Tag Archives: history

‘Surprises, a story’


Surfing the Multiverse: Melvin has left the building

For anyone who knew Mel Parris, or who got to visit with him a little, the time spent together was a cabinet of wonder embedded in a phantasmagorium.

Another extremely competent, intellectually curious, fearless, brilliant, loving, knowing, generous, giddy mosaic of a soul was taken from us too soon and suddenly early last week. He managed to use a Get Out of Jail Free card without perhaps knowing it was there, or meaning to, and to use it when none of us were ready to be done playing this game of Life with him. His ever faithful buddy Walker went too, by his side, and now perhaps accompanies Mel on his journey across the multiverse, or turns gratefully down some other Milky Way to see what’s good to chase out beyond the Dog Star.

I was lucky enough to have known Mel Parris during his tenure on earth, as well as in its oceans. For this grand and glorious experience, I am truly grateful. There will never be another like it. I feel robbed. But while I had a bit of him in my life, I was truly rich. Now I shall need to savor the lees of vintage Mel stories as found and shared amongst his ever-loving wife, his friends, his family, the cats, the abalone, and other fellow-travelers all.

Go in peace. Peace be upon you, and upon your beloveds, and upon future generations of kind and curious souls. May it be so.

Neptune’s Daughter, Part 1

{ Neptune’s Daughter }

Once upon a time there was a Woman who
wanted her own home. She decided it would be nice
to live on a houseboat. So then she wanted her own
home with a slip attached. Just a small slip. A yacht slip,
if you please.

Men heard about it, when they asked.
They were duly horrified. They claimed that
all of the time they lived in such a place,
they would be worrying about the next time they had to
haul their home out of the water,
to scrape off the barnacles or to paint the Bottom.
Then they began gibbering like frightened
monkeys, asking her had she thought about weather, about
old King Neptune.

The Woman scoffed at such questions, wisely knowing these Men and their ilk would never cohabit with her under any circumstances.  Neither by stealth nor  invitation, neither by insinuation nor brute force. Nope.

Mosaic on Stairwell, Bridgehead studios, Day 2

Neptune's Daughter Thinks Barnacles Are Overrated

Still, she didn’t own a houseboat.
She had a landlord. She also had no live in boyfriends, paramours, nor roommates.
She had a cat.
She had a job.
She worked.
She dreamed.

She also worked with a Lady who wanted to know why this Woman always knew more than everyone else about everything (about 90% of everything, by this Lady’s calculations).
‘Ah,’ cried the Woman, ‘Just because I have lived, because in living I have done many things, and because I have always had to pay some Landlord.’
‘I don’t own any property, and I always have to pay some Landlord, just to live.
You work, you learn things, you pay the Landlord. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. That’s Life.’

Thus she knew a lot about a lot of subjects.
Thus her Teenager despised her company as any good teenager would do, for being a Know it All.
Thus she worked. Thus she struggled.
Thus she soldiered on, alone and Houseboat-less. Over-Educated.
Ah. Well, then!

Since she still knew so little about Houseboats, this Woman felt free to continue dreaming. When she slept, she dreamed.
Ownership, Home, Yacht Slip. That kind of thing.

One day, this Woman got near the end of her Rope.
She was Angry, Fed Up, Tired.  She had a Hissy Fit. It scared her. She cried.
Then the storm passed, the sun came out, the birds sang in the trees again.
All was well. She ate an apple and took a nap, this Woman.

She worked on. She lived. Time passed.
The Storm clouds gathered again, and not on a 28-day cycle, either.
The Woman was concerned.
She found that every time she felt a Storm coming on, she worried more. She fretted.
How could she be So Angry? So Righteously Fed Up? How?
Since she began Worrying More, this Woman stayed far, far away from her Teenager. To preserve things, she said.
Her Boyfriend started giving her short, thoughtful kisses at the door, not demanding much, listening, trying to Be There For Her, bringing small occasional gifts. Tippy-toeing around. Trying extra hard to be affectionate, thoughtful, attentive, patient.

