Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ferde Grofe Jr's A Rite Of Passage

Excerpt from Ferde Grofe Jr's "A Rite Of Passage" from his website:

About Ferde Grofe` Jr.

Son of the American Composer of the same name. Married to Constanza Gomez de Grofe. Resident of Washington State since 1992.


Major activities have included: President, CEO & Chairman; Ferde Grofe Films, Inc./ Aviation A.V. Library (1975-1992) Los Angeles, California.

Motion picture background: Writer/Producer/Director/ Business Executive.

Feature film credits include: The Steel Claw, Samar, From Hell To Borneo, Guerrillas in Pink Lace, The Walls of Hell, Fortress of The Dead, Warkill, Proud, Damned & Dead, Ride The Tiger, The Day of The Wolves, The Hell Raiders, The 3rd Hand. Distributors include: Warner Bros, Universal Pictures, CBS, American International Pictures, Gold Key Entertainment, Four Star/New World.

Honors and Awards for film include: Miquelde de Plata (Bilbao-Spain), Week of The Asian Film-Frankfurt, International Film Festival of the Philippines (Gold), The Golden Quill- Aviation Space Writers Assoc, (3 X award winner/ Visual Communications). The 'Telly' (Best Documentary/ History of WWII).

Film Jurist: IX Certamen Internacional de Films (Huesca-Spain), The Aviation Space Writers Association (Visual Communications).

Produced more than one hundred documentary films including programs for; Readers Digest (Great Battles of WWII) , Time Inc. (Two Part History of WWII), Arts & Entertainment Cable Net.(two series: Air Combat and Combat at Sea), Vid America (Combat Zone). Columbia House (Aviation A.V. Library) and others.

Currently: Co-Chairman; Military Combat Stock Footage Library (Interfilm Asia, Inc.).

Executive Director; Stereo High Adventures, devoted to the making and marketing of full length audio dramas. Most recent programs include: Flight of The Voyager, The Raid On Ploesti, The Fighting Flying Tigers, The Fury of The Sea Hawks, and a new series of dramatized short stories written, produced, directed and performed by Ferde Grofe'. The Story Telling of Ferde Grofe' was nominated by The Audio Publishers Association as one of the three best 'Original Works' for the year 2000. Also honored by The Texas Writers League for 2001 was Flight of The Voyager, a three and a half hour dramatization of the Rutan/Yeager non stop world flight. This program was also selected as one of the three best non fiction audio works of 2001 by The Audio Publishers Association. Professional Affiliations (Member): The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (Writers Branch), The Writers Guild of America (Emeritus), The National Press Club, The Audio Publishers Association, Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association.

Listed: Who's Who/Authors & Writers (International Edition/1989). Who's Who in Aviation and Aerospace (US Edition/1983).

Recent Events: Flight of The Voyager was selected as a finalist by the Audio Publishers Association in the category Best Original Work.(2001). Written, Produced, Directed and Principle Role Performed by Ferde Grofe'. March 1,2002: The 23rd Annual 'Telly' Award was announced for the historical documentary; 'MacArthur / I Shall Return' (Conceived, Written, Narrated by Ferde Grofe'.

Currently: March 12, 2003. The Audio Publisher's Association announced Ferde Grofe's Audio Drama; Dreams From The Lost & Found, has been selected as finalist in the category; The Best Original Work for 2002.

The Story


The following is not intended as a biography. It is instead the recollections of incidents over a span of more than 50 years. These occurrences are, by themselves, nothing of great portent except perhaps when seeing them as a sequence of links in a chain of events. Readers will have to decide for themselves as to their collective importance. They are excerpts from a life's journey and what was for me;...

Diary Note: Manila, Philippines/Nov. 1961. Discovered Carmen's "body" at apartment.

The prior ten months were hell for me. I had to find a way to end my relationship with Carmen. An ill conceived arrangement going nowhere in a hurry. At thirty one she felt her career as an actress had come and gone and hence no further purpose in her life. Money was very short with a rent bill running up and little hope of immediate funds to correct the situation. For myself life still had great meaning and hope was ever present. I couldn't stand the downer attitude. To return to the apartment was a pain knowing I would encounter a very unhappy lady who would never fail to remind me of just how miserable life was without her blossoming career as an actress.

