I remember watching the Vietnam war, before the news was sanitized, dispersed, and full of obvious agendas. Seeing film, of live machine gun fire, from a de-militarized zone, on a small color TV, in our cramped front room. We hadn't learned to call them livingrooms yet. The flag draped coffins arriving in each state. The families with their Sunday best waiting on the tarmac. Those missing in action bracelets, we ordered from the back of comic books.
My mother telling me that M.A.S.H., was a parody of the Vietnam war. Frank Burns and Major Houlihan, having an open affair, while he was marrried, on the show. The Fickle Finger of Fate Award, given on Laugh In (another word for Sit-In? par chance). A young Goldie Hawn, in a bikini and body-paint, tatoos, dancing in white, gogo boots. Her rebellion so cute. This is were I discovered, I liked books, movies and art. Not wearing those babydoll dresses, although I found them heartbreakingly beautiful.
I was born in 1964, the spring after Kennedy was shot. Most people, a few years older, tell me that they were at school, when they got the news about his death. The year of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident a fabricated event and Johnson declaring war on Vietnam without approval of the Senate. My dear uncle going to Vietnam in the following years as a result of the escalation. By some statistics, I am a considered a baby boomer. Although, I also have seen charts that end with, anytime from 1962-1966. To me, a babyboomer, is if you can remember where you were, when Kennedy was shot. Otherwise you miss the point of all the pathos that was to come. To me, the babyboom should end at 1960, when the pill began to be widely used. I am a babyboomer, although I don't feel like one. I don't exactly relate to the group retiring now, although I understand them. I know who Pablo Cruise is, but never bought the t-shirt. I have grey hair, just a little though.
My aunt who was two years older than me, had a game called Masterpiece. It was rather a simple game, were you moved the pieces around a circle and aquired cards with paintings on them. I remember thinking, I would like to know about, who painted them and their history. I was already in the habbit of not sharing my thoughts. We easily bored of the game, and several pieces were missing. I must have been about seven. Strange that my first reaction to seeing a classic painting, was that I was interested in the history. My aunt liked to sew. Which in todays age would lead to fashion, but in our mileu, meant Sears patterns, and a lot of the zigzag braid. The painting I remember was a self portrait of Rembrandt.
The only real painting, I had seen previously, was a still life my aunt Kerry had painted. A fifties looking bowl of flowers with a dischordanent pear on the table. I looked at it everyday. She died of cancer at the rather young age in her early twenties. So, I never got to ask her, hey, why the pear? Also a rather windswept, sad, painting, of a church, at my grandmothers'. Which I realize now, was close to what her girlhood church looked like. I soppose if they had had a library, it would have belonged in one. I am certain she wished for a library.
My mother started college probally, around 1970, and I remember her making a heavy black, wood, picture frame. She was not handy, and all by herself, she cut the wood. She spray painted the awkard contraption, outside, on the small piece of sidewalk. Someone had given her a stark portrait of a young man. He had a longish haircut, and the face was white outlined in black with a red background. I think she became a bit unraveled when my aunt Kerry died. Of course we had books to look at, but I have no recollection of seeing books of art work, or painting, other than for religious reasons.
What excited me at the time were reproductions from the bible, hanging in peoples houses. The virgin blue, background Marys, and the da Vinci last suppers. Joseph and his many colored coat, being stripped off his back, as he was sold into slavery, by his brothers. Also, the prayer books, during lent, filled with photographs of suffering. There was one of a depression era, destitute looking woman, sitting in her tent with her children. We would look at each picture and say a hail mary.
I was so moved by this photo, that in later years seeing it, and learning that the womens' history, went well, felt extreme relief. It was a famous photo, by a Dorothea Lange, a woman photographer. I think called, the Migrant Woman. In modern times, contact had been made with the family in the photo. I had feared for their lives during many solitary hours, and always imagined them, in the worse scenarios of suffering. Recently, I saw a funny youtube about Steve Martin singing that atheist ain't got no art. Whatever flights of mind religion induces it can't be all bad, look at all that art.
The first movie I saw in a theater, I was perhaps five, was a foriegn, film about the shoemaker and his elves. I found the elves a little scary. My grandmother seemed extremely pleased, to have taken me to a movie, so I didn't mention it. Strange she would choice this film out of all the others for me. The first movie I remember going to by myself, was when I was 10 years old. The movie was One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. I always loved that the Old Chief got out, and likely ran home. I know its unimaginable now, I had been dropped off at a shopping center, and told I had two hours to kill. It was the movie playing. As soon as I could drive, I was at the movies most weekends. I had taken an early habbit of seeing movies by myself. My two favorites of my youth, were Reds, and An Officer and a Gentleman.
I have only one memory of going to a movie with another person as a teen, I was so solitary. Other, than an exceptional date. One of the last things we did together as a family was go to a movie at my insistance. It was the movie Candleshoe. A disney film, starring one of my favorite actresses, Jody Foster. I think my father was deeply involved with the woman, who would be his second wife, before his third. And my mother newly sprung from a psychiatric facility or maybe before she had gone. This experience really was a godsend, offering educations and inadvertently helped our entire family. I feel awkward mentioning it, yet nothing but good came of it.
My parents seperated soon after, although they had continued to live together for several years after divorcing. I was about 14. Me and my two younger sisters enjoying the rare event of us all in one place. Perhaps one of the last times we would all rally and look like a family for a momment. I asked my father what he thought of the film. I remember him mentioning, that he liked, that it was a detective film, and one had to think about the clues. As video players became more common place, I started keeping a list of Bergman films, I would like to see. I longed to name a dog Faro, after the stark island he had moved to in his old age.
I remember stumbling into a library around 12 years old, and looking around for a picture book to pass a lunch hour. Happening across a book on Russian history with beautiful prints. I being a tall, awkward girl, immediately seized on the idea, that Peter the Great, who was also tall, and I had been secret lovers in a past life. I was so ashamed of my passion, I hid it in a picture book of horses. Believing I had found something shameful. I even made a model of our secret ducha on the steppes, for science class when I had been trying to build a habbitat for a platypus. I never mentioned it and it was accepted. The platypus was glued on our royal bed, my secret joke. I also began to seek out books on French, Spanish and English royalty during this time. Chasing that first jolt of immagination, I had experienced with the open book on the table. Like an immagination junkie looking for a fix.
The first writers or stories, I learned to love, Robinson Cursoe, Egar Allen Poe, The Portrait of Dorian Grey, Around the World in Eighty Days, were first known to me through childrens classic comics. Sometimes I was convinced I could hear the telltale heart beating under the floorboards. One year, when around 13 years old I read the Little House on the Prarie series, perhaps five or six times. To me they never understood it, on the show. It was not about being good, it was a recipe for living book through hard times, made romantic. How to survive poverty, and isolation, while clouds drifted by. I felt they totally missed that she was a woman writer and they never showed intricate steps of candle making.
As far as it went, the TV character Nellie was funny. She did, move to Paris, and is a regular, on the french talk show circuit. She recently came out with a new book. She speaks a very capable french, that sounds like mine, which she learned it as an adult. Unlike Jody Foster's, less accented, hushed tome, who went to a french school, as a fetted child, in Los Angelos. For whatever reason, I suddenly think of a New Yorker cartoon where a child exclaims to their parents, "thanks at lot, for giving me a happy childhood, now I will never be a writer".