Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Marsha - Keepin' 'Em Terrified

Dear Readers - I'm working on an impossibly large paint job at one of our rental units that has to be finished in time for Saturday occupancy. Got some new ideas but no time to write them down. So, for all of you at Excelsior today, and you three know who you are - here's another 2009 rerun - it's one of my most vivid childhood memories.    

originally posted 7/9/9   

I want this to be a matter of public record, in case Marsha ever comes to finish me off after all these years... Just kidding, Marsha. Marsha, the girl next door, is responsible for some of my most vivid early childhood memories - and some of my direst childhood nightmares. Just how can I remember so vividly things that happened to me when I was merely 4 years old? When you are in a state of panic where your metabolism threatens to pop your eyes right out of your skull, the senses become heightened. The minutest details are recalled with crystal clarity. That was life with Marsha. She lived next door. Marsha was two years older than me, and never let me forget it. She ruled me by absolute holding-your-breath terror. She would never tattle every little thing to her mother, or worse, to my mother. Nawww... that's for sissies. If we lost the hammer, we knew that her father would find me directly, and cut off my ears.

"He cut one of my ears off once, you know. Look, you can see where it grew back..." Wide-eyed, heart in throat, I looked, and, sure enough, her ear was all grown back, just like she said. So, I didn't know if mine would grow back as well as Marsha's had -- I would take no chances. And, as if I needed further convincing, we went and asked her father about it. "Well, if you use a sharp enough knife, so it cuts real clean, then it would grow back" he stated matter-of-factly. He picked up a knife from his work bench and looked at it absently. They must have had a secret signal - he'd collaborate anything she was trying to pull off. Later on, a person could observe that a wry sense of humor is inherited, but, at the time, I knew one thing: I never wanted to cross any of Marsha's rules, and i *never* wanted to meet her father in a closed room without a ready escape route.

We lived in a new neighborhood on the edge of town. Marsha's house had been there before mine was built, and she'd reminisce about when it used to be a farm, and they had horses, cows and a lion. We could venture out of town just by going beyond the end of the back yard. It was a wild and wonderful wild place, singing with frogs, birds and fireflies, and fragrant with milkweeds, grass, and wildflowers. I remember when Marsha took me on a botanical tour of the untamed wilderness. She showed me how to open a milkweed pod, but you had to be careful, because they could slam back shut and take off your fingertip. We walked through some golden-rod "And these are the Ickle Ockle bushes - they move around when you're not watching - LOOK" And I looked behind me, and, sure enough one had already moved behind me, about to close in, and do - what? Close call. I was amazed that she knew the names of all the wild plants. Pointing to the rag-weed - These are so poisonous, if you just touch them, you'll get lockjaw, and you won't be able to talk, to tell anybody what's wrong with you, so they'll just take you to the hospital and give you shots, and maybe you'll die"

And we came upon some beautiful orange tiger-lilies. I thought we should pick some and take them back to our parents. "I tried that once", she said casually, "...but a whole swarm of bees started following me, and I had to drop the flowers so i could run faster." I was so grateful that she had saved me from being stung to death.

So many other dangers lurked in our dangerous neighborhood on the edge of Watertown. I would not have survived without Marsha there to warn me of seemingly innocent things that were truly deadly. "Gypsies - " she whispered - "they *STEAL* people". They drove around in those black pickup trucks with the wicker furniture in back that turned back to snakes if it got wet. And, overhead, flying so high you could hardly see them, but they were there - eagles. Eagles could swoop down silently, grab you by the shoulders and carry you away. By that time, I had seen the Wizard of Oz, and I knew for a fact that fear of being carried away was a legitimate concern.

Then, one day, Marsha outgrew me. She was busy with Nancy Sanquist from across the street, because now, at the age of 11, they were grownups, doing girl stuff, and I was still a kid, and a boy to boot. So, I started hanging around with Tommy Rutlin, and Lee Schumacher. We built tree houses, and paved endless secret paths through the tall grass.

But, after a few years, when we were both teenagers, Marsha and I would still visit, but by then we were at the age where we tried to act older than we really were. Marcia's piano playing inspired me to take up music. She introduced me to the Beatles - I first heard "Hey, Jude" on her radio.

We grew up. We moved away. She's a social worker in Madison, now, and I'm an office manager and church organist in Milwaukee. We run into one another once in awhile at funerals. We both made it to adulthood, safe now from eagles, gypsies, and the threat of the Ickle Ockle bushes. I think of that on warm summer nights when the fireflies are out.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Five Foot Dalmations and Other Signs of Fall

OK, I didn't know how to tie all these little stories together, But I knew they were somehow related.  This morning it occurred to me what the common thread was: It's the coming Equinox.  Yes, Autumn is upon us.  Those green leaves trying to sneak inside everytime you open your door.  Not the colored leaves that are the dead giveaway that Fall is upon us, but just green normal-looking leaves that don't want to be on the tree any more.  Kind of like insider trading.  They know what's coming up, and they got out while they still had the green.

