Friday, December 9, 2011

Beat the Christmas Holiday rush.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that Brattleboro just isn't every place else. Where else would a Santa's Land close a few days before Christmas? Ah, but never fear, Brattleboro Hollydaze are here. And Santa will be available for your picture taking I want this for Christmas secret spilling edification.

You know I want to go. I'd really like to have my picture taken with Santa pushing me into the crematorium chamber. It would make a great Christmas Card. 

I've had this old ad in my files for awhile now I can finally use it: (no, I'm not going to tell you where the punctuation is in that sentence, thank you.) I've no idea where it's from, but it does seem to have the right Brattleboro holiday spirit.

In yesterday's Reformer there was a picture accompanying a story about a crime wave on Flat street. The color printing was a bit off. Taken on a rainy day, it has that great noir quality that conjures up Bernard Herrmann and a milieu far removed from Brattleboro, well, between fogs and 100 year appearances anyway. Yet noir is perfect for Brattleboro, and vice and versa. So I scanned and monkeyed around with the pic a bit...

Down the street behind the photographer and around the corner one can find the New England Youth Theater, currently opening its production of A Christmas Carol. It is directed by a clown. Literally. In yesterday's paper, there was a promo write up of the show. Big orange letters in the black surrounding a kid in a suggestion of Victorian garb proclaims, "Occupy Scrooge".

Over at the Congregational Church, they already had their annual group sing in of Handel's Messiah. It doesn't get much press, it's one of those things that just is. It's very Brattleboro. Staged by a group of friends of music from nearby Guilford, the lead vocal performances go to semi and professionals. The rest of the oratorio is sung by whomever shows up. Bring your own score. And people do. I've always wanted to go, but I've either been working, couldn't raise admission (now by donation), or forgot it was happening. Here's a You Tube clip from last year, filmed via a cell phone in a most properly annoying arty Brattleboro 2010 fashion:

There's plenty of other Brattleboro seasonal celebrations, but it's getting late and I have to be at work at 6:45am Saturday. There's a few stories to tell from there, too. My favorite "you're lucky you're still living award" nomination so far went to a late middle aged bleached blond Pillsbury dough-ball guy at the register who struck up a conversation with the woman in line after him. He wouldn't stop talking long enough to pay attention to the fact that I'd rung his purchases and was attempting to get his attention and payment. The people in line after them were moving into post scrunchy face mode. He was the discussing something only he knew how to do properly, there is a trick after all to making a proper plum pudding, You have to - well, we shouldn't be discussing this in pub-lic... (tilt of head towards my humble self)...

To be continued....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A date on an almanc

Thirty one years?
It can't be.

Last night started a couple of days off from the site where I do the Birthday lists for an Almanac I started about 5 or 6 years ago, give or take. If I had the time, I'd start a new blog just for a (maybe) cleaned up version. Ricola, who stepped in along with his friend Todd4212  and took over the birthdays portion when I moved to Brookline a few years back, is filling in, bless him. I mention this in case he should stop by, so he'll know how much I really do appreciate this. The site where the list has been kept had some sort of storage crash back in October. The Birthday section had grown quite a bit over the years, every person mentioned had at least one picture. Several different people contributed regularly to it. Huge portions of the image library vanished overnight. I still have about 6 months of the original Almanac in my files, and Ricola and Todd's work on it is on a different server (a very wise move). The current owner of the site has been getting a good portion of the broken links fixed as he recovers the libraries. Even so, there were a number of days in November where I was finding and replacing close to 98 images a day. I could go on, but I won't. The thing I'm getting to is that the site  was originally started in the early days of the web by the late Marvin Jones, who was quite a character. Some years back, Marv was known for his Christmas Cards. I had one friend from my NYC days, Tom Toth, who used to send privately printed cards with Christmas scenes featuring his favorite actress Carole Lombard. I saved them all, but they are either in storage hell or maybe they're with everything else that has gone missing over the years. But he had nothing on Marv, who knew many of the early exploitation guys in Hollywood. The sample of his cards which follow were done years before computers and photoshop, and date to an era in which such imagery just wasn't done.

So, anyway, this morning I checked into the site to read the Almanac, where upon I had one of those unstuck in time moments. I see Laura over at Austanspace went on the journey, too.

It was 1980. I was living in a studio apartment in New York City's Greenwich Village. I have no idea if I was watching something on tv that night or if I just had it on. It was my habit to watch the 11pm news on the ABC o&o, Channel 7. There was a football game ending. Howard Cosell said something, What? WHAT? I think it was Rose Ann Scamardella who suddenly appeared  repeating the story as the intro into the news.

A minute or two later, the phone rang. "Who would be so crazy as to shoot John Lennon?" It was my best friend, Jerry Campbell. He was in Los Angeles directing a workshop rehearsal of a script in development called "Without Reservations". Someone has passed him a note, and he had briefly stopped the rehearsal to call. Jerry did not do such things. That's how big this was. ABC had a reporter outside the hospital. I shushed Jerry. They had just confirmed that John Lennon was dead.

So many people flocked to his home at the Dakota that the police closed the streets. I think the subway stop was closed, too. It wasn't even 11:15pm yet.

The next day I had an appointment a block away from the Dakota. I had to go three blocks out of my way and then double back just to get there.

Yoko, seeking a respite from the crowd, asked everyone to meet at Lennon's favorite spot in the park a few days later. There was to be no funeral, and instead of a memorial ceremony, she asked for Lennon's death to be mourned with 10 minutes of silence.

