Sunday, December 11, 2011

How The Grinch Sole My Heart

Boris Karloff and Christmas?  Theodor Seuss Geisel (alias: Dr. Seuss) was deeply concerned that Karloff's voice might be a bit too scary to use as the voice of the Grinch.  Too scary for us?  Dr. Seuss must not have understood that even at our young age, we baby-boomers loved Karloff as much as we loved green eggs and ham.  Karloff after all played our most favorite and most famous monster of all time - FRANKENSTEIN!!!!  Karloff made monsters, and great mad scientist - but we knew the old man had to be a nice man off set and he was.  In fact, Karloff did love kids.

What a voice!  The 1966 children's book adaptation far surpasses the remake starring Jim Carrey back in 2000.  The original Grinch not only had the incredible dark creepy voice of Karloff, but was directed by the man who brought us Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird & Daffy Duck  - Mr. Chuck Jones himself.  Suess, Karloff & Jones - what a trio of unique talent!

My kids found an old VHS copy of How The Grinch Stole Christmas in an ornament box this year.  We all sat down and watched it together.  I don't think anyone will ever surpass the original telling of a furry green fellow's phenomenal redemption.  The Carrey version is good and the kids enjoy watching it, but for me - this old Grinch will always remain my personal fave.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Digger's Chigger

Last night I was rummaging through old color slides that I inherited from my Uncle Pat.   I ran across this great shot of Brooky back in July of 1970 - his Senior year at Gadsden High.  I've always have loved VW's since I was a kid.  This was the bug that won me over.  These days I tool around in a '73 Superbeetle.  As much as I love my car, I wish I had an older model like the one pictured here.

This particular car was named Digger's Chigger.  Back in the day Brook wore an Austrailian wide brimmed hat known as a 'bush hat', 'slouch hat' or a
'digger'.  A 'chigger' of course  is a little red bug that bites.  Hense the name Digger's Chigger.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

those were the days

Norman Lear introduced a show back in the early seventies called 'All In The Family'.  The show centered around a fictitious middle aged blue color bigot named Archie Bunker.   Archie was a character who didn't have a college education.  He had to quit high school so he could  help his family make it financially through the Great Depression. Archie was a veteran of WWII.  After the war, he was given a job on the loading dock by his uncle. By the '70's, when we were introduced to Archie, he had become the foreman of that very same loading dock. He had a wife Edith and a daughter Gloria. There was also another member under his roof, a very liberal son in-law Michael Stivic.

The ill-tempered Archie Bunker was played by actor Carroll O'Connor. The idea behind the show was to show how ignorant and stupid conservatives are. The show stereotyped and tried to paint people who were Republicans as reactionary, ignorant, racist, bigots - etc. Here's the twist. The character was written so that everyone would not like ol' Archie - but everyone did.

It's been 40 years since the show began. I was just starting junior high school at the time. I was apolitical - a child with more important things on my mind at the time.  I enjoyed the show and didn't really pick up on the left leaning intentions.  At the time, I saw both right leaning father and left leaning son in-law as clownish and bigoted.  I wasn't a big fan, but I did see enough to get the gist of it.

Now 40 years later I have a respect for the Archie Bunker character.  Though not the most respectful of husbands, he stayed true to his wife Edith until death they did part   Archie worked to keep a roof over his family's heads and food on the table. For most of the shows run, it was the son in-law Michael (aka: Meathead) Stivik that was always at odds to Archie.  Michael lived under Archie's roof and ate Archie's food while going to college for his degree.

The differences between the Archie character and Mike's character were heated and polarizing. Their arguments were used as a platform to air social and political issues of the day.  Here's the thing, the more Meathead preached, the less I cared listening to him. Maybe the show was intended to have the reverse effect - to dislike Archie - but I ended up disliking the son in-law. Why?  Because Michael Stivic was a perpetual ingrate.  He was under Archie's roof and ever telling Archie how wrong he was and how he should live. 

Meathead was a leach, sucking off Archie's generosity.  Archie might have been hard headed and ignorant - but Archie was that man that paid the bills.  Mike Stivic was all mouth and full of liberal hypocrisy.  The last we had heard of Michael was that he had been arrested during a nude protest at a nuclear power plant.  He eventually abandoned his family to join a commune with one of his college students.  How fitting.  Perhaps he's occupying a tent on Wall Street at this very moment.

All In The Family eventually morphed into Archie's Place. His wife Edith died not far into the spin-off.   Archie proved to be a person that could indeed change. His character developed into a person that was still grumpy, but more tolerant to other races. A more tolerant Archie went into business with a Jewish man who was just as liberal as his ex-son in-law.  Archie also took in and raised a little girl, 10-year-old Jewish daughter of Edith's drunk step-cousin, who had abandoned her.  Archie raised and cared for her as if she were his own grand-daughter.  As it turned out Archie was a good man.

"Norman Lear originally intended that Bunker be strongly disliked by audiences. Lear was shocked when Bunker quietly became a beloved figure to much of middle America. Lear thought that Bunker's opinions on race, sex, marriage, and religion were so wrong as to represent a parody of right wing bigotry." -Wikipedia

As the show played out, the good guy was the guy that did right by people.  Archie Bunker had lots of flaws to be sure, but he was a man of his word and a man who kept his promises.  He was the man you could count on in the end.  No matter how you view him, in spite of his faults and failures, Archie Bunker ended up true to his family.

