Books · Diversions · documents analyses · Fiction · literacy · Migrants · observations · racism · research · white nationalism · white supremacy

How to Watch Gone With The Wind

Been wracking my brain for the past few days for a way to tell folks how to watch one of my favorite movies of all time. Everything would be much simpler if everyone would read the book. It is long, but extremely readable and will pull you along as it sweeps through one of the most turbulent times in our history. Reading Mitchell’s work did more to encourage my study of the American Civil War than any other work I’ve read.

Reading just the first two lines of the book will alert you to the fact that the movie is strictly a production based upon the book. Much of Scarlett’s life is not depicted in the movie. The war provides a backdrop to the foregrounded “romance” but GWTW is not a romance, but an historical novel that records many of the significant battles that took place from 1862 forward. People tearing down the statue of US Grant don’t know their history. Hell, his affiliation is in his initials. It is true that he owned one slave, but he came through when it really counted.

Line one: “Scarlett O’Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were.” Vivien Leigh was pixie cute, white folks think of her as beautiful. She definitely did not look like Scarlett as she is described in line one. Hence, the movie is a production designed to bring folks to the theaters. Remember, too, this movie was released in 1939; America was in the grip of Jim Crow segregation and the Great Depression, in need of diversion. The film is beautiful, the costumes are beautiful, the players are beautiful. The film was supposed to divert and make everyone feel better as they struggled to live.

Line two: “In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father.” For me, this line tells me that Scarlett’s parents are not white because whites of the time were Anglo-Saxon Protestants. French descent and florid Irish say immigrant past to me, and if one was an immigrant or emanated from immigrant stock, one was not white. Gerald O’Hara married up when he wed Ellen of the aristocracy. His ownership and management of a successful plantation was his entreĆ© to acceptance as a white man. People were suspicious of the O’Hara’s because they did not brutalize their slaves. They were Catholics, Papists. You can’t come to this interpretation unless you read the book and know some history.

Some folks are dredging up the old nonsense about the portrayal of stereotypes when it comes to the Black characters, particulary Hattie McDaniel’s portrayal of Mammy. I still quote her and I first saw this movie when I was ten. “It just ain’t fittin’.” Mammy spoke her mind, she called white trash white trash and wasn’t reprimanded for it. In fact, Mammy was the disciplinarian in the house, firmer than Scarlett’s mother or father. All deferred to Mammy. I don’t believe this was the stereotyped behavior of house slaves, particularly in the houses of true whites. Butterfly McQueen’s portrayal of Prissy paid her royalties until her death in 1995. She said she took the role so she could pay for her furniture. Two hundred dollars a week in 1939 was a queenly sum. She thought no one would come to see a movie “about slavery.” McDaniel said she’d rather play a maid or slave than actually be one when subjected to criticism by the Black critics of then and now.

If you won’t read the book, which is great, second in popularity to the Bible, and I don’t believe that many people have actually read the Bible, at least read something that gives some context about the war. I’d recommend My Vicksburg by Ann Rinaldi. It is a young adult novel and won’t take a lot of your time to read. You’ll learn about the conflicts within white families when one brother fights for the Union and the other brother fights for the Confederacy. The Civil War was all about white boys killing the hell out of other white boys over the institution of slavery.

Watch GWTW with the understanding that it is portrayed as a romance, but the book is a Bildungsroman and a story about survival once all you’ve known of stable society is destroyed. GWTW is more rightly classified as an historical novel. The film is a romance with Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. That’s how they got the box office. Remember it is a production meant to distract people from their economic despair. In 1957, Gable would portray a slaver in love with one of his purchases. Sidney Poitier was a major player in this film with Yvonne DeCarlo and Gable. I have never heard Poitier mention his role as Rau Ru in this movie based on a book, A Band of Angels, by Robert Penn Warren, who was a civil rights activist, journalist, and novelist. If you can find it, read the book, then see the movie. All about miscegenation, slavery, passing. Just think, in 1957 movies were still being made about slavery and related topics.

All this pandering by corporations to remove Uncle Ben (never liked that plastic rice), Aunt Jemima (I can make my own damn pancakes), and the gentleman on the Cream of Wheat box (he always reminded me of a Pullman Porter and I like remembering those working men of the past). Why are white people trying to erase history now? They just discovered racist iconography? Sumbitch.

Get with me after you read the book, see the movie, read Rinaldi, or you just want to talk history, slavery, and the living history we’re making and living through right now.

