I Boil Water

I Boil Water

1n 1977 we left behind our little apartment on the Monorail in downtown Seattle and moved into our first home – a cinder block affair up in the Highlands area of Renton, WA. It was a simple rectangle comprised of – a living room, kitchen/dining room, bath, and two bedrooms. We’d been married only three years, and were expecting our first child (hence the need for a bigger place).

We were familiar with the area – down NE 6th St to Monroe Avenue NE, then west took us to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, where we were married. (And by a singular curiosity, going left on Monroe took us by Greenwood Memorial Park, and the gravesite of Jimi Hendrix).

I wasn’t much of a cook or a baker or even a bottle-washer. But I did pride myself that I could do breakfast – i. e. boil water.

I was going about this task one morning. The wife was out and I had the kitchen all to myself, and I had decided to make some oatmeal for my breakfast. So, I completed steps one through three –

1- put the water in a pot

2 – placed the pot on the stove, and

3 – turned the burner to high.

Something distracted my attention before step four, putting the oatmeal in. The exact detail escapes me. Newspaper delivery, perhaps. Something that needed my attention out in front of the house, anyway. That’s how I found myself out on the front yard, doing whatever it was – only come time to turn back and re-enter the house, I found a locked front door staring me in the face.

For some reason I pounded on the door – (maybe just to test if it really were locked, and not just stuck closed instead). Then panic sunk in as I realized that that pot of water was merrily bubbling away full blast on the stove. What could happen if I did not get back in, in time? And how much time would be too much time?

I waited too long under that particular sword of Damacles until I screwed up the resolve and broke a window in the back door and gained access to the kitchen.

But sadly, it was too late for the pot. The water had had enough time to boil completely off, destroying the pot (one of our wedding presents, of course). I had to explain the reason behind its demise and the state of the window to my wife upon her return.

I still make oatmeal for myself. It is still a favorite for breakfast. But these days, I always use the microwave.

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Thirty Years in the Making

Thirty Years in the Making

William Wilberforce

In 1987 I returned from a mission trip to Argentina. It was a important time in my life. And an impactful one. In fact, I believed that the next step for my life and that of my family was a move to Buenos Aires as a missionary.

It made sense – given my training in language (for my minor in Spanish I had studied under an Argentine professor),  and the fact that the witness of a Wycliffe Bible translator had been an element in my conversion seven years earlier.

So while I was waiting for things to come together – certain things would have to happen if it were to come to pass, I was avidly reading biographies of missionaries and other historical Christian figures. One such individual was the British statesman and Christian, William Wilberforce – an important political figure in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He believed that God’s call upon his life was to bring an end to the slave trade. Something about this man as portrayed in the biography by John Pollock resonated deeply in my consciousness.

More people needed to know about him, his love for God, and how that motivated him.

I was sitting in church service, and thoughts were percolating through my brain about Wilberforce, like – someone should make a movie about him. A Voice said to me – No, it’s a musical.

What a great idea I said to myself (for Wilberforce had a reputation as a marvelous singer). But I was called elsewhere. What did it have to do with me? I was waiting for leading as a missionary.

That all ended when the Lord spoke through the Scripture in another Sunday service. The words of Ezekiel shattered the image of what I thought I was called to. I am not sending you to a people of another tongue [Ezekiel 3:5]. I know the word was directed at my heart, to tell me that my call was not as a missionary to a foreign land.

So what to do.

Another word came. Another sermon had a phrase that hit my heart too. What’s that in your hand? [Exodus 4:2] I had recently bought a fountain pen, with which I took down notes from the sermons.

I put it all together. And began to write a musical based on the life of William Wilberforce.

I have just completed the first draft this last week.

“Wilber – A Musical.”

It has been a long journey. And all in God’s timing. There were certain things I needed to learn and to experience along the way.

Now I am waiting to see what’s next.

Silvered Hair

Silvered Hair

(The birthday girls in their birthday month).

You can have your gold
On its looks, I’m not sold
Give me silver and its gleam
That – I whole-heartily esteem

But if you think
This whim strange
Your opinion
I seek to change
For God Himself
Gives His approbation
On His saints
In silver acclamation

Render to them your praise
Fitting their renown
As complement to the Lord’s
Silver crown.

[Proverbs 16:31]

RWOz2

My Friend Mr. Sun

For a couple of reasons lately, Mr. Sun has occupied a good deal of real estate in our consciousnesses. The chief reason being the heatwave of many days duration up here in the Pacific Northwest.

Here he is lurking somewhere outside my “office” where I do most of my writing.

