Monday, March 31, 2008

Tears of a Crocodile Clown: Sick Days (early bouts with megalomania)

It's rare that I write about myself in this blog but I've decided to post an excerpt from my ongoing memoirs project "Tears of a Crocodile Clown".

Sick Days

When I was about 7 years old my grandfather gave me what I believed was a burgundy smoking jacket. In retrospect I have no idea what it really was. It could have been a maroon bathrobe... or maybe even a dog blanket. My imagination at the time had no bounds.

During those elementary school years, when I was home sick from school, I had a very specific routine. On the small black and white television set in the bedroom that I shared with my younger brother I would tune into "Bill Kennedy at the Movies". Bill Kennedy was a former actor that in his later years would host an afternoon show that featured vintage movies. At commercial breaks, Bill would take calls from fans and throw out bits of trivia about the actors and film.

I would sit, perched on the top bunk of our bunk bed, wearing my burgundy smoking jacket at watching Bill Kennedy at the movies. I would have my mother prepare and bring up to me tea, with milk and sugar and toast, buttered and cut into 4 aristocratic triangles.

Spread out before me on the bunk would be National Geographic magazines. While I sipped my tea and watched "Bill Kennedy" I would peruse through the magazines imagining they were "reports" from all corners of the world about the people that I'd conquered.

My ambitions have been growing ever since.


Ben TS said...

The reference to your TV reminds me of my own black-and-white childhood memories. In the UK in the 1970s we had only three channels, but there was always something worth watching as a bored 7 year-old. However, the family's 13" black and white TV was so old even then that it would only last for 15 to 20 minutes before starting the give off an acrid, electrical smell. At that point it was immediately switched off for fear that it would give up the ghost entirely, plunging us into an abyss of interlaced ignorance (No Dr Who! No Eurovision song contest!).

If we were cautious enough, and patient enough, we might be able to turn it back on again an hour or so later, but subjecting the poor appliance to such repeated use within 24 hours would cause it to last only 10 minutes (at best) the second time around. Of course, this meant careful coordination among the kids about the show(s) to watch that night, with the full understanding that we wouldn't get to see the whole thing. Just as the plots would get interesting, the stench of frustration would emanate from the air vents on the back of the white plastic casing and someone would lunge for the off switch. Needless to say, no one relied on us to fill in critical plot points or offer in depth analysis during the playground post-mortem the next morning.

Thomas Sherman said...

Your story has a quirkiness that makes it almost odd to be real. Something you might see in a Wes Anderson film. But there is a charm to it. It is very telling of a time that not long ago but really different today. Shows were on once and if you didn't catch it you were screwed.

How many years did you go through that frustrating and laborious process?

Steve White said...

Ah, entertaining stories above, to be sure. Also reminds me of watching our old black and white 13" TV with my own brother.

Since our bedroom was basically the attic (also replete with bunk beds, the top one of which I fell from in sleep and crushed a Star Trek playset and probably my brain), we spent most of the summer sleeping on an ancient foldout sofa in the basement. Which was practically an icebox compared to our sweltering bedroom.

Before sacking out every night, we'd watch All in the Family reruns on that old set. You had to get the rabbit ears positioned just right (things weren't quite in HD just yet) for anything close to a decent picture; even then, you were subject to what we loudly declared as a "Fizzout!" — several moments when the TV screen and mono speaker would rebel against Archie, Edith, Meathead and Gloria. And yeah, there was no rewind option.

I struggled to memorize the lyrics to the opening theme song; not many eight-year-olds in my generation had experience with Glenn Miller, the Hit Parade, or old LaSalles that ran great or otherwise.

Fuzzy pictures and garbled songs aside, laughing nightly with my older brother in our pinstriped baseball pj's was pretty dang cool. Archie and Edith were right...those were the days.

Thomas Sherman said...

hiding from the heat on an old sofa watching an old b&w.... It's hard not to be nostolgic for those days.

You need to give me a copy of your book when we meet up, dying to read it