Booker T and the M.G.’s perform one of their all-time classics. Wikipedia says a bit more… but the music, itself, says it all…
Booker T and the M.G.’s perform one of their all-time classics. Wikipedia says a bit more… but the music, itself, says it all…
For an unbearably long time, my homeland’s K-12 schools… and their worldwide equivalents… have been the breeding grounds / training camp sites for bullies. Considering how the inter-generational cycle of abuse tends to kick in (pun intended), what becomes of the once-upon-a-time abused when they become… oh… say… today’s public / private school staffers? Well… in that capacity / incapacity… they oft either practically wink their approval at each new crop of bully bastards… or turn a blind eye to them.
It’s almost as if some educators’ measure of “scholastic achievement” focuses upon how effectively bullies can irreparably scar their victims (both emotionally and physically). Hmmm… instead of the failing grade bullies deserve, do they award them with an A+? Is extra credit assessed if the victims need  hospitalization…  a shrink…  a visit from the undertaker?
Adding insult to the victim injuries… on the rare instances where a tormented student does strike back… almost invariably… school personnel punish ONLY the retaliator (to the further delight of each bully). Hell… were school staffers’ favoritism any more blatant, the playground and hall monitors would be charging admission to the bullies’ verbal and physical attacks.
Perhaps such assessments are too cynical? Too harsh?
Let’s be fair here. Let’s look at this from the teacher’s side of the desk. Many underpaid educators are so overworked and over-stressed, it’s inevitable that they’d become nose-blind to the bully stench… to the point where the victims start falling through the cracks.
And, when victims’ only remaining options boil down to fight or flight… especially if it’s the latter… that’s when further damage kicks in (again, pun intended). Once these kids start feigning illness to avoid going to school… this all but guarantees both academic and developmental stunting / stagnation.
Let’s consider what happens once abused, stunted students
eventually enter… no… strike that… DON’T enter grown-up society…
Social isolation… their learned response… to varying degrees… becomes their way of life. Such deep-down emotional stains don’t fade with time, either. And most assuredly, that’s no way to go through life! Hell… that’s not life at all!
I’m certain there are hundreds of thousands of bullying victims spanning our entire globe… each one waking up each new day wondering…
“Who might I have become… how much further ahead in life might I have gone… had insensitive school personnel heard my literal cries for help… had they come to my defense instead of enabling my tormentors’ indefensible, socially unacceptable behavior?”
How can I be so certain? Well… did you notice that above blockquote’s beginning / ending punctuation?
That’s me talking. That’s the very question I’ve been asking myself for the past 50+ years!
Sixteen years ago, March 24th fell on a Monday… the day my nearly 90-year-old mother fell and fractured her femur… the final, full 24 hour day she lived in her home of 42 years.
Within mere minutes of my summoning an ambulance, we both could hear the approaching siren’s Doppler shift… the increase in volume. Once parked out front, the flashing red lights began casting their surreal, subdivision-wide strobe effect.
The EMTs did what they do best… rapidly evaluated and prepped their patient. As the midnight hour neared, they wheeled Mom out on a gurney, I locked up, started up my backed into the garage car, idled the engine in the lower driveway and awaited to join them on our ride to the local, nearby hospital. Even at normal highway speeds, our ETA would be five minutes, tops. At the stroke of midnight, we were on our way.
Since I knew sirens could easily, overly stress out my mother, I had requested they not use them unless the situation became a life or death matter. I was so relieved that her condition permitted them to heed my heads up.
Long sigh… within a week of successful surgery to repair her fractured leg, pneumonia had set in. Her advanced years and one year earlier heart attack all conspired to make her chances for rallying slim to none.
Mom’s ambulance ride, eventually, turned out to be a one way trip. Her Earthly Home left behind, the sequence of her rapidly changing forwarding addresses had become… Nursing Home… Funeral Home… Eternal Home.
This past Sunday, the 24th, from my own perspective, I could not help but dwell upon Mom’s final 24 hours in her home… the home I wound up inheriting. By early evening, I had wound up falling asleep on the living room sofa. But… oddly enough… with this day’s final five minutes rapidly ticking down… I had awoken… instantly cognizant of that timing’s significance. I threw open the front door and made my exit into the still of the night…standing on the dimly street lit porch… my eyes panning the entire neighborhood… my mind time tripping to that not so distant past.
