Monday, May 13, 2013
Carolyn and Tim had the pleasure of Mel and Jennifer's company all last week (and vice versa). As you know, M & J do everything together, so when their eye doctor told them that they both needed cataract surgery, they scheduled them for the same day. Tim picked them up and brought them to Rowland Heights on Monday, took them to the surgery in Ontario on Tuesday (They were quite a hit in the Kaiser outpatient surgery), and to the post-op check-up on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday they relaxed: Mel worked on the video of their recent trip to China, Tibet and Mongolia on their laptop. Jennifer caught up on e-mails and played games of chance on her iPad.
On Saturday, Mel, Jennifer, Carolyn and Tim went to the Mark Taper Forum to see an excellent version of Joe Turner's Come and Gone directed by Phylicia Rashād.
After the play we had dinner at Babita's in San Gabriel (a great, gourmet "Mexicuisine" restaurant) to celebrate the McMullen's 67th wedding anniversary. We had a delicious dinner, and we all enjoyed the complimentary anniversary flan.
As you can see they both seem completely recovered from the surgery and in high spirits. Today, May 13, is the actual anniversary of their wedding. Married 67 years and still going strong. They are an inspiration to us all. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!
Friday, April 19, 2013
HAPPY HOUR, NO HOST
A short story by Tim McMullen
“It's just a buzz... a kind of gnawing sound, that's all. I can't explain it. I just feel it... buzzing…here!” He lifted his torso from the couch and thrust his outstretched fingers against an area on his forehead just above his nose, disturbing the beads of sweat that had collected there; his eyes sought Weston's with an angry plea. “You gotta' help me! It's getting worse!”
It was a torturously hot day, and, typically, the air conditioner was out. Dr. Philip Weston had just opened the windows of his fourteenth floor office when Fanning had entered. The fellow had been in the office nearly five minutes, and he had been raving continuously since he'd seated himself on the psychiatrist's couch.
Weston was experiencing the same reaction he always encountered with a new patient. He wished that they could all be like the "old timers,” the long-term patients who had learned not to expect so much. If they could just accept the process and not be so hung up on "the cure”—but it was always the same: the same old denial, "I'm not crazy! There's nothing wrong with my mind!"; and the same old whine, "Help me, Doctor! You've got to help me!”
Slowly, he realized that his imagined words had coincided with the words and tone and supplication of Fanning, his new patient. He opened his eyes just in time to meet the intense and painful gaze of the man. He looked to be in his ear l y to middle forties, with close-cropped dark hair; flecks of grey salted his temples and crown. When he wasn't speaking, Fanning's mouth drooped open peculiarly, almost as if it were trying to speak against his will, and his eyelids, though apparently closed, fluttered uncontrollably. For most of the last five minutes, however, he had been speaking, albeit in an agitated, stumbling cadence. The words lurched forth three or four words at a time, and his rambled narration was anything but lucid.
Thus far, in fact, Weston had not really decoded any of the man's exposition. Instead, he simply sat and stared at the man's eyes. The eyes themselves were very unremarkable; they were a typical light brown, and the shape and size were also ordinary. But the look.... Deep in those eyes Weston saw something that both gratified and alarmed him. He had probably read the phrase a hundred times in stories and novels, and perhaps even in a case study or two, but he had never actually encountered such a phenomenon. Now, however, he had no doubt; if there was such a thing as "tortured eyes,” this fellow definitely had them.
“Well ... " Weston drawled and then paused as he tried to pull his attention back to his patient's still unidentified problem. After all, the fellow was paying for the hour. Holding his pencil and pad near his chest, Weston flapped his arms a couple of times in an effort to get air to his perspiration-soaked armpits. "It really is a scorcher, isn't it, Mr. Fanning? Sorry about the air conditioner...Isn't that just the way, though?"
Fanning remained motionless on the couch and did not speak.
"Well," said Weston, trying another tact, "sometimes it helps to run through the details a second time. It helps us make certain that the facts are straight, and it helps you to articulate more clearly what you feel is the problem.”
"I told you the..."
“Yes, I know, but slowly and calmly now,” interrupted the doctor. “Start at the beginning and just talk it through again."
"Look, I'm a neurobiologist! I'm not some loon off the street!" replied Fanning.
“No-No...not you, Weston observed silently, but his face was a mask of reassurance.
“I've never been to a psychiatrist in my life ... and I never needed to, either!" Fanning made a move to scratch his head, but his hand halted in mid-flight; apparently puzzled, he gazed at it for a moment then laid it back at his side.
“I've tried five doctors, and they all say the same thing: 'No reason for that bleeding, Mr. Fanning. You're fine. Nothing wrong with you ... physically! Nothing a little peace and quiet won't cure." Fanning spoke calmly and quietly, his voice barely above a whisper, but his eyelids and his fingers twitched convulsively. "Peace and quiet," he sneered, raising his voice. "Doctor, I haven't worked in nearly two months. I haven't seen any friends for weeks. Christ, I haven't done anything for days but sit and listen to it gnawing away. I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE!" Fanning clenched his graying brown hair in his fists, threw his head against the twill beige of the couch, and let loose a sob.
