Yesterday at 7 a.m. my brother picked me up so that he could drive me to Arkansas. I had been up for a while, working intermittently on a legal issue, using on-line case law databases. We had great conversation during the 4 hour and 15 minute drive home. I counted nine hawks perched on trees and wires along the way. We discussed the choices we made, and what choices we might, with superior hindsight knowledge, have chosen more wisely. Neither of us wished we could change much. Although I usually am the nostalgic one between the two of us, I am also the one more prone to hindsight quarterbacking. He gave me some different ways of looking at things than I usually do, which I found useful. I marvel, sometimes, how different we brothers seemed to me to be in our teen years, and how similar we seem to me to be now. In both cases, I suspect my perspective affects my perception, but the feeling interests me anyway.
When we pulled into Camden, where my parents live, we stopped at a Chinese buffet restaurant, to spare them the trouble of having to fix food for us. When we arrived at my folks' house, my father, my sister and my mom were visiting together. After a spell of talking, everyone retired for naps. My sister came up to my room mid-nap to fill me in on her perspectives on various family things.
When I had been home last weekend, my mother had shown me the paper she wrote for her womens' club, the New Century Club, which a friend will present for her at an upcoming meeting. It was about the Golden Age of Broadway. She mentioned then that she had enjoyed reading about a new-ish documentary which was entitled "Broadway--the Golden Years". I had ordered it on Amazon last weekend for her, and was delighted to find it had already arrived. My brother set it up to play on the DVD player in their personal computer, so we began to watch.
The film proved very well done. The film-maker had had essentially no budget, but just a camera and sound equipment. He went to tons of the old Broadway stars, capturing them on film within a year or two of their exit from life. The stories they told confirmed some myths, and punctured others, but the sense of glamour and business in the old-time days intrigued me. I like documentaries which actually document.
After a while, I diverted from the film to talk to my father. He had shown me an editorial he wrote in his capacity as chairman of the state waterways commission--a call for river traffic instead of the pollution of road shipment via truck. We talked about river traffic issues and river rats he had known and river business things. At length, I asked him stories about his childhood in rural Lester, Arkansas, and he told me at length a good bit of family history and anecdote, some of which was entirely unfamiliar to me. Throughout the weekend I noticed how much both my parents have that particularly southern story-telling quality about their conversation. In small towns, one never need watch banal television, because there are real lives to visit about.
After a time, I went back to watching the documentary. The stories of understudies making it big, Brando causing a stir with everyone, and Laurette Taylor, who never made it in films, being everyone's greatest inspiration, really made for a good story. I liked the part when Jerry Orbach described seeing Richard Rodgers after "Hair" came out. Rodgers told Orbach that nobody would want his type of music anymore. Orbach said that at the time he told Rodgers he was wrong, but with hindsight, he proved to be right. The film marked the release of "Hair" as the end of the golden age. I suspect one could mark the end of the next era of Broadway with Orbach's passing.
Somewhere in the midst of things, friends of my mother's came by with a roast and
some vegetables. While they stopped to visit, my brother and I drove to Wood's Fish Place for fried catfish and to the grocery store for huge bottles of Diet Coke. We returned home, where we all ate our various dinners, and then sat down for another space of conversation.
I went outside my parents' house to walk around the few acres of back yard they have. Although it is February, the 50s degree weather and the pine setting brought forth the sound of crickets, katydid and frogs, as if it were June rather than Winter. I walked until the dark made it hard to see the light.
After a time, we all made an early evening of things. I went upstairs to my room, although I did once return downstairs for a television viewing. Finally, I settled into a routine of sleeping for an hour, then waking and reading for an hour, and then sleeping again. I read Rafael Sabatini's "The Sea Hawk", which I found quite fun, and alternated it with various other offerings,such as a pennysaver ad paper from a rural area of Texas through we'd driven (a secret odd reading pleasure of mine), Edgar Rich Burroughs' "The Warlord of Mars", and a book by a fellow named John Burroughs about the Middle English poets, which he called Ricardian Poetry. I had had that book since college days, but after a careful re-perusal I am still not sure quite why. I love to pronounce Middle English, though, out loud.
At 4:40 a.m., my father called upstairs that he had made breakfast for everyone, so my brother and I went down to a meal of an egg over easy, ham, and toast, with milk and grape juice. I love grape juice.
We hit the road by 6:10, and were home by 10:35, driving in an endless freeway of rain. When we stopped at Hope, forty five miles from our parents' home, I noticed that the woman gassing her car up beside us had her Mardi Gras beads on. One man's dawn is another woman's midnight. I ate a peanut pattie, while my brother ate a fried pie. We dropped me off at home, after another good talk. He told me that his EverQuest characters are level 68 and 69 out of 70. I like that levels in that game, as with rare coins, are on a scale of 1 to 70. My brother, once a somewhat energetic driver, has transformed into a really skilled driver. He also has helped me find the perfect next piece of software for my musical project.
I'm a fortunate man in siblings.
I counted three hawks, fat with winter harvest, as we drove home, while grackles flew in front of our car with daredevil abandon. In my mind's eye, nine raptors perch effortlessly and attentively, with some sort of Biblical metaphor, but the message they tell me eludes my grasp as I hover in a very brisk wind.
I spent a Sunday afternoon in a Holiday Inn swimming pool in Hollywood on a Sunday a couple of years ago,
watching a hawk a half-mile high soar a stationary pattern far above me. I think sometimes about that illusion of statis, and how things really change so very quickly.