by Andrew T Halmay
Rated "G" by the Author.
edited: Monday, May 11, 2015
Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015
Become a Fan
A surprise win in sports becomes an object lesson in retrospect
I can’t remember what it was today that took me back to my schooldays and a memorable win which, in effect, may function as an object lesson. I meant to make these notes this morning but got sidetracked and, after a long day during which I finished a lengthy presentation to the Los Cabos Film Festival and mailed it off to them, and then corresponded with an arranger in California who had done a lead sheet for me in ¾ time, while I thought I had written it in 2/4 time.
An explanation on this, which has nothing to do with the subject at hand, may be in order. You see, I’m a musical illiterate but I write fairly effective lyrics now and then. Occasionally fine memories come to me out of the blue which, because of my musical illiteracy I cannot notate.
In spite of this I have managed to get over 30 records released on most of the major labels. I get over my deficiency by using arrangers to “take dictation,” as they put. Back in New York I had a wonderful arranger who was always available, unless the horses were running, because he was addicted to the track.
I would hand him the lyrics typed out and sing the melody or play it out with one hand. He would then pick it up by ear and play it for me to make sure it’s what I had in mind. Then he might try different chords to see which sound best to me. Then, in a matter of a few minutes he would write the notes and lyrics, all with a free hand, I would give him fifteen dollars and go home with my lead sheet.
That’s why I miss New York. Whatever imaginable service I might need would be available and there was always someone who could direct me to the right one. In Toronto every little need becomes insurmountable or nearly so. With the web, in a sense, I can be back in New York again, except that the arranger with whom I now deal happens to be in California. I email him the lyrics and an mp3 of me singing the melody a cappella. He then puts the notes of my melody on paper and adds appropriate chords and emails me a pdf copy of the new lead sheet.
I had emailed about the time signature and he convinced me that what I had sent him was in ¾ time and since he’s a pro and I’m a committed, life-long amateur, I’ll trust him.
Having finished the lengthy presentation to the film festival on a film which I have yet to write but for which I seek a co-producer, I started to return to the screenplay I was writing when I interrupted myself to get the presentation off to the Baja folks because that had a timing problem.
Ironically, this is due in a week if I am to keep my word to the manager of Bill Shatner who found my elevator pitch interesting and asked me to send him the screenplay and a formal offer for Bill. Since I had only a TV pilot for a sitcom series on the subject and didn’t want him to know that there was no screenplay available as yet, I said, “Let me send you the final draft in a couple of weeks, implying by this that there are earlier drafts in existence.
With all this activity, I really have no business giving you diary notes but something brought this winning theme to my mind and I wanted to get it on paper while it was on my mind.
It happened in the 1940s, 1945 to be specific. I just got up to look at a framed class picture on my wall in the hall. My god, that was 70 years ago, possibly even this month.
I was at Pickering College, a private boy’s boarding school. They were preparing for spring Field Day or whatever the spring athletic competition was called. I could enjoy sports on an off and on basis but never excelled at any of them. We were divided into groups or teams and I was fitted into one of these. The organizer in our group asked me to enter the hurdle race to which I broke out in laughter. I had never in my life tried to jump over a hurdle. I couldn’t have been more surprised or amused if he had asked me to join a ballet company.
I reminded myself of a previous year at Leamington High School where winning a race meant something to me. I had been entered the 440 and felt I had a good chance when just before the gun, I got cramps and a strong urge to run to a washroom to relieve myself. It had frightened and annoyed the hell out of me. I feared I had diarrhea coming on and could hardly run. It was a horrible experience. But that was just straight running. Here they were asking me to run and jump over little walls or whatever.
Our team leader explained that we would gain a few points simply by my entering the contest. He didn’t care if I even finished the 100 yards or feet or whatever the length. I couldn’t turn that down so I walked down to the field to examine the hurdles and see if under the best of circumstances I could manage to jump over one.
I had by that time already had some theatre experience and I had loved dancing and even won a jitterbug contest once, therefore “form” had always been important to me. I loved graceful movement. I had enjoyed Joe Lewis because he boxed like an artist with grace and wonderful footwork. Other boxers who followed him he came into the ring like klutzy bulls.
I then recalled seeing newsreel footage of hurdle races and recalled that I likened them to dance using a certain grace in how they floated over the hurdle with one leg stretched out straight forward like a spear and the second leg pulled up sideways with the knee bent, trailing the spear; all parallel to the ground and keeping the whole body as close to the ground as possible without pulling the hurdle down.
Could I do this? I walked around the track a bit letting the image of hurdlers, a video of hurdlers, so to speak, sink into my mind. And then, in my mind’s image, I could see me doing it and so I tried it. It was fun. I did it. I was young enough with joints loose enough to bend them every which way. It was a new experience and I enjoyed it.
The best part of it was that it didn’t matter if I didn’t even finish the race. We’d get our points simply because I entered the race. But my ego demanded that at least I look good on the field. I didn’t want to come out a pigeon toed and club footed failure. The performer in me demanded a graceful performance.
I tried the whole length of the track, about 110 meters. The hurdles would have been around 30 inches. By running just fast enough to give myself momentum to jump over the hurdles I was able to get that classic ballet type look of floating over the hurdle like a dancer. In competition speed that might not have been possible but I didn’t give a damn about speed. I just wanted to look good.
The next day at the race I was doubtlessly the most relaxed competitor in the lineup and perhaps that was the reason for my getting a jump on all the rest when the gun or whistle or whatever it was went off.
I can’t recall today if it was the first or the second hurdle, but from the outset I must have had a lead of several feet and then my right toe of what I called my “hind leg” hit the hurdle, which was on some sort of hinge. My contact flipped the hurdle or moved it somehow, which caused the runner on my heels to crash into it and fall, which led to a whole pileup and I won by a wide margin.
At first I couldn’t believe what had happened and when reality set in I was delighted. This scene came back to me today to remind myself that putting a governor on caring can lead to winning.
Cliché-filled Hollywood always tells its devotees, “Get passionate, work wildly and with passion; throw your whole life into whatever you’re doing,” and I say, “Balls, relax, enjoy yourself, nothing in the world is important enough to pass up having fun in a relaxed manner.”
Your chances of winning at anything are better when you really don’t give a damn.
Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
|Reviewed by Ronald Hull
|Some great advice. As far as the arts go, New York City, in the past, was the place to go if you were to receive any recognition in "the business." Paris, London, Nashville, and Hollywood always come to mind as well. While one can still make those, very personal, connections in cities like New Orleans, and perhaps, Las Vegas, the Internet and venues like YouTube means that young people can still "make it" without having to leave home and face failure from lack of funds in the big city.
I was also a dancer and interested in good form. I ran the 440 and didn't do well because, even with my great form, I tended to come out too fast and would tie up at the end in the last 30 yards or so. My spinal injury was probably already at work. But my endurance was great, and, on a whim, walking 50 miles for physical fitness for President Kennedy, I surprisingly, in a very relaxed way, out walked the competition by over an hour. I've used that lesson in my working life many times, outlasting the competition.
It's good to see you so vigorous and successful at your age. I hope that I can continue to write novels well into my 80s as well.