The Cricket: 'Pinafore,' Beethoven and Der Bingle: A father's playlist
Because of my father, I can never watch "Caddyshack." That's because my dad, after a morning on the golf course during my childhood, too much resembled Ted Knight's character right down to his white hair.
Because of my father, I use the word "y'all" a lot in conversation, even though I've never lived in the South. Dad did, though, growing up in Lebanon, Tenn., and his accent remained with him through all the various postings that come with a career in the U.S. Air Force.
Because of my father, who was as smart as he was stubborn, I will defend vociferously my use of the word "y'all," by pointing out the English language's ridiculous lack of a decent second-person-plural pronoun.
Because of my father, I can recite most of the lyrics from "H.M.S. Pinafore" from memory. He loved listening to Gilbert & Sullivan and owned LPs of most of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company's productions. (My favorite line: "Stick close to your desks and never go to sea, and you all may be rulers of the Queen's Nay-vee!")
Because of my father, I was perhaps the only sixth-grader in Spokane, Wash., who knew who Herbert von Karajan was. One of my dad's prized possessions was a Deutsche Grammophon boxed set of Beethoven's nine symphonies, performed by von Karajan's Berlin Philharmonic.
Because of my father, I grew up with the best stereo equipment '70s Japanese technology could produce. Dad brought the stuff home after serving overseas (mostly in Thailand and Guam) and was what today we call an "early adopter."
Because of my father, I devour Ken Burns movies and the like. Dad loved history, and on long car trips he told the most entertaining stories about historical figures.
Because of my father, I am allowed to ridicule Texans. My five siblings and I, being Air Force brats, were each born in different parts of the country (and in the case of one brother, Canada) as Dad was transferred from base to base. I was born in El Paso, Texas, and though I only lived there a year, I have license to make fun of my fellow Lone Star Staters.
Because of my father, I knew his twin brother, my uncle John who inspired me to become a journalist. John worked as a reporter at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis (covering, among many stories, Martin Luther King's assassination), and as a copy editor at the Washington Post. Dad received regular copies of John's columns of D.C. politics (John free-lanced for several Tennessee newspapers), and John's writing rubbed off on me.
Because of my father, I am sometimes a stickler for accuracy in movies. Dad used to complain about movies that depicted the Air Force, especially when it got some technical detail wrong about the planes. He also hated the movie "Capricorn One," which depicted a faked landing on Mars because he was a true believer in NASA's mission and wouldn't tolerate any talk of the space agency faking its missions. (The movie is almost never seen anymore, because one of the astronauts was played by O.J. Simpson.)
Because of my father, I tear up at the opening lines of John Gillespie Magee Jr.'s poem "High Flight": "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth / And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings." A framed copy of this ode to aviators (which Ronald Reagan quoted in his 1986 speech after the space shuttle Challenger exploded) hung on the wall of Dad's study.
Because of my father, "White Christmas" and "Holiday Inn" are staples of my holiday viewing. Dad was a Bing Crosby fan and became even more of one when he enrolled in law school at Gonzaga University after he retired from the Air Force in 1975. (Crosby was a major donor to Gonzaga, where he went to college, and the school's library was named for him. There's a massive bronze statue of Crosby on campus, and when it was installed people kept stealing Bing's pipe.)
Because of my father, I will watch "The Quiet Man" any time it pops up on television. Dad loved John Wayne movies, especially that one though sometimes I suspected he was really a Maureen O'Hara fan and used The Duke as cover.
Because of my father, I know a freakish number of jokes that start "God, Jesus and Moses were out playing golf. â¦" Most of these jokes aren't actually all that funny, but they still make me smile.
Because of my father Lt. Col. Richard O. Means, U.S.A.F. (ret.), who died this week at age 85 I became, in large part, the person I am. Credit my dad for the good parts, and blame me for the rest.
Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at http://www.sltrib.com/blogs/moviecricket. Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/seanpmeans. Email him at email@example.com.