My Friend the Sun 1

Here he playfully casts shadows on the wall behind me. (Entertaining to me – it was a moving image!)

IMG_3525

Then there was an eclipse of Mr. Sun by Mr. Moon back on 8/21. Though we were outside the path of totality, we did see most of his surface blocked out, and felt the temperature drop. (Here a couple of my grandkids play after viewing the eclipse. They were bored, and found it more fun to play).

IMG_3544

Then recently his color has deepened to a blood-red orange, due to the many forest fires in the surrounding area.

IMG_3549

I don’t want to seem ungrateful for all this nice weather, Mr. Sun (and hint that you’ve over stayed your welcome), but I am getting a little nostalgic for the rain.

The 1977 California Trip: Hello Anxiety, the Fox Tour

The 1977 California Trip Fox Hello Anxiety2

The day after our exciting day on the Paramount lot, we were looking forward to our next studio – 20th Century Fox.

We went through Westwood on the way to Century City and saw the Avco Center Cinemas owned by my first employer, GCC. They were playing Star Wars to blockbuster business. (The film was then in its third or fourth week, piling up record grosses all across the country). We were tempted to brave the crowds later, but held off. (We had seen it already).

The entrance to the studio back then was off Pico Blvd on a long side street that lead to the visitors’ parking area.  Lining that street was a three story standing exterior set that was immediately recognizable. We could not help but rubberneck to take in the location where a song and dance number was performed and shot for Hello Dolly.  [The facade must be gone now, as it is not visible on any of the satellite map sites I checked].

I do not recall where it was exactly that we reported to begin our tour, nor do I remember who it was that took us around. I have the distinct impression that we were on our own exploring the lot. But then again some one had to have been with us to tell us what we were looking at.

We made our way through the rest of the New York set that branched off of the street we came in on. Past that we came out on one of the studio streets that ran by a series of four stages on our left, and a rather odd looking building on our right. Some big rig trucks were parked parallel to it, sitting idle. The building looked like an exterior mock up of a train station, including a raised platform in front of it. (In fact it had been used as such, see the following article). It is probably the oldest building on the lot (and may have been moved from its original position). Tom Mix, the cowboy star who appeared in Fox westerns, kept his horses in this “barn.” He was the original owner of the ranch it sat upon. Fox purchased this property when their older studio lots in Hollywood proved too small. (You can find a series of pictures of the site over time in this article).

With the exception of one film, not much was going on in the studio that day. We took a right and walked by some more stages, up to the area of the Tennessee Avenue gate. The bungalows kept for stars working on the lot were situated there. It looked for all the world like a neighborhood street from the thirties. That’s probably because they date from that period. A larger one on the corner was then the medical clinic for the studio, but had been the bungalow for the pint-sized savior of Fox during the Depression – the singing and dancing, cute as a button dynamo, Shirley Temple. (Another article)

At this point of the tour, the lunch hour had crept up on us, for the next stop was the commissary (aka Cafe de Paris). I ran across a picture recently that was taken after a remodel in 1976, the year before our visit. It’s exactly as I remember it right down to those two big planters.  The studio heads Dennis Stanfill and Alan Ladd Jr. were nowhere in sight, so they must have been in the executive dining room.

As I mentioned above there was one film in production – Mel Books’ High Anxiety.  It just so happened that at the end of April they had been doing exterior work up in San Francisco and in the Hyatt Regency in particular, the very place we had visited just a few days prior. Now Brooks was set up in Stage 14 for interior work, which was on the other side of those NY standing sets.

I had located a history that put the lounge song number from the film on that stage (the scene in which Brooks sings the title tune to Madeline Kahn). That was not the setup we saw that day. It was very quiet as we walked down the alley to the open studio door. A quietness that whispered everyone was taking a siesta. As we looked through the door a simple setting of furniture was arranged against white walls – a glass topped coffee table in front of a sofa. Though there was probably no one within, I could not shake off the feeling that people were there in the shadows holding their collective breaths waiting for us to go away.

Come December when High Anxiety was released I finally understood what we had seen on Stage 14. It was the comic scene played out between Cloris Leachman (Nurse Diesel) and Harvey Korman (Dr. Charles Montague), in which the camera shooting up from under the coffee table attempts to follow the two as they converse, only to have its view blocked by their movement of the cups, saucers and plates across its glass top.

A little bit of film history. Alright, minuscule. But we didn’t need to see “stars.” Just being there was a thrill. (We did have a brief encounter when we returned to the lot in 1985, but that’s a blog post for another day).

