U2: A Love Story

I entered high school in the fall of 1983. My sixth period class, the last class of the day, was Speech Communications taught by Wilma Hicks. Mrs. Hicks had led Canby Union High School‘s speech team to glory for a quarter of a century, but I had no illusions of greatness. I just wanted to fulfill a requirement.

A few days into the year, Mrs. Hicks was diagnosed with cancer. She took an extended leave of absence, but was dead within a weeks. Meanwhile, Mr. Stegmeier served as our substitute teacher. I, and every other kid in the Canby school district, had known Mr. Stegmeier for years; he was a substitute teacher at all levels. He was a nice guy, but he didn�t act so much as a teacher he acted as a babysitter. Mr. Stegmeier was a pastor at a local church, and he spent his classtime preparing sermons.

(Throughout my high school career, Mr. Stegmeier called me “Jonathan”, which he knew bugged me. I don’t care what people call me. Except for “Jonathan”. My name isn’t “Jonathan”. In retaliation, I never called him Mr. Stegmeier, I called him “Willy”. Disrespectful, yes, but good-natured. We called each other �Jonathan� and �Willy� for four years, in speech and geometry and choir and chemistry and English and health and every other class but PE.)

While Mr. Stegmeier babysat our speech class, we lounged around the cavernous speech room in Lower B, which was part of a 75-year-old structure that made up a large portion of the school. B Wing was beautiful (though we didn’t appreciate it then), built of rich, dark hardwoods, with towering ceilings and wide corridors. It comprised two levels — Upper B and Lower B — and an ancient auditorium. The home-ec classes were held at one end of Lower B, the journalism and speech classes at the other end. Upper B housed English classes and various special ed and administrative areas.

My favorite part of B Wing was the “secret” rooms. These rooms weren’t really secret, just rarely visited. There were many doors throughout the hall, only some of which led to classrooms. Others led to a teachers’ lounge, the school store (which rarely operated), to the boiler room, to the theater’s control room, etc.

The best door led to the text book storage area, a hot, tight, dark room filled with aging textbooks. In my memory, there was only a single light-bulb, activated by a pull-chain, to light the entire room. It was musty. The boiler room was nearby, and the book room could become very hot. (It’s amazing the books never caught fire!) There were makeshift shelves along the walls, and spanning the center of the room. The school’s spare textbooks were kept here, and to a young bibliophile (yes, I loved books even at the age of fifteen) this room was like a candy store.

(B-Wing was torn down a decade ago and a new main wing was erected in its place. The new structure is a labyrinth of sterile corridors with cookie-cutter rooms and a fluorescent soaked library. It’s impersonal, lacks character, has no charm. B-Wing had its shortcomings (it was a fire trap), but it was a beautiful old building. It had personality.)

While Mr. Stegmeier babysat our speech communications class, the students lounged around the cavernous room in Lower B, earning a required credit just for taking up space. Most of the students were upperclassmen. One of them, Angela Something-Or-Other, became my first high school girlfriend, and was the reason that another upperclassmen beat the shit out of me one day (a story for another time). Another of the upperclassmen in the room was a guy that had just moved to Canby from Colorado. (I have no idea what his name was.)

One day this guy brought in a tape by a band I’d never heard of: U2. “Ha. What a funny name,” I told him. “Yeah,” he said, “but they’re really good.” He asked Mr. Stegmeier for a tape player. Mr. Stegmeier complied and we listened to an album called Under a Blood Red Sky.

I didn�t know whether to like the music or not. At the time I was listening to some Styx and Journey, but was most fond of the New Wave music that had recently swept the country. This band, U2, was straightforward rock-and-roll: drums and guitars and a lead singer with a distinctive voice. We listened to the album a couple of times over the course of a week. I decided I liked it.

That winter, KSKD began to play a song by U2 called “New Year’s Day”. I loved this song the moment I heard it. (But wait! you’re saying. Isn’t “New Year’s Day” on Under a Blood Red Sky? Why, yes it is. But I hadn’t noticed the song during speech class.) The next time we were at the Oregon City Fred Meyer (the source for all of our music in those days), I bought U2�s album War, which contained “New Year’s Day”. Jeff and I listened to this album for weeks on end. The music was fantastic. Rock-and-roll, yes, but rock-and-roll with a passion, with a unique style, with lyrics that resonated in our tiny teenaged hearts. War was the perfect album for a long winter: bleak and aching, with
promises of hope.

