What is my Americana?..Part 1

Memories of things considered by me as our Americana while growing up in small-town, U.S.A. in the 1960’s and the 70’s.

Did you ever wonder what it is that makes us Americans? Foods, sports, musicspecial events, and literature are just some of the things that are part of defining Americana. Regardless of your station in society, we each have memories going as far back as our childhood, of things that we consider to be part of our own Americana. Below I’ve included some original photos of my small town America.

I’m not sure there is one true definition of Americana. Consider my small town U.S.A., a Main Street lined with mom & pop stores, like the small hardware store, complete with that hardware store smell, you know the one, the lunch counter named Artie’s, where mom was a waitress, a barber shop with a barber pole spinning outside, where barbers named Bud or Dom cut just father’s and their son’s hair (where as a kid you also may have heard and not understood your first dirty joke), and a delicatessen with a wood pickle barrel filled with fresh dill pickles soaking in vinegar brine. Main Street, where they held a Memorial Day or Fourth of July parade complete with fire trucks, bands, floats with some new Miss Something or Other waving down at you from on high, WW II and Korean War vets from the local V.F.W. (which my father was one) marching patriotically in step with their flags and rifles. A parade in which at some point, someone will come along and throw Dubble Bubble bubblegum at you when what you hoped to get was Bazooka gum with the Bazooka Joe comic inside. Suburban America in the 1960’s… where your parents moved to get away from the big city. What historians call suburban sprawl. At my age, I still remember that town, the town I grew up in, with shop owners who were on the volunteer fire department, who left their stores when called, any time of day, regardless of who was in the store. This picture of small town living and growing up in the 1960’s truly defines everyday life in my Americana. Sadly, for many, this picture, these memories of small town America are quickly disappearing. They did in my former small town…

For my kids, my Americana, my town, is just a town that exists in a Norman Rockwell painting or some other ancient artifact (me) from the 1960’s. Although to be honest, they probably don’t know who Norman Rockwell is, although for many of us, his work will always be a part of true Americana.Their world, their town, is constantly changing, filled with too many strip malls and large box stores, and the over-development of just about every open space available. There is always some new version of technology becoming available to upload or download, Friends they have…but have never met…a world constantly rebooting. Their own version of Americana… Generation Y Americana. 

Over my next 5 or so posts I will be looking at some of the things and events that help to define my Americana including, but not limited to, sports, music, transportation, television and media, food, and family life. Much of it will be about things as they were, because isn’t much of Americana about remembering?

If you’ve made it this far thanks, and I hope you will read the other posts in this series. And, if you’re one of the few who read this, please feel free to send me your memories or comment on what you’ve read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Facebook Friends…

…Disney World and a tongue-in-cheek look at the role one man’s Facebook friends and Disney could possibly play in his cremation and trip to the after-life.

Let me start out by assuring anyone who cares…

I am not dying, at least that’s what the doctor told me at my last check-up. I’m not even sick…that I know of, although as I’m writing this I am fighting a nasty little cold.

However, without trying to be too morbid, I thought this might be a good time to take a look at my current state of affairs…being of somewhat sound mind and…well, we’ll skip the body part.

Most of my affairs are in order…a will, life insurance, enough to pay off the house and the vacation club with some left over so those left behind can have some fun, and finally, the cost of whatever send-off my family feels I’ve earned. About the only thing left is to decide where I end up. Location, location, location. More on that later in the post.

Now if we believe that Facebook is a microcosm of our place in society…could it then also be a predictor of who will be there with us…you know, at the end of it all.

Let me start by saying that my Facebook identification is a sockpuppet. Or, am I a sockpuppet? Who knows? Generation Y’ers and their urban dictionary terms. I chose my I.D. simply as a tribute to my family pet. Nothing more, nothing less. Is it any different than someone who has an account but uses a different profile picture? Aren’t you also hiding your true identity? Enough said…moving on.

So if Facebook is a true snapshot of who I am…it appears I am overflowing with all of 12 friends. And if I were to really crunch the numbers you would see that it’s not even an extremely diverse group. For the record…

…there are 2 family members…there are 2 friends of a family member who I wouldn’t even know if not for said family member…4 friends from my son’s days in scoutingand 4 who I know from work. Sure, is there more, would there be more who show up for my send-off and a post soiree? Probably…there’s always more family members who might come out of respect for the left behind…but that’s more of an obligation than a friend thing. If I were a betting man, which at that point it would be obvious to all…I no longer would be, having gone all in and lost…I’m guessing the left behind members of my family would draw a bigger crowd of their own friends than the definitely departed. The folks I know are more of a “Let’s just go to the reception and skip the wedding crowd.” (A note to my wife here…save the cheap ham and Velveeta Cheese and those little packs of mayo you get from the Wawa for this crowd…oh and the RC Cola too, one can only though.)

