Saturday, February 06, 2016

Postal Memories & Postal Movies

In writing about my visit to the Postal Museum with GoofGirl, I forgot the most important and interesting thing. 

When I went back to College after delivering the mail all summer I made up fantastic tales of the doings at the post office.

Kicking it back and forth with my friend David Schneider, we start sketching out a movie centering around corruption at the post office. We didn't get very far with it, just had some fun.

Fast forward five years. I was driving cross-country with a friend who was relocating to LA. My plan was to stay with Dave (who was making his way as a screen-writer) for a few days in LA while I waited for my then girlfriend - now the long-suffering MamaGoof - to fly out to LA. From the Grand Canyon I gave Dave a call (this was before cellphones became ubiquitous). I was telling him my planned ETA and he responded, "Sure, but can you come in that afternoon instead of that night?"

"Sure, we can always leave Vegas earlier. But, why?"

"Your movie is opening."

"What? Huh?"

"Remember our movie about corruption at the post office, will we wrote it, it was made, and it's opening that night."

Well okay then.

In fairness, the movie Address Unknown - which was a great boys adventure - was only vaguely linked to the ideas we had kicked around years before. But there was a corrupt postmaster, so it was sort of our story. Dave and his co-author Drew were kind enough to introduce me around as the original inspiration.

(The trailer is here - I don't know why it has Dutch subtitles.)

So, there it was. I was at the Hollywood opening night of MY movie. Many have had the dream. I lived it - thanks to a summer job at the post office.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Going Postal: Yet another adventure with GoofGirl

GoofGirl wanted an adventure, so we headed downtown. Her first priority was the National Building Museum. We'd been before, but there was a Beach exhibit there much of the summer that GoofGirl really wanted to see. This exhibit got a lot of attention, I never quite saw the attraction. It was supposed to be a beach, but with plastic balls in which one could jump or swim. People loved it. I thought it was just a really big ball pit - like at Chuckie Cheese.

GoofGirl wanted to see it so we went. We saw the line out the door to get into the "beach" and GoofGirl agreed that we should just go to the second level of the museum where we could get a good look. She didn't need to spend the day waiting in line.

After a visit to the gift shop (where GoofGirl bought a pair of the plastic balls - apparently planning to start her own beach), we headed on.

Knowing that the Beach might be packed, we had a back-up plan. GoofGirl wants to visit all of the Smithsonian Museums. She is doing pretty well. She's had me take her to the Museum of Natural History, the Museum of American History, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of the American Indian, the Freer and Sackler Galleries, and of course the National Zoo.

On this day, GoofGirl had the National Postal Museum in her sights.

There were a pair of brief detours. First, I insisted we stop at the Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. A modest monument not far from Capitol Hill, it is a solemn space remember a great injustice. We talked about the sculpture of an eagle entangled in barbed wire as a fitting symbol.

We visited the memorial to distinguished Senator Robert Taft. I explained he was the son of that Taft and GoofGirl observed, "He wasn't the man his father was."

True that.

The National Postal Museum
GoofGirl enjoyed exploring the stamps including the famed One-Cent Magenta! There was a time when stamps were objects of wonder, tiny windows into exotic places and also the identity of nations and peoples. Extremely rare stamps were critical elements in adventures and mysteries. The importance of postal services, while much reduced now thanks to telecommunications, cannot be underestimated and stamps remain a window - albeit less viewed.

The mail has touched on terrible things and GoofGirl was horrified in the exhibit on the anthrax attacks, which happened before she was born but touched me personally - albeit peripherally. She also did not like seeing KKK members in their hoods in an exhibit on civil rights. She finds them frightening, as well she should.

And then we came to an LLV (Long Life Vehicle.) I delivered mail one summer. It was very, very hard work - particularly in humid gr
eater Baltimore. And I drove an LLV (yes, I also got to drive a jeep.) Something I used is in a museum, sigh.

Whatever images one has of lazy postmen (Cliff Clavin - Hello Newman), that was not my experience. Mail is measured in feet and a certain number of feet have to be delivered per hour. This left little time for breaks. I walked miles, carrying many pounds. I came home tired.