The five-foot Dalmations are out leafletting - a sure sign of fall!
The street festival locks down the block every year about this time, and doesn't leave until there is a mountain of rubbish everywhere.  Of course, a little rain shower afterwards stuck everything down good so that the street sweeper couldn't suck the trash up.
 All through with your snacks and beverages, monsieurs?
Syd and Gondi arranged for a re-enactment of "Get Your Picture Taken with the Cool Cat"  Syd didn't really have time for this -- Gondi is getting a bit over-bearing since he won the contest.
And those marigolds that I planted from seed last March are just starting to get beautiful, just in time for the first frost.
 Lola has a new dress.  She was in a rather taciturn mood at press time - but I guess it speaks for itself.
Our Theatre is turned into a rummage sale, trying to raise money for the upcoming heating bills.
And to get you looking your Fall Best, visit King Tut's Wall of Bling:
Coming soon will be my favorite part of Fall - getting my hour back from those thieves at Daylight Savings Time.  I'm going to use my extra hour to take a nap!

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Corn... So Majestically Waving

This commercial from the 1960s completely ruined my life.  When I first saw it I could not stop talking about it and laughing for weeks.  Noting other people's reactions to my reaction, I realized that maybe I saw things a little differently than the prescribed way of looking at things. And that has made all the difference.  

"Made from corn - so majestically waving".  "SO MAJESTICALLY WAVING!"  That is literary advertising genius!   In an era defined by the stuffy smirking hip-ness of the Smothers Brothers, and the dark politic-laden trendy humor of Laugh-in, this commercial message was a blast of the light of reality - nothing less than the essence of humor, to laugh at one's self.  Who better to sell corn flakes than a farm lady standing on her farm, looking straight at you, pleading "Please Buy Our Corn Flakes!"

And so, as life went on, I ended up watching "Hee Haw" when everybody else was watching "Laugh In".  I took up playing the accordion when all the hipsters were all taking up the guitar.  I listened to a different Muse.  And I stayed true to myself.  And so many times over the years, I've had the satisfaction of seeing people discover something that I've known about all along.

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

cool cat indeed

So, there  it is.  The coolest cat in milwaukee.  Gondi the Cat.  The People came in droves to the Grand Opening of Companion Art Gallery, and in droves, they cast their votes.  Companion Art Gallery is a place where the dog and cat lovers of this world can find objects of art to enhance their lifestyle.  Local artists disiplay their creations, and can even create a unique item based on your own beloved pet.

So, after spending most of the day in a 5-foot Dalmation suit, Sandy, the founder of the gallery tallied up the audience votes. The Coolest Cat, chosen by the attendees, based on the photos submitted, was Gondi.   So, Gondi it is that will be the official Cool Cat mascot at the upcoming Bay View Bash street festival.

However, as Syd reminded me, Gondi's is not a history of a "rise to coolness", but rather, a betrayal of the Feline Mystique.  Gondi, as Syd reminded me, was a total sell-out. And this latest publicity stunt is the culmination.  I turn the remainder of this narrative over to Syd, who demanded equal time, that the true story might be told.

That's me, there in Gondi's shadow.  And let me tell you, the wind wasn't beneath his wings.....  I put up with a lot, having to do all the work, while he frittered his life away in betrayal to felines everywhere. When there was a box to be licked or a squirrel to be hated, I was right on the job.  And, where was Gondi? The photos tell the whole sad and ugly story.
the cross-species dressing
traditional holiday values would give us a glimpse of the REAL Gondi.  Not so cool, now, eh?
And completely shameless.  Look - he's actually enjoying this humiliation.  To what depths?
And this!  what depraved role-playing is this?  "'allo, I am Inspector Gondolino, may I inspect your Tuna Treats?"
Oh, now THAT's real manly - i am shocked, simply shocked.
And I've got the goods on this till-now unsolved crime. Never know when I'm gonna take a stroll down Memory Lane and show everybody MY photo album!
Oh, look!  I'm a cool cat, too.    Jealous?  me?  nawww
Just watch yer back, Gondi, Boy.  Watch yer back...

I'm Syd, your future ruler.

Monday, September 5, 2011

morning paper

AH, Labor day!

But, this morning as I sat back with a cup of instant coffee (two packets for the comatose), my wife turned on the TV.  The relentless rotation of Daytime TV greeted us.  I'm usually at my day job at this time on a Monday morning, so, it's always a revelation - so much different from night time programming.  And, rather than run downstairs, I was lured by promises of a performance by Lady Gaga.  She was on the morning show called The View.  Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, and some other ladies all sit on one side of a table (something like the Last Supper) except they all talk at once. Lady Gaga even joined them for the cackling part, with promises of a performance later in the show. You can't really make out what they're talking about, because everybody's talking at once.

At the end of the show, the promised performance by Lady Gaga was spectacular. She is a devoted hard-working performer, and doesn't try to conform to the norm of affectation one sees from other performers on her level of "diva-tude".  Without any theatrics or outlandish costuming, Lady Gaga is still an ultra-talented performer.

In the mean-time, I sat through a disturbing commercial reenactment of a domestic crisis.  A man emerges from a room, presumably the loo.   He hollers "Honey, we're out of paper, could you toss me a roll?"  A roll of paper clips him in the side of the head, and scrapes off most of his hair.  Presumably, the paper was not soft enough for his tender nethers.  So, he hollers down the hall again, half his hair missing "Honey, we're out of paper, could you toss me a roll?"  And, another roll nails him, the roll hits him in the chest, and explodes into a fuzzy explosion of lint, all over his clothes.   Too soft.  Then, of course, he goes through it all again, still no business taken care of.  And, of course, now we're all ready for Brand X.  This time, Honey comes to her senses, and hollers back at him - "GET YOUR OWN DAMN PAPER, AND CLEAN UP THAT MESS!"  Just kidding.  What woman would put up with that?

Thanks for listening and contributing. I'd love to hear from you.