A New Movie About Mr. Rogers

Our children grew up watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighbored on Public Broadcasting. He passed some years back. Before he died, Tom Junod interviewed and published his article in a magazine.

It now appears that his article inspired a movie called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Tom Hanks plays Mr. Rogers. I copied language from the December issue of The Atlantic containing Mr. Junod’s article that is presented below.

A long time ago, a man of resourceful and relentless kindness saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. He trusted me when I thought I was untrustworthy, and took an interest in me that went beyond my initial interest in him. He was the first person I ever wrote about who became my friend, and our friendship endured until he died. Now a movie has been made from the story I wrote about him, which is to say “inspired by” the story I wrote about him, which is to say that in the movie my name is Lloyd Vogel and I get into a fistfight with my father at my sister’s wedding.

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I did not get into a fistfight with my father at my sister’s wedding. My sister didn’t have a wedding. And yet the movie, called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, seems like a culmination of the gifts that Fred Rogers gave me and all of us, gifts that fit the definition of grace because they feel, at least in my case, undeserved. I still don’t know what he saw in me, why he decided to trust me, or what, to this day, he wanted from me, if anything at all. He puzzles me now as much as he did when I first met him at the door of the apartment he kept in New York City, dressed, as he’d warned me when we spoke on the phone and he invited me over, in a shabby blue bathrobe and a pair of slippers. Fred was, let’s not forget, a rather peculiar man, and it is not just his goodness but rather the peculiarity of his goodness that has made him, 16 years after his death, triumphant as a symbol of human possibility, although just about everything he stood for has been lost.

I met Fred Rogers in 1998, when Esquire assigned me a story about him for a special issue on American heroes. I last spoke with him on Christmas Day 2002, when I called him to talk about an argument I’d had with my cousin; he died two months later, on February 27, 2003. In late 2014, I heard from two screenwriters, Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue, who were interested in using my Esquire story as the basis of a movie, and in January 2018, I received a call from the movie’s producer with the news that Tom Hanks had been cast as Fred Rogers, which meant, emphatically, that the movie would be made. A few months after that, I visited the set in Pittsburgh, where I met Matthew Rhys, the actor who had agreed to play … well, me, or some variant of me, a cynical journalist who in the end proves amenable to Fred’s life lessons—his ministry.

I had been thinking of starting this story at one of those points of departure, at one of those beginnings or one of those endings. But stories don’t only speak; they are spoken to, by the circumstances under which they are written. And so I have to start by mentioning that I have begun writing a story about Mister Rogers the day after two young men armed with assault rifles killed a total of 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

What would Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto?

I am often asked what Fred would have made of our time—what he would have made of Donald Trump, what he would have made of Twitter, what he would have made of what is generally called our “polarization” but is in fact the discovery that we don’t like our neighbors very much once we encounter them proclaiming their political opinions on social media. I often hear people say that they wish Fred were still around to offer his guidance and also that they are thankful he is gone, because at least he has been spared from seeing what we have become. In all of this, there is something plaintive and a little desperate, an unspoken lament that he has left us when we need him most, as though instead of dying of stomach cancer he was assumed by rapture, abandoning us to our own devices and the judgment implicit in his absence.

What would Fred Rogers—Mister Rogers—have made of El Paso and Dayton, of mass murder committed to fulfill the dictates of an 8chan manifesto? What, for that matter, would he have made of the anti-Semitic massacre that took place last fall in his real-life Pittsburgh neighborhood of Squirrel Hill? The easy answer is that it is impossible to know, because he was from a different world, one almost as alien to us now as our mob-driven world of performative slaughters would be to him. But actually, I think I do know, because when I met him, one of the early school shootings had just taken place, in West Paducah, Kentucky—eight students shot while they gathered in prayer. Though an indefatigably devout man, he did not attempt to characterize the shootings as an attack on the faithful; instead, he seized on the news that the 14-year-old shooter had gone to school telling his classmates that he was about to do something “really big,” and he asked, “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really littletomorrow’?” Fred decided to devote a whole week of his television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, to the theme of “little and big,” encouraging children to embrace the diminutive nature of their bodies and their endeavors—to understand that big has to start little.

Fred Rogers was a children’s-TV host, but he was not Captain Kangaroo or Officer Joe Bolton. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister who was so appalled by what he saw on 1950s television—adults trying to entertain children by throwing pies in each other’s faces—that he joined the medium as a reformer. He considered the space between the television set and the eyes of his audience sacred, and from 1966 to 2000 he taped nearly 1,000 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, trying to make that space less profane. And although he made his living speaking to children, his message and example endure because he found a way to speak to all of us—to speak to children as respectfully as he spoke to adults and to speak to adults as simply as he spoke to children. Such fluency was the result not of spontaneous enthusiasm but rather of the rigorous editing he brought to bear on himself and everyone around him. When I first visited the Neighborhood 21 years ago, one of his in-house writers, Hedda Sharapan, told me what had happened when he’d enlisted her to write a manual intended to teach doctors how to talk to children. She worked hard on it, using all her education and experience in the field of child development, but when she handed him her opening, he crossed out what she’d written and replaced it with six words: “You were a child once too.”

