Monday, September 27, 2010

Grandpa Joe's passports 1926-1992

Box #2 A set of Grandpa Joe's nine passports.
The Duke of Richmond was quite the world traveller. He caught the travel bug early. The earliest passport was issued in 1926 when he was 22 years old. Upon graduation from Princeton University ( where he was runner-up for "Best Dressed Man") he and a group of friends toured Greece, Turkey, USSR, Albania, England, and Persia. There were three months spent hunting game in Kenya and tour s of Yugoslavia ( when it was called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes), France, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Norway.

On this trip he swam the waters of the Bosporus, the narrow strait seperating European and Asiatic Turkey. Announcing his intentions to break the record of 18 minutes he dove into the water and began a strong Australian crawl while his friends rowed alongside. He quickly tired and switched to a side stroke. Soon the side stroke deteriorated into a dog paddle. By the time he reached the far shore he was exhausted. He looked up to his friend.
"Did I beat the record?"
"No, not quite."
"How much did I miss it by?"
"Fourteen minutes."
No matter. He could always say he swam from one continent to the other.

His passports are all heavily stamped ( literally marking his days in the OSS from the late 40's to early 50's) but his last passport, issued in the summer of 1991, is only stamped twice. Both times at Heathrow Airport.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

"Lazy Bones" 1975

In 1975 Dad bought the Leon Redbone album "On The Track" which features the Hoagy Carmichael/ Johnny Mercer classic "Lazy Bones" as well as other vaudeville era jazz numbers that Dad may have played with The Syncopators. As much as I like the performance it does remind me how often Dad accused me of laziness-- especially around this time of my life when I was eleven and twelve years old.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dad Playing With His Mac's Photo Booth, 2009

     Photo Booth lets you distort , posterize and treat photos taken from the camera atop the Mac. I think Dad would be glad to know his grandchildren are getting as big a kick out of this toy as he did.

"My Buddy"

I remember Dad singing this song to our Saint Bernard, Magoo, who would respond by getting into a frothy, drooling, tail-wagging frenzy. Wonder if The Syncopators played it.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Syncopators 1953

The year is 1953 and Dad is an "upper-mid" ( or Junior) at The Hotchkiss School. His only appearance in the yearbook, aside from a group photo of the class outside Alumni Hall, is in the photo of The Syncopators.
Dad played banjo in a jazz band led by his classmate Peter Duchin on piano. Duchin , the son of one of America's most famous bandleaders of the 1930's and 1940's, would make his living as a musician performing nightly at the St Regis Hotel and all over the world.

Wrote Dad to his parents on October 18, 1952
The band got a special room to practice in from the DUKE ( Headmaster George Van Santvoord), and fifty dollars for any work that might be needed to fix it up, from the music department. We give small Jazz and Dixieland concerts for about two to three hundred people every Saturday night. To tell you th truth..cough-cough..we are pretty dran good."

And on January 20, 1953
"In a coule of nights--I don't know if I told you this--but on the night of the twenty-third I'm going to play with Artie Shaw at the Lakeville public school. Now that is the honest truth. Me and Artie am going to play some real cool music"

I attended Hotchkiss twenty five years later and we shared two teachers. George Norton Stone ( math) and Robert Hawkins ( English and French). Other faculty members still around in my day were future headmaster Arthur White, Stephen Bolmer, David Demaray, George Kellogg, Peter Beaumont and Charles Demarest.
I also had a band in my upper mid year. A prep school punk band called The Geeks.
Kicked out for having an electric coffee pot in his room ( or so he told me), Dad actually graduated from The Berkshire School in 1954.
I believe the bottom photo is his senior portrait.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dad's Obit from the New York Times 12/18/09

C D B Bryan, "Friendly Fire" Writer, Dies at 73

by Bruce Weber

C. D. B. Bryan, a novelist and journalist whose 1976 book, “Friendly Fire,” about the accidental death of a soldier in Vietnam, the consequent anguish of his family and their rage at the Army and the federal government, became one of the enduring works of reportage on the Vietnam War, died Tuesday at home in Guilford, Conn. He was 73.

The cause was cancer, said his son, St. George Bryan.

Mr. Bryan’s career was that of an old-fashioned man of letters. He wrote both novels and nonfiction books; he taught writing at Colorado State University and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop; he contributed articles to many magazines; and he was a voluminous book reviewer, including for The New York Times Book Review, where over the years he assessed works by Tom WolfeRichard FordMichael HerrErica JongKurt Vonnegut Jr.William F. Buckley and Julio Cortazar, among others.

But his career was most distinguished by “Friendly Fire,” a book that began as a single magazine article for The New Yorker and was subsequently serialized in several consecutive issues. It was the story of the death of Michael Eugene Mullen, a draftee from LaPorte City, Iowa, who, on Feb. 18, 1970, was killed by shrapnel from an errant artillery shell fired by his fellow troops. His parents, Peg and Gene, doubted the Army’s official account of his death. They were frustrated and aggrieved by the shabby treatment their further inquiries received, and the book traces their path — focusing on Peg Mullen’s life-altering outrage — from quietly patriotic Americans, members of what President Richard M. Nixon called “the silent majority,” to antiwar activists.

“The great war stories do not deal solely with the death of soldiers but with the death of idealism,” Robert Sherrill wrote of “Friendly Fire” in The Times Book Review, “and Bryan’s handling of that theme is certainly the finest that has come out of the Vietnam War.”

Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan, known as Courty, was born in Manhattan on April 22, 1936, and grew up in various locations, but mostly in Doylestown, Pa. His father, Joseph Bryan III, was a magazine writer and editor who had a fascination with unidentified flying objects, a subject C. D. B. Bryan would explore himself in his final book, published in 1995 after an academic symposium that examined claims of alien visitations: “Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: Alien Abductions, UFOs and the Conference at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” His parents divorced when he was in his late teens, and his mother, Katharine Lansing Barnes, married the novelist John O’Hara, who was especially influential in turning the young man toward writing fiction.

