Friday, June 30, 2006

Eleven Score and Ten Years Ago...

Summer has begun. You can tell because it’s hotter than hell. Okay, I exaggerate; it’s only as hot as hell. As rare good fortune would have it, Donna and I were away at the coast for the really hot days earlier this week. While other Portlanders were mopping their brows in woe and wailing and gnashing their teeth in lamentation of the heat, the wife and I were laying on a windy beach having our ears filled with sand, or shivering ever-so-slightly in our enormous screenhouse as we did shots, played dice and listened to “Summer Breeze” on a Mary-Kate and Ashley portable CD player I found discarded in our local trash. (To the impatient tweenybopper who chucked it: you simply needed to wipe the laser thingy, it works just fine. No takebacks!)

Anyway, it was Donna’s birthday, and to all those who sent cards to the campsite, she says a big ‘thank you’ in return. They all arrived on her birthday, and were delivered right to our tent by a teenager in a golf cart, much to Donna’s surprise and delight. I couldn’t get my hands on a cake, so she got a Mounds bar with sparklers stuck in it. She proclaimed it the best birthday ever, so thanks again for the next best thing to being there…

Speaking of sparklers, the Fourth of July is coming up, tho naturally I prefer to think of it as the 30th anniversary of the Bicentennial. In commemoration of this, over the next few days I will be presenting--what else--pictures from old TV Guides and newspapers!

Here's the cover from the week of the Bicentennial, July 3rd-9th, 1976 (the 4th fell on Sunday):

For NYC area folks, here's a station break identification card from WCBS that you might have seen during, say, Dinah! or Mike Douglas.

Yankee Doodle Cricket!

Chester Cricket's role in the history of America is now disputed by most historians, but I still don't see why they don't show this one anymore...

A live six-hour salute to Independence Day hosted by Tom Snyder? Only Tom Snyder could stand that much Tom Snyder.

Remember these dopey TV tests?

They had them about smoking and safety and stuff like that too, usually hosted by Frank Field. You'd get all set for the program with a pencil and your scorecard at the ready, then after about three questions, wearily switch over to check in on Adam-12 or to see who was on Match Game PM.

Church and State, together at last!

I wonder if you can find one of these car decals on eBay. It sure would make a swell Bicentennial gift, hint hint... Mary has either been hitting the sauce or struck on the noggin, judging from the comical stars and bubbles around her halo.

Freedom Is, a cartoon special you're sure to not remember.

Another production from the Lutheran Layman's League, the cruel folks who brought you the tedious Christmas Is and the cheerless The City That Forgot About Christmas. The all-star vocal talents of these "specials" do nothing to offset the near-static animation and treacly, uninspired preachiness. The Christmas shows actually still turn up on local TV here. They must be in the public domain, though I don't know why a station wouldn't opt to show an infomercial instead.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Summer is Ready When You Are.

That line being from "Saints" by The Breeders, a favorite tune for cruising with the top down (or, at least, the windows down, never having owned a convertible). The ultimate summer song, however, jingled unceasingly from atop a white truck depicting a sweet, swirly-headed fella known as Mister Softee.

That jingle, I learned from a posting on the amusing website Long Island Oddities, is in E-flat major in 6/8 time, and was created by an advertising agency in 1960 for radio campaigns. Although the trucks play only the instrumental version, the tune has words:

The CREAM-i-est DREAM-i-est SOFT ice CREAM
you GET from MIS-ter SOF-tee
FOR a re-FRESH-ing de-LIGHT su-PREME
LOOK for MIS-ter SOF-tee

Now that brings back memories! Goddammit, I want me some Softee! Alas, I'd have to go to Las Vegas to find the nearest truck (which makes it the first and only entry on my list, "Reasons for Going to Las Vegas").

Actually, I think Circus-Man might have been my favorite, because they also sold neat crap like water pistols, sparklers, Wacky Packages and those black pellets you'd light on fire so they'd grow into snake-like ashes which stunk of burning rubber. (Exactly why that once struck me as so much fun kind of eludes me at the moment, and yet I can't deny wishing I had a packet of them right now.) Also, Circus-Man had those gingerbread and vanilla ice cream sandwiches, which were so good I once wrote a bad poem mentioning them, published in Report To Hell #3.