Sometime during this year, my friendship with Dave crumbled and Paul became my new best friend. He was also a U2 fan. Between Paul, Jeff, and myself, we soon owned every U2 album (which wasn’t difficult since there were only four of them).

In the fall of 1984, U2 released The Unforgettable Fire. Jeff and I bought the album at the Oregon City Fred Meyer again, this time on tape instead of vinyl. We listened to it constantly, as did Paul. It had a different style than the previous albums, ethereal and moody. “A Sort of Homecoming” is a typical song � full of hope and the expectation of things to come. (The whole album now reminds me of West Side Story’s “Something’s Coming”.) Paul and I listened to The Unforgettable Fire at soccer practice that fall: sun blazing, sweaty bodies, U2 playing at the edge of the field.

In the summer of 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. I spent all day lying on the couch in the living room of the trailer house, sweating, watching the show. When U2 stepped onto the stage, I turned up the volume. They began to play and I was transported. Their unending version of “Bad” (Live Aid version here) was beautiful, moving, haunting. Bono pulled a young woman on-stage and danced with her. It was magical.

Paul and I began to acquire U2 obscuria. We bought biographies of the band (difficult to find in the mid-eighties) and early 45s, we tacked posters to our walls.

The Joshua Tree was released in mid-March 1987. Before the album was released, KGON played preview tracks. We taped them. My favorite was the dark and brooding “Exit”. “With or Without You” became the first single from the album and was played all over the radio. The previous U2 singles had all but been largely ignored, but this song was climbing the charts.

On the day of The Joshua Tree�s release, Paul approached me and asked me if I wanted to skip school to buy it. I was reluctant — I had only skipped one day prior to this — but agreed. Tower Records in Eastport Plaza had become our source for music (Fred Meyer didn’t carry the obscure New Wave and techno stuff that we’d grown to love), so we drove to Portland and bought the album on both vinyl and cassette. I also bought the “With or Without You” single, the first single that I had ever seen on cassette tape instead of on a 45. We left after break (10:00ish) and were back by lunch.

The Joshua Tree was my soundtrack for the Summer of 1987. In the fall I went to college, and still played the album constantly. There were many U2 fans in the dorm, people who had liked the band even longer than I had. One time I got into a conversation about U2 with a gorgeous young woman visiting from some other school. We played “Sweetest Thing�, a B-Side to “With or Without You”, and we sat in my room laughing. She left that evening and I never saw her again.

During my sophomore year at Willamette I was a DJ at KWU, the campus radio station. I didn�t really want to be a DJ, but I knew that the station got album releases before the stores. Further, I knew that U2 was releasing an album in October. My devious plan worked. When the station received its copy of Rattle and Hum, I was able to “borrow” it to tape it weeks before I could have bought the album.

That was the fall that I pledged Kappa Sigma. One evening a group of us pledges were sitting around being cool, smoking cigars and pipes and clove cigarettes at the fraternity house, when somebody noted that the film of Rattle and Hum was playing near the campus. We threw on jackets and tromped across the wet quad, smoking our cigars and our pipes and our clove cigarettes. We were the only people in the theater (which was good, because we were surrounded by an offensive miasma that could have killed stout livestock), and the sound was poor, but we loved the movie. Afterwards, we sloughed back to campus (smoking our cigars and our pipes and our clove cigarettes) and crowded into somebody’s room to listen to old U2 albums.

In the fall of 1991 I got a job selling Combined Insurance. (This, too, is a story for another time.) The highlight of my insurance selling career was the release of U2’s new album, Achtung Baby, in November. We were canvassing in Hood River at the time, and I had trouble locating a store that sold the album. When I did find it, I sat and listened to it in my brand-new Geo Storm, a quart of chocolate milk between my knees and a box of old-fashioned cake donuts by my side (I was in the process of ballooning from 160 pounds to 190 pounds). I didn’t know what to think. I listened to the album almost constantly for a week, but still didn’t know whether I liked it or not. The sound was new and different.

I grew to like Achtung Baby with time but for the rest of the decade U2’s music left me cold. Bono became a victim of his own hype, of his own smugness, of his own self-satisfaction. He was a parody of himself, an exact image of all that he claimed to despise. The band seemed to lose its focus. U2 became more of political organization than a rock-and-roll band.

