Creative Commons License
Super Friends by Whitney Holwadel Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at whit-superfriends.blogspot.com. Super Friends

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blogging Behind Bars: Postscript

Saturday night was the final performance of Blogging Behind Bars, the play about Whit's last months at USP Terre Haute. It had been accepted for the 2014 Cincinnati Fringe Festival and the pre-festival buzz turned out to be right on the mark: All five performances were sold out, and it was voted Audience Pick of the Fringe with twice the number of any show in the 11 years of Cincinnati Fringe. My gratitude goes out to Jon Kovach of Unity Productions and the entire cast of the play: TJ Ganser (Whit), Patrick Phillips (Brian), Justin Spencer (Mike), Ashley Dunn (Jessie), Rico Reid (Diggity) and Matt Dentino (who played me).

See the Fringe Festival listing and some photos here.

Jeff





Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The book has been published too

This week the book I created based on Whit's blog was published. In addition to the complete blog in chronological order, it includes letters Whit and I (his dad) wrote to each other and a couple of background chapters. The book is available from Amazon; here is the link. I am donating all profits to prison reform and prisoner assistance programs.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Blogging Behind Bars

Blogging Behind Bars is the title of the play written, directed and produced by Jon Kovach, founder of Unity Productions. Jon is a local (Cincinnati) actor and artist with whom I collaborated to have the story of Whit at Terre Haute told. He has an impressive theater track record in a variety of capacities and has assembled a remarkable cast. I am gratified by and grateful for his commitment to bringing Whit's voice to the stage.

The play was selected by a jury from among hundreds of submissions for the 2014 Cincinnati Fringe Festival and is already beginning to create a buzz. Exact performance dates and venue will not be announced until about May 7, but Fringe runs from May 27 - June 7.

If you're planning on attending, you are invited to click on the link above and accept the invitation - not binding, just to give us a better idea of how many to expect. Here is ticket ordering information. Blogging Behind Bars is already looking to be a highlight of the Fringe Festival. I anticipate that all performances of Whit's play will be sold out!


Jeff

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 10, 1984

Today Whit would have turned 30.

Since so much of Whit's public legacy comes from his writing, I thought it appropriate to post a school writing piece he did at age 12.  I don't remember exactly what the assignment was, though the note to his teacher in the "PS:" makes me think he may not have followed the instructions exactly.  Or maybe it was in fact supposed to be a fiction piece.  In any case, the teacher gave him an A. I still have his typewritten original, which I used to transcribe this, including all the mistakes (he didn't think much of paragraph breaks, for one thing). I've left everything just as he typed it.

So when people ask me after reading the blog whether Whit had always liked writing, I instantly recall this effort and say yes, he always had it in him. The observant eye for detail, the sly humor (see how he gets a dig in on his real sister Maryl), his sharing nature (the $200 helps his family), his big dreams and desire for independence: it's all there already.




Around the World in 80 Days, and 57 Seconds


(The OTHER version of “Around the World in 80 Days”)


By Whitney Smith
February 23, 1997

The date was October 2, 1872.  I was but a young lad of 12 when the stranger gave me the offer.  He said that a group of men were going to race around the world.  There were going to be 2 boats racing through the oceans and to the other side of the country in the least amount of days as possible, and, if I would help them with the cleaning on board I would be paid a fee of $100.  This price shocked me, because just for a sailing trip, that was a great deal.  I was just a poor beggar at the time, so without asking the dangers of the trip, or getting the permission of my parents, I took the offer.  The man’s name was Henderson (He would not give me his first name, he said real sailors did not have first names).  He had a mean, straight face, with a scar running down his cheek.  I told him my name was Smith, and with that he told me to meet him at the harbor, at dawn tomorrow.

When I got home, I said nothing about the deal with the man, instead I decided that I would leave a note the next day explaining what I had done, and where I was going.  “What happened to you today Thomas? Anything exciting?” my mother asked, wondering why I was in such a hurry to finish supper.  “NO! why do you ask?!” I said hastily, hearing the wonder in my mother’s words.  “Oh, I just was asking” “Well, no, just a boring old day.  Maybe tomorrow something will happen” “Yes, maybe something will happen tomorrow that will help this family,” my mother said, just trying to get the subject off hand.  With that I excused myself and went straight to my room and began to pack my clothes for the journey the next day.  I had not done the wash since last Friday, so I had to make do with the dirty clothes that I had strewn about on my floor.  I had trouble hiding the suitcase because of its large mass, but I finally found some space in my closet that I could hide it in.

