Tag Archives: nostalgia

Lame Adventure 452: Hello, Old Friend!

As usual at quitting time, I bolted The Grind seemingly jet propelled. I was meeting a friend for dinner at a restaurant near my workplace in Tribeca. To get there, I had to trudge through the biting winter cold coming in off the Hudson River. Biting winter cold is a reliable motivator to pick up the pace, but when I eyed several Sixties-era sedans parked down Franklin Street, my feet slowed to a crawl so I could ogle like it was spring. Tribeca is a very picturesque Manhattan neighborhood with quaint, cobblestone streets and buildings constructed in the 19th Century resplendent with old world charm and costing stratospheric 21st Century ransom. It’s a popular location for film and television shoots — the reason why so many vintage American cars from my youth were parked curbside. As I passed a black Chevy Impala circa 1964, I recalled my mother’s four door 1963 Chevy Belair, the one we called “the blue Chevy” that looked exactly like:

This one!

This one!

There it was, parked mere paces away from The Grind, a monster of a car from my childhood that was solid as a tank. It had a two speed automatic transmission, weighed 3,424 pounds, measured 210.4 inches long, 79.4 inches wide and stood 55.5 inches tall. The trunk capacity was 19 cubic feet, perfect for stuffing a body. Mom preferred to use it for groceries.

A family of four could almost fit in this trunk.

A family of four could fit inside this trunk.

It had a 20.1 gallon fuel tank when gas cost 30 cents a gallon. The engine was a 230 cubic-inch six-cylinder with 140 hp. Mileage on this gas-guzzler was 10.9 – 13.9 mph in the city and 12.4 – 15.8 mph on the highway. It went from 0-60 in 14.1 seconds. It had two seatbelts: one for the driver and the other for the front seat passenger. Whenever I’d sit up front with my brother, Axel, we made that passenger seatbelt communal. We shared it and buckled up together.  Gas cost 53 cents in 1974, the year my parents traded it in for a Chevy Vega.

52 year old fender.

52-year-old fender still looking good.

My dad drove the Belair for two years before upgrading to “the brown Chevy” a snazzy gold 1965 Impala four door sedan with white sidewall tires.

No flashy white sidewalls here.

No flashy white sidewalls here.

He handed down the Belair to Mom who chauffeured me to and from grade school in it. Both of my siblings, Dovima and Axel, learned how to drive off of it. It was the car I rode in when Dovima drove Axel and me all over the San Francisco Bay Area to puppy shop on the day after Christmas in 1969. Dad only allowed our dog, Mean Streak, to ride in Mom’s car. Meanie loved to hang his head out the Belair’s rear window where he’d slobber with gusto.

When an air bag was Granny yammering about the old days.

From the era when an air bag was Granny yammering about the old days.

My most memorable ride in that Belair occurred in summer 1968 when I was nine-years-old. Dad decided that we should go on a family picnic to Curry Creek, a campground near Clayton, about 33 miles and 33 hundred light years outside San Francisco. There were towering oak trees with tire swings, a swimming pool, a dusty ball field, swarms of bugs and because it was the outdoors, dirt simply everywhere. I was a scrawny, city slicker kid who was only into this affair for the car ride and the food: my grandmother’s fried chicken and potato salad.

It seemed that all the kids at this retreat moved in packs and were natural athletes glowing with golden tans. I was albino white and so painfully uncoordinated I could barely climb out of the car without falling down. There’s a home movie of me running spastically in a circle and wiping out. Furthermore, I could not swim and I despised the sweltering heat. What I excelled at most in this hellhole was reading comic books in the shade and hiking dirt paths where I’d fantasize about returning home and taking a bath.

On this family outing, my father shunned long established protocol, and we headed there in the Belair. Typically, when we went anyplace incurring any distance, we took his car, because his was the better car. But, for some inexplicable reason he decided to drive Mom’s Belair.

Distinctive twin tail lights. the Impala had triple on either side.

Distinctive twin tail lights. the Impala had triple on either side.