Jeff gave me All That You Can’t Leave Behind for Christmas in 2000, and while I admit “Beautiful Day” is a great song in the old-style U2 tradition, I can’t embrace most of the album. It does herald a return to their old sound, but many of the lyrics are terrible. I’m anxious to see what they produce next.

Paul continued to collect their stuff and now has a substantial collection of U2 material. In fact, when I think of U2, I think of Paul. He follows them, always knows what their next project is. He’s a U2 encyclopedia.

Which U2 album was the turning point in the band’s career, the album that spurred them to fame and glory?

For my money, it’s the live Under a Blood Red Sky. This was the album that introduced many of us to U2, the album that caused us to become U2 evangelists. Without Under a Blood Red Sky, I think U2 would be just another Midnight Oil, a rock band with modest success and a cult following but without a fan base to support megapopularity. The live performance at Red Rocks was outstanding; it helped to build a cadre of loyal fans that spread the word about the band.

And the pivotal moment in their career? Without a doubt, it’s their performance at Live Aid. This was the first time U2 had wide exposure, and the band took advantage by staging the performance of a lifetime. Synnergy. Serendipity. Whatever. Their performance brought them to the attention of casual music-buyers that might have otherwise ignored them. From that moment on, they were superstars.

“There’s been a lot of talk about this next song, maybe too much talk. This song is not a rebel song. This song is ‘Sunday Blood Sunday.'”


On 22 March 2002 (12:57 PM),
Paul said:

I thought we saw Rattle and Hum together. I know I saw it twice the day of its release. Once in Eugene and the second in Salem.

My favorite is Wide Awake in America. Though it is not a full length ep, it captures the heart of The Unforgettable Fire ep with studio and live recordings. The singles from these releases extends their offering of the sound that they produced during this period of recording.

One of their strongest singles in my opinion is PLEASE. It is a diamond in an a caucophony of different sounds from their “electronic” recording period. It is this period that you believe that ego warps U2, but I believe it is their attempt at staying current and progressive that caused a misdirection of their sound. PLEASE reconfirmed their ability to stay relevant and construct a sound that is emotional and unique.

Your story is not a just a love of U2, but also a story of JD.

On 22 March 2002 (02:04 PM),
jdroth said:

You know, you were there for the Rattle and Hum viewing. It was always great to have you visit Willamette.

I’d love to hear more singles from your collection, actually. I borrowed a pile of them a couple of years ago, but mainly just took the stuff from the early nineties. Maybe their recent stuff will sound better to me now that I’m older.

Also, you’re right: Wide Awake in America is a fantastic piece of work, even though it comprises only four songs. The Live Aid version of “Bad” isn’t commercially available (is it?), but the live recording on Wide Awake is a suitable substitute.

On 26 March 2002 (01:24 PM),
Dagny said:

Ah B wing. That *did* have character, didn’t it? I always liked it too, for what it’s worth… more than anything I miss the womb of Lower B, the speech back room. I didn’t exactly “come of age” there in the sense that’s usually meant, but I felt at home. Plus I learned the word {carrion} from the bold assertion written in permanent black marker: JODI CARGILL IS CARRION. To this day, I don’t know who had such a vendetta against Jodi Cargill, but she must have done *something* to tick someone off.

Mega-props out to Mr. Stegmeier too.

It’s like a walk down amnesia lane.

On 24 May 2002 (06:15 PM),
wicket said:

I just wanted to let you know the tradition of bieng cool in front of k sig with the cigars and cloves lives on….

On 01 April 2003 (07:17 PM),
Tiffany said:

This is off the subject and I am not all that into U2, but I just wanted to say that I am a memeber of the church the “Mr. Stegmeier” is pastor of although I refer to him as Bro. Stegmeier. He is a wonderful man, one of the kindest most giving people I have ever met in my life.

On 28 August 2003 (12:48 PM),
amy said:

I don’t know a single thing about U2, but I do have a few ‘B’ wing stories myself. Had my locker in lower B the year I got my driver’s license and dated David M. I sewed a large satin M & M in that home ec. department. Also learned how to make biscuits–my home ec teacher didn’t like me–I think because I was cuter than her… 🙂 Anyway, I graduated from CUHS in 1984, the year you were a freshman. Mrs. Hicks was a legend at that school. And Mr. Stegmeier? Never saw him write a sermon during class, but do know that he was a kind man who loved the Lord. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane.

