Saturday, September 06, 2014

Teen Town, 'Tween Town

A couple of years ago my cousin Karen sent me a manila envelope full of letters I'd written to her between 1955 and 1957. Deep down I'd always known I was a geeky, awkward adolescent, not one of the cool kids, and any shred of doubt I might have had about that was erased when I read those letters nearly sixty years after I wrote them. This one, dated Jan. 15, 1957, is a good example:

At my current age I don't have the patience to turn that letter upside down and all around to read what I wrote back then, although the straightforward, left-to-right section in the bottom left-hand corner jumps out at me: "You bet I saw Elvis on T.V. the other night. I wouldn't have missed it for anything."

I was not alone in the geeky department. Karen wrote back to me in invisible ink, as evidenced by my next letter to her, dated January 24, 1957:

See how I oh-so-cleverly replaced all the punctuation marks with the spelled-out names of the punctuation marks? Gah!

Anyway, here's a translation of the second paragraph of the second letter: "I guess I haven't told you about Springfield's new Teen Town, have I? I really like it! We have dancing, ping pong, and bowling. There is also a television set. It is open on Friday and Saturday nights from seven to eleven o'clock. Most of the time we use the juke box for music, but once a month we will have a dance band. There is a snack bar where we can get hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips, candy bars, ice cream, et cetera. We can also get almost any flavor of pop for a nickel. The first night of Teen Town they had free cokes and potato chips. Tommy [my ninth-grade boyfriend] drank nine cokes that night. It opened January fifth and I have gone one night each weekend since then. I sure do hope it succeeds."

The letters may be those of a silly little girl, but it was the budding young woman inside her who showed up regularly at Teen Town. What I've remembered all these years isn't the junk food or the ping pong or the bowling. On the rare occasions when Teen Town has crossed my mind since the last time I was there, what I've remembered is slow-dancing with Tommy to this song:

The song is "Gone," by Ferlin Husky.
Thanks to Michael Daigle for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Father of Medicine and Two-Faced People?

The judge and the lawyers who were my bosses at various times during my career in the legal field were all good spellers. I can't say the same for most of my bosses in the corporate world. The latter group relied on me to correct their errors and make their written correspondence look better, and I learned from them that the ability--or inability--to spell may not always correlate with the level of one's intelligence.

While I'm still troubled by spelling errors I see in books (that's what editors are for), my work experience has made me more tolerant of misspellings in casual correspondence--Facebook messages, for instance. If some folks seem to have been writing hurriedly and just giving a word or two their best shot, what does it really matter as long as they get their points across?

Spellcheck is helpful for some people, I suppose, but its effectiveness is only as reliable as the ability of a self-aware non-speller to choose the correct word from a list of options. I saw a perfect example of a wrong choice the other day and have been chuckling about it ever since:

A member of an online forum for a reality TV show posted a complaint about the hypocritical response of some viewers to an incident that had occurred on the previous night's show. She wrote (paraphrasing here): "I don't think they'd be so quick to judge if these were their own family members. Hippocrates!!!"

I cannot wait for the next friendly debate with friends or family. As sure as I'm sitting here, I will call some of them Hippocrates, and I'll do it in an exasperated tone that implies at least three exclamation points.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


Nine years ago today much of the nation was glued to the TV, watching in disbelief as conditions in New Orleans continued to deteriorate following Hurricane Katrina. I was one of those watching, almost unable to comprehend that that kind of horror was happening less than sixty miles from where I sat safely in my house.

Many of the people who evacuated New Orleans ahead of the storm came here to wait it out. A lot of them are still here. Many others, those who had stayed in New Orleans and were trapped there when the waters of Lake Ponchartrain breached the levee, eventually were rescued and boarded buses to whatever towns or cities had indicated a willingness to take them in and help them out. One such place was Houston:

The song is "Houston" by Mary Chapin Carpenter.
Click here to read the lyrics. 
Thanks to paganmaestro for skillfully combining amazing images with this song and posting the video on YouTube.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hurricanes and Other Foul Winds

It's a good year when Louisianians make it through the week when August ends and September begins without any trauma or turmoil. Usually it's a hurricane or tropical storm that causes the trouble:

  • On today's date two years ago, Hurricane Isaac made landfall on the Louisiana coast.
  • A year earlier, on September 3, 2011, my sister and I cut our Appalachian vacation short and drove straight home to beat Tropical Storm Lee's arrival here.
  • In 2008 Hurricane Gustav arrived here on September 1st, Labor Day. 
  • The one everybody remembers, of course, was Hurricane Katrina. Katrina made landfall in Louisiana exactly nine years ago today.