At the stroke of midnight… just as I was about to turn to go back inside… I could hardly believe my own eyes. An ambulance was driving on by… traveling along the very same highway… in the same southerly direction… at the posted speed limit… no flashing reds… no siren…
And while there would’ve been no reason to be following them in my car this time… I did follow them with my eyes. And once they were no longer in sight… my gaze averted upwards… to the heavens…
Initially, my father’s non-living wage, public school teacher gig had necessitated menus consisting of the cheapest, tasteless cuts of fatty / gristly meats and made patched up hand-me-downs my “fashion statement”. We rented from a slumlord, who probably was counting on his furnace’s carbon monoxide fumes to exterminate his hovel’s rats.
What little tech we did possess involved a snowy, black & white VHF-only TV, staticky AM-only radio and cheapo, monaural phonograph that damaged whatever vinyl it sank it’s stylus / fang into.
Fortunately, Presidents JFK and LBJ’s vision for a Great Society materialized… thereby helping to elevate folks like us out of poverty. By the early 1970s, I was actually pursuing my Broadcast Arts college degree… my parents even generously affording me the tools of my hoped for trade… e.g., an AM/FM stereo receiver, turntable, reel-to-reel tape deck, microphones and headphones.
A show of gratitude certainly was in order. My inspiration came from  watching Mom using a low-fidelity, monaural cassette recorder to tape her fave tunes off her tiny, tinny sounding radio AND from  listening to her rationale… namely… her concerns regarding Hard Rock station formats popping up all over… up and down the dial… a trend with the potential of banishing her fave Big Band music entirely from the FM band.
My game plan became to give Mom the gift of music… i.e., set up my tech to tape whatever songs she deemed keepers. On the night of our recording session, she became instantly WOWED by the clarity and expanded frequency range, which her audio devices lacked. Even after the passage of 4 decades, I still vividly remember her words… verbatim…
“It’s as if the musicians are right here in the room with us!”
And truth be told, her hard rocker son, too, experienced that same WOW! Never before had I heard Big Bands played in high fidelity.
While this was all good news, this tape did fall short in one crucial aspect. The DJ… perhaps sensing he’d soon be replaced by a rock jock… had been either rapidly rattling off his playlists or flat-out neglecting to do so. His omissions rendered the status of “ARTIST UNKNOWN” to the very song, which had incontrovertibly converted me into a Big Band enthusiast!
While my folks could both name that tune… Bugle Call Rag... neither could quite figure out “The Whodunit”… especially seeing how a bevy of band leaders all had included their versions within their repertoires.
There was one other prob, too… Mom shied away at the mere thought of trying to thread an open reel tape deck… a device sporting a lit up, metered control panel that could’ve fit in well within a jet’s cockpit. Ergo, I needed to be on hand for each playback… i.e., until my acquisition of a HIFI cassette deck. That device had been barely out of the box when I dubbed Mom her user friendly copy.
That handpicked by Mom, 25 song musical set was a representative sampling of the soundtrack to her life. As such, this cassette was destined to become her all time fave… one she wound up constantly playing back for the next (nearly) three decades. She’d have likely insisted on taking it with her, too… well… had there not been strict rules prohibiting worldly possessions beyond Earth’s Exit signs.
Beyond that… throughout the latter years of this tape’s lifetime… I could not help but concede that… just like my Mom… I’d wind up taking my final breath never having even the slightest inkling regarding Bugle Call Rag’s whodunit.
On a more positive note, I did conclude that YouTube… the repository of humankind’s creativity… could afford me my best shot at remedying that prob… especially upon considering the following fun facts…
“The total number of people who use YouTube – 1,300,000,000. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute! Almost 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every single day. In an average month, 8 out of 10 18-49 year-olds watch YouTube.”
There just had to be at least one other Earthling YouTuber who was aware of my sought after version of Bugle Call Rag… RIGHT??? Yet… many a past search had left me “empty handed”.
It was mere weeks ago… as the waning hours of Tuesday, January the 15th were ticking down into the wee hours of Wednesday the 16th*… when… once more… I found myself scrolling through multiple dozens of YouTube Bugle Call Rag finds… skipping over any that had PB times significantly greater or less than my unknown’s known 2 minutes and 50 seconds timing.
