Sunday, March 28, 2010

My friend Wilbur

Sandy and I have been watching the HBO mini-series The Pacific, which follows several US Marines in World War II. Some of the characters are based on "real" men who served in Marines. In tonight's episode, the Marines (after intense fighting in Guadalcanal) went to Australia on shore leave. This got me thinking about an old friend of mine - a man named Wilbur.

Wilbur was well into his Sixties when we became acquainted.  I was 16, so Sixties seemed really old to me then. I passed by his house when I drove to and from my part-time job at a fast food restaurant in town. Almost always, he'd be sitting on his front porch, and he'd always smile and wave like he knew who I was. I learned eventually that he wasn't waving because he knew me. His thick "Coke bottle" glasses weren't doing him much good. Wilbur was going blind. As is often the case, he was learning to rely on other senses.

As to how I got to know him, I guess curiosity got the best of me. His family and mine have lived in the area for several generations, and Wilbur attended the same Baptist church that some of my cousins attend. So when I made that spontaneous decision to stop and chat with him one afternoon, all I had to do was say my name and my Dad's name. We Southerners are visiting people, so it really wasn't all that weird that I stopped by unannounced. Anyway, I found him to be a pleasant person, very well-mannered and grateful to have someone to chat with, and my visits soon became regular.

Over time, I learned quite a bit about this man who spent most of his life living quietly as a farmer. He was different in a lot of ways. For one thing, he could quote Shakespeare. I learned this one day when he asked me what I was studying in school (as he often did) and I told him we were reading MacBeth and he threw me out a couple of quotes from that play about battle. I also learned that he was a World War II veteran -- a Marine, Semper Fi -- who had served in the Pacific. I can't remember where exactly, and he never gave details, but he did say that he'd seen quite a bit of "action."

Wilbur never married. This can be perplexing to a 16 year old, so one day I just flat out asked him why not. He told me he'd only been in love once, with an Australian "girl" named Katherine, whom he met when he was on leave there during the war. He fell hard for her, and apparently it was mutual. But when he asked her to marry him, she balked. Would he be willing to live in Australia, she asked? -- because she was unwilling to move to America. Wilbur had responsibilities back home, including taking care of his mother, so moving to Australia wasn't realistic for him. They ended up parting ways, but even forty years later when Wilbur told me that story, I could feel his pain and . . . well, more than a hint of remorse.

I stayed in touch with Wilbur for several years after high school, visiting him when I was home from university. We shared a joke that we were boyfriend and girlfriend, and as Wilbur's vision grew worse I would always preface our conversations with "It's me! Your girlfriend!" as soon as I stepped out of my car. Eventually my parents moved away, and my trips back to the place where I grew up became rare events. I don't remember the last time I saw Wilbur, but a few years ago my Dad informed me that my old boyfriend had passed away.

Next time I go "back home" I'm going to stop by his grave site and have another visit. Until then, I'll be thinking of him as we watch The Pacific, and wondering if there are any similarities between his story and the stories of the Marines being portrayed. And wishing I'd asked him more questions, and done a better job of listening. And keeping in touch.

Thanks for the memories, Wilbur. As long as I'm around you will not be forgotten, my friend.

Friday, March 26, 2010

If you like books

. . . then maybe you'll like my Book Blog, Mariandy Reads. I just wrote my 75th book review! I started the blog in July 2008 when I was living in Vienna, and -- well, I haven't been able to stop. I read all sorts of books. Historical fiction is probably my favorite genre, but mysteries and paranormal thrillers have been a recent trend. Sometimes I read young adult novels as a way to connect with my niece. Every now and then I read nonfiction, usually something to do with food, travel, or history. It really just depends on my mood, and which book picks me (I don't pick the books, they pick me.) Anyway, if this sounds interesting to you, check it out!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Girls with guitars

When I was a kid, I took piano lessons for several years. My first piano teacher was really nice, and she believed that all music (including pop and rock) was worthy. Unfortunately, she and her family moved to another town, so I had to get another teacher. "Mrs. B" was from Armenia. She believed that classical music was the only music worth listening to or playing. Mrs. B was ruthless. Whenever I missed a note, she'd smack my hand with a ruler and yell things like "Turd finger! Turd finger!" I decided that piano was not my forte.

But guitar was. I knew as soon as I put my arms around one. I think I was eight or nine (?) when Mom bought me an Alvarez classical guitar for $100. It was Red, and at the time I thought that was really cool, even though it was a classical guitar with nylon strings. My guitar teacher was a peaceful hippie dude (hey, it was, like, 1975) and he tried hard to get me into Segovia, but eventually caved to my interest in rock 'n roll and pop.

I always thought girls with guitars were da bomb. I grew up listening to Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez. They were good guitar role models, but along came Nancy Wilson (of the band Heart) in the mid-seventies, and she rocked my early teen world. Joan Jett arrived on the scene when I was in high school. and not long after, Chrissie Hynde and Jane Wiedlin. There have been many since. And there will be many more. 'Cause girls with guitars rule!!!

