Friday, November 13, 2009

You Sold Me

In the strange land of reality and make believe I find myself a permanent resident. I like things to be real, yet twisted with an essence of lunacy--the happy kind. Smiling people holding up a bottle of toothpaste; smiling so wide you think a robber is behind them with a six shooter whispering, "Bigger! BIGGER!" And I like catch phrases. Words that aren't cute, but punchy with power forced into each syllable so that when you repeat them, you feel like pop rocks are exploding in your tonsils.

Lately I find myself recalling all those stupid, cheesy songs and images from my youth which told me--on a constant basis--to get my teeth whiter, hair shinier, hands softer, and breath fresher. I could recite them all, almost, if time hadn't crumbled away their perfection like the salt water on the Titanic's railings. So . . . I turn to youtube. Of course. And there they all are; a bell-ringer from my youth, standing on the street corner echoing my very memories.

"I drink Dr. Pepper and I'm proud, cause I'm part of an original crowd . . . OH . . . He's a pepper, she's a pepper, we're a pepper, they're a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?" I wanted to be one so bad. That guy dancing around in his white leisure suit with everyone following around made me want to leave home and join immediately. Maybe it's an unsatisfied conscience, but I still love Dr. Pepper. And there never will be a better way to drink it than when it comes out of a frosty, cold, green-tinted glass bottle from Mr. Kuhn's grocery store.

"Ring around the collar! Ring around the collar!" What pressure, what immaturity! Taunting some poor housewife with Mary Tyler Moore hair about how her husband's freshly laundered shirts are less than perfect. No wonder women went out and got jobs. It was easier to work than wash stuff. Plus, talking shirts are a serious sign of mental decay. Time to get out of the house.

I love old car ads, the muscle-ey the better. And candy ads. But cereal ads will always be a permanent part of my youth, with that poor Trix Rabbit never getting to eat any of the products he had to hock. And those Life kids exclaiming, "He likes it! Hey Mickey!" Kellogg's Corn Flakes always had an organic, sunny quality to their commercials. The day was new, the corn had been harvested . . . time to eat a nice, golden bowl of Corn Flakes. But hurry up after you pour the milk because the flakes get soggy in two seconds!!!!!!! We used to eat Grape Nuts a lot, due to Mom always finding ways to keep us healthy. Those things were like gravel, but they tasted okay after half a bag of sugar. My favorite cereal was Lucky Charms. Perfect combination of wholesome wheat, and sugary symbols that asked you to believe in magic people and faraway lands. "I just ate a blue diamond!" "So what, you're still an idiot." My revenge was to sneak down to the kitchen before everyone else had gotten up, and dig into the bottom of the box for that one little prize. Sometimes it was a cool toy like a little car or doll. Most of the time it was just a paper thing that you had to use your brain to put together. It sure made my brother and sister mad when they got up and searched through that box only to find nothing there. Cereal revenge is always the best way to go.

"Ho ho ho, Green Giant!" Was it just me, or was that giant just a little bit frightening? I mean, if I was walking through some fields and saw him standing there with his arms across his chest, I'd freak.

Then there was Charlie Tuna. "Sorry Charlie!" Yeah, sorry we're about to eat you. How does one reply to that? "Oh, it's okay. I hope I taste good."

Mr Wimple had a tough job, always having to make sure no one squeezed his precious Charmin. Kind of annoying, and anal. "Please don't squeeze the Charmin. Please don't squeeze the Charmin!" Okay, how about you go check you stock boys and let me buy some darn toilet paper. That character was similar to the Daylight Donuts guy. "Time to get up and make the Doooonuts." Poor guy. I always felt kind of sorry for him, but the second a glazed donut fell into my hand it all made sense.

So, this was my youth and formation of every thought process I hold dear. It's very possible that in the distant future I will be following my grandchildren around reciting all the jingles and taglines of my childhood, like a nun repeating Hail Mary's. "Here, Charles, have a Coke, and a smile." "Put these in the Glad trash bag over there, they're Glad tough!"