This was where and when the ancient saying, “The Third Time’s the Charm” certainly had come into play. Following my audition of the first two potential matches…
Within hearing the first few notes of try number three… I simply could not believe my ears! Although this upload was not doing full justice to this track’s base frequencies… my 44-year-old whodunit search had come to a successful conclusion! All the sudden I felt this odd sensation on my face.
Rushing over to a mirror, I realized I was actually smiling… a rarity in my life these days considering the sorry state of our world and my homeland. And I kept on smiling, too, for I could now check “Discover Bugle Call Rag band leader’s name” off my bucket list!
WOW…. I almost forgot to mention that the mystery maestro and his merry music makers were/are Glen Gray and his Casa Loma Orchestra!
And since it had always been my contention that anyone who could’ve created such an energetic gem must also possess a massive repertoire of other must hear music, my next www destination became Barnes & Nobel where I discovered Mr. Gray’s CD… an hour’s worth of Big Band music with none other than Bugle Call Rag as the #1 Track. Within one week, USPS delivered my order.
I’ve now been listening to this entire CD with the same enthusiasm and frequency as Mom had played her birthday present… oh… so long ago. Interestingly enough… I’m using the exact same stereo receiver’s amp to power the very same speakers which blasted forth Gray’s rendition of Bugle Call Rag for my family’s listening pleasure!
*ADDENDUM: My above mention of Tuesday the 15th leading into Wednesday the 16th, has a much deeper significance. The April page of 2003’s calendar conformed to that identical day/date alignment… my Mom’s last two days on Earth… a time where we had been able to converse and reminisce for the first 5 hours of what would turn out to be my 22-hour vigil.
Have you ever had an experience where the power of positive thinking and/or the power of prayer significantly and unexpectedly bettered some aspect of your life?
In my case, this involved my 30 year career in retail management / sales… 20 of those with company “A” and 10 with company “B”. Throughout that entire epoch my ability to cope with difficult to please superiors had been repeatedly put to the test. But one case, in particular, proved to be a Herculean task.
Her very initials, L.A.W., accurately summed up her laying down the law stance. While intrinsically, there’s nothing wrong with that, it was her poisoned with suspicion, management “style” that bordered on paranoia… her bad ‘tude, which made for a toxic work environment. It was her belief that no employee could possibly resist the temptation to ripoff both cash and merchandise from our company.
Her treating me like a criminal didn’t sit well. I had never stolen anything… not even a pen or paper clip. In addition to my personal integrity, I could take great pride in my qualities of courtesy, dependability, punctuality, efficiency and accuracy. Hell, I would’ve turned in an honest day’s work even if no manager had shown up. Ironically, my being a model worker only made her suspect me more. From her POV, that had to be an act, right? WRONG!
Well, soon after her arrival she rolled out her extreme internal security measures. Rather than allowing her to rummage through my brown paper lunch bag prior to my going out into the mall, I found it best to eat my lunch in the stock room. As for visits to the restroom? She had that locked up tight. Whenever anyone needed “to go” we’d have to ask her to escort us right up to the door!
My coworkers were feeling just as demeaned as I. One day while we were commiserating, clear out of the blue (and out of her earshot), I referred to LAW as “the can opener” and that nickname stuck. I could go on but I’m sure, by now, you’ve “breathed in” enough of her atmosphere of distrust.
Needless to say she was negatively impacting store morale. Even our District Manager could easily sense the undesirable undercurrents. Eventually, LAW got reassigned to another store and, soon after, put in her two weeks notice. I felt so relieved just knowing that our paths would never cross again?
By 1999, some big shot executive decided that the approaching new millennium meant time was ripe for a corporate shakeup. That restructuring took the wrecking ball to my low level management position… limiting my options to two. Either be demoted or take a hike. I chose the latter.
My transitioning to a new workplace turned out to be a lot easier than I’d expected. Company “B’s” store was in the very same mall… catercorner to Company “A”! Even better, I’d already worked for their store manager who, btw, had always wanted to add me to her staff. Alas, less than three years later, my old/new boss had moved on to greener pastures.