This was 1990, well before easily downloadable audiobooks. If that had been part of the equation I would have loved the job.

When I got back to college, I had a few stories. Friends would ask what I did over the summer and I would say, "I delivered mail."

Invariably they would ask, "For the post office?"

"No, I freelanced."

There was the woman deeply concerned when her church's magazine didn't come in the mail one day. She had been waiting right by the door and was pretty disappointed. "But it comes religiously!"she told me.

I had to shoot a dog with pepper spray once, it was a little dog but it was really mad at me. Another time, a big dog, protecting a little boy came after me. It was barking and I was getting concerned. The little boy had his arms around it, crying, "Don't shoot him!"

I didn't, but it was just pepper spray - and he was obviously a good dog.

I had a few other stories, but more remarkable was my deep rich tan, which ended at my ankles. When I took my socks off, my feet were bone white and practically glowed in the dark.

I began to reminisce with GoofGirl. She rolled her eyes. Turned out, she had heard all of my stories. I was not revealing anything new. She thinks I belong in a museum and maybe I do.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mark of Cosby

The other day, the little Goofs were excited to see their grandparents who, as a matter of course, would shower them with gifts and affection. I was going to say: 
These are my parents, they aren't nice. These are old people trying to get into heaven.
But I didn't say it, because it is a Bill Cosby line. This happens a lot, he said a lot of very funny things.

What can we do with this vast corpus of brilliant material. He was very funny, his humor touched on the fundamentals of family and childhood. He was a story-teller par excellence. But now, given his massive, heinous crimes, it all leaves a bad taste.

In my research study politicians, people who make tough calls and do unpleasant things. I am pretty understanding and forgiving, it was Max Weber in his essay on "Black Hands" who observed that people who wish to remain pure should not go into politics.

But, there are moral absolutes. When someone I admire because they did great things and appeared to remain decent turns out to have flaws that are beyond the pale... Well this isn't about a god having clay feet, which I can understand and accept, it turns their work into a steaming pile of crap.

Punishment
In a previous life I took a stab at being a stand-up comedian. I wasn't bad - not brilliant - but not bad. I'll write about it sometime.

But I speak with some authority when I say, the greatest crime among comedians is stealing material. Comedians aren't just performers they are a unique one-person show mining whatever wounds are in their heart to an audience for laughs. They are more akin to novelists, but without the comfortable remove. Stealing someone's material is deep, bad stuff - it's appropriating their life, it isn't stealing, it's kidnapping - or murdering their children. 

I can't reference Bill Cosby material because, as a former member of the fraternity, I must say where the joke came from if it isn't my own. And I don't want to say his name.

So here is my proposal. Bill Cosby's material is now public domain. Tell his jokes and don't cite him. Performers should make careers off of his material and not mention him (except maybe to donate the proceeds to his victims.)

This is an imperfect response. There is no perfect justice. What he did cannot be undone. Assuming actual criminal punishment is not possible, Cosby will end his days alone and despised with only his cold millions for company. It should make the end of Citizen Kane look like a warm family scene by comparison.

When Cain became the first murderer he wasn't killed, but instead was branded with a mark and forced to wander the earth, accepted nowhere. I say we brand him as well, the Mark of Cosby.

Monday, November 30, 2015

GoofBoy's Cyber Monday Nightmare

GoofBoy has been perusing flyers for new electronics and musing that perhaps his laptop will have an accident and we will need to take advantage of the Cyber Monday savings and get a great replacement.

When GoofBoy got his first laptop, which was of decent quality, the hard drive crashed. I replaced it. Then, months later, the hard drive crashed again and I had had enough. We bought the least expensive laptop that met his needs (I made him do the research.) I fully expect it won't last him through high school. But an early demise is unacceptable.

I warned him if there were such an untimely accident, I would replace his laptop with the cheapest, crappiest option possible.

"But Dad, I already have the cheapest, crummiest laptop out there."

"Oh knucklehead you have NO idea. I'll get an old PC and strap it to your back with duct tape. You'll have a fifty foot extension cord for a tail. The monitor will hang from your neck on a harness."

"That sounds great, I'll be Cyber Boy!"