I won't mention how disappointed I am in most modern commercials, you probably already know. There's something hollow about the way they try to sell something I have to buy anyway. That was the great thing about old ads, they knew we needed it, but they wanted us to LIKE it. It was to be part of our whole existence so that, walking down the street, we couldn't hold in the enthusiasm any longer. "I love Jello!!!!!!"

Sadly, kids these days will remember one thing from today's ads: side effects.



Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm Paintin' a Pretty Little Bob Ross

I didn't like him at first. With his huge frizzy 'fro and gentle way of talking, I instantly felt myself tuning him out in fear of the retribution I knew would come from most of my contemporaries at school. "You watch Bob Ross? Ahahahahahahaha!" It would be like the day I told my first grade friend I still watched Sesame Street. That's possibly how the rest of my life at school was ruined. Never trust a soul with any important, personal information. Six year olds can make your life hell.

But Bob, he grew on me. It was the summer of my upcoming Junior Year, and I had taken on a job of babysitting the three boys who lived down the next block behind our house out in the country. Chris, Dan, and Robby. I don't know how good of a babysitter I was, but they survived, and not only that, we had fun. We listened to Christmas records, played ball, Super Mario Brothers 3, and every afternoon I'd make chocolate chip cookies. Then down to the basement we'd go for Bob Ross time. We had a good reason. It put little Robby to sleep. Five minutes in and that soft, hypnotic voice would have Robby laying in my arms, breathing soft. If BR didn't do the trick, I'd let Chris and Dan wrestle Robby till he was too tired to stay awake.

At some point while using Bob Ross to put a toddler to sleep, I found myself becoming interested. I never liked modern things. Society was always telling me what to wear, what to listen to, how to talk, dance, walk, think! I hated it. Bob was weird, but he was real. He knew what world he lived in and that having huge hair and pale skin was not cool. He knew that calling a tree "pretty" would most likely be considered sissy talk, but he didn't care. He was authentic and did what he wanted to do. He captured nature and praised the beauty of our world. He encouraged his viewers to see the glory in every little detail and become passionate not just about painting, but about life. He rocked. Sure, he probably had Cat Stevens and Steely Dan on his turntable at home, but that, in itself, is cool. If you're gonna rock, rock it right. I was always sneaking Karen Carpenter into school on my little walkman. At lunch I'd blast away, letting her pure, sensitive voice take me away from the painful days of Spring Hill High.

Now, I didn't start growing out a 'fro, or buy corduroy slacks or anything, but at the end of the summer when Connie paid me for the whole summer of watching her boys, I went out and bought a Bob Ross paint set. This is when things get sour. No one can paint like that man. Don't even try. He was a master at oil, especially when it comes to time, because oil is not something a person can rush. He had a certain system that was very hard to duplicate. Lord how I tried. But that's where respect comes from. I respect anyone that can paint with such skill, though others may classify his paintings as velvet Elvis type art. I see it like this ; he had a vision, every day he stuck to that vision, and he was a master. An artist always needs something to strive towards, and he has that mentor-like quality.

Laugh if you will, but I still look back with joy when I think of that summer watching Bob paint mountains and cabins and happy pine trees. Things are so perfect and digital these days. I'm happy to think about the organic phthalo blue days of my youth where a person could still mix their world into what they wanted it to be, naturally. It was another lesson where life showed me an alternative to what I had been molded into. It said, "Come over here and think different, feel different, be free." Pretty corny, I know, but how can you argue with nature? A person must let go of society and think for themselves. Be a freak, grow your hair, paint a mountain. It's cool, I won't tell your friends.

My childhood in a box

Every day you hear more and more about how bad TV is for kids, and for the most part I have to agree. Modern TV is really not suitable for little ones. You have crime dramas all over the place, bratty rich teen shows, cartoons like Family Guy and Southpark which are totally not suitable with their sometimes mean spirited sarcasm. Maybe once in a while there's something kid friendly like a Charlie Brown special, but they're few and far between.