About two thirds of the way there, with Donovan’s hit single, Hurdy Gurdy Man, playing on the radio station, 1260 KYA, the Belair began to overheat. Our car was smoking as Donovan was singing the trance-like chorus:

“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang
“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang
“Hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy gurdy” he sang

My mother, coincidentally, was smoking mad at my father. He pulled the Belair to the side of the road. He got us into this jam and it was clear that he was under a mountain of pressure to get us out. He opened the car’s hood. A massive cloud of white smoke billowed out. He used a beach towel to undo the steaming hot radiator cap. I stood near him, at the ready to do nothing, watching this family fiasco in fascination. Mom, who was always wound tight, was seething harder than our car’s engine. Dad had to think fast and improvise a miracle. He opened the trunk, took out the lemonade dispenser and poured a long drink into the radiator. Quenched, our engine cooled. We returned home where we ate the fried chicken and potato salad in the dirt-free comfort of our own kitchen.

Any mention of the song, Hurdy Gurdy Man, always guaranteed groans from my parents. But, whenever I hear that song, I recall the best picnic ever thanks to that Belair.

Ready for its closeup.

Ready for its closeup.

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Lame Adventure 410: Beatle Browsing

On Saturday morning, I was feverishly riding my spin bike to my usual destination, Nowhere, when I observed that the sky outside was a vibrant blue. The temperature that day eventually reached a high of 53. If one disregarded the piles of dirt-stained melting snow, the weather was spring-like and perfect for a genuine lame adventure featuring my favorite band, the Beatles. The evening before I was quaffing suds and chowing down bar snacks with my pal, Coco.

Me: What do you think of the Beatles?

Coco: Ugh. I think, “My parents’ music.”

Earlier that week I mentioned the Fab Four to my bud, Milton.

Milton: If I hear any more about the Beatles, I’m going to become a serial killer.

Milton is sick of the avalanche of stories and specials commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles coming to America this month. The combination of common sense and self-preservation suggested that I resist asking either of my two closest friends to join me for a visit to the New York Public Library for the Performing Art’s exhibit, Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles! It runs through May 10 and the price is my second favorite four-letter f-word: free.

This exhibit is a touring exhibit (it opens in Minneapolis on June 5) so it may eventually head to a city near you. It was curated by the GRAMMY Museum. It is a treasure trove of Beatle history, artifacts, memorabilia, videos, interactive stops (none of which I participated in because they required wearing communal headphones that activated my inner germaphobe), an opportunity to take a recorded drum lesson from Ringo (I passed) and a living history booth where visitors are encouraged to record their Beatle memories. No way would I subject myself to the humiliation of admitting on tape that even though I was born with a tin ear and can only drop a tune, I fantasized about being a Beatle myself.

Something I learned from this exhibit that I didn’t know before, was that George Harrison, accompanied by his brother, Peter, had visited the US for a few weeks in mid-September 1963. At that time, the four band members were taking a vacation. Paul and Ringo hightailed to Greece. John and his wife, Cynthia, bolted to France. George visited his sister, Louise, who was living in exotic (cough) Benton, Illinois. While there he bought a Rickenbacker guitar.

This guitar was originally red, but George had it lacquered black to look like John Lennon's.

This Rickenbacker 425 guitar was originally red. George had it lacquered black to look like John Lennon’s.

 Before returning to the UK, George visited New York City, and was able to pound the pavement in pre-Beatlemania anonymity.

New York these days (photo by Coco).

New York these days (photo by Coco).

Something else that I found interesting is that although it was teenage girls that initially went hysterical over the band, the artifacts on display were from vast Beatle collections maintained by Beatle worshipping guys in their fifties and sixties. I don’t know what this means, but I am sure some of you, my more intrepid followers, might be pregnant with opinion about this. Eventually, the program for this exhibit might be considered a collector’s item. It is also free.

More valuable than my company 401k.

Soon more valuable than my company’s 401k?

