Part 40: The Bank of England
It's Saturday, August 29th. I've had two acquaintances contact me recently. One woman spent most of her life in the suburbs of Nashville, the other lady lives in a small town in North Carolina. Both wanted to know, one in an email, the other in a message on Facebook, if I'm safe from all the "looting and rioting" going on in Seattle. Both women were extremely concerned. I wrote to both of them, explaining that the protests were peaceful, and I could walk to downtown in thirty minutes and I wasn't in danger.
I wrote to both women that I was much more upset about the horrific and systematic loss of life rather than the property damage. I didn't get a response. It seems their minds are made up. If there's an effort to convince people that "Democrat-run cities" are some kind of hell-scape, it seems to have worked. Anyway. I'll get back to Riley's 1960s/Hollywood life soon.
First, see if you notice anything about this letter, below. Take your time.
To recap, when my father died in 2009, my sister Lisa boxed up what was left of his stuff, noticing a lot was missing. We had no idea what happened to his Encyclopedia, his book collection, and his sheet music collection back then. Lisa and I sorted through most of Riley's papers and letters right away. We found a huge file of love letters Riley had received over the last 25 years of his life. It seems he never lost his appeal.
Did you have time to really look at that letter from ASCAP, above?
When Lisa shipped a box of Riley's papers to me, I made an attempt to organize them. Everything smelled like his Sante Fe cigars. A small white envelope fell on my office floor, and tiny clippings fluttered out. There were dozens of these small papers. I got down on my hands and knees and picked them up, examining them. They were all the same. They read:
Chairman of the board
I had no idea what the hell was going on. I Googled Marilyn Bergman, and indeed she was on the board of directors of ASCAP, (the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) but I still had no idea what the little cut outs were for. I suspected my father was doing something "creative" with them.
Finally, months later, at the bottom of a huge pile of papers, I came across a bunch of letters, all the same, pictured above.
I held one of the photocopies of the ASCAP letter in my hands, reading it over. I recognized my father's typewriter font, and then a flashback to the tiny cut outs. The supposed sender was Marilyn Bergman. The letter reminded me of the last will and testament Dad had given me during my college years, urging me to keep the will in a safe place. In this ASCAP letter, The Bank of England is mentioned. In his will, he also promised my sister and I that he had money in The Bank of England, (really Dad????) but he never had any account number or bank statements.
Dad loved this product called "Wite-Out" and he always had reams of paper, tape, scissors, glue stick, and a plan.
When my husband, David, helped me retrieve Dad's stuff from Larry Bastian's storage unit, we had to sift through all of it at my friend Tim's house. There was so much stuff, and multiple copies of everything, including this ASCAP stationary, we spent days going through it.
David said, "We should've bought stock in Kinko's while your Dad was alive."
Something that slays me and breaks my heart a little is that my father got really shaky hands as he got older. Look at the letter again, I bet you he was better and cutting and pasting when he was younger. When I noticed how crooked the fake stationary was, I felt bad for him. I imagined him trying to put this letter together, his hands not cooperating, and it ended up a little wonky and crooked. He clearly didn't think highly of whoever he was trying to trick.
It made me think of how precision my own work is as an esthetician, and how a surgeon client of mine marveled at how deftly I removed a long, ingrown hair deeply imbedded in her skin simply using the tip of a sterile lancet. I have steady hands, and I bet my father did back in the day. The last few years of his life his handwriting changed dramatically, and I wonder if it was hard to type, too. I wonder how long it took him to make up that crooked-ass batch of fake stationary.
If whatever caused my father's hands to shake so violently is genetic, I'm doomed, I hope someone has the courage to take all sharp instruments away from me.
Dad always told me that he'd sold the rights to his songs in the United States, and that he only made money from overseas. He said it was some deal he'd made with the publishers.
Recently, I found a Harry Belafonte album with a Dickson Hall song on it released by RCA in 1971. My father rarely bragged about his real accomplishments. He was most proud of getting people to believe him. I think he loved creating false documents to lead people on. That is what "sparked joy" in him.
Let's call the Bank of England. See where that money is.
Next, part 41: Riley's favorite film of all time, a deeper look into The Encyclopedia of Folk Music, and a painting of my parents going out on a date, from a photo I took in 1977 in Oxnard, California.