Thursday, June 01, 2017

We Called Him Billy

 By Fred Owens

The Bill Murray interview is not going to work. Murray is famous for not responding by email or phone. I have his P.O. address so I could send him a letter. As it is I emailed his older brother Ed. Ed responded with updated information about the Murray family, and actually that's what I want to write about -- the Murray kids -- Ed, Brian, Nancy and Bill, and the neighborhood in Wilmette, and the Catholic school we all went to -- so I don't actually need to interview Bill -- I do have a lot of question for Ed -- only if he is interested in working with me.

But when I see Bill Murray give that dead pan look in a movie, I know where it came from -- St. Joe's, that was our school. I saw that look on a lot of guys -- Tommy O'Rourke, Richie Bleser, Johnny Temple, Tony Viti --  the boys on the Ridge, acting like they were tough and everybody knew they weren't tough at all. These were the leafy suburbs for crying out loud. The toughest kids were like buttermilk pancakes. But they all had that dead pan look.

And Bill Murray had the same look only he took it to a higher plane. A much higher level, a cosmic, even metaphysical level. He took that deadpan look higher, but his feet were always on the ground in the old neighborhood -- St. Joe's. Anybody who was there will tell you that and we're all really proud of what Bill did with it.
In the next issue, we'll talk about the Caddy Shack -- the real caddy shack where us kids worked  --  they made the movie on this.
And we called him Billy.

"The most useless thing I can think of"
I wrote this email letter to Frederick Thulin III  -- we went to high school together

Dear Frederick,
I looked you up in the 1964 Yearbook  -- in the back of the book where they list all your activities. You had none. Horst Metz had a long list of honors -- four years in the Torch Club, home room president, feature editor of the school newspaper, etc.Horst was his first name but everybody called him Joe --  Joe was good at physics and he got accepted to MIT which was kind of impressive at the time.
You, on the other hand, judging by evidence left in the school yearbook, had no activities. The bell rang, you slammed your locker door and left campus. So where did you go after school? Did you hang out with friends? Did you build model railroads in your garage? You were a teenager, so you might have had all kinds of trouble. Maybe your parents didn't like your attitude.
I did not know you too well at school, but you seemed to be a good fellow and friendly enough.
But there's one thing I remember about you on our last days of senior year. You had been accepted to Michigan State University. Nothing unusual about that, but then you announced you were going to study Arabic.I asked why. And you answered, "I'm going to study Arabic because it is the most useless thing I can think of."
Did you study Arabic? and was that useless?
I would be glad to hear the story of your life since high school and tell you my story as well, but first I want to clear up the Arabic question.
all my best,
Fred Owens
Thulin has not responded to this message.

We called him Joe, but his real name was Horst.
Horst Metz, Another Friend from High School, is retired and lives in Sanibel, Florida

Dear Joe,
We were in the AP classes together. You were a friendly classmate although we did not pal around together.

You excelled at physics. You mastered the course and even looked for greater challenges. You saw the beauty of science . I admired your focus and sense of purpose. You were accepted at MIT and you may have done well in some STEM career.
I, like probably half the student body, had no clue as to where I was going or what I was going to do with my life. But I did face life with a sense of wonder and I have somehow managed to end up in Santa Barbara, which is an undeserved pleasure.
What follows is a questionnaire, the first of several. It is daunting. I invite you to look at it and respond.
I am sending this questionnaire to various classmates. These are sincere questions. I actually want to know what you think and how you feel about these things.
It's Academic

I'm calling this project It's Academic in memory of the old quiz show. Life is a series of tests, right?
1.Our Lady of Angels School Fire, Dec. 1, 1958
"A total of 92 pupils and 3 nuns ultimately died when smoke, heat, fire, and toxic gasses cut off their normal means of escape through corridors and stairways."
We were in the seventh grade. These students were no different than us. Nuns like our nuns. The newspaper were full of burn stories day after day. We learned about third degree and second degree burns -- multiple surgeries and skin grafts. Do you remember?
Not a year later, we were in the 8th grade and a Chicago team finally won the pennant. Nellie Fox at 2nd base. Louis Aparicio at shortstop. We beat the Yankees, finally...... Were you a Cubs fan or a White Sox fan?

When President Kennedy was killed, my friend Mary McGrory said to Pat Moynihan, "We'll never laugh again." And Moynihan, who later became a U.S. senator, replied, "Mary, we'll laugh again, but we'll never be young again."    ---- Art Buchwald
You could write 50 words or 5,000 words about that day. The announcement came over the loudspeaker while we were in the classroom. What priest made that announcement? Was it Fr. Reinke?
4. The Beatles make their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Feb. 9, 1964
"On February 9th, 1964, The Beatles, with their Edwardian suits and mop top haircuts, made their first American television appearance—LIVE—on The Ed Sullivan Show."
Not three months after Kennedy was killed, the Beatles sang their first songs in America. The tragedy of Kennedy and the joy of the Beatles -- when did you realize that something had begun, something we later called The Sixties?

5. Protests at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, August 1968. "The violence between police and anti-Vietnam war protesters in the streets and parks of Chicago gave the city a black-eye from which it has yet to completely recover."
Where were you when this happened? Were you in the crowd on the street? Did you watch it on TV at home? What did you think about this? What did your parents think about this?
6. Migration. Twenty of our classmates now live in California. Others moved to Florida or Texas. Did you leave the Chicago area? Why? Or did you stay in Chicago? Why did you stay?
7. Your Choice. What event marked your life  -- marked it with joy or bitterness?

all my best,
Joe responded to this message. He prefers to be called Horst. He said going by Joe was simply a high school experiment. He answered the questions in a thoughtful and vigorous manner. It was really interesting to hear what he had to say.

Frog Hospital Subscription Drive. The spring subscription drive took in $225, which is disappointing. We had hoped for over $500, but we are undismayed and will devise a new promotion shortly.

Push the Bus. This short novel is about a gang of hippie-hooligans barnstorming through south Texas in 1973. For a cost of $25 I can mail you a spiral-bound printed manuscript  -- it's 120 pages of enjoyable reading.
Tutoring and Writing Coach. I am offering my service as a tutor and writing coach in the Santa Barbara area. I have not yet gotten my first customer, but someone with experience in this field encouraged me. She said the first student is the hardest one to find.
Gardening work. The tutoring work is supposed to gradually supplant my gardening income, but until it does I am out there on most week days pulling weeds and pruning roses. I have a half dozen steady customers.
Desalination Plant Opens in Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara will now receive over 30% of its potable water from a desalination plant that became operational this week.

Politics. Let's finish with politics. I read the morning news on the Internet but it doesn't make sense. My children and my girlfriend encourage me to not write about politics, so, unless there is some overwhelming demand from the readership, I will leave it at that.
be well,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

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