Sunday, April 06, 2008

Childhood memories

A friend asked me to come up with some memories of my childhood and then suggested I post them on my blog.

My childhood

I was born in 1946 and grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.

We got our first TV in 1950, a Dumont with a 5-inch screen when I was four years old.

After the morning news, the stations would go off the air until the evening news and then continue until midnight, when they would sign off until early morning. A test pattern would appear while the station was off the air.

I remember the AM radio (AM was all there was), which played the top tunes of the day. My dad liked to listen to classical music in his car and while reading after dinner. I learned early on that my ear was extremely attentive to music of any kind.

There were lots of obnoxious commercial jingles on radio and TV, which (as you know) I have always detested. I remember one for Double-Mint Gum, another for Pepsodent (“Brush your teeth with Pepsodent, and you’ll wonder where the yellow went” ), which of course as boys we would substitute “flush” for “brush” and direct the jingle toward another bathroom activity. There was the “Brusha-Brusha-Brusha” commercial for Ipana toothpaste featuring Bucky Beaver.

Then there was the invisible shield of Colgate Dental Cream. God, they go on and on!

Songs I remember from the 1950s:
Mona Lisa – Nat “King” Cole
Tennessee Waltz – Patti Page
How Much is That Doggie in the Window (flip side of TN Waltz) – Patti Page
Be-Bop-a-Lula – Gene Vincent
Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino
Mr. Sandman

TV shows I remember:
Howdy Doody

Hoppity Skippity (local DC show – I got to be in the studio audience “Peanut gallery”)

Captain Video

The Milt Grant Show (local DC teen dance show like American Bandstand)
Ed Sullivan
Red Skelton
The Pinky Lee Show

Captain Tugg
Pick Temple

Toys I remember:
Hula Hoop
Silly Putty
Erector Set

My stuffed doggie, which I still have (missing one eye)

I was sick a lot as a child until I had my tonsils out at age ten. I nearly had to repeat third grade because I had been out of school so much. My mom would allow me to bring the radio/record player into my bedroom while I was sick. During these long times alone, I enjoyed listening to the old radio dramas (“Gunsmoke,” “Fibber Magee & Molly,” “Don McNeil’s Breakfast Club” and others) and went through my parents’ collection of classical music, during which I developed a love for Tchiakovsky and Grieg. I can remember drawing a portrait of Tchiakovsky in the water condensation on my bedroom window. I can also remember keeping a box score while listening to the Washington Senators on the radio. My dad took me to a game at the old Griffith Stadium in DC. which was the predecessor to RFK stadium, which has since been replaced by the new stadium north of the city. The times they are a-changing.

I mostly played outside as a child. Inside was boring. When the TV started broadcasting during the day, it offered only soap operas and other stuff that was uninteresting to me. I much preferred exploring the real world beyond my front door with friends. We would often stray beyond the boundaries set by my parents, for which I received more than one hard spanking from my dad. I remember climbing trees and exploring creeks and woods more than anything else. Once as a four year-old I wandered down to a railroad embankment with some older friends, where we stripped down to our underpants and swam in the deep water around the bridge abutments. I vowed never to tell my parents about this excursion, fearing certain death.

I rode my tricycle all over the neighborhood, once venturing so far that my mom drove her car around until she discovered me far from home (probably a block away). I explained to her that my imagination had run away with me (hence my blog name runawayimagination). Later when I was old enough for a two-wheeler, my adventures could take me farther still.

Some of my best friends were the neighborhood dogs, who I followed around, and who followed me around. In fact, the family members to which I felt closest were my dog and cat.

I’ve always had just a few close friends, usually loners like myself. I didn’t travel with the gangs of bigger boys, who liked to terrorize the younger kids like me.

When I was 6 to 9 years old, I built a wooden car with a neighbor friend. We got it to roll down the hill, but the lack of effective steering and brakes caused us to bail out before it ran into the ditch. Later on when I was in my early teens, another neighbor friend and I built a go-kart powered by a lawnmower engine that we drove around the neighborhood.

One sport I remember playing is baseball (not softball). I had a pretty good left arm and was often assigned to left field, because I could throw the ball farther than anyone else on the team. I used to enjoy hitting the spiny fruit of sweet gum trees over the roofs of houses.

Beginning at about age 12, I began to discover the wonders of my parents’ extensive library of books. I loved reading Michner and also enjoyed perusing my mom’s 1918 “Our Wonder World.”

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Existential crisis?

Who the Hell am I, and what the Hell am I doing here?

What is my life, anyway?

Is my life about showering, dressing, eating, drinking, driving to work, logging on & logging off, reading & writing stuff?

Is it?

Or is my life about the children I brought into this world?

Is it about the friends I made? The friends I lost?

Is my life about trying to keep body and soul together? Purchasing products and services, then trying to figure out how to pay for them?

Is my life about loving my wife?

Is my life about nothing? Everything?

Is my life about whatever I want it to be about?

Are there any guidelines, and would I even follow them if they existed?

Is my life about the myriad responsibilities I take on?

I see fellow travelers every day.
Some old, some young,
Some injured, some healthy,
Some living, some dying.

Thoughts tumble through my head,
cascading one after another,
Sometimes like angry bees swarming around my head,
sometimes like snakes slithering through the underbrush, following other snakes that are following other snakes and so on.
Most thoughts never reach my consciousness, and most of those that do never find expression through my lips or my fingertips.

I wonder.

I just wonder.

So maybe that’s what my life is about.

Wondering about my life.