Iím 78, and thereís no telling how much longer I might live. My father died when he was 76. My getting through the year I was 76 was very difficult for me. My mother lived to be 89. I hope to make it to 89, and maybe more. Except, during the last two years of her life, my mother lived with us, and she was in Ya Ya Land. As best I could tell, she thought she was living during a time before she met my father, and I think she thought I was her older brother. She had no idea who Jackee (my wife) was. She called her ďone of the girls.Ē My motherís mother had Alzheimerís, and Iím pretty certain she did too. She had dementia for sure. Well, Iím beginning to loose large hunks of my memory. This could be natural, due to aging, or it could be that Iím starting to go through the initial stages of dementia. Iím sure that there are some things that I might be able to do to slow down this process, but I donít have the time to pursue this. The good news is Ö my mother was feeling no pain when she was in Ya Ya Land. The only peculiar thing about it all was that she never acted like the TV was on―when it was on. For her, it was like it wasnít there. Her heart was what got her in the end. Since I have high blood pressure, Iím hoping for the same. But, not for a while―a long while!
Except now Ö since Iíve outlived my father, Iím haunted by the death of my Uncle Charlie. He was my motherís youngest sibling. He was 12 when I was born. I was an only child and he was very much like an older brother to me. In fact, he called me ďBrother.Ē And, not Max. He was very much involved in my youth. He took me fishing and hunting numerous times when I was a kid. One of his best friends changed my life forever. It would have never happened if they hadnít been friends. Long story there. So, my Uncle Charlie had a big influence on my life when I was growing up.
What I remember about him most from my youth was that he was a wood worker. He was almost a cabinet maker, but not quite one. This is highly precision work that requires special tools. Becoming a cabinet maker was always on his to-do list. He made me want to be one―which, aside from building a few things out of wood when I was still young, I never got close to ever doing, but I still want to do this―after I get a few million other things done that Iíve always wanted to do, but have never found the time or the money to be able to do. Like being able to develop my own film. You remember film donít you? I once bought an enlarger for medium format cameras, and I still have it in storage. Iím sure that IĎll get around to having a photo studio in our basement one day in the not too distant future.
When I was a kid, My Uncle Charlie had a woodworking shop in his basement. There, he had a record player and either Billy Vaughn, or Chet Adkins could always be heard. He made fishing lures from cedar. He did this on a work bench that heíd built that was almost chest high. He fastened a wooden folding chair on top of a wooden barrel. This enabled him to sit in the chair and work at his work bench sitting down. I could be wrong about this, but I doubt if anyone ever had such a contraption. I distinctly recall the day (during his absence) when Iíd become tall enough to be able to climb up on this sitting device, and I could sit on it like he did―without having it tumble over with me (which had happened several times before I was able to do it).
The fishing lures that he meticulously made while sitting on top of this make-shift high stool that had a back were more than just beautiful. They were works of art. Best of all, they caught bass. The last step in this process was sprinkling glitter on the wet clear fingernail polish, and I remember watching him do this many times. After the fingernail polish dried, he put the lure in his tackle box. It was humongous. When you opened it Ö there were several fold-out sections. Iím sure that he had well over a hundred lures in it. One day when we were going fishing, he said, ďGrab my tackle box!Ē I couldnít begin to lift it. It weighed so much. I donít know how it didnít sink his boat. Which wasnít a lot more than a row boat with a small outboard motor.
In his basement he also loaded his own high powered rifle ammo, and I helped him with this. Thereís a plunger like gizmo that looks a little like a water pump that you use to punch the primer out of the cartridge so that you can replace it with a new one. You have to be careful doing this or youíll punch a hole in your thumb. One day, I did this. It hurt a lot. When it happened, Charlie said to me, ďWelcome to the club Brother Ö youíre now an official ammo loader!Ē
The other thing that I remember about him during my youth was that he taught me how to tie a half-Windsor. Back in the days when I was practicing law, I donít think I ever put on a tie without thinking about how he showed me how to get the knot just right. You may not know this Ö very often, how well youíve tied your tie is often the determining factor with many judges when deciding which side is going to win a case. I credited my Uncle Charlie for all of my wins.
We were very close during the last years of his life. Heíd pretty much become a recluse. He was in Lexington, and I was in Louisville. We talked on the phone often. He never married. His only companion was a grey cat he named SpeedyĒ that was a master at catching mice.
One day while we were talking, he told me that it was his birthday and he was 80. He said, ďI canít believe that Iím 80.Ē He died a year and a half later, in January of 2013. He was my only relative that I was anywhere close to.
