Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Creator: James Baldwin

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Creator Spotlight is James Baldwin:

A prophet does not predict the future. Predicting the future is the work of the oracle. A prophet speaks the truth. Not because he or she finds it easy to do so. It is not easy to speak the truth. Because they make angry those they love or those who have the power to destroy them. A prophet simply does not have any choice. Just ask Amos or Jeremiah of Old Testament fame. They have been driven to speak what they must speak no matter the consequences.

A prophet has to be fierce in their determination and show no doubt of the truth they are speaking. And they are fierce and show no doubt because that truth has lodged in them a very long time. Maybe as far back as the beginning of time.

James Baldwin was fierce and he was a prophet. And he was an outsider as prophets are. He was an outsider twice over. Not only was he an African American. He was also a gay man.

Being an outsider, he left the United States and went off to France. It was there he learned to live as a human being. It was there he learned write brilliantly. It was there he learned to speak the truth.

From abroad he saw with a clear view the destructiveness of racism for both blacks and whites. He saw how that hatred was tearing the country apart and would ultimately destroy. And continues to do so. He came home to the United States and began to speak Truth. And he spoke it with love. Perhaps it’s time we should listen.

James Baldwin’s biography

Near 500 words:Elgar

The farm was dying. Elgar knew it. His wife, Beatrice, knew it. His son, Jock, knew it. The question was what to do with it. After all, it had been his great grandfather’s, his grandfather’s, his father’s. For three generations before him, the farm had prospered. Fed the family. Kept them happy. Now he had failed. But not one of his forebears had had to deal with the droughts of the last several years.

Elgar’s feet were rooted in the soil like a tree. Elgar wrestled with the what-to-dos like Jacob wrestling with the angel long ago. To pull up and seek a new life, Beatrice and Jock knew would kill Elgar.

The farm was dying. God had abandoned this land Elgar loved so much. As the other farmers sold out and moved away, Elgar became lonelier and lonelier. When you’re the last of your kind, it’s hard to avoid the isolation, the alienation.

The tall, thin farmer walked his land one last time. As he did, he came upon his father’s old tractor seat, that “seat of power” where Dad ruled his domain. If his father had taught him anything, it was not to dominate the land. But to be its steward. It was still not too late to return to his father’s ethic.

He reached down and took the seat from the tractor, raised it above his head and began to dance. It wasn’t a rain dance. It wasn’t a folk dance. It was the dance of a man who loved his land.

An overheard conversation

Recently I was in a local museum, walking from painting to painting. There was a couple ahead of me admiring the paintings.

“I will tell you, Carla. The woman does not look happy,” the man said.

“But, George, that’s cause she’s dead,” Carla said, then pinched her friend.

“Ouch! Why did you do that?”

Carla laughed. “Checking to see if you’re alive.”

“I’m alive? Of course, I’m alive,” George objected.

“You wouldn’t be happy if you were dead either.”

He stuck his tongue out at her, then said, “Then I wouldn’t have to put up with you.”

Carla puckered her lips. “Give us a kiss.” Her lips came close to George. He tried to move away. “C’mon. Give us a kiss, then I can bite that tongue off.”

He backed away from her. “You’d do that.”

“Course I would cause you’re such a downer.”

They took one final look at the Roman matriarch, then moved on.

Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Second Chances

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. Next week’s Valentine’s Day, so this week’s Spotlight Movie is for all the romantics out there. It’s Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005):

Remember Robert Carlyle. Back in ’97, he appeared in a little gem of a movie, “The Full Monty”. He played an unemployed working class guy who became a male stripper.

In “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School”, he plays Frank Keane, a baker who lost his wife to suicide. He’s engulfed by grief and can’t move on with his life. He meets weekly with a support group of widowers but that doesn’t seem to help him or any of the others.

When he least expects it, magic happens, and it happens out of the worst of circumstances. He is driving his bakery truck when he’s passed by Steve Mills (John Goodman). A few seconds later, he comes upon Steve in a car accident. The accident is serious.

As they are waiting for an ambulance, Steve tells Frank he was on his way to meet a childhood sweetheart at a ballroom dancing school. He is supposed to meet her on the fifth day of the fifth month of the fifth year of the new millenium. He promised. Then he tells the story of their childhood romance and how it came to be.

Because of the accident, Steve can’t make it. So he gives Frank his ticket to Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School. Explain to Lisa, his childhood sweetheart, why he can’t make.

Since he promised, he goes to School. Lisa isn’t there but there are others. Marilyn Hotchkiss isn’t there either. But her daughter, Marienne, is conducting the class with several men and women. Because he doesn’t know what else to do, Frank joins the class. Then something magically happens. From that moment on, his life, and the lives of the others in the support group, are changed. Sometimes all it takes is a little dancing to heal a whole lot of grief.

In addition to Robert Carlyle and John Goodman, this movie has Marissa Tormei, Sonia Braga, Mary Steenburgen, Sean Astin, Adam Arkin and Danny Devito. And I enjoyed it immensely. So it’s two thumbs up from this end of the cosmos.

Near 500 words: Bridges

Another bridge. That’s what P C thought. How many bridges was he going to have to cross to get to Ellen’s house? It seemed that the bridges were placed in his way to prevent him from getting to her. But the more bridges there were the more desirous she became. Someone that hard to reach had to be desirable. Very desirable.

He found her on the internet. She posted a profile on a dating site. Her profile wasn’t any thing special. Nothing about her stood out. The face that stared back at him wasn’t beautiful. He liked it because it wasn’t doctored. It was quite ordinary. It said, “Accept me as I am.”

Her resume didn’t show her to be smarter or healthier or more talented. Quite the opposite. She bragged about being a C student. Gabe liked that too. He was a C student as well. He knew that C students had to work harder than the ones for whom everything came easy.

Ellen had an average kind of job. She was a bookkeeper for an auto dealership. Nothing special there, he thought. But it said she knew something about taking care of money. The debits and credits kind of thing mattered to a marriage.

The resume offered up something else. She hadn’t been popular in high school. She wasn’t into athletics or good books or great art or even music. Occasionally she went out dancing. But she admitted she had two left feet and no sense of rhythm. She made the comment, “I am pretty good at faking the steps.” Just an average kind of girl.

Then there was the smile. She had one heck of a smile. So Gabe sent her a post. She answered and mentioned her favorite movie. It was “Gone With the Wind”. That almost ended the relationship. Then he saw her photo again with her smile and her eyes. Though the eyes were gray, they smiled as well.

After a month of back-and-forths, he asked her out. At first, she hesitated, saying she was getting a lot of requests for dates. He persisted. Finally, she gave him a yes, but he was going to have to come by and meet her family.

And now there were these bridges. Well, he was not about to give up just because there were a few obstacles. After all, he had not let an obstacle course prevent him from getting the job. There had been other suitors. But he had beat out all the competition for the job of Prince Charming.