Weekly Wilson - Blog of Author Connie C. Wilson

Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books—-her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Category: Of Local (Quad Cities’) Interest Page 2 of 25

“Waves” Directed by Trey Edward Shults Premieres in Chicago on Oct. 20th

Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., stars of “Waves” at the Chicago Premiere. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Acclaimed Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults brings “Waves” to the screen with a cast that includes both new and seasoned performers, all in top-notch form. The film’s camera work is beautiful, which makes sense when it is Shults, who learned so much working with the legendary Terrence Malick. (Shults gave huge props to his D.P., True Daniels.

The screen goes  black  5 times, as though the film was over, a la the film “At Eternity’s Gate” (Julian Schmabel). The film is beautiful, whether it is the two leads frolicking in a sprinkler or a sunset or a party scene.

(L to R) Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults, Chicago Cinema Artistic Director Mimi Plauche, Taylor Russell, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., at the Chicago Premiere of “Waves” on Oct. 20th. (Photo by Connie Wilson).  

“Waves” is really two films in one. You can’t tell what the movie is really about from the trailer. Suffice it to say that w become vitally interested in young athlete Tyler Williams (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) as he tries to live up to his father’s dreams for him to go to state as a wrestler and to succeed  in life. The romance between Tyler and Alexis (Alexa Demie of “Euphoria”) comprises the first half of the film. As the song used put it, “What a difference a day makes.” The Wiliams family (Father Ron, Step-mother Catharine, sister Emily and Tyler) will never be the same following the Tyler/Alexis storyline. A line of dialogue: “All we have is now.” (Clifton Collins, Jr., is wasted in a very small role as Alexis’ father). The cast includes Sterling K. Brown (“This Is Us”) as the demanding father and Oscar-nominee Lucas Hedges as Luke, the boyfriend of Emily. (Fellow director Harmony Korine of “The Beach Bum” is listed in the credits are Mr. Stanley. His films are image-heavy and story-light and he listed painting and art as major parts of his career.)

The first half of the film focuses on Tyler and Alexis.

Writer/Director Trey Shults, and stars Taylor Russell and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., are interviewed on the Red Carpet in Chicago on Oct. 20th at the Chicago Premiere of “Waves.” (Photo by Connie Wilson).

The second half focuses on Tyler’s sister Emily (Taylor Russell). Her budding romance with Lucas Hedges as Luke includes a touching scene with Luke’s dying, estranged father. But the entire Williams family unit is affected by what occurs earlier between Tyler and Alexis.  Losing sight of Tyler almost completely in the second half doesn’t benefit the film’s plot, which director Trey Edward Shults said was largely autobiographical and/or “personal,” in that it had happened to people close to him.

The film is a cinematic  tour de force, which has been true of the films with which Shults has been associated, including “It Comes At Night,” which also featured Kelvin Harrison, Jr. in its cast. In the Q&A following the film, audience members got a crash course in aspect ratios. (185, 133, 240, 266, native anamorphic et. al) and there’ll be more from the Q&A in a more complete review. Opens November 15th.

Genre: Drama

Writer/Director: Trey Edward Shults

Stars:  Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Taylor Russell, Sterling K. Brown, Lucas Hedges, Alexa Demie, Renee Elise Goldsberry.

Length: 135 minutes

 

55th Chicago International Film Festival Begins October 16th

The 55th Chicago International Film Festival starts Wednesday, October 16th, opening with Edward Norton directing and starring in the film adaptation of “Motherless Brooklyn” (with Bruce Willis co-starring). The book, by Jonathan Lethem, won the New York Book Circle Award some years back and it has been a long time coming to the screen. “Motherless Brooklyn” will open the 55th year for America’s longest-running film competition, which runs from October 16th through October 27th.

THE WHISTLERS
It hasn’t opened to the public yet, but critics have already had the opportunity to see the new film from Corneliu Porumboiu, “The Whistlers,” which will be the Czech Republic’s entry for the Academy Awards. The involved noir tale follows the adventures of a corrupt, middle-aged policeman named Cristi (Vlad Ivanov) who travels from Bucharest to the Canary islands to study the ancient Aboriginal whistling language, which allows criminals to communicate clandestinely. Director Porumboiu, in interviews from Cannes, says he became interested in this authentic language after seeing a piece on television describing it. There’s a femme fatale named Gilad (homage to Rita Hayworth intentional), quick clips of “The Searchers” (which is one reason the original title, “La Gomera,” was changed to “The Whistlers”) and a gorgeous opportunity to see lighted garden display in Singapore, which runs 12 minutes and shows two times a night. It’s a complicated caper plot. When asked about the finale Hong Kong Gardens light show and how he knew about it, Porumboiu said, “YouTube.” (Romanian English with subtitles, 97 minutes).

