Thursday, April 21, 2011

Packing Remainders

I have been back in Collingswood taking care of the fine packing. It is easy to haul books, records, and furniture because they are somewhat essential to your life. There are other elements of your life that are packaged in little boxes and put in out of the way places so you can visit them every so often but are not so easy to deal with. It is easy to throw away old records, linens and clothes but it is yet another matter when you surface your baby booties that your mother somehow managed to get out of a country that did not allow her to leave with anything more than three outfits.

I am going through the real elements of my life. My college papers from Occidental college. My original thesis from 1974 and all of its accompanying research and criticisms in French, no less. Some of the early gifts that were given to me by my parents such as a Bell and Howell Super Eight movie camera, projector and screen for high school graduation. I have it all and all the movies I made with them of my family. I sent the projector and the screen to Florida and just discovered the camera. These gifts cost a fortune in 1970 and today the camera is not even worth $10.00 on EBay. Do you know that they still make super eight film. Maybe, no, never mind.

It would be great if I had kids to leave all this crap to but I don't. Even if I did, I doubt they would want it. The meaning of all these things is locked up in my brain and appears to have no importance to anyone else. I also just discovered a collection of Airplane Trading Cards that were published in Chicago and a little research brought out hundreds of others who have similar collections. They are still held together by an old shoe lace ( I can't swear if it is Cuban or not). Mine are slightly different. The front of the card is in English with the color image and plane description. The back of the card is in Spanish with all the statistics. You see mine cards I got in Cuba and it was one of two toys that I was allowed to take out the country. Somehow, I have not thrown them away like I did the ensemble of Robin Hood plastics figures that like toy soldiers used to occupy my childhood play fantasies.

I have a multitude of items that I have carried with me for too long. Not having any siblings I am in charge of this patrimony, but these are not national treasures just my lost youth and infancy which we all have. It is painful to revisit with them and even harder the idea that they are nothing but junk with pentimentos of life.

There are also what appear now as questionable elements in interior design that cost too much money and somehow don't fit in your life anymore. I still have items from a great store in Los Angeles called the Akron that went out of business years and years ago.

I have boxes of my Father's personal items which I got when I went to stop him from committing suicide in Florida and failed. I have the clippings from the newspaper where he appeared as a victim of suicide by cop. I have an evening news video showing him spread out under a sheet in the middle of the street. I have the letters to the lawyer when I pursued suing the hospital and the doctors who released him due to Medicare coverage limitations when he was not of stable mind, depressed over his cancer. Maybe the Republicans should get rid of medicare and their own personal medical program at the same time so they can face the misery and helplessness I faced. My lawyer explained that because he was 80 years old and his life was valued on the remaining expectancy and because no doctor would have spoken up against another it would be a hard case to make or win. I could have ruined myself trying to prevent another such medical neglect but instead I dropped the entire matter and got on with my life. Even if I threw away this box, it is carved in my brain.

Fortunately, I also have my father's Zenith Trans-Oceanic Radio. Father purchased this to keep in touch with life in Cuba. You can imagine how weird it was to be in your living room in Los Angeles listening to all manner of programming from Cuba. Well, it will serve me well as the reception in Tarpon Springs is abysmal. I can barely hear public radio as it is sandwiched in between all manner of Christian broadcasting networks. Needless to say, not a personal preference. Also, I may want to listen to what is going on in Cuba now that I am that much closer.

Limo in a very green garden soon to be full of other colors

Last Saturday I attended a reading group at my UU church in Cherry Hill. The subject was gardening and I had been asked to lead the discussion. I told the organizer that as much as I wanted to do this, I was in transition and was not certain if I would be in Collingswood for the event. I also thought it not fair to give me the honor when I am moving on and there are many other local UUs to handle the task. Luckily, I was here and could attend. When it came time for me to speak I said what I will tell you. Gardening for me is as natural as breathing. It comes to me from as long ago as those booties. It is the only place I know that I can put my mind on hold and instinctually take care of the plants that nurture and delight me. It is also a place that calms me like no other where I can forget the hate and disappointment that I have faced in my life. So when I say to you happy gardening, I mean it!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ava Gardner

I have been travelling up and down the I95 corridor to Florida from New Jersey for many years. My first trip was to visit my father after a long estrangement in 1995. Along the way I drove by the town of Smithfield, North Carolina. There was really not much there at the time except for a sign that alluded to it being the home of Ava Gardner. In spite of my interest I did not stop.