Young Courty Bryan was educated at several private schools and was thrown out of two of them, one for cheating, an incident central to an early short story, “So Much Unfairness of Things,” which appeared in The New Yorker and grew into his first novel, “P.S. Wilkinson.” It won the Harper Prize, given by the publisher Harper & Row to the finest manuscript turned in by an unknown writer, in 1965.

In spite of his spotty academic career, he was admitted to Yale. After graduation he served in the Army in South Korea in the late 1950s, an unhappy episode that also found its way into the novel.

Mr. Bryan was married four times and divorced three. He is survived by his wife, Mairi Graham Bryan, whom he married in 2007 after they had been together 15 years; a sister, Joan Gates, of Richmond, Va.; two children from his marriage to Phoebe Miller, St. George Bryan, known as Saint, and Lansing Andolina, both of Tacoma, Wash.; a daughter, Amanda Bryan, of Charlotte, N.C., from his marriage to Judith Snyder; two stepchildren, Derek Simonds, of Manhattan, and Tiffany Simonds-Frew, of Guilford, from his marriage to Monique Widmer; and four grandchildren.

“Friendly Fire” was made into an Emmy Award-winning television movie that starred Carol Burnett and Ned Beatty as the Mullens and Sam Waterston as Mr. Bryan.

Mr. Bryan’s other books include the novels “The Great Dethriffe,” which is set in the 1950s and ’60s and consciously parallels “The Great Gatsby,” and “Beautiful Women, Ugly Scenes,” about a middle-aged man’s failed marriages. He also wrote coffee-table books about the National Geographic Society and the National Air and Space Museum.

Mr. Bryan was a smoker, a drinker and an avid and gifted conversationalist who effortlessly commanded the attention of people around a dinner table, his son said. He will be cremated in advance of a memorial service early next year, St. George Bryan added; until then, his remains are to be stored in martini shakers.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Aiken Preparatory School 1948-1949

Box #1
Dad is a very young looking 12 years old in this staff photo of the Aiken Preparatory School News 1948-1949.
He recounts some of the school's customs in his best known short story "So Much Unfairness of Things" published in The New Yorker June 2, 1962.
"For example, new boys, or "toads," still must obey the Toad Code. They must be courteous to old boys and faculty. They must know the school song and cheers by the end of the second week. They must know the names of all members of the faculty and the varsity football team. They must hold doors open for old boys, and see that old boys are served first in the dining room. And they must "run relay"--meaning that they have to wake up the old boys in the morning when they wish to be wakened and see that they are not disturbed when they wish to sleep."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Contemporary American Writers At Work, 1989


From a Spring 1989 Japanese magazine called "Comtemporary American Stories" there's a series of articles called "Contemporary American Writers at Work" featuring Jay McInerney, Ethan Canin and Dad.

This was after The National Geographic Society book came out (in 1987) and before Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind ( 1995). At the time he was working on a non-fiction book about incest that would never get published.

He is seen in the top photograph, with cigarette in hand, sitting at his old desk at the Union Street house. I've never seen photographs of him smiling so nicely.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Would You Want Your Kid To Be A Writer? 1968

From the April 28, 1968 Chicago Tribune Magazine, there's a story about the Iowa Writers Workshop where Dad taught alongside Kurt Vonnegut, William Price Fox and Vance Bourjaily, who passed away this week.
The writer, Clarence Petersen, begins the article with a quote from my dad.
"They've forgotten how to read," says Courtlandt Dixon Barnes Bryan. "They don't see that phrase that lights you up. They've got so much to read in college that they read for all the wrong reasons.'What am I going to be asked about this'-that sort of thing".
Bryan guns the engine of his small red station wagon as we go roaring out of Iowa City where he is in his first year on the staff of the Iowa Writers Workshop. Bryan is 31, a Yale graduate, the stepson of John O'Hara, and author of the Harper Prize novel, "P.S. Wilkinson". He looks more like a teen-age idol, tall and thin with a mane of blond Beatle hair and fantastic clothes. Today it's a pale blue shirt with a white pinstripe, paisley tie, and yellow and black plaid jacket.
"I had such fun teaching the undergraduates last semester because I said: 'Let's relax. If you want an A, talk to me and I'll give you an A, but let's enjoy these books'"
Bryan's wife, Sam, is in the back seat with a green wicker table she found somewhere and loves and, on the floor wrapped in plastic, a sprawling tangly kind of vine thing that she's also crazy about. Sam is all girl, despite the name, which isn't even short for Samantha. She's bright and shiny young, stacked, and mini-skirted, with great legs. The Bryans, both of them, are just great looking people. They should be in the Newport commercials...
( After stopping off at the state liquor control commission store) the small car takes a low hill and goes roaring down the other side. To the right is a small stand of dead trees, barkless and with long wicked witch fingers, scary as the forest Snow White ran thru after the huntsman let her go. To the left, across the road is the Bryans' small farmhouse, old and weathered, rooted in mud. We run up the drive and stop.
"Look at the sunset, " says Bryan, falling back from the wheel and then stepping out of the car." Just look at that sunset!"
The article , which contains no pictures of Dad or Sam, ends with Dad suggesting the greatest writer in America just might be Mickey Spillane.

67 Boxes in the Attic

On an August afternoon, nearly eight months after my father passed away in Connecticut, a moving van pulled up to my house in North Tacoma. Two men unloaded sixty seven boxes and carried them up to the attic.
There they sat untouched for weeks because four days after I received the boxes, I lost my mother.
It is now September.
It is time to start going through the boxes.