EDITOR’S NOTE: Welcome to the A to Z Challenge, an exercise in self-flagellation we bloggers inflict upon ourselves to teach us discipline as writers and to build audience. During the month of April, I’ll be posting 26 times, once for every letter in the alphabet. Looking on the bright side, we can each be thankful this is an English language exercise and not Khmer, the language of Cambodia, which sets the world record with a 74-character alphabet! After some misgivings, I’ve decided to proceed with my initial idea of blogging about the special people in my life whose names begin with the appropriate letter. There will be difficulties, like having more than one special person whose names begin with the same letter, forcing me to choose. And then there are those letters — O, Q and X among them — where no name springs readily to mind. What will I do then? We’ll have to wait and see!
I is for Intermission
Ordinarily, intermissions don’t come until the halfway point, but during the A-to-Z Challenge, I’ve decided to take it early. Actually, the only people taking a break will be my followers, who won’t have to read about any special people today. I’ve already racked my brain, and there are no “I” names that rise to the occasion.
I’ve decided instead to write about the intermission itself, but if you’re unfamiliar with my writing style, don’t be surprised if there’s a detour or two along the way.
Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, I learned early to have a chip on my shoulder. Oh sure, we lived in a cozy white clapboard house with black trim, a vegetable garden, and lots of shady sycamore and pecan trees, but you see, we lived on the South Side, and we felt decidedly underprivileged compared to those snobs on the North Side.
Those North Siders might have more money and fancy things, but by god, we South Siders were the real San Antonians, or so we thought. We had Floyd’s Dairy Bar, with some of the best hamburgers on the planet. We had the “Insane Asylum” (a.k.a. the state mental hospital) with a siren that sounded whenever a patient escaped. We had “The Big M” sign outside of McCreless Mall, and if all that wasn’t enough, we also had The Donkey Woman Legend, so those danged North Siders could keep their highfalutin’ airs to themselves, we figured.
But there was no denying that San Antonio was growing to the north, and sometimes we would venture into enemy territory. I remember being awestruck the first time we drove across town to watch The Sound of Music at the brand new General Cinema theaters inside the North Siders’ own edifice to commercialism, North Star Mall, a highfalutin’ name if there ever was one.
It was 1965, and when my mother, sister and I walked into that mall, I felt like we were three rubes invading the Shining City on the Hill. We walked past all kinds of upscale shops, and salivated at the tantalizing aromas coming from Mr. Dunderbak’s Bavarian Pantry. But it all paled next to the splendor of the new movie theater, with its reclining, red-upholstered seats, and a recessed screen that was magically spotlighted in blue. The whole effect looked like something from outer space, and we sure as hell had nothing like it on the South Side.
I was 9 years old when The Sound of Music opened, which was too young to understand that as a male, I was supposed to hate all musicals. In fact, I loved the movie — still do — and was really getting into it when all off a sudden, these big gold letters flashed onto the screen. The letters spelled:
I had no idea what an intermission was. I was just a young rube, after all, and I thought the movie was over, but Mama told me there was still more to come, and now we could take a break. It was all just grand — a rest period in the middle of a movie — who would believe it?
Of course all words have definitions, but some words have personal meanings not found in any dictionary. That’s why, in my own rambling style, I’m telling you that for me, “intermission” is one of those words. When “intermission” flashes through the lens of my mental projector, I’m transported through space and time to the highfalutin’ North Side, where I see raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen . . .
Wait, wait, stop! Hold it! Cut! I can’t do this, it’s a lie!
Look, I’m really sorry! I know, I know I told you I wouldn’t write about special people today, but darn it, I’ve gone and done it again!
See, the truth is that during the golden-lettered pause of any intermission, it’s not cream-colored ponies or crisp apple strudel that I see. Nope, I see two of my real favorite things — Mama and my sister — when we were young, healthy, and blissfully ignorant of what was to come, both for the Von Trapps . . . and for us.
During intermission, time stops. During intermission, there is no need to think about brown-shirted monsters or any other sad thing, because none of that stuff has happened yet. During intermission, we can think about pleasant things, like refilling our popcorn bucket, or just rocking back and forth in these futuristic, red-upholstered seats.
Only when intermission is over will the house lights dim and the film advance through the sprockets, moving inexorably onto the take-up reel until that moment when some other big letters splash onto the screen, letters that spell:
But all that’s coming later, much, much later. Intermission isn’t over, no, not yet! The lights are still shining brightly. People are chatting, still waiting for the show to begin again.
Let’s not be in too much of a hurry, okay? Step away from the projector!
Don’t let intermission be over!
Oh, please don’t let it be over!