8 – A SOUTH AFRICAN HORROR STORY
This film from director Harold Holscher has a wonderfully moody, menacing, supernatural plot and the South African cinematography is gorgeous. It revolves around a black man named Lazarus (aptly named) and his interaction with a South African family returning to their family farm after many years. A little girl named Mary will be the focus of the film and the spine-tingling, creepy, well-acted central performance by Tahamano Sebe as Lazarus holds the film together. The female performances, especially the ingenue, Mary, are not as impressive, but there are visceral scares and a heartbreaking plot. (98 minutes)


FORMAN vs FORMAN
This documentary traces the life and achievements of Milos Forman, who won Oscars for directing both “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975 and “Amadeus” in 1984. There are a multitude of film clips of young Milos, his parents, Prague where he grew up, and some personal shots from his widow. Forman died on April 13, 2018, and this documentary about his life, directed by Helena Trestikova and Jakub Hejna is a treasure trove of archival footage that traces Forman’s life and career. Both of Forman’s parents are taken away to concentration camps when he was young, leaving him feeling like an outsider in the world. (His mother died in Auschwitz and his father in Buchenwald.) It’s well worth a look. (78 minutes)

JUST 6.5
Saving the best of those I’ve seen so far for last, from Iran comes this riveting story of detective Samad (Peyman Maadi, of “A Separation”), whose mission is to bring down powerful drug kingpin Nasser Khakzad. The first 8 minutes of this film is as riveting and intense as the opening of “Shallow Grave.” There is a foot chase through winding alleyways that forces the runner over a fence and (inadvertently) into a deep hole where he is buried alive. The film was a hit in its native land and it’s easy to see why. It’s a high-octane look at the drug trade and the criminal justice system in Iran. (Farsi with subtitles, 135 minutes)

“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” Is Great for “Breaking Bad” Fans

Robert Forster, who passed away on Oct. 11, 2019. Photo taken on Oct. 15, 2018 at the Chicago International Film Festival by Connie Wilson at 9 p.m. at the showing of “What They Had.” (Who knew Robert had only 361 days left on the planet?)

We watched “El Camino: The Breaking Bad Movie” last night and liked it very much

.There are numerous flashbacks that provide some “Walt” for those who have to have Walt with their Jessie.

Since the original series had been off the air for 6 years, I confess to being hazy on some of the finer TV plot points. For example, I did remember that Jessie was kept in a cage and tortured and forced to make crystal meth, but the contraption used to give him mobility was totally forgotten by me, until it re-emerges in this film.

The “shoot-out at the O.K. Corral” part is quite good. (See it to find out what I mean).

Jessie’s desperate attempt to get money to finance his “disappearing” act was well done, with a run-in with “police” that is very creative. This part involves Robert Forster, who helped Walt hide out in the TV series.

Yesterday Robert Forster, 78, known as “the Disappearer” in the original TV series and the long-ago star of “Medium Cool” back in the sixties (one of the few—-perhaps only—-examples of cinema verite in the U.S.) unexpectedly died of brain cancer. I met Forster in October of 2018 as he made the film festival rounds on behalf of “What They Had,” a very good film with Michael Shannon, Vera Farmigia and Blythe Danner co-starring about an elderly couple coping with the wife’s encroaching Alzheimer’s disease.

Forster was perfect in the part of her devoted elderly husband, but when I saw him standing in the aisle as I walked to my seat (he was leaning against the wall at the time, in preparation for the post showing Q&A) I had to go over and introduce myself and tell him how much I admired his work in “Medium Cool” and many other projects. He was genuinely warm and friendly, and we chatted briefly for a few moments before I took my seat. Then, he talked about his career, both in an interview in the Chicago “Tribune” but also onstage, and, once again, cemented my admiration.

This is Forster’s final film role. I was struck, when he first came onscreen, by how much he had aged in just one year, as it was October of 2018 when I met him in person. It is one year later, I am about to leave for the October film festival again, but Robert looked like 5 years had passed. I assumed it was make-up. And then I heard that he had died, of brain cancer.