When I attended, about half the crowd was composed of boomers in their fifties and sixties, waxing nostalgic, but I didn’t see Coco’s parents. I overheard a few of the more demented ones softly humming the Beatle songs playing on the sound system. There were several members of the younger generation soaking it in, too. A popular spot for parents to take pictures of their small fry was in front of a typical Beatlemaniac’s bedroom back in the day.

My sister and I would not have seen anything wrong about this room in our youth.

Make the bed queen sized and I’d be okay with living there now.

I shot a few hundred photos with my iPhone, but most did not turn out very well. Naturally, that does not stop me from posting the best of the worst here as a small sampling of what’s on display. Thimble-sized spender me enjoyed this exhibit so much, I was compelled to stuff a Washington into the donation box upon exiting. If you’re in or near New York City, I urge you to visit this really big show. It rates the Lame Adventures greasy fingerprint seal of endorsement.

Library's outside entrance: yeah, yeah, yeah!

Library’s outside entrance: yeah, yeah, yeah!

The Beatles' instruments upon entering the exhibit.

The Beatles’ instruments upon entering the exhibit.

Ray Charles' suit; Ray was a Beatles influence.

Ray Charles (fg) and James Brown (bg) suits; guys who influenced the Beatles.

Elvis's guitar. The Beatles were big fans of his, but he was in no hurry to meet them.

Elvis’s guitar. The Beatles were big fans of his, but he was in no hurry to meet them.

Obviously, Og Philpott's guitar. The Beatles loved this rock legend.

Buddy Holly’s wild guitar. The Beatles loved this rock legend. So do I.

The set list John Lennon wrote for the Beatles first concert in the US.

The set list John Lennon wrote for the Beatles first concert in the US.

Song lyrics Paul McCartney threw in the trash that a hotel maid retrieved. Probably worth a million dollars today.

Song lyrics Paul McCartney threw in the trash that a hotel maid retrieved. Probably worth a million dollars today.

Script for one of the 39 episodes of the Beatles cartoon series that ran on ABC. I was addicted to this show.

Script for one of the 39 episodes of the Beatles cartoon series that ran on ABC. I was addicted to this show.

Pepsi product placement circa 1964. Each Beatle was given on of these transistors upon coming to America.

Pepsi product placement circa 1964. Each Beatle was given one of these transistor radios upon coming to America.

Ticket to see A Hard Days Night. What powers of perception   to save this? My mother would have ditched it as soon as I got home.

Ticket to see A Hard Days Night. What powers of perception to save this. My mother would have ditched it as soon as I got home.

We had this 45 and I remember this sleeve. We don't have it anymore.

We had this 45 and I remember this sleeve. We don’t have it anymore.

Even though these are surely worth a mint today, I much prefer wearing Jack Purcell's.

Even though these are surely worth a mint today, I much prefer wearing Jack Purcell’s.

I saw one of these selling on eBay for $99.

I saw one of these coin holders selling on eBay for $99.

Beatle dolls, Paul bubble bath bottle, Ringo figurine. Paul and Ringo themed merchandise were the most popular. Of course, I preferred George and Ringo.

Beatle dolls, Paul bubble bath bottle, Ringo figurine. Paul and Ringo themed merchandise were the most popular. Of course, I preferred John and George.

What the hell?

What the hell?

Gold record for "I Want to Hold Your Hand".

Gold record for “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. The version of this song they recorded in German gives my colleague, Godsend, hives.

The jacket Paul McCartney wore when the Beatles played Shea Stadium.

The jacket Paul McCartney wore when the Beatles played Shea Stadium.

Poster for the Beatles last concert performed in my home town. None of us attended. Idiots.

Poster for the Beatles last concert performed in San Francisco, my home town. None of us attended. Idiots.

A guy born without the shame gene sitting at a drum kit taking a lesson from Ringo.

A guy born without the shame gene sitting at a drum kit taking a lesson from Ringo.

Enter this booth to yammer your guts out about the Beatles for posterity.

Enter this booth to yammer your guts out about the Beatles for posterity.

Year-round Beatle exhibit in my lair.

Year-round Beatle exhibit in my lair.

Lame Adventure 392: Feeling Foolish While Silently Screaming

No argument from me.