When I was a kid the TV always had something we could watch, even if it was just old reruns. I remember racing home from school to watch Gilligan's Island on channel 41--they showed tons of old sitcoms. I'll name the summer list starting from after I'd woken up and had a bowl of Corn Flakes: Laverne and Shirley, Happy Days, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Good Times, The Jefferson's, Leave it to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle, Bewitched, I Dream of Genie, My Three Sons, Gilligan's Island . . . and then the station would move on to afternoon cartoons.

You know how they have those questionnaires that ask how much TV you watch each day? Ummmmmmmmmm. Let's see. How many hours was I awake each day? Cause that's how much TV I watched. I mean, it was constant. I freakin' loved my old reruns and cartoons. Woody Woodpecker, Pink Panther, Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, Johnny Quest. I always thought Johnny looked more like his bodyguard, "Race Bannon." Woops. Mommy's been sneaking around. Where was Johnny's mother anyway? They never talked about her. Weird . . .

Now we move on to the evening line-up. This will show my age, but oh well. Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, The Muppet Show, Buck Rodgers, The Million Dolllar Man, Bionic Woman, Wonderwoman, Facts of Life, Love Boat, Fantasy Island. I'm sorry, but that little guy on Fantasy Island scared the holy living crud out of me. And it always made me mad how they'd welcome these folks onto the island, tell them they could have any wish they wanted, then say, "Are you sure you want that wish?" The island guest would eventually say--after finding themselves in a pit of scorpians, "I want my old life back!!!!!" Rude. Ricardo Mantalban. What a smooth talking freak. Okay, what about Charlie's Angels? I still can't figure out if it was girl power, or just a show about women who didn't wear bras. And where was Charlie? Too scared to stand next to Farrah, dude?

The Solid Gold Dancers. Oh wow. Remember there was that one chick with really long hair who slithered all over the floor in her gold spandex? All while Rick Springfield sang behind her on a little stage lit up with glitter fringe. They had every known music act on that show and we watched it religiously. I still remember when Boy George was on there. I couldn't figure out if he was a boy or a girl. He'd turn left and he looked like a guy, then he'd turn right and he was prettier than Madonna. That was a confusing four minutes. Finally, like many things in life I just gave up and said, "Who cares?"

I can't go on. Clearly I have seen too much television and know way too much about this subject. It's pretty pathetic, but, I was a latch key kid after all, and sometimes TV was all I had. While other kids were walking into their Scruff the Dog protected houses with sticker in the window, I was opening the door at 516 N Franklin with my little brass key duplicated at the Kmart hardware department counter. There were no hugs, or peanut butter cookies coming out of the oven. Life was hard, kids had been cruel to me all day in school, and TV became my friend. But it could have been worse. There's always something worse.







Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Castles, Candy, and Cary Grant

Last night I stepped away from writing and decided to have a nothing night, which turned out to be a lot of fun. The kids kept busy running around the house, occasionally using me as a trampoline while I watched Dancing With the Stars. I just needed some time to think about what I really want to do with my book and anything else in the future. I don't know where I fit. Everyone seems to have a niche and all I have is a book of great characters that I love dearly and would do anything for. But since I can't define a genre, I'm kind of screwed. It's almost young adult, but crosses over to novel status. It has romance, and ghostly activity. It's kind of a thriller, kind of suspense. So again, I'm kind of screwed. But I ain't giving up on this book- no way, no how.

So, that's what was going on in my head last night. Julia had her own thing going on. After jumping on mom time was over, she sat at the little kid's desk here in the study where I write, and started to go through a huge pile of paper--my rejected drafts. She drew castles, princesses, intricate towers, dragons, and everything in between. She probably spent over two hours in here all by herself, just drawing away. I'm always so impressed with what she can come up with. She does not let age or technic hold her back, if she wants to draw a set of spiral stairs leading all the way up to the tower, then that's what she's gonna do. 3-D stairs, mind you, not your usual up down up down lines. Then, if you look at the window way up high in the tallest tower, you will see--drawn so very intricately--a little princess with all her facial features and long, flowing hair. Very cool.

