Tuesday, June 12, 2018

I love a good word list...

A word and phrase list from my mom's journal...yes, I'm reading it.  (Of course!  She read mine when I was a teenager!  Her excuse?  "I was worried about you...")

Alas, Google demystified where the words were from, but even though I know she was reading Taylor Caldwell's "Lion of God: A Novel about Saint Paul", I still don't know what she was thinking about as she chose these words in particular.  I can only imagine.

Knowing her...if it was really a secret, she wouldn't have written it down at all, and definitely wouldn't have NOT burned it already!!

Knowing her...

Ironic, and not, that she lost her voice the last 2 years of life.  Oh, the things she typed to me on that phone, and then promptly deleted. Oh, the things I learned, and things I will never learn.

As Laurie Anderson says, in "World without End"...when my [mother] died...it was like a whole library burned down.

Onto the list:
Fascinating.  Trivial.  Frivolous.  Boisterous.  Impulsive.  Circumstance.  Ecstatic.  Contentment.  Apathy has seized.  Rippling gently.  Closed and peaceful.  Radiant face.  Declining.  Contempt.  Lenient.  Refraining.  Beyond bearing.  Tedious.  Turmoil.  Tremendous.  Scrupulous.  Reviled.  Authentic.  Disheveled.  Incoherent.  Subdue.  Resistance.  Sorcerer.  Preposterous.  Shattered.  Stupefaction.  Enthusiasm.  Exuberance.  Inquisitive.  Assertive.  Condescendingly.  Bafflement.  Reluctance.  Vivid.  Glistening and translucent. 

Gave himself up to grief and remorse.  Rain came in long, gray spears of slashing water.  Mysterious dreamlike peace.  Passion made his spirit soar.  The sweetest wind frolicked among new flowers.  Whispering and singing life all about him.  The pond was like a liquid sapphire.  His heart was like a ready cymbal ready to be struck.  The light was so incandescent it hurt the eye.  Quivering with brilliance.  

That's all she wrote....

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Life is for the Birds...

And just like that, a year and a half whooshes by.  A month after my last post, I lost my mom to ALS.  Several times I've attempted to *blog* about it but I didn't know where to start.

Now, as I go through 72 years of memories, I'm finding jewels worth sharing...the nostalgic bits that fill in the blanks.  No need to start at the beginning...let's start in the 70's, shall we?!

I found a little green notebook that appears to have been dipped in oil.  The words are fading but I managed to transpose them. 

It contained a long "memoir" of sorts that my mom (Pinky) wrote back in 1975 when she and dad were done skating with the Ice Capades (my fault!) but were still with the show in technical positions. 

It will make more sense to those of you who knew Pat and Bill, or Ed Krieg, or how the birds functioned in the Ice Capades finale.

(Some spelling has been corrected as well as a few bits of grammar...but most I left as she wrote it because it wouldn't be mom's writing without some good, long run-on sentences! :)

Time in a Bottle
“My Life is for the Birds”
Memoirs of Patricia “Pinky” Brenner (Forbes)

Traveling with a road show has its ups and downs. When most people find out that we travel eleven months out of the year they say things like; “What a rotten life that must be, no roots, someplace different each week, you have to find a new grocery store in each city, can't do your laundry at home, only see your relatives when you play your hometown, your children won't have playmates, can't go to school like the other kids, no excitement...”

And we say, it's great! WE love it. No neighbors to have petty arguments with over a tree that's planted on your side and the limbs are growing over the fence to their side. Who's going to cut them down, you or us? It's cheaper to do your laundry at the laundromat. The initial cost of a washer and dryer takes six months to pay off or longer, then there's repairs, water, electric, baskets to put your clothes in, repairs...and repairs...

Relatives love to visit and talk, you know? “My niece is in show biz, bright lights, famous!” they say.  Mother (Leah) doesn't get all excited anymore because we've been here since [“22”] and my daddy was in show biz, the real show biz...”Vaudeville”, for 20 years.

