Pie ice cream bars first came out, he kept Mama in good supply. She loved Eskimo Pies! When Mr. Apple invented his E Z Tire Changer (so easy a woman could do it!) Mama was his model in the booklet-brochere that advertised it.

In the photo of mama hanging clothes in the Cool Hat, the hat I remember best was a big Mexican Sombrero, pink and yellow, with little colored balls hanging from the brim. She always wore this when she'd hang out clothes, "to keep from getting freckles" in the sun.
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MAMA


even though i didn't write this poem, it conveys what i feel in my heart:


there are times in life when one does the right thing
the thing one will not regret,
when the child wakes crying "mama," late
as you are about to close your book and sleep
and she will not be comforted back to her crib,
she points you out of her room, into yours,
you tell her, "I was just reading here in bed,"
she says, "read a book," you explain it's not a children's book
but you sit with her anyway, she lays her head on your breast,
one-handed, you hold your small book, silently read,
resting it on the bed to turn pages
and she, thumb in mouth, closes her eyes, drifts,
not asleep -- when you look down at her, her lids open,
and once you try to carry her back
but she cries, so you return to your bed again and book,
and the way a warmer air will replace a cooler with a slight
shift of wind, or swimming, entering a mild current, you
enter this pleasure, the quiet book, your daughter in your lap,
an articulate person now, able to converse, yet still
her cry is for you, her comfort in you,
it is your breast she lays her head upon,
you are lovers, asking nothing but this bodily presence.
She hovers between sleep, you read your book,
you give yourself this hour, sweet and quiet beyond flowers
beyond lilies of the valley and lilacs even, the smell of her breath,
the warm damp between her head and your breast. Past midnight
she blinks her eyes, wiggles toward a familiar position,
utters one word, "sleeping." You carry her swiftly into her crib,
cover her, close the door halfway, and it is this sense of rightness,
that something has been healed, something
you will never know, will never have to know.

-- by Ellen Bass, 1985 from Our Stunning Harvest



It was here, at about age seven, after crawling into bed beside Mama, which I did often, that I would lie with her feeling very safe and loved, and the two of us memorized Saadi (out of an old Relief Society manual): If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, and of thy slender store, two loaves alone to thee are left--sell one, and with the dole buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

It was here in the bed that the three of us, Mama, Daddy, and I, would kick back and read the Sunday Funnies together. It was here, while Mama was reading Forever Amber, or Knock on Any Door,or another of her favorite books, that I stuck my finger into the empty bed light socket and almost blew my finger off!

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Connect The Dots: I AM FROM



I am from light, yes, a spark from the great Intelligent Light that set the universe afire, from Love, both spirit and matter, yes, and from the green living body of the earth, ocean and saltgrass, rain and roots. I am from amoeba, invertebrate to vertebrate, from Lucy. I am from Ephriam, from ancient Celts breathing in haze rising from peat bogs. I am from tassled cornfields in Cornwall, from the fires and peppered spices of Spain, from El Cid. I am of salt miners and salt barges of Cheshire, I am from their empty bellies and of the potatoes and buttermilk that filled them. I am from sailing ships, and steamboats. I am from children walking behind handcarts crossing the vast American prarie, I am from their frozen feet, wrapped in gunnysacks or dancing polkas or Fylde waltzes or Virginia reels. I am from fiddles and string bands and French horns. I am from sego lilies and lumpy dick and bread n'with it, from white salamanders and the three Nephites and funeral potatoes. I am from gold miners and lumberjacks, and red-haired women. I am from pony tails. I am from books. I am Plantagenet, and DeBohun. I am Shearer and Barkdull and Wolfe. I am Hatton, and Mau, the English, the German, the Scot. I am from Eva Pearl and Glen "A", the second of two, the female model. I am white beans and banana peppers, pot roast, macaroni and tomatoes. I am from both pain and pleasure. I do not ask perfection. I only ask for NOW. I am from poetry and a perfect brightness of hope. I am from wings.

