1981…A banner year, I think…I escaped from pri– I mean–er–I graduated from High School and left  home. “Chariots of Fire” came out and I ended up skipping it, which is probably the worst mistake I made that year.  I also decided after entering college in the fall that Theater Arts is not my cup of tea.  I did well in Theater Appreciation and Film Criticism–but detested the latter class.   I would take a course called “American Women Playwrights” year later that was a total blast!  However, after reading Wendy Wasserstein‘s work, I’ll never look at the Washington Monument in the same way ever again!  Luckily, my employers always let me have all the time off I needed because I worked my ass off and showed up for work!  I rarely call in sick.  If I”m throwing up, that is the one thing I cannot deal with so THEN I will call in.

I was also working two jobs.  I was a housekeeper by day and a part-time waitress by night.  I also attended classes on certain evenings.  I slept when it was possible.  I decided that what traumatized me about Film Criticism was that our professor always honed in on the technical aspects, but had his own idea of how characters should be presented.  After getting roughly introduced to a seven shot six-shooter during a scene in an old western film, I went into a shock from which I never recovered.

When I took Music Appreciation–it was much better.  We were taught about the beauty of each genre and didn’t have to listen to the faulting of others or how they composed.   It was during this time that I marched in the Macy’s Parade in NYC.  I had never been outside of the  small town in which I was raised to go to such a place and it was an entirely different world…

I remember walking toward Madison Square Garden the night before the parade.  Earth, Wind and Fire were playing and we seemed to be walking, as a group through the “gauntlet”.  There was a line of gang members on one side of the street and the policemen on horseback where on the other.  One of my fellow drummers made the comment, “Hey, I’m gonna get some New York pot! I hear it’s better than what we have in TX.”  The band director heard him and told him to get quiet.  All the while I was thinking, “What a jack-ass!”  I was sure we were going to end up in the middle of a brawl and there were many more of them than there were of us.  On top of that, we were wearing our blue and white band uniforms with the white cowboy hats…We looked pretty damned stupid and the band director wouldn’t let us go change. That pissed me off.

We made it past the gauntlet and went to the Empire State Building.  It was here that I discovered that I suffer from claustrophobia.  I hate elevators–and it was made worse when the elevator got stuck on the 72nd floor and lurched.  I did something I had never done.  I hyperventilated.  Well hell! I’d never been out of TX, so after this I started wishing I was back on the ground.  Once we got to the top, the smog was rolling in. It burned my eyes, but that was okay because it’s part of the game when there.  I was looking at the setting sun.  It was almost like being on a mountain–only it was man-made.  I was enjoying the view when someone said–“Time to go!” and once again, I had to get on the elevator…”I will never get on one of these again if I can avoid it.”  I told the band director…He thought I was joking until we went to the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty the morning after Thanksgiving.  We did hit Macy’s first, though.  Loved that!

I also remember seeing steam coming up through manhole covers–like on television.  I remembered seeing so much hustle and bustle and wondered what it would be like to be in the square and see the news go across the marquis…I got to see that too.  I also got to go to the Radio City Music Hall and see the Rockettes during the Christmas pageant.  They used live animals in it.  I wonder if they still do…I wanted to catch a Broadway production but never got to see one–or the ballet…As I always say, “Maybe someday…”

The band director said upon arriving at the WTC, “Tina, it will be alright–it’s not the same elevator.  C’mon! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I have only one lifetime to enjoy.  I’ll wait here, Mr. Jones.  I’ll be alright.” I told him as I pulled out a book and sat on a bench.  A police officer heard us talking and was asking where I was from and such.  When I told him I was from Texas he said, “You guys are sure friendly down there!  I know we can get kind of rude around here, but we don’t mean to sound that way.”

“I haven’t met anyone that has been rude to me yet.” I told him.  He laughed and said, “You must have great luck!”

I asked him if he’d ever been to Texas and he said, “I was stationed at Dyess A.F.B 15 years ago! I married my wife there!  Loved it!  We’re moving back when I retire next year!”

He hung around a few more minutes and ran off some guy that was trying to ask for money.  I read my book–and strangely enough I remember the title of it:  “Essays of Elia“–Charles Lamb.  I love that book…That man was very wise.

After they got through at the WTC, we headed for the Statue of Liberty.    Then I stumbled across phobia #2…Water…I am a weak swimmer and the boats were clear bottomed.  Then I saw something less frightening–Russian subs a few miles off since it was such a clear and beautiful day!  I took pictures but don’t know what happened to them.  To me that was somewhat historical–and hysterical.  It is funny to me that I don’t mind swimming in the ocean, but if I’m on a boat–I do not dig it, man! I do not  know why.