I let myself into the apartment, turned on the air conditioner and thinking I was alone, went to the refrigerator and opened a sasaparrilla to quench my thirst and gain some relief from the hot afternoon sun. I had only glanced briefly into the bedroom. Certain I was alone I awaited Carmen's arrival and rehearsed in my mind my argument as to why we should go our separate ways without ill will and to avoid any further pain we were inflicting on each other.

My shirt was still wet with sweat from the long walk along Roxas Blvd and thought it best to change shirts while awaiting Carmen's arrival. I returned to the bedroom, my focus on the bureau of drawers. I removed a fresh undershirt and short sleeved barong, turned to head back to the living room when I caught sight of the figure lying on the floor close to the bed.

An electric chill ran through me. On close examination I thought she was dead. Her eyes were glazed over, half open and beginning to appear caked along her eye lids. Her lips were blue. I could not see any sign of breathing. There wasn't any blood or mark of violence to herself. In a half hope she was still alive I attempted to prop up her limp form, talked to her frantically and massaged her cold hands. While I awaited the ambulance every wild thought imaginable ran through my mind. I was overflowing with guilt believing I had brought this about. I recollected she popped sodium seconal whenever she needed a sleeping aid and decided to check the medicine cabinet in the bathroom . Sure enough, the pill bottle was still open, empty, and resting on the bathroom sink. I recalled her obtaining a fresh supply only the day before. Even if she had taken a couple the night before she must have gulped down at least twenty seven . Ten would have pole axed a bull elephant.

The two attendants arrived and quickly assessed the situation. It appeared she had a pulse, just barely. The lead medic asked me if I knew what she had taken. I showed him the empty bottle for the sodium seconal. He cast one of those wry smirks that says he's seen this before, many times before.

"So does she have a chance?!"

He shook his head.

"Not much, almost no pulse, she's pretty far gone, but we'll try."

"Which hospital will you take her to?"

"Unless you have a preference we'll take her to Philippine General, they're used to this sort of thing."

I nodded assent and caught sight of two men entering the apartment.

"You the husband?"

He whipped out some identification.

"Are you the police? Why are you here?"

"Homicide, just routine."

"What homicide? This is an overdose of some sleeping pills , nothing else."

"Maybe, maybe not."

Fear was overcoming me. I was scared, very scared.

"For Christ's sake she isn't dead yet!"

"Yes sir we understand, no need to get excited, like I said; just routine."

He took down my name and Carmen's name, asked for some details like our citizenship status. The medics wheeled Carmen from the apartment.

"Hey, where are you guys taking her?"

"She'll be at Philippine General sir, not to worry."

"Excuse me sir we need some more facts."

"Hey listen I've got to get to the hospital, can't we do this questioning at a later time?"

"No sir, sorry about that, but it won't take but a few more minutes."

I told them how I had come to the apartment not realizing at first she was already there un conscious and on the bedroom floor. He asked how long we had been lived together and a few other minor facts, then……

" How did the two of you get along? I mean ,lots of fights stuff like that?"

I felt my heart sink. He was already speaking about her in the past tense and if she wasn't already dead, she would be soon enough.

"What would whether or not we had any fights have to do with the situation? I mean, isn't it obvious this is a suicide attempt, nothing more?."

"No sir, nothing is obvious. We have to check it all out."

Fear was getting a very tight grip on me.

"Do you mean to say if she should die you may have reason to believe I had something to do with her death?"

"Yes sir, that's a possibility."

"That's crazy!"

"We're just doing our job sir. Maybe she'll be okay and if she wakes up she can clear up everything and nothing more to worry about."

Dear God! And if she doesn't wake up!!??

"We're just doing our job sir."

He asked a few more questions, gave me his card, advised me not to leave town and asked that I keep in touch with him as to the life and death condition of Carmen. Polite but firm, the cop was doing his duty and he expected me to behave and do as asked. I was on a leash until Carmen's condition got better or worse.