Oh, fine! A screamer, thought Weston. He turned his back and rolled his eyes. Recovering himself, he cooed, in his best couch side manner:
"NOW, now, take it easy. Take it easy, Mr. Fanning. We can't help you unless you're willing to help yourself. We have got to work as a team." He reached over and patted the man's shoulder, an expedient to which he resorted only in extreme cases. He noticed a wad of cotton stuffed in Fanning's ear. "Now then, let's go back to the first time you heard this...uh...uh...buzzing."
Fanning turned back and lay with his eyes closed; his body was more relaxed, and he spoke now in a hoarse, whispered monotone.
"It's quieter now ... not so bad... I can think. What ... what did you ask me?"
"I asked you when the buzzing began,” replied Weston.
“Oh, yeah,” Fanning said, but he gazed off distractedly with a puzzled look, as if he were a student trying to work out a difficult mathematical problem. His face was uplifted and his eyes were nearly closed so that Weston could see only the whites peeking from under the still flickering lashes. “Funny,” Fanning continued, “When you touched my shoulder.... " His voice trailed off, and he looked at Weston.
“Yes?" said Weston.
"Oh, yeah. I've been thinking about when it started. I'm not sure. It kind of crept up on me, you know? One day, about two months ago, I realized there was this noise. I figured it was the air conditioner or the fluorescent lights or something. Stevens and I were in the lab. It was real faint, but piercing ... you know ... like fingernails on a blackboard from a half-a-block away. It just kept... A-A-A-H-H! A-A-A-A-H-H-H!"
Fanning's eyes slammed shut as he screamed, and his face went ashen. He squinted so relentlessly and clutched at his brow so furiously that, for a moment, he looked as if his entire face was being sucked into his eyes.
Philip Weston viewed the stricken man with alarm. Fanning had been so calm, so lucid, that Weston had nearly forgotten the seizures. He reached out, almost instinctively, for an unprecedented second time. Much to his surprise, the tortured man's writhing subsided at the touch. Weston felt an ominous tremor run through his own body, and he was forced to fight back a wave of nausea as he removed his hand.
Appearing even more drained and vacant than after the previous seizure, Fanning whispered rapidly.
“Stevens...Stevens and I used to talk. It bothered him sometimes. 'You and I both know it's the only way,' I'd tell him. 'They're doing it! You think they're worrying?' He'd close his eyes and say, 'Yeah, I know.'“
"Uh, excuse me, Mr. Fanning. I take it you and Mr. Stevens work together. Just what sort of work....”
“I'm sorry, Dr. Weston, that's classified military information. Besides, Stevens doesn't work anymore, doctor. He's dead.”
“Oh, I'm... I'm sorry,” said Weston, slightly mortified.
"How long ago were these conversations to which you were just alluding?”
"Stevens died nearly ten weeks ago ... Just about the time.... "
Fanning suddenly beat at his scalp with his clenched fists. “IT KNOWS!” he shrieked.
The pad and pencil dropped from Weston's hand, and his mouth gaped open as he stared at his patient. Fanning jumped up from the couch and stood babbling, his eyes fluttering spasmodically. The cotton wad had dislodged from Fanning's le” ear and had fallen to the floor. Blood spilled out of his ear. It ran down his shirt and onto the carpet. Fanning continued his crazed, stumbling monologue.
“I watched him die. 'No host!' he screamed. I saw him...out the window... screaming....”
Fanning's eyes darted around the psychiatrist's office. Frantically, they searched and searched, seeking but not seeing. Then he moved. Weston felt pinned to his chair. Despite his confusion and alarm, he had been piecing together small fragments of sense that he had gleaned from the poor creature's ravings.
“AAAAHH! AHH! AHH!” shrieked Fanning. He threw his head back in agony. “It knows...“ he whimpered, blood gushing now from his nose as well as his ears. “Stevens ... Stevens must have succeeded, but he never had ti ... AAAIIIEEE!”
Fanning dropped to his knees. Only then did he notice the blood pooling on the carpet. Like a phantasm from some Vietnam vet's nightmare, his blood-spattered, tear-drenched face grimaced convulsively then suddenly relaxed.
“Stevens...I understand! No host ... can't live ... “
Philip Weston saw the man move, and he understood his intent. Hurling himself from his chair, he moved to intercept Fanning's flight.
Fanning screamed. Then, with miraculous agility, he coiled and lunged through the window, screaming, "Yes! Y-E-E-S-S-S! N-O-O-O-O-!”
Weston had reached the spot in time to grab at Fanning's leg as he disappeared, but not in time to save him. His hand had merely grazed the man ' s leg, but in that instant, he had heard Fanning's triumphant "Yes" transformed into a “No” of despair. In that same instant, as his fingertips grazed the dying, flying man, he, too, felt it!
