The last two weeks have been exciting if not challenging with all the kids’ activities.
In addition to an 8th grade party and his 14th birthday, my youngest son Jack has graduated 8th grade and is heading off to high school come September. Not only did he receive recognition for perfect attendance, he also made honor roll.
In addition, my Little Cake Boss Diva has had rehearsals – lots of them – culminating in recitals… Twelve performances in total Friday, Saturday and Father’s Day Sunday. During the past ten days or so, I must have made at least 25 round trips taking both her and food to and from dance rehearsals and performances. Believe me, I have enough for TWO “She’s Killing Me” stories but you won’t be bored with them now; I shall refrain.
Insofar as these rehearsals and recitals go, she needs to be dropped off in full makeup and costume an hour before the start of every event. But as I dropped her off on Saturday and watched her get to the entrance, it was clear that she was no longer my little girl.
Still scatterbrained, though…Her brain has ceased to function now that school is over except she still wouldn’t let me take her picture.
Well, maybe just this one, taken with my cell phone past 10pm and after tonight’s recital. It was taken in the light flowing out from the main lobby of the performing arts center.
But my girl and boy are not the focus of this post… “Some disappointment” is my focus.
While my Little Cake Boss Diva performed five routines flawlessly Friday night (opening number, lyrical, tap, jazz, ballet), it’s about what the dance school decided to name the recital: Arabian Nights. That is the source of the disappointment for me. Of course, I have no say-so in the matter.
Perhaps it’s just the patriotism in me that’s clouding my vision – but it’s there plain as day. Arabian Nights. No, I am not racist but I do feel we are at war. It is abundantly clear our young boys are dying each day in a godforsaken region in which Arabian Nights is based upon yet this implies something else to me.
Let us view it differently. If a dance school in 1942 were to name their recital “Celebration of Nazi Folklore” or “A Tokyo Love Story”, would there be some boycotting or outrage? I would think so. Remember there were death camps and executions of prisoners of war. Besides, it just wouldn’t make sense. We were at war… and we are now.
Their opening number was called “Arabian Jewels”. Other performances were entitled “40 Thieves” and “Walk Like an Egyptian” (talk about stereotyping).
How about a theme like “The Andrew Sisters” with tap dancing to songs like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”? Or how about celebrating the much needed morale boosting supplied by the Hollywood Canteen? Think of all the marvelous smiles these stars like Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Ray Bolger and Ginger Rogers provided our service men and women with their dance at the Hollywood Canteen. Wouldn’t that would be something that these girls could dance to?
Has the foundation upon which our country is based crumbled that far? At least we recited the Pledge of Allegiance at Jack’s graduation.
Anyways, I was just expressing some disappointment. I’m sure to many, this may be seen as cultural awareness. I do loathe sharia law which is intertwined in Arabian Nights. It is totally contra to our Constitution.
I guess the answer lies within which side of the fence you are on.
Unfortunately, I am a dog. A dog that loves to sit on a human’s legs. But unfortunately, dogs don’t have nine lives, you know.
Her mind is on summer vacation; school is out this week. It is a signal to her brain to cease functioning. Well, not completely. She can still text like crazy.
While her brain is normally stock full of smarts, it is now replaced with shades of nail polish, texts, BFFs, the mall(s), dance… and scatter-itis.
Scatter-itis, like scatter-brained in layman’s terms.
And she did not get that from me – but since it is me who is writing this, I can say that.
My Little Cake Boss Diva was with her mother last week and as in every school year before, she has to turn in her textbooks.
Simple…unless your brain has stopped functioning.
So my last visit to the gallows started at her orthodontist on Friday morning, June 12th. Not that her mother told me she was taking her.
I will let my Little Cake Boss Diva’s texts speak for themselves:
So I planned to be at home when school got out… so she could see for herself her textbook wasn’t here LIKE I SAID. One thing about my Little Cake Boss Diva: once she thinks she’s right, not even a jackhammer the size of Bumblebee can break it up. (She did not get that from me.)
I slowly bled to death in those seven hours. I had so many morphine shots administered that addiction is looming. And perhaps you may be wondering why we didn’t talk on her iPhone that I bought and pay for monthly?
Somebody, please help me.
I am running out of lives.