An even bigger ALAS… three years after that… guess who had come back to haunt me? Yep, none other than LAW!
Gossip being a big part of retail world, my colleagues soon discovered I had worked for her, before, and so I became the go-to guy to answer all their worried, “what’s she like” queries. Opting to remain professional, I’d refrain from any badmouthing. After all, I hadn’t seen LAW in years… maybe she had changed? Ergo, my noncommittal reply went something like this, “I can get along with almost anyone. If you can, too, there’ll be no problem.” But, hell, even I wasn’t totally buying into my pep talk.
Since I had accrued over two weeks worth of vacation time, I decided to go on a safari… a job hunting safari. It was following one particularly, exhausting day of interviews, when I opted for an early bedtime. Just as I was drifting off to sleep I went to my own go-to guy to ask…
“God, considering the dozens of retailers LAW had to choose from, why mine?”
The next morning, I awoke to a rapidly fading dream. Upon concentrating deeply, all the sudden my memory clicked. I had dreamt about a long ago conversation with my mother. We were trying to figure out how best to stop schoolyard bullies from making my life miserable. Since my principal was of the gruff, insensitive, “Just man up and take it, sonny!” mindset, there could be no help from him. That’s when Mom suggested I turn to a higher authority… the highest authority. She mentioned Matthew 5:44.
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”
I now realized my problems with bully LAW could be dealt with similarly. I could even tap into my own submission of applications and resumes routine. This had to be quite similar to what LAW had just experienced! I began beaming my prayers upward, throughout all my remaining vacation days… especially between job interviews.
“God, won’t you please help my new boss LAW. There must be at least one other personnel manager who could make her a job offer she can’t refuse. Lavish her with better pay… a primo benefits package… a better 401K… the works! Nothing is too good for LAW!”
Well, I soon found myself glumly heading back to work… expecting the worst… yet… upon punching the time clock on my first day back… my grinning, assistant manager told me that, in my absence, there’d been a sudden shake up of the status quo.
Within mere days of hiring on, LAW had put in her two week’s notice! Seems, somehow (?), some way (?) she had gotten a much better job offer. Go figure, huh? Even better… since our four assistant managers were fully capable of running the store without her… our District Manager had decided to cut her free much sooner.
Bottom line, I never had to even cross paths with her… not even once… not so much as even a fleeting glance at each other… or in her case… her stock-in-trade, suspicious, “if looks could kill” glower.
Even my “failure” at finding a new job had to have been God’s way of preventing me from leaving Company “B”… something I had never really wanted to do.
While some might chalk up my experience to mere co-incidence, I’d say there’s much to be said for the power of positive thinking… the power of prayer.
Hmmm… all the sudden I find myself in an especially positive mood. So… uh… please excuse me while I head off to find a place of solitude… uh… to begin praying that a certain fake prez will get a much better job offer… preferably within the private sector.
On this day it has been 15 years since my Mom passed on… became part of something bigger… be that “something bigger” eternal life or oblivion. At the very least she had achieved a short-lived genetic “immortality” by adding her genes to Earth’s gene pool… that being a fleeting nature because she never wound up becoming a grandma.
To humorously chronicle her life and times, I had composed the above biographical limerick… transforming it into the second to the last homemade birthday card I had ever presented to her.
Her reaction? She had gotten a few chuckles out of it.
Fifteen March Twenty-Seconds ago, upon punching my timecard’s final out slot, I found myself navigating through the mercifully short, 15 minute, p.m. commute. I was feeling all tuckered out…my exhaustion caused not so much by my paid labors but, instead, due to my having taken on responsibilities as a caregiver… my teaming up with paid, home care professionals… our mutual goal being to assist in my nearly nonagenarian Mom’s recovery from a recent heart attack… to nurse her through an ever-growing, myriad of other age related complications, as well.
As was customary during that (now) bygone era, upon greeting Mom, I was once again sitting at her sickbed, our telling one another all about our days… as well as reminiscing about the good old days. It was while chatting, attempting to cheer her up that I started experiencing… well… it was sort of a feeling of deja vu. I say, ‘sort of” because a role reversal of sorts was involved.