Peace, Beloved

aging · Authors · Books · Craft · Disaster · Diversions · Fiction · Literacy

La Peste and other readings

There are 25 minutes left until the end, but I am stuck on Fr Paneloux. He is now dead, but I think he was suffering a crisis of faith. He came out and told the people they deserved the plague because their faith was tepid, more letter than spirit, if you will.

The bugger goes and dies, refusing the care of Dr Rieux, throwing up something red before his passing. Wonder if it was his doubt…

This got me thinking about the crazy evangelical rapturists. If you so in love with Jesus, go to him. Don’t sit and wish evil upon the land that you might be among the preordained number of the saved to witness the horror before being taken…up. Good Lord, what a morning.

I have been distracting myself from finishing the reading by contemplating the development of my Southern Gothic writers in my virtual library. Completely forgot about Eudora, so acquired thirteen of her stories. Made a stab at Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying as there has to be an antidote to Sanctuary. I may watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof for a wonderful escape into Tennessee’s brand of SG. Have to see if any of Flannery’s stories are offered, maybe through the libraries. Some of her stories have been turned into film.

Also picked up Heavy by Kiese Laymon. It reads like SG, but isn’t fiction.

I will finish The Plague today.

Diversions · Fiction · Language · nanowrimo · Therapeutics · Uncategorized

That Nanowrimo Thang

It is here again, that nanowrimo thang. I signed up this year, and announced, even wrote a couple of chapters. Already too much pressure.

Trying to develop this habit for an activity I once loved as a child and engaged in effortlessly. I promised myself I would write if I got old enough to have done something, been somewhere. Here I am.

Allegedly, I just have to write something, e’r’day. Doesn’t have to be long, or even make sense, only written.

So, here goes, though late, but whatchugondo?

Think I need to change the background to commemorate the moment.

Fiction · metaphysics · observations · Religion · Sociology

Thoughts of The One

If the One had an eye, I can nearly imagine what it must be like, because of photography and graphic effects, to zoom, from the unknown firmaments that surround us, onto my doings on this earth. A macro-microscopic zoom. Of course, the One, if possessed of a brain or mind such as I am familiar with or can fathom, would need only to think, “Be,” and whatever thought of would come into BEing.

Whatever could make the One, the Creator of All That Is, directly or indirectly, interested in my doings? The time needed to focus on my shenanigans is unimaginable as the One is timeless and can Do or Not Do, as it wills, if It were possessed of a will as I can conceive of one.

Personallly, I do believe the One is not amused, if indeed the One possesses a sense of humor as I know it. My own sense of humor is pretty whack, but the One and I would likely agree that what passes for reality, the quality of interpersonal and international relations on this earth is troubling, not at all funny. Perhaps this is why horrors persist; the One has left us on our own, abandoned us, and we’re acting out our heartbreak and frustration at this eventuality.

For all the professions of faith, many folks act as if it is the case that the One has abandoned them, left them alone like the devil never did.

Class · Community · Fiction · Health and wellness · metaphysics · observations · Uncategorized

The Morale Officers

Ever met a Morale Officer? It is this officer’s duty to see that the troops are happy or, at the least, not dismally unhappy. To help maintain healthy mental and emotional behaviors while in the midst of struggle, the Morale Officer plans diversions and activities for the troops to help lift the oppression of battle and add a bit of light and levity to an otherwise brutal situation.

Once I quit my man, I discovered I had need of such an officer. It takes time to recover from a romance, no matter how long or short the affair. My man was raising his voice at me, calling me names. He couldn’t kiss me right. One night, he didn’t come home. I had to leave him.

I petted and cossetted that man as if he was a spring lamb, but he was never satisfied with me. He didn’t like the way I dressed (too modest), the way I spoke (to low and like a white girl), the way I ate (too international). He yelled at me to talk like a Black person, otherwise he wouldn’t hear or understand what I was saying. He actually seemed to want me to behave like a street woman. I had to leave him.

Having nearly lost myself, collapsed myself into his world, I needed to get me back. Whenever I feel like I’m losing my sense of self, I head to the library. Reading prevents the loss of self and can often help when regaining self is imperative.

I have to walk 20 minutes to get to a library in the local strip mall. The library doesn’t even have a bathroom for patrons. You have to go to Mickey D’s or Food 4 Less if you need the toilet. But there are books, videos, and free wi-fi, so off I go.

