Cue Fireworks…

200 Followers!


Congratulations on getting 200 total follows on MikesFilmTalk.

Your current tally is 203.

After my not so brilliant day yesterday, things could only get better and they did. What is most impressive (to me anyway) is that things got better on the same day. Just when I’d grabbed my metaphorical bootstraps, pulled and nothing happened; I got two bits of fabulous news.

Firstly, it looks like I won’t have to starve to death, at least not this year, as some of my financial woes have been sorted. I’d love to tell you how  but I cannot. Suffice to say the “fix” as it were has nothing to do with illegal activities such as robbing a bank or selling addictive substances.

Secondly, I broke the 200 follower barrier last night. It is amazing that something so not related to my main issues could have improved my mood so much. My heart did a long and energetic Snoopy dance and my mind set off copious amounts of fireworks.

The human brain is an odd sort of duck. It is pretty damn resilient. It’s function, beyond that of the body’s Central Processing Unit (CPU), is to help us cope with certain emotions and it enables us to “switch hit” through every day (and not so every day) problems.

When I came home yesterday I was really down. I mean right at the very bottom of the darkest well in existence. But the human brain that I call mine started to immediately function as a pep squad; cheerleaders with pom-pom’s waving and doing handstands.

After I’d written my first draft blog post about yesterday’s events I already felt better. I felt good enough that I pretty much “canned” the first post and I re-wrote it. Talking things through with my daughter Meg also went a long way to improving my disposition. I wasn’t quite ready to do cartwheels of joy just yet, but damned if I wasn’t almost cheery.

After washing the dishes, I made a cup of coffee and went into the front room. I checked my emails and the other windows I had open and I realised that I had another follower or two. I immediately went into the fist pumping show of joy accompanied by my internalized Snoopy dance.

I woke up this morning, back aching and brain on temporary hold, came downstairs and put a load of laundry on and made my first coffee of the day. Switching on the computer I saw that I was still over the 200 mark and despite the firm lecturing I gave myself the night before about not writing about this so soon after my “bragging” 40,000 break-through post; I sat down and started typing.

I am now sitting in my living room. I’ve hung the laundry up to dry, finished my first cup of coffee and I’m looking out the window at a beautiful snow-covered sunshiny day. The confusion and hopeless feeling from yesterday is a million miles away and I am back on the optimism train in the first class section. *It looks like I didn’t need to dodge the train at all, I just had to grab hold of it and “hop” a ride.*

I am also sitting here thinking about that 4th draft copy of my ancient screenplay upstairs lying on the desk. I’m thinking that while I have all this enthusiasm, optimism, and vigour I’d better take a look at it and start again.

But first I’ll have another cup of coffee and enjoy the fireworks a bit more.

A Penny for the Guy?

English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, ...
English: The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot, Laing Art Gallery (Tyne and Wear Museums) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I first moved to England I’d never heard of Guy Fawkes night. I’d never heard the little dittie that went, “Remember, remember the 5th of November…”

In high school there wasn’t a chance to take world history and despite my fascination about all things English, if it didn’t appear in a Sherlock Holmes book, I didn’t know about it.

I moved to England on the 5th of July 1982. I lived on the air base until September that year. I finally got permission to move off base after they realised that I was getting to stay in the base dormitories for free. As I was divorced my money towards housing –which went straight to my divorced wife and baby– could not be taken in exchange for my room. I’m pretty sure that the base housing folks were glad to see the back of me.

I moved off base and about the middle of October I started seeing kids in the village  carting a straw filled dummy around on a wagon. Other kids would carry their strawman and once they had found a vacant spot on the pavement (that’s sidewalk to you and me) they would lay a rag or put a pail out and beseech passers-by for, “A penny for the Guy?”

I had just gotten over the shock of realising that English kids didn’t know about Halloween, or at least very much about it, and hadn’t learned about trick or treating to a great extent. I hasten to add that has changed, although they still aren’t as dedicated to it as American kids are.

I asked in the pub why the kids were asking for a penny for the guy. I then learned about Guy Fawkes night and the celebration of it.

Lewes Bonfire, Guy Fawkes effigy

Guy Fawkes was the man who decided it would be a jolly good idea to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in 1605.  Now Fawkes was not alone in this dastardly deed. He was part of a group of zealous men whose assassination attempt became known as the Gunpowder Plot.

The entire plot was uncovered and foiled by the authorities. Guy Fawkes –as well as many of his zealous friends– was hung for his troubles. I don’t know when Guy Fawkes night, or bonfire night as it’s more popularly known, began but there is a little dittie that was sung back in 1742 about the whole escapade.

Don’t you Remember,
The Fifth of November,
‘Twas Gunpowder Treason Day,
I let off my gun,
And made’em all run.
And Stole all their Bonfire away. (1742)[48]

*courtesy of wikipedia*

All I do know is that on the 5th of November they used to burn poor old Guy Fawkes in effigy on a  huge bonfire. This was generally accompanied by fireworks. Each village would, and still does, build a huge bonfire and set off fireworks as part of the celebration.