Read: Mr. Rogers had a simple set of rules for talking to children

And that’s it, really—his message to doctors was his message to politicians, CEOs, celebrities, educators, writers, students, everyone. It was also the basis of his strange superpowers. He wanted us to remember what it was like to be a child so that he could talk to us; he wanted to talk to us so that we could remember what it was like to be a child. And he could talk to anyone, believing that if you remembered what it was like to be a child, you would remember that you were a child of God.

The question, then, isn’t what Fred would do, what Fred would say, in the face of outrage and horror, because Fred was the most stubbornly consistent of men. He would say that Donald Trump was a child once too. He would say that the latest Twitter victim or villain was a child once too. He would even say that the mass murderers of El Paso and Dayton were children once too—that, in fact, they were very nearly still children, at 21 and 24 years old, respectively—and he would be heartbroken that children have become both the source and the target of so much animus. He would pray for the shooters as well as for their victims, and he would continue to urge us, in what has become one of his most oft quoted lines, to “look for the helpers.”

There is no doubt that he would try to be one of the helpers. The question is whether a man who saw evil in terms of big and little would be able to help.

Celebrating my 75th Birthday

I turned 75 earlier this month. To celebrate, I rode my bike 31.8 miles and did 45 consecutive reps with two 35 pound dumbbells.

The Jersey is a gift from my son.

Long’s Peak

This picture shows Long’s Peak from near our home in Longmont, Co.

Long’s Peak, one of the 14 teeners in Colorado

We have not tried climbing Long’s Peak because one must begin before sunrise so they can be well down the mountain by no later than 3 pm due to high winds and possible lightening.

The Gift Shop in Goodnight, TX

On our trip from Colorado to Texas, we took the opportunity to visit the gift shop at the Goodnight Ranch in Goodnight, Tx.

Charles Goodnight was an early raiser of Cattle and Buffalo. I had the opportunity to read about in a book titled “A Buffalo in the House”.

Buffalo at the Goodnight Ranch Museum
The entry to the Shop at the Ranch
Sign showing a fourth reason for being in Goodnight

Anyone passing through the Texas Panhandle should stop and check out this marvelous tribute to one of the greatest cattlemen who drove cattle through the staked plains, over the Raton Pass and up to Denver.

Photo from a recent Quilt Show

We went to a quilt show in Dallas a few weeks ago.  One category included travel oriented quilts.  While many seemed wonderfully crafted, the one shown above is my absolute favorite.

We have traveled to Venice a few times:  This quilt seemed to capture the essential Venice.

Spelling Lessions for US Voters

My opinions only and not declarations of fact

How does one spell narcissist:  Trump

How does one spell grandstander:  Trump

How does one spell racist xenophobe:  Trump

How does one spell presidential:  not Trump

How does one spell effective leader: not Trump

How does one spell braggart and blowhard:  Trump

Who is only effective at running his mouth and his twitter account:  Trump

Thank you for reading this.

Photo from Rhine River Cruise

Interior View of the Castle at Heidelberg

 

We had wonderful weather while in Heidelberg.  Our guide has a PhD in German history.  I was able to speak German with her; she thought my pronunciation and diction  were quite good given that I am not a native speaker.  I explained that my maternal grandmother spoke German at home: I learned from her and followed that up with 3 years of German in High School

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Tanners’ Houses in Strasbourg

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I took this photo on my recent cruise on the Rhine River.  According to our guide, the houses were, during the 16th to 18th centuries, owned by tanners who dried the hides on the sloping roof tops.  The architecture seems well suited to that task.

 

Our New President is so thin skinned that he muzzles our free press

Protecting our Dear Leader’s Huge Ego

Spicer handpicks media outlets for briefing, excludes CNN & others

US News 1 hour ago
Press Secretary Sean Spicer called off the standard televised press briefing, instead opting for an invite-only “gaggle.” Outlets like CNN, the NY Times, LA Times and Politico were barred from speaking with Spicer, while Breitbart and OANN were allowed in.
For such a thin skinned erstwhile President, he verbally assaults anyone who criticizes him.
One would have thought he would have thought this through before running for President since every preceding, in my lifetime, holder of the oval office has faced constant criticism.  If erstwhile President Trump is unhappy, he should resign and Vice President Pence, a real politician, take over the oval office.
Our Dear Leader would be almost suitable for the office if, rather than try to impress us with his first 100 days, would engage his brain before running off and causing attacks, and vetoing highly qualified advisors such as Elliott Abrams solely because he was critical of our great Himself.
He is becoming increasingly like a wanna be dictator.  Perhaps this is why he is such great friends with Putin.
Regrets to Sean Spicer.  He must really need the money to be the mouthpiece for this sorry administration.  Kellyann Conway must have known  better than to take the job.
A while back Spicer said that stifling the press would created a dictatorship.  I guess this now makes our Government a Fascist dictatorship.