The Woman then suffered from Chronic Insomnia. She wasn’t worried about barnacles, either. She was worried about how to keep her mouth shut.
For really, truly, that is what this World expects from Women. Silence. Discretion.  That rot.
It was not how she was raised, not who she Was, this Silence.
It started to wear on her, this silence, this Insomnia.
She sought medical help, and eventually, medication.
She slept a little, sometimes.
She still worried, felt broken, incomplete.
Something was wrong.

The Woman found that every time the clouds gathered and the pressure built up, she needed to Speak Truth to Power. In fact, to the King.  It was a passion that built up silently, indescribably, and then overcame her. A storm. A crisis. A truth telling. A withdrawal, horrified, to consider Consequences.
It was frightening, really.
She came home sometimes, having saved herself narrowly from this truth speaking, and ranted to her Cat.

Her worries deepened.
She felt like she had her finger in a dike. She could feel the flood building.
Everything about her life, her health, her relationships with family hinged on being continuously and productively employed.
She knew that.
To speak truth to power is to risk destruction. It is the equivalent of raising your face to stare unblinking at the Sun.
She knew that.

The Woman sometimes wondered about the stuff other people fretted about. Neptune. Taxes. Death. Betrayal. Disease. Homelessness. Friendlessness. Barnacles. Old Age. Muggers. Abandonment. Rape.
She’d been through all that, nearly totally, and survived.
She wasn’t fretting about that, only Truth-Telling. Its consequences. Only that.
The Woman realized this one day and then realized she was on a Threshold.
She was about to Do Something.
She had stuff to Do. She was about to Make Changes.
She had very little to lose, but was still afraid, still a bit tentative.
She was like that with new things, this Woman.

The Cat stared, purred, made biscuits on the blankets, and waited for Treats.
She turned and slept. The Woman ranted on paper, on pixels, in thin air, in the bath, out in the yard, in her Dreams.  The Woman began to Worry Deeply. Her insomnia grew. The wheels began regularly to fly off her Little Red Wagon, usually manageably, usually one at a time. She would pause, bend down metaphorically, and put them back on. But still, she worried.

Then the Woman went to work one day and just Let Fly With Truth.
She didn’t know she was about to do it; she didn’t feel it coming.
The King simply asked her what she thought of something one morning.
She paused, drew a breath, and then told him. She told him thoughtfully and
truthfully, but not too Politely. He was a bit taken aback, and then he thanked her. He left. As he was leaving, he said he would get back to her with a Plan. Tomorrow, he said.

Her worry increased.
She wondered if she could get used to it.
It didn’t relieve the Pressure totally. Not all the way.
So she immediately told the Vizier. Then she told the Queen.
All when asked, all when on the same Subject of Which She’d Told Truth.
All the same Truth. All regarding them, their lack of leadership,
all about them making the same error over
and over for 2 years straight, and expecting different results,
and not even Failing Better, what did it prove?
How was it her job to help them patch things up?
What was the reward, where was her duty exactly? Was it part of career development? Where was this leading, anyway?
More and more, on and on, until this set of so-called leaders drew away from the Woman and her truth-telling, weary.

The men around her who heard about the Truth coming down that day… demurred. They said it was not their affair, that they were not sure it was a good idea. That it was in fact, probably something to
Never Do.

The Woman’s Boyfriend was silent, affectionate, thoughtful, attentive. Her Teenager was silent, unaware. Her Cat washed herself, blissfully.

Right after that Truth Telling, the same day, the Woman then went, kneeled down in the earth, and gave fertilizer and water to the King’s tree. He thanked her.  He described the history of the tree. She wondered. She had come, after all, to do this work On Request. He wanted to pay for the fertilizer, the soil, the care, this King. She wondered some more. She said she would accept one dollar. He insisted on giving her ten.

She wondered, this Woman, if it was not time to finally start shopping
for Houseboats. ‘Why Not?’ thought she ‘…. it seems like anything
is Possible…’

Then the Woman went home, ate dinner; she took a bath, she slept. She still wondered.

Storms, when you come, you do not consider Timing. Do you?

Dad’s Navy Past: finding out what happened

One of my Federal coworkers has helped get me off the dime recently by giving me the information on how to get my Dad’s Navy service records. He’s a Veteran himself; he should know.