Monday, November 14, 2011

grown up music

Andy Williams was one of the crooners who was around when we were kids. That's when FM meant Fine Music.  He's still around today.  My generation discovered our own brand of music, but we were still under the old school influence of the talent that entertained our parents.  These old school guys had to give up the center of the stage when the British Invasion came along.  Music changed, but talent like Andy Williams could still charm an audience.  I like Andy.  He's still The Emperor of Easy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Voyage to the Bottom of the Final Frontier

While the old television show Star Trek boldly explored the final frontier, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea boldly explored the second to last frontier.  Both shows experienced all kinds of unexpected adventures, life forms, and dangers. There was one really cool thing that Admiral Nelson had that Captain Kirk didn't have - THE STINGRAY!  It was also known as the FLYING SUB / FS-1.  What kid didn't experienced a thrill when The Stingray departed from the docking bay of her mother-ship the SEAVIEW and burst from the surface of the ocean. WOW!  Seeing this sea to air - air to sea vessel in action was always an exciting thing for young eyes to behold.  Of course Kirk got to beam people here and there - but nothing aboard the Star Ship ENTERRISE had anything as fascinating as The Stingray.

The two science fiction series were very similar.  Wouldn't it have been great for the two networks to have surprised their audiences by swapping casts for an episode?  Both shows had far fetched story lines, it would've been great to find an Admiral James T. Kirk and the rest of his crew mysteriously transported across time, space and networks to the bridge of the Seaview on ABC.  Likewise, we'd find on NBC, Captain Nelson commanding the bridge aboard the Enterprise.  I'm sure that would've set television audiences for a loop, with decades worth of discussions for fans of both shows.

Surely I'm not the only geek to consider the though.  My mind works in mysterious ways.

Friday, November 4, 2011

does your dog bite?

My first experience with Peter Sellers was in Dr. Strangelove.  It was an apocalyptic dark comedy in which Sellers played many different rolls.  It was clear that he was a comic genius.  My generation went to the theaters in droves to see Peter play the French Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau.  You couldn't go to a Panther movie without experiencing tears of laughter.  We all did our best to impersonate the bungling inspector and repeat our favorite lines afterward.  I still do to this day.

There have been several comedians come along and try to fill his shoes, but have failed miserable.  There is no one like Peter Sellers.  There is no one who will ever replace his sense of humor or perfect comedic timing.  Only Peter could play Clouseau.  No will ever be able to follow him.

My favorites: Dr. Strangelove, Pink Panther movies, and Being There.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

halloween now and then

My kids have never really experienced the kind of Halloween nights that I did as a kid.  I remember the Halloween Carnivals at R.A. Mitchell Elementary back in the sixties.  They call them Fall Festivals these days.  Mitchell actually owned a real coffin for their annual Halloween Carnival that was held behind the stage.  I also remember bobbing for apples.  People don't do that anymore, something about spreading germs.

Last night Gina and I took our eight year old to an event where they had a 'Candy Walk'.  Yes, it's a musical chair game in which you get a small piece of candy if you land on the chair with the right number.  There are festivals that have 'Cake Walks', but they don't give away cakes to those who land on the lucky number.  They get Little Debbies, Twinkies and the like.  Not bad mind you - but nothing like the Cake Walks of my youth.  We got real two layer cakes!  REAL CAKES!  I kid you not.

My kids don't have Trick or Treat either.  They don't go from house to house through out the night like we did.  I admit that I share part of the blame for this.  Trunk or Treat makes a parent feel safer.  I remember going into the night with my little Bela Legosi mask on.  My brother and sisters ventured into our neighborhood and beyond with our brown paper bags.  If the front porch light was on, we'd come a knocking.  Maybe it wasn't that safe back then, but we did it.  We'd Trick or Treat until porch lights had all been turned off.  We've return home only by the light of the street lamps.  I remember that creepy feeling walking home at night, dressed as monsters, but wondering if there were real monsters watching from the darkness of the landscape.

Being a parent, I don't feel it's a safe thing to do today.  Each year Gina and I will take our kids down a street or two so they can have a little bit of that experience.  Halloween Carnivals and bona-fide Trick or Treating isn't what it used to be.  What's left is still enjoyable for the little ones, but it lacks much of the thrill that I fondly recall.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

i heart hartman

Phil Hartman was a real funny guy.  I like real funny guys.

Phil had started out as a graphic designer, and had designed album covers for bands Poco and America.  My favorite  cover of his is the horse design of Poco's Legend album.  It is a simply beautiful piece of work.

Like Belushi, I am sorry about his tragic death.  I wish he'd been around longer.   I enjoyed his on appearances on television shows, the big screen, as well as commercials.  He was a unique talent that always brought something unique with him.  I never got enough of him. 

He once said that the one thing he could do
was voices, impersonations and weird characters, and that there was really no call for it except on Saturday Night Live.  I think Phil was right.  When he left SNL, his career didn't really take off like many of the other talented SNL alumni before him.  He was indeed among the SNL greats.  He was brilliant on News Radio.  As brilliant as he was there, we knew he could do so much more.