You see, it had been my caregiver Mom who, decades earlier, used to sit bedside… chatting to cheer me up as I weathered the countless childhood storms… i.e., the emotional turmoil of being relentlessly, verbally and physically assaulted by elementary, junior high and high school bullies… i.e., the physical illnesses, which ran the full gamut from colds/flu, measles, mumps, chickenpox to my more serious, post-op convalescence following my tonsillectomy.
Of course, no recollections of those times would ever be complete without mention of my Mom’s favorite, surefire home-remedy / cure all… i.e., her made from scratch pancakes saturated with maple syrup.
Fortunately, I had never succumbed to that “macho” notion that “real men” don’t cook… so I not only knew our “secret” family recipe but, thanks to Mom’s OJT, I also had plenty of work experience in preparing them.
So, the more we talked… the more I realized Mom had always selflessly and tirelessly stood in my corner throughout my life… the less fatigue I was feeling. And the more I wanted to repay her for all of her past moral support. Oh, you should’ve seen the smile on her face when, clear out of the blue, I said, “Mom, I’m heading for the kitchen to prepare a pancake supper for the two of us.” Within an hour, we were sitting down at our dining room table and savoring the delectable, finished product.
I am so glad that Mom and I had shared our special meal together, for a mere two days later, she wound up breaking her leg. Nine days after that, after being admitted to a nursing home, a post surgical complication… pneumonia… set in with a vengeance and after that?
Well, exactly one month after our pancake supper, I was delivering Mom’s eulogy.
Mere hours ago, on this very night, I headed to the exact same kitchen to prepare a new batch of pancakes. Later, as I sat down at the exact same dining room table I raised my coffee cup and sent my words to the heavens…
“Mom, this fifteenth anniversary memorial pancake supper is to honor you and keep your memory alive. I shall love you forever, with all my heart.”
I should also mention that, set before me (us?) was the exact same, saved syrup bottle that both Mom and I had poured from on this very night, 15 years ago. A bottle once filled with sweet maple syrup,
but now empty… no strike that. It is still filled with the bittersweet memories of the last pancake supper Mom and I had ever enjoyed together in this Earthly realm.
About all I could possibly add, here, is that since we can never really know if the last time we see one another will be the last time, we need to always act accordingly.
It almost seems like just yesterday that I was a high school senior, settling back into the normal classroom routine following the Christmas break. That’s when just prior to my physics instructor beginning his lecture, he took me aside to inform me of my summons to the assistant principal’s office. The incredulity in his voice was both palpable and justifiable since I’d never given anyone any reason to peg me as a troublemaker.
At that point, my only option was to close my books, make my exit and walk “the final mile” through the now deserted hallways. Peering into the countless classrooms I was passing by, my mind flooded with envy. Why? Well, unlike my classmates, I was being denied my education.
My clear conscience notwithstanding, I was also keenly aware that that assistant principal… let’s refer to him by his initials, CC… was a school rulebook hard-liner. Which raised the big question…
Just which of HIS infinitesimal “i’s” had I undotted and which of HIS teensy “t’s” had I uncrossed?
From my side of “The Bench”, His Dishonor’s edict flipped off strict Federal and State statutes which, btw, explicitly state that attendance is MANDATORY for all school aged kids.
Well, the next morning, thanks to Mom’s barbering skills, I wound up passing CC’s inspection. He next handed me a re-admittance form. This required signatures from all six of my teachers… their acknowledgement that they were required to “award” me Fs for all incomplete assignments and/or missed tests.
Admittedly, how two of those six handled this signing “ceremony” certainly turned out to be priceless.
My cool physics teacher, Mr. S (who, btw, sported a much longer hairstyle than what I’d been expelled for) just glumly shook his head side to side while delivering his tongue-in-cheek “tsk tsks”. In guarded, hushed, more serious tones, he expressed both his disbelief and outrage that such a good student could’ve ever been treated so shoddily. When I lamented over how the previous school day’s “Fs” would mess up my GPA, with a conspiratorial smirk Mr. S informed me that I hadn’t gotten any Fs from him. He had had my classmates spend the entire hour quietly reading the next chapter in our textbook. He had also set up a chess board in his office where he had matched wits with anyone who had already read ahead.