On 05 March 2004 (04:09 PM),
Lynn said:

Mr. Stegmeier…what a neat guy. He called all the boys “Jonathon” and all the girls “Sally.”

On 24 March 2004 (01:58 PM),
Peter Stathakos said:

Two years later, I found this blog entry and it sparks a memory with me. I blog about it here.

Thanks J.D.

Non-Competitive Competition

When Nick was young he attended Drift Creek Camp for one week every summer. Each evening all of the children came together to play some large group game such as Capture-the-Flag. It was the highlight of the day. One year there was a new camp pastor who didn’t believe in competition. Instead of Capture-the-Flag he had the kids play co-operative games. For example, one evening the group took hold of the edges of a giant parachute and each kid got a turn to be in the middle, being tossed in the air by the others. The kids hated it. The new pastor was gone the next year and Capture-the-Flag was back.

I’ve begun to do research on games that Kris might enjoy. It’s difficult, though. I was under the impression that she enjoyed the games that we were playing. This isn’t the case; she wants games that are less competitive, where there’s less “screw your neighbor” type activity.

The greatest difficulty is that the games that I find most enjoyable feature a high level of player interaction. Without player interaction, a game is generally sheer luck. Admittedly this is not always the case. For example, Boggle has very little player interaction yet is based entirely on skill. Boggle might be a good option.

Dane suggested Baron Munchausen and Once Upon a Time, both story-telling games. These sound fun, actually, but I’m not sure how a group would like them, and I’m not sure how Mac and Pam would like them. (Mac and Pam are our primary game-playing partners, so it’s important to find games they’d like, too.)

I need to find games that feature either strong elements of player interaction or strong elements of skill, but not both. Most of the games I own feature both, and these are the games that are causing Kris such frustration. Luck and interaction, or skill and no interaction. Or something completely different. These are my choices.

Jeff and I had a good shouting match this morning. We started at the top of our lungs, swearing, each accusing the other of gross negligence in performing his duties here at Custom Box Service. By the end of the discussion we were talking calmly, trying to determine what we could do to make the other person happy. We’ve both been trying to be more diligent since February but feel the other is still slacking. Obviously we’re not paying attention to each other, giving proper credit for changed behavior. Now we’re going to each try to be more diligent and to be aware what the other person is doing.

The joys of a small family business…

In the Bedroom

Kris and I went on another date tonight. We had a good time.

I met Kris downtown at her office and we walked a couple of blocks to Veritable Quandary, a venerable (but hip) upscale Portland restaurant.

Veritable Quandary is built of brick and hardwood and glass. The building feels old; it would not be out of place in Boston. The entry leads directly to a long, narrow bar, packed with people at 5 p.m. on a weeknight, sitting and standing in Oregon raingear but posh — these are lawyers and executives, an upscale clientele.

We didn’t have reservations but politely asked if we might get a table for two this early in the evening. The host was reluctant, but he accommodated us. His voice and actions made it clear that we were imposing, creating difficulties with his scheduling, but he let us in nonetheless.

The service was excellent. The staff was attentive. Our table was kept clean, our water glasses filled. Kris’ coffee was always hot. We were never kept waiting between courses.

The menu was somewhat intimidating (I’m not sure why), but we were both pleased with our selections. To start, Kris had a salad of wild greens with toasted leeks and cave-aged (!) gruyere cheese with which she was well-pleased. My appetizer was unusual: grilled Black Angus beef on a skewer with a Peruvian (!) marinade of red wine vinegar. What made the marinade Peruvian? The beef had only a subtle, mild flavoring. It was served with potato slices and a hard-boiled egg (!) and a sort of mustard sauce. The combination was unusual, but good.

For the main course, Kris selected the wild-mushroom raviolis with crisp duck confit. She liked it (I wouldn’t try it due to the mushrooms), but it cannot have been as good as my meal, which was fantastic. I opted for Oregon venison served with mashed potatoes and roasted onions. Outstanding! Perhaps all venison is this good, though I suspect that’s unlikely. The meat was smooth and flavorful, encrusted with pepper and seasonings. The potatoes were unique: creamy but firm, a perfect compliment to the venison. The onions and some wild greens provided additional flavor.