"Yea? Keep pushing me, how about writing your papers in text messages on a flip phone."

"No, you can't do that, the school requires everything to be in GoogleDocs."

"It's easy to route texts into Google Docs. Anyway, I can do worse. I'll make you use your sister's laptop."

"What, NOOO! It doesn't even have touch screen!"

"I can't do that, why should your sister suffer." A couple years ago when GoofGirl felt like she "wasn't good" with computers I stumbled on a sale of really good refurbished Chromebooks (for less than a decent phone). She's fallen in love with it and is learning to code.

"No," I continued, "But if something happens to your computer I will definitely get you a laptop with no touchscreen!"

"Good luck, they don't even make them without touchscreen anymore."

"I'll pay extra!"

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Spitfire Envy

When GoofBoy was little I would tell him stories about his grandfather, who could fly around in a heli-pack. 

Not wanting to leave BubbeGoof out of these adventures, I explained that she had been a famed aviatrix in her youth. (This came from a flash of inspiration in which I envisioned my mom in a leather jacket and aviator goggles flipping Amelia Earhart the bird - like Tom Cruise in Top Gun but in a Sopwith Camel, not an F-14). I added that she flew with the Eagle Squadron during the Battle of Britain and when Pop got into trouble on his heli-pack adventures she would get the old Spitfire out of the garage and get him out of trouble.

(I also love making jokes at the expense of my mom. For one of her big birthdays, I promised to stop making of fun of her for being old for one year. I lasted about one hour.)

This summer, to celebrate his bar mitzvah the GrandGoofs took their grandson to London. Here is an email I wrote to him:
Today is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.
In the summer of 1940, France had fallen, Hitler dominated Europe, and Britain stood alone. The Luftwaffe tried to bomb Britain into submission. Heavily outnumbered the Royal Air Force through skill, daring (and radar - a huge technological advantage) fought them off. I grew up reading about the heroism of the British pilots of Spitfires and Hawker Hurricanes downing Nazi bombers by the score.
As a boy when I built fighter planes with Legos they were always Spitfires (they are the Eddie Murray of fighter planes). I built Messerschmitts for them to shoot down, but I wouldn't put a swastika on them, because I knew they shouldn't be in the house.
Hope you do or see something to commemorate the Battle of Britain.
If you get to see a Spitfire flyover I'll be jealous as hell! I know I would have scheduled the trip around it myself. But maybe it's for the best if you don't go. Bubbie might have flashbacks.



Monday, November 02, 2015

Goofy Ghost Story

Halloween is past, but it is never too late for a ghost story.

Shortly after MamaGoof's beloved aunt Nana died we were visiting Abuela. It was one of our more relaxed visits. Papa was finally under good care at a home and Nana had been sick for a long time. Abuela could finally relax some, and so could we. MamaGoof and I had some kid-free excursions.

A very sweet young woman from the Philippines was living with Abuela and helping her out. Besides being a diligent care-giver and helper, she also watched telenovelas with Abuela. But she reported that she sensed a presence, walking back and forth in Nana's room.

MamaGoof believes in ghosts and sometimes thinks she encounters them. Skeptics among you, don't jump to conclusions. MamaGoof is a scientist (PhD in biostatistics!) While she watches horror movies and GhostHunters, she does not revel in her connection to the supernatural. She wants nothing to do with it. She does not go to seances or brag about her deep connections to other dimensions - that isn't her. Instead she wishes this creepy stuff would leave her alone.

Naturally the care-giver's report was a matter of deep concern. There were to be no more excursions, since MamaGoof was deeply concerned GoofGirl might have an encounter.

In this regard - and many others. I am MamaGoof's exact opposite. I don't believe in the supernatural. At the same time horror movies terrify me. (Maybe the reason I don't believe in the supernatural is not due to reason - but to fear, which is perfectly reasonable when you think about it.)

As MamaGoof worried I, for once, said the right thing.

"I understand you are pretty upset and concerned about this. I respect that and want to help. But I really lack the equipment to get this. I'm taking your concerns seriously, I'll do what you need me to do. Just a warning though. If it turns out you're right and there's a ghost I will yell 'zoinks' and jump out of clothes before running full speed to another city."