Phil Hartman was the class clown growing up. 
Hartman was the kind of guy that was fun to hang with.  He liked making people laugh, and I like people with that kind of heart.  He could do John Wayne, Jack Benny, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and entertain his friends. But he never seriously considered it as a career choice.  Opportunities just opened up as he sought out more creative outlets for his talent.  He ended up with The Groundlings and hooked up with Paul Reubens and helped him create his quirky PeeWee Herman character.  He ended up having a re-occurring character on PeeWee Playhouse. SNL soon followed.

Some people mourn the loss of famous singers and musicians like Elvis, but I'm one of those folks that miss the funny men.  I rate Phil up there among the funniest.

"I've succeeded beyond my wildest dreams - financially and the amount of fun I have in my life."
-Phil Hartman

Saturday, October 22, 2011

blue eyes in black & white

A lot of the old stars were still shinning bright in our youth. We were entertained by the best.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the end of R.E.M. as we know it

R.E.M posted on their website yesterday that they were calling it quits.  R.E.M is one of the primary indie band that introduced the world to the new alternative sound.  The band formed in 1980 - born from the renown Athen's music scene, also known as the Liverpool of the South.  R.E.M.'s music is still fresh and potent even after three decades.

“To call R.E.M. one of the greatest bands in contemporary music is an understatement, They leave behind a body of work whose breadth, honesty, creativity and power has not only inspired millions of fans around the world, but also has influenced — and will continue to influence — generations of songwriters and performers for years to come.” 
-Rob Cavallo
Warner Brothers Records

Cavallo's quote above rang true for me.  As a songwriter, I too have been influenced by R.E.M.'s music.  I remember being impressed with the simplicity and power of the song 'Stand'.  Soon afterward I penned a song by the same name.  It had a different meaning, but I tried to capture with my song, a little of their upbeat energy.  I ended my 'Stand' with a vocal mimic of Michael Stip as an homage. 

“A wise man once said, ‘The skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave, ”  -Michael Stip

It might be the end of the band, but the songs will play on.  Thanks for the music guys.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

...not just any nut

"I'm a nut, but not just any nut."
It's Bill Murray's 61st birthday today.  Here's an enigmatic funnyman for you, introduced to the world via Second City & Saturday Night Live.  We thought he couldn't have gotten any quirkier or funnier than the lounge singer act on SNL.  But we were wrong.  Bill climbed from of the small screen onto the big screen with great success.  He's made some real comedy masterpieces.

Caddy Shack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Groundhogs Day, Scrooged, What About Bob, The Life Aquatic, The Man Who Knew Too Little, Kingpin, Ed Wood.
He's made some that
I didn't care for:  Broken Flowers, Lost In Translation, or Rushmore.  But hey, you can't please everyone all the time.

Did you see his cameos in ZombieLand or Little Shop of Horrors.  The guy is hilarious and can work without a net.  It's always a treat to see Bill Murray barge into a scene from out of nowhere.  This guy makes me laugh.

Bill Murray can crash my karaoke party anytime!

(Today's post was inspired by Scott Croley's Facebook post.  Thanks Scott!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

dear john

John stormed into the seventies a killer bee and a samurai.  We never knew what to expect from this guy.  He was a funny man who had a hard time remembering his lines.  No one ever noticed because he carried himself with so much confidence and spunk.  We all loved him.  Belushi was an original.

I still miss John.  I really admired his talent.
I felt he robbed us with his death, with a mixture of heroine and cocaine.

Shortly after his death, I had a dream about meeting him on the hill in my backyard.  He had just finished digging a deep hole.  He left the shovel lay behind him.  I went outside and climbed up the hill to see who he was and what he was up to.  It was John Belushi, but he wasn't like the John Belushi I had seen on both little and big screen.

I asked him if in fact he was John Belushi.  He blew smoke from his last cigarette he was smoking.  He didn't say anything, but did look up to acknowledge my presence and answered with a nod.  I sat down next to him, but didn't feel he wanted a conversation.  He didn't seem to mind me keeping him quiet company.  I realized in my dream that he had died, I just didn't know why he was sitting on the hill in my backyard.  As I sat down, he paid me no mind, just looking straight forward, taking in that smoke.

It was a very somber-melancholy dream. This Belushi I encountered was in a very sad and hopeless place. I had a thousand questions and thoughts, but the only words that I could find was, "I'm sorry".   He looked over at me.  We briefly made eye contact. His eyes and set expression told me exactly what he was thinking.  "I blew it".

He was smoking his last, and after it, he stood up, looked around for a moment, and then climbed down into the hole that he had dug.  I stood there and watched helplessly over his slow steady descent - until he disappeared from my sight.

I know it was just a dream, but it was very real one to me.  I can't think of him without remembering that dream.

Friday, September 16, 2011

free love

Youthful idiots from the Summer of Love embraced and flaunted 'free love'.  It was a term we heard a lot back in the day.  By the time the eighties got here, the HIV virus put nails into the coffin of that sexual liberating concept.  There suddenly became a fright filled silence as free loving boomers realized that they might have already had intercourse with death.  The disease could remain latent for up to ten years.  Young people in their sexual prime began dropping like flower petals in the wind.  Who was going to be next?

All of a sudden the world realized that free love had a high price.  Those previously promiscuous boomers got real nervous as they were forced to endure free love's consequence.  They started seeing the benefits in abstinence and monogamy.  Embracing naked strangers quickly turned to distrusting willing strangers.  The season of free love finally changed.  Summer was over - and every one started feeling the chill.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Orange Push-Ups taste like Summer.  It's a simple pleasure that's still around and that has never changed.  I'm glad there's still some things of yesterday around today.