Though we were both stuffed, we decided to try our luck at dessert. We’re glad we did. Kris had a Tiramasu with an espresso filling. I selected lemon curd ice cream served with a selection of cakes and cookies. Both desserts were delicious. The lemon curd ice cream was thick, thicker and richer than any ice cream I’ve had before. The cookies, most of them chocolate, were passable but a perfect compliment to the ice cream.

Last July, Andrew and I went to the Veritable Quandary for brunch one Sunday. We were unimpressed. The service was poor — we were the only customers in the restaurant at 2 p.m. on a Sunday — and the food vastly over-priced. Our experience last night began poorly and I was prepared to hate the place. After such an exquisite meal, however, my opinion has altered for the favorable.

After dinner, Kris and I completed our quest to see every Oscar nominee for Best Picture. In the Bedroom is a nearly-perfect film, one of the best films I have ever seen. (Note that I do not say that it is one of my favorite films; I say that it’s one of the best films I’ve seen.)

There is little that I can say that Roger Ebert has not already said in his review:

**** (R)

December 25, 2001

Matt Fowler: Tom Wilkinson
Ruth Fowler: Sissy Spacek
Frank Fowler: Nick Stahl
Strout: William Mapother
Natalie: Marisa Tomei
Miramax presents a film directed by Todd Field. Written by Robert Fetsinger and Field, based on a short story by Andre Dubus. Running time: 130 minutes. Rated R (for some violence and language).


Todd Field’s “In the Bedroom” only slowly reveals its real subject in a story that has a shocking reversal at the end of the first act, and then looks more deeply than we could have guessed into the lives of its characters. At first, it seems to be about a summer romance. At the end, it’s about revenge–not just to atone for a wound, but to prove a point. The film involves love and violence, and even some thriller elements, but it is not about those things. It is about two people so trapped in opposition that one of them must break.

The story opens in sunshine and romance. Frank Fowler (Nick Stahl) is in love with Natalie Strout (Marisa Tomei). He’ll be a new graduate student in the autumn. She is in her 30s, has two children, is estranged from Richard (William Mapother), who is a rich kid and an abusive husband. Frank’s parents are worried. “This is not some sweetie from Vassar you can visit on holidays,” his mother tells him. “You’re not in this alone.”

“We’re not serious, Mom,” Frank says. “It’s a summer thing.”

“I see,” says his mother. She sees clearly that Frank really does love Natalie–and she also sees that Frank’s father may be vicariously enjoying the relationship, proud that his son has conquered an attractive older woman.

Ruth Fowler (Sissy Spacek) is a choral director at the local high school. Her husband, Matt (Tom Wilkinson), is the local doctor in their Maine village. On the local social scale, they are a step above the separated Natalie and her husband, whose money comes from the local fish business. Is Ruth a snob? She wouldn’t think so. The Fowlers pride themselves on being intelligent, open-minded, able to talk about things with their son (who does not want to talk about anything with them). We sense that their household accommodates enormous silences, that the parents and their son have each retreated to a personal corner to nurse wounds.

Then something happens. A review should not tell you what it is. It changes our expectations for the story, which turns out to be about matters more deeply embedded in the heart than we could have imagined. The film unfolds its true story, which is about the marriage of Matt and Ruth–about how hurt and sadness turn to anger and blame. There are scenes as true as movies can make them, and even when the story develops thriller elements, they are redeemed, because the movie isn’t about what happens, but about why.

“In the Bedroom” is the first film directed by Todd Field, an actor (“Eyes Wide Shut,” “The Haunting”), and is one of the best-directed films this year. It’s based on a story by the late Andre Dubus, the Massachusetts-based writer who died in 1999, and who worked with Field on the adaptation before his death. It works with indirection; the events on the screen are markers for secret events in the hearts of the characters, and the deepest insight is revealed, in a way, only in the last shot.

Every performance has perfect tone: Nick Stahl as the man who is half in love with a woman and half in love with being in love; Marisa Tomei, who is wiser than her young lover, and protective toward him, because she understands better than he does the problems they face; William Mapother as the abusive husband, never more frightening than when he tries to be conciliatory and apologetic; William Wise and Celia Weston as the Grinnels, the Fowlers’ best friends.

