Hank Stuever: The single set of footprints in the sand — as millions of inspired souls now know — was that time when the Lord picked you up and carried you. It’s a metaphor, people: He is there when you need Him most, and so is the ubiquitous poem known as “Footprints in the Sand,” shared around the world on posters, plaques, Bible covers and all things decoupage.
But who wrote it? God only knows, but after years of debate that used to confine itself to the Internet, “Footprints” could be headed to court. Basil Zangare, a 49-year-old Long Island man, insists the poem was written by his late mother during the Great Depression, even though she did not get around to copyrighting it for 50 years.
Zangare filed suit May 12 in a federal court against two women who each promotes herself as the poem’s sole author and true copyright holder. He claims they’ve made millions on “Footprints”-related merchandise, money he wants a part of.
How it all came to pass: On September 10, 1993, a major motion Picture—penned by future hotshot Quentin Tarantino, directed by action pro Tony Scott, and starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette—hit theaters with a brash fusion of stylized violence and whip-smart dialogue. It bombed. But True Romance was born again when it was released on video, achieving cult status among film geeks, rock stars, and regular Joes who got hip to Tarantino after 1994’s Pulp Fiction. Now, on the iconic flick’s 15th anniversary, you’d never guess the saga of an Elvis-obsessed loner who marries a hooker and flees to California with her pimp’s cocaine, was anything but a Hollywood hit. A few of its scenes—cue the Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper face-off—are held in mythic esteem. We corralled the stars and creators to reconstruct the secret historyof True Romance—the production screwups, the on-set madness, and the sex and violence that reverberate so strongly to this day.
Down halls where cigarette smoke perfumes the air and shuffling slippers give the floors an extra buff, there resounds an intercom announcement: Head to the dining room for the American Idol program! Come support your friends!
Those who answer the call find the dining room transformed, with a night-blue curtain concealing the buffet table, the coffee canisters and the sign saying, “Remember Your Napkin.” No trace of the shepherd’s pie served for lunch two hours before, or of the resident who accidentally dropped his food tray and walked out red-faced, the tap, tap, tap of his cane marking a slow exit he so clearly wished was quicker.
“From Hollywood, California,” calls out the master of ceremonies, encouraging the few dozen in the audience to imagine they are someplace not here, the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home, in the undulating Allegheny Mountains. They applaud the thought, the old and the not-so-old, the formerly homeless and the never homeless, the heavily medicated, the struggling, veterans all.
“Bob, can I see you for a minute?” the boss had asked.
Within minutes, Bob was exiting the office with a wave and a “Nice working with everybody.”
What the . . . ?
Instinctively, several employees followed Bob out to the parking lot.
“They told me not to say anything, but I’m not going to work with people for 13 years and not wave goodbye,” Bob said as co-workers surrounded him before he could reach his car. Bearded, disheveled and wearing shirts that should have been retired in 1984, Bob is one of those beloved characters. When my teenage niece and a friend had visited the office, they’d simply said: “We like Bob. He reminds us of Jack Black.”
More of a “why not me?” than a “why me?” guy, Bob graciously accepted his fate along with some very erotic parking-lot-in-broad-daylight hugs, and as I waited my turn (just to shake his hand), I thought of how he is made of the good stuff. Whatever they use to puff up those unbelievably comfortable Natuzzi couches or cram into the extraordinarily delicious grande burritos at the Mexican place down the road, that is what Bob is made of. His interior is high-grade.
But before I could blurt out, “Bob, you are one high-grade SOB,” the boss was yelling out the front door of our office complex. “You all need to get back inside,” he barked. “You shouldn’t even be talking to him.”
Stuever: It’s never too soon to regret the summer we didn’t have. Those pangs start now, on Memorial Day, as summer already slips away, like losing your favorite sunglasses again, and wearing a new pair that never feels right, that you regret buying. Let’s not wait and do this in the last week of August, let’s regret summer now: All the nights we meant to eat outside, until we saw how long the wait was for a table. All our dirty furniture on the deck, which is really only a balcony, which we regret.
Teddy Kennedy has cancer in his brain and he’s already been sailing once since he got home from the hospital, probably more. We regret that it’s another summer and we still (still) somehow don’t know people who own boats or summer houses by the sea. (Some of us, on the other hand, regret knowing these people. It sounds so much better in theory, until the day such people take you out on their boat and it turns out to be more work than your weekday job: Lift this, tie this, hold this. Everyone push on the count of three, etc. We see boats and see regret.)
John Barry: The little girl who walked through fire wants to show her pictures.
She opens a binder with her stiff, taped hands. One photo shows her posing in her cheerleader uniform, and another shows her grinning beside her mother, surrounded by Pooh bears. Then she shows a newspaper photo of a bedroom that is no longer a bedroom, just a black ashen hole.
She points out a heap of soot on the floor.
“This was my bed.”
She is 9 years old. She likes Hannah Montana, lip gloss, tiaras, macaroni and cheese, and doll babies.
She wants to know what this story is about. She is told it’s about how she got up from that bed and walked through flames hot enough to melt a television set.
It’s harder to explain to her that the story is really about the kind of child she is. She is a little mother. She is a girl who is lovingly, intuitively protective of her small baby cousins. Everyone knows little girls like her. Even at the youngest ages, they are mysteriously attuned to the profound beauty of a mother’s calling — her willingness to endure anything for her baby — even to walk through fire.
The little girl who walked through fire is wrapped in elastic, toes to neck. Hard plastic covers her face. Over her medical wrappings, she wears a Hannah Montana T-shirt and pink jeans. She is not smiling. She is remembering the fire.
Dugan Arnett: PORT CHARLOTTE — At any given moment, the dugout of the Murdock Little League Yankees smells like a mixture of sweat, bubble gum and farts.
It is a cramped space — you can’t walk more than a few steps without tripping over a loose helmet or glove or bat — and it is hectic, filled with 11- and 12-year-old boys in plastic cleats, click-clacking their way back and forth, digging in their bags, checking the batting order, trying to find some bubble gum to pack inside their cheeks.
It is loud, the result of an endless stream of chatter emanating toward the field. It is hot and it is rowdy and it is a headache waiting to happen.
It is also, as it happens, the greatest place on earth.