Monday, August 29, 2011

a funny man

I first became with Gene Wilder's unusual acting presence as Willy Wonka, but Wilder had more to offer.  In the seventies Gene hooked up with the great Mel Brooks.  We American movie goers had lots of comedies to watch throughout the seventies and eighties.  Amid all the laughter, Gene and Mel were giving us some real classics.  At the top of my list is Young Frankenstein...or is that  FRONKENSTEEN!?  Just prior to Young Frankenstein, Wilder starred as The Waco Kid that was originally offered to John Wayne in Blazing Saddles.    We all loved to watch anything with Gene Wilder and Marty Feldman - which includes The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother.

Gene later hooked up with comedian Richard Pryor in the smash hits Silver Streak and Stir Crazy.  They made a great comic duo - but the following movies with the two were not as cleverly written.  It's a shame, because Wilder and Pryor were incredible together.  Richard Pryor struggled with drug addiction and later suffered from Multiple Sclerosis.  Their last movie together, See No Evil - Hear No Evil, was a dismal failure.

In The Frisco Kid, John Wayne was to play the role of Tommy the cowboy.  John Wayne backed out of the project because he had a set amount of 1 million dollars per picture. Warner Brothers wasn't willing to pay him for the part.  A young rising star Harrison Ford took the part.

Gene later married former SNL comedian Gilda Radner and made some humorous pictures together.  I know the two would've given us more - if Gilda had lived.
"I'm not so funny. Gilda was funny. I'm funny on camera sometimes. In life, once in a while. Once in a while. But she was funny."
-Gene Wilder

Sunday, August 28, 2011


The recent remake Charlie & The Chocolate Factory is an enjoyable movie.  I don't think any remake can recreate the Wonka world that starred Gene Wilder playing Willy.   Tim Burton cast Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, and did a quirky-great job with the 2005 version - it just wasn't scrumdiddlyumptious.

When Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) was released, I had no idea what it was about.  I clearly remember a hot Sunday morning packed into the family station-wagon.  We were heading to a church in which dad was going to preach.  Dad did a lot of lay-speaking in those days, filling in for vacationing pastors.  Most of these preachers who were vacationing always seemed to pastor out of the way churches in the country.  I can't count how many Sunday's we spent driving to and from churches I'd never been to before.  Usually these churches were small white country churches with a cemetery around back.  There were so many trips like these, but I particularly remember this one because all the kids were talking about this movie about Willy Wonka.

Most of the preaching trips were long drives.  On this very trip I remember dad pulling the station-wagon into a small filling-station for a pit stop.  When we went into the building, I noticed a rack of a large selection of Willy Wonka candy.  I thought to myself "So this Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory is real?"  Having candy on the shelf somehow, to my young mind, seemed to validate that there really was a Willie Wonka somewhere out there.

So it was the first time I had ever heard of Willy Wonka.  Every time I think of that movie, I think of that long Sunday drive, a long time ago, through the Alabama countryside with my family.

Friday, August 26, 2011

return to el dorado

The following is lifted from my old tripod blog posted Friday, February 9, 2007.  I made a few edits and update.  This post definitely belongs here at Boomerville, USA. 

This is downtown Gadsden, AL the way I saw it as a kid.  I hadn't seen one of those old green city buses in ages.  This picture really takes me back.

I remember a particular trip downtown.  There was a new John Wayne movie playing at the Pitman Theater called El Dorado.  My older brother Brooky and I would make such trips together and I anticipated each one.  We were living atop Lookout Mountain at the time.  City buses would make runs from Scenic Hwy to town. 

That particular Saturday morning I remember needing money for the adventure.  Mom said I could go but expected me to earn the money.  I washed windows and vacuumed the floors as fast as I could.  I had to have enough money to pay for bus fair to and from, the movie, and some candy.  My movie candy of choice at that time was a a big Tootsie Roll.

El dorado was a great movie.  John Wayne was always bigger than life.  After the movie was over, Brook and I would always hit all of the five and dime stores up and down Broad Street.  My favorite store was Grant.  They had a huge toy section downstairs.  You'd have to decend two flights of stairs, passing the popcorn guy (Tommy Parks) half way down.

We'd hit Murphree's and McLellans too.  Gadsden Variety and Deli is where McLellan's  used to be.  That building is a time machine.   Walking across those wooden floors with the smell of popcorn in the air.  It's a hint of what Gadsden stores used to be when I was a kid.  Go there and you'll know what I mean.

Brook and I would ALWAYS check out Horace's Hobby Shop and The Little Army Store.  I LOVED The Little Army store.  You could buy all kinds of cool used stuff for playing army.  Helmet's, web belts, bayonets, dummy grenades and the like.