And Sissy Spacek and Tom Wilkinson. They know exactly what they’re doing, they understand their characters down to the ground, they are masters of the hidden struggle beneath the surface. Spacek plays a reasonable and civil wife and mother who has painful issues of her own; there is a scene where she slaps someone, and it is the most violent and shocking moment in a violent film. Wilkinson lives through his son more than he admits, and there is a scene where he surprises Frank and Natalie alone together, and finds a kind of quiet relish in their embarrassment. When Matt and Ruth lash out at each other, when the harsh accusations are said aloud, we are shocked but not surprised; these hard notes were undertones in their civilized behavior toward each other. Not all marriages can survive hard times.

Most movies are about plot, and chug from one stop to the next. Stephen King, whose book, On Writing, contains a lot of good sense, argues for situation over plot; he suggests that if you do a good job of visualizing your characters, it is best to put them into a situation and see what happens, instead of chaining them to a plot structure. Todd Field and Andre Dubus use the elements of plot, but only on the surface, and the movie’s title refers not to sex but to the secrets, spoken, unspoken and dreamed, that are shared at night when two people close the door after themselves.

If you like fine film drama, you owe it to yourself to see this movie.

According to the Weather Channel (and every other weather source I can find), we’re likely to have a white St. Patrick’s day. Bizarre.

Special weather statement
National Weather Service Portland or
950 PM PST Thu Mar 14 2002

…An unseasonably cold storm system still expected to produce very low snow Levels Friday night into the weekend…

A very cold storm system is still expected to organize near Vancouver Island on Friday then Drop South into the area Friday night into the weekend. Snow Levels will initially fall to 1000 feet by Friday afternoon…Then down to 500 feet late Friday night through Saturday. This should still allow snow to mix with rain in the lower valleys with mostly snow above 500 feet where some accumulation is possible. It still remains possible that mixed precipitation in the lower valleys could Turn to all snow for a time…Especially Saturday morning producing light sticking snow. Thunderstorms are also possible Saturday as the atmosphere will be very unstable.

The latest recorded snowfall at the Portland international airport stands at nearly 1 inch on the 10th of March 1951. Any accumulation would set a new record for the latest snowfall at the airport.


On 14 March 2005 (08:07 PM),
J.D. said:

Three years later, I have to say: this is strong praise for a film I barely remember.

Running Bear

I was raised listening to classical music and 60s folk rock, but the music my father loved was the rock-and-roll of the late 50s and early 60s. Dad graduated from high school in 1963; the music from 1959-1963 was his favorite.

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

Dad played guitar in high school. At least one yearbook has pictures of him playing and singing on stage. He played at talent shows, and possibly at other occasions. When I was young he played at family gatherings, singing those old songs that he loved.

(The song I most clearly remember him playing is “Running Bear”, an old Johnny Preston tune. I can remember a Thanksgiving at Uncle Norman’s house in Monitor, Dad seated in the living room bellering “Running Bear”, and a young Tony running naked through the house.)

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

At home we listened to Simon and Garfunkel, Peter Paul and Mary, Neil Diamond, and similar musicians. Sure, Dad liked their music, but he loved Buddy Holly. He never listened to Buddy Holly. He never played the Del Vikings. He didn’t listen to the radio stations that played their songs and he didn’t ever buy any of their records or tapes.

Why didn’t he listen to this music?

The film Stand By Me was released in 1986. When Dad first heard the sountrack he was giddy, his face glowed. He beamed. He told me a story about every song. (His favorite was “Come Go With Me” by the Del Vikings.)

It was obvious that he loved this music, so why didn’t he ever listen to it?

This is a photo of Dad singing for Norman’s family in the living room of the trailer house in which I was raised. My cousin Bob is the blond kid sitting on the arm of the couch. My cousin Nick is sitting to Dad’s right, and next to him sits Dad’s brother, Norman. Nick and I can’t figure out who the kid sitting behind Bob is.

The trailer house now serves as the office for Custom Box Service. The living room is now the “employee lounge” (such as it is). My office, where I sit now and type this, is in Mom and Dad’s old bedroom. Custom Box is nothing if not frugal.

Note the lovely goldenrod curtains and the stylish wood paneling. The entire trailer house, including my office, has this same wood paneling. I’ve lived with it my entire life. I’m sick of it. Above Norman’s head you can see that the ceiling is already water-stained, though the trailer house can be no more than five years old when this picture was taken. The trailer is thirty years old now and the ceiling has too many water stains to count.