A million chalkboards and a billion fingernails screaked through what had been his brain. Weston peered wildly around the room. Chainsaws ripped his cranium, choking and chomping their way through the bone. He flicked his tongue over his suddenly moist upper lip and perceived the peculiar, salty taste of blood that had already begun to trickle from his nose.
“Janet!" he shrieked into the intercom. “Call the Paramedics!" Instantly, the heroic examples of his two tragic predecessors, Stevens and Fanning, entered his mind, and he realized his deadly error. He tried to scream, "Don't come in…Don't let them come in," but he could not lift his hand to press the button of the intercom. As he lay, aware that his consciousness was rapidly waning, he realized that he was perhaps the only man still alive with the knowledge and power to destroy the deadly virulence, but even as the thought insinuated itself upon his mind, he knew it was already too late ... much too late....
©1985 Tim McMullen
All Rights Reserved
A short story by Tim McMullen
As he reached out, he envisioned the scattered fragments of appendages; however, when he turned the sponge over, he saw nothing but a mere black speck on the blue surface. He held the sponge under the stream of the faucet and watched the remains swirl down the sink drain.
Tom Jenkins had always felt uncomfortable when he killed an insect. A sad, queasy feeling tremored from his stomach to his throat, and he often apologized aloud.
“Sorry, buddy,” he would say, “but you just wouldn't listen to reason!”
In fact, he often did try to reason with them; that is, he gave them a chance by trying to herd them out of the room. Spiders were the easiest: He just picked them up by their web or got them to crawl on a kleenex, and then he walked them outside. And flies could usually be coaxed out the door merely by his waving his hands and blocking their flight.
“No, really! Thomas tries to rehabilitate them and give them a college education,” his ex-wife would chortle to friends as she lashed out to swat a fly or squish a spider.
Now he just stood there with the water streaming down the drain. After turning off the water and wringing out the sponge, he heard the drone of the clock radio from the bedroom. He used the radio's “snooze bar” mechanism to indicate the time in ten-minute increments.
“And now, here's Joanna with an environmental update….”
“The President,” the radio bubbled in buoyant feminine tones, “obviously elated over his latest tactical triumph, said,
'Industry must be given a chance to fulfill their responsibilities without a bunch of uninfor….’”
“Must be 6:20,” Jenkins mumbled to himself, and he hurried off to tap the button.
Ten minutes later, standing in front of the bathroom mirror, he reflexively caught his nose between his thumb and forefinger and pinched his nostrils closed.
“Damn! The stench of that dump is getting worse,” he muttered.
When he and Anita had moved into this new housing complex, they had been unaware that a dump was situated nearby, if you could call over four miles away “nearby.” Then, about three years ago, he and his neighbors had begun to notice a pungent though not unpleasant odor, a smell resembling strong orange blossoms, wafting sporadically through the air. Eventually, someone had linked the smell to the dump, and the mystery had been solved. The smell was no longer orange blossoms, however. Tom experienced a sudden olfactory deja vu: he remembered a blast of dank, musty air gasping past him as he opened the ragged, rotted, wooden door of an old shed on his grandmother's farm. He had never gagged before, and he staggered; a sour, fetid stench flared his nostrils, and he fled from the shed and the sight of the dead cat's rotting carcass.
This morning, the malodorous miasma from the dump was a cross between that decomposing cat and one of those portable chemical toilets after it's been sitting in the hot sun for several days. He'd have to call Ted from the Tenant's Association about the outcome of their last meeting. He almost wished that he had been there. They had really pressured him to join them in their campaign against the refuse reclamation operation.
“C'mon, Tom, you're the perfect person,” Ted Rainer, the association president, had pleaded.
“Yeah, Tom,” added Jill Benton, peering out through glasses whose lenses grotesquely magnified her mottled hazel eyes. “You're a lawyer. You can talk to the people from the government and make 'em understand how bad it is.”
“Yes…yes…well, I'd like to help,” he had stammered, “but I… I…just don't have the time right now.”
It was true. His caseload was quite heavy right now, and it would be hard for him to squeeze the extra time, but that wasn't the real reason. The fact was that he just wasn't a joiner. Besides, what did he know about it? People took it for granted, “Oh, you're a lawyer? Well, can you tell me about…my dog, my aunt, my boss, my doctor, my leg, my food, my car, my landlord, my fishing pole, my dump?” Tom laughed at his list. He was only a junior public defender. What did he know about dumps or dog food? Nevertheless, the stench from the refuse disposal site was getting more odious; there was certainly no doubt about that. Maybe he really should call Ted and find out how things were going.
The traffic report clicked on as he cut a swath through the lather on his right cheek. He listened for a moment to the banter of the deejay and the copter pilot. Reassured that there were no major pileups on the freeway, he walked briskly to the bedroom.
“…that although the bill had passed unanimously during last year's reelection campaign, a majority of the committee's members, after some aggressive lobbying from industry, reversed its vote and killed the bill. “
“Business as usual, I see,” Tom Jenkins observed cynically. “Somebody unhappy about something, I'll bet.” His hands dripping water and his face full of lather, he nudged the snooze alarm with an elbow and went back to the bathroom.