(Inspired from January, at Poet Mom's list. Thanks!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Small Things


Monday and Me.

Native American Prayer

Dear Father hear and bless
Thy beasts and singing birds
And guard with tenderness
Small things that have no words.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Minor Problems


I have been close to my mother, but we never talked much about things intimate or personal. I carry her inborn reserve. The minor problems of adolescence, boys, pimples, the first menstruation, the first brassiere -- all great embarrassments to me -- were taken care of quickly and with a minimum of fuss, and I kept my feelings to myself. She was always there if I needed her. She never understood my revulsion at the dresses and pretty clothes she wanted me to wear when I wore faded blue jeans and too-large T-shirts, or why I let my hair go long and wild and stayed by myself, obstinate and sullen and full of unshared fantasies. I never meant to be rude or rebellious, but I was. I never felt unloved.

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one of Them....


When my mother was young, when they moved from Colorado to California, and picked cotton along the way, she saved enough money to buy a piano. Not a Grand piano, not a Steinway, but a player piano, with wide, flat pedals you pumped like you were riding a bicycle uphill. There was a window in the front, with sliding doors, that opened onto a roller, where you could load punched paper rolls that would play songs of your choice. You pumped the pedals like a hiker climbing Everest, and piano music poured out without your having to touch a finger to the keys. The keys jumped all by themselves, as if played by a ghost. Oh! You Beautiful Doll, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey Hold Me Tight and my favorite, that went: Where do you work, a-John? I push, I push I push! Where do you push, a-John? On the Delaware-Lackawan-awan-awan-awan, the Delaware-Lackawan.

By the time I was big enough to pump, one of the pedals had broken, and you had to tie your foot to it with a piece of rope, and pull your right foot up before pushing it down again. It was good exercize. I loved the music. Mama gave me piano lessons from age five or six until I was eleven, and got an attitude and refused to practice any more. That was a big mistake.

My attitude had a lot to do with my braces, my bad self-image. I felt fat and ugly. Sometimes I hated myself, my hair, my nose, and made ugly faces in the mirror and threw things. I escaped into books. I rocketed away to far planets. I went to the movies, where it was always cool and dark, and I could fade out of my mediocre existence and be any of those film characters I chose to be. And I was beautiful and funny and smart and rich....

At the movies you could see a double feature, a newsreel, a cartoon(usually Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, or Daffy Duck, or Porky Pig), and previews
of coming attractions, all for a dime. Sometimes, during the intermission, they would give away prizes. On Saturdays, there were serials, to-be-continued cliff-hangers that carried over to the next Saturday. Our heros were Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I changed my name to "Cheyenne," and sang I Come from Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are silver, my pony is gray... and I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle, as I go ridin' merrily along....I sang, Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above, Don't Fence Me In! We were surrounded by real Indians, hired to help build the railroad that came through town, also the new Naval Ordinance Test Station at China Lake, a Navy Base just east of town, where they made and tested real rockets.

I discovered comic books, and Science Fiction. I devoured Weird Science Fantasy, and Superman,and Wonder Woman. I loved Tales from the Crypt. Science Fiction became my life, and this was while such greats as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov were writing for the comic books. I idolized Ray Bradbury. I went from reading The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Mr. Popper's Penguins to The Martian Chronicles and I, Robot overnight.

Ray Bradbury wrote of himself: "I was one of Them: the Strange Ones. The Funny People. The Ones who waited through long days and nights, who used other peoples dreams for their lives."

I was one of Them, too. The Strange Ones.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Grace Ellen Mow





10 September, 1882 -- 4 July, 1970

Grace, my grandma, age sixteen. She wrote "We were married...in the section house ay Colona. A preacher came in on the train from Ouray to marry us. I had just turned seventeen years old. There was a big dance that night. We danced all night, until morning."