Rain is predicted for every day of the Labor Day weekend, but no damaging winds are expected to accompany it. Thank goodness and knock on wood.

This year a different kind of ill wind has blown into our area and continues to grab the headlines. News broke on Wednesday that Scott Rogers, a prominent local TV personality, had been found shot to death in his upscale home as a result of an apparent murder/attempted suicide. The alleged shooter remains in the hospital in critical condition from a gunshot wound as doctors apparently fight to keep him alive so that he can eventually be indicted for Rogers' murder. Go figure.

Rogers' TV show, Around Town, came on too early in the morning for me to watch on a regular basis, but I've certainly seen him on television often enough through the years to know he was on Baton Rouge's hypothetical "Who's Who?" list. I would have described him as pleasant, mild-mannered and...perky, maybe. I might even have added slightly effeminate, notwithstanding the fact that the average Louisiana good-ole-boy would apply that adjective to every male who has a British accent and isn't James Bond. Comments at the end of early online news articles have given me the impression that Rogers enjoyed an impeccable reputation in Baton Rouge and was highly regarded for his kindness in general and for his efforts in regard to the promotion of non-profit fundraising events.

As if the killing/botched suicide weren't shocking enough, the ongoing news story is being peeled like an onion, and the layers now include allegations of a child molestation trial in Rogers' native England and a long history of molesting other young men over a period of many years, two of whom followed him here from England, one of whom is his alleged murderer, business partner and son-in-law. According to news reports, a 10-year-old adopted son and a 2-year-old foster son were removed from Rogers' custody about two weeks ago.

I'm sensitive enough--human enough--to realize that this story is tragic on many levels, and I do feel sympathy for those whose lives were affected, positively or negatively, by a relationship with Rogers and/or by his death. But I'm also honest enough to admit that the avid crime-novel reader in me finds this whole story fascinating. I doubt that I'm alone in that. This wouldn't be the first time that the concept of a double life--a charismatic character with a dark side--has kept readers turning pages late into the night.

You can read about Scott Rogers here and here. If this story doesn't turn into a book or a made-for-TV movie, I'll eat my hat.

Monday, August 25, 2014

More of What I've Been Reading: The Trilogies

The Lake Trilogy:
The Lake
Troubled Waters
Safe Harbor
by AnnaLisa Grant

The Kindle edition of the first book in this series, The Lake, had four stars and was free on How could I pass it up? I got hooked on the story and wanted more when it ended, so I bought the next two books. (That's why they offer the free ones, right?) These books reminded me of the Twilight series, but without the vampires and werewolves.


The Prairie Trilogy:
O Pioneers!
The Song of the Lark
My Antonia
by Willa CatherĆ”-ebook/dp/B00JT04KNU/ref=sr_sp-btf_title_1_12?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1408977078&sr=1-12&keywords=willa+cather

I love historical fiction, and that's what these old books are. Willa Cather's words paint vivid mental pictures of times and places I wasn't alive to experience and made me believe I was there.  I only wish something exciting had happened during my visit.


The Fifty Shades Trilogy Bundle:
Fifty Shades of Grey
Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades Freed
by E L James

A few people told me, "You must read these books!" A few others said, "They're horrible! Don't waste your time." Finally, a friend on the "must-read" side convinced me, emphasizing that "the second book explains a lot about how [main character] Christian Grey got that way."

Well, I read them, and my opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey is neither black nor white. Some of the writing was better than I'd heard it was; some of it wasn't. The pages were about evenly divided between story and sex. I actually liked the story that continued through all three books, but the sex scenes grew tedious quickly. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing; once they became repetitive and boring, I could skim over several pages and get back to the story faster.

I will say that the only books I've ever read that were as sexually explicit as these were a couple of well-worn, dog-eared paperbacks my husband found on a power-plant construction site back in the '70s. Those had practically no plot at all.

Do you think that's what all the fuss is about? Do you think maybe the many thousands of avid fans of Fifty Shades have never had access to construction workers' libraries?

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.