It was a Sunday afternoon. The picture on the tv faded to a picture of Lennon. Not just the channel I had on, but every channel. Every channel. Radio stations fell silent. No rock and roll. No country and western. Nothing. There was nothing. There was silence everywhere. Slowly, almost every radio and tv station in New York City began playing "Imagine".

Thirty one years.
So many of my friends from those days are gone.
And I still miss them, even though I got used to it.
The rest of my world has changed a few times since then, too.
I moved to Boston, and then later here to Brattleboro.
But I still remember.
And I'm not the only one.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Fast away the old world passes

Christmas, always a mixed bag of emotions, has just gotten a little sadder. On Saturday night, I saw a news story on the 11pm news out of Burlington. The story was expanded upon on the Sunday news show. Santa's Land, an old school amusement park just up the road in Putney is closing for good. Again.

Developed, built, and opened in  1957 by WOR radio co-founder Jack Poppele (also from New Jersey), the place has been a family visit tradition for a few generations now.

It is just north of Putney on Route 5, which used to be a major highway. Times change. Insurance prices skyrocket. Gas for a day trip becomes prohibitive. I wish I still had a car. Not only would I rush up there to have my picture taken with Santa and see the place, but I'd take a cake or something else for a wake to the Wells family who restored and ran the place these last few years.

I remember when it was closed, overgrown with weeds, seedy. I loved it and wanted to get inside in the worst way. It would have made a great set for a horror film. I would have had a field day photographing it.

I was once in a car being driven by a friend on the south shore of Massachusetts, just a bit  before the where one would turn onto the Cape. I saw a tiny abandoned park out of the corner of my eye. My friend agreed to stop long enough for me to take a picture through the chain link fence surrounding the place.

Such scenes have a kind of grandeur all their own, mixed with a bit of sadness, and a bit of Killer Klowns from Outer Space weirdness. My favorite "motivational poster" also uses.... well, just look:

At any rate, it is no secret that I have a love for old amusement parks, and for abandoned buildings, remnants of a time gone by, that sort of thing. If anyone out there believes in special kindnesses to aging blogsters and wishes to know what I'd like for Christmas, well.... hint hint.  And don't forget lots of money to add things like a monorail - at least then I can count on Chris over at ibrattleboro purchasing a few tickets.

I've never been inside Santa's Land, so I poked around the web a bit and found this map/brochure kind of thing:

I come from a family of pack rats. It was a huge relief to me to discover this and know that I could blame my insanity on someone. It's because of this tendency that I am able to pull this out of my files: from the Brattleboro Reformer, a little good natured promo for the 2005 reopening of Santa's Land (I did try to fix the color fading & etc., and the first three scans should be clickable for enlarging ):

So let's lift one to Santa's Land. 
It's the kind of place that they just don't make anymore.

The last word, so to speak, belong (as it should) to the Poppeles.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas album art

While writing that last post, two great things happened. I realized that this is the perfect time to start this post, and I noticed that our Scottish friend had been Scribblin' again. These two are inter-related as I would hope that he'll find this post and be amused, or at the very least decide he's been challenged to an awful album art contest. And Christmas album art, at that!

Here beginith our meditation upon midnights, clear or otherwise:

Well, that was fun. Blogger decided that it wouldn't allow me to update and save my page after I started adding graphics.  Then, I couldn't sign in to my own account. After that, a search showed that my blog didn't exist! Several weeks ago, Blogger put up a new interface, and I really liked it. The very next day, I got an error message that Blogger no longer supported my browser, IE9. Naturally, since Blogger is owned by Google, the Google Chrome browser is the browser of corporate choice.

This sort of thing will, of course, be continued.
You have been warned.

Inappropriate connections

There is one thing about reaching the age I have (61) that leaves me both wryly amused and/or horrified. Browsing through various Christmas/Holiday music posts on Usenet, looking for nothing in particular, I stumbled across an album titled "The Christmas in You". As if that title weren't already waaaay up on the "you know that has to be dreck" list, you'd have to be around my age to appreciate the effect of noticing that the artist is one Jill Johnson. Thanks to age and the desperate need to upgrade 13 year old or so glasses, I read the performer as "Jill Johnston". She was a one time dance critic for the Village Voice in New York City, and the daughter of a nurse and a man whose family clock maker firm designed and built the carillon for the Riverside Church.

As the 1960's gave way to the 1970's, she lost her capital letters and began writing about sexual politics, becoming one of the founders of the lesbian separatist movement. The idea of that jill johnston recording an album of Christmas music can only be trumped by the idea of what she would say about the album recorded by Jill Johnson.

See, part of the problem with these little synapse breaks taken by our dancing neurons is that while they are often drolly amusing, their humor is often destroyed by attempt to try to explain them. Now, this kind of thing happens to me all the time these days, but I rarely remember them. This little less than a gem just happened to occur when I had a window available to post it into this blog. I'll try to remember some of these as time goes by so I can post them here. In the meantime, who out there has a favorite to share from their own reading and comprehension escapades?

In case you get to wondering, the song list for this album did have a little potential:

I mean, "Blame It on Christmas"? That could be potential holiday song gold, right? Ehhh, wrong!  Country western pop. Not unexpected you know. She has an okay voice and presentation. But the blame she's laying is that she misses you so, or was that she misses God so? I don't really want to listen to it again to find out. Yeah, the operative word is "dreck" allright.