That sad, queasy sensation swept over him again as he gazed from the sink to the windowsill. A line of black writhed back and forth in random movement.
“Jeez! Where the hell did you come from?” he muttered.
He reached out instinctively with his hand to sweep the inch-thick line of ants into the sink. Then, thinking better of it, he grabbed a washcloth from the rack in the shower, soaked it in the tub faucet, and then went for them.
In a second or two he had cleared the windowsill. It was easy to spot the doomed vermin as they broke rank and scampered across the muted pink tile and the dusty rose calico of the wallpaper. As he rinsed the little, brittle, black bodies into the sink, he pondered whether it was more merciful to wash them down with hot water or cold water. If they were still alive, would the hot water scald them? Maybe, with cold water, they could survive in the pipes? The thought pleased him. He didn't necessarily want them dead ...he just wanted them out of his house!
“This is ridiculous, fellas!” he said, wiping the final remnants from the basin. “What the hell has gotten into them?” he wondered aloud as he rinsed the remaining lather from his face.
He was sitting on the side of bed putting on his left shoe when the radio sounded again:
“We're in your corner,” sang the jingle, “We're on your side...”
“Uh-huh,” Tom grunted sarcastically.
“We know what you need, and we make it with pride!” the chorus tittered.
“Well, this is what I need!” he said, reaching over and pushing the bar to silence the ad.
His liberal, socioeconomic sensibilities had been slightly appalled when these giant corporate conglomerates had first begun to advertise.
“Another fine product from your friends at 'Whateveritis'” or “Remember us? We're 'Whoeverweare!’”
“Talk about 'antitrust,'“ he had quipped to George Sherman while watching an ad on security's little T.V. during a recess. “How can one company own tractors, chewing gum, textiles, sanitary napkins, canned fruit, plastic containers ...?”
By this time, however, he was no longer alarmed at their diversity; nevertheless, the absurd incongruities were still amusing. Pretty soon the whole country would be run by an oil company, a soft drink conglomerate, and an insurance company.
With his “Haveaniceday” coffee mug in his right hand and his suit coat draped over his left, he glanced at himself in the full length mirror on the back of the closet door. He was meeting with the department head to talk about a promotion, so he had dressed carefully. Some of the guys in the department were too casual… some were downright slovenly. If this promotion didn't come through, he had actually contemplated going over to the D.A.'s office. At least those fellows took their appearance seriously. He set the cup on the dresser and slipped on the coat. This was his blue Brooks Bros.; he had bought it two years ago and had used it only for special occasions like today. The coat hung well, and it still looked new.
With eyes closed slightly, he waggled his head back and forth at the neck, craning it forward and tipping it back. A little stiff, but not too bad. Stepping closer, he examined his face. Although he'd been careful, he did find a bit of dried shaving cream just behind his right ear. As he picked at the crusty, white flecks, he noticed that the hair around his ears was beginning to edge closer; it had only been two weeks since his last haircut, but it just might be time for another. Finally satisfied with his inspection, he picked up his coffee cup, flipped off the bedroom light, and walked down the narrow hall.
With his finger still on the hall light switch, he edged sideways into the kitchen; then, he flicked the hall light, pulled the door shut, and turned.
“H-O-O-O-L-L-Y-Y SHIT!” he sang out loudly.
The cup fell from his hand and bounced across the floor; the coffee splashed, but Tom barely noticed it. The entire kitchen was black. The light from the overhead kitchen lamp was muted, but the morning sun filtered through the drawn curtains. His first impulse was to turn and run; instead, he vaulted the window and threw the curtains open. Pulling away, he clapped his palms together and then examined them in the roseate light of the window.
Ants. Although legs and heads had been mashed together on his palms, the remains of the carcasses were identifiable, and some were still moving. One large black ant flailed his forelegs frantically in an apparent effort to drag his crushed body out of danger. His demonstrative antennae fluttered wildly in some secret ant semaphore. Feeling slightly nauseated, Tom wiped his palms on his suit pants.
Now the walls caught his attention. The kitchen was a writhing mass of ants. They were everywhere and on everything. The refrigerator and the stove, once white, were no longer distinguishable from what had been yellow walls and cabinets: Everything was black and moving.
Already, he could feel them on his legs and in his shoes. He kicked at the floor with his foot as if to cut a path through the ants, but to little effect. He ran to the window and tried to slam it closed. Instantly, his hands were again covered in the wriggling, tickling things. He felt them flooding up his sleeves. Thrashing furiously and beating at his arms, he sprang to the service porch and looked for a way to fight them off. The porch, if anything, was even deeper in ants. After a moment of heightened alarm, he grabbed a broom and a giant can of insect spray. Both objects were covered in ants.
Pulling the lid off the can, he aimed the nozzle at the windowsill, and holding it only a few inches from the ants, he sprayed.