After a bit of delay with paper work and signing papers assuming responsibility for costs,etc. the nurse finally directed me to Carmen's hospital room.

Surgeons had opened a hole in her throat and plugged in an oxygen line.

They had pumped out the contents of her stomach.

I barely arrived when the doctor came in.

"Well, I can tell you she barely made it. It was sodium seconal was it? She must have taken a fist full of pills. She would have been dead if she had gotten here a half hour later. The sodium seconal slowed down her absorption and I think we got most of the junk out of her system, but it would have done its job if it had been a few minutes later."

"So tell me doctor, is she going to make it?"

"I think she's got a chance. What worries me is there was a considerable deprivation of blood supply to the brain, her blood pressure was nearly zero by the time she got here."


"And, if she does survive, she may not wake up or worse if she does wake up there's a strong likelihood she'll suffer some brain damage from lack of sufficient blood supply to the brain….sorry, but that's the way it looks at this time."

I thanked the doctor for his help, sank into a chair nearby and stared at the motionless body in the hospital bed. I was scared and bursting with remorse. Just a few hours earlier I was rehearsing ways to sever our miserable relationship and fully despising her ranting self pity about the collapse of her career. Now I was faced with the prospects of her dying or turning into a mental vegetable and I fully took on the responsibility for this ongoing tragedy. To top it off there was every possibility if the cops could find me as contributing to this mess, I could wind up in jail.

I had to think of some way to make her complete recovery more than a remote possibility. How the hell would I do that?! I knew nothing about medicine and while, medically speaking, she was in capable hands I couldn't just sit there and wring my hands feeling sorry for her and even more sorry for myself as to how this mess had come about.

I went to her bedside, pulled up a chair and coming close to her, whispered;

"I'm sorry Carmen, I know we don't get along but I didn't wish this upon you. I'll do whatever I can to get you out of this, but I just don't know what more I can…."

I slumped back into the chair and murmured aloud.

"What the hell am I doing? You can't hear me anyway."

That thought stuck in my brain. She's alive, who is to say she can't hear me. Of course she can't see me, her eyes are closed, but she can't close her hearing and…she's alive, sleeping, a drug induced deep sleep and she may never wake up. Hell! She's so miserable with her life she probably doesn't want to wake up. That thought echoed in my mind; maybe she won't want to wake up!

I began to get pissed off with Carmen, here we were; doctors and nurses struggling to save her life and she couldn't care less! 'You wanted a deep permanent sleep, to hell with everyone else! I could wind up in jail or worse! Just because you wanted to escape and get away from it all!'

I began to set in my mind that the one thing I wasn't going to give Carmen was a deep peaceful sleep! At first I thought about ringing bells in her ear or making some kind of noise. No that wouldn't work; for one thing the hospital wouldn't allow that sort of clatter and confusion. For another thing she could just get used to the noise, what the hell! Many people can sleep next to a diesel running full blast! Not noise, instead words, can't run away from words, they tickle the brain and make it think, when you have to think you don't want to sleep. You can't sleep. That was my conviction. I wouldn't give her an escape into sleep.

I set up a schedule and decided for as long as she was in the hospital I would do more than just pay visits, I would come and talk and talk and talk. Not just read from a book or otherwise, that could be soothing. I had no intention of being a soothing voice, I would instead be her torturer and not give her any rest.

I came every day and each day staying for three hour intervals without a break talking relentlessly always accentuating with suggestions, even demands, that she wanted to awake. I suggested to her that her career was only at the beginning, that I had heard from agents inquiring as to her welfare and availability. A lie of course, but if her sleeping brain believed it, that's what counted. I would break for an hour, take walks, visit friends or a local café or bar back at The Swiss Inn and then return to my three hour stint at her bedside. I did this every day until the end of visitor's hours. The next morning I recommenced the constant, unceasing suggestions she should awake and return to the land of the living. As much as I wanted this to work for her sake, I realized my own salvation was at risk as well. The last thing I wanted was her death or a vegetable like waking state that could easily oblige me to care for her for the rest of her natural life, however unappealing that might be.