We'd make the day of it, walking the length of each side of the street before hopping on the green city bus back for home.  I believe that particular trip Brooky bought me a plastic yellow handled pistol (much like The Duke's) with his own money.  I took very good care of it for the longest time.  Golly gee, a gun like John Wayne's gun.  Every time El Dorado comes on I think of that trip downtown with my big brother.  Hmmm...1967...that would make Brook 15 years old.  Different world then than now.  No way would I send 15 and 9 year old boys on a trip to town alone together.
Little things mean a lot to kids.  My daughters Katie and Kelsey love trips downtown.  Katie loves for me to take the time and walk with her downtown among the city lights at night.  Christmas holiday of 2006, I parked the van and took both my little ones for a walk and took the time to pause and look at the storefront window decorations of each store.
It's nice looking back, but nicer here with a wonderful family.  Thank you God!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the wacky world of yesterday

I've had this picture for quite some time now. I ran across it when dad asked me to get rid of a ton of old records from his office. I found some cool stuff that he let me keep. This image is of one of a 'Battle of The Bands' next to Biff-Burger in the parking lot of Agricola Shopping Center at the foot of Noccalula Mountain. The Gadsden Cinema was later built behind (and to the left) of Biff Burger. This picture has always made me chuckle at the turnout. Biff-Burger must have made a killing on fifteen cent cheeseburgers that night!
I didn't eat there much growing up. The last time I went was with Dan Noojin. His dad wanted a milk shake from there and we all drove down together. That was sometime in the mid-eighties, during Biff Burger's waning years. If memory serves, the place was leveled by the end of eighties. Gadsden used to have a bunch of burger joints back in the 1960's. The big hang out when my older brother and sister were in high school was Burger Chef on Meighan Blvd. I remember eating there a good bit. I also remember Pick-A-Burger. Wayne's Burgers, a local joint, was in Alabama City and offered good old school tasting burgers and great service. Wayne's is now gone. Majik Burger in Attalla closed for good only a few years ago. Gina doesn't like going to these places for some reason. I like to go to them because they usually serve better tasting food than the big franchises.  The last stand for the experience is Big Chef in Glencoe.  They make good burgers and great shakes.  I've been told they make a mean grape shake.

I've got an idea...How about packing your family in the car one night during Spring Break and hit a mom and pop burger joint?  They're some still around.  I think I'm going to take my girls to Big Chef for a banana split. Sounds like fun huh?

Well what do you know, Biff-Burger was a franchise!Website: -dbf

Monday, August 22, 2011

to dream the impossible mission

Mission Impossible (1966-1973) was a pretty impressive television series for it's day.  It had a great cast and great writing.  The show had lots of special effects, but didn't try to rely on the gimmicks and gadgets to fill time.  Everyone from my generation remembers the intro of the show - the match being lit and that awesome score that always pulled us into the story.  I never got tired of it.  We also remember how the show always started with the team leader getting his mission instructions via a tape recorder rigged for self-destruction.

Steven Hill played the Mission Impossible Force (IMF) team leader Mr. Dan Hill in the first season.  He was replaced by Peter Graves as Mr. Jim Phelps.  Steven was released because of scheduling problems because of his faith and because he refused to perform a stunt.
According to Wikipedia:

" As one of the few Orthodox Jewish actors working in Hollywood, he made it clear in advance of production that he was not able to work on the Sabbath (i.e., sundown Friday to dusk Saturday), and that he would be leaving the set every Friday before sundown. However, despite Hill's advance warnings, the show's producers were unprepared for his rigid adherence to the Sabbath, and on at least one occasion Hill left the set while an episode was still in the midst of filming."

Peter Graves came into the show and the pace never slacked.  I like this spy show because the IMF was a team effort.  Most spy television shows of that time were based on one or two agents taking on insurmountable odds.  The members of the IMF synchronized each of their efforts to pull of their mission.  Jim Phelps was the only full time IMF member, and specialist would be pulled in to complete each mission.  Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Barbara Bain played special agents that were regularly recruited for IMF missions.  Actors Sam Elliot and Leonard Nemoy (and others) also had reoccurring roles in Mission Impossible.  My favorite agent aside from Peter Grave's character was Martin Landau.

Monday, August 15, 2011

truth, justice, and the American way

What red blooded American kid didn't dream of being Superman as a kid?  Did we not all? Did we not all somewhere in our childhood run around the house with a towel clipped to our shirt - pretending to be the Man of Steel?

He's an humble guy that just has a heart to serve his fellow man. Superman always tries to do the right thing.  He's the most powerful superhero ever drawn, and all he ever does is protect and serve mankind.

I still like this guy though I rarely read a comic book of his. Does he still stand for what he once stood for?  I don't know.  I read a few months ago that Superman renounced his United States citizenship to become a global citizen.  Is 'Truth, Justice, & the American Way' now passe'?  If Superman has lost his way, maybe he's just reflecting how America has lost her way too.
Kelsey circa '06.  She's still into super heroes and is in fact a super kid.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Most of the stores on Broad Street are participating in the Downtown Gadsden Sidewalk Sale today and tomorrow.  Stores were open after 5 which meant I could actually poke around town while the stores were open after I closed up my store.  I rarely buy comic books.  It's kind of strange that I don't because I've always enjoy drawing cartoons. It was after all Marvel artists who were influential in me drawing in the first place.

I happened across some Nick Fury magazines.  They sold me three vintage comics for a very affordable price.  I don't have to have 'like new',  so I guess that's why I got a good deal.  I am posting this picture because it's one of the coolest comic book covers I've ever seen.

