The Evening of the Pointing Finger

Kids remember the oddest things!

When I was about five or six (1961 or 1962) my mother had a friend named Dianne. I do not remember her last name, nor do I recall how Mom knew this person. She was a bit older than my mother, perhaps even old enough to be the age of a youngish aunt of Mom's. Certainly old enough to be Mom's older sister. We visited her one evening and, for some odd reason, I have never forgotten the visit.

Dianne lived in Los Angeles, not too far from where Mom worked at Toppy's cafe, on the corner of Sunset and Western. It was in an apartment complex which was painted white. As the headlights of our car hit the wall on the other end of a driveway, I saw that a hand with a pointing finger - painted in the fashion of a Victorian hand, like an engraving - was on the wall, directing us to parking (I suppose). That pointing finger, lit on a wall in the darkness, became a sort of personal totem for me ever since. (Like the Dangle Man.) Should I ever direct a film I'll be sure to include this in a scene! Being a child, I suppose I fancied that it pointed to something mysterious, and therefore a pointing finger has taken on a mysterious meaning.

We made our way to Dianne's upper floor apartment. What struck me was how dark the surroundings were; there seemed to be very few exterior lights on. It was night. Another surprise: Dianne's apartment was dimly lit, as well. Why? I don't know. The room had two fascinating details. Dianne had one of those ivory carved elephant parades on a shelf, where a large elephant on the convex surface of a bow is led by a smaller elephant, who in turn is led by a smaller one, etc. Perhaps five elephants in all. But even better was what looked like an engraving of the Sphinx and a pyramid framed on the wall. I was fascinated by the face on the Sphinx and kept looking at it until Dianne and my mother commented about it. It was my first look at the Sphinx, mystery made manifest.

We left. Mom drove us to an ice cream parlor somewhere in Los Angeles. I was enjoying my dish of ice cream when it seemed the entire place began to rumble; looking outside through the large windows in front I saw what looked like a train passing by in front of the parlor! Thinking back on it perhaps it was a trolley car of some kind - or perhaps we were in an industrial section of town that was near some train tracks. But it struck me as very odd that a train should be passing by so close to a business. Wouldn't people on the sidewalk get hit?

We concluded the evening and went back home. Sometime after I received my very first piece of mail; addressed to me as "Master Wesley Clark." It was from Dianne. I asked Mom what I was the master of (nothing that I was aware), and she replied that it was an old fashioned way of addressing a child. Inside the envelope was a child's inexpensive Swiss watch which I soon wound too tightly so that it stopped working. I still have it!

We never saw Dianne again. During a conversation Mom let it be known that Dianne had become blind somehow, and I immediately thought of her darkened apartment room. Did she have some sort of ocular problem that caused her to be hurt by light which got worse to the point of blindness? My childish mind jumped to this conclusion. It was likely that Mom was exaggerating and that Dianne had not become totally blind.

I have always mentally referred to the night we went out for ice cream with Dianne as "The Evening of the Pointing Finger."

Kids remember the oddest things!

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