I persevered. Five days passed. Not a motion or sound from her except she was breathing normally. The nurses turned her frequently to avoid other health complications that might occur in this motionless state. It was the sixth day, late morning and about time for me to take my one hour break. I was chanting on as I had been used to the prior five days and evenings.


"God damn it! You son of a bitch can't you see I'm trying to sleep!!"

It shrieked out of her in a kind of desperation. Her eyes were fully closed, but her mouth was shouting obscenities. I could hardly believe my ears. I felt an incredible joy and wanted to cry. I called for the nurse to come and see. Carmen had fallen back into her slumber. Close to her ear I poured forth insisting she wake up, She rolled and groaned. The first movements we had seen in nearly a week. She repeated her pleadings.

"Just let me sleep! Can't you let me sleep. You keep talking and talking you're driving me crazy. Please, please let me sleep."

The nurse called the doctor. We were all thrilled and felt like celebrating.

"Well, you were right, she was listening all the time. We learn something new every day"

The doctor shook my hand warmly. I stayed on through the afternoon. Carmen opened her eyes. She wasn't at all happy.

"Why didn't you let me sleep? Did you think you were doing me a favor?"

She was bitter and depressed about her revival.

I could only say I had to go and would come back later. I walked for an hour embittered that I had worked so hard and long to help her recover and in return I got curses and damnation for helping her at all.

The doctor had advised me I should be careful how I handled her, treat her with patience as she could very likely give it one more try and maybe, just maybe, succeed the next time around.

I stayed with her for the next few months, giving her what assurance and comfort I could, but I was going down hill myself. I was sour at the idea I had most certainly helped to save her mind if not her life and got nothing but recriminations in return. She threatened suicide several times. I had made my peace with the police lieutenant who upon an interview recognized she was unstable. After several half hearted attempts and threats of one more 'farewell performance', I made it known she couldn't scare me with that tactic any more and we needed to go our separate ways whatever the consequences. Carmen finally got the message and we did part. While I was relieved I was also sick with anger and some bitterness swearing I would never ever get permanently involved again. I was also more broke than ever, having settled the hospital bills. But hope never deserted me and I had learned something remarkable about the human mind and the power of suggestion.

Diary Note: Taluksanghay, Mindanao. April-1962. Moros/ "Quack" doctors and their "patients".

The screams brought me upright in bed. Someone was surely being murdered. Everyone in the house was aroused from sleep. I checked my watch; 3:30 AM. Mubin rushed towards the rear of the house fronting the waterside. I jumped from bed, pulled on my pants and encountered Mina in the passageway.

"What's happening??!"

"I don't know."

We followed others from the household to the back porch. The screams continued. Gas lamps started to flicker on from across the water towards the huts of the Samals. We strained our vision in hopes of ascertaining what was happening. Someone was in great pain. Our first thoughts were the prospects of a terrible fight. I glanced right and left along the shoreline and saw what seemed like the entire village awakening to the racket and commotion. Flashlights clicked on and searched the dark groupings of simple huts that squatted high above the water level on supporting poles. Suddenly a light caught sight of a haggard figure, a woman, staggering from one of the huts supported by two men, she was screaming uncontrollably. She was led across a narrow plank to an adjoining hut nearby and disappeared into the hut.

We were urged to return to the kitchen of the house by Mubin's sister. The narrow slat wood walls of the house couldn't keep the wails of the stricken women from our hearing and we asked each other what the devil had happened to cause this bizarre scene. So far no one had any notion of what was going on. Mina urged us to sit while tea was prepared.

"That wailing is going to drive me crazy! Was she attacked?"

Mina gave a slight knowing smile.

" I don't think it's anything like that. We'll see what their quack doctor has to say."