Something To Get My Fingers Around

the exhaust takes me to

another summer of end-

less light and the hot

fumes and a dollar forty-

five are a small price

to pay for two gingerbread

men, back-to-back upon

ice cream, and i smile

and wonder how i ever

got in this traffic jam

The poem is every bit as lousy as it was in 1993, but now I can publish it in the color of gingerbread! Technology makes everything better!

The Circus-Man push-up pops, another favorite, had plastic circus figures on the stick which were hidden in the sherbet until you ate it away. Like the snake pellets, these were also fun for no discernible reason. I'm sure I had a useless, sticky collection of them stashed away somewhere (somewhat similar to the stack of Playboys I procured during my teens, except those were frequently used, much stickier and stashed with the utmost care).

So, summer, I'm ready when you are, you sweaty, bewitching brute. Just don't dawdle--two months of you will be plenty. A camping trip or two, a few barbecues, maybe even some time spent swimming and lying in the sun at Sauvie Island (the clothing-mandatory section, of course--you're welcome), and then let's get back to breezy, overcast days that prematurely portend autumn. Ah, sweet autumn. Now that's a time of year I can get behind. Until then, a few beers and some catchy pop has its charms...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

I'm Unwell, Yeah, I've Gone Bad.

I'm sick. (I know, I've read your blog.) No, I mean I'm really fucking sick--my throat is burning, my skull feels like it's in a vise, my bone marrow has turned to osmium... (What the hell is osmium?) It's the heaviest substance there is. I was trying to suggest how sluggish I feel. (Well, then just say lead or molasses or something, no one knows what the fuck osmium is...) I felt it was implied... (...osmium, he says, like I have a friggin' periodic table handy...) Will you just go away, please? (Hey, you plop-plop a Night-Time Alka Seltzer, this is what yer gonna get.) Yeah, I figured as much. I'm looped on the stuff. I kept rising vaguely out of my sleep today, like a bubble of methane breaking the surface of a thick swamp, and every goddamn time I woke I had "Philadelphia Freedom" in my head and couldn't shake it, couldn't even attempt to. (Yeah, I like that song. What, you don't like that song?) I do, but it was always just there, like I had no say in the matter. (You don't. Remember that time when you were ten and home from St. Pius with the flu, and you were looking at the Star Wars calendar in your darkened bedroom, and the chess creatures were moving around on the board in front of Chewbacca? Wasn't that cool?) Yeah... did you do that too? (Of course. I also cook up those crazy fever dreams of yours.) You mean those ones where it's like I have to shoot light pulses around a circuit board in a certain pattern over and over, with no meaning or end in sight, and I wake up feeling more exhausted than when I went to sleep? (Ha ha, yeah, those.) Jesus, I HATE those! They're like an OCD Tron video game. (Heh, yup, something like that.) Am I going to get better soon? (How should I know? Better get some rest, and dose up again. I have work to do. Say, do you like Ace of Base?)

It seems only appropriate to add a song Lantern Fishworks and I wrote called "Sick." This is our ultra-rare Witner Twins demo (which sounds pretty good on the CD but came out sounding like a wax cylinder here):
this is an audio post - click to play
Vocals: Dale
Guitar, backing vocals: Frank

And here is the equally ultra-rare "finished" Martyrs version, complete with the Feebs' droning, malarial solo:
this is an audio post - click to play
Vocals: me
Guitar: Mike
Bass: Chris
Noise thingy: Jim
(Hey, that solo is great--couldn't have done better myself!)

SICK (Dale Witner/Frank Witner)
There's pain in me where pain shouldn't be
For someone still as young as me
My muscles ache, my joints are weak
The bones inside go crack and creak

The morning's when I have it rough
'cause when I wake I can't get up
Once I'm up, I stand around
It hurts too much to sit back down

An x-ray only shows the breaks
And pills will only ease the aches
The misery is still in me
There's no cure for what's killing me

The medicine man shook a stick
I smoked the pipe but I'm still sick
He shook his head in disbelief
That he could not bring me relief

I am sick and I've gone wrong
I tell myself it won't be long
I'm unwell, yeah, I've gone bad
But don't you cry, please don't be sad
I give up, but thanks a lot
My only peace is in this shot
That's the way it's always been
Since the day my pain did begin
©1995 Witner Wonderland Music