I had no trouble staying awake that night, because when you are going on an incredible expedition around the world the next day, it kind of keeps you awake.  I had waiting until 2:30 in the morning when I couldn’t wait any longer.  I shut the door, and took out a piece of paper to write where I was, and where I was going.  After I signed my name at the bottom, I quickly folded it, and put it on my cot.  Then with wasting no time I dashed out the window, with making as little noise as possible, but the shutters were wood, and the fact that the hinges were old and rusty, did not help me at all, but since my parents are very heavy sleepers, I was able to go out without disturbing them from their slumber.  Since there were very few places a lad could go at 2:30 in the morning, I went strait to the harbor, and wouldn’t you know it, there was Henderson and some of his crew waiting there for me right on a boat!

“Hello Mr.  Henderson, I am surprised to see you here at this ungodly hour, you are all ready I see.” “Aye, that we are, and you my lad are predictable, no one can resist to wait inside a boring house until dawn arrives, so you came early of course.  Now don’t just stand there, get on board, Mason here will show you your cabin.  That is where you will be spending your nights, but that is the only time you will be spending there, do you know how to cook?” said Henderson, impatiently.  “Yes sir, I know how to cook a few things like…” “Good, welcome aboard, you shall be the cook also,” said Henderson, cutting me off.

Not wanting to upset the man, I did not ask any questions.  I followed the man that he pointed out as Mason, and I followed him through the boat into a room with plain wooden walls, and just a small dresser in one corner.  It smelled of perspiration and dead fish.  “Well, Smith, get your things unpacked, and get some sleep, we will wake you up when you are going to make lunch, we are not eating any breakfasts on this trip, to save food for the victory party when we win,” Mason said, chuckling to himself.  I joined in on the laughter.  I did not bother to put on a nightshirt, because for some reason I knew it wouldn’t be worth it, I just jumped in my bed and didn’t even notice the lumpiness about it because I was as tired as a bird who just flew south for the winter.

I felt like a horse apple when I heard the shouting that seemed far away, but it was right in my ear, and I still didn’t wake up, then when I felt what FELT like an earthquake, I finally opened my eyes , and sat up.  “Well, looks like you are still alive after all.  Well c’mon you, the men are hungry, you have slept enough,” Harold said in a loud scruffy voice.  Actually in retrospect, I had slept more than I usually do, because the sun was almost in mid-sky, I just felt tired.  Harold led me to the kitchen, or what could be described as a kitchen, and gave me some potatoes, and a slab of beef.  He told me to cook the meat, and peel and boil the potatoes and that is what we would be eating for lunch.  I followed his orders, and started to peel the potatoes, and boil the water for the meat and potatoes.

After 3 cuts, and 5 burns on my hand, I finally got the meal cooked, and the table set with forks, and plates.  I poured a jug of beer on the side of the boat, to keep it cold, and poured all of the shipmates a glassful, I poured myself a little also.  “LUNCH IS READY‼‼” I yelled when everything was finished, and they all came rushing in, and sat at a chair.  All during the meal, they talked about how far they had gone already, and how they had not had a good meal like this in however many months it had been since their last sail.  Me being the smallest one, I sat alone, seeing this Mason felt bad for me, and moved into the chair next to me.  “Hey, great lunch Smith, what you been up to?” Mason said with his jolly tone.  “Nothing, I have one goal on this trip.  That is to stay awake,” I said, actually meaning it.  Mason burst out laughing at what I had just said.  “I couldn’t agree with you more Smith, hey, did you hear that we are ahead of the other boat by at least 30 miles, I think we are going to win, don’t you?” “Of course I do, why do you think I came?” We continued to talk about the trip.  I really liked Mason, he was really nice to me ever since I got on board, and he was my only friend.

For the next 53 days, all went well.  But on the 54th day, we spotted a sperm whale on the west port, and sperm whales sold for about $20 a pound for their meat, so of course, we set out to get it.  We harpooned it, and brought it on board, but that was just a baby, and the mother was furious, she lunged at our boat with all its might, almost knocking it completely over, but because of its massive size, only a small hole was made, it survived 3 hits then the whale went away, discouraged.  We had to set on a small island to repair our ship, we worked in the water for 3 days, and then on the 4th day, we finally got it repaired.  Obviously the other boat had already passed us by far, so we would have to work even harder, and go faster than we had ever gone before.  We loaded back on the boat, and would not stop in any country for food and/or supplies.