I found the arc that Jessie traverses in this film believable and well-acted and another reason it rang a particularly intense bell with me, besides the information in the paragraph above, is that we just returned from a tour of Alaska and Alaska has an important role in the plot.

I definitely recommend the film for fans of “Breaking Bad.”

“Joker” May Bring Joaquin an Oscar

JOKER

Joaquin Phoenix has turned in another riveting, intense performance in “Joker,” this time as Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill young man who lives with his invalid mother and works as a clown. In the opening scene, he is twirling a sign on the rat-infested, garbage-strewn streets of Gotham (1970s New York City) when 5 young men steal his “Everything must go!” sign and beat him up in an alley.

If you think this is grim, just wait.

Joaquin has pretty much made a career out of playing character parts that Bruce Dern of 30 years ago, Crispin Glover of 20 years ago, or Michael Shannon of today might play. He is intense and strange, excelling, as one critic put it, in films that depict “exquisite isolation.” In this film, for which he lost 15 pounds, he looks emaciated, like Christian Bale in “The Mechanic.” He claims it helped him with his weirdly artistic dance moves to be lighter on his feet. Arthur (Phoenix) laughs inappropriately and compulsively and may suffer from pseudobulbar affect disorder (or any of a series of ailments often related to traumatic brain injury and/or schizophrenia). It is off-putting and uncomfortable; he even carries a small card explaining his condition to strangers, much like the deaf have used.

The tour-de-force part of Arthur Fleck is eerily reminiscent of Travis Bickle in 1976’s “Taxi Driver.” This part also builds on Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in “The Dark Knight Rises” and gives us a back story for Joker that is different from the ones in other “Batman” films. Oscar history could repeat itself with a gold statuette for Joaquin, but the film, itself, does not seem Oscar-worthy, to me.

Joaquin has been acting since the early eighties. Many of his best performances have utilized his personal projection of a sense of strange intensity. I remember seeing him on David Letterman’s show on February 11th, 2009, when he claimed he was giving up acting for good to become a rapper. He acted weird, strange and was monosyllabic. Letterman played off that, as he used to do when Crispin Glover came on the show and acted like a World Class Weirdo. (Remember the kicking sequence with Glover on the show?)

At the time, Joaquin was making the movie “I’m Still Here” with his then brother-in-law (Casey Affleck). As it turned out, they thought it would be a good promotional stunt to have Joaquin claim he was quitting acting to become a rapper. Later, on September 22, 2010, Joaquin returned to Letterman’s “Tonight” show to admit that he was actually not finished with acting. Each time, Phoenix came across as supremely weird, strange, and intense. He’s supposed to be engaged to frequent co-star Mara Rooney now, so perhaps both of those television appearances were just good examples of his acting ability.

Whatever. He fooled most of us, and, therefore, his persona with the public and the press has been close to that of Arthur Fleck. The part of “Joker” was perfect for him.  Director/Writer Todd Phillips (the “Hangover” movies) said that he never wanted to develop a Plan B for any other casting, because he always intended to cast Phoenix in the part.

When New York Times writer David Itzkoff pointed out while interviewing Phoenix that he seemed to be the “go to” character actor for such over-the-top intense performances  and that Phoenix could continue acting characters like this for a very long time, the actor responded, “Oh, really?” in a sarcastic voice as dry as sandpaper. “Well, good. Thank you so much. That’s great. I was worried.”

Then, said Itzkoff, “he grinned and let out a laugh to let me know he was kidding. (Or was he?”)

THE GOOD

The Acting

Joaquin Phoenix is a good bet for an Oscar nomination and, potentially, for a win, although it’s still early for making those predictions.

The film is powerful, but about as grim a film as you can find. Still, there were many great supporting turns from the rest of the cast including Frances Conroy (“Six Feet Under,” “American Horror Story”) as his mother, Robert DeNiro as  talk show host Murray Franklin and Zazee Beetz as his next-door neighbor Sophie Dumond. The use of DeNiro as the late night talk show host modeled on Johnny Carson elicited echoes of Jerry Lewis’ 1982 film “King of Comedy,” where DeNiro played Rupert Pupkin.