At first, the mist blew a space in the advancing horde, and he actually saw a few of them swim for a moment and then stop moving. Instantly, however, the empty space was filled with new recruits. Rather than deterring them, the dead bodies merely served as steppingstones over the poison-drenched sill, and the monsters swarmed in by the thousands. Dropping the empty can, Tom Jenkins swatted at his neck and arms; and then, he brushed at his face with both hands as if washing with ant lather.
He grabbed at the black, ant-covered broom; whirling around, he swept at the floor in wild, exaggerated movements. He found that by brushing back and forth as rapidly as he was able, he could keep clear about a three-foot circle. If he could hold his own for just a minute, he reasoned, the ants would get wind of the danger and halt their advance. Now that he had overcome his initial shock, he entered the battle in earnest. He got a rhythm going.
One/two/three/four/five/six/strokes at the floor, then one/two at the cabinets. One/two/three/four/five/six—one/two—one/two/three/four/five/six—one/two! He gained confidence every moment; the ants were faltering. He increased his circle of unoccupied territory to nearly four feet, and one of the cupboard doors was nearly clear.
Stepping backward to increase his attack, he inadvertently placed his foot on the dropped coffee mug, and the jolt sent him sprawling. Instantly, he felt a terrible pain, and he realized that he had cracked his head against the corner of the stove. He felt the warm ooze at the side of his head, and he slumped to the floor.
“NO!” he screamed, but when he opened his mouth, he felt the dirty little things crawling allover his lips and tongue. He spat, “Phah! Phah!” and sealed his lips tightly. He could feel several of the ants wriggling between his lips as he crushed them closed.
Only half-conscious, he made feeble attempts to stop the ants' advance. Like the cup and the appliances, he was now completely submerged in the crawling sea of ants. As they poured into his ear canal, they made a sound like horses on sandpaper roller skates. He opened his eyes for an instant then blinked them closed, but it was too late. Ants streamed across his eyeballs, and the room grew dark. He tried blinking rapidly—he rubbed at his eyes with his fists—but the ants were too much.
His head throbbed mercilessly, and it felt sticky somewhere. One of the advance guard entered his left nostril; Jenkins snorted furiously, but more ants followed instantly. He could feel their progress: waving their little legs and antennae about, they lurched forward, tentatively, into his nasal passages. Breathing had become almost impossible. He snuffed, and then gagged as several ants were sucked up into his sinuses. He opened his mouth to gasp for breath and then involuntarily swallowed a mouthful of the crawling invaders.
No longer able to move, he felt them scurrying across his eyeballs, scrambling into his nose and down his throat, scrabbling deep into his ear. Then, through the sound of their continuous onslaught and his own stertorous breathing, he heard the click of the radio.
“Next up...an alarming report on honey-bees, but first….”
“We're in your corner,” sang the jingle, “We're on your si....”
©1985 Tim McMullen
All Rights Reserved
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I submit this year's Valentine song with a video that is a bit of a departure. It uses brief snippets of rudimentary green screen/color keying, but more significantly, it uses text to tell a some of the story of our April Fools' Day wedding announcement, our wedding day affixed to our Annual Half-a-Dozen Crazy Cousin's Easter Feaster Weekend Celebration, and our subsequent "honeymoon" in Hawaii. Most of the images are from an album that no one else has seen, and I am guessing neither Carolyn nor I have seen for at least twenty years or so.
As I have explained elsewhere, Carolyn and I met in 1969, when I was newly married and transferred from Whittier College to Chico State so that my bride could continue at Chico, and I could complete my B.A. and teaching credential. The first day I was there, my wife, Jan, was scheduled to perform music at a concert with Dan, Carolyn’s boyfriend and soon-to-be husband. Carolyn and I sat on a bed in a dorm room and talked while Jan and Dan rehearsed. Two years later, Jan and I graduated and returned to Whittier. Three years after that, following a very amicable divorce, I submitted my resignation and retired from teaching, packed my car with my instruments and travel essentials, and set off to try to make a living playing music. While visiting Santa Rosa to see if my brother Tucker wanted to join me in this venture, I made a visit to my ex-wife, who was back in Chico, and, while there, became reacquainted with Carolyn who was also at the end of her marriage. After a few weeks, I said to Carolyn, "I am returning to Southern California to get a job. I would love to have you join me." She came for a visit in December of 1974, staying with me at my cousin’s house in Laguna. Four months later, she came down for good, and we have been together ever since.
Having both been married before, and having no religious notion attached to the ceremony, we could find no reason to remarry. From the day that she moved in, because of our love and personal commitment, we were more married than most couples, regardless of ceremony. It was nearly eight years later when Carolyn was taking a paralegal class in probate law (and I was sitting in) that we realized the ridiculous discrimination and undue burdens placed on committed couples who were not legally married. This is one of the reasons that I have been so outspoken for so long about the rights of same-sex couples to the legal benefits and protections of marriage.
On the spot, we simultaneously arrived at the conclusion that the most expeditious thing to do would be to get married. We didn’t want to make a big thing of it, however, since we had already been together eight years. We had always considered April as our anniversary month, but we never really had a set date. We naturally realized that April 1st would be the perfect day for our marriage. We decided to get married by a local justice, but the Whittier Court only did marriages on Fridays. We had to wait just over a year for April 1st to land on a Friday. It was quite fortuitous, really, because, had we missed that day but stuck to our plan, we might have had to wait as much as six more years for the right day to roll around.
