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Home » ARTSY FARTSY » JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–HAM RADIO & (92) ARTSY–Suzanne Farrell

JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Stories–HAM RADIO & (92) ARTSY–Suzanne Farrell

Finally the day came.  It was a Saturday and I went up to Chicago to take my exam.  There were maybe two-hundred other guys in there, all grownups.  I was the only kid.

All of us filed in and they sent code to us in earphones.  They sent three minutes at thirteen words a minute.  You had to receive and send a minimum of thirteen words a minute, and you had to get out of that three-minute segment of tape, one solid minute that was error-free.

I’d been preparing for this moment for about a year and a half, sweating it out ever since that first day down watching Laurence at his receiver.  And they started to send the code.  Just like a duck in water, getting ready to swim.  I not only wrote down one solid minute, I wrote down every character they sent in the entire three minutes!  Perfect.  It was like nothing to me.  It was just a fraction of the speed that I’d been working on.  The examiner came back.  He took a look at my paper.  He said, “You sure you never heard this tape before?”

I said, “No, first time.”  I’m a kid of about thirteen.

He said, “Boy, that’s beautiful,” and he checked it.

Well, from that minute on I realized that I had my calling.  And CW and all the ramifications to CW have always been part of my world.

A lot of people are probably bored by this subject because they don’t know and aren’t involved in it.  But the fanaticism that CW people know is a fanaticism that only a fly-caster, who ties his own flies, understands.  It’s of that order.  It’s the same order of esoterica as a guy who has spent fifteen years pursuing a specific postage stamp.  It’s a very intellectual, a totally mental pursuit.  Others cannot quite understand it because it so intellectual and mental.  There will be times when I’m walking along the street and I’ll hear a door squeak, and the door has said something to me.  Just that sequence of squeaks.  And I’ll hear horns blowing….

End of “Dots & Dashes, More Ham Radio to Come

“Once Morse code gets hold of your soul, buddy,

it gets ahold of your soul and gnaws at it

and never lets go.”

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Suzanne Farrell

Suzanne Farrell is one of the great 20th Century ballerinas, star, late in the career of George Balanchine who, with his vigorous choreography, saved and advanced ballet for the twentieth century and beyond. One year in the 1980s I had a season ticket to the New York Ballet and saw Farrell dance several times, in addition to seeing her many times in videos.

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Farrell and Balanchine

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A Ballerina’s Foot.

Visual Proof of the Blood and Pain

Given to the Dance.

•   •   •

ALMOST BRIEF ENCOUNTER

I once knew a young woman who was studying to be a ballerina. That is tough stuff. One has to be obsessively devoted and endure much loneliness and pain. To encourage her I asked her to sign for me a pair of her ballet slippers that were no longer usable. I kept them for years, even after she gave up the struggle—she switched from ballet (which requires food-avoidance for thinness sake), to studying to be a pastry chef. She gained too much weight quickly. When we recently moved, I no longer kept the ballet student’s slippers. She is gone. Suzanne Farrell, retired, has her own highly regarded ballet company. She maintains and nourishes Balanchine’s choreography.  She lives, Balanchine lives.

Decades ago, driving my VW downtown in tight-packed, rushing, lunch-hour traffic on a quick personal errand, passing within a block of Lincoln Center, home of Farrell’s NYC Ballet, there on the curb, obviously waiting for a cab, bundled up in a fur coat, was, I’m almost positive, Suzanne Farrell. Despite being in the middle lane, somehow I’d have pulled over, made a turn, gone several blocks around, come back hoping she’d still be there and she’d have accepted my offer of a ride anywhere she’d care to go but I couldn’t and didn’t. There she would have been, sitting next to me, and if she’d said a word I’d have driven her downtown and to Tierra del Fuego.

At intermissions during my subscription-season,

I’d visit the ballet shop at the New York State Theater.

I was told that when dancers wore out their slippers,

they autographed them and

gave them to the shop to sell.

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Signed Suzanne Farrell Ballet Slippers

We Have on Our Living Room Music Wall.

Why do enthusiasts get a thrill out of cherishing such things that once belonged to a renowned celebrity? Logically/objectively, I don’t know. Seems childish, like possessing, as I do, signed first editions. But these cherished slippers were not just touched by her, they were worn by her numerous times, they held her dancing feet that had sweated and bled, moving with elegance, strength, and grace. Seeing these slippers I see her moving to Balanchine’s genius.

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