Cinematography & Editing:

Director/Writer Todd Phillips (who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver) has used an interesting mix of “Is this really happening?” cinema, woven together to leave it up to the audience to determine whether what Arthur Fleck is experiencing is wishful thinking or really happening. Audiences today are fairly savvy. We are used to having to figure out some of the connecting tissue of a film on our own, and Phillips handles that beautifully, along with the assistance of cinematographer Lawrence Sher, who seems to love to dwell on Phoenix in close-up. Phillips does a good job of incorporating the seamy, rat-infested city of Gotham as almost a character in itself, and the many nods to Scorsese’s classic films show that, “Hangover” or no “Hangover,” Phillips recognizes a modern-day cinematic icon’s quality work when he sees it. All nice touches.

THE BAD:

Music:

I was not a fan of the cello-heavy score by the 31 people listed as being in charge of the music for the film. It was overpoweringly dark, screaming, “Feel sorry for Arthur” at every plot turn.

Plot:

That last remark brings me to the fact that we are primed to feel sorry for/excuse Arthur for his misdeeds. There isn’t a single murder that takes place (and there are plenty, most of them bloody) that some rationale or excuse as to why Arthur would have committed the bloodthirsty crime can’t be ginned up to defend or excuse this poor mentally-ill man (who seems completely amoral by film’s end, if not before).

When Arthur first turns homicidal on a subway train,  he has acted in self defense. The plot channels Bernard Goetz, who shot and wounded four African-American youths on a Manhattan subway train in 1984. Only this time “the enemy” is Wall Street and it is three young white Wall Street brokers, insensitive louts all, who abuse and mistreat poor Arthur before he snaps. That brings about the violence. The viewer does feel that the audience is supposed to sympathize with the poor beaten-down loser that Joaquin is portraying so well. We’re rooting for “the little guy” standing up for himself, even if you feel that a sane person would have taken his chances with the NYPD, since the subway shootings seem justified.

After that, while excuses/rationales/reasons are still given for every single murder, feeling sorry for poor Arthur goes downhill fast.

The entire idea of the poor versus the rich is elevated to new heights when portions of Arthur’s comedy act showing him laughing hysterically and uncontrollably are broadcast on Murray Franklin’s show. Arthur becomes a lightning rod for the general sense of malaise and unrest abroad in the land. “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Arthur, at one point.

It’s not just you, Arthur. It IS getting crazier out there, and most of us know why.

It is interesting to have a homicidal, mentally-ill killer elevated, by film’s end, almost to the point of “leader of the pack,” but maybe not such a great idea. We can always bring back Steve Bannon, who wants to tear down everything in order to create “the Fourth Turning” (as he himself articulated in the Erroll Morris “American Dharma” documentary).

Permissive nods towards out-of-control violence of any kind should be quickly squelched, whenever and wherever they crop up. Arthur’s sad plight illustrates many of the issues this country is facing. Indeed, problems that the entire world is facing: the ‘haves vs have nots” battle, etc. But letting anarchy rule doesn’t seem like the best solution, regardless of our emotional empathy for Arthur Fleck and embattled little people the world over.

Fun Facts About Madonna

(https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099422/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1)

Beaux Arts Fair in Davenport, Iowa, on September 8th, 2019

Vik Muniz: Hand Remade, 9/8/19

After learning that the Beaux Arts Fair was in town this weekend, I drove over to our Figge Art Gallery to check out the treasures. Over the years, I’ve bought many pieces of jewelry, pottery, and some metal or wood work at the Beaux Arts Fair. This year was no different.

I walked up the 22 steps to the landing (right next to the Figge’s entrance) and admission was FREE (normally $6 to $10, depending on age), so I first toured the exhibit on the 3rd floor, which was “Vik Muniz: Hand Remade.” Artist Vik Muniz is known for manipulating familiar materials by hand, like chocolate sauce, diamonds or pieces of garbage, and re-composing iconic images from art history or pop culture.  The creations are temporary, while the photographs he takes of his arrangements constitute the final artwork.

Catherine DeNeuve, at the Davenport Art Gallery, by Vik Munoz.

This exhibit featured the “Pictures of Garbage” series, one of Muniz’s most recognized, as well as recent work, from the Handmade” series. He worked with materials such as paper, rope and fabric. As you entered, you were presented with a large portrait of French actress Catherine Deneuve, which was formed by laying out crystals on a black surface. It was more impressive as you approached up close and realized that he had laid out all of the small zircon-like pieces to form her image. As you enter the final room, you see this picture:

Davenport Art Gallery, Vik Muniz.

Next, you enter the room with the portraits that Brazilian Muniz made by going out to the garbage dump near his Sao Paulo home and photographing garbage. If you look closely at the image below, you will see a figure within the brown garbage. These portraits of garbage are among his most well-known. This picture was on loan from a New York City gallery.