No argument from me.

Halloween has never been my thing, but I gave it a shot back in the day when I stood armpit high to an upright meerkat, or if you prefer, when I was short and six. My mother suffered the migraine headache of a lifetime, more specifically one that spanned eleven minutes, deciding how to dress me. My first grade class peers in San Francisco circa 1965, were girls eager to be Cinderella, Snow White, Suzy Homemaker or a ballerina; the more demented ones, all four combined. Mom knew if she forced girly-girl garb on me, my reaction would be on par with starting a holy war. I wanted to be Superman, Zorro or a Beatle, even Ringo. None of these guys rated Mom’s seal of approval.

So hand in hand, Mom and I entered Woolworth’s where we reached a compromise solution: an urban caveman in a dress, Fred Flintstone.
My Fred costume was the cheap Ben Cooper brand made from flame retardant vinyl. It was comprised of a screen printed Fred tie and a smattering of black spots signifying either a pre-historic animal pelt or some scary melanoma. But the pièce de résistance was an allegedly ventilated plastic mask shaped like Fred’s smiling mug. The mask was held in place with a narrow elastic band that hugged the back of the head. Holes were cut in Fred’s eyes and in the vicinity of the nostrils guaranteeing that at precisely thirty-eight seconds of wear alleged ventilation would give way to minor asphyxiation and a face soaked in sweat.

At this juncture I should mention that not only was I short but I was slight in build. Or as my reliably image deflating mother was quick to say to anyone from my father to the butcher:

Mom: She’s forty-two pounds soaking wet!

Mom alternated this observation about my slender physical presence with another dose of confidence implosion.

Mom: She turns sideways and she disappears.

It never occurred to Mom to pad me to look more Fred-like. We just accepted the fact that I resembled Hunger Strike Fred. After completing her role in costuming me, Mom passed the baton to my father. It was Dad’s job to take me out trick or treating. Since most nights it was chilly in the City by the Bay and a damp foggy mist often hung in the air, Mom bundled me in my dark red corduroy coat, a coat that completely hid my costume prompting candy givers to ask:

Candy Giver: And who are you supposed to be?

Even at that tender age, I found it astounding how many people failed to recognize Fred from my mask. I wondered how culturally vapid were these folks? Looking back, this initial glimpse of cluelessness was good preparation for insights about the human race, offering hints that we descended from rocks.

Together, Dad and I trolled our neighborhood. I appeared on doorsteps in exchange for candy that would be inhaled back home by my two salivating older siblings, Dovima and Axel. They had stopped trick or treating years earlier so it was my job to take one for the team. I was grateful that they ate the candy. Born sweet tooth deficient, my snacks of choice were fistfuls of dry Cheerios, lightly buttered rye toast or if I was really lucky, a dish of boiled spinach drizzled with olive oil. My sister, Dovima, who to this day could still easily eat herself sick on milk chocolate if she did not keep both hands in restraints, often said to me:

Dovima: God, you’re weird.

If my mother had issues with my slight stature, Dad, in Mama Rose-style, was quick to stage direct my projection of the phrase, “Trick or treat.”  This was a phrase I tended to mumble in a near inaudible whisper. To this day, I remain soft spoken. My Ethel Merman-esque father is a guy who was born to shout from the rafters, “Sing out Louise!” On that brisk Halloween night, he groused at me.

Dad: What’s the matter with you? Why won’t you shout out ‘trick or treat’ so people can hear you?

As we bickered on an elderly widow’s doorstep, I insisted that was exactly what I was doing, but he disagreed. I knocked feebly on the lady’s door and said the go-to phrase in an anemic whisper. Dad resisted the urge to smash his head against a wall. We stood for a three count outside the lady’s closed door, waiting. Another three count passed. The response was the same, continued silence. Exasperated, Dad bellowed in a demanding 38-year-old male bass baritone that resonated throughout the entire neighborhood and possibly crossed the California state line deep into Nevada:

Dad: Trick or treat goddamn it!

The elderly widow’s porch light shut off. Dad and I were left standing in the dark.