Navy cronies of Kenelm WinslowMy sister Karen kick-started the project this Spring by giving me a batch of photos and my Dad’s service medals in an intricately inlaid wooden puzzle box with a little stamp on the inside cover revealing that it was “Made in Occupied Japan.”

Service pins, an ID bracelet, honorable discharge pin, dog tags, bits of official paperwork, plus a small collection of various streetcar tokens from the cities he traveled to during the days when the Key System still ran down Sacramento Avenue, down University Avenue, and out to meet the Bay ferries. Here’s one that says Pacific Gas and Electric, and it sure looks like a streetcar token; a token from Council Bluffs and Omaha street car lines,  one from Lincoln, one of the old tokens from San Francisco MUNI. Tarnish in the cracks; maybe its dirt; they seem like they aren’t silver. Here’s a souvenir coin from Mardis Gras in New Orleans, it says Vince Vance and his Valiants Fan Club, and gives a telephone number. The emblem looks kind of like a mythical beast wearing sunglasses, but it is dated 1973, a later mythos. My Dad’s treasures, or a small representation of some of them.

There’s a tiny ID bracelet in the box with “Winslow” scratched into the sterling on the front side and our old LAndscape 6-0678 phone number stamped into the back; it was probably Marguerite’s when she was a baby. We kids and Mom were his real treasures, from everything we knew of his love.

Nanette Burket and Kenelm Winslow, circa 1949

Mom and Dad at a wedding, early days

In the days when submariners strolled the deep looking for enemy battleships, Dad collected streetcar tokens during shore leave. He was an only child, someone who grew up knowing how to interact as well as how to be alone; all about exploring on your own. He liked learning about new things. Mom said that his assigned duty was as a submariner in sonar, that his home port was New London. That is almost everything I know. I wonder what else he did in those days for fun besides going out on blind dates… he and Mom  passed many of their courtship dates at places like the Buena Vista, the Gold Spike, and the Japanese Tea Garden. Or so my unreliable sources tell me…

There’s some photos of a destroyer (the USS Meredith, DD-890). Rufus says that it may have played cat-and-mouse games with Dad’s sub in the Atlantic when they were learning their maneuvers off of Rhode Island.

Sure looks like an image of Fort Mason

Somewhere in Ferry-Land

All I know about is what Mom told me, which means almost less than nothing. She met Dad on a blind date while he was still in the Navy. She married him during the end of that era. She was engaged to be married to _someone else_ when they met, too busy to learn much about the military career of the man who declared he wanted to marry her on their first date.

My Dad had a dream about living on a houseboat, perhaps this is where it spawned

Waiting in the Lock, exchanging pleasantries

She was the world’s most Unreliable Narrator, but could spin a good story. He would never talk about his military service. I assumed it was because he didn’t want to remember anything painful or difficult. He still had his old uniform.  These pictures are so not painful that I am left wondering what the whole story was. I will never know, but I can at least send for the records.

Kenelm Winslow and his sailor mates posing for a photo

The face at the window indicates there were more sailors waiting to get out, perhaps?

[Dad is in the back row, big smile, big glasses ].  I also have been given the negatives, which is pretty exciting. I can print them up at Looking Glass. I’ve been itching to get back in the darkroom.

Sailors horsing around, 1940s

If you're going to work hard, then you'd better play hard...

This weekend I am getting reacquainted with my still-pretty-new scanner and sending away for the data. I am also learning some photo enhancement tricks for faded images in Photoshop. Bear with me.

Thanks Traci, for giving me the scanner.

Thanks Karen, for giving me the photos, the negatives, the souvenirs, and the encouragement. These are great photos, even if I don’t know who the heck most of the people are.

Naval cadets horsing around in a baseball field, garbage can lid hat

More than one way to be cool, sailor man!

Thanks Joseph, for getting me further motivated by showing me where to send away for the data.

Your memory is still a blessing, Dad. We miss you.

Kenelm Fayette Winslow holding another sailor's hat?

What about the hat?

Kenelm Fayette Winslow in his Navy Blues, sometime in the 40s
Dad in his Navy Blues, sometime during the 1940s