"Quack" doctor was the description given to the shaman medicine men the Samals employed in all aspects of their daily life. Taluksanghay is a coral island linked to the mainland by a narrow land filled causeway. It was an important community of the Balanghingi Samals, a noble muslim people who apart from their centuries old business of trading with Borneo lived peaceful law abiding lives. The Philippine government took an opposite view of their trade with Borneo and as it was without license and permit was considered illegal smuggling. Every few nights swift and narrow kumpit long boats would rush into Taluksanghay's shallow waters their six-abreast outboards growling in the darkness. Boxes of American cigarettes from Borneo would be quickly stacked onto the wharf and then hurried into hiding under the houses. One or two boxes containing perfumes and colognes would go off to another hiding place. The Balanghingi were the ruling aristocrats in a benevolent but none-the-less feudal society. In those days the village had no electricity and no running water. Water was boat delivered in five gallon tins every other day to the village. Their simple but handsome homes were all on the island, mostly lined along the shore facing the straits. Off shore was the collection of roughly made thatched huts elevated on poles and occupied by the Samals, a simple people who were quasi muslim and mostly pagan. Beyond the huts were the outrigger communities of the Badjaos, a pagan tribe of sea gypsies, timid and bound to the sea for life, living their entire lives on the water in their narrow sailing vintas and rarely coming ashore. Land was, and is, a hostile environment for them. This was the order of things, the ladder of authority. The Balanghingi under the benevolent leadership of Datu Nunio and his brother the principle Imam for the region governed the political and spiritual affairs of daily life in these islands. The Samals and the Badjao respected their guidance and authority. Apparently back at the beginning of the 20th century as a result of the Spanish American War and the occupation by American soldiers under "Black Jack" Pershing, the Yankee 'Milicans' left some impressions and how they viewed these exotic peoples. One such observation they made was a contemptible description of the shamans of the Samals whom the young Americans called "quack doctors". The irony was the Samals quickly accepted this derogatory description with some pride, after all; it was a designation by these bold heroic new conquerors, no reason to see it in any way except as complimentary. So the term stuck and has remained so for more than one hundred years.

The scream of the Samal woman kept us up the rest of the night. Mina was also the authorized nurse of the village. As part of her job she offered aid for the afflicted woman. She chatted privately on the back porch with one of the relatives from the Samal community, and then returned to the kitchen.

" Well, as I thought there's nothing we can do. …..a quack doctor is the cause of all this commotion."

She quickly explained the circumstances. Someone from another community of Samals in an act of revenge had employed a "quack doctor" to put an evil eye, a curse, on the stricken woman who even as Mina was explaining this to us, continued her infernal wailing and screams.

" So how does this all end? I mean how can we stop this racket?"

" Well, her relatives will engage their own local quack doctor. His job will be to locate the person who brought this curse and then he'll contact the quack doctor representing the instigator and attempt to negotiate a some sort of settlement of the dispute."

"Sounds more like the work of lawyers."

She laughed a bit but then turned serious.

"Trouble is; the victim , the old woman screaming, doesn't have much time."

"How so?"

"She isn't able to eat or drink and she's sweating a lot, losing weight. If she doesn't eat or more important if she doesn't drink within the next three days she'll die."

"Can't you make her drink?"

She shook her head. The situation was simple; we would have to put up with her audible agony for at least three days and failing a settlement by the quack doctors, she would die. Very straight forward ,at least so in the world of the Balanghingi Moros.

That was the situation for the following day and a half. It went on day and night. None of us slept except in brief naps of a few minutes at a time.

Mid morning of the third day suddenly the screams ended. We all rushed to the back porch to catch some sight of what had happened. From the entrance of a hut came the women, thin as a rail, looking terrible but on her feet and supported by two young men. Cheers went up from many of the Samal huts and the houses near to us.

"So, was it settled?"

"That's what I understand….the two quack doctors came to an understanding, everything is okay"

It was cause for celebration. Everyone was relieved.

That same afternoon I wandered down to the tienda, a general store a few houses away and treated myself to a Coke. The store had the only ice delivered to the village and a cold drink seemed to be the perfect end to a trying two and half day ordeal which effected everyone. I leaned up against the ice box and swigged away at my coke. A few feet away my friend Mubin, the Imam's son, was in excited conversation with a small group. Everyone was in good spirits. The successful conclusion of the settlement of the 'case of the quack doctors' was in everyone's mind. Mubin came over to me accompanied by his companions.

