All of us I'm sure have known some real life characters in our life who have made a major impact on us and for some,have been a great source of admiration and inspiration. Some have been family members,others teachers,and others still,people who have just happed into our lives. I have heard mention of some of these over the course of many postings (one who comes to mind is Lola's Grandfather). Who are these people and how have they helped and continue in many cases to inspire us?
If a character is someone who stands out by being outside the norm, I knew someone who truly qualifies.
This was Joe N., whom I met when I worked at Loyola Univ. in the early 70s. I don't know how much older Joe was than I, but he was taking some courses there at the time. He was so tremendously overweight that he always wore overalls, as I guess they were the only thing that fit. He was also completely bald. So, what was his occupation? Why, he was a private eye. I knew he did the usual lurking and taking of incriminating pictures, plus testifying in court. Thus, as delicately as possible, I asked him once how he managed not to be recognized. "I have wigs", he said.
Joe had the stomach-stapling operation, which later had to be undone and may have led to his health problems. However, there was a period where he was relatively trim and mobile. Even though he was sort of a Peck's bad boy, he was also endearing because of his zany boyishness -- sort of a lively Walker Percy character. Although it was sort of relentless, and probably wearing on his family, it made him interesting and fun, too.
He was a long-time friend of Casimira's husband, and lives in treasured anecdotes.
Thanks for that B. Rarely a day goes by that we are not reminded in some way of this man. We had a house guest recently,an old friend,moreso of T. We sat up one night and told endless tales of Joe. The woman pilot whom I mentioned in Random Memories was a true character. Ann W.,she passed away just a couple of years ago at the age of 88 or so. She was able to pilot a plane up until about six months shy of her death. Ann had served in the RAF as a Spitfire pilot along with a group of women who became to be known as "Spitfire Women" and a book about these heroines was published in the last couple of years. I have yet to see but have read about it. After her years in England she returned to the States and worked for PanAm and one of the other big airlines as an executive. Mind you,this was in the 1940's,no meager feat for a woman back then. I have some photos somewhere I will post soon.
We had a friend whose mother's kitchen was a lot like what the Museum of Salt and Pepper Shakers must be. She also had dishcloth hooks shaped like beckoning female fingers with red pointy nails; I called them the Wall Sirens. I have yet to see the equal to her house for sheer exhuberant tackiness, especially at Christmas.
She wore dark red lipstick, and dyed her hair black. She kept a couple of loaded guns by the doors, just in case, and kept an eye on local politicians.
She taught me how to can peaches and bread and butter pickles. When her boy came home from college, she'd cook enormous meals, with pies and cakes. Every other day, she fried an entire chicken for her cat.
Thank you, casimira and bixa. You are ever kind. My imagination doesn't seem to stretch beyond short stories, if even that.
Next project is to finish my mother's "as told to" life story, the interviews for which were often rough going. ( I had best luck loosening her tongue with caffeine. Wine was less successful.) As usual, I'm stuck on the tech part of figuring out how to get the scanned photos in.
She was an unpleasant, unlovable cat, and obese to boot. We'd sit at the dining room table when I dropped by, and she would take random swipes at me.
This morsel of 1950's trashy pulp fiction had a character (not pictured on cover) based on my grandfather.
The protagonist is a shiftless backwoods hedonist who lives along the river. (Not my grandfather, who was a hard-working small town hedonist.) One day he spies three men pausing from their float trip on a gravel bar, and he paddles over and attaches himself to them, hoping to pick up some money as a guide. Over the next day he pilfers their liquor and food under the guise of being helpful.
After two days of this, the polite gentlemen are fed up, and since assertiveness hadn't been invented yet, redheaded Colonel Hitchcock pretends to fall into a fit and bites the river rat's leg. I doubt this was based on a true story, but it's not unlike something my grandfather would have come up with.
The problem with writing about my grandfather: where to start, and then where to stop.
And where are the trashy magazines of yesterday? I googled Shelby Steger, who must have been a friend from before my day, and see that between 1949 and 1952 she wrote stories for such magazines as Exciting Love, Thrilling Love, and Weird Tales (UK).
The real artiste here is the one who painted the cover, though.
Actually, the story sounds pretty Twain-ish. Does the cover have anything to do with the plot?
I so admire you Ozarkians. Where the rest of us must make do with dry, prissy loving and responsible but sterile living, I can see that the folks there are enjoyin easy lovin and easy livin. Must be nice.
I desperately want to identify with the lush beauty in red, although the cold water of self-knowledge tells me I'm more the lusty broad in pink.
There may be no nice way to say this, but can't she get a job? Is another problem that the Roma (is gypsies no longer pc?) avoid government agencies. Surely some of them could be very helpful to her and her child?
Gypsy is just fine as far as I'm concerned. She is probably raking in the French "family allocations" to the hilt (not that I am against this), while her man (if she has one) works illegally on construction sites or whatever.
Begging is a profession for a lot of people in Europe, and I am sorry to say that I am more apt to give money to the ones who probably need it the least, like this one, because one is generally less repulsed by clean people wearing clean clothes.
