Aug. 15, 2015
A Seattle moment: Downtown traffic is an exasperating experience, what with electric buses lurching around, construction every block and a half, stoners clogging the area (Hempfest 2015), tourists, bicyclists darting between vehicles with the certainty of born again Christians and, of course, rain.
We are, therefore, not moving. A Toyota 4-Runner has inched out of a side alley to enter the fray. Everything is in a state of suspension when the SUV's driver's window rolls down. His left arm extends out with a bird perched on it, a gorgeous white cockatoo. The driver holds it there, majestically, and the bird lets loose with a stream right there on Stewart Street. When done, it's brought back into the vehicle, the window goes up and the state of suspension returns.
#seattle #travelmadness #thingsistumbleacross #adventuresingridlock #wildkingdom
Nov. 19, 2012
There is a lot of hoohah regarding Hostess, the ex-industrial giant maker of permanent foodstuffs that has proclaimed itself dead thanks to the unions. Like most initial reports of anything that ever happens, it is unlikely to be as good or as bad as it first appears. And accuracy may take quite a long time to emerge — so far it seems that the unions might not be entirely to blame nor is the company even necessarily pfft. It is a yet unwritten tale with ample possibilities for conspiracies, disinformation and game playing, all with a creme-filled center.
My Hostess connection goes back to when Hostess sponsored "The Howdy Doody Show." Somehow, because my parents knew somebody who knew somebody, I was able to get on that show, sitting in the notorious Peanut Gallery with a bunch of other well scrubbed, Ike-liking, all-American youth. It was the late 1950s, and going into this, I was assuredly a fan, sitting inches away from the black and white TV screen (despite my mother's importunings) and carefully watching the antics of Howdy and Buffalo Bob Smith between 10 and 10:30 a.m.
Saturday mornings, of course, were sacred kiddie times on TV. I would turn the Magnavox on as soon as my parents would let me and wait a long minute for the tubes to warm up. This, I later realized, was preparation for the time it would take for computers to cycle on and for Netflix to go through its streaming initialization process.
When the day came for me to go to Rockefeller Center, home of the NBC studios, I was in heaven. This was TV. Real television. Going live everywhere, except maybe not the Soviet Union. My mother and I went into the building and everything became entirely surreal for me. I saw one of my favorite people, ventriloquist and show host Shari Lewis, walking down the hallway between two giant men and laughing. I was very much in love.
Mom and I were eventually directed to the studio where "Howdy Doody" was filmed and I had never seen anything like it. Everything was either much bigger or much smaller than I had imagined. There were 40 of us kids who streamed into the bleachers that made up the Peanut Gallery. In front of us was a maelstrom of activity — cameras being rolled around, production assistants with headphones, some people in costumes (the stars!) and lights hanging and buzzing everywhere.
A timer big enough for everyone to see stood on a stand and was counting down the moments to broadcast. One man, very much in charge of the Peanut Gallery, glared at us. "All right you kids, shut up!" he said. "Shut up!" Where, I wondered, was the joy? "Now you do exactly what I tell you to do or I'll kick you out of here," he said. We paid attention. He instructed us on when to applaud and who to watch. We rehearsed the opening seconds of the show, where Buffalo Bob intones, "Say kids, what time is it?" and we all holler, "It's Howdy Doody Time!" We'd then sing the show's theme song which, apparently, is one of the first times audience participation was used on TV.
We were less thrilled than terrified after our handler got through with us, but we did watch that timer with the attentiveness of professional card players and when the second hand hit 10 o'clock we listened for the cue and then hollered for all we were worth.
Then we forgot about the jerk, and began to watch the show. Although we weren't watching it quite the way we'd been accustomed to. Buffalo Bob used cue cards! Everybody used cue cards! Clarabell the clown, being mute, did not, of course, but he did prance around shooting his seltzer bottles and causing general havoc, which we loved. It was a swirl of activity whether on or off air. We couldn't hear some of the scenes with the marionettes such as Howdy and Phineas T. Bluster. They were a bit far away and were miked, but not so we could make out what they were saying. I don't know what the show was about, not that there was a meaningful "plot." Over to the right was a tiny booth that I realized was the "Ruff and Reddy Show." It was just cartoons, of course, with just the live action host Jimmy Blaine. It came on after Howdy Doody and we were allowed to watch a bit of it although all we saw was the host do his thing. The cartoons were going on elsewhere in the ether of broadcast TV.
As we left, the jerk was smiling (he was done with us and thus, relieved), and saw to it each one of us got a big manila envelope with swag. I remember a cardboard marionette of Howdy Doody, with metal brads allowing the arms and legs to move. It was cool, yet ultimately unimpressive as a functioning toy. There was some other stuff as well, most of which I don't remember. But there was a package of Hostess Sno Balls, pink and covered with shredded coconut. I was well pleased, even though the Hostess CupCake was my preference. But loot is loot and it meant I'd been a member of the Peanut Gallery and a footnote to a footnote of American Pop Culture.
Aug. 27, 2012
The adorable little girl in the veterinarian's waiting room came in and announced they were putting down the family dog. Her dad is at the desk doing the paperwork. Mom is in the car with the dog and will come in only through the back door at the last minute when they are ready.
The girl, dressed in pink and orange, is unusually articulate as she visits with all the animals in the waiting room, asking their names and talking about animals she has known.
Eventually she sits, alone in the waiting room as mom and dad deal with the difficulty at hand. She reads a book -- "The Curse of the Romany Wolves" on loan from the Central Library -- and hums a sweet tune to her remarkably self-possessed self.
Tonight, I imagine, there will be tears.
Short feature stories:
Four Silent Soldiers
Turtle Express (A La Ogden Nash)
Al Kapone Hearts the Memphis Symphony Orchestra
That laugh! That laugh!
Mary Worth Hugs Boondocks
Longer feature stories:
The Rabbi's Gift
Memphis Water is Better Than Yours
The Art of the Sale
2015 Midtown Opera Festival
Ballet Memphis' "I Am"
Pinchas Zukerman and IRIS