Today’s Quote

May 5, 2015

th-1“Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing. Those who lack humor are without judgement and should be trusted with nothing.”

Clive James, Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts

Mystery Lady

November 23, 2014
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(Click image to enlarge.)

This photograph enchants me, and I know practically nothing about it. To begin with, who is the young lady? Back in the mid-1970’s, a friend gave me the picture because her mother was about to throw it out. At first it was the Art Deco frame that drew me. My friend told me that her mother “hated” the frame, and that the woman in the picture was her (the mother’s) great-aunt, and that she was a professional “acrobatic dancer.” That was it, that’s all my friend got from her mother. Now I was really hooked. The fact that there was a mystery attached to such a beautiful frame and such an interesting-looking—lovely-in-her-own-way—costumed woman, only made the package that much more intriguing.

 So I did a bit of research. I checked out Google Images under “acrobatic dancer” for the 1920’s and 30’s, and came up with some notes that I may develop later for an essay. For instance, the images I found ranged from vaudeville and circus acts to strippers to deformed people who toured theatrically at the time and were exploited as “freaks.”  Show biz people of every stripe, in other words, many of whom were social outcasts then. Which of course could also explain my friend’s mothers’ dismissive attitude.

 But I don’t care. I think this athletic-appearing young lady’s story deserves more development. If you have clues to her identity, her career, or just helpful research ideas, please get in touch . . .

Copyright © 2014, Jim Sizemore.

									

Three-Minute Memoir

October 27, 2014

Another Pittsburgh Romance

By Jo-Ann Pilardi

In memory of Albert “Ab” Logan, 1943-2014

(Click images for larger views.) 
lzjo-ann gradEighth Grade Graduation, Epiphany School, 1955
Three images below: 16th Birthday Party, 1957

Ab Logan’s humorous tale for Baltimore’s “Stoop” storytelling series about his first romantic kiss, in seventh grade during a game of post office at a friend’s birthday party, was evocative of a “post office moment” of my own. Mine happened also in Pittsburgh, but in fifth grade during my tenth birthday party. What follows is a report of the event, as best I can recall it, across these many years.

lzJo-Ann1Setting: On or about June 9, 1951, in the apartment of our family of five (it grew to six later) on Marion Street, in a section of Pittsburgh close to Downtown called Uptown. Our apartment had only three rooms, but as my mother always said, “They’re large rooms.” And they were. A folding screen divided the bedroom into halves; my parents’ territory was on the street side, and the area where my sisters and I slept was in the interior. Regina and I were on a double bed and Sandra on a twin.

lzJo-Ann2Partygoers: At my birthday party that day would have been the usual suspects, no doubt sparkling in their party clothes: my two sisters Sandra and Regina (five and six at the time) and any cousins close in age to me; my neighborhood was cousin-crowded. Cousins Richie, Ronnie, Lanny, Eugene, Tony, and maybe Barbara Ann would have been there, and possibly Tony, Sonny and Doreen. At the time, we all took for granted the physical closeness of our extended family—and ours wasn’t the only one in the neighborhood. It was the sort of urban neighborhood disappearing in America: full of kids who know each other and know, at pretty much every second, where any one of the others is; full of parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents, everyone vigilant—for good or ill—about what the kids are doing and where they are. I miss it deeply, to this day. Also in attendance at the party were my friends from the neighborhood (Monica, Ronnie, Buzzy, Jeepie) and a few from my school, Epiphany Grade School.

I can deduce who the Epiphany School crowd would have been but cannot remember exactly. No photographs remain of the inauspicious day. But with certainty, I remember one person, Joseph C., because I was head over heels nuts about him. He had large, deep-set blue-green eyes spangled with long black lashes, and his hair was jet black. His skin was fair. When I heard the traditional Irish tune, “The Wild Colonial Boy,” I thought of Joseph, for no particular reason except that its high Gaelic beauty—carried by both its melody and lyrics—represented the fair Joseph to me. Herewith its first verse:

There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name
He was born and raised in Ireland, in a place called Castlemaine
He was his father’s only son, his mother’s pride and joy
And dearly did his parents love the wild colonial boy.

lzJo-Ann4But there were a variety of ways in which Joseph didn’t fit the song. Firstly, he was not named “Jack.” Nor was he raised in Ireland, nor was he an only child. But I felt it was entirely possible he lived in a place with royal resonance. Castlemaine. It would have made a good home for this prince among boys. Plus, Joseph was anything but wild. He was solid as a rock: a good student, a sensible kid, not a flirt and not a prude. He even had a whiff of humor about him. Thinking back on it, I also believe I sensed a class difference that appealed to me—he wore white shirts and dark pants (not the usual boy outfit at Epiphany) and just looked classy to my working-class self. (Mea culpa.) Somehow and in some way, he was different. (Diversity is good, right?) Joseph had joined our class during that fifth grade year . . . a very good year because of Joseph’s appearance, but also for some other reasons. The terrors of the two lay teachers we had in third and fourth grade were behind us; they’d taught us the multiplication tables by lining us up against the walls, boys on one side and girls on the other, flaunting and sometimes using their large wooden rulers to force those numbers into our little brains. In their place was Sister Jonathan, a lovely and sweet-natured young nun with a sense of humor and enormous patience. So, it was a very good year.