Now, I canít believe that it was 10 years ago that he died, and in a year and a half, Iíll be 80. Last week, another one of my old friends from Lexington died. He was one of the most interesting guys Iíve ever known. His work made him a world traveler, and there wasnít anywhere that he hadnít been. He had the stories to prove it. Late in his career, while he was in Ireland, he did his part in producing a redheaded daughter that came out of a brief love affair that he had with her mother. Last year, he went there to be at her wedding. Sheís getting half of his ashes. His son, who is in Lexington, is getting the other half.
Iím pretty certain that during whatís left of my life Iíll be concentrating on writing novels that can become movies. I know this is crazy Ö but, why not? It keeps my mind busy. During the past year, Iíve been hard at work studying this craft. Iíve read dozens of books on how to do it. I know how my mind works when Iím trying to learn new things, and Iím very close to making a breakthrough. I know that I have great limitations when it comes to this endeavor. But, Iím not going to make any effort to overcome them.
Mainly because the part of writing fiction that I like best is the plotting, and Iím not very good at any of the rest. I believe that if you can come up with a good plot thatís in a setting that people like, theyíll overlook all of your inabilities. This is what the movie people are after. They want an unusual story. There are certain parts to fiction that have to be really good for a story to be one that people like. Aside from all else, the characheters have to be really likable and what their presence brings to the story is critical. I have a very easy way to solve this problem when Iím writing. Since my intent is to write something that will some day become a movie, I pick the actors that I want to be in the movies that Iím writing for and this enables me to know pretty well what the characters that Iím developing inside my head are going to be like. Thatís because, in the case of male movie actors Ö they always play themselves. Some movie actresses are much more skillful than men. They can disguise themselves very well, and in doing so, they can become people theyíre not by simply changing their hair color and their hair style.
Weíd all like for there to be a movie, or a documentary about the Kingston Trio. Hereís what I think about this possibility. If you watched the documentary about the Beach Boys Ö I thought it was pretty good. https://www.cbs.com/shows/video/Xn3CwiS3o_LdViEd6IQ6tOGMDjjdnwco
Having Tom Hanks do the introduction was pretty impressive. But Ö how much did the documentary impress you? And, how long do you think youíll remember what was in it? Itís been scientifically proven that documentary type stories that are mostly factual do not make a very strong impression on people, and their contents are quickly forgotten. Thatís unless something extraordinary happens in the story that is likely to make a strong impression on people. In your mindís eye, did anything extraordinary happen with the Beach Boys over the course of their careers―aside from the untimely deaths of two of the Wilson brothers, and Brianís mental problems? If you didnít watch the documentary, I can tell you that the Beach Boyís story is not a very happy one. Many parts of it are downright depressing. This was not the first time that a movie or a documentary has been made of their lives. Read whatís told about them in Wikipedia and youíll see what I mean.
Now, what if a similar documentary was made of the Kingston Trio? Would it be any different? If anything, I think it would be far less interesting. Particularly since none of the original members of the Trio are alive now. Aside from Daveís leaving the Trio and being replaced by John Stewart, and many years later, Daveís learning that he had cancer just when a big reunion concert was about to kick-off, there isnít much to the Kingston Trioís story―not enough to interest any big time documentary makers, as was the case with the Beach Boys. Iím saying this not as a Trio fan, but as someone (not me) who did not have a really strong interest in the Trio back in the days when they were popular, and someone who would be much younger that never heard of them. Iím saying this because I donít believe that the big time documentary makers would believe that there are not enough die hard Trio fans to support making a big time documentary about the Trio that would be shown on any of the TV networks and movie channels.
As I see it, the biggest problem with the Trio is that they began in the 1950s, and not the 1960s. Most of the Trioís fans are dead. Thereís no getting around this. These are the hard cold facts. So, if we want the Trio to get its due Ö the only way this will be possible is if people younger than us learn what we know about the Trio. How can this happen? This is the $64 question.
It canít happen with a documentary kind of story because theyíre quickly forgotten, and this will be particularly true with the Trio because nothing outstanding ever happened to them―aside from their selling so many albums so fast, and this is just a mere statistic. Statistics last only a few milliseconds in peopleís minds. To make a lasting impression on someone you have to find a way to punch them in the gut. Thereís nothing about the Kingston Trio story-wise that can do this. They had some songs that certainly had this ability, but nothing took place in their lives, aside from Daveís too-soon death, that could do this, and his passing I donít think would be enough to base a story on if youíre not already a fan. Being in a band, and dying―usually from drugs, is pretty common in the entertainment industry. Mary Traversí death, I believe was far more significant since she was still performing with PP&M when her illness got the best of her. So, where does this leave us? Only one place. Someone has to tell a damn good lie for the Trio to get the credit it deserves for all that it did. This is what Iím going to try to do. Since, for the most part, fictional stories are lies. My working title for this endeavor is 1959―since I believe it was the Trioís best album year. Stay tuned. BTW, this is going to take a while. To make ends meet, I just got a job.