So stay tuned and Watch This Space.

The 1977 California Trip: Paramount Guns, Grease, and Little House

Paramount Guns Grease and Little House

And not necessarily in that order.

Our itinerary for this trip started with a visit to Disneyland. (I was a little nervous after locking the car and leaving it in the Donald Duck section of the parking lot, having it fresh in mind what had happened to us in San Francisco. No one bothered it. Passersby evidently had more things on their minds than our little Plymouth Arrow).

While Disneyland is always a highlight, I found my excitement building at the prospect of our pending tours of Paramount and 20th Century Fox.

Our destination the next day was Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. This was the era of Barry Diller, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg at Paramount. I was not acquainted with any of them (and they sure didn’t know me). Our entree into the studio was courtesy of Joe Vigil, recently promoted from booker to branch manager of the Seattle/Portland exchange, working out of Paramount’s San Francisco office. (I mentioned Joe in my Zefferelli post).

After passing the gate we were remanded into the care of an ancient security guard. (He reminded me of a skinny old codger from Central Casting. You know, the one you see in all those old westerns). We three made up our own little tour group.

Our route mimicked a big square, circling the inside perimeter in a clock-wise manner. First stop was a small set in its own little building. It was a western jail. And since it’s use was ubiquitous it may have been a permanent structure. The guard had us walk before him, and straight through the iron doors into the jail cell. With a chuckle he slammed the door behind us and locked it. While thus incarcerated he reminisced about other past denizens of the premises. He assured us emphatically that John Wayne himself had spent time on this set.

We journeyed over into the western end of the lot that had one time belonged to another film studio – RKO Radio Pictures. A whirl of activity had its epicenter in one of the sound stages along its main street. The stage was given over to a small film project just getting its start, Allan Carr’s production of “Grease,” being directed by Randall Kleiser. Judging by the size of the group crammed onto its floor, some kind of tryout or rehearsal was taking place.

At the end of this street an open sound stage door greeted us. Inside all was quiet and deserted. And cool, for not a single light was on. Farm tackle and wagon wheels were the order of the day. This sound stage was dedicated for interior work on the TV series “Little House on the Prairie.” Filming for the fourth season was then underway, but more than likely all the action was transpiring somewhere off on one of the movie ranches for exterior work.

Our guide walked us through the “New York streets.” Nothing was shooting. So we got a good view of the various locations each street represented – SoHo, Greenwich Village, Brooklyn, Upper and lower East Sides, etc.

Next he led us through an alley alive with flying sparks and the sounds of hammers on metal. I could call it “gasoline alley,” for several cars were being restored and fitted for use in the Grease production. Tail fins flashed their stuff.

Last stop – or the last thing I remember at Paramount – was a small building stuffed to the rafters with guns. Gatling guns galore hung from the ceiling; hand guns, rifles and machineguns were arrayed about the walls, (with firing pins removed, if recollection serves). On a return trip to the lot at a later date, I learned that this armory was no longer there, but had been moved off site in 1979.

We did not run into any “stars” on our journey, but we were nonetheless satisfied at our look behind the scenes.

Our aforementioned return to the Paramount took place in the fall of 2006, and I will cover that trip at its appropriate time, sometime in the future, so stay tuned, and Watch This Space.

Researching Myself

Researching Myself

When I was working on my most recent Memories post, I wanted to check some details, and possibly push past the haze to discover some of the places about which I was writing. In particular I tried to locate the precinct to which we drove in order to make our report about the robbery, and hence perhaps find out the name of the night club next door.

A Google search with the words “San Francisco Police precincts 1977” landed me on the Internet Archive site – and the SFPD annual report for the year of 1977. I was rewarded with a plethora of statistics and even some useful info in the thickets.

Our request for police service on that Saturday night in 1977 was one of 424,368 that year, and became more specifically one of 105,374 criminal incidents reported. Curiously the report we gave them was one of a grand total of 140,979, so I guess 35,605 of those they took in, were non-criminal. (I wonder what constituted a non-criminal report back then).

They did some comparisons to the year before and were happy to report that the incidents of robbery in 1977 were down in the city by 17.8% – (from a total of 6640 in 1976, down to 5456). Seeing that made me feel better, too.

Then I saw the category entitled malicious mischief.  I briefly considered this designation, as I thought our broken window might have fallen under that rubric. Its incidents were down only 1.5%.

There was a map included with the annual report showing the various police districts in the city. And wouldn’t you know it, Market Street makes up the boundary of two, the A and B districts.