My not-so-cool English teacher, Ms. D couldn’t wait for her golden opportunity to gleefully and publicly humiliate any of her students… especially longhaired “hippies”. Yep, I hadn’t even made it halfway to my assigned desk, when, with her stern “So-where-do-you-think-you’re-going-mister” glower… she goose-stepped over to block my path. Had I not first waived CC’s form before her very eyes, that gestapo officer-in-training could’ve easily snarled, “Papers Please!”
The good news here… mere days later, Judge Damon Keith had ruled to strike down our school’s grooming code. You see, a fellow longhaired student (and friend of mine) had also recently faced down a similar expulsion. But, instead of knuckling under to CC’s BS, his parents… with an assist from the American Civil Liberties Union… had successfully argued that our entire school board and administrative staff did not have the legal right to deny an education to their son or anyone else.
On the upside… from that day forward, I regrew my hair until it reached waist length. And even on the occasions where I’ve opted for substantially shorter “dos”, I’ve always made damned sure my style would, in some way, remain in violation of CC’s code. Why? Just because that’s what freedom is all about. It also feels so good to get the last laugh. And, ever since my retirement, I’ve been free to maintain my mane in all of its lengthy splendor.
On the flipside… my long hair has flipped folks out in varying degrees. Must I point out the obvious… namely that the Y chromosome does permit such hair growth? Just who, beyond that local barber from out of my past, felt they had the right to countermand nature and restrict any man’s individuality? Why the hell should my personal grooming choices ever open me up to profiling… e.g…
This would also be a good time to offer up yet another friendly reminder. It’s just as easy for folks to misjudge a well groomed person to be electable. Throughout human history, this has resulted in grotesquely, corrupt regimes headed by the well coiffed, fashionista fascists… such as Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump.
Of course some might point out how Donny’s “do” does appear a bit unkempt. Hmm… maybe we could coax CC out of retirement to expel him?
An old haunt of mine still exists in the heart of my lifelong hometown… the house where I had played out the first seven years of my life.
This was “The Place” where I had “busted out” from my barred, “prison” crib… to first crawl… to next stand upright and take my hesitant, initial baby steps… to eventually venture forth from my four walled interior to explore my verdant home turf and environs beyond.
Within this magical sphere was where fun cycled with the four seasons… building wintertime’s snowmen, flying springtime’s kites, igniting summertime’s July 4th sparklers… taking the plunge into autumn’s piles of raked leaves.
My yard had been my happy hunting ground for Four Leaf Clovers… where plucked Dandelions and Queen Anne’s Lace became presentable bouquets… where healthy, natural snacks got picked right off of bountiful cherry trees and prolific wild raspberry canes. This was where Robins, Blue Jays, Lady Bugs, Dragonflies, Monarch and Yellow Swallowtail butterflies all shared the same airspace.
In the waning days of this past June, a touch of homesickness had set in… fueled, in part, by how 1961’s and 2017’s days/dates line up perfectly.
On that yesteryear’s Tuesday, June 27th, it had been my family’s Moving Day… the pivotal moment when I had waved good-bye to the epicenter of my young universe to close out a truly glorious chapter of my carefree, once upon a time, storybook life.
On this year’s Tuesday, June 27th, I certainly would’ve welcomed some Sci-Fi type time travel BUT since that’s, purportedly, an impossibility, about the best I could possibly hope for was to play out the past in the theater of my mind… while paying a visit to the present-day version of my childhood stomping grounds.
Knowing that no drive-by could ever suffice, I opted to travel the road home on foot. No sooner did my childhood hood appear in the distance than the rhythmic, muffled sounds of my athletic shoes hitting the concrete began fading out… and my distant memories came flooding in.
Suddenly, I was back in my crib… feeling an open windows’ refreshing breeze… smelling the rainwater and ozone’s fragrance… seeing the lightning flashed walls… hearing a downpour on the rooftop and the sporadic rumbles of thunder mixing in with my Dad’s steady snoring. Perhaps this is a universal experience? It’s sounds just like the celebrated in story and song nursery rhyme, “It’s raining, it’s pouring the old man is snoring.”
I next recalled the countless daybreaks where I’d gleefully scamper down the stairs to switch on our Zenith™ B&W TV (first image in link is the identical model)… to zone out on op-art-esque test patterns and high pitched tones while patiently waiting for the stations to wake up and roll out their weekday children’s programs.