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William Ray Wolfe




December 16, 1899
Wedding picture: William Ray Wolfe and Grace Ellen Mow. She was seventeen, he was twenty-four. It was his birthday.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Grandpa Who





My Grandpa who (I never saw)


My grandpa who (I never saw)
shot mice behind the bedroom door
or under the pianoforte
blowing hell-holes in the floor
(O.F. Winchester's .44)
the bullets ricocheting
wall to wall. He swore
"Devil take!" and S.O.B!" and
"Plagues upon you!" (he
no catechist, he
no votary of Epicurius),

who, with his
stubborn Scottish jaw
and ranting woodman's fists
cut railroad ties
for Denver and the Rio Grande,
and caused my grandma
grief enough
to shoot herself (left breast,
she missed her heart
by barely half an inch).

And yet,
for all his fierceness
loved my mother
tenderly,
(a tiny red-haired dolly
he dandled on his knee).
I never saw my grandpa
but grandpa gave to me
enough insanity
to keep my devils free.


Everybody has a story. What was her story? What was his? I have no way of knowing, really, why she did this. My mother told me what but not why. Maybe she never knew, herself. Whatever it was that made my grandma, Grace Ellen, my Bocapickle, to want to die, I am sure it changed and shaped the rest of her life. Really, all their lives. Mama said her father was a very possessive and jealous man, given to irrational rages and fits of anger. Grandma wrote that he had "a very bad temper." He did shoot at mice inside the house. One of the ricocheting bullets landed between the pillows on the bed where the babies were sleeping. I wonder, did they cry? Were they too afraid to cry?

A blogger friend of mine, liz, writes, "We have all been on a journey that brings us to this place. Right now. We should be gentle with our own feelings and careful to think about why we are moved to judge another."

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kern River



John and Bacopickle. Daddy and Mama.

A picnic. Years ago. My grandmother, Bacopickle, is still alive. She is here with her long used-to-be red hair wrapped around her head in circles of braids. John has a bottle of Four Roses whisky to keep him company. He celebrates every holiday with a bottle of Four Roses. He sits apart from the rest of us and hums comfortably to himself. In ten years they will both be gone. But today it is all right, today is fine! Tomorrow we will go our separate ways, but today we are all together again. Daddy cooks hamburgers over an open fire. Blue smoke rises high into the air. Mama helps Bacopickle with the lemonade and potato salad. My big brother climbs out of the river, says he won't go back in, the water's too cold. He lies on a wide, warm rock to dry out, like a lizard in the sun.

Wild blackberries grow all along the river's edge. The water sparkles. I throw little rocks into the water and the circles of ripples widen and run together. I step off the bank and wade out until the cold water is up to my knees. Little silver shivers dance like ripples up my backbone. Mother calls me to come back. I turn toward the shore and step off into a deep hole. The cold water closes over my head. Water is in my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth and ears. The waterweeds cover me, tangling my legs, pulling me down. I can't see or breathe or think. I can't call out. I can only sputter and cough and flail my arms helplessly.

My big brother comes in after me. I gasp and cling to his neck. When we are safely back on shore, he says, "If you'd been in the air instead of in the water, you'd a been flying!"

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

By Gis and By Saint Charity


In this book
there was a picture
of fair mad Ophelia,
floating face up, trailing daisies:
on another page
The Rape of Lucretia,
startled hand to throat,
round breasts fallen over her bodice
like white May pears.
Somewhere, dark Othello
and that poor Jew Shylock
protested in blacker pentametered despair.

The pictures drew me.
The words were only partly
understood, underscored by my
splayed young fingers across the page.

Now I trail ink-stained daisies
of my own, sing mad songs,
demand my pound of flesh,
stare blindly across the spaces
between years, and wait
for whirling obsidian waters
to have me,
to carry this ash-black body
coughing blood
and cut it into stars.


Painting: Echo of Ophelia by Im Elbenwald

BEWARE THE BODY

re
It never rains in sunny California
and it never rained where I come from
winter and summer it was the same,
our flat forced grass was coaxed
out of the sand with promises of sun
sun and more sun.
Reality was chapped knees, chapped lips,
too-small oxfords with the toes scuffed out,
Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers
singing "Happy Trails...."