 

From “Pictures of Garbage” series.

 

There was a “do it yourself” exhibit of small paper plates on the floor. I would have moved them around to form a Peace symbol, but I feared I would never be able to get back up off the floor, if I did, so what you see (below, left) is what you get.

Davenport Art Gallery, DIY art.

Now it was time to move outside and visit the locals. Most were from places like North Liberty, Galena, the Amanas.

Julie Spangler of Galena Glass Jewelry at work at the Beaux Arts Fair on 9/8/19.

First, I got a ring and earrings from Julie Spangler of Galena, Illinois. (GalenaGlassJewelry.com). Julie’s pieces were modestly priced (mostly $22) and the rings were adjustable. She was selling lockets that have small pieces of cloth inside, which you are instructed to drench with your favorite perfume. I didn’t buy one, at first, but, later, I went back and bought one of the last three. One of the more unusual ways to freshen jewelry by combining the olfactory with the visual.

Next, I bought a dragonfly from A.J’s Copper Garden and Metal Art Gallery (proudly made in the Amana Colonies). I think the name of the young man who assisted me was Sam. He told me he grew up near Ashton Kutcher’s original home (Williamsburg), did not attend college in Iowa City (as one would assume), and had been making a living with his art ever since graduating from high school. He travels to the northern suburbs of Chicago a lot.

From A.J’s Copper Garden & Metal Art Gallery at the Beaux Arts Fair, 9/8/19.

 

Metal art at the Beaux Arts Fair.

My final purchase was a retooled old watch that had been made into both a necklace and earrings. When I mentioned these purchases to the young man from A.J.’s Copper Garden & Metal Art Gallery of Homestead, Iowa (3146 Hwy 6 Tail, Homestead, 3.3 miles south of Amana on Hwy 151), pictured above, he pulled out a money clip that looked just like my new watch pendant and noted that he had been seeing these quite frequently in his movement around the art fair circuit.

Caramel corn (large) completed the day, and it didn’t rain. (Hooray!)

 

I

 

Bee Gone: A Political Parable & new Christmas Cats Book Are Discussed on CUTV News on July 31st

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” 6th book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is up on Amazon Kindle (Kindle only, at this point) in a pre-sale due to go “live” on July 31st for $2.99. If you order early from the link at the bottom of this article, it will automatically be delivered to your Kindle that day. If you DO order this amusing book, please leave a review on Amazon. (Thank you!)

July 31st was selected because Connie will be interviewed “live” for 30 minutes that day by New York radio station CUTV’s Jim Masters.  Connie is the author representative for their current female empowerment series of programs.

Anyone wanting to ask a question on July 31st (Wednesday) can phone in at  347-996-3389 at 1 p.m. CDT (2 p.m. EDT)

“The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” sixth book in the Christmas Cats series (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Connie will be talking about her new illustrated rhyming book “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” and the sixth book in her Christmas Cats series, entitled “The Christmas Cats Flee the Bee,” scheduled for release closer to Christmas. “Bee Gone: A Political Parable” is available in e-book only, but the Christmas Cats book will be available in paperback, hard cover and e-book. (www.TheXmasCats.com).

Bee Gone: A Political Parable is a rhyming, illustrated short e-book that examines the thought (articulated by Barack Obama), “Elections have consequences.” Given its timing, perhaps it will encourage those who did not vote in 2016 to go to the polls and vote in 2020.

In a very short story about a disgruntled drone in a bee hive who wants to take over the hive from the queen bee, the key take-away can be described (in the words of the book) this way: “So, the hive lost its honey, its Queen, and its money. It was really a mess, and that isn’t funny.”

The outstanding illustrations by illustrator Gary McCluskey are spot-on. They are both amusing and illustrative of today’s political situation. (Gary says, “It’s the most fun I ever had at work.”)

No matter what your political affiliation, no matter how divided in our individual beliefs, we all agree that citizens in a democracy must exercise their right to vote in order to insure that our democracy continues to function properly. Elections must be fair. Citizens must participate. Elections must be supervised to assure that they are not influenced illegally by outside forces.

If you’re a Democratic or Independent voter, you will probably chuckle all the way through this book.

If you’re a die-hard Trump supporter, maybe not so much.

