Sunday, March 03, 2013

Back to the blog

Hi, folks.

I'm back. Needed a bit of a break, I guess, longer than I had planned.

As I told you during our last outing, last fall was tough. These past few months have been a time of transition. And I guess I needed time to think, clear the cobwebs, clean out the attic.

Plus, I just got tired. When you write all day, the last thing you want to do when you get home is pull out the keyboard and go at it again.

But it's time. I've missed our little chats.

So much to report. I am an uncle again. My sister, Jenna, and her husband, Rance, are the parents of a beautiful baby girl, Georgia Reagan Sharp, 7 pounds and some change, born at 12:45 p.m. Friday, March 1.

She's such a sweet little thing. Tan complexion. Her big mop of black hair almost makes you think she's a year old. She's a magical mix between the Mabe and Sharp bloodlines. Her sister, Maisen, was the spitting image of her father when she exited the womb. Reagan is a more balanced genetic blend.

One of my most beloved teachers, Virginia Rains, died last month. She was my fifth grade teacher at the old Brickey Elementary School. Oh, how I loved that woman, then and now. As I said in the obit I wrote for the Shopper-News, Mrs. Rains cared about us as students, but she cared about us as human beings, too. Even at 11 years old, you could tell. She introduced us to music and to Monet. She was special.

I kept up with her over the years, although not as frequently as I wished. I sent her a letter when I graduated from high school. Her husband, Jack, said the family found it when they were going through her things after she died. I saw her and Jack at the final taping of "The Heartland Series" in 2009.

By one of those great turns that life takes, I became friends with Virginia's son and daughter-in-law, Donovan and Pam Stewart, before I knew the connection. Van is a chiropractor and a darn good one. When I happened to stop in for an adjustment last summer because I was having sciatic trouble, Van told me that day was Virginia's birthday. When I got back to the office, I called her on the phone. We talked for 15 or 20 minutes. That wasn't a coincidence, looking back on it now. I just hate it was the last time we got to speak. I told her I'd bring my wife by to meet her. But, as we too often let it, seven months went by while I was looking the other way.

Van broke down when I got to him at the receiving line. He told me Mrs. Rains loved me very much. I began to cry and told him that feeling was more than reciprocated. Some teachers leave a long-lasting mark. Virginia Rains was that kind of teacher, that kind of person.

I've been home for two weeks. Had a tonsillectomy and some other work to fix a deviated septum and some other sinus-related stuff, which required a hospital stay and an extended convalescence. It wasn't exactly a walk in the park. But, I look on the bright side. I lost 10 pounds, got to eat popsicles and ice cream, and watch plenty of classics from the tube and the cinema. Jenn says I was a pretty good patient.

Of all things, I got hooked back on "Dark Shadows." I needed to make a dent in that big box set anyway, and it's the perfect thing to watch when you're sick and stoned.

It made me think of childhood. For awhile in my teenage years, I was obsessed with Dan Curtis' crazy dream. And watching these episodes have brought me full circle in a way. Twenty years ago, my dad moved from the part of town that had been wired for fiber optics to another place that at the time didn't get the cable channel on which "Dark Shadows" aired. (Seems archaic just to type it.) So, I missed out on what's generally considered the show's best plotline -- Quentin Collins and the time travel trip to 1897.

I had started watching those episodes when I bought the set last summer. But, I can only take "Dark Shadows" in small doses. Now I had time. Couldn't read much anyway because I was too weak and was having too many headaches. Barnabas, Quentin and company proved to be perfect companions.

Now I've arrived at the dreadful Leviathan sequence. It's a ripoff of an H.P. Lovecraft story. Eh. At least it won't be long before they reach the first parallel time plot. That's a concept that's always intrigued me, that somewhere out there is another you, living an entirely different life, making opposite choices. I'm not a huge sci-fi buff, outside of an occasional Isaac Asimov short story and a little "Star Trek" and "Dr. Who," but I like that idea.

I also watched some cinema, classic '40s fluff like the Lew Ayres/Lionel Barrymore "Dr. Kildare" series (perfect for 4 a.m., when you can't sleep), the new James Bond movie "Skyfall," a few episodes of "M*A*S*H" (it went off the air 30 years ago last Thursday, as hard as that is to believe), a TCM broadcast of the brilliant "The Third Man" and a movie I'd never heard of based on Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams stories.

The latter hasn't been very good, but it's Hemingway and I've stayed with it. The screenplay was adapted by Papa's friend and one of his better biographers, A.E. Hotchner (who, by the way, was Paul Newman's partner in that salad dressing business), and it's got a good cast, including Newman.

I've never thought Hemingway translated well to celluloid. Hemingway is meant to be read. It was his way with words, sparse, bleak, short, declarative, tough, terse. You can't capture that on the big screen.

I went through a phase last month in which I was watching reruns of "Frasier." I don't know why I didn't screen the show during its original run. I think I was opposed at the time to any kind of "sequel" to "Cheers," American television's last great sitcom. But it's cute and funny and witty and might be the last sitcom written by writers, several of whom were well read and raised on radio, who could create the quick, clever dialogue that was a staple of a handful of shows in the '70s and '80s, gems like "M*A*S*H" and "Mary Tyler Moore." You know what airs in "M*A*S*H"'s old time slot now? "Two Broke Girls." That might be this week's sign of the apocalypse.

I have managed to catch up on some newspaper articles, read The New Yorker online each Monday I've been off, delve into part of a book about The Murrow Boys' adventures in World War II and read most of a memoir about a writer who lived in Greenwich Village in the 1940s just after the war. The latter has the delicious title "Kafka was the Rage."

My intention is to duck in here on a regular basis again. I'm going to shoot for seven days a week, but it may be more like four or five. I'm working on a book and will head back to my day job tomorrow. But I'll do my best.

It's good to see you again, though. Like I say, I've missed meeting like this. We'll do it more often this year. I promise.


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