So where exactly does that leave the former me? I would hate to take the chance of having any kind of a service that wouldn’t draw enough people to carry me out of the church for my final ride. And as my Facebook account stands today, they might have to grab some neighborhood kids to help with that. Or maybe even check Craig’s List for some help…just be careful because there’s some real weirdos on that site. Anyway, no worries…there should be enough money left over from insurance to cover the cost of hiring anyone.

And if I can circle back to my earlier thought on location. The plan is for the wife and I to spend our twilight years in Florida, maybe working part-time for our favorite publicly traded company… Disney. That and to eat out every night. Doing that however will probably reduce even further my number of Facebook friends who might come for my final big day. (Honey…if anyone from PA decides to come, let them use the time share for a couple of days). With most of my internet friends probably unwilling, uncaring or just not able to combine a short Disney vacation with my final adieu, the outcome is now clear…at least to me…

cremation! There’s no sense in using up good real estate just to drop an over-priced box with decaying old me in a deep hole. And let’s be honest here…if you believe that only my spirit will enjoy my after-life in Hea…wherever…then by all means, take what parts can still be used and flame-broil the rest. Ashes to ashes…dust to dust and all that. The only decisions to be made are where I end up,what I end up in, and how many people would like a take-home keepsake to remember the event. To make things easier for my family I was able to locate some options for them to consider…

I know what you’re thinking…isn’t that the Stanley Cup? And aren’t those contact lense cases? It is and they are. Are they somewhat garish? Yeah, probably, but I like them, and it is final my wish after all. Assuming I’ve made it to my retirement place in sunny Florida, I’d also like to have some of me spread around in my favorite places. Again, I’ve provided some options…

Anyone who knows me…and there are so few, knows I love 2 things…vacations at Disney World and a really good conspiracy theory. If you notice the top 2 photos, one is from The American Experience in Epcot and the other from The Hall of Presidents in the Magic Kingdom. The conspiracy?…

I would like to be put into these shows. That’s why I need maybe a rogue employee (more of a prankster or a scamp) who can place me into…

  • the jacket pocket of Teddy Roosevelt in The Hall of Presidents and…
  • the jacket pocket of Mark Twain or Ben Franklin in the American Experience.

Obviously it would take multiple people to pull this off, giving birth to the conspiracy. My wife can provide the late me, lovingly(?) packed in 2 of the colorful contact lenseimage cases as shown above. If they’ve been able to hide Jimmy Hoffa for all of these years, how hard can this be? My wife is extremely trustworthy, and I obviously won’t be talking, so former or current Disney employee, it will be up to you to recruit anyone you need to execute the deed. So…

anyone have a guy who knows a guy?

And finally…part of my preparation for the hereafter will be changing my dietary needs ahead of a possible oncoming zombie apocalypse. We can’t just ignore it…it’s the elephant in the room. So, I have chosen to become…VEGAN! That’s right…veganism. A non-meat eating, lactose intolerant zombie you can feel safe to be around! A zombie to ride Space Mountain or see The Festival of the Lion King Show with. Just a walker…not a biter. Should an apocalypse occur before I make it to Florida…and you see me…heading north…TURN ME AROUND AND POINT ME SOUTH! And no pointing me in the wrong direction or taping a KICK ME sign on my back, or dressing me up in weird clothing for your own amusement. Don’t be that guy!

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey…Our Pet Store Beagle

My family had the great fortune to find our family pet, Bailey, at a pet shop…in the mall. Now I know by the look on your faces, some of you may disapprove of our purchase. I will tell you in this case, your perception doesn’t match our reality. Let me say, this isn’t a post about where people get there pets from, and what is or isn’t right, it’s just about my family’s great fortune to find Bailey.

Looking back at it, I’m sure we paid more than we would have if we had purchased Bailey from a “responsible breeder”. Probably twice as much. A responsible breeder would never place a puppy in a store and pet shops are filled only with puppies born in puppy mills, unhealthy dogs kept in small cages or some would have you believe.

Does that mean these dogs don’t deserve a good home? Of course not. As for Bailey, he was the right dog, for the right family, at the right time. No matter where he came from or how much he cost. If you were to see him on the street, all you would see is a friendly beagle who would love you like family. An instant friend.