As far as my daughter goes, she loves it. You ask any child if they'd like to travel or better yet, come backstage, and see costumes up close, people put on make-up?  And even better than that be able to ice skate – free of charge every day?! She has seen more of this good old mother earth in her two years than some folks see their entire life time. When you stop and think about it, how many city kids do you know that have seen a cow close up? Or can read a map, and know which way is north – she can! What better education can she get? She sees all the sights from Atlantic City to as far West as Hawaii, as far North as Toronto, Canada to as far South as Atlanta, Georgia and Texas.

As for school work, she's two and she already knows her alphabet and can count to twenty. And, there is always correspondence school. My sister took correspondence when we were on the road with daddy and she was a lot brighter in school than I was when we finally settled in Philadelphia. She had a very close teacher, my mother. Playmates are no problem. There are 3 families with our show with children and one family with one on the way. Living in a motorhome is the ideal way. And, as far as excitement goes, well, let me tell ya!

Things were getting a little routine for me after the birth of our baby girl, Kimberley Erna. But things always change, nothing stays the same. When we landed in L.A. From Hawaii, we went to the studio to say hello to everyone and show off our gorgeous tans, and Kimberley's fancy Hawaiian clothes. We were hit with some exciting news. Our Vice President said, “Bill and Pat, we have an extra job for you guys next year, and extra money. We'd like you to take care of 32 birds (pigeons)”

“Sure…” says Bill. But later, when we got home he says, “No way! You're taking care of the birds. I'm not going to even look at them!” But I don't know the first thing about pigeons. All I know is that they hang around statues and turn them white! I didn't want a single solitary thing to do with them and I made myself perfectly clear.

Summer vacation came and with our trip to Lake El Mirage to run our land sailer and ride our motorcycles, canoeing on the Colorado River, stopping at Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands National Park on our way back to Bill’s home in Kansas...we completely forgot about the birds until summer vacation was over and we were in Atlantic City again with a new show, new props, new costumes, new faces and a new project. “The Birds”.

After our first week there, we get on inner-office memo; “Re: pick up Mr. Ed Krieg at Philadelphia International Airport, United flight 426 at 5:17 pm.”

So, off we go in a rented station wagon to Philly. We took advantage of a little small side trip to visit my mother in town. Did you ever have the opportunity to pick someone up at the airport that you hadn't a clue as to what they look like? It's an experience in itself. All the way to the airport we tried to visualize what he might look like. By the time we got to the airport, he was; very, very tall, skinny, lanky, with long, jet black, straggly hair, sunken cheeks, bearded, milk bottom glasses, wearing a black suit...and all hunched over like a vulture!

What a surprise it was when this nice looking, short blond hair, pleasing glowing smile, nicely dressed man sat down in the front seat, turned to me in the back seat, shot out his hand for a hearty hello and said, “Hi! I'm Ed Krieg, you must be...” Stunned, I said...”Pat Brenner...and this is Kimberley our side kick” Thinking to myself while all this was going on...was right about the glasses, not milk bottom, but glasses nonetheless! When his hand touched mine it was like instant friendship, such a warm, strong hand. Hands are the way through the years I've learned to judge people. The way they look, how they move and the way they feel when you shake to say hello project a lot about a person.

Now the ball was rolling. Ed and his pigeons were there. We talked all the way from the airport to Atlantic City about each other, different experiences, places we've been while all the time Kimberley was tantalizing the birds! (Ahem, I need to step in here and say I was not tantalizing the birds, but merely...showing them affection!) Needless to say, as soon as I met Ed and his 32 foster children, I fell in love and from that moment I knew...this job was MINE!

We got the birds all set up in their new home, Ed in his hotel and when we finally got home ourselves, I couldn't sleep a wink from the excitement. The next day, we flew the birds in a closed room so they couldn't fly away. They had to get used to the box they have to land on during the show. When they flew for the first time it was the most breathtaking sight. I fell in love again. Every day after that first flight they got better and better till we took them onto the ice. Each day, we moved farther and farther down ice till we were right smack up to the front dash.