I also purchased a comic entitled What If Sgt. Fury Fought World War Two in Outer Space (1979).  How quirky can you get?  I had to buy it.  I'm sure Marvel was trying to cash in on the big success of Star Wars.   I asked the guy how much and he said "a dollar".  SCORE!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

give me some sugar

Being a child of a father who had been paralyzed by polo, it was a very big day for the Finlayson family.  I remember being packed into the car and driven to my elementary school, R.A. Mitchell.  Dad had had polio since he was a young boy.  He came from a time when many children were afflicted by the disease.  I have often wondered what was running through his head when he was watching his children line up with all the other mountain kids for that long awaited cure.

I remember holding the sugar cube in my hand.  I was young but knew there was medicine inside.  This was supposed to keep me from walking on crutches like my Dad had done all his life.  I put it in my mouth and chomped down on it's crunchy sweetness.  I don't remember any strange taste or feel any aftereffect. I was just glad there wasn't a needle involved in the delivery of the serum.  I just took my lump and went home.

What a day though.  I'm sure Dad was relieved with a wonderful hope.  Westbrook's children would never have to experience what he had.

Friday, July 29, 2011

a good memory revisited

This is a February 9, 2007 post I pulled from my old Yadda-Yadda-Yadda blog. I made a few updates and corrections to the post in order to not confuse the reader. Some of the comments on the Welcome to Gadsden facebook group brought this past post to mind.

I ran across this old postcard today.  This is of downtown Gadsden, AL in the early to mid sixties.  I hadn't seen one of those old green city buses in ages.  This picture really takes me back.

I remember a particular trip downtown.  There was a new John Wayne movie playing at the Pitman called El Dorado.  My older brother Brooky and I would make such trips together and I always anticipated them.  We were living on Noccalula Mountain at the time.  City buses would make runs from Scenic Hwy down to town.  It was a Saturday morning and I needed money for the adventure.  Mom said I could go if I earned the money for the trip.  I quickly washed windows and vacuumed the floors that morning in order to pay for the bus fair and movie.  My movie candy of choice at that time was a Tootsie Roll.

It was a great movie and Brook and I hit all of the five & dime stores up and down Broad Street before taking the bus back up the mountain.  My favorite store was Grants. They had a huge toy section along the wall downstairs.  You'd have to walk down two flights of stairs, passing the popcorn guy (Tommy Parks) half way down.   We'd hit Murphree's and McLellans too.  Nelson's is where McLellan's  used to be.  This building today is a time machine, walking down those wooden floors with the smell of popcorn in the air.  It's a hint of what Gadsden stores used to be when I was a kid.  Go there and you'll see what I mean.  It's a treat for my oldest daughter to go to Gadsden Variety.

Brook and I never went downtown without dropping by Horace's (spelling) Hobby Shop and The Little Army Store.  I loved The Little Army store.  You could buy all kinds of cool used stuff for playing army.  Helmet's, web belts, bayonets, dummy grenades and the like.

We'd make the day of it, walking the length of each side of the street before hoping on a bus for home.  I believe that particular trip Brooky bought me a plastic yellow handled pistol (much like The Duke's) with his own money.  I took very good care of it for the longest time.  Golly gee, a six-shooter just like John Waynes!  Everytime El Dorado comes on I think of that trip downtown with my big brother.  Hmmm...1967...that would make Brook 15 years old.  Different world then than now.  No way would I send 15 and 9 year old boys on a trip to town alone together.
Little things mean a lot to kids.  Katie loves trips to downtown.  She loves for me to take the time and walk with her downtown among the city lights at night.  Last Christmas holiday I parked the van and took both my little ones for a walk and took the time to pause and look at the window decorations.
Nice looking back to yesterday, but nicer here with a wonderful family today!  Thank you God!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

lightning in a bottle

I seem to remember more lightning bugs being around as a kid.  Then again, I'm not outside in the evenings as much as I was as a kid.  We had a great yard growing up.  We had a grassy hilly yard that was fun for bikes, sleds, and cardboard - depending on the season.  Our yard was also great for chasing lightning bugs.  If a kid was chasing a lightning bug on the level ground and the bug decided to escape by gaining altitude, it was often caught because the kid could gain altitude too by chasing the bugs up a hill.

There were plenty that got away, but our evening sky was full of them.  Mother always had enough canning jars or empty mayonnaise jars around to accommodate lightning bug catching nights.  Just poke some holes in the lid and we all went hunting.  They were beautiful nights on the mountain.  Usually we'd all lay down at the top of the hill and take it all in.  There were the countless moving lights of  the lightning bugs, and the countless stars hanging in deep space above them.  The crickets from the surrounding woods gave an eerie sound-scape for the evening.  It was if all that twinkling and moving light were making that noise.  It all blended so nicely together.  I miss our little hill.  I miss having those moments.

Last year I watched Kelsey chasing after lightning bugs beneath the outdoor screen.  We were at the Sand Mountain Drive-In.   The show was about to start.  She was running this way and that trying to catch up with one.  You have to catch them quick before they get fed up and fly up.  Next time we go to the drive-in, I'll make sure I pack a jar for my girls - poke some holes in the lid.  We'll chase after lightning bugs, perchance to capture a special moment together.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Growing up on Noccalula Mountain as a kid, I remember there being HUGE black grasshoppers (also known as Romalea Microptera). Cliff Road was a dirt road that ran behind our house on Scenic Highway.  That's where they most of them seemed to congregate in our neighborhood.  The embankment and ditch of Cliff Road used to be infested with thousands of these black (red and yellow trimmed) creatures.