"So what do you thinkl?! Terrific! Everyone is celebrating.!"

I held up my coke bottle in a toast.

"Me too, I can't wait to get a good night's sleep."

"So what do you think? I mean about this whole business?"

"Like I say Mubin, I'm glad it's over."

"But what do you think? About what happened to the women?"

"Whatever it was that ailed her I'm delighted it's over."

"Of course, but what do you think ailed her?"

" I haven't the foggiest idea."

"So what else? You think it might have been all in her head, I mean like a crazy tantrum or something like that?"

"Well, that would make some sense. Maybe something like that."

"But you don't believe a quack doctor put a spell on her, a kind of evil eye?"

"No, meaning no disrespect, I don't believe in that sort of thing."

Mubin had a little evil in his own eye, a kind of mischievous glint accompanied by a broad smile like someone who knows a good joke is about to happen and I definitely got the feeling that I might be the object of the joke.

"What if I told you this fellow here is a quack doctor and he can work the evil eye?"

I was a bit uneasy.

"Like I say, meaning no disrespect, I don't believe much in those things."

The fellow he was referring to was a sawed off runt of a guy, very inconspicuous even ordinary I would say. Nothing imposing, just a guy you'd pass on the street.

"Would you like to test him? I mean no risk, just for fun okay?"

"What kind of test."

"Just for fun, nothing to worry about."

"What do I have to do?"

"Nothing, nothing at all, okay?"

He swept out a broad grin and a wink of his own eye.

I shrugged acquiescence and swigged at my coke bottle.

The little guy came forward and started making dance like motions with his hands and feet turning in a slow dervish way to either side of me. He stared straight at me and muttered sounds and incantations in no language I could understand. He never spoke directly to me and never touched me. He just swept slowly back and forth in a semi circle in front of me while Mubin and his friends looked on with amused anticipation. I steeled myself for whatever was going to happen. I hadn't any idea of what might happen but I told myself whatever fun and game Mubin and his quack doctor was up to I'd be ready for it. I had just finished a final swig on the bottle when suddenly a shock rushed across every part of my body. It was as if an army of ants had surged up my legs and began to quickly cover every inch of my body, head to toe. I wanted to scratch at the itches that were eating me alive. Thoughts raced through my mind; the little bastard had tossed itching powder on me…no couldn't be, he hadn't touched me. They spiked my coke, naw, couldn't be that, I popped the cap myself. I was in agony and also angry as hell, but determined I wouldn't let on, not a twitch, not a sign I was wanting to scream and run and jump into the water just to rid myself of the millions of biting beasts devouring me. I bit my teeth to keep a straight face. Mubin wanted to burst into laughter.

"So how about it? How do you feel?"

I gritted my teeth and lied

"I feel just fine"

"Sure? Sure you don't feel anything at all. Like maybe you're itching all over your body?"

As soon as he said that I burst out with a loud laugh accompanied with a chorus of good humor from Mubin and the onlookers. At that instant, the itching suddenly disappeared. It was gone! I couldn't believe it. My mind raced with questions. How had he done it?. He hadn't touched me, he hadn't suggested anything to me in any language I could understand, so hypnosis was out of consideration..and how or why did it just as suddenly go away at the moment I laughed?

"You did feel it didn't you, eh?, Admit it".

"Okay, I admit it, now how did he do it?"

"You have to ask him, that's his secret."

"So okay, how did you do it?"

The small man smiled enigmatically and shrugged his shoulders.

No one offered any answers .I couldn't figure out how it was done. I tried every angle. I later told Mina of the occurrence at the tienda.

"There are many things we don't know, maybe never will know. Think about the old woman supposedly afflicted by an evil eye of a quack doctor many kilometers distance from here. How did that happen and how was it suddenly ended.? Who knows? Maybe telepathy. If you believe in telepathy."

More than forty years have passed since that remarkable incident in my life. I still don't have any clear answers, just a lot of speculation.

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