After the war they shot cats
that ran wild and thrashed in the bamboo stand.
There were sunny California Januaries when wind
rattled layers of loose wallpaper
on bedroom walls, and worn checkered oilcloth
covered the kitched table.

Night was an alien thing.
Snakes climbed dark folds in my windowcurtains
while voices murmured from lit rooms
on the other side of the door: Deuces wild,
they said. Here's another chip
to sweeten the pot.

Grandma Josie, dead from diabetes
at thirty-four stood quietly in the dark
on my side of the door, whispering
with urgent intent.
I could hear the voice but not the words.

Now, no dreaming here
I hear the words unravelling clear
and unmistakable:

Beware the body that betrays.
Beware the body...
Beware....

Poor Donald Duck






At ten. Embarrassed by my crooked teeth, afraid to smile. But not yet old enough for this to be a great hinderance to my self-image. I still like to play with dolls, and paper dolls, and read books, although my best girlfriends are beginning to like boys. My animals have become my best friends, my dogs and cats and birds. I am traumatized when some adult decides to shoot and kill all the cats and kittens that live in the bamboo field. My friend Carlita's dad decides to murder her pet duck, Donald, right before our eyes, the bastard. And I have to get braces on my teeth (which I will wear for the next three years). My big brother is away at college most of the time, and I spend a lot of time alone, drawing, trying to read Shakespeare--some sonnets, The Rape of Lucrecia, Hamlet. I have to look up the word rape in the dictionary, and I am intrigued by the concept. The picture of fair, mad Ophelia floating down the river, trailing daisies and singing mad songs stays with me yet. And my own grandmother, my dad's mother, whose name was Josie, and whose photograph at the age of twelve--about my age--was hung on a bedroom wall and used to whisper sibilant riddles to me, her paper lips moving mysteriously, scaring me. My best friend, my dog Lucky, was run over by a car while I was at school, and my dad buried him somewhere out on the desert. I searched tirelessly for his grave (as I had for my brother's dog, Sparky).

The family was still all together. Bacopickle and John lived next door. Uncle Ray and Aunt Louise, my mother's brother and his wife, and their three children lived close by. My cousin Wanda, who we called 'Ginger,' made me costumes out of old bedsheets and curtains. We practiced backbends and frontovers and cartwheels every evening in the front yard. We played hide n' seek until it was too dark to see. We ran until we were salty with sweat. My brother Gaylen, the year before he went away to school at BYU, and our cousin Billy, made gasoline engine model airplanes and flew them in circles out on the desert. My brother had an absolute passion for airplanes, and flying. He wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Model airplanes were suspended on wires and strings from ceilings all over our house. Billy's nose always told him when Mama or Bacopickle were baking bread, and he was always the first one in line for the first hot-out-of-the-oven slice with butter. (Billy survived Korea, and was killed in a car wreck outside Las Vegas a few months after his discharge. Gaylen went on to the university and majored in music, becoming a composer and a professional musician--but he still loved flying.) Dad's sister Lauree and her family lived nearby and we ate Sunday dinners together after church, either at their house or at ours. Mama's sister (also Josie) and her two beautiful daughters, Donna, and Deana Rae, were just a house away. I loved them all immensely. Still do. The Family.

I still danced with Miss Dee. I had my first role in a Christmas play at school, as the 'Christmas Fairy,' with tinsel sparkling on my fairy wings and costume (made from an old silk petticoat of my mother's -- another great embarrasment to me. I cried, and complained, and carried on over that one for days!) and a sparkling magic wand. I don't remember much about the play, but my role was to help Santa by bringing in animals. My lines were: "Come birds, come! I need you!" and "Come bees, come! I need you!" Well, it wasn't Shakespeare. But, who knew? And actually, it wasn't really the first. The Christmas before, I had a line as one of the Crachit children when we did Dickens A Christmas Carol. "I hear the pudding singing in the basin!" That was it. Our onstage Christmas feast was Spam, hidden behind a paper mache turkey, and red Jell-o.

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About Me

My photo
1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.