The last time I played guitar seriously was in the mid-90s. Inspired by Don Felder in The Eagles' Hell Freezes Over tour video, I bought a Fender Stratocaster and an amp, and started taking lessons. I wrote a couple of songs, and actually thought about going down to The Bluebird in Nashville. (I lost my nerve. I was always a little bashful about performing.) Then I went back to school and for some reason decided to sell my guitar, and didn't play again for fourteen years.

Last weekend were at our friend Karen's house, and I noticed that she had two guitars on stands. I gravitated to the acoustic guitar, picked it up, and started playing. Suddenly, it all came back to me, like riding a bicycle. My tender fingers couldn't take the steel strings for long, but that old craving to play was back. Just so happens that Karen is thinking about selling the acoustic (she prefers electric), so she let me borrow it for a while to get the feel of it. I'm not sure yet if I'll buy it (she may decide not to sell), but one thing's for sure: I'm a guitarist. Not a great one, and maybe not even a good one. But it gives me a thrill to play. So I'm gonna keep doing it!

Who knows. maybe we'll start a band!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Movie weekend

I used to go to movies all the time, but for the last several years, I just haven't been into movie watching. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that I cannot sit still for two hours at a time. With very few exceptions (e.g., Avatar), it seems like such a waste of time. I always feel like I need to be multi-tasking. Even when I watch TV, I'm doing something else: cooking, Facebooking, blogging, etc. So it's a really unusual thing that I watched not just one but three movies this weekend.

Last night, we decided to order Precious on Comcast On Demand. I'd seen the previews and heard all the hype about Mo'Nique's Oscar-winning performance and Gabourey Sidibe's amazing film debut, and to be honest, I wanted to see Mariah Carey without makeup. Just kidding on that last part. Seriously, though, I got sucked right into this movie from the very first frame, and sat right there in the chair, alternatively wanting to cry and wanting to smack that b*tch Mary Jones (Mo'Nique is seriously awesome in this role) up. Precious may not be a perfect movie, but it's certainly captivating, and probably more reflective of some people's realities than we realize.

Once you push that button on On Demand once, it's easy to do it again. So we ordered a second movie. Both of us had been interested in seeing Amelia when it came out in theatres, but for some reason (um, we have lives?) we missed it. I've always liked Hilary Swank, and thought she did a good job as Amelia Earhart -- even looked a lot like her. But there was something flat about the movie, and my interest started to wane after the first 20 minutes or so. I didn't like Richard Gere as Putnam, but I don't know why. So I got out my knitting (that will have to be a future blog entry as I'm sure some of you may be quite shocked that I would ever write the words "I" and "knitting" in the same sentence) and that was pretty much it until 12:40AM. (1:40AM if you count the time change.)

This morning during breakfast, we noticed that 2010 Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker was available On Demand, so we gave it a go. OK. I know there are lots of people out there who think this is a great movie. I respect that. But for me, it was the type of movie I could play Bejeweled Blitz all the way through and look up only when something exploded. In fact, I wrote this entire blog entry while this movie was on, and don't feel like I've missed a thing.

Maybe I should have only watched one movie. Quality is better than quantity, after all.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

10 things I'll miss about winter

Despite my extreme case of Seasonal Affective Disorder this winter, I'm kind of sad to see it go. I know that winter's departure means it's only a matter of a few more months before it's unbearably hot and humid here in central Indiana, and I'll be moaning about that. Anyway, consider this my homage to winter. I'll miss:

1.  Winter foods - like soups, stews, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, and kale.
2.  Wearing long sleeves. Call this a personal quirk. I don't know why this is, and I haven't always been this way. But I don't like seeing arms at work. Mine or anyone else's.
3. My winter clothes. Especially my black flannel pants. I have always liked my winter clothes more than my summer clothes. And I hate wearing "spring" and "summer" colors, like pastels. Or any shade of yellow. Give me black all year round!
4. The handsome Pileated woodpecker who hangs out in the woods behind my house. He might be there this summer, but I won't be able to see him as often - or as clearly - once the leaves start popping out.
5.  Peace and quiet. As soon as it gets over 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the kids take over my neighborhood. They are loud and obnoxious. Come to think of it, so are their parents. What is it with people that they can't use their indoor voices in their yards? Sheesh.
6. Winter smells - like cinnamon and allspice and nutmeg. It just seems strange to burn candles with these scents when it's hot outside.
7. Using weather-related excuses when I'm feeling lazy. For example . . . "Sorry, but I can't go for an exercise walk because it's too cold." Or "Gee, I guess I'll have to sit in the massage chair and read a Sookie Stackhouse novel this afternoon because it's snowing so I can't [insert exterior-based chore here.]
8. My Vermont Flannels. Best pajamas in the UNIVERSE!!!
9. Pressing my face up against the glass and looking out at the woods behind my house. See #4 above.
10. Having the desire to run off to the Caribbean or some beach somewhere. This only happens to me in the months of January and February. I am definitely NOT a beach person the other ten months of the year. In fact, I stay away from beaches from March through December. Why? Because I don't like sand. And . . . I always get sunburned.

The truth is, I'm more of a winter person than a summer person! Oh, well . . . it will come again, eventually!