Along the main highway there is plenty of traffic, liquor stores and churches on every other corner, some homes, and many apartment complexes. I wonder how people live with their front doors so close to the sidewalk and pedestrian traffic, how they sleep with the constant traffic noises, how they breathe so near the pollutants of the road.

About midway in my journey, I pass in front of a large apartment complex, in front of which are usually a number of men. They stand around, smoking blunts and cigarettes, pants hanging way below their waists, profanities flying. Often, there is someone who is very high on some substance. They are said to be “on one.” Once, I encountered a brother draped over the trash receptacle that stands in the corner in front of the complex. His pants had fallen to his knees as he leaned his upper body along the side and top of the container. I was returning from the library when I saw him and stopped to ask if he as alright or needed me to call 9-1-1. I stood with him for about 5 minutes before a oouple of men who knew him came from the liquor store across the street and informed me that he was on one and proceeded to help him get himself together. After their arrival, I continued home.

When I pass, I always speak to any man I see. I don’t want a scene and it costs nothing to speak. It’s always, “Good morning/Good afternoon, Brothers.” The first time I did this, there was a visible change in attitude and I was greeted in a like fashion. Then, I began to get compliments. “God sure did bless you. You’re summery and stylish, and you’re pretty, too.” My favorite is,”You’re a real woman!” If the corner men could see my virtues, why couldn’t my man? “If yo man ain’t treatin’ you right, I will!”

They were so good for my morale with their ego-boosting comments. I started going to the library twice a day for a while, just so I could hear something sweet said to me while I worked to get that man out of my system and regain my sense of me.

The Corner Brothers, often high as Coota Brown, eyes red as crimsonite, sagging and looking crazy, became my Morale Officers. In passing, they treat me like a queen, pulling their pants up, saying excuse me, always with the compliments and sweet words like brothers used to use in the ’60s. With their help, and immersing myself in my books, I got that man out of my system, regained my composure, and took back my life.

In the most unlikely locations, among the most unlikey people, it is good to find Morale Officers on duty.

Diversions · Fiction · Health and wellness

Mud Bath

Shirley struggled into her swimsuit and waddled down to the river for a quick dip before the children were up and demanding her attention.

She sidled up to the river bank and edged over the rise, descending into a culvert shadowed by tree limbs.

Slowly, she lowered her girth into the cool water, careful to avoid the root tangle pouring from the bank. Sinking blissfully into the muddy waters, she began rubing the mud over her arms and legs, vigorously rubbing to provide warmth and sloughing, grabbing mud with both hands and rubbing it over here face and neck, then plunging into a slightly deeper part of the river, swimming out a ways to wash away all the mud.

Flipping onto her back, she floated freely, enjoyng the vivid blue of the sky, contrasted with the grey slate of the water, too dark to reflect the brightness of the sky.

In the distance, the calls for her floated high and clear over the rise. Reluctantly, she turned and swam toward the bank, pulled herself ashore, and started the short trek back to home, family, love.

ethnography · Fiction · Sociology

“Close the lid before flushing.”

Unwritten is the assumption, in some households, that you will flush a closed toilet and leave the lid closed upon exit. 

Once I learned the practice, searching for the logic of it followed.

It seems waste matter is aerosolized in the flush process. Invisible drops of raw sewage are deposited on all exposed surfaces.

My, my.

An imposing Anglo man, over six feet to my five foot nothing, sternly taught me the lesson of close the lid before flushing when I demonstrated my lack of knowledge by violating this toileting rule. I’d also left the top up. I never forgot his instruction. He gave an entirely new meaning to the term ‘anal’.

Visiting a girlfriend of recent acquaintance, I saw a sign posted in her bathroom. It read:

Close the lid before flushing.

Leave the lid down when you exit.

Clear instructions without the intimidation. Priceless.

Craft · Fiction · Language

One Day the Lord Knocked

Our house has only one bedroom, so I slept in the living room on a fold-out bed that doubled as my desk and bookshelf when the bed was folded into the cabinet. It was about six in the morning when a knock at the front door roused me from pre-adolescent dreams. I turned over, hoping the cat had knocked something over, or that the sound was some noise from next door. The houses are close enough to nearly share a wall; we’re packed in here like matches in a book. The knock came again.

Fully awake, I asked, “Who is it?”

“The Lord,” came the reply.

I dashed to the back to get Mom. “Mom, the Lord is at the door.”

“Say what?” Mom always woke ready. I think that was the Texas in her.

“The Lord, Mom, is at the front door.”