Now Bailey came with all the A.K.C. papers. Just like beagles from responsible breeders. He was current on any required shots and all of his paperwork listed not only where he came from, but his lineage as well. Was it all legitimate? While I will admit it mattered when we bought him… it doesn’t matter now. We were more than satisfied that he would be the perfect family pet. And he has been.

One of the great things about Bailey is the relationship he has with each member of the family. My son is more like a den mate, a sibling, equals in every way… brothers. Two straws stirring the same drink.

My wife? Bailey is her constant shadow, following her from room to room during the day, by her side as she works at home. Many a conference call has been interrupted by one of his sudden howls for attention. When she comes home from a trip, he is the first to greet her at the door. Usually before she can get her suitcase in the house. I’m usually asleep in front of the T.V. (don’t judge me, I work hard too).

Bailey absolutely adores my daughter. After college she moved to Florida, but she tries to come up a couple of times a year. From the minute she comes home he is by her side. They couldn’t be happier. And when she turns in for the night, we know just where to find him.

As for me, the so-called “master” of our domain? I’m the hand that feeds him. And he knows it. And since he constantly wants to eat, I see his big brown eyes staring up at me often. I also wrestle with him, usually over his smelly stuffed mallard (he has 4 but will only use 1). One of my lasting images will be of him standing next to me, staring up at me with that mallard in his mouth, daring me to take it from him.Once in a while if he lets me… I even get to win.

Beagles can be great service animals as well as wonderful hunting dogs. Bailey is neither. I have no doubt he could be good at either, we just never trained him. From day one he has always been a family dog, an “inside dog”. Deer and other animals who frequent the yard know they don’t need to worry about him. He will usually regard them with a classic hound greeting when he first sees them, but after that he could care less. One summer morning, while out for a bathroom break, he caught the scent of a rabbit in the yard and was in full chase when he suddenly stopped, remembering why he was outside in the first place. The rabbit got away and Bailey got relieved. Certainly not the great hunter.

I have watched Bailey grow with my kids. After we brought him home we enrolled him, and I guess the kids too, in obedience training (they all needed it) and it gave the kids the chance to learn responsible pet ownership and how to handle our newest member of the family. In turn, Bailey has taught us how to follow schedules…HIS. From how he jumps at the backdoor to go out, to how we know he’s hungry or thirsty by kicking his bowl across the kitchen floor, he has become the great communicator. His loyalty and companionship have gone far beyond what we could have imagined that Saturday in 2003 when we picked him, and him us…at the pet store.

We will be celebrating Bailey’s 13th birthday this year, that’s 74 to me and you. He moves a little slower, sleeps a little more, and his face is a little greyer, just like me. His birthday is July 14th, the same as my wife, so as we enjoy cake, Bailey will be right there with us, staring at us with his big brown eyes ( just like my wife’s) and enjoying his Frosty Paws. He’s certainly earned it.

Let me stop here and include a public service message about choosing the right pet for your family. The following 2 links are from the A.K.C. (American Kennel Club) and the ASPCA and discuss their opinion of responsible breeding, pet ownership, and selecting the pet best for your family. A third opinion comes from P.E.T.A. and says that choosing a pet from anywhere other than an animal shelter is irresponsible. While I understand that position, I don’t agree with it.

https://www.aspca.org/about-us/aspca-policy-and-position-statements/position-statement-criteria-responsible-breeding

http://www.akc.org/press-center/facts-stats/responsible-breeders/

 

 

 

Six Degrees to the…

Oval Office…or how I know the Clintons.

As you’re reading this you’re probably asking yourself…

“Didn’t Facebook disprove the Six Degrees Theory?” 

Or maybe…

“How is a nobody like this guy connected to the former President and his wannabe President wife?”

Let me answer those 2 questions as best I can?.. and remember you asked for it…

First, who gives a hoot about Facebook anyway and…

Back in the 2nd grade I appeared…

On camera…

on The Gene London Show which was a local Saturday morning kids show starring…you guessed it…