I always thought the paranoia Russians had of us then was ridiculous.  A few of them need to visit TX and steer clear of the public schools…If they hang out with adults, they will lighten up really quick and find out that we understand far more than “…the law of the gun and the bomb bay door…” as a writer for the Pravda stated years later.  I answered him by stating that if that were true, Russians would be speaking English because Harry Truman would have let General George S. Patton hand them their asses on a platter and that they should be grateful that some Americans are much more open and accepting of others than some people of other cultures are of us.   They actually allowed the comment and I was shocked at that.

Anyway, I survived the boat ride and sat on another bench and saw another phenomenon…A kid, that couldn’t have been more than five using vernacular that would make a sailor blush in the presence of her mother.  I moved to another bench because the parent didn’t even correct the child.  I know this much,  had I said something like that, I would have been a Lifebuoy connoisseur–after my mother and father both spanked my ass.  I grew up in an era where if we disrespected a teacher, we got it from our parents when we got home and if we were screwing up in the neighborhood–sometimes a neighbor known to us would wear our asses out–then our parents got their turn…Sorry but it’s true.  I learned really quickly that if I had to go cut a switch, it better not be a little, flimsy green one because those hurt worse!  Back in those days, the village did help raise the kid without sticking their noses in other people’s business.

I really didn’t have to spank my boys.  I gave them a look, and they lined right out.  I also discovered the taking away Ninja Turtles and gaming systems made them think they died and went to hell and their crying and such reminded me of when I got spanked! Seriously!  I didn’t let them have internet or anything like that until they were older teenagers. To me that is a luxury and not a necessity.  Kids need to play outside, play fetch with a dog or go to camp out in the back yard or something instead of vegetating in front of the TV 24/7.  I didn’t do it, and neither did my kids–until they got older and on their own for the most part.   My favorite thing was to take blankets at home or Grannie’s house and make hideouts–especially if I couldn’t go outside in bad weather.  It seems like every kid I know now has a freaking PS3 or a Wii…If I had another kid–NO WAY!  That would NOT happen.  Being sedentary like that is not good for kids and I knew that years ago.  We went to parks, beaches, and hiked in the mountains when my boys were little. I’ll do the same with my grandkids if I am ever-blessed with any–I can promise you that!

If I do become a grandparent, they will know the difference between a sparrow and a finch.  They’ll get to see the fireflies and make wishes after seeing shooting stars on a camp out.  In short, they will appreciate nature when I’m through with them. LOL!

Anyway I did take pictures of the Statue and went inside…I just didn’t go up it.  I wish now that I made myself do it, but maybe someday I’ll get another chance to conquer that fear too.   I did stand on the shore and look out over the water and realized that this is the first time I had been by the ocean that I can remember, and can remember the sound of the gravelly sand beneath my feet.  I also remember hearing horns from the boats that were going back and forth.    I actually touched my finger to the water and tasted it just to see if it was salty like people said all those years.  I wouldn’t dare do that now, but was only 19 then.  In fact, it was my 19th birthday.   That evening, I broke away from the crowd and went into St. Patrick’s Cathedral to enjoy some quiet.  I could actually feel at ease and do some reflecting.  I then sneaked back to my room at the Plaza Hotel and wasn’t even missed!  I remember the pretzel vendor on the corner across the street and made sure to buy one of those!  They were so good!  I’d love to visit there again!  I also visited an Italian Restaurant near the WTC that I loved–but refused to go up the WTC.

Another memory I have of New York City is when we went to a Chinese Restaurant.  There was a Thai couple there asking us questions about Texas because they had heard bad things about it and were concerned about going there.   They told us that there were Indians shooting at us and such and that they were told never to go there.  They were afraid of the Indians!  To preface what I am about to say, they have a great sense of humor because they learned that there is one fundamental art that Texans have mastered…We know how to bullshit and bullshit well!  At 19 I had mastered it.  I listened very intently to their concerns and assured them that they should take a camera and not worry because they would be witnessing such a phenomenon to write home about…They said, “That really happens there?” I said, “Sure, that’s why we have armored Greyhound buses down there!”   My God…I think they were getting discouraged until I said, “Look, seriously, it was a joke.  It’s nothing like that.”  They laughed at that point and were quite relieved that I was joking.

They then asked me about places to go, at which point I referred them to Austin…Austin does not roll up the sidewalks and turn out the lights at 5 p.m.  I love the theaters that show foreign films down there and I love going to museums–but haven’t been able to do that or go to plays much in years.  I’ll be able to do so again.  It’s a matter of time.  However I do have one regret, and that is missing this movie:

If I HAD seen it, I’d have known who this guy is:

LMAO…Biggest, most  inspirational film of that year and I skipped it to blow $100 at the Mall of Abilene!

HOWEVER, I almost forgot to mention the most important event to poetry lovers and writers  in 1981…It was the fact that Edna St. Vincent Millay got her own stamp!  Heh…Heh…Heh…  Have a great day!

2 comments on “1981

  1. I love that your grandkids “…will know the difference between a sparrow and a finch.” Ever read any Annie Dillard? Start with The Pilgrim at Tinker Creek 🙂

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