“Well, why didn’t you let Him in?”

Mom got up, put on her robe, and went to the door. She looked through the window and saw Pluko standing there in her nightgown, hair disheveled, a confused look in her eyes. “Who is it,” she asked. The answer came back, once again, “The Lord.” So, she opened the door.

“Come in. Would you like a cup of coffee,” she asked, always with that Southern hospitality. The Lord smiled and said yes to the coffee. Mom seated Her at the kitchen table and went to fetch a wrap because she thought the Lord might be cold. It had rained the night before and, while the morning was fresh, it was also cold and damp. She returned, dropped the wrap across the Lord’s shoulders, and began to make coffee and biscuits. 

She served the Lord, who gave her a beatific smile in thanks for the comfort, then went to call Pluko’s cousin to let her know where the Lord could be found. 

The Lord sat in our tiny kitchen, slurping coffee from a saucer, sopping a bit of it with Her biscuit. She was contented and calm, happy even, until Her cousin showed up to take Her home. Her face took on the look of a brewing storm and the Lord began to grumble under Her breath about what a hateful soul lived in Her cousin. “Her throat is an open grave,” She muttered.

The Lord was coaxed to the front door and just as She was nearly out, She turned to say something to Mom. She held up her arms as if preparing to offer a benediction and said, “Blessed are the kindhearted. They shall know gratitude.”

With those words of thanks, the Lord turned on Her heel, and was gone.

art · Craft · Fiction · literacy · Music

Glen and Phoebe, Coda

The phone opened to the picture he’d requested of her feet. People had all sorts of fetishes, and she didn’t mind indulging this one of Glen’s. Phoebe was very familiar with the paraphilias, having been schooled through the Kinsey Institute. She searched the phone for any clues that might tell her where Glen had gone and why. She needed details.

There was much too much money for the sale of her father’s house. Glen knew she was struggling financially, but she hadn’t asked him for anything other than a fair price for the house. What was he thinking?

The phone search turned up next to nothing except for a number that was not hers listed under the Dialed Calls directory. It was an international number, to Germany, and she called it straight away. When the German Cancer Clinics answered, she knew what she had to do next.

Mattson was waiting for her when her train arrived in Oklahoma City. Glen had told her  a little about Mattson and their enduring friendship that had begun when they served together in the Navy. If anyone knew the details of Glen’s situation, it would be Mattson. What Phoebe didn’t know was that Glen had confided to Mattson his relationship with her; they both shared an interest in feet, and Glen had mentioned his curiosity about Phoebe’s small feet to Mattson. After that slip, he had told all, even though Phoebe had asked him not to. 

“Miss Williams,” Mattson greeted her, “I trust your journey was not too difficult?”

“No, Mr. Mattson, the trip was very pleasant, quite soothing in fact.”

“Very good. After we collect your bags, I will take you to the cottage and introduce the staff to you.”

“Staff?”

“Yes, Miss. There is just myself and my wife. She’s the cook and housekeeper.  I double as your driver and gardener.”

Phoebe sat stunned. She’d always longed for such a life, and here it was. But what of Glen?

“Mr. Mattson?”

“Just Mattson, Miss, if you please.”

“Mattson, is it far to the cottage?”

“No, Miss. We are about thirty minutes away.”

“What is your wife’s name?”

“Joyce, Miss.”

“If I am to call you Mattson, will you please call me Phoebe?”

“My pleasure, Phoebe.”

They drove the remainder of the short distance in silence, Phoebe wondering if she could get the information she wanted from Mattson and Mattson wondering what she was going to ask. She was everything Glen had told him and more. Direct, clear-eyed, poised. He understood his friend’s affection for this lovely woman. 

The “cottage”, designed by architect Robert Roloff, sat on a little more than four acres of land in a private setting that offered exquisite views of the outdoor living spaces, that included a pool. 

Image

Overwhelmed by the enormity of the gift she’d been given, Phoebe wept tears of gratitude, then turned her teary amber eyes on Mattson and asked him, beseeched him to tell her all he knew of Glen. Mattson happily obliged.

“Did…did his wife go with him?” Phoebe asked.

“No, Miss,” he answered, slipping back into formality. “In fact, Bernard and his wife were divorced about a year ago, shortly after he understood his condition.”

“Do you know where he is exactly, Mattson?”

“Yes, Miss.”

“Would you please make arrangements for me to go be with him?”

“At once, Phoebe, at once.”