Dad (with renewed calm): Let’s go to another house.

Back on the sidewalk he urged:

Dad: Don’t mention this to your mother.

Me: Deal.

Note: I wrote this post as a contribution to the series Remember the Time, a dumping ground for old school stories co-hosted by Emily at The Waiting, who has been very supportive of Lame Adventures, and Kelly of Are You Finished Yet?

rtt-new

Lame Adventure 320: Me in Drag

Last month when I was visiting my family in the San Francisco Bay Area, my 17-year-old niece, Sweet Pea, wanted to go mall shopping, specifically to Urban Outfitters.  This is one of those stores where I half-expect to find myself carded and then denied entry because I am so beyond their target teen to 20-something age demographic.  Unfortunately that didn’t happen.  There I was, aimlessly wandering the aisles while Sweet Pea was trying on a mere 693 outfits.  Several times clerks invaded my reverie and asked:

UO Clerk:  Can I help you?

Me:  No, not really, and never.

Approximately three hours into this sentence, I noticed a table full of books.  One called Awkward Family Photos caught my eye.

Crappy cell phone photo.

I pointed this tome out to my sister, Dovima. We each grabbed a copy.  We laughed.  We devoured it whole. We belched.

During a subsequent Father’s Day visit to my dad’s house in San Francisco, I thought of one of my own loathed family photos.  Although it was not particularly awkward, this portrait my parents had taken back in the day of their three offspring, my siblings, Dovima and Axel, and me, was one this trio despised equally.  It was taken so far back in the day I think Lincoln was president.

Les Miserables.

I have known Dovima my entire life.  I have never known her to look like that.  Ever.  Axel looked a lot like that.  Briefly.  As for me, who is that?  Someone out of a Brontë novel?

I don’t recall much about the photo shoot, but I vividly remember the photographer trying to force me to cradle a baby doll.  I objected with hurricane force fury.  His issue was what I should do with my hands.  I improvised.

From the earliest age, even the immature me was showing prominent signs of the finely honed wicked personality I have now.  That cherub in the pink poofy party dress enjoyed peeking up store mannequin’s skirts, not sure what I was looking for, but I recall considering using a flashlight for a better view.  When taking breaks from playing with Mr. Potato Head, this little horn dog liked masturbating under the mirrored glass coffee table, positioning my pint-sized self in such a way my rotund four foot ten 200 pound caretaker granny could not possibly get hold of me.  As I’d rub myself into a frenzy she’d scream in Italian:

Granny: Maiale!

Translation: pig.

I loved to joke around. I was fascinated with actresses, especially Sophia Loren, Julie Christie and the singer Dusty Springfield.  I could not get enough of Barbra Streisand, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  By age ten, Woody Allen and  Andy Warhol were added to that list.  Axel was my #1 playmate.  He invented brilliant games.  One of my favorites was Crash, Bang, Boom where we’d slam our bikes into each other.

I only played with boy’s toys – cars, guns and the Marine G.I. Joe. I loved comic books, but graduated to Mad magazine and by adolescence, The National Lampoon. I was obsessed with gags including plastic vomit, rubber dog-doo, whoopee cushions, and in a sure sign of my budding sophistication, positioning a dollop of fake blood out of a nostril.

I also made my own gags.  One of my crowd pleasers was when I carved a finger-sized hole into a little cotton-lined box, I’d coat my finger with chalk (stolen from where else? — my Catholic grade school), insert it into the hole and then open the box.  The sight of my dead-looking finger always guaranteed a gasp and then when I’d wriggle it, the freak-outs would come.

I loved that.

When asked if I wanted to be a wife and mother, I’d say:

Me:  No.  I want to be a cartoonist.

When I was told I’d change my mind when I’d meet my future husband who’d give me a litter I’d say:

Me:  No, that’s never gonna happen.

This troubled my mother who thought if she tried hard enough to make this tiny terror into a girly girl in ringlets and pale pink taffeta, she could stop my snarky soft butch nature. I’d suddenly transform into someone else instead of me.

Fat chance.