Amongst the affable, laughable personalities setting up shop on these kiddie corners were Johnny Ginger (who presided over the onslaught of Three Stooges shorts) and Soupy Sales (renowned for his pie in the face slapstick, choreographed “Soupy Shuffle” and interactions with puppet pet doggies White Fang and Black Tooth). To chill out, kids could always depend on the far more cerebral, dignified Captain Kangaroo (a.k.a. Bob Keeshan). Courtesy of the Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera animation studios, Saturday morns featured a constant stream of cartoons.
TV Afternoons were where the “faster than a speeding bullet… more powerful than a locomotive… able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” Superman flew through the airwaves… where the wisecracking Johnny Carson presided over the quiz show, Who Do You Trust… where music maven Dick Clark emceed the rock ‘n’ roll teen dance show, American Bandstand.
Taking my cue from Mr. Clark, this is where I brought my make-believe, bedroom “radio station” to life… where courtesy of my Zenith™ record player, I began spinning vinyl to blast out an eclectic mix of orchestral waltzes, jazz, rock, pop, ballads and Christmas tunes1.
My musical selections crossfaded, effortlessly, to memories of Christmases past… how, courtesy of Santa Claus’ delivery of Golden Books™, flashcards, View Masters™, teddy bears, toy blocks and train sets, Christmas mornings had lasted all day. Further sweetening our holidays were my stay-at-home Mom’s made from scratch, still warm from the oven, mouthwatering baked goods… e.g., gingerbread men, German Spritzgebäck (spritz) cookies, Slovenian apple potica and sugar / cinnamon doughnuts.
Although childhood illnesses and my tonsillectomy’s post op recovery could hardly be called a fond memory, Mom cheering me up was. She loved to tell me her highly imaginative, original, extemporaneous bedside stories as well as read other authors’ published works aloud (e.g., Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit).
And once nursed back to good health, I was back in action. Like on the day the training wheels first came off my 20” bike. As my skill and confidence grew, I’d find myself furiously pedaling up a rather long, steeply sloped sidewalk and then, on my journey’s downward leg, I’d experienced feelings of liberation and exhilaration while coasting back home at breakneck speed… waiting for the very last possible moment before slamming on the brakes.
Here was where, one wintery dusk, in a childish huff, I had “run away” from home over some trifling matter… but never did make it past the lower driveway. And once the falling snow had cooled me off, my mom convinced me to return to her warm, welcome home embrace.
Here was where the setting summer sun cast my long shadow before me… granting me the illusion that I was as tall as a grown-up… where I first observed and grew to appreciate nighttime’s four lunar phases and timeless starlit skies.
And, on a more serious note, here is where I had first heard the figurative school bell ring… where, after Mom had first taken several snapshots of me, we took a pre noontime stroll from our home to my nearby kindergarten classroom.
But my fondest memory of all was how our home had acted as a playmate magnet. With frequent visits from Johnny, Bonnie, Jimmy, Davy, Kathy and my best friend Danny, my sister and I had plenty of company.
While our playground included swings hanging from elm tree limbs, a slide, sandbox, kiddie car, trikes and bikes… such playthings were sometimes unnecessary… e.g. the day we wound up gleefully laughing our asses off while taking turns rolling down a hillside inside an oversized cardboard box. All anyone needed to let the good times roll was allowing our sky is the limit, fertile imaginations to run wild.
But, alas, eventually, all good things did come to an end. As the days began winding down within this special locale, there was sufficient time for one last blast… I hosted a party… my invited guests helping me celebrate my seventh birthday. There had been plenty of fun, games and pigging out on our banquet of hotdogs, potato chips, Faygo™ rock and rye soda pop, birthday cake and ice cream.
No kid would ever need TV land’s idyllic “Mayfield”… not when each of us could so easily replicate transcend it.
But, alas, eventually, Tuesday afternoon’s time tripping, too, began winding down. But not before I recalled the very last time I’d ever see the inside of our old home. Dad and I had returned just to ensure the hired movers hadn’t forgotten anything. It was well past nightfall and my usual bedtime… but since school was out for the summer, it hadn’t really mattered.