Children would make up their straw representations of Guy Fawkes and beg for coppers (pennies) to buy fireworks with. This custom has sort of died out over the years. I haven’t seen a “Guy” on a bonfire for years and I definitely haven’t seen children making the effigy of him to be burned.

Each year though villages, towns, and cities across the country hold celebrations that include bonfires, fireworks and stalls selling food. The smaller the village the smaller the celebrations. Ipswich holds a grand fireworks display and a bonfire of epic proportions each year, usually on the first weekend nearest the actual date.

I haven’t been to a bonfire night in years, but I do admit I miss the kids dragging their “Guy” through the village and asking for that, “Penny for the Guy?”

As I set here at home and listen to the fireworks being shot off all around me, I can’t help but wonder where the actual traditional tone went and what the future will be for Guy Fawkes day. It seems to me to have lost a lot of it’s original meaning when they dispensed with the burning of the effigy.

It just seems like another “official” reason to set off bangers (firecrackers) and skyrockets. I suppose that setting them off for New Years just isn’t enough.

Guy Fawkes Night
Guy Fawkes Night (Photo credit: Mike_fleming)

A Pasadena 4th of July or Babe’s in Hollywood-Land Part Two

English: Rose Bowl
English: Rose Bowl (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

**All of the folks I talk about here are, as they say, real people but as I don’t know their whereabouts to ask permission to include them in my little story I’ve changed their names.**

My first wife and I wound up living in the old Pasadena Music Conservatory. This old clapboard house, just one block over from N. Los Robles Avenue on the north side of the Foothill’s Highway, had been turned into a ‘four-plex’ a long time ago. The house itself was large and quite pretty. It had a huge covered veranda that ran all along the front of the house. The apartment next to ours had double French doors that the occupant used as a front door.

Our apartment was a two room affair. It boasted a huge kitchen (it had actually been the kitchen of the original house) a bathroom and the front room, which was huge, had a sofa-bed. Behind the house was a separate little house on the plot. The area between our house and the little one was our communal back yard. It was bare of any grass, mostly dirt with a few weeds here and there to give it a bit of character.

It was a perfect place to start us off. We met all our neighbours within the first few days of living there. The first neighbour we met was Nathan. It was the Fourth of July and we were sitting on the front porch watching the sporadic ‘illegal’ fireworks that dotted the sky. Nathan came wandering down and introducing himself, gave us both a Coors and said, “I’ve got some rockets up stairs, I’ll get em and we’ll celebrate your  first Southern California Fourth of July.”

We sat sipping our beer and waited for Nathan to return. While we were waiting we met Martin, the guy who had the cool French Doors as his entrance, he was only passing by, but he wished us a happy fourth and said that if you went around the back of the block you could see the Rose Bowl fireworks for free. Nathan came back looking a bit dejected. His rockets weren’t there and he decided he’d have to go buy some. With promises of a speedy return he drove off.

We decided to go around the block and see if you really could see the Rose Bowl fireworks. We locked our front door and walked around the corner. The house sat on the front corner of a city block that was divided into two different territories. The ‘top’ of the block was ‘ruled’ by the Diablos and our section by the Bloods. We weren’t aware of this quaint little gang custom until later. But appearances to the contrary, this was one rough neighbourhood.

There were a few other people out and about when we walked to find a good Rose Bowl viewpoint. They all spoke and we sort of meandered up the sidewalk. We kept stopping and looking at the occasional sky rocket and talking excitedly about our first ‘Fourth’ away from home. We kept an eye out for a new apartment complex on the corner. That building was our cue to turn right and start looking for the free fireworks.

We stopped just before we reached the corner. We could see what we thought might be the Rose Bowl display and we talked about how cool it was that we could see it for free. While we were talking, two little old ladies chattering like magpies passed us and went around the corner we were about to turn down. Seconds after they turned up the road and out of sight, we heard screams.

My wife and I stood frozen for what seemed like ages. We then bolted around the corner. One of the ‘little old ladies’ was lying on the sidewalk blood streaming from her forehead. Her friend was anxiously darting around her as one or two  people came running our of their houses.  As I ran up to the little group, one of the men looked at me suspiciously. “Did you see anything?”  This was asked as he advanced menacingly towards us.

“No, no. They were around the corner. They didn’t do anything.” This was from the friend of the unconscious lady. After giving me a look of disdain the man went back to the ladies and said he was going to call the police. We stood there feeling helpless. This was outside of our limited experience. We did find out that as the two old dears turned the corner a man jumped out of the dark and smacked one of the ladies in the forehead with a brick. He then grabbed both their purses and ran.

While we stood waiting for Pasadena‘s finest to arrive, we realised that if we had not stopped when we did, we would have gone around the corner before the little old ladies. We both went a little shaky at that thought. It should have been one of us lying on the ground and bleeding. After talking to the police just long enough for them to realise that we would be no help. We walked back home.

The lovely glow of the place we’d just walked up had changed. We walked slowly and looked carefully at the shadowy areas by the path. When we got back to our little apartment, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. It would be another two weeks before my brush with the gentleman with the black robes and scythe. He was very interested in me on that night, offering me two chances to take a trip with him.