BUT, the saga of her killing me for the bazillionth time is not over… Not justyet. She is still with her mom who is supposed to take care of all her dance stuff by virtue of the divorce agreement. (You know, the same mom who apparently made no real effort to locate her textbook.)
The very next day – June 13th – my Little Cake Boss Diva was thoughtful enough to have arranged for my funeral services. She even gave the eulogy from her mid-day Saturday dance class via iPhone. Isn’t technology amazing?
Her eulogy via her iPhone began like this:
Luckily, I was an un-dead. I had not been cremated yet so I managed to get into my car and drive to her dance studio by 12:30. While I was certain her precious sheet of paper was not in my house, I knew she would not be satisfied unless she came to inspect her impeccably un-tidy room herself. She thinks she’s always right, you know.
So she comes out a few minutes late (as usual), lugging her abundantly odoriferous dance bag and her plastic “dance bucket” filled with 1,000 pairs of her various dance shoes.
As soon as she got in, I expertly maneuvered the car out of the battle zone filled with crazed dance moms driving their battle tanks. I think my Little Cake Boss Diva expected me to give her a piece of my mind for the textbook fiasco just the day before but I instead calmly asked, “Brooke, are you SURE it’s not at mama’s or in your dance bag?”
“Yessssss-ah! And it’s not at mama’s!” she annoying replies in her valley girl phonetics.
I look at her bucket and see a small corner of a piece of paper through the jumbled mess of 1,000 pairs of shoes. “Brooke, did you look in your bucket? The bucket you carry to dance class five days a week?”
“Yessssssssss-ah!” she instantly says while gesturing with her hands, palms up, fingers spread out… then looks down at the bucket, pushes around a couple of shoes, and pulls out the paper she was looking for… You know, the vital paper she said was not at her mother’s house but at my house…in the bucket she sticks her manicured fingers into many times a week.
“Oooops… Hee-hee-hee…” grinning then saying, “Sorry.” No sorrrrry-ah, though.
I turn the car around and drop her off without saying a word. My body is late for the cremation, you know.
She reminds me of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. By virtue of his timepiece, the rabbit knows he is late and is frantic about it.
And my Little Cake Boss Diva Rabbit also has a clock; it is the world’s biggest clock and it is on the home screen of her iPhone. You know. She has to swipe through it to get to her precious texting screen.
But unlike the rabbit, she does not panic when she sees the world’s biggest clock for it apparently serves no useful purpose. Perhaps she is blind. For her, it is better to be three hours late than one minute early.
It is a daily school nightmare ritual when she stays with me. The school bell rings at 8:55 am. Sometimes, she finally gets into the car at 8:54 am… still barefoot. But by the time we get to the school, she is still barefoot because she has been messing around with her hair in the backseat while looking at herself on her iPhone… You know, the one with the world’s biggest clock.
Her precious dance classes are no different. Let us take one example; mind you, she has EIGHT dance classes a week.
Her ritual is this. Say her dance class starts at 6:30 pm.
Brooke at 6:15 pm from her bathroom (with a mirror that the vain and wicked stepmother in Snow White would be jealous of), “OK, I’m ready.”
I can still hear her hairbrush clanking against the sink along with the occasional hiss from her hair spray. I don’t move from my couch.
Me, at 6:25 pm: “Brooke, we need to go…”
Silence… but I can hear her rustling in her room. Maybe she’s looking for her dance shoes. She’s got four kinds of them, you know.
Me, at 6:29 pm: “Brooke, I’ll be waiting in the car, okaaay?”
A minute later, out she comes… Yes! Oops. She goes back in again. Half a minute later, she emerges and runs to the car…barefoot. But she drags along her bag that has Nordstrom’s entire shoe selection in it. No kidding. I guess she couldn’t decide which dance shoe to wear for this one class.
We get to her dance school in a couple of minutes but it’s 6:32 pm already. I carefully drive into the cramped war zone called a parking lot; it is filled with crazed dance moms who stop their battle tank dead in the middle of the aisle instead of off to one side to let their daughters off. One mother actually turns on her emergency blinkers. Nobody can move until that mother moves. But they don’t care… because their battle tank is equipped a 105mm cannon…front and rear. Nobody dares asks them to move to one side.
Brooke? She’s still putting hair pins into her “bun”.
There are other late mothers lining up behind me, still trying to battle their way through the war zone littered with SUVs and minivans going every which way except forward. I can see she still is not ready so I need to find a parking spot in this war zone. Unfortunately, these mothers in their SUVs think they truly are in M1A1 Abrams battle tanks and take up two spots. They do it on purpose, relegating us lowly men to one. They believe they are entitled to two spots. After all, this is California, land of entitlement.
After a minute or two, I step out of the car. I can’t stand to watch. She is still fussing with her hair bun. (Remember: she said she was ready at 6:15?)
Oh-oh… Here she comes. It’s 6:40 pm. Class started ten minutes ago.
What’s this?! She’s got her shoes on? Golly-gee-willikers. And she’s running like the rabbit? Perhaps she has finally realized she is… late?
By the way… I am always on time. My oldest daughter is always on time, too. She got that from me.
…But my Little Cake Boss Diva’s (non-)sense of time? You can figure that one out.
“Just photos,” as they say… Photos of my beautiful daughter’s wedding a couple of weeks ago.
Well, with just a little writing, perhaps, with a smidgeon of our American history tossed in.
In my other blog posts, there has been mention of the “internment camps” in which one-half of my dad’s family was imprisoned in the US during WWII.
Internees were not allowed to bring in cameras amongst many other things deemed to be a threat to national or camp security – like knives, guns, tools…and cameras.
However, at one camp called “Manzanar” (where my Aunt Shiz and cousins were imprisoned), one brave soul braved the tight security measures and actually made his own camera…in secret. He then took prohibited photographs during his interment. His name was Toyo Miyatake… (Note: there is a super documentary on Toyo Miyatake called “Toyo’s Camera“: http://www.toyoscamera.com/. One contributor was George Takei who played “Sulu” on “Star Trek”. Takei was also imprisoned during the war.)
The actual camera he made is shown below; it is still in the possession of the Miyatake family:
In what I believe is a Signal Corps official photograph, the Toyo Miyatake family is pictured in their Manzanar barracks:
This is one of the more well-known photographs taken by Toyo Miyatake at Manzanar during WWII:
Jump forward to today.
Toyo Miyatake’s grandson is Alan Miyatake; my 11 year old son sneakily grabbed my EXPENSIVE DSLR and snapped this photo of Alan and I chatting at my daughter’s wedding. The gent on the left is Alan. We are the same age……but I do look YOUNGER, of course. Just kidding, Alan!
We’ve known each other for over five decades now; we attended the same church. When we played B-ball in the church league, he played guard. When he let loose a shot, his form reminded me of a graceful ballet. He was good… and his photography was fortunately much better. (Smile)
He shot my weddings…both of them, unfortunately. And there was no one else I was honored to have shooting my daughter’s. Both of us were joking before the wedding that we were both extremely grateful for auto-focus…
The following proofs are Alan’s work where noted.
Thanks, Alan…but I still challenge you in sports photography! LOL
My four wonderful kids:
And now, some of my snapshots… Gotta throw these in:
Alan, great job once again. I was honored to have you shoot my daughter’s wedding.
And congratulations, James and Robyn. Love you both.
I was reminded of how wonderful our little neighborhood is this past Sunday morning.
I invited our neighbor’s two youngest kids out to have breakfast. We had such a nice time albeit much too brief.
Although Old Man Jack and Mr. Johnson are no longer with us, the integrity of the neighborhood remains.
It is a neighborhood where I feel safe. And I feel the kids are safe.
They are safe because our street is filled with good people. Good parents. Good neighbors.
They even bring in our trash barrels if they get home first. It’s swell.
But I marveled at how ALWAYS nice Jacob and Brady are with my kids…from when Jack and Brooke were born.
Jacob and Brady are growing up so fast. They are becoming young adults now and very busy. Yet, they find the time to play with my young kids.
Jacob is a super athlete. Heckuva sportsman and is heavily sought after by the high schools. Even now. His dad is a jock so he’s a chip off the ol’ block. (Don’t worry, dad. You’re not THAT old.)
And Brady… She already is a boy-killer…and a heckuva dancer. Smart one, too! (Don’t worry, mom. I won’t tell ANYONE I have taken over at least a hundred of my chocolate truffles. Funny Jake and Brady rarely tell me if they were good or not… ;))
But most of all, they are great kids.
Jacob and Brady always take their dishes to the sink when they eat here. Brady even cleaned off my (DISGUSTING) rangetop when she watched Jack and Brooke so that I could have my “date” with a varsity cheerleader and old friend for my 40th high school reunion last month. I’m still on a high from that, by the way. Thanks, Brady!
I had Jacob clear this irritating climbing ivy “someone” planted in my backyard. It was climbing all over the place…and into my neighbor’s yard. There wasn’t one branch left after he finished. He even pulled out the roots. Problem no more. Thanks, Jacob!
One other amazing piece of “togetherness”… There are eight kids between our two families with an amazing connection… The kids’ first letters in their names coincide – and in birth order, to boot! They are:
Robbie and Robyn
Taylor and Takeshi
Jacob and Jack, and lastly,
Brady and Brooke
And one last (and upcoming) connection… Robbie and Robyn are both getting married next year.
Soon, Jacob and Brady will be seeking their own niches in life. While Jack and Brooke will be sad, at the same time, I know their hearts will be filled with happiness and gratefulness for all their love, care and fun afforded them throughout their first years of life.
So many things to be thankful for…and Jacob and Brady are two of them.
Just two months after Old Man Jack passed away, so did the young boy who stood in the US Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Louisiana in 1942.
The man who told me funerals don’t do a damn for him anymore.
Mr. Johnson was gone.
The neighborhood was in shock. I had waved to Mr. Johnson just three days earlier while he and Marge gingerly got out of their car. I said in a louder than normal voice from across the street: “We’re still on for breakfast on Saturday, right Mr. Johnson?” We were to go have breakfast and chat about Old Man Jack – and perhaps learn more of Mr. Johnson. Instead, he died suddenly just three days later. Three days.
After 66-1/2 years of marriage, Marge was now a widow. A sudden illness took his last breath away when bombs could not 70 years earlier. He was 89 years old.
Marge surprised me when she asked if I would video Mr. Johnson’s funeral. I told her it would be my privilege. I was elated to be of some service to her.
After Old Man Jack’s funeral, Mr. Johnson invited me over after I got home from work that night. That was when he volunteered that story about how “he got suckered into becoming a Marine”. Lovingly, of course. You could tell he had esprit de corps in his blood to that day. He was proud of not having BEEN a Marine, but of BEING a Marine. He had all the right to be.
He also talked about how he met Marge. What a wonderful story it was. I will try to capture the essence of what he told me.
By early 1944, Mr. Johnson (now a sergeant) had been taken off the front lines to recover from his grave wounds. He was “pretty messed up,” as he put it. Didn’t say much more. He was put in charge of the motor pool at Camp Pendleton during convalescence.
The base commander’s wife, a proper lady, he said, had come to the motor pool to get her car fixed up. Mr. Johnson said it was a beat up Chevy especially on the inside but it was better than most for those times.
After she commented on the car’s condition, Mr. Johnson said he’ll do his best to make it more presentable.
He had come to know an upholsterer in Oceanside so Mr. Johnson arranged for the interior to get tidied up some. He also had it painted. She was elated.
I wish I had jotted down the commander’s name. Darn.
Sometime towards the latter part of ’44, he said, there was some scuttlebutt about a big operation that was brewing.
But then, the base commander called Mr. Johnson into his office.
“Johnnie,” he said, looking through his file, “you’re pretty used up. I’m sending you to rehabilitation.”
So off he went. While Mr. Johnson used “a hospital out in San Bernardino” as a description, the hospital was likely somewhere near the mountains because he mentioned Lake Arrowhead.
As I write this, there is a good probability it was Naval Hospital, Norco, as it was officially called back then.
During rehabilitation, he ventured to a USO dance being held at the hospital. The USO was such a morale booster for these young men. Mr. Johnson was no exception.
There, against the wall, he said, was this pretty young thing. It was Marge. She was studying to become a nurse…which she did.
…and if I understood him correctly, they got married the day after he got discharged from the Corps in 1945. It sounded like if Marge just didn’t want a husband that would go off to war, let alone as a Marine. She got her way, of course:
Don’t you think they are a gorgeous couple? A gift of chance… and war.
(As a historical note, the “scuttlebutt” ended up to be… Iwo Jima. Part of the 3rd Marine Division, Mr. Johnson said that in a way, he was glad he didn’t go… Not that he DIDN’T want to go but because of what the Marines horribly found out after the first waves landed ashore. He learned from the Marines that made it back that all vehicles that went ashore in the first couple of days were sitting ducks for enemy artillery. This was made worse by all the volcanic ash being spewed up by the artillery rounds, just choking off the engines just minutes later because it would clog up the air filters. Some of boys were burned alive, he was told, after their vehicles got hit…in the same vehicles he was in charge of at Camp Pendleton.)
One reason why I was never able to find any military record on Mr. Johnson became obvious on his funeral day; that’s when I – and the other neighbors – found out his name wasn’t Johnnie, but Doreston.
I was partially successful in videotaping Mr. Johnson’s funeral. It wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be for Marge’s sake. There was a bit of disorganization and miscommunication, too. Many of us following the hearse were just waiting in our cars wondering what to do next…when I saw the Marine burial detail getting ready to escort Mr. Johnson’s urn to a covered area. Time for a mad dash.
A couple of notes about the video below if you wish to watch…
I’m not much an editor but I managed to insert the “Marine’s Hymm” from my all-time Marine Corps classic, “Sands of Iwo Jima”. Gives me goose bumps every time. It starts a bit after the 1:00 mark.
There is some footage at the National Medal of Honor Memorial; Mr. Johnson would be interred just yards away. Sgt. Hartsock is my friend’s first husband who was posthumously bestowed the Medal of Honor. You will also see the names of some of the 22 Nisei’s who were also bestowed the Medal of Honor during WWII.
The bugler you see is a long-time friend of Mr. Johnson. I understand he is also in his 80’s and volunteers his services everyday. A very fitting and personal tribute.
This was also the first 21-gun salute I was ever able to have the honor to witness in person. I am glad it was for Mr. Johnson:
During this time, and now armed with his true first name, I was pretty determined to uncover some of his unspoken valor during the Solomon Islands Campaign and the Battle of Santa Cruz Islands…and I was partially successful.
These are two pages from CINCPAC’s official, confidential after battle report. They were called “War Diaries” and are daily operational journals created by various naval commands throughout the Navy during WWII (The Marine Corps is an arm of the US Navy). I was only able to find this single battle report for the Solomon Islands Campaign:
I do NOT know for sure if Mr. Johnson fought on the islands but Old Man Jack never mentioned anything except him serving on the Big E…
As for Mr. Johnson’s wounds, Old Man Jack muttered once “Johnnie was hit twice. The last time was pretty bad.” He didn’t say more.
But Mr. Johnson collapsed at his house in 2011. Marge called me over to help while waiting for the ambulance. Mr. Johnson was on his side, left hand gripping the bed sheets and right arm pinned in under his body. He was too big for me to lift him off the floor by myself. So I yelled, “C’mon, Marine! Get your sorry ass off this floor!” Seriously. With that, he grunted, grabbed the bed sheets one more time, and together, we got his upper body onto his bed…
But in the process, I saw his chest.
Tears of Remembrance and Closing
Two days after the funeral, I had finished putting the video together for Marge. We watched it together on my laptop as she didn’t have a DVD player that worked. Dry eyes had to take a back seat. She was so grateful.
But she called me at work a couple of days later. She asked if I could stop by after work again…and show her the video one more time. I was so surprised by her request…but so happy. She must have liked it.
When I played it for her – and when the “Marine’s Hymm” from the John Wayne iconic classic “Sands of Iwo Jima” began playing, her left hand began to rhythmically and softly beat to the theme song… ever so softly. Then her head bobbed along with the beat. That broke me.
She asked me again to explain the page from the Solomon Islands Battle Report which clearly states how he valiantly fought and incurred his wounds… Then when the 21-gun salute played on the screen, that was it… She broke down. I cannot imagine how large those floodgates may have been for her emotionally.
She thanked me immensely…
But it was so humbling as it was me who wanted to thank her and her husband… the same young boy in that Louisiana recruiting station who did what he had to do… and had enough humanity left in him to forgive.