Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Krofft on Ice.

This is a story from my old site, now defunct. It's true, more or less, but I wrote it with a somewhat dreamlike tone because that's what a lot of my older memories have become, like flashes of barely recalled dreams, a vague deja vu accompanied by an undefined ache. I guess that's nostalgia.

I'm very young, pre-first grade, but not by much. I'm going to see Krofft on Ice. It's in the city somewhere, Madison Square Garden I imagine, so my mother and I are taking the Long Island Railroad. My mom won the tickets from an AM radio station, WGBB, and before we embark on our weekday journey, that station is playing in the kitchen. It is, in fact, always playing in the kitchen. Mom is one of a handful of loyal listeners, and is rewarded regularly for her unfailing contest vigilance. (Years later, thanks to mom being the appropriately-ordered caller, we drank nothing but Barrelhead Root Beer for an entire summer, and after swimming dried off with Barrelhead Root Beer towels, and that autumn we gave away Diet Barrelhead Root Beer by the case.) I think she listens to the soft rock station just for the contests, don't know if she genuinely likes the music. I guess she probably does. When they play "Black Water," she makes me dance with her. I think it's a corny song, because even I know that when the guy sings "sweet mama" he doesn't mean his mom. Right now, as I wait impatiently at the front door, bundled for winter, WGBB is playing the folk version of the Our Father, and to pass the time I try to untangle the words.

Many milestones on this day: my first trip into the big city, my first train ride, my first time seeing a severely brachycephalic dragon skating with a pile of seaweed and some hats with legs. I love Sid and Marty's menagerie of puppety oddballs--H.R., Sigmund, Lidsville, et al. They alternately amuse and terrify me. I also, around this period of my life, enjoy filling my Garanimal pants with dirt. But that's neither here nor there.

We reach Penn Station. Before the train even stops, my mother makes a great deal of fuss about the gap between the train and the platform. She is warning me about it, to be very careful crossing it. You could fall, she says. Fall into the abyss like so many other little children do, EVERY DAY, never to be heard from again. She warns me until I have an image in my tiny noggin of the train doors opening to reveal a great gaping ravine which I will somehow have to traverse. And I know, I know, in my prematurely defeatist heart, that I will not succeed.

The doors open, and I hold up morning commuter foot traffic in both directions as I solemnly contemplate the crevice before me. It is narrow, perhaps deceptively so. Mom has no reason to lie. Although it seems easily surmountable, I summon my most Spiderman bravura and leap like my unrealized life depends on it.

While holding mom's hand, of course.

The show is colorful and confusing and horrifying and loud. I think I enjoy it. There is a puppet I'm in love with. She looks like a caricature of Marilyn Monroe, all legs, lips and tits. (I look back with relief that it was not only a female character I'd chosen for an object of affection, but, in light of my years-long crush on Rudolf's reindeer girlfriend Clarice, a humanoid. Close enough.) Later in the program, there is a morbidly obese male puppet who swallows the Marilyn puppet whole. I am no longer enjoying the show.

As we leave mom purchases a program for me which I am too creeped out to look at. Somewhere along the line, we have to take an elevator. People keep crowding on, until I am separated from my mother. It's a small space, but cavernous to me, and I end up squarely behind the ass of a tremendous woman. I am literally wedged into the corner by the vastness of her posterior. She cranes her thick neck around as much as she can and smiles at me. Not an apologetic smile as I can see, but a smile that sheathes sharp teeth, a smile that masks an insatiable appetite. And I know, dammit, I know in my ribcage-rattling heart that she is going to swallow me whole.

Months, no, actually years later. I'm still very young. I wake up one day, and the day is warm and sunny. I'm up without prodding and in good spirits---must be one of the last days of the school year. A good day. My mom comes into my room, something she never does before breakfast. She says, bemusedly, that she has a bone to pick with me. She had a dream---remember that time we rode the train to the puppets on ice thing? I dreamt you wouldn't listen to me, you were being a little brat, and you wouldn't hold my hand as you crossed over to the platform. I stepped over and looked back and you were gone. I frantically called your name, and other people on the platform helped me search for you. Then they gradually started to come up to me, saying "here, I found his finger," and "here's his foot," and they were handing me pieces of your body. So you see, you see what happens when you don't listen to your mother?

And I knew, I just knew, that in fact it was not going to be a good day at all.

I wish I could have better described the waiting part, because I remember it so clearly. For winter, we'd have a storm door installed instead of the warm-weather screen door. I would stand between it and the solid door, which I would pull closed against myself as much as I could to keep the cold out of the house.

Mom told me a few years ago that we went to see Krofft on Ice with a DJ from WGBB and his young son. I have no recollection of this at all.

I wish I still had that program. I'm not kidding when I say I could not look through it. It was in a magazine rack in the living room for years, but I never mustered the nerve to look in it for fear that I'd see a picture of that grotesque puppet devouring the one I had a crush on. I later saw the cannibal puppet eat Jimmy Osmond whole on TV. That didn't bother me at all.