Post Office Plan: The goal for my birthday party, my fixation and obsession, was to kiss and be kissed by Joseph C., and I hoped the party games would cooperate. So after spin the bottle (no luck there), we started playing post office. In the intervening hour my number was called a few times, and I called the number of others a few times, but I had no luck in making the Joseph C. connection that I desperately sought. Then . . . finally . . . he called my number.

The Moment: The kissing booth (the “post office”) was set up behind the large door separating our living room and the hallway corridor. (The large white door can be seen in some of the photos shown in this article from my 16th birthday party.) Opening the door into the living room created an alcove where the kissing couple could have privacy. At the other side of the living room was the doorway into our large kitchen, from which my mother was managing the party’s food and games. Just as Joseph called my number, and as I started walking to the alcove, my mother charged into the living room: “The party’s over! It’s 5:30—time for everyone to go home.” Both I and my friends (who knew my goal for the day) pleaded with her to let it run for a few more minutes, but to my amazement, she couldn’t be dissuaded. The party was to run from 3:00 to 5:30, and that was it! And so: the party was over. I was to remain unkissed by the beautiful Joseph C. Years later, hearing my plaintive story about that day, my mother said she had no idea of what was happening at that point and certainly no intention to stop the important kiss. She had just decided to stop the party at the time she’d said it would end. I was the victim of the cruelest circumstance.

You’re thinking it couldn’t get worse. I thought so too. But it did. Joseph never re-appeared at Epiphany School that fall. We heard that his parents sent him to a boarding school. I was heartsick but also shocked, because the only people I knew who boarded anywhere were the few boys in our class (the super cool ones) living at St. Joseph’s Protectory, a foster home in the in the adjacent Hill District for kids whose families had “problems.” Joseph was not bound for that kind of boarding, I was sure. His boarding school would be the kind I’d read about in English novels. It might even have a name something like “Castlemaine.”

My disappointment and sadness at losing Joseph (in the party and in the school) continued for a long time. Look at me in my Eighth Grade Graduation picture (in this article—I’m the last on the right, front row) and tell me you don’t see signs of grief over the loss of Joseph C., three years before. (Or maybe it was just that silly hat I was wearing that made me feel so sad.) By my sixteenth birthday party, in 1957 (pictures in this article), there were no more games. I was going steady with Petey, a sweet green-eyed boy from the neighborhood, and we all can be seen conversing and comfortably dancing with each other (probably to an Elvis tune or maybe one by the Four Lads). We were on our way to adulthood, with its own awkwardness, foibles, and loves.

Copyright © 2014 Jo-Ann Pilardi.

Jo-Ann Pilardi is retired from Towson University where she taught Philosophy and Women’s Studies for 38 years.  A working-class Italian from Pittsburgh, she moved to Baltimore in 1969 and was active in women’s movement groups through the 1970s. Currently, she teaches for TU’s Osher Institute, reads and writes, gardens, travels, and studies jazz piano.

Doodlemeister is looking for short memory pieces up to 1,500 words, on any subject, in any style. Whatever the subject, we have a bias for a light tone. We’ll help you to edit and reduce the word count of your piece, if needed. If you’d like to submit a story, please contact us at jimscartoons@aol.com

Today’s Portfolio

November 9, 2013

Halloween Hip Shots 2013

By Jim Sizemore

(Click images for larger views.)

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The “Hip Shots” series of photographs will feature images that were grabbed “on the fly,” with little or no regard for framing and focus. The object of the exercise is to create dynamic pictures, not perfect ones. With this ” shoot-from-the-hip” method the more frames exposed, the better the chances are that you’ll come up with something interesting—a related series that may be arranged as a post. If you’d like additional tips for using the technique, or to submit your own images, drop a question or note in the “Leave a Comment” section, below.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Sizemore.

Halloween 2010

November 24, 2010

Hands

This year at a Halloween dance, I made scores of photographs of costumed participants using the “Hip Shots” technique. The “shoot-from-the-hip” method, executed without concern for focus and framing, produces a lot of waste and the occasional dynamic picture. In this case I thought the free-form technique was especially appropriate for the subject. The following post is the last in the series. Meanwhile, you may like to tap the “Hip Shots” tag in the toolbar above for examples from the regular Hip Shot series, which post each Friday.

(Click images for larger views.)



Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Halloween 2010

November 17, 2010

Legs

At a Halloween swing dance this year, I made scores of photographs of costumed participants using the free-form “Hip Shots” technique. The “shoot-from-the-hip” method, executed without concern for focus and framing, produces the occasional dynamic picture. In this case I thought the method was especially appropriate for the subject. The following post is third in a series which will appear on this blog each Wednesday in November. The fourth and last entry in the 2010 Halloween series, titled “Hands,” will post next Wednesday. Meanwhile, you may like to tap the “Hip Shots” tag in the toolbar above for examples from the regular series, which post each Friday.

(Click images for larger views.)


Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.

Holloween 2010

November 10, 2010

Dancers

This year at a Halloween dance, I made scores of photographs of costumed participants using the free-form “Hip Shots” technique. The “shoot-from-the-hip” method, executed without concern for focus and framing, produces the occasional dynamic picture. In this case I thought the method was especially appropriate for the subject. The following post is second in a series which will appear on this blog each Wednesday, until I run out of suitable photos. Third in the Halloween series, titled “Legs,” will post next Wednesday. Meanwhile, you may like to tap the “Hip Shots” tag in the toolbar above for examples from the regular series, which post each Friday.

(Click images for larger views.)



Copyright © 2010 Jim Sizemore.