Tag Archives: happy father’s day

Marvelous

I have heard many conflicting anecdotes about my father. Can I believe them all? May I? Please? Because never before has conflict been so delightful, so life-affirming, so marvelous.

For instance, there were the stories of drinking. Much drinking. There was a time when hotel guests would leave their boots outside their doors to be cleaned. I’ve left my room service trays – without a morsel to implicate all the carbohydrates I’d ordered – left outside my door. It’s my right as a visitor to Las Vegas.

But some people, during the 1940’s on their visits to Catalina Island, leave empty liquor bottles.

IMG_20160521_0001And some people meet ladies who were not my mother in Catalina (even though it would be a decade before such a happy chance would occur)

IMG_20160521_0001 (2)Father has had his ears pierced. During the war. On his ship. Old school – with a needle and thread. Could this better than getting a tattoo and risk a decades-later visit to Dr. Tattoff?

My father wore a zoot suit.

I have mentioned many times before that he was a disc jockey. Perhaps I will mention it many times more – it is a splendid fact. But also splendid is the fact that he played Cole Porter’s “Love for Sale” and was told by Management to please cut that out – the song was in poor taste (20 years after it was written!) and the viewership of San Bernardino must be sheltered.

Not long ago I purchased at a flea market a whimsical menu/flyer from a venue called ‘The Colony Club’, located in Gardena, CA. Dating from the late ‘40’s the menu advertises, even proclaims, ‘Burlesque As You Like It’ in addition to a ‘Famous Battle of the Burlesque Queens every Tues. Nite’. Years earlier, when I was assembling my parents’ scrapbook, I came across a group photo of my father with some friends, out on the town:
IMG_20160523_0001 (2)And looking at the cover, I made the wonderful connection:
IMG_20160523_0001I don’t judge, but do recall the ‘empty liquor bottles’ comment above.

Yet, some comparisons beg to be made. In fact, I can barely see above the piles of supplications. I have all these memories and memoirs which have the tiniest blush of dissoluteness and yet there are the other things. Things from home. Things of the home. Things in the home. Like these:

IMG_20160521_0001 (3)Seven Emmys for work done on the Wide World of Sports’ Olympics Coverage (before channel 7 gave up the rights – BOO KNBC) and on variety specials for such varied souls as Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper. Seven gilded women in their plexiglass cage; their figures arched with pride, holding aloft an atom crisscrossed with ribbon-like orbits. In a group photo with other winners from the Wide World crew, he wore a ruffled tuxedo shirt. Such are the hazards of leading the visual life in the 1970’s.  And yes, those are pictures of the Infant Aubrey in the background.

There are other rewards for jobs well done: a thank you letter from Joan Crawford. A medallion from Ms. Andrews. A cigarette lighter from Jerry Lewis, given from one expectant father to a brand new father. A gold watch from Diana Ross.

I remember trips to the library, getting lost in the rows of books – towering over me like forests full of stories: some that were of this world, some that were not. Father would then take us to the adjacent playground, swathed in the sunset’s colors and shadows and the threatening twilight. And then he would make us dinner (tacos or lasagna please!!!!)

There were fishing trips, long before the days of ‘catch and release’. Father spent the evening before making sandwiches that were stacked like cord wood, for a day of fishing with two children is wearying and hungry work. I remember the thrill of feeling a taut line, fighting and pulling. There was the first sight of silver, the mysterious life curling in the spectral, watery darkness. There was the transistor radio playing, I particularly remember, The Four Tops. And always there was father, commandeering our fishing poles, the bait, the hooks, lunch. Would a former DJ rebel against such moderate outings? Not this one.

There are other gentle, genteel things of the home: gardening, restoring (along with Boyfriend and I) his 1956 Willys pick-up,
022collecting and organizing family mementos before carefully filing them away in what must be a minimum of 15 notebooks.

So what wrought the change from riotous to responsible? Was it fashioned out of maturity? Marriage? Was it just the cunning and subtle passage of time? A person could argue that such a change is just the natural progression of adulthood, hypnotic and subtle. However, this person, this writer, confirms that there is no change. Because I know for a fact that my father is as capable of cooking massive vats of spaghetti and meatballs as he is of playing at a Vegas blackjack table for lengths of time that are positively James Bondian. Complexities are constantly being added…one does not forget, simply to make room for new feelings and experiences.

I therefore believe that when considering both present and precedent, all historical striations can happily co-exist. A person never loses his memories. They remain: the heart’s blood, the building blocks that create the ideal individual, a father of many depths and myriad distances. Everything, from The Colony Club to the Emmys, has made their own contribution and as Elizabeth Tudor said (and Psalms 118:23 too, if you insist – but Aubrey has always been an historian at heart), on being told that she was finally Queen, “it is marvelous in our eyes.”

I love you, dad.

Happy Father’s Day.