My parents were strange examples of movie fans. You must remember that my parents grew up and courted each other in Cuba. Yet, somehow they seemed to know a lot of newsreel and film gossip on just about any of the Stars of their era. Much later growing up in Los Angeles it was hard to watch a movie  with them even though it was fun to hear their passion for film and the stars of their youth. They would have so many constant separate conversations that it was hard to keep up with the film on television. There was a program called the Fabulous 50's which featured Hollywood's greatest movies even though many of the films were from the 30's and the 40's. I guess it was impossible to grow up in Hollywood with my parents and not be a film fan.

Ava Gardner was a star that evoked many comments. My Mother would carry on "How could she have married Mickey Rooney? My Father was one to comment on her class and how she had gone from Artie Shaw to Frank Sinatra. These stories would always circled back to her affair with famous Spanish bull fighter Dominguin. Of course they knew nothing about her other than the dribble put out by the studios or gossip papers of the time but knowing that little they somehow felt connected to her and others. It is unfortunate that they were not able to meet her when she visited Cuba and was literally across the hill from us staying at Hemingway's house. Whether apocryphal or not Hemingway was supposed to have watched her swim nude in his pool and asked his staff not to empty the pool water(a common practice of the day was to fill and empty the pool after use).

I never did see her in too many great movies although when she was in a film it was hard not to notice her. In Mogambo she was nominated for an Oscar. Other of her films are nice but none are great dramatic roles. My favorite acting roll of hers was in Night of the Iguana where she played a boozy hotel owner having her fun with a couple maraca playing cabana boys. The Barefoot Contessa, again, is a nice role but not much more unless you consider her STAR power. I capitalize this because Ava Gardner belonged to a different world of film making than that which we have today. The Moguls relied on qualities of presence, beauty, sexual magnetism and if potential actors had these they would teach them the rest.

So on this trip from Tarpon back to Collingswood I stopped in Smithfield. The town now is a major discount designer mall destination and it has the Ava Gardner Museum. I was on the go early and the museum was closed but it was located in a retail building housing a collection of items belonging to the Star. I suspect that Ava Gardner might have ran barefoot if need be to Hollywood to get away from this ham producing sleepy town but that was not the case. Her beauty was spotted by a talent scout who happened on a series of her photographs that were on display at a New York 5th Avenue photo studio - the rest is history. I am not trying to be mean here but it appears that she returned to Smithfield to be buried after a glamorous life elsewhere.

I guess that I made this trip because to me, Ava Gardner, was a goddess for her style and beauty. Visiting her town and eventually her grave was something that I did in memory also of my parents and their "love" for her. I have, on many occasions, gone to honor a memory and the final resting place of famous individuals. I have been to Shelley's grave in Rome, Callas' cremains in Paris, Tyrone Power and Stan Laurel's in Hollywood and Celia Cruz in the Bronx. Cemeteries are unusual places. I wrote my graduate thesis on the evolution of cemeteries as a substitute for parks at the beginning of the Industrial Era. I visit them as a place to enjoy the landscape.

Limo accompanied me and I was careful to make sure he did not relieve himself anywhere

Ava Gardner is buried at Sunset Memorial Park. It is not a great cemetery, but if it is any consolation she is with her parents and brothers. You would think she would have rather been in some exciting place with her bullfighter Domingin but maybe not.

The Blue Bird Lobby Card starring both legends

All this comes on the heels of the death of Elizabeth Taylor who was possibly the last of the Hollywood Stars. We now have actors (whether men or women) trained in their craft and providing us entertainment in films. I wonder if any of these are providing juicy gossip for parents to share with their children?