Dad unlocked the back door and, for the next five minutes, we proceeded from one empty echo chambered room to another. How surreal it had felt when we switched off all the lights for the last time and stepped back out into the cool night air. With the sounds of two slamming car doors and an engine roaring back to life, Dad shifted his 1953 Ford Mainline into first gear and down the graveled driveway we rolled.
It was about this time when the rhythmic, muffled sounds of my athletic shoes hitting the concrete “returned” me to 2017… well ALMOST…
I sensed two distinct, June twenty-sevenths, separated by two score and sixteen years… my past as the passenger… my present as the pedestrian were now converging. Both my younger self and I were wending our way up the very same street and were about to leave the old neighborhood.
Mom had so matter-of-factly summed up our moving day in her 1961 journal…
“The move took from 7:15 – 10:30 p.m. 3 hrs. 15 minutes. $30.00. The kids are delighted. Everyone is relieved.”
While I’d agree that, initially, I had been delighted, this giddy state of mind had prevented me from fully appreciating the whole truth. Although there was no way to actually have seen it during Dad’s and my final inspection tour… I really had left something truly irreplaceable behind…
The very best years of my entire life.
1Tom’s Top Ten Hit Parade
While journeying down life’s road most of us take an occasional, over the shoulder glance. However, as of late, my peering into my “rearview mirror” can best be described as excessive and obsessive. Try as I may, it has not been easy to ignore my vivid reveries, dreams and nightmares… as well as the oft accompanying intensely felt emotions.
On the up side… so far… this has not morphed me into a 24/7 basket case. These incidents have only been occurring during my idle daytime hours and nightly REM sleep phases.
On the down side… especially re those abovementioned nightmares… I’m seeing that ominous warning:
“Objects in this mirror are closer than they appear.”
I’ve tried to literally write off these occurrences by typing them into a word document… in hopes that actually seeing the words appear on my computer screen would help put everything into proper perspective? No dice.
I’ve also tried to figuratively write off all of this stuff as something someone merely starts to experience once one’s cake gets set ablaze with sixty plus birthday candles… you know… once one realizes the “road” ahead has far fewer miles than the “road” behind? Again… no dice.
You see… there seems to be… correction… there IS far more happening here than my casually strolling down Memory Lane. I think I’ve been watching my life pass before my eyes. And whether this has involved pleasant experiences or not… I cannot help but wonder if this has been akin to a NDE (Near Death Experience)?
Which begs the follow up question…
Just how, pray tell, does a man (supposedly) “mens sana in corpore sano”… who hasn’t chosen a dangerous occupation… who isn’t a driver headed for an unavoidable head-on collision with an 18 wheeler… ever get to the point where he believes the final sentences within the final chapter of his life’s story are getting written?
Well, the more I think about it, the more I suspect that virtually seeing myself as a chalk-outlined lifeless body can be chalked up to the following two quotations…
“If we have nuclear weapons why can’t we use them?”
“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
Those above two sentences (death sentences) were, respectively, uttered and Tweeted by an unwise, unstable, un-American… one who now possesses… correction… one who is now possessed by the nuclear launch codes… namely… the unwisely elected “leader” of the “free” world… an entity I never voted for and have elected to keep nameless in my blogs.
Uh… let’s just refer to that YUGE nobody as #45.
That duly noted… before that nuclear saber rattler ever manages to deadpan, “You’re fired” to our Creator and then promptly incinerate His creation… time permitting… I do have much more to blog about.
In future posts, I’ll be taking an inventory of my life and times… in hopes that, if I’m lucky, someday, somehow, either surviving mutant earthlings or maybe even visiting ETs on an archeological mission, might still find fragments of the WordPress “universe” intact.
Well, primarily, to let everyone know that I have… uh… I guess I should say… I had absolute zero confidence in #45 and the same could be said regarding nearly all of his deplorable and/or delusional appointees and supporters.
I’d want future archeological diggers to know that I was a good man who had absolutely nothing to do with fascist 45’s destruction of Earth’s ecology, economy and society.
Of course, in posting my life’s inventory in the days to come… i.e., #45 permitting… there’ll be a slightly selfish fringe benefit, too. That’s because nothing / nobody ever really dies on the www. That’s because a blogger’s / author’s thoughts can speak from the grave and span millennia.
Indeed, my posts could be my one last shot at a form of immortality.