Five Statements, Five Questions

1. The man who killed my father died yesterday. How should this make me feel?

2. I found this old video online recently. Would you wear the shirt I am wearing in it if I gave it to you?

3. When asked to pick the most quintessentially American composition of the 20th Century, I tend to think of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,”  or Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.” Which would you pick?

4. Gina’s comment here rang true with me, since I’ve been a dogmatic North Carolina corn partisan for over 40 years, until switching to Team Iowa this summer. Is your own local sweet corn the best?

5. I was introduced to the concept of completed staff work in 1987, and I have really liked it as a working philosophy, both when I’ve been a subordinate, and when I’ve been a boss. Does it make sense to you?

About J. Eric Smith
Executive Director, Salisbury House Foundation.

20 Responses to Five Statements, Five Questions

  1. Wow. Just wow. I can’t get past number 1. And I have no idea how to answer that question, except to say, “…exactly as you feel.” You’re in my thoughts — sending healing vibes your way, friend…

    • Thanks for the thoughts and vibes . . . both much appreciated. And, yeah, that is kind of the fraught/weighted question among the five, you are right.

      The killer’s obituary was lovely to the casual reader, as he was an accomplished man in many ways, and I do feel for his family . . . but nowhere in there did it say “Killed Eric’s Dad, and deprived Eric’s Mom of her choice companion for what should have been her well-earned glorious retirement years . . . ”

      When I first wrote this post, I had that question listed last of the five items. But then I decided that was playing dirty pool . . . if I’m gonna be the bummer dispenser, I figure I should do it up front, so people can bail out before I get into the music and the corn and the whatnot.

      It seemed wrong to smack them with death and vengeance after I’d made them listen to “Powerhouse” . . .

  2. Jeff Claus says:

    In reverse order…

    5) Interesting idea. I would think that only works if the boss has the good sense to give her employees free reign.

    4) I myself have a soft spot for corn from Calhoun’s farm in Brunswick. Don’t know why, but too me it’s the best corn around year after year. I bet Iowa corn in a good year might change my mind, though.

    3) Rhapsody in Blue, hands down.

    2) No. But I miss Sounding Board… what the heck ever happened to that show? Did Time-Warner lose interest?

    1) No good answer to that, Eric. If I were in your shoes, I can’t imagine feeling much satisfaction, and certainly no “closure.” Seems nothing more than me than a reminder of the worst of times. My thoughts are with you…

    • 2) When Time Warner moved their studio production space from Washington Avenue Extension out to Rotterdam, they didn’t have a space suitable for filming the show. We originally planned to keep it running by using their remote truck in venues around town, and we did a few shows like that (one at the Linda, when it first opened, and one at Washington Park Playhouse, that I can remember) . . . but the interruption and change of scenery just made it hard for us to get back into full production mode again . . .

  3. Greg Goth says:

    Rhapsody in Blue for sure, and it doesn’t matter where the corn is grown as long as it is fresh (check the stalk, if it’s as close to translucent as it can be it’s fresh-picked). I have always striven to make the stories I turn in completed staff work. My DSL stream is very slow so I’ll just have to say nice shirt. And I can’t begin to fathom having my Dad taken from me in such a fashion and would feel like an interloper if I tried to venture any statement other than mute empathy.

  4. Carl says:

    1. In regard to the first, I have family members who are always asking how they should feel or think about something — as if only by knowing how they’re supposed to feel can they be comfortable with how they do feel. it makes me insane. Maybe you’re feeling nothing, and thinking that somehow there’s some significance that isn’t there that you should be feeling. But in the end, you feel what you feel.

    2. No. Not then, not ever.

    3. For pure 20th century, I’d have to choose the Gershwin, but if I were adding to the list I’d add Barber’s Adagio for Strings

    4. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as local sweet corn, thanks to Monsanto and others. But I don’t eat corn any more so I don’t know.

    5. I wasn’t familiar with the doctrine, except inasmuch as it describes how I think things should work. It requires both staff and boss who understand their roles. Some bosses can’t deal with not getting knees deep into the work, but many, many more staff are terrified to step up and own their product.

    • 2) The shirts thing on Sounding Board became a running gag . . . we generally taped four shows per weekend, and I would go to Salvation Army the morning before the first taping and buy the four loudest, most garish shirts I could find. We had them all piled up in the corner of the dressing room at one point, and it looked like an explosion in an paint factory . . .