We asked our friend’s Dick and Betty Harris to be witnesses, and we told no one else. Carolyn created a very clever wedding announcement that was sent to arrive on April 1st. That announcement is the opening of this video accompanied by the beginning of my song, “April Fools.” Our cousin, Beverly McMullen, not really sure what to make of the note, came to the Whittier Municipal Court and took a few pictures of the event. Those pictures are also included in the video.
We then traveled to Big Bear, California, to share our wedding weekend with our cousins, Sam and Becky (McMullen) LaRocca, in their parent’s cabin. The pictures that Becky took are also included in the video. Finally, we traveled to Hawaii for our “official” honeymoon, thanks, in part, to a wedding gift from my parents. A few of those pictures are here as well.
We hope that you have a Fun and Happy Valentine’s Day!
Such a Simple Thing
Such a simple thing
As your hand in mine
Becomes the perfect
Or this wedding ring
As our lives entwine
And this song I sing
Seeks in every line
A token of our love
A pledge forever more
With thanks for what we’ve had
And joy for what’s in store
Such a simple thing
Warm, sweet eyes that shine
For the love we bring
Is the love we find
A token of our love
A pledge forever more
With thanks for what we’ve had
And joy for what’s in store
If fate were such that at its end,
They offered one more chance,
My one request, Dear Carolyn,
Again to join you in that dance
Such a simple thing
As your hand in mine
Becomes the perfect
For you soothe life’s sting
With a love so fine
My thanks to you
And this song I sing
Seeks in every line
©2013 Tim McMullen
All Rights Reserved
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
by Tim McMullen
It had been a cold Christmas Eve, and the white, crystalline rooftops glistened in the morning sun like snow-capped peaks above suburban, multi-colored mountains. As I walked across the lawn to get the Christmas morning newspaper, the brisk rubbing of my bare hands and the snail-shell crackle of the brittle grass were the only sounds. I winced at the thought of snail shells, glanced across the street at Ron Logan's lawn, and remembered.
"Look, Jimmy," he'd cried. Then, holding the large, brown garden snail at eye level, he'd crushed it loudly between his forefinger and his thumb. "Here, eat it!" he had sneered and flicked it at my face.
That was over twenty years ago, but he hasn't changed much. It is ironic that of all the kids and all the families that have grown up on this block, Ron Logan and I are the only ones who have remained. As kids we never really got along; he was the bully of the block, and I was "the Big Brain"—at least that was the derisive epithet he delighted in hurling after me. Naturally, I took it as a compliment. As adults, we simply don't have many occasions for contact. Once in a while, he and his two boys will be out front washing their Bronco after some off-road excursion, and we'll exchange a word or two; for the most part, though, we have very little to do with each other.
I smiled as I looked at his place. The house was nearly covered in Christmas lights—red, white, and blue only—which poked up through the swiftly melting frost like a giant, abstract connect-the-dots picture. On one corner of his lawn was a large wooden scene of Santa and his reindeer; on the other, a life-size nativity scene. That’s Ron for you. Nothing halfway about him. Just like his annual Fourth of July extravaganzas: Nobody has a bigger or brighter display than Ron Logan and his boys. Two years ago they nearly burned the roof off the Mejia's patio, but we finally put the fire out with garden hoses.
Suddenly, a bird twittered and then another, and the tree by my chimney came alive with their rustling and chittering. My thoughts snapped back from the recollected scenes, and I paused above the yet un-collected newspaper and listened. Southern California is a mixed metaphor, after all, juxtaposing the frost on its rooftops with the birds in its branches. I had noticed one chirrup pitched higher than the others, and I realized that there must be a fledgling in among the older birds. The image of little John Logan, Ron's six-year old, intruded upon my thoughts.
Johnny is the only one of the Logan lot that I can tolerate, and, in fact, I really like him, even if I do feel a little sorry for him. More than once I've seen the gloating countenance of his older brother, Ron, Jr., suffused with fascination and pleasure at the whimsical torture of some insect or small animal unfortunate enough to have been captured in those merciless, pudgy fingers. It is his father's face as well, the face of the snail crusher. But John is different. His fists clench, and his gentle brow creases in disgust and horror at his brother's callous delights. And the little fellow has paid for such feelings.
"Get over here, you little sissy!" I've heard the father bellow.
"Take it like a man..." or "Boys don't cry!" the pugnacious taunts of his older brother have echoed, emulating the father's sarcastic tone.
Once, about a year ago, as I was carrying the trashcan around the corner of the house, I found little John hunched over on my porch, sobbing. His T-shirt front was nearly saturated, and he caught his breath in lurching hiccoughs as the tears surged down his cheeks and chin. Even the cement porch at his feet showed signs of the torrent.
"What's wrong, Bud," I said, sitting down beside him.