Once we had a couple of birds fly away and we spent most of the day running up and down the steps of the auditorium trying to net them down. But suddenly, victory. Ed caught two in the net. That's a thrilling sight to see Ed catch a bird in flight with a net! And, I know from experience it's not an easy chore. The final result was...sore legs.

The birds are quick, and very clever. We got them all back thanks to Ed and I thought to myself, “I'll never be able to get them back if they get away when Ed's not here” After a week, I got a little discouraged and I wanted to give up. It seemed like so much to learn in such a short time. Ed was only staying three weeks. Three weeks is a short time to teach someone all there is to know about birds. When I'm sure it took Ed years of trial and error and lots of experiences to gain his knowledge of raising and rearing birds.

Each bird is like a person. They all have different personalities and I've named them to match the personalities of people I felt they portrayed. One is feisty, one a complainer, one is quiet, a couple like to be the center of attraction, one is elegant, some are prouder than other others and some just blend in. But when it comes to their job, and they know what there job is now, they are all the same...beautiful! None more beautiful than the other.

I had so many questions to throw at Ed before he left for his home in Vegas. I'm sure it made his head spin - “What do I do if they don't eat? How do I know when they are sick? What about mites, lice? What if one lands on the ice and one of the kids skates over their foot?! What do I do when they lay eggs? What do I do when one flies away on the last show and we move out that night?” If his head didn't spin, mine made up for his!

Finally, the day came and Ed had to leave. He watched the show that night and it was all ours backstage. Up until that day, Ed was always there. We panicked, but with help from above, we did it. We got them in their flight boxes and backstage on time. The feed was put into the box they fly to, the lights on the box all worked, the nuts ready, the cover for the catch box...and the birds flew beautifully.

The day after Ed left was the worst. When I walked into the building and didn't see his face, a slight sadness came over me. Not only did I miss his knowledge about the birds, but I also missed the man. I never noticed while he was here, but when he was gone, I realized I had become quite attached to him. If I could save time in a bottle, I'd save those three short weeks in it, and put the bottle where everyone could see it.

Another thing we noticed after Ed left was how everyone was suddenly an expert on how to care for the birds! They'd say, "I had an Aunt who raised chickens..." or "We had a parakeet once and he.....well, he...." or "We used to feed the pigeons in the park?!" 

During one performance, one bird had no room on the catch box to land and he flew back out and circled around to make another try at it and when he got halfway there, the fireworks went off and that was all he needed. He split to the rafters. Not that I blame him. I'd split too if I thought my tail feathers would catch on fire. Such confusion you've never seen or heard.

My first thought was to call Ed, he'll tell me what to do! Then I thought, "Don't call Ed...the bird will come down, we'll leave the catch box out with the lights on and he'll come back when he sees it." Well, I didn't listen to myself and called Ed! He told me what to do – you go to a dentist when you have a toothache, you don't mess around with home remedies, home remedies pacify for a while, but you go to the expert to solve the problem.

That night, before the show, we pulled their home they live on during the day out onto the open ice with a light over it. Sure enough, just like Ed said, down he came first to the balcony to look around, then to the light nearby and finally, right on top of the cage. Bill netted him and he was in the show that night!

With all the traumas that happened, like birds laying eggs and everyone wanting me to let them hatch them out (but you can't because of traveling every week), cleaning cages, picking up feathers, washing out bird droppings, getting beat to death with flapping wings while trying to catch them to put them in their flight boxes....and making sure they are fed good, fresh water, washing down rocks for the bottom of their cages, making sure people don't feel them popcorn, getting them an hour or more of sun and fresh air every day, as if it's raining...a sun lamp. Making sure they are healthy and happy. It sure sounds like a lot of work.

At times when I'm up to my eyeballs in feathers and droppings, I feel like walking out and forgetting all about them. Someone walks by and says, “Gee Pat, these birds are beautiful, and when they fly, it's breathtaking.” I melt inside and apologized to my friends in the cage, and make sure they're all bedded down for the night, say my good nights to them, and tell them I'm glad my life this year is for the birds.

 Pat "Pinky" Brenner
Pictured here with...2 white pigeons, and her two show ducks, Merna and Clark.