  5. Goat says:

    1. I feel like there’s too much goopy in the background for me to even come close to a comprehensive response to that. (I still have all those posts around somewhere, y’know. If you ever get round to writing an actual honesttofook memoir, it will be one of the few I read without complaining about the fact that I’m reading a goddamn memoir.)

    2. Are you kidding? It’s one of the few shirts with a collar you wouldn’t have to pay me a salary to wear.

    3. Of those, Fanfare, but I’d put in an argument for Brubeck’s “Take Five”.

    4. I’ve never been much of a sweet corn guy, and I don’t think I’ve ever honestly registered a difference in taste from one locality to the other.

    5. I freaking LOVE this idea, and have actually been trying to implement it at facelesscorporateoverlord.com without realizing that’s what I was doing. I hit my boss with something like this at least once a month, and about 30% of the time it gets passed up the food chain, where it starves from lack of oxygen. As our telecom guy keeps reminding us, the current old-boy network will all be retired within a year… all I have to do is keep myself from going to gun shows with a big wad of dirty money till then…

  6. gina says:

    1. I can only tell you how it would make me feel – like writing.

    2. Well, it’s not exactly my style but I will pretty much wear anything that’s clean. Switch the pattern colors to purple and pink and add some wrinkles and maybe a mended spot and it wouldn’t be out of place in my closet.

    3. I generally favor Gershwin but among these three I prefer the Copland piece.

    4. LOL. I was thinking after I wrote that comment that I forgot something and now I have the invitation to add it, so thanks. My family just finished getting in 900+ bales of hay – amazing production for an 8 acre field, the second highest yield of the 28 years my parents have lived at their farm. The consumers of this bounty are my mother’s horses, and she says that they prefer hay grown on their own land to that purchased from someone else. (Cows are not as finicky.) This is why she goes through the annual torture of anxiously checking the crop to see when it is ready and watching the weather for three days in a row of no rain. Kind of an unrelated aside, she also says that the horses get down on their knees at midnight on 12/25, and her favorite kneels the longest, something she can discern because this horse has the most hay on her knees in the morning. I have no reason to disbelieve her on either count, or about the corn of the Hurley Flats. So I think the lesson is that in our love for locally grown we are just like horses.

    5. Yes, it does. Even without lots of in-line references and a long works cited list! Add in a task force, three subcommittees, a bunch of meetings, turnover in management and staff who are on vacation or taking medical leave, and I forgot what we were talking about…

  7. Bob W. says:

    1. I can’t answer this one. You feel the way you feel and maybe you share that feeling with your loved ones who are also struggling with how the loss changed them. And then you write about it, because that is what you do.

    2. Absolutely and with pride. “What you see right here is gen-u-ine J. Eric Smith shirt worn during the height of the grunge/nu metal era. No need to crowd, people…no need to crowd! Everyone will have a chance to get close and bask in its glory. You first, little lady.”

    3. Copland, although the suggestion of “Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes Opening/Closing Theme” is a definite close second.

    4. Having enjoyed sweet corn freshly-picked in North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, South Dakota, New York state and Pennsylvania, I have to give my vote to Iowa. Something in the soil/water out there…I’ve never had better.

    5. With the right management and staff, it absolutely can work. I learned of the practice from my career military father and it was one of the best pieces of workplace advice he ever gave me: “Being able to identify the problem is good, having a solution at the ready when you reveal the problem is better.”

    • 4). I think it has to do with the soil and water out here too . . . they refer to our “good Iowa dirt,” and it really is amazing to see how productive it is, even in our little garden. I forget who it is attributed to, but someone famous said Iowa dirt looks good enough to eat on its own . . . and I kinda know what they meant . . .

      3). I’m starting to embrace the Stalling piece, too, the more I think about it!!!! We went to a performance of the Des Moines Symphony that I wrote about earlier that was dynamite, and it was the capstone of their year’s tribute to great American music . . . but they didn’t include “Rhapsody in Blue,” which seemed odd to me. It could be because they presented it last season, or recently, anyway, or for some other reasons . . . but it got me to thinking about what I would program were I in charge of such a series.

  8. Linda Smith says:

    I think we must feel compassion, and sadness for his family. They loved him as we loved Dad, and we know it was not intentional.
    Love, Mom

    • Yeah, that’s kind of where I’m at, too . . . though with an edge of jealousy that they got those extra ten years with their beloved family member that we did not.

  9. Linda Smith says:

    And by the way, it has taken me all these years to reach this point….don’t know what I might have felt earlier, but hope I could have said the same.
    Love, Mom

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