Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Seattle Comic Camera: From Clowns, Do We Get More than Laughs --- Maybe Much More?

Barbara and I are in beautiful Edmonds, just north of Seattle, visiting our daughter Misha, her husband Ed, and grandkids Mia, Bella, Max, and 9-month-old Talula. The clowning around has been going on practically nonstop -- much of it at my expense.

We had barely arrived when my granddaughter Mia jumps on the couch beside me.  Giggling, she pulls up a photo of me on her cell phone. Using a photo app, she puts a gold crown on my head, gives me outsized shades, and sticks a huge cigar in my mouth. 

She does this to me. Me, her own grandfather.  Where's the respect?

Mia also pokes  fun at  her 9-month old baby sister Talula, whose Christening  we had come to Seattle for. But, to be fair to Mia, little Talula herself is already showing signs of not taking life seriously.  

Brace yourself.  Talula, declining to be a cute baby for the camera, makes a mischievous, self-mocking face. Able only to goo-goo, she joshes with her tongue.

But Mia is not about to take this from her jokester baby sister. Tapping her cell phone, she turns Talula  into, well, we'll let the result, right, speak for itself.

Starting off life this way, clowning back and forth, how is poor little Talula ever going to grow up and take life seriously?

Honestly, little Talula has her work cut out for her. Above are her role-models dad and older sibs.  Mia is left, Bella right, and Max.  They exude  joie de vie.

Mia and Max, left, talk through their homemade communication system. Max is in a new mode of transportation that he built. It's a car, sort of. He's working on how to make it take him places. 

Of course, their dad and I take seriously our responsibility as role models, as in this photo. 

And, here I am above, the proud grandpa with Mia and Bella showing off  the hairdos inspired by their dad and grandpa. Not that I am always parading around in front of them. Sometimes I go for some quiet alone time in the playroom.

Naturally, as royalty -- I am George Francis Pollock the Third -- I wear my gold crown.  When Mia and Bella come into the playroom, always knocking first,  they come in bowing and scraping before "your royal  highness."  

Max, who has a stubborn side, has so far refused to bow to royalty. But, sooner or later, he will.  And so will Talula.  But I understand that, for her, learning to walk and talk must be priorities. A royal must be sensitive to the needs of his subjects.

Of course, this is all for fun and laughs. But what we get out of it, both the kids and us older adults, may be more than we know.  It so happens that, a few days after we arrived, people of the Northwest gave us a lesson in the importance and power of clowning around.

On July 22, Chris Wedes, better known J.P. Patches died at age 84 of multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. He was a clown beloved by two Northwest generations who grew up watching him on TV.  From 1958 to 1981, he was the star of the locally-produced J.P. Patches Show, on Seattle's KIRO Channel 7.


The show was live, unrehearsed, pure improv.  For all those years, the clown made it up as he went along. In later years, even while coping with terminal disease, he performed at many local events. Always, always, he got laughs. And when the beloved clown died,  tears of mourning poured out for him.

As a comic legend of the Northwest, J.P. Patches reached into countless area hearts.  In a small way, I discovered this one day when I took Mia and Bella to the local playground. On the edge of where the kids play on the swings and climb iron bars, we found a little bouquet of flowers.

"Look at those flowers," I said.  "Somebody must have forgotten them."

But when we looked at them, we got a surprise.  They were left there on purpose, beside a little engraved metal remembrance -- of J.P. Patches, who lived in Edmonds. 

Mia and Bella are too young to know J.P. Patches. I filled them in.  "He was a clown. He made people laugh. A lot of grown-ups watched him on TV when they were kids. He just died and these people are very sad. One of them left these flowers for him."

Now Mia and Bella were sad.  "Let's honor J.P. Patches with a photo," I said.  Below is the photo of Mia and Bella beside the flowers and engraved memorial to the local comic.

Because life is hard work and packed with responsibilities, maybe J.P. Patches gave human beings a much needed break from it all. Maybe  J.P. Patches' craziness was just what the doctor should have ordered for many stressed-out people, but never did.

Ed has an insanely demanding job. If he doesn't perform, he doesn't get his incentive pay. He works long, long hours but still pitches in with child care to a remarkable extent.  With Misha, he conducts regular sensitive and caring family sessions discussing good and bad behavior and expectations.

But Ed is also often just like J.P. Patches, playing with his kids and making them laugh. For him, regular clowning around with the kids is a welcome, stress-relieving break. For the kids, whose pressures at school and making sense of the world are more intense than many parents realize, it's just plain fun playing around with dad.

Misha generally leaves the comedy to Ed, but always enjoys the show.  Whether she admits it or not, the comic relief undoubtedly helps her do the impossible day in and day out.  Besides taking primary responsibility for the care of four kids and all that entails, she runs her own interior design business, Misha Designs. She is a licensed real estate agent. She's a photographer. She's an artist.

Here she is actually making the gown that Talula was christened in.  You'll never guess where she got the fabric. Give up?  It was from the wedding dress her mom wore when she was married 42 years ago!  

At the other extreme, Misha will grab a shovel and do heavy landscaping work.  The first week we were there, she and Ed worked together for hours in the backyard getting it ready for Talula's Christening  party.  The two of them dug, shoveled, hauled rocks.  They ain't too proud for slave labor.

The last time we were out, in April, the back yard was overgrown and largely unusable.  We returned this week to a backyard that was a beautiful,  beckoning work of art.  Below  is a photo of the setting Misha  created with Christening guests enjoying it.  

The empty seat at the left front is where I was sitting.  I had to get a photo of this joyful scene. As always with Misha and Ed, the food was fabulous -- fritatta, ham, quiche, french toast, fresh fruit and more. In addition to everything else, Ed is a great cook.

Let me now show a few photos from our time in Edmonds.  I took some of them at a photo shoot at the Edmonds beach conducted by a professional photographer. While the pro worked like crazy trying to get kids to look at the camera and smile -- which is like trying to herd cats -- I lurked in the background looking for natural "money shots." 

Finally, when it comes to pretty women, I'm a guy. I have a roving eye. I saw two dolls on the beach and I couldn't help myself. They were just too gorgeous not to photograph.  OMG!  One is my wife Barbara!  The other is Misha's friend Molly's mom Pat -- who doesn't like her picture taken! I'm dead!

Pat, any chance you could consider this a "money shot?" What do you think?

Dear, listen, I just saw two great looking women. I wasn't going to come on to them, honest.

Oh well, it's been a good life.

So long and keep moving.

NOTE: George Pollock's novel,  State Kid: Hero of Literacy is now available as an E-book on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble ( Nook).

Billy Stone was a foster child.

He ran away from abuse.

He went to juvenile prison.

He went up from there.

And he did it his way.


Through the power of the written word. 

Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

 "State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his  real-life experiences  growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison;  "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life;  "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life,"  is about how to live the title every day; and "Unlove Story," Writing anonymously as "Elvis," a husband, dumped after 38 years of marriage, lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
   For the Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver
State Kid
Unlove Story


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