He brushed the butt of his fist back and forth across his eyes and tried to stifle his sobs. As a first grade teacher, I've seen enough unhappy children to know when they're inconsolable. I put my right arm around his heaving shoulders and pushed his wispy, brown hair out of his eyes with my left hand.
"It's alright, little buddy. You just go ahead and cry."
"M-m-y D-d-ad says that only s-siss...” he whimpered, and his shoulders convulsed even harder.
"Well, we both know you're not a sissy, are you?" I said.
"N-n-o!" he answered, as his sobbing began to subside. "But my brother says I am."
"Why don't you tell me what happened," I said.
After successive swipes of his sleeve at his eyes and nose, he began. "R-Ronnie got a p-pellet gun," he said, sniffing hard.
"Well, you're not crying because of that?" I said.
"No...but he...he shot a bird...a little bird..." his voice quivered, and a big tear began to fill the corner of his eye.
I watched it swell and swell like the slow drip of a leaky faucet until it finally spilled out and rolled down his cheek. "He killed it!" he said, and the sobs began again.
I held his shoulder tighter.
"J-Jimmy..." he said, after a long snuffling silence, "I-I'm not a sissy..."
"No," I said quickly, "Of course you're not. Why would you even ask?"
"B-Because Ronnie s-says so.... He says it's just a s-stupid b-bird, and only a sissy would cry...."
"Ronnie is wrong!" I said, and all the old anger and resentment swelled. I looked over at the little boy's house, and I could imagine the moronic glee on the bully's face. "It is a sad thing when someone is cruel. When something small and helpless dies, it's right to cry!" I patted him on the head. He smiled a little and sniffed.
"I think so too, Jimmy," he said.
"Good boy, John," I said, and he began to walk slowly toward home.
As I leaned down to pick up the paper, it occurred to me that since that day on my porch, Johnny and I had not really talked as much as we used to. School had probably gotten more demanding for both of us. It certainly had for me. On the other hand, I wouldn't be surprised if his father had told him not to come around.
Peeling the plastic wrapper off the Christmas edition, I unfolded the paper and wondered whether the news on Christmas morn would be good or bad. The birds abruptly ceased their chirruping at the sound of a door opening across the street. I looked up to see Johnny run gleefully out of the house.
"Look, Jimmy," he cried. "Look what Santa Claus brought me! Look!"
He held his present in his hands, but I couldn't see what it was as he dodged through the maze of Santa and his wooden reindeer.
"What you got, Bud?" I yelled to him as he ran.
"Look!" he cried, then he stopped at the edge of my lawn and raised his present in his arms. There was a soft report, a whoosh of air like the sound someone makes when the wind is knocked out of them. "YAH!" he cried, "Got 'im!"
The boy ran to where the small form had tumbled from my roof, and he stood aiming his Christmas present triumphantly at the bloody ball of fluff. I looked back at the house with its nativity scene and its red, white, and blue bulbs. Then, trying vainly to blink back the burning behind my eyes, I turned to gaze once more at the two pathetic victims on my frost-covered lawn.
©1985 Tim McMullen
All Rights Reserved
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Here is the latest letter that I e-mailed to my Senators:
"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy!
Seek Truth! Speak Truth!" Tim McMullen
The tyranny of the majority is a real threat, especially in this age when infotainment and partisan polemical "gotcha' gossip" has replaced news reporting; when public service and "equal time" has been eliminated from the "public airwaves"; when out of context snippets and sound bites get deliberately distorted to become never-ending falsehoods used to smear opponents. Clearly, the framers of the constitution were very wise to create checks and balances to protect the helpless minority from the ruthless majority.
In politics, however, an even greater threat has emerged, the tyranny of the minority. In California, since Prop. 13, where a simple majority vote imposed a supermajority threshold to pass budgets and raise taxes, gridlock and petty political pandering has created crisis after crisis in this once great and solvent state.
More importantly, in the Senate of the United States of America, since the election of President Barack Obama, the Republican minority has converted the quaint and sparingly used "filibuster" coupled with the practice of "secret holds" to absolutely subvert the process of governing.
As both a constituent and supporter, I am urging you, as vehemently as I can, to help get Congress working again for the American people. Reduce the hypocritical tyranny of the minority by bringing common sense to the filibuster.
I know that some are calling for the complete elimination of the filibuster, but I do not. I value the moral imperative romanticized in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" or actualized in Senator Bernie Sander's gallant filibuster against the ill-advised and unproductive "tax deal" extracted from the President by Republican extortion.
Therefore, I call on you to vote to alter the implementation of the filibuster when the new Congress convenes in January. Eliminate the ability of the minority to prevent necessary legislation and nominations from even being discussed in the Senate.
Governance and legislation should be the result of principled debate and compromise not petty, partisan, procedural ploys.
We need to restore the concept of the "loyal opposition" by reducing the ability of a politically motivated few to thwart the needs of the many. Fix the filibuster NOW! Then, work to eliminate the abuse of the secret hold.
As always, thank you for supporting people over profits, integrity over iniquity, honesty over hypocrisy.