As a kid I was always amazed at the size of them. Perhaps these grasshoppers were somehow exposed to atomic energy and somehow found their way to our back door!  We watched A LOT of science fiction movies back in those days.  The giant grasshoppers seemed harmless enough, but the kids of the mountain found creative ways to combat the invading horde of giant black grasshoppers.  We used dirt cogs, rocks, b-b guns and firecrackers.  Firecrackers seemed to be the preferred weapon of choice.

By the mid-seventies, I don't remember seeing many of them on the mountain.  I think the kids of the mountain did more than push back the invasion.  Perhaps we went a little too far.  In a way, I kind of missed having them around.  There were after all kind of cool to look at.  Maybe they came in peace.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

jelly glasses

 I ran across a memory at a yard sale a few weeks ago.  I found a box of old jelly jar drinking glasses.  I remember our family had a cabinet full of them when I was growing up.  Years ago, before jelly and jams were sold in plastic containers, they were sold in glass jars.  The smart capitalists at the jelly factories came up with a great idea.  They started making their jelly jars attractive enough for moms everywhere to want to use the empty jars as drinking glasses.  The lids to these jars were pop-off as opposed to screw on.  The smooth rim made the jelly jars made excellent drinking glasses.

It wasn't long before the guys in marketing got around to targeting kids by using cartoon characters (Flintstones, Jetsons, Bugs Bunny, etc).  I don't recall having many of these.   Mom wasn't into buying the cool cartoon glasses.  Instead, I remember having jelly glasses like the ones pictured above.

Mother also used Armour Dried Beef jars as juice glasses.  I always remember having to drink my O.J. from those little dried beef shot-glass
es.  They make for great kid glasses, but I never got enough OJ as a kid.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

andrew's gold

Andrew Gold: 8/ 2/1951 – 06/3/2011
Years ago Brook and I took a trip down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama to see a Linda Ronstadt concert.  The trip itself ended up being a venture because Brooks bug broke a belt on I-59 before we even got to Steele, AL.  I wasn't sure we were going to make it, but after hitching a ride, finding a belt, and an old high school friend - we got there in time

I had been to oodles of Jesus Music concerts by that time, but never anyone that I liked from a secular label.  This was a first concert of many for me.  I remembered asking Brook what that strange smelling smoke wafting up from a few rows down from us.  "It's pot David."  I was one innocent teenage.  "Oh?" I replied, "So that's what that $*@+ smells like."


Well, Linda came out and the audience went wild.  Brook pointed out a fellow to me.  There was this young slim redheaded musician playing lead.  He said, "That's Andrew Gold!"  It was the first time I ever heard his name.  Andrew's lead work was very unique - had a Beatle-esque feel to it.  Andrew once said that his musical influence were The Beatles, The Beach Boys and The Byrds.

I have only owned a few Linda Ronstadt albums, Heart Like A Wheel and Hasten Down The Wind. As for Andrew Gold, I ended up owning a lot of his music.   He became one of my major influences.  Most people may not remember him, but they'll remember the songs 'Lonely Boy' and 'Thank You For Being A Friend'
.  The later was used as the theme for the television show Golden Girls.  The 'Final Frontier' was another song of his that was the theme of the 90's sitcom Mad About You.

Andrew Gold is a fellow that produced albums without a weak cut.  In fact, though I like Lonely Boy and Thank You For Being A Friend, they weren't necessarily my favorites from his albums.  If Lonely Boy and Thank You For Being A Friend are the only songs you're familiar with - I suggest you go pick up four albums.  Andrew Gold (75),  What's Wrong With This Picture (76)  All This And Heaven Too (78)  Whirlwind (79).  Andrew also did some great recording with  BRYNDLE  (Karla Bonoff, Kenny Edwards and Wendy Waldman).  There's a greatest hits album of Andrew's you can pick up called 'Thank You For Being A Friend', but I encourage you to go to the old recordings and pick out your own favorites.

Andrew Gold was one of the best.  You will be missed.
Andrew Gold, Singer and songwriter dies at 59

Thursday, July 7, 2011

secondary highways

People are in a hurry even on vacations.  There's a lot to see in so little time, so we better get there soon.  I remember life before freeways.  Part of the vacation was experiencing the road side sights and small towns along the way.  The old scenic highways have become forgotten byways. The blockbuster hit movie Cars (2006) reminded us of this.

I remember trips where dad would pull the Kingswood Estate wagon aside a road side fruit stand so mother could get some Georgia peaches.  Sometimes we'd stop for a warm brown bag  filled with boiled peanuts.  Riding in a packed car without air-conditioning made an ice cold bottled soda taste so good going down. 

Traveling in those days was always an adventure.  There were things to see along the way and half the fun of the vacation was getting there.  Franchised fast food restaurants were still in it's infancy in those days, so not every city looked the same.  When it came time to eat, everyone in the car kept their eyes peeled for a good place to eat in or around the county we were passing through.  A good barbeque was always a Finlayson family favorite.

Every community had an old drug store offering sandwiches, fountain drinks and ice cream.  Drug stores were one of my favorite kind of places to stop.  Even then, it was like stepping back in time.  Every city had a city diner where our large family would pack around a table and be watched by the locals as if the carnival had come to town.  They weren't far off.

Every little town offered a new experience for sojourners passing through.  We'd find somewhere to stretch our legs and do a little shopping at a flea market or the local five and dime.  Are you old enough to remember trips like that?