Now Liam. It doesn't matter where I sit, when I sit, or even if I am awake, this kid is going to jump on me. "Tally ho!!!!" He got that from Spiderman. The more I groan, the more he laughs. I retired to bed at about 9:30 pm so I could watch the gorgeous Hunka Man Cary Grant in North By Northwest, on TCM. Sitting target. First came the jumping, then he got Henry the dachshund's favorite squeaky doll and started running through the house with it with Henry in full pursuit. Yes, I know Liam should be in bed at 9:30, save the lecture. This damn time change has us all messed up. Well, anyway, I watched Cary Grant--barely--and then said prayers real fast, and then yelled at Liam to lay down, which he did, and then we all went to sleep. He is now currently wearing a princess dress and has the hiccups. That's life.

Oh, and my cupcakes dripped down into the oven and started smoking up the house.

The good news is, it's really pretty outside and I found some cool 1969 Camaro commercials on YouTube. Sweeeet. And now . . . it's back to writing. Gulp.

Monday, November 2, 2009

My kid loves Martha Stewart

Martha had a "Good things and Bad Things" Halloween Special on, and my kid got hooked. I don't know how many times she has watched it, but I know I personally have it memorized. Eyeball, Highball. That's where you take radishes, shave them and inset olives into a little scooped out section, then freeze them in ice cube trays. Julia went out to the garden and pulled out every last radish then started an assembly line. She was so excited about her radish eyeballs--which, by the way--start to stink after a few hours in a glass of water. Yuck. Martha doesn't tell you that stuff.

Then there is the pumpkin snake. Martha gets a billion pumpkins--probably from her own garden--and assembles them in a huge snake like pattern with a serpent head at the front, lights strung throughout. Pretty cool, only, when we went to the store to get some pumpkins, they were all sold out. Julia was bummed out about that for awhile.

Now Martha has a Thanksgiving special with a Christmas one to follow. I like Martha Stewart, I really do, but I don't know if I can stand two more months of her telling me how to make the perfect this or perfect that. And my kid, isn't she just being set up to believe in a perfect world where everything is stainless steel and shiny mint green? Life isn't like that. Perfection is hard earned; you either spend all your time keeping it up--which will eventually lead to an early death or time in prison--or, you give up early and live the rest of your life talking to rats. I like rats.

I think most people watch Martha and think, "Nice, but no one's going to do it like that." It's like watching Michelangelo do a sculpture, then saying, "And now I'm going to make a play-doh puppy dog." It's a healthy way to participate. We watch Martha in awe, she's a fem-bot of crafts. No one is going to achieve her greatness. But . . . a kid, they don't know that. They're sponges. My Julia will watch Martha fifty million times and in two years be able to cook a truffle souffle for lunch. Hey, this might be good. I guess . . . I'll let her watch the show a few more times.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

I refuse to turn back my clocks

I dunno. I guess I just get sick of being told what to do. Maybe because as a mom I do everything for everyone all the time and just when I had things figured out, we alter time. I like my time the way it is. Get up at 7:00 with the sun still coming up over the trees, eat lunch when the shadows are laying all over the back wall from the sun standing behind our maples, have a cup of tea just when twilight is starting to dance around on the fence tops . . .

So here's the plan. When everyone else is existing in this strange universe altered by a whole hour, I'll be one hour ahead. It'll give me the ultimate power. I'll know everything first, see everything first. When I show up to an event an hour "late" and receive nasty looks, I'll just say, "What? YOU guys were early." Okay, I know it sounds ridiculous, and rude, but how rude is it to make sure all my mornings will now be so bright that both of my kids and the dog and the cat are now going to be woken by sunlight at seven in the morning from now on? I needed that extra hour to center myself before all the chaos started.

So, I refuse to give in. Not . . . this . . . time.

Do you believe?

Fifty-Five years ago on November 22, 1963, president John Fitzgerald Kennedy rode alongside his wife Jackie in a motorcade through the crowd...