P.S.: I did not send along the picture of "Bijou, the Dog of Democracy," but perhaps I should have.
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
"The Greatest Threat to Democracy is Hypocrisy! Seek Truth! Speak Truth!" Tim McMullen
Political hostage-taking and economic terrorism by the Republican minority who seek to ravage social programs while increasing corporate and military giveaways under an "austerity" regime have been wrong for twelve years as they have devastated our economy. Addressing the bank-created foreclosure fiasco, health costs, unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, alternative energy, education, worker's protections can, on the other hand, spur the economy and reduce unemployment.
There are many areas in which compromise can produce positive results, and if the Republicans come to the table willing to work for the common good, then immediate progress can be made. If, on the other hand, they continue to kowtow to the Tea Party obsessions with decimating the public sector and destroying government while transferring all economic wealth and political power to the corporatocracy and decimating the rights and fortunes of the working class, they should be opposed and thwarted absolutely.
We have seen where four years of capitulating to their obstinance got us. Now we need to put forth solid, reasonable proposals, including cuts and increased revenue, that will get us moving after eight years of foolish, ideological economic failure followed by four years of politically-imposed and politically-motivated stagnation. Cutting or privatizing programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, programs that have worked for many decades, could not be more ill-advised.
The American people said it across this country in the recent election. Join us, Mr. President. When they come with their threats to drive us off the cliff if we don't give them everything on their wish list, answer them with the immortal words of their idol, Ronald Reagan. "Just say, 'NO!'"
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Two of my favorite Townes Van Zandt songs are "Second Lover's Song" and "Don't You Take it Too Bad" because they defy the chorus/verse form and create an organic meander to a gentle profundity.
I first stumbled upon Townes's music in 1969 while going to college in Chico, CA, when I found his first album in a supermarket cut-out bin for 10¢. I bought it because it was produced by Jack Clement. In both his playing and his writing, I instantly recognized in Townes a kindred spirit.
Six or seven years later Townes was booked into the Roxy in LA (odd venue for a folk singer). The opening act was Dianne Davidson (the first to cover "Delta Dawn") and Tracy Nelson (whose powerful "Down So Low" is another big favorite of mine).
Their first set was great, but about halfway through Nelson and Davidson's act, Howard and Roz Larman (I had played on their Folkscene radio show and performed for their big Folk fair fundraiser for KPFK a few months earlier) asked me and my wife if we wanted to meet Townes. I jumped at the chance. He was very gracious and fun to talk to. He invited me to come back after his set before the second show of the night and the next night as well. As much as I admire Tracy Nelson and love her work, I do not regret having missed two nights of her sets in order to have spent those hours talking about music and songs with one of my musical idols.
I was fortunate enough to see Townes play a few times many years later at McCabes, several times sharing the bill with Guy Clark. I spoke to Townes fleetingly a couple of times out in the lobby, but I never mentioned those two nights and how much they meant to me. I wish I had.
Though I wrote two songs about the tragic death of Phil Ochs ("Heroes are Hard to Find" and "Come This Far") and one about Maury Muehleisen (Jim Croce's musical partner who was killed in the same plane crash—my song is titled "Second String Songman"), I still have not written one for Townes despite my being a huge fan.
How huge? It's not just that I own more Townes Van Zandt recordings in my 10,000 LP and CD collection than any other artist, or that I have several copies of his songbook and all of his available videos (plus all of my Beta and VHS recordings of his TV performances). It's not that for the last thirty years, the only two posters that have hung in my office are two, huge, framed Milton Glaser posters, "From Poppy with Love" and "The Poppy Foundation: Townes Van Zandt and The Mandrake Memorial." (Needless to say, my wife, Carolyn, is a very understanding woman). It's not that my wife's aunt (only a few years older than us), when she heard that Townes Van Zandt was one of my favorite songwriters, said, "Really, he's a songwriter; why, I went to junior high school with him in Boulder, Colorado." Nope, it's more than that.
In 1974, I quit my tenured teaching job to pursue songwriting and performing. To make ends meet, I worked in a record store in Whittier, CA. One day, while working at the store, I got a call from John Lomax III, Towne's manager, who wanted to talk with me personally. I was not the owner or the manager of the store; I just sold records. However, I had just ordered six copies of Towne's songbook (for me, my brothers, and a couple of friends). Lomax informed me that our little store, Lovell's Records, in Whittier, sold more Townes Van Zandt records than any store west of the Mississippi. This, of course, was because I played his albums all the time when I worked and talked him up to anyone who asked who that was on the player. Being a college town, many kids and locals were intrigued by his music.
During that phone call, Lomax asked if I wanted to be the West Coast distributor for Townes's songbook. Since I was again starting to substitute teach (long story about love and serendipity), I didn't think that I would have the time—besides, in all honesty, Lomax seemed like kind of a sleazy character—still, in hindsight, I do wish that I had pursued that opportunity if only for the chance that it might have brought more personal contact with Townes.
Who knows, I may still write that song for Townes someday.