Wishes

My father was a jazz disc jockey.  From the early to mid-50’s he was the host of  “Nick’s Musical Nitecap” – his surname robbed of a syllable and a couple of letters in order to put a listening public squeamish at the sound of a full-fledged Italianate  name at ease.

He has a smudged and mimeographed program from the station – KCSB-FM, San Bernardino.

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His photograph is just visible:  dark-haired and pompadoured, sitting behind a Western Electric microphone.

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When he left, he took his favorite records with him:  Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Lennie Niehaus, Dave Brubeck, Lee Konitz.  Some were Fantasy Record releases, printed on gem-colored vinyl.  And now they are mine.  They are still playable and are quite priceless to me, eBay’s opinions be damned.

Now it’s very rare for me to wish I was an older person.  However, I do wish I was an adult in 1953, living in San Bernardino, rather than the nameless hope of a nation that did not know what it was in for.

I’d then be able to listen to my father’s DJ voice, which would have been…articulate?  Mellifluous?  Spare?  Expansive?  How I wish I knew.  How I wish I’d been there; listening to dad wax poetic – perhaps – on West Coast jazz and then hearing Mulligan’s most eloquent alto sax.

I do have photographs.  Bu I wish I had more.  More in number certainly; but also I wish they could communicate more…more about a part of my father’s life that surely rises him to a plateau of Awesome.

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It has been my privilege and great good luck to have heard my father’s voice for many years – but may I allow myself to be greedy and wish for just a few more?  I can’t believe it would be unreasonable.

My father has done, achieved so much to make me proud of him, to make me love him:  from Emmy awards to tomato gardens, from taking us fishing to taking us to Vegas.  So a stint as DJ makes him even more of an accomplishment, and makes a daughter wish she was with him for longer than would be considered realistic.

On this Father’s Day I do wish my father will know these things – my pride, my love, my deep sentimentality, my envy at all of those fans of his that listened to his Musical Nitecap.

I love you dad, and all that jazz.

My Father’s Garden

Every year, during the final days of Spring – when the soil is gentle and rich – my father is in his garden.  It is a warren of vines, seedlings and latticework and there until high summer he grows and encourages a flock of tomatoes.

My father takes great pride in his heavy summer crop.  Sultry globes of many sizes hide within galaxies of green, starry leaves.  My father kneels on the dirt and reaches into the verdant haze to harvest the recalcitrant blend of fruit and vegetable.

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His care, patience and indifference to heat and insect would be expected of a farmer or a grower – not of a 6-time Emmy winner and former jazz disc jockey.  He does not have to grow tomatoes.  He does not have to tend a garden.  He chooses to.

I believe that there is something in the nurturing of the earth; to witness the seasons pass through it like varying shadows that influences his choice.  The wonder of change and growth:  the relief at its simplicity, the happy confusion at the wonder drives the noble gentility of my father in his garden.

When he worked as a video tape editor for the local news, every year he’d bring a collection from his harvest.  Once, the weatherman went on the air with a sunset of tomatoes arranged on his desk:  red, yellow, orange, purple.

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I remember that my father used to walk through the yard with my brother and I.  Together we would peer into flowers and hedges, looking for spiders and for the worlds spinning through leaves, twigs and their earthy darkness.  Even now, he will watch honeybees hover in oblique, filigree flight over the blossoms of his tangerine and nectarine trees.  I will even watch:   though at a safe distance, respectful of the bees’ reputation for suicide by sting.

My father’s garden has brought him modest fame:  amongst co-workers, neighbors, friends, family.  Within the smothering city,  it is a source of cultivation and unpretentious culture.  It is a creation of my father’s:  from his hands and his heart.  It is quiet, gracious and humble – just as he is.

I love my father, and from the heart I wish him a Happy Father’s Day.

From Harvesting Hops In Santa Rosa (1946) To Raising Tomatoes In Los Angeles

From Harvesting Hops In Santa Rosa (1946) To Raising Tomatoes In Los Angeles

But I will always hate tomatoes.

It Should Be More

I was recently given a photo of myself and my father, taken a long time ago.  I was tiny – in a fat sort of way, admittedly – and I was wrapped in blankets, forming a type of busy, bouffant swirl of flannel.  My father was holding me, standing in front of a mirror.  I was gazing at my reflection, much in the way a kitten would.  I suspect the feather toys and laser pointers were somewhere nearby.

Mirror, Mirror In The Hall

I did not know then what kind of father he was – the complex of goodness and strength that frustrates all definition.  I had no idea what love, pride or gratitude were:  the pillars of devotion .  I only knew that I was safe, warm and utterly content.  I was also probably hungry too, but that doesn’t enter into this essay.

When this photo was taken, father had just finished with his disc jockey duties, having left KCSB-FM with as many jazz records as he could carry under his arm – well, it’s an image I like to hold on to, anyway.  Regardless, they are now mine, and few things are better, I must say, than listening to Gerry Mulligan on a scarlet vinyl Fantasy record.  I have a picture of him on my wall, wearing a sharp-cornered jacket, poised behind his microphone.  The ratings for ‘Nick’s Nitecap’ must have been off the charts.