Across the street at the Franprix supermarket, there is a well dressed man of about 45, who would not look out of place in my office, who begs and sells the homeless magazine. He is Polish or something and has been posted there for about the last 4 years. I really want to give him a kick in the ass.
it is likely that she grew up the same way, and thus never learned (i mean, learned in theory, but never actually grasped) the option of doing something different, i think. also, depending on where she is from, she might there at least not have had many chances to get a job. roma, especially roma that do keep some of their culture and traditions and for example dress traditionally, aren't particularly popular in a lot of countries. and roma children often grow up with being told (in school by teachers, by other children, or anyone else) that they are gypsies and thus will just grow up to be thieves and beggars anyway. and then of course, a lot didn't go to school - because their parents never went either, nor their parents, etc. etc. - also because the idea of that they can't be anything else has been ingrained from early on. i suppose to actually help them, one would have to do more than just give money, or just say "get a job". i am sure there are a lot of projects that try to do more, like teach people about their options, but they don#t reach everyone, of course... and as i said, the problem with discrimination remains too, of course. i don't know what it is like in france, but i think in germany if someone recognizable as gypsy (by clothes etc. - particularly from eastern europe, maybe not so much sinti that are from here) tries to get a job, they would indeed have quite a hard time...
oh, additionally there might (due to experiences) be a certain distrust of the state and institutions in general - and if she gets a job, that'd mean her child would have to go to daycare. if she is from a somewhat traditional family, then the idea of giving her child into the care of someone else might be kind of difficult too...
A few weeks ago, I started to write a character sketch about a family friend, an infamous hometown wild man. I realize that I can't say that much about him, on the microscopic chance his family might read it.
It was our habit when I was in high school to scan the newspaper police reports for who had run up against the law; this young man, the son of a respectable family, was as likely to feature as anyone we knew.
Everyone I know who went to high school around our time has a story about his unpredictable animal high spirits and self centered recklessness, his fighting and his drunkenness. His brother and his sister still find these stories painful.
One they wouldn't know about: one time when he was in his early 20's, he came by to visit our family, noticed that I had bought an ancient Volvo sedan, and suggested that I needed a new battery for it. None of us knew much about cars, and I didn't realize he was in the process of maxing out his credit card preparatory to declaring bankrupcy.
He proposed that we go buy me a new battery with his card, and then I was to give him cash. The gas station installed their priciest model, and when they ran his card it was no good. I paid them cash for the battery I probably didn't need, and he was philosophical about it as I drove him home. You always had to forgive him.
I was finally able to give my gypsy beggar her photos yesterday. I had spotted her briefly a few times, looking out of my window, but she was always missing when I went downstairs. She was definitely not keeping her usual hours, and she was there all alone.
Yesterday morning, I was coming back from the movies, and she was already getting up to leave. "Wait," I said. "I have something for you! I'll be right back." "Right back?" she asked. "Baby in hospital." I can't say that I was surprised. Winter has been miserable, and that toddler has been sitting on the wet and/or icy sidewalk all day for the last few months. I would certainly be in the hospital if I did that, even if I had a square of cardboard under my butt, as she usually does.
I ran upstairs and ran back down with the photos in a large envelope. I had printed up two different photos in two formats -- 4 of each on shiny photo paper and 9 of each on shiny photo paper. I suspected that she had a big family and also lots of friends or whatever back in Romania. (Serbia? Montenegro? Bulgaria? Bosnia Herzegovina? Who knows?)
When she saw the photos she cried. She hugged me as hard as she could and said thank you. She hugged me again and said "Next time, photo of you and me!" I said okay and she hugged me harder than ever. Passersby looked at us disapprovingly ("Why is that horrible gypsy hugging that man? Is she going through his pockets?"). Fuck them. This was authentic emotion.
I disentangled myself and she went to the hospital. I was touched.
That was nice. I guess beggars don't get too much genuine human interaction during their work day.
Ha -- good story, Lola, and I know a couple of similar ones about the black sheep of good families. One which I think I can get away with telling, was the ne'er do well son who was practicing law under his legitimately-a-lawyer brother's name. Joe, who I mentioned earlier in this thread, was an athlete and roarer in his youth, along with a buddy who is now a lawyer & businessman.
If anyone has read the Sweet Potato Queen books, they'll know of the author's wild ex-brother-in-law. Casimira will vouch that the bil stories were greatly watered down for the books!
So, anyway, I went out to go to the nursing home, but of course I looked around to see where my gypsy was, since she has not been posted in front of my building lately. This morning I saw her in front of the Mogador boulangerie, but she had moved over a little since then and was in front of McDonald's.
She didn't want her photos taken there, though. "Let's go to the market," she said. This was not part of my agenda, but since it was only a block away, I went along with her. I asked her about the baby and she said that he was at home because it was too cold. (I could have told her that weeks earlier before he ever got sick.) She showed me what she had for him today, a plastic superhero figurine and a little fake mobile phone.
The first photo she wanted was on top of a shiny motorcycle. She put her bags down on the pavement and started unwrapping herself. Off went the scarf, the coat and the top sweater. She jumped onto the seat of the motorcycle to take a pose.
Then it was time to go to the market street where she decided to pose in front of the florist. She peeled off more clothing, another sweater, and unfastened her hair. Then she was down to just a T-shirt in spite of the temperature.
Gee, she doesn't look at all the way I always saw her in the past. She tried to get a young Arab greengrocer friend to leave his stall and pose for pictures, too, but he resisted and said he was working. She probably sweet talks him out of all and the fruits vegetables that she needs every day.
She also got the Chinese florist to take a picture of me and her together. No, it is not worth seeing. But she will probably tell everybody in Romania that I am her French sugardaddy who bought her the motorcycle.
Nice pics, K. She looks so pretty, I love the motorbike photo. I can't help thinking just how Indian she looks with her long black hair and dark eyes. So glad her baby is okay now, good thing she is leaving him at home. I wonder who watches over him?