Whatever your political leanings, enjoy the excellent illustrations and let’s try to remember that, so far, in this country, we all are allowed to express our opinion(s) under the First Amendment to the Constitution. Let’s hope we never lose that.

Lighten up and enjoy Bee Gone: A Political Parable! Order your copy today.

 

Independence: “Our Fame Is In Our Name” on July 4, 2019

Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the Fourth of July, 2019.

I’m from a little town in northeast Iowa called Independence. It is 38 miles north of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and  20 miles to the east of Waterloo/Cedar Falls,at the junction of Highways 150 and 218. It is the Fourth of July and it is an election year.

The last line of the paragraph above reminds me of the famous line from “The Blues Brothers” that laid out the situation for Belushi and Ackroyd in that film. Elwood: “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

Joliet Jake:  “Hit it!”

Beto O’Rourke in Independence, Iowa, for the Fourth of July parade.

[It should be noted right about now that the Blues Brothers were traveling to Chicago from Rock Island, Illinois, which is where I’ve lived the last 52 years of my life, in the Illinois Quad Cities.]

So, for today, the operative line goes like this.

Woman on the far left is gaining on the candidate in Independence (Iowa).

Future President of the United States?

Go, Joe, Go!!!

Joe Biden: “It’s 38 miles from Cedar Rapids, we’ve got me,  Beto O’Rourke, a street full of voters in lawn chairs (plus one woman huffing and puffing alongside me like she’s running in the Boston marathon), Beto’s got a kid on his shoulders, and we’re both wearing sunscreen.”

Beto O’Rourke and unidentified child in Independence, Iowa, Fourth of July parade.

Beto O’Rourke: “Hit it!”

So it was in my small hometown this day—the day that DJT chose to threaten the infrastructure of Washington, D.C., with both tanks and planes for his politically themed Fourth of July celebration in our nation’s capitol, a departure from hundreds of years of decorum. (When asked, DJT said, “Decorum? What’s that?”)

I called my partner in political gate-crashing, Sue Ann Raymond, who also involved Dorothy Malek, I believe, in securing images of the Independence (Iowa) parade this fine July day. Sue Ann and I once crashed a “W” rally in Denver, Colorado, and she took a photo of an elderly man being dragged away by the Secret Service (after he held up a sign that read: “You lied and my son died”)  She appeared on the evening television news, much to the dismay of her friends in the community. [It isn’t every day that an Episcopalian minister ends up on the evening news as the photographer of the day, but Sue Ann, now the pastor of St. James Episcopalian Church, is just that good!]

Watching the scene in downtown Independence took me back to the many times my dad—the town banker—would load us into the car and drive us out towards the Mental Health Institute (or the dump, it varied) to watch the fireworks in Buchanan County, Iowa. Dad spent 4 terms as the Democratic County Treasurer before starting the Security State Bank on the corner of the downtown (right across from the Farmers’ State Bank and, in my day, Infelt’s Drug Store, which is long gone)

                     Go, Joe, Go!!!

Dad would have enjoyed the parade today, which consisted of more photographers than marchers, from the looks of it, and was well-attended. I still remember Dad driving a team of Clydesdale horses down the street and throwing out wooden nickels to the crowd from the Security State Bank when Independence had its sesqui-centennial many years ago. (We sat on top of the bank and, when the Blue Angels flew over, we were so startled that we nearly fell off!) Robert Ray was the Governor and all was right in the state—then.

Let it be known, for purposes of figuring out whether Donald J. Trump’s parade cost taxpayers $2.5 million—stolen from national parks moneys—or $92 million, as reported elsewhere, that running an F135 jet for an hour costs $140,000 and a Blue Angel plane costs $10,000 per hour to run. No Blue Angel planes in Independence this day.

Happy Fourth of July, America! Happy Moment in the Sun, Independence. “Our fame IS in our name!”

Nelson G. Peterson Shuffles Off This Mortal Coil June 24

My best in-town friend, Nelson G. Peterson, age 95—almost 96—died today (June 24th) at 9:10 a.m. I was planning on popping into Heartland (nursing home and rehabilitation center) to visit him before leaving for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take pictures at the National Federation of Press Women Conference, but another good friend of 50 years’ standing (one of our foursome) unexpectedly showed up in town from the Des Moines area, called me wanting to get together,  and I didn’t stop on Wednesday. I left town on Thursday.

