|Checked back into Camp
Colin "not Coco anymore" Murray
There was wholesale laughter at camp; actually the most sustained, care-free mirth in this camper’s recollection. My brother, Eric, has also said as much about those summers. That magical place and most of the company was a much-needed escape for us both. My circles were always very small - which is probably what got me safely through the Sixties.
By the way, as explained to Rusty, the moniker, "Coco", is long dead and buried. The very sound of it evoked a visceral reaction my fellow campers must have found entertaining; but it took some years to understand why. It was a common French term of endearment, all too often accompanied by a rather painful knuckle-pinch-and-twist of one cute plump pink cheek or the other.
Gettysburg was my first attempt at college. ’67 was the largest freshman enrollment in history; those were pressure-filled semesters. A used Dodge afforded me the opportunity to move still further away from NYC. 1,000 miles was just about right. After transferring to a school in Jacksonville, Florida, there was no more need to uproot. Some 13 moves along with a language change in one childhood is quite enough. Even military families don’t relocate that often. A job came open at the local NBC TV affiliate which was quite satisfying as it afforded me several creative outlets concurrently. Market #67 in 1970, it was nothing glamorous, even though there were a number of firsts that took place there over the years: first to broadcast launches from the Cape (Mercurt, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab); first in stereo; first to air a morning news/public affairs program prior to the network shows like Today or GMA; this was an early-rising town. That gamble paid off and the whole country followed suit. The job at the TV station was not something that was meant to last 25 years.
My wife, A creature of the South, Elizabeth knows her mind. Two and a half years of ‘accidentally’ crossing and re-crossing one another’s path on campus and elsewhere led to a quiet and private ceremony six months after graduation; deftly squeezed into her busy schedule playing in several regional symphonies in addition to her regular position in the local orchestra – something she had done since her early teens. About three more years and a bundle of potential named Margaret came into the world. … Maggie turned 37 in April (but still looks twenty-something). She outpaced all our expectations; she is her mother’s daughter – though not a musician; more like Lt. Col. in the AF Space & Missile family (Pictured with Colin).
Wearing several hats, often simultaneously, 20+ years passed with odd, accelerating rapidity until a long-suspected health issue approached a firm diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. Mayo had opened a satellite operation here and those demigods missed it! They were too snooty to accept my insurance plan, so those nine trips to various “top guns” and their intrusive toys was equivalent to buying a mid-sized car! They again failed us when El needed attention; they damn near killed her. Two years of denial later, after further (avoidable) decline, good ‘ole Baptist Hospital nailed it for $40 out-of-pocket. My employer was subsequently very good to me. Of course, they knew a printed-out copy of the recently enacted Americans with Disabilities Act was in my possession and both of El’s brothers are lawyers.
While still able to walk, quality of life improved for a time when Elizabeth came home with an RV-for-two in which we toured much of the US and that huge space further north where some Tories started a country and hardly anyone showed up. (The Canadian Rockies make ours look like a mere lumpy rash). After so many curves on a perfectly-maintained alpine highway, one suffers awe fatigue.
Certainly there are enjoyable activities that are no longer possible, but substitutes seem to magically appear as needed. Like the Kindle. We campers all knew about James Fennimore Cooper, whose father founded Cooperstown. He wrote sea stories as well as high fiction about savages he never met. Mark Twain as much as trashed Cooper in perhaps a benchmark example of literary criticism; Nonetheless, Cooper was stupendously popular and prolific.
Also, since El plunked a Mac in front of me along with a pile of refresher material on music theory and composition, the fact my numb-ish, spastic fingers won’t cooperate on the keyboard doesn’t much matter. The midi-88s still function and the mess is easily cleaned up on the screen and proofed through headphones. Original compositions don’t come easily, if at all, but recomposing my take on some favorites is often quite adequate for my tastes. Attached are two recent numbers. One is a Nat Cole song reordered to be a stand-alone instrumental. Next – also entirely CG - is my idea of a samba. It’s formulaic, contains no leit motif (or “hook”) to speak of, and percussion is idiomatically stale; but friends tell me the piece does conjure the appropriate tropical imagery. In any case, enjoy.
Click here to hear Samba Tapas (Samba Appetizer)
TV and stage are worlds apart. For television, a kitchen set, for instance, must be 'almost' real. And whenever the local news ratings dropped, of course the set was to blame. (Oh no! it couldn't have been the talent or content or lack of community involvement.) With some secrets up my sleeve (and never shared), I blithely designed and built one after another, testing new ideas and pushing tech limits each time… but only for my own photo albums. It was a grand creative outlet, but, axiomatically, un-appreciated in my own home town. Never mind that industry 'consultants' surreptitiously photographed my work and near copies cropped up nationwide! There were - and still are - only three types of news sets: airline ticket counter (cheapest); bridge of the Enterprise (wow factor, but short-lived); and news-room adjunct with varying degrees of 'eyewash' on-set movement (functionally and anthropomorphically the best choice - my opinion).
A small affiliate couldn't hire a set man exclusively, but since stagecraft and finish carpentry were part of my skill-set (acquired in H.S. or alone building a harpsichord in a basement), I had something unique to offer; and as a result, there was no local competition for my job. So as the years passed and GM's came and went, my sideline gave me the staying-power of a Chief Justice who can look upon Presidents as lowly transients (must have heard that metaphor somewhere).
One fondly remembered project was a two-story set for a morning show. It was actually an excuse to build a spiral staircase (to locate the real stress-points… never fully ascertained), but primarily to have a rare M-size mahogany Steinway studio baby grand refurbished as a permanent cover-shot prop. Badly bruised on the outside, the insides were pristine; and playing it during lunch hours in the big reverberating prop room was pure pleasure, and well worth learning certain difficult pieces at home on my electric Yamaha so I could blow the minds of some of those egotistical newsies passing by who usually thought of the off-camera class as merely the help and unworthy of their attention. It was particularly satisfying when the first guest to actually play the instrument on-air was Skitch Henderson, a band leader in the closing days of the Big Band Era and the opening days of live TV. I still have the tape. He noted the piano was "a rare quantity," but obliged that tuning was impossible to maintain in studios that fluctuated some 30 degrees in less than an hour.
It's fun to think I was in on the final days of live TV - albeit local - what with the several kids' shows (we had the longest-running Romper Room franchise), umpteen gospel hours (this is the South), and a gazillion political/public affairs shows (got to meet R. Reagan, J. Carter, H. Humphrey; a train of local Mayors; and a host of Florida Reps, Senators, and Governors). There was also a steady flow of 'near-great-or-never-were' screen actors or pretty Miss Such-and-Suches pushing one agenda or another. Most visiting actors such as Richard Boone or Bob Denver are now gone except for Mickey Rooney (who was way less than gentlemanly among the female staffers). Remember Gene Barry? (Bat Masterson; War of The Worlds) He made made sure everyone knew Who he was when he, together with his entourage, entered (rather, made an entrance) the same seafood restaurant in which El and I were enjoying a platter of cholesterol-shaped shrimp. We'd have forgiven the likes of Joan Rivers, but that man was a horror to every male there, probably including some otherwise shameless red-necks who may have been within earshot in the kitchen. That stage-voice projected enough to ignore multiple layers of drywall.