1. Gene London 

As we were waiting to enter the Cartoon Corners General Store for the beginning of the program, a classmate…let’s call her Lisa…because that was her name…asked me to switch places in line…making Me the first to run in and lead my classmates into the store. What an amazing break in my young life…THANKS LISA! (Like most girls she generally ignored me after that until our senior year of high school…) Anyway, someone, I don’t know, director, producer, janitor, told me that I should run in and jump up on the counter (remember, I said it was a general store) and Gene would throw a box to me…

a little clarity here…

First of all they should have put a spring board next to the counter…I swear it was higher than me…and Gene had about 3 boxes he tossed to kids around the room until the last one, with confetti, fell on his head. Ha ha ha, we all laughed. They told us to. So I ran in, made my one giant leap for mankind…nailed it by the way…turned to face Gene…and sent the gum ball dispenser sliding across the counter. “Cut, let’s do it again. Can somebody move the gum balls before he breaks the machine?” I was humiliated. They did however, let me do it again, and this time, perfection. Now as I waited on the counter…

praying like a 9-year old right fielder that I wouldn’t drop the fly ball (box) and cost my team the game (Take 3)…

Gene tossed the box, I caught it, once again without breaking the gum ball machine or falling off of the counter, and the rest as they say…is television history.

Now Gene, who was an artist and puppeteer in his early days, is my first step to the Oval Office because he worked with…

2. Shari Lewis & Lamb Chop

That’s right, Shari and that silly little sock puppet, are the second degree on my way to Bill and Hillary.

As a kid I can remember, kind of, Shari doing a show in which her and Lamb Chop (is anyone getting hungry?) hosted a show for kids…of course it was for kids…that showed movies you probably never heard of. My favorite was always Skinny & Fatty, a film about 2 children in Japan, one was a skinny and the other was a fatty…the kids made fun of fatty because he couldn’t climb the rope in gym class…

no wait, I think that was on  Kukla, Fran, & Ollie. Oh well. Who cares?

Shari and her little sock puppet however did appear on the final episode of Sesame Street (Season 27 show # 3525) which leads us to number 3 on our journey to the Clintons…

3. ELMO

By no means am I a fan of Elmo. Elmo was indirectly responsible for Kermit the Frog leaving the “Street”, as well as less air time for Big Bird, Oscar, Bert & Ernie, and other popular characters. I think his status as a “fad toy” clearly went to his head (remember, Tickle Me Elmo?). However much resentment I have for this 3rd person talking, scene stealing, too big for the room puppet, he opens the door to my relationship with…

4. Barbara Walters

Barbara Walters is the glue that holds all of these relationships together. She was in 2 Muppets productions, Stars and Street Forever, The Sesame Street Special (Put Down the Duckie), and in 2005 she hosted the Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala. She obviously knows her Muppets. The other thing about Barbara Walters…she has probably interviewed every political newsmaker who was, well, in the news at that time. So with that you know she had to interview…

5. Monica Lewinsky

Monica was interviewed on March 3, 1999 by Walters while 70 million people who had nothing better to do watched. If you don’t remember Mons…she was Bill Clinton’s favorite blue dress wearin’ White House intern. That is of course until their friendship was Tripped up in September of 1997 by phone recordings and some kind of a stain on previously mentioned blue dress. We can send a man to the moon but we can’t get the spot out of a blue dress? Wonder how they will write that up in the history books? It was a real stain on the Office of the Presidency. So, while I would not invite Monica and Hillary to my backyard barbecue, I will say that Monica is responsible for the erection (too much?) of my last degree of separation to the Clintons…

6. Mr. And Mrs. POTUS(s?)

Is this whole thing a stretch? Without question. But it is possible. Hillary might be able to beat Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and any candidate the Republicans can Trump up making Bill the first First Man. First Husband? Current 3-term President? President Bill-ary Clinton? Whatever…Bill, just leave your sax at home when you come to the barbecue, I have Spotify and a good Bluetooth speaker. Oh, and Hillary, there is no WIFI in my backyard, so leave the laptop at home. Take a break from checking emails. And NO, you cannot borrow my iPad for an hour!

So there you have it. Six degrees to the Oval Office. Better known as Six Degrees of Separation, or the more popular, Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.

I may not have remembered everything about the Gene London show correctly, I will tell you I did switch with Lisa, yes that was the last time we spoke until high school, and yes I did run in and hop up on the counter. Twice. A little fuzzy on whether it was gum balls or something else in the dispenser and if we all laughed when the box fell on his head. We might have cheered.

I also could not find a rule that said everyone on the list must be living. Shari Lewis is currently deceased, however the current state and location of Lamb Chop is unknown to me. If anybody knows…?

Monica Lewinsky probably doesn’t need to be on this list. Pretty sure Barbara Walters knows the Clintons herself and doesn’t need an introduction from Monica. That would put my Clinton # at 5 and not 6. Just thought it would be more fun working her into the group. The sacrifices…Once again my final 6…