Here are two of the songs that I remember my father singing (the latter of which, “The Prisoner’s Song”, is similar to the music featured on the popular O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack):

Running Bear
(J.P. Richardson)

Johnny Preston (Mercury 71474, 1959)

On the banks of the river
Stood Runnin’ Bear, young Indian brave
On the other side of the river
Stood his lovely Indian maid
Little White Dove was-a her name
Such a lovely sight to see
But their tribes fought with each other

So their love could never be

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love that couldn’t die

He couldn’t swim the raging river
‘Cause the river was too wide
He couldn’t reach Little White Dove

Waiting on the other side
In the moonlight he could see her
Throwing kisses ‘cross the waves
Her little heart was beating faster
Waiting there for her brave

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove

With a love that couldn’t die

Runnin’ Bear dove in the water
Little White Dove did the same
And they swam out to each other
Through the swirling stream they came
As their hands touched and their lips met
The ragin’ river pulled them down
Now they’ll always be together

In that happy hunting ground

Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love big as the sky
Runnin’ Bear loved Little White Dove
With a love that couldn’t die

  The Prisoner’s Song
(Guy Massey)
Vernon Dalhart (1925)

Oh! I wish I had someone to love me
Someone to call me their own
Oh! I wish I had someone to live with
‘Cause I’m tired of livin’ alone

Please meet me tonight in the moonlight
Please meet me tonight all alone
For I have a sad story to tell you
It’s a story that’s never been told

I’ll be carried to the new jail tomorrow
Leaving my poor darling alone
With the cold prison bars all around me
And my head on a pillow of stone

Now I have a grand ship on the ocean
All mounted with silver and gold
And before my poor darlin’ would suffer
Oh! that ship would be anchored and sold

Now if I had wings like an angel
Over these prison bars I would fly
And I’d fly to the arms of my poor darlin’
And there I’d be willing to die.


On 08 March 2002 (09:39 PM),
Dane said:

In the same vein, why doesn’t my dad like anything?

My dad can be a voluminous reader. He reads quickly and has good retention. He does read for pleasure. But he doesn’t buy anything to read for pleasure. He reads the paper and magazines. Very occasionally (I can remember ONCE — the Joy Luck Club) he will get a book for a plane trip.

When you ask him what he likes to read, he answers, “Anything.”

I have finally managed to find stuff he actively dislikes. I gave him copies of Copeland’s Microserfs and also Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49. He didn’t finish either and described them as “weird.”

So I know he has limits.

I don’t understand why he doesn’t actually buy books for himself to read when he clearly enjoys reading. I don’t understand why he won’t admit to liking any particular genre or style of book. It’s a mystery.

On 08 March 2002 (09:41 PM),
J.D. said:

I agree that this is strange. What is it that caused our fathers to behave like this? Is it something generational?

On 08 March 2002 (09:46 PM),
Dane said:

I dunno. It may have something to do with their ages. I think your dad was (technically) a boomer, too, but at the same time I get the impression he didn’t “partake” of the boomer culture in general, and neither have my parents. They were far too “straight laced” — they graduated from college around 1967, but it was a Lutheran college and women weren’t allowed to wear pants. Stuff like that.

On 18 April 2002 (09:27 PM),
Nota Dad said:

Mr. Dane,

Don’t know what is meant by “(technically) a boomer, too”, but if da doofy dad did da grad in 1963, he was likely born during that wwII thing and no way a boomer, and, I can tell you, spent his formative years experiencing things in a different way than the multitudes who followed did. Herein is probably also a clue to why he likes to experience the music and books the way he does.
Now I go try out Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49.

On 01 December 2002 (11:14 PM),
Ron said:


The other person in the picture is Steve Grover, the first foster child my parents had. This picture would have been taken in 1974.

On 03 March 2003 (10:56 AM),
Sandi said:

1963 was a great year to graduate, and I am sure that somewhere, his high school, like ours, is planning a 40th reunion……who remembers the songs from 1959-1963??? Unfortunately, our committee to find these songs, is brain dead! Help!

On 28 March 2003 (04:58 PM),
Teresa said:

i would greatly appreciate any pictures on Running Bear either on his own or with White Dove, I’m really desperate, please help