So, in which district had our car break-in been reported? With no guidelines to go by, it was difficult to make a determination. If it had been presented to Solomon and he asked me which side of Market Street we had parked on, he would have gone with the B District. But I have a suspicion that we made our report to a station somewhere in the A region, and they should have gotten credit for it.

So armed with these pertinent facts, I found a SFPD records website, and filled out a PDF request form to order copies of the police incident report. After a four day wait, I received an email back from their clerk, who reported that all the records from that time, had been “purged/destroyed.”

I guess just like Vegas, what happened in San Francisco, stayed in San Francisco, except for the official reports about what had happened in San Francisco.

Aside – I discovered some years after this incident that the stolen 8mm Bell & Howell movie camera had been to San Francisco before. It had been in my Mom’s family from at least the 1940’s. Among the footage is a shot that clearly was Coit Tower and a couple more scenes were taken in Chinatown.

Aside aside – Two police TV shows set in San Francisco – McMillan & Wife, and The Streets of San Francisco finished their runs in 1977. Coincidence?

The 1977 California Trip: We left a few things in San Francisco

The 1977 California Trip: We left a few things in San Francisco

Not our hearts.

It was the summer of 1977 and we had plans. Plans to hit the road again for a vacation down California way.

Instead of flying this time we took our orange Arrow. With me driving of course.

We made the trip in stages, stopping the first night at the Mallory Hotel in Portland OR. We didn’t see much of the city. It was dark out, and on our quest to find a place to eat, we settled on a familiar name – Benihana’s Japanese restaurant. So that section of Portland and whatever was viewable from the off ramp to the hotel and the streets to get back onto I-5 were all we saw of the city.

We made good time from Portland through the rest of Oregon and into Northern California. We reached Vacaville in time for lunch at a restaurant in an olive orchard. My wife remembered this particular restaurant/tourist spot from a family vacation when she was growing up. She carries with her the memory of her dad grimacing when sampling a rather green olive. This time around she was the one grimacing – over my choice from the menu – gazpacho. I guess the thought of cold tomato soup put her teeth on edge. I thought it wonderful (the soup, not the fact that it made her grimace).

From Vacaville we made our way down to San Pablo Bay, skirted around towards San Rafael, and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to our next destination – San Francisco. We checked into a motel somewhere along route 1, unloaded our luggage (except a couple of items) and went in search of dinner.

The Hyatt Regency at the Embarcadero Center was only four years old at the time, and a prime night spot. It had a revolving restaurant, the Equinox, on the top of its tower. We parked the Arrow a few blocks away up on Market Street, and were mesmerized by the impressive lobby of the hotel (like being in the interior of a pyramid) which we passed through on the way to the restaurant. [My wife is a great disaster movie fan, and shots of this particular lobby were recognizable, as it had been used in The Towering Inferno, three years before.]

We had a enjoyable meal. I can tell you that much, but don’t ask what it was, for what happened next completely overshadowed all else.

We each had had an adult beveridge with our meal, so we were a little fuzzy as we walked up Market to our parked car. We were puzzled by the sight of a loaf of bread sitting on the sidewalk beside the Arrow. My wife wondered out loud why our groceries were outside the car. We didn’t notice the broken glass under the bread, and were slow to realize that our car had been broken into and robbed.

We found a phone and called the cops. After giving them the rundown on our plight, they informed us that they could not come out to the scene of the crime, but if we wanted to come in to fill out a report we were welcome to.

We followed their directions to a small precinct house further uptown and made our report. Besides our groceries we were missing a couple other items: an 8mm Bell & Howell movie camera and dirty laundry in a paper sack. Sometime in the midst of this ordeal I asked urgently if they had a restroom. This sent me on another surreal sidetrack, as they had no public facility and referred me next door to a seedy bar/nightclub. I felt I was sleep walking through the rest of our time there. It was real “trippy.”

The next day was a Sunday and the memory of what transpired is all a hazy black cloud. Reality was settling in. Was our vacation over before it had begun? We needed a replacement for that backseat side window and where would we find one?

We had to wait until Monday. That’s when we raised a Chrysler dealorship, but they did not have that part in stock. Nor did any of the auto glass companies. Hope was offered, in that they could order it in – but it would take a couple of days. Desperate to save our vacation, I asked if there was something we could substitute, say something plastic. That set a light bulb off in the imagination of the auto glass specialist, and he referred us to a shop that dealt in plexiglass. On parting he suggested that we tell them to use the other window as a template to cut a replacement.

Which is exactly what we were able to do. And we were on the road again before lunch. With only an occasional whistling noise from our replacement “window.”