Today is Monday. Nelson died 5 days after my visit with Judy, another fellow teacher and bridge player (whom I also taught to play the game). In May, when we returned from Texas and I went to visit Nelson for the first time in 4 months, he hugged me and cried, “Oh, Con! It’s been so long!” (No one had ever been so glad to see me that they cried.) 

He went on to apologize for his emotional outburst and said, “I’ve outlived everyone.” He answered this way when I asked him about his Swedish relatives, saying he had outlived them all, too. I remember my own mother, who lived to be almost 95, saying much the same thing to me during her final days.

I had been trying to find a pair of slippers to replace Nelson’s heavily worn slippers and showed up with a “normal” pair, only to find that his feet and legs were “extra wide.” They were, in fact, wrapped in heavy white constricting bandage-like garments. This may have been a sign of the sepsis that, they say, took his life after less than 24 hours in the hospital.

Nelson was a veteran of World War II. He had been involved in the Battle of the Bulge. Even more remarkably, his father was a veteran of World War I and my daughter once took Nelson’s dad’s little  WWI diary with “Kilroy Was Here” cartoons to history class when in high school.

Nelson and me.

I met Nelson in 1969-1970 when I began teaching Language Arts at Silvis Junior High School. He had begun teaching history there after another career and he put in 25 years. Prior to that, Nelson worked at the Arsenal, tasked with tracking the delivery of Arsenal products to their destination. He didn’t like pushing paper clips around, he said, and went back to school to retrain   to become a history teacher of 7th and 8th graders. He never bothered to learn any of his students’ first names, preferring to call them “Miss or Mr._______.”

Every morning, Nelson would leave the door to his classroom open. Through the door, before school started, would come the strains of  Edith Piaf from a recording on a turntable. His mother, a Swedish immigrant, worked as a maid in the wealthier homes of Moline, and Nelson spoke fluent Swedish. In his eighties, he still corresponded with relatives in Sweden. He is, to this day, the only person I know who installed a walk-in tub in his home. [A forward-thinker, even then.]

In 1986 Nelson had cancer surgery on the very same day that my father had colon cancer surgery. (I was warned NOT to call Nelson to report on my dad, because now he was hospitalized with the same ailment.) My father only lived six months after the discovery of his condition in the spring (March). Nelson lived, with a colostomy bag, for an additional 33 years and even traveled with that inconvenience to Sweden at least once.

I’ll always hear Nelson’s chipper voice saying things like “If you’ve got the money, honey, I’ve got the time,” (an old joke). He used to tell us that his job when in WWII was to teach the soldiers about sexually transmitted diseases. I never knew if that was true or not, but it always got a chuckle. I’ll never forget the many diets we tried together. (Nelson was the darling of the Weight Watchers set). I finally quit after HE got a cookbook, and I got bubbkas. Each of the 3 others of us was to bring lunch to school one day of the week. Nelson’s idea of “lunch” was to open a cold can of tuna fish and a cold can of green beans, while we were preparing warm sandwiches in the Home Economics room oven and thinking up tasty recipes.

I taught Nelson to play bridge.  I must say, he was the worst bridge player I’ve ever seen. He would lead with a King, no matter what. It got so bad that we made up our own rules of the game. One of them was that we dealt the cards face-down, and the four of us (Nelson, Judy, Linda and me) had to bid without looking at them. If this sounds like far from serious bridge, you’re absolutely right.

I will always think of Nelson in his little house in Moline, with his baby grand piano and his small room full of books. I will always remember the time I went over to show Nelson my new snakeskin shoes and scared his elderly mother, who didn’t see well enough to know what I was wearing on my feet. (“I’m scared!” she said in a quavering voice). 

Nelson took care of his mom at home until the day she died. He never married. He was engaged a few times, but the romance with Kay (and others) never bore fruit. He had no children. The nursing home staff thought I was either his daughter or his granddaughter.

Nelson was a World Class Sweetie, and he was my friend through thick and thin. He never excluded me from his life for any reason. I was “good enough” for Nelson just the way I am. I wish I had been invited to his 93rd birthday party at the Cellar in Geneseo, but at least I have these pictures from his 94th birthday, when my husband and I took him out to eat at Short Hills Country Club. He dressed up in his suit and wore his patriotic pins and we tottered on down to the dining area in style. And on his 95th, I took a large cake to his nursing home dining room.

I am too sad to write more. “Dust to dust. Ashes to ashes.” 

I love you, Nelson. Rest in Peace.