The freeway made it possible for families to get to their vacation destination quickly.  Nothing wrong with saving time mind you.  Even so, I feel that much of the family vacation experience got lost somewhere along the way.  Back then, half the fun was getting there.

Happy Motoring!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

a man called horsefeathers

In 1970 an unusual Western was released starring Richard Harris.  In 'A Man Called Horse' an English aristocrat, played by Richard Harris, is captured by Indians while bathing naked in a river. As the white man lives (and treated like an animal) with the tribe, he began to understand and accept their culture. After he is hung by his nipples, he is eventually accepted as part of the tribal family and soon becomes their leader.

In 'The Return of A Man Called Horse' (1976) the aristocratic John Morgan is back living the aristocratic lifestyle when he sensed in his spirit that something bad has happened on to his Indian tribe.  He decides to leave his comfy home and return to his other people.  When he arrives, Morgan finds Yellow Hand tribe defeated and casted out from their tribal lands.  For some reason though, our hero has lost his way somehow.  He sulks around and then decided there is only one recourse.  He must get naked once again and get smoked like a ham while getting high.  This is apparently how Native Americans got their visions.  Far out-um!

Of course A Man Called Horse sequel wouldn't be a A Man Called Horse sequel without Richard Harris getting his nipples pulled again.  This sequel though tries to outdo the first movie by having lots of Indians get their nipples pulled together in a manly-man nipple pull ceremony.

I remember seeing this movie at the old Rebel Drive-in with my brother Brook and friend Jamey Moore.  I recently saw both of these movies again and actually appreciated them a little more than I did back when they were first released.  I still can't get past the weird nipple hanging ritual thing.  Why make movies featuring Richard Harris' naked bee-hind?  The movies have merit, but it's still a little weird to watch.  They should have named it A Man Called Ass.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

friendly fire

When I think of Vietnam, I think of all the young men that America betrayed.  America will forever have to live with the shame of sending their sons into harms way without a commitment to do what it takes to win. The war was fought from Washington.  Politicians tied the hands of those soldiers, and limited their ability to fight to win. Their story continues to be miss-told. Those boys deserved the support of everyone back home. They did not deserve being misrepresented by the media. They didn't deserve the jeers mixed with spit when they returned from that living hell. They did not deserve what was handed to them.  They came back home without welcome and their sacrifices criticized and mostly forgotten.  We know them - these old Vets.  Many of them have still yet to be welcomed home and thanked.  Maybe doing so would help to heal old wounds.

My heart still breaks for these brave forgotten men.

Friday, June 3, 2011

we knew him as a cowboy

May 26, 1923 -  June 3, 2011
Some of our heroes on television were also heroes in real life.  This is James Arness, a guy we usually picture sporting a cowboy hat, badge and gun.  Gunsmoke was one of the longest running westerns on television, running from 1955 to 1975.  I loved all the regular characters on the show.  I liked what Marshal Matt Dillon stood for.  He was one of the good guys

I posted this picture because of the uniform he once sported during a world war many years ago.  James Arness fought at Anzio, where he was wounded.  He once wrote that his experience there made him realize how very precious life is.

"His military awards and decorations include: the Bronze Star Medal; the Purple Heart; the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three bronze service stars; the World War II Victory Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge."

Today we didn't just lose and old actor - we lost a hero.

There was a role that Arness played where he wasn't a good guy.  Because of his tall stature, 6'7", Jim played the monster in the original The Thing From Another World (1951). He also starred in another science-fiction classic - THEM! (1954). Brother to actor Peter Graves, James Arness got the part of Marshal Dillion because John Wayne had turned down the role (for obvious reasons).  Wayne and Arness were close friends and had worked to together in several of Wayne's movies.  It was John Wayne that recommended James Arness for the part of the Marshall of Dodge City.  He did a good job filling those cowboy boots intended for The Duke himself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

the last days

Most of you who know me know that I didn't have a pleasant public school experience.  Let me just say that my favorite days of school were always the last days of school.  For the most part, classwork, studying and testing had come to a halt.  We were now all over the hump, just biding our time.

Through out the year, I would glance outside the large steel framed windows every chance I got.  Outside where the grass was green and the sky so blue.  The birds and all God's little creatures were always free but me.  The outside burned with vibrant colors.
The inside was dark, drab and ever bleak.  My soul was in captivity.  I can't tell you how many times I just wanted to slip out that heavy door at the end of the hall and run away.  I could make it home from here.  Sure it would take me an hour or so, but I could get there.  I wanted to be free!

The last days were always my favorite days.  It was a three month reprieve.  Summer meant not being reminded daily of ever trying and ever failing.  Summer meant not having to walk quietly in single file, or fear certain teachers.  What a terrible world.  The last days meant I could go home to friendlier faces.  Home meant freedom, riding my bike with my dog Emma racing beside me.  Disappearing in the woods, climbing rocks, and not think about all my academic shortcomings.

My children are down to their countdown till Summertime.  I am always reminded of those old feelings. 
The last days meant counting down the moments.  The daily tension let up as children were allowed to enjoy a longer recess, more time to draw or play board games on the floor at the back of the classroom.  I usually kept to drawing or looking out the window thinking of that blessed moment.

Usually there was a little party.  A teacher would bring store bought sugar cookies or cupcