Writer’s Workshop: Somnambulism

Image by Thomas B. from Pixabay

One of this week’s prompts is

Share a story about a sleepwalker.

My mother, who I loved dearly and miss more than anything sometimes, could tell that someone was crazy. She had a degree in psychology, which I guess qualified her to identify psychosis. She used this skill on many occasions, telling me that I shouldn’t hang around with certain kids because they were “goofs,” and I think she was convinced that I was a few crayons shy of a full box. For example, I talk to myself. I think everyone does to some extent, but most people keep it to themselves. She was worried about this, and consulted my uncle, the neurosurgeon, on what to do about it.

He asked her, “Where does he talk to himself?”

“The bathroom,” she replied.

“That’s terrible!” he said. “I talk to myself in the basement!” She never brought the subject up again.

Apparently, for a short time after Dad died, I was a sleepwalker. The story goes that one night, Mom woke up and heard someone trying to open the lock on the back door, went to investigate, and found me there. She asked me what I was doing, and I told her that I was going to school. She led me back to bed, and that was that.

I got up the next morning (I think it was Saturday), totally unaware that any of this had transpired. When Mom got up, she said she wanted to talk to me. In her usual calm and loving manner, she gave me the third degree about what was bothering me, because (in her world, anyway) “people just don’t walk in their sleep for no reason.”

This was a little upsetting, because number one, I had no idea that I had done it, and number two, nothing in particular was “bothering” me. In time, I was able to convince her that nothing other than losing Dad (which had happened a year and a half earlier) was bothering me, I had no current stressors, and really, I was fine. She seemed to accept that, and I figured that the matter was effectively resolved.

A couple of weeks later, I got up one morning and was informed that I had, once again, walked in my sleep. Again I was able to convince her that all was well and that I had no explanation as to why I would get out of bed while still asleep and attempt to go to school (or wherever) in my pajamas. Again, I figured the issue was resolved. Which it was, to a certain extent. See, the phone in the house was close to the back porch, where we spent a lot of time watching TV. One day, I thought I heard her tell someone, in what passed for sotto voce, “Johnny walks in his sleep, and he says he doesn’t know why.”

Just as quickly as it started, it stopped. Crisis averted.

From 1959, Santo and Johnny Farina… the beautiful “Sleep Walk.”

Writers’ Workshop: Me, A Disney Princess?

People who have been reading my contributions to Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writers’ Workshop over the last however many years I’ve been doing it have no doubt noticed a trend in the prompts I’ve selected: They tend to be the ones that offer the greatest comedic possibilities. So today, when Kat offered up this prompt:

If you had to choose a Disney character to live the rest of your life as, which princess would you choose and why?

I decided it was just too good an opportunity to pass up.

I mean, I’m a crippled man in his mid 60’s with a BMI well in excess of 30. The thought of me as a Disney princess has me figuratively rolling around on the floor laughing my behind off. But I understand the intention of the question, and, while I’m not much of a fan of some of Disney Studios’ later work (mostly because I haven’t seen a lot of it), I do know who the Disney princesses are:

  • Snow White,
  • Sleeping Beauty,
  • Cinderella,
  • Ariel, from The Little Mermaid,
  • Belle, from Beauty & The Beast.
  • Pocahontas,
  • Mulan,
  • Princess Jasmine, from Aladdin,
  • Princess Merida, from Brave,
  • Nala, from The Lion King,
  • Rapunzel, from Tangled,
  • Giselle, from Enchanted,
  • Elsa, from Frozen,
  • And, last but by no means least, Annette Funicello. (I guess I have to ask “If Annette, then why not Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears?” But we’ll save that conversation for another day.)

I’m sure there are others, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

Another reason I picked this prompt: I feel a certain affinity with Walt Disney, ever since I learned that he was born at 2156 North Tripp Avenue, in Chicago’s Hermosa neighborhood. (His birthplace has been restored and is now a tourist attraction.) I worked about three blocks from there for a year and a half, and had no idea. I’ve been to both Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and enjoyed the former more than the latter, because I went to it when I was 11 and not at 44.

Anyway, back to the princess thing: I guess, if I had to be one of the princesses, it would be Merida, from Brave:

  • She’s Scottish, I’m Irish.
  • She has wild red hair, I had wild hair that should have been red (it’s nearly all gray now).
  • She makes me think of this:

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Or both!

A post shared by John Holton (@onehandtyping_) on

By the way, I mean it when I say “or both!” I don’t see how one precludes the other.

Speaking of Disney princesses, have you ever noticed how borderline erotic things get in The Lion King?

First time I saw that, I needed a shower.

By far, my favorite Disney “princess” movie is Beauty & The Beast. The artwork is fantastic, the most stunning scene coming during the “Tale As Old As Time” dance. Watch at 2:30; the first time I saw it, I was flabberghasted, when they come from straight overhead down to floor level. That must have taken a lot of work, even with a computer.

Maybe the reason I like it so much is because of Angela Lansbury as the voice of Mrs. Potts, David Ogden Stiers as the voice of Cogsworth, and Jerry Orbach as the voice of Lumiére. They’re what I call the “Sunday night crowd,” actors who appeared on a lot of the Sunday night shows and made-for-TV movies (Ms. Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote, on which Orbach made a number of appearances while she was away, and Stiers played the prosecutor in many of the Perry Mason movies as well as his co-starring role as Major Charles Winchester on M.A.S.H). Jerry Orbach was, early in his career, a fine musical comedy actor and singer (he introduced the song “Try To Remember” when he was in the original production of The Fantasticks in 1962), and he managed to sound like Maurice Chevalier in the part. “Be Our Guest” was one of the musical highlights of film, and when the dishes start dancing at 2:40, it’s Disney madness at its finest.

If the question had asked for “which Disney character” I would choose, it would definitely be Lumiére. Mais oui!

Writer’s Workshop: Meet Me In St. Louis

Image by Elsemargriet from Pixabay

So, the prompt I’ll use this week is “Write about a time something went wrong while you were out of town.” I used to travel a lot for work, and with traveling for work comes horror stories of things that happen, some of which I’ve told here.

One year, I was sent to Burlington, Iowa the week before Christmas. If it hadn’t been winter, I might have tried driving there, but I didn’t want to take the chance of being marooned somewhere, so I flew from Chicago to Burlington Municipal Airport (two runways, no waiting) on Sunday.

The installation I was to do was one of those where it was an unfamiliar product in an unfamiliar environment, so I anticipated that I’d have some trouble, but I figured I’d be working with someone at the client site who knew what he was doing. Instead, I was working with a guy who had just started there, and he was even greener than I was. Not to worry, I said to myself, we’ll muddle through this somehow.

And we did, sort of. Worked some late nights, and I went for several day without eating (which I talk about here), but by the end of the week I had gotten the software installed. And we tried it, and, well, it didn’t work. The batch jobs worked fine, but we were having trouble with the online. I called my manager about an hour before I was to leave and asked what I should do, and he said “come on home, and we’ll figure out what to do next.” I explain the situation to the guy I’m working with, and he’s cool with that, as is his manager.

So, I leave for the airport, and of course I’m running late and the streets are icy, but I got to the airport in enough time to turn in my rental car, check in, and head to the gate (of which there was one). And I find out when I get there that the plane that was to take me to St. Louis (where I’d make a connection to a flight back to Chicago) hasn’t arrived in Burlington from wherever it was coming from (Minneapolis sounds about right). So I find a place to get coffee (there was a machine pretty close by) and go back to the gate.

I sit beside these two high school girls (there was a boarding school there), who evidently are also on my flight and were both upset that the flight to St. Louis was delayed. (Things like that apparently never happen when you’re in high school. There’s a law somewhere, I guess.) So I talk to them and assure them that we’ll get there, this happens all the time, you just have to roll with it. By the time our plane (a 10-seat Beechcraft) arrives, it’s 90 minutes late, and now I have to wonder if I’ll be able to make my connection. A quick consult with the OAG tells me that, if I miss my connection, the earliest I can leave is at 9 the next morning.

Long story short, we ended up leaving Burlington at the same time my flight to Chicago was leaving St. Louis. My two little friends had a happy reunion with their parents in St. Louis; I, meanwhile, called the Marriott St. Louis Airport and reserved a room, fetched my bag, and caught the shuttle.

I checked in and went to my room, called Mary to tell her where I was, called our emergency travel agent and booked a flight, and went off in search of alcohol. I got to the bar and was surprised there were so many people there (hotels, especially airport hotels, tend to be pretty quiet on weekends). Turns out I had walked in on the employees’ Christmas party, which I learned when I tried to pay for my drink. Several free beers later, I didn’t care about anything.

So, all’s well that ends well.

Writers Workshop: Chateau Lafitte and Welch’s Grape Juice

Image by Alexander Antropov from Pixabay

Say the word vintage, and my mind goes right to vintage television. Mary and I watch a lot of vintage Tv, mostly because we aren’t entertained by what The Big 4 Networks are serving up these days and there’s not a lot on most of the streaming services that we’re interested in. That might change when our old TV finally gives up the ghost and we buy a “smart TV,” which many people think is an oxymoron, but for now we’re talking mostly about whatever we can receive via an indoor antenna.

When we uninstalled cable and decided to go with what we could get over the air, I was surprised at the number of stations that appeared. Nothing like the 300+ that we were able to get with our old cable package, but we weren’t watching 95% of them anyway. We still have access to more channels than we watch, but at least now we aren’t paying for them. A few channels are elusive: we haven’t been able to receive the two public TV stations and their subchannels on a regular basis. For that, we’ll need to get a stronger antenna, possibly an outdoor one, and neither of us are that enthused about it. There are more powerful indoor antennas and one that suggests it can make the wiring in my house act as a huge antenna. It might be worth the $39.95 to experiument with that.

Anyway, there are a few stations that play “vintage” TV, meaning they run (or maybe rerun is a better way of putting it) programs that were popular between roughly 1950 and 2000. And, just as with vintage wines (where the term comes from), you have to decide which shows are Chateau Lafitte and which are decades-old bottles of Welch’s grape juice. In other words, it’s a matter of taste. For some, In The Heat Of The Night represents the finest TV has to offer; for others, it’s watching Carroll O’Connor as a Southern version of Archie Bunker.

Most of our favorite shows are carried by MeTV: we’ve been spending the 8 PM hour with Andy Griffith and Don Knotts (The Andy Griffith Show) and the 10 PM hour with Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer (Hogan’s Heroes). They’re shows that we’ve seen so many times in our lives that we actually remember lines of dialogue and specific situations. On Saturdays and Sundays, we watch Peter Falk as Columbo (Saturday on Cozi TV, Sunday on MeTV). We’ve seen those shows so many times that one need only mention the villain and we know the story (certain actors, such as William Shatner, Robert Vaughn, Robert Culp, Jack Cassidy, and Patrick McGoohan, have been the villain several times, but a mention of the plot is usually sufficient to remind us about the story). For a while, This TV was running episodes of The Saint with Roger Moore, but just as I started telling everyone who would listen about it, they abruptly stopped showing it in favor of Redneck Archie Bunker.

That’s maybe the frustrating thing about the vintage stations: once you get accustomed to seeing a show in a given time period, they decide to take it off in favor of something that you either like better (less frequently) or that you hate with the fire of a thousand suns (usually the case). Someone finally explained that the production companies will lease programs to one of the vintage stations for a specific length of time, after which they lease them to another station, which might or might not actually have any plans to broadcast the show.

I just wish someone would keep track of which station has the broadcast rights for which vintage TV program. Wonder what would be involved with that?

Writer’s Workshop: Part of This Complete Breakfast!

We’ll return to this week’s Writers Workshop after these messages.

I like what they describe as a “complete breakfast” (or a “nutritious breakfast” or a “balanced breakfast”): a bowl of cereal, a glass of orange juice, a glass of milk, and two pieces of white toast with butter. That’s the way we ate back then, and somehow we avoided getting too fat. I know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but I don’t think that means a bowl of Lucky Charms.

Mary and I went to visit some friends, Greg and Laura, in Minneapolis one weekend. Greg and I were in the pipe band together, and Laura and Mary suffered through the road trips with us. They met us at the airport, and he says to me, “hey, remember when we were kids and we’d sit in front of the TV eating Lucky Charms and watching cartoons on Saturday morning? Let’s do that again!” So we stopped at the grocery store on our way to their house and bought a box of Lucky Charms and a gallon of milk. The next morning, Saturday, we got up, turned on the TV and found Bugs Bunny, and each of us poured ourselves a bowl of Lucky Charms with milk. We sat down in front of the TV and took a bite of the Lucky Charms. And we looked at each other like, “we used to eat this stuff?” But we finished the whole box, anyway (it was a small box, so that meant about two bowls each). Can’t let good Lucky Charms go to waste. There are children starving in Africa, after all.