Me and My Arrow

Me and my Arrow

There is something to be said about listening to your wife.

In my case it was a hard lesson to learn. (In fact the learning never ends).

I loved my Plymouth Roadrunner, but with that V-8 engine (and its racing cam) it was a bit of a gas hog. No longer could you pull up to the pump and buy gas for 25 cents a gallon. Our buying power for that commodity had been cut in half with the rise in price. And the price showed signs of going higher.

Time to look for a more fuel efficient vehicle.

I am not sure if the ad campaign for the Plymouth Arrow led us to consider that vehicle. The tune has stuck in mind ever since whenever I think about the car. The marketeers had picked up the Harry Nilsson tune from 1971. It had been composed for the ABC animated Movie broadcast on 2/2/1971 as the theme for its hero Oblio, the pointless boy, and his dog Arrow.

Anyway I had made up my mind that this was the car for us. Gas efficient, a 1600cc overhead cam engine, four cylinder, with a clean sporty look (although the bright orange paint job let everyone know you were coming). And did I say gas efficient?

But there was a BIG negative, not for me, but for my wife. The Arrow had a stick shift. This didn’t bother me at all, that stick shift was a four speed. Can you say sporty? I could grind those gears like Steve McQueen in Bullitt.

But my wife didn’t drive a stick. And wouldn’t drive a stick. She made her feelings very plain. If I bought that car, she would never drive it. (She didn’t say I could never drive her in it).

But it was fuel efficient, was my argument. And within our budget. And brand new. Our first brand new car right off the lot. (And last brand new car ever as it has turned out – so far).

Regret was slow in coming. Not for the car itself. It was a great car. But the seed of bitterness sown with that one-sided decision poisoned our relationship.

True to her word, she never drove that car. And every car after that has had an automatic transmission.

So all you young husbands out there. Learn this lesson, and don’t fall on that arrow.

Viewing Star Wars

Just wanted to reblog this post to mark the 40th Anniversary #StarWars40

Viewing Star Wars

Star Wars opened to the public on May 25th 1977 – the Wednesday before Memorial weekend. But I saw it before the public did, because that was my job.

At that time I worked for the Saffle Theater Service in Seattle, WA, and had been for a year. Part of my job was to attend the screenings of upcoming films and report back whether in my judgment the film would “play” or “not play” in the venues we negotiated for. If it were an art film or a documentary more than likely it was not for us, unless the boss deemed it a candidate for our theaters in the Moscow, ID/Pullman, WA area (homes respectively for the University of Idaho and Washington State University). If it were a saturation booking like “Sky Riders” from Fox, and if it was slated to have a massive TV advertising campaign, then, of course the answer was a resounding yes. We had quite a few drive ins and tank towns that wanted to get in on that action.

When the screening for a sci-fi fantasy film from Fox was announced in May of 1977 there was no buzz, no excitement going around among the denizens of Seattle’s film row. In fact, I don’t think there was any interest at all. I, however, was very interested.

Around Christmas of 1976, Fox had put out a brochure for their upcoming titles for 1977. I perused it as I did for similar offerings from the other distributors. Here Fox was touting the likes of The Other Side of Midnight, Julia, The Turning Point, and High Anxiety. What riveted my attention was the spread on a sci-fi title called Star Wars. The graphic didn’t mean a thing (of course it didn’t, no one had seen the picture yet – it showed Luke and Leia from the shaft scene on the Death Star). But the “written and directed by” credit did. And that was why I was excited – for it cited a name that I recognized as the director of American Grafitti, George Lucas.

So, it was with great anticipation that I sat with my wife in the UA Cinema 150 to see it unspool for the first time in Seattle. And we were not disappointed. The Cinema 150 sits (or rather did sit) under a dome and has (had) a gigantic screen. That screen filled an 120 degree field of view to your front. The opening scroll and the electrifying score racheted up the anticipation. And I swear that when that Star Destroyer loomed into the scene in pursuit of the other space ship, you felt that it was directly on top of you (I think it had something to do with the sense of space imparted by that dome).

From that moment I knew that this film was going to do fantastic, light years ahead of American Grafitti, but even so I did not know just how epic the grosses were going to be.

[Aside – I did have problem trying to convince one of our clients to play it at their theater. The Olympic theater in Forks, WA., did not want to take a chance on playing it until it was available for their normal two day schedule. They were only open four days a week – with two changes, one bill on Friday and Saturday and the other on Sunday and Monday. I finally convinced him to play it all four days, resulting in a record gross for him. Not surprisingly, he held it over another weekend].