After the 3rd day of catching up, on the horizon we saw the outline of another boat, and we knew instantly that that was the other captain’s boat.  We put up more sails than usual, and we passed them, but they also raised more sails, it was a head to head race of huge boats, imagine the funniness of that! Insults were shouted between the opposing boats as they deadlocked in the middle of the ocean, but morale was high, and our crew pressed on.  I did my usual jobs, even though the insults made me laugh, there were “your momma” jokes even back then! I cooked up some stew, but the crew refused to eat anything until they were ahead of the other boat, which they hoped would be soon, because they got awfully hungry working so hard, so fast.

About 3 hours had passed, we were still side to side, but then a sail on the other boat broke! Leaving them behind.  “YEA! We did it we beat them, we are going to win this race!” said Mason, cheering along with the other members of the crew, most of them I still had not yet learned their names.  I got out the stew, which was not a bit cold, and I put it on the table, but the crewmen were so hungry, they barely even noticed, they just talked about the ordeal of the race.  Little did we know then, that the other ship had a trick up their sleeves.  After the break, I went away at cleaning the cabins, and mopping the deck so that I would get paid.   That night I slept the best I had since the voyage started, and I dreamed about when I came home with all that money, and my mom who had been so worried about me cheered with happiness when I returned home with the coins in my hand.  But then a voice woke me up from my slumber: “SMITH! WAKE UP! THEY HAVE SOMEHOW PASSED US! I DO NOT KNOW HOW, BUT OUR SAIL RIPPED, IT LOOKED LIKE A KNIFE RIPPED IT BUT NO ONE WOULD DO THAT! WE NEED YOU TO FIX IT!”  It was Mason, who I thought had the job of waking me up.  “But I don’t wanna go to school mom,” I mumbled, not knowing what I was saying because I was barely even awake.  “C’mon you, get up, this is not time for sleeping.” I finally opened my eyes, and got up.  When I got to Henderson, he gave me the tools to fix the mast.  In school, I was forced to learn how to sew so I scrambled up the mast, and climbed where the rip was, I worked my hands bloody patching it up, it took me about 1 and a half hours to do it, but when I was done, it looked almost like it hadn’t been ripped.  The reason it took me so long was because the wind moved the sail all around, and it was a pain to keep it in one place, and work with the other, but I finally got it done.

Them having all of their sails good, and ours having a huge rip in it, put us back more than the crash, and it seemed impossible to catch up with them.  For 41 more days we went, with barely any breaks in the day, and while some people slept in the day, the ones that worked in the day, slept at night, and the ones that slept in the day, worked at night, so we did not lose any time.  We were almost there, we thought about only another day, and we were right.  We found the boat with one day to spare, and we worked furiously at the sails to make them go faster, but we still lagged.  We all wanted to win, but it seemed unlikely.

The opponent arrived at the harbor at exactly 12:00 AM on the 80th day of the expedition, making loud cheers that we could hear from afar, we arrived in at 12:00 and 57 seconds; they just beat us.  We went back to our homes moping about the loss, Henderson was actually the happiest one of both boats, he said that he knew we didn’t stand a chance, because there was a person from the other boat on our boat the whole time, this is how the mast got cut, he just wanted us to work our hardest for something fun.  In fact he actually gave me $200 instead.  I became good friends with Mason, and we did everything together.  My family was happy to see that I was Ok and that I had brought home to them the money.  We lived happily ever after.

PS: I just thought it would be a good add on to the classic “Around the World in 80 Days.” Do not actually refer to the book on the real details.

EPILOGUE

After the race, as you know Mason and I became good friends.  I learned that his first name was Sean, and that he was normally a blacksmith.  I got a girlfriend, and eventually married her, her name was Rosetta Parker, we raised 2 children, a boy and a girl.  The girl’s name was Maryl, and the boy’s name was Whitney, but he liked to be called Whit.  Whitney came out to be a successful lawyer, who attended Harvard University, which was one of the few colleges at the time, but Maryl turned out to be a penniless beggar who depended on her great brother to give her money.  Sean died on October 2, 1900 at exactly 12:00 and 57 seconds, exactly 28 years after the race when he was 52 years old.




THE END