Shortly after this photo was taken, father would have begun his career in television, as a video-tape editor.   First using scissors, then eventually computers, he would splice together scenes from The Hollywood Palace,  variety shows for Julie Andrews and Alice Cooper, The Wide World of Sports, the KABC News, Good Morning America.  I don’t know how many Emmys he’s won, but that pleases me in a way, to lose count of one’s father’s awards.

But no matter how many winged, alloyed ladies my parents have displayed at home, surely these accolades are not enough.  During my life, I have tried to add more.  But it doesn’t amount to more than the affection and dedication that has become a part of me.  I do wish it could be more.  I am so proud of my father’s kindness, talent, knowledge, experience, his outrageous willingness to do anything for us, that I wish with all my heart that it could be more.

That unknown day would likely have been forgotten if it had not been for that black and white square of film stock.  And from that time when he held me up to that confusing mirror, to this year’s Father’s Day, I can say without a doubt that he has never let me down.

Labor of Love

Years and years ago, when I was much smaller – yet still the tallest in my class, I should add – and had an apparent partiality to bows:

Aubrey Has Bows

 …when I labored under the illusion that horses had, or at least should have, green noses:

Hard But Not Impossible To Believe

…I labored under another idea which wasn’t an illusion, but a very factual, very real gratitude:

An Important Message

 Now mind, I hadn’t much sense then, I was as spoiled as a piece of runny, unharvested fruit and usually only cared about myself; but I had a pretty good idea about the grading of fathers and that mine had achieved very high and very superior marks.

Did he not bring me a toy every time he came home from work?

Did I not – ca. 1965 – instruct mother to ‘go away and read’ so dad and I could play?

Did I not happily wear the cowboy hat he brought me – and flush the toy cosmetics mother bought me down the toilet?  (though this happened over 45 years ago, that particular incident still gives me a sharp pinch of guilt)

And now? I still wouldn’t call myself a reasonable person.  I’m just as spoiled, and unjustly fortunate – although far less likely to throw away any cosmetics. 

And I am still so proud, so very proud of my father.  In youth then as well as in my current extreme aged-ness, his gentleness, calm and wisdom set him apart from the common, grazing herd.  His stint as DJ – spinning jazz platters after midnight, man:

Dad Holds The Mike

 His adventure, written up in a local paper, as Seaman 1/c falling off his ship:

War Injury

 Marked him, from an early date, for greatness.

Later, working for ABC, he won Emmys for video-tape editing.  The first statue he won, was back when the technical awards were presented on television, and Bob Newhart announced his name.  I recall hearing a shriek in the audience, which, thank goodness, turned out to be my mother.

Now that he’s retired, he plays golf, grows tomatoes, works with Boyfriend in refurbishing his 1951 Willys truck.  He and Boyfriend are as thick as thieves, by the way.

Now, I have no proof that green-nosed horses do not exist.  In fact, I hope to see one, and I see no reason why our joyous, verdant meeting will not happen…one day.

But I do have proof of my father’s incomparable heart – I have proof of his love and care…every day.

Happy Father’s Day

Find My Father

Go ahead, see if you can.  Choose from these groups of sailors:

bound to make these United States proud, the man who would grow up to:

…host his own jazz radio program, broadcast from the depths of San Bernardino, California.  They would change his last name, but not his first – deeming it worthy to be included in the title of the program.

…win seven Emmys, for work on shows as varied as The Julie Andrews Show, Alice Cooper:  Welcome To My Nightmare and the 1976, 1984 and 1988 Winter Olylmpics (getting him a free ride to Montreal, Sarejevo and Calgrary, as well.)

…work for 47 years for ABC television – learning all the intricicies of video tape editing, as the methodology changed from the cut and paste of the mid 20th century to the banks of computers of the 21st century.  Talents changed, employees came and went, but really, there was none better.  Ask around. 

Can you figure this out?  Can you detect the potential fatherly wisdom lurking behind the faces of these Tars?  He is in each of these photos. 

 He would also:

…be repeatedly mistaken for Robert Mitchem

…do his editing work – once – with Sammy Davis Jr. watching over his shoulder.

…receive a Dean Martin CD from me although I had accidently stepped on the case (note to Aubrey – delete this, please)

…grow tomatoes each year – of all sorts and colors, all reds and golds – of such quality, planted with such reverent care, that the local news program he was working on ran a pictoral feature on them.

…do anything for his family and never – ever – complain.

…grow into that quality – inaccesable, undefineable, simple yet complex, familiar but beyond reach – the quality that confounded Somerset Maugham…goodness.

…have a daughter who couldn't love him more, despite his history of swabbing the decks for America's navy.

So.  Happy Father's Day, then, to my dad – to my knowledge, there is no father who is better, and there is no one as good.

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