Rolling Stones Rock Soldier Field on Friday, June 21st, 2019

The Rolling Stones on June 21st, 2019 at Soldier Field.

 

The Rolling Stones played for the 8th time at Soldier Field on Friday night, June 21st, beginning at 7:30 p.m. with the lead-in act, St. Paul and the Broken Bones from Alabama.

Before arriving at the venue, we were told not to bring large purses. Specific dimensions were sent and a suggestion was made that we use quart-sized plastic bags. All metal objects had to be placed in trays as we went through metal detectors up front. I was able to get my plastic bag contents down to cash, one credit card, my cell phone, my small camera,

We were waaay up in the stadium and these were taken with a Canon PowerShot with a 40 zoom.

and opera glasses (that turned out to be useless). Tickets in the nosebleed section were $69.50 and we climbed a long time. (I told my husband, “I’ll just keep climbing until I pass out.”)

The booths selling shirts and the like ($45 for a regular tee shirt; $85 for a hooded sweatshirt) were set up in a particularly problematic way. You  could barely walk through to get to your section because of the presence of several tables selling merchandise.

Mick Jagger.

Finally, we climbed to the 18th row in the highest section. The night was cool and rain threatened, but the four things that amazed me most about the concert this night were as follows: (1) Mick Jagger definitely is in amazing shape for someone his age (75, born July 26, 1943) (2) Jagger is back from the heart surgery that had originally postponed this concert date, but was re-programmed for the original date shortly after he had stents placed in his heart (3) my new small camera (Canon Powershot) with a 40 zoom did a pretty fair job of getting pictures from this far away and (4) how far other concert-

Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood.

goers had come to hear the Rolling Stones. We heard Germany, England, New York, Cleveland, Minneapolis and St. Louis and everyone around us was from out-of-town. In fact, following the concert, we had to provide directions to a gentleman who was to meet his friends at Scout bar on Wabash and Michigan and had little idea how to get back there.

Mick shared that the Stones had played Soldier Field 8 times and Chicago 38 times over the years since 1964. Only 2 of the songs were from later than 1981. Which, as the Chicago Tribune noted, is exactly what the vast majority of fans paid to see.

Other musicians assisting the band included keyboardist Charlie Leavell and Chicago born bassist Darryl Jones ably backing the Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood).

The Rolling Stones, June 21, 2019.

Since 1998, the stones have produced only 2 studio albums, yet they play their hits differently each night. I can vouch for this, having seen them for the first time in 1982 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at Northern Iowa University and, after that, during the Steel Wheels tour, the Bridges to Babylon tour (2x), the VooDoo Lounge tour, the Tattoo You tour, twice inside the United Center (one of them the No Security tour) and at the Indianapolis Speedway in 2015, as well as tonight’s No Filter tour. Mick had never danced more and I had never seen Charlie Watts AND Keith Richards smile more onstage.

Mick Jagger.

To me, tracking the band in person for 37 years, Keith Richards looked the most changed. Something about the expanse of forehead looked very different. The joke about Keith is that he has looked like he is at death’s door for at least 40 years. He really did look different to me, tonight, and his comment when he spoke was, “I’m happy to be anywhere.”

Keith (Richards) and Mick Jagger onstage.

The Stones have weathered sixties drug busts, seventies heroin addictions, the Jagger/Richards split during the eighties, Keith’s brain surgery after he fell out of a tree in 2006 and, now, Mick’s heart surgery (stents) in March. They sound as good as ever, and Mick danced more, if possible, than I’ve ever seen him, in a “Look! I’m still standing!” move. It was a great show! Even the weather cooperated. The downside was that it took us a full hour to walk across the street from the stadium.

Their play list this night was as follows:

1) Street Fighting Man

2) Let’s Spend the Night Together

3)  Tumbling Dice

4)  Sad Sad Sad

“Brown Sugar,” Mick Jagger.

5)  You Got Me Rocking

6)  You Can’t Always Get What You Want

7)  Angie

8)  Dead Flowers

9)  Sympathy for the Devil

Charlie Watts.

10)  Honky Tonk Woman

11)  You Got the Silver

12)  Before They Make Me Run

13)  Miss You

14)  Paint it Black

15)  Midnight Rambler

Mick Jagger.

16)  Start Me Up

17)  Jumpin’ Jack Flash

18)  Brown Sugar

Encores

19)  Gimme Shelter

Ronnie Wood.

20)  I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Mick, center stage.

Keith Richards

Mick, far left.

 

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