Will the Real President of the United States Stand Up Please.

It is beginning to appear that Mike Pence is the Darth Vader (Dick Cheney) of what is supposedly the Trump Administration

Why might I say this?  Several reasons and I think many people add more.  For instance, President Trump was, in terms of abortion in favor of freedom of choice.  What caused his new-found epiphany?  Clearly Pence is in charge on this issue.

Who is for legislation either banning or cutting back freedom of assembly and encouraging state legislation that, in one case, would allow drivers to run down and kill protesters as long as the action was unintentional.  In clear English, they will allow their supporters to kill people at will.  I believe our Dear Leader is sufficiently thick skinned to use his twitter account for revenge rather than having people killed.  I think Pence is behind this.

Vice President Pence is actually the largest threat to Freedom of Religion in my lifetime.  He has become the first American Ayatollah seeking to impose his version of Sharia Law on American women.  Actually, he should be best buddies with the Muslims as he would, if and when he gains the power, treat women the same way as they.

I think many people wish to have Trump impeached.  That would be a disaster because Pence would be much worst in terms of personal freedom.  Pence would not wish that to happen because he would rather Trump be found at fault for everything that goes wrong in this country.  President Trump is the king without clothes.

Senator McConnell said they would not be able to control President Trump.  That is much less than candid.  The are controlling our already lame duck President through Vice President Pence.

I think Mr Trump could actually be one of the better presidents of my lifetime if his managers and handlers  would let him be himself.  While he is solely out for himself and his family he is more of a Democratic than an Ultra Conservative Republican.  Left to his own devices, we could work out a decently amicable economic arrangement with China and Mexico, but the hard liners, including Steve Bannon ( the Herman Goering of the Trump Administration) keep pressing him to act increasingly angry, possibly leading my and our country into what will have been an avoidable armed conflict.

I find it interesting that our Dear Leader is going after Mexico.  This reminds me of Mussolini going after hapless Ethiopia at the beginning of the last world war.  Mussolini was a bully.  My fear is that President Trump is a bully which could also lead us into an avoidable war.

Enough has been written about the Immigration Chaos in publications such as the Huffington Post that I feel no need to add to what has already been said; except that I feel it necessary to congratulate the Federal Judge in Seattle who stayed its implementation.  Of course, the Administration’s mouthpiece said the Judge was second guessing our leader.  Mr. Spicer, as should President Trump, should really spend some time reading and learning about the constitution.  That is why we separation of powers in this country.  I fear that citizens of the United States of America can only rely on the Judicial Branch since our elected Congressman and Senators are too afraid of President Trumps twitter account to take any effective action.  They wish to preserve their salaries and generous pensions and access to bribes and kickbacks and book deals that are the best way to avoid limitations on political campaign contributions.  I wish to be clear that it is not just republicans that are guilty, many if not most of them slop at the public trough.  My personal plan is to vote against every incumbent candidate until I find something resembling an honest politician.  I believe it easier to find a virgin in Las Vegas than an honest politician.

I also fear that this country, as is the case of Russia and was the case in Hitler’s Germany, is becoming a Plutocracy: where our President and Cabinet together with our large corporations run the country.  President Trump said he would drain the swamp in Washington.  Thus far, he has made it even more murky.  Most of the members of his cabinet represent large corporate interests such Corporate Finance Firms and large oil and gas firms.

I am surprised that Mr. Tillerson would agree to report to anyone, including the President of the United States.  It seems his sole goals are to reduce or eliminate environmental regulations and roadblocks and be in a position to negotiate huge deals and concessions with Russia and across Asia.  My guess is that once this happens, he will resign and count the money he has gained while being Secretary of State.  Of course, everyone knows that our new Secretary of State is there to procure relief from regulations on the banking industry.  You know the people in that industry.  Many of them should have gone to jail after the 2008 housing collapse.  The bankers do not care.  American taxpayers will take the loss while their bonuses continue unabated.

I do belive President Trump’s head and heart are in the right place regarding immigration and the Terrorism Threat.  I am sure he, as would most people living in our country, would not want a 9/11 on his watch.  I think he should get advice from someone other than the xenophobic Steve Bannon who should not ever be a member of our Security apparatus or even an advisor to our president.

Here’s to the success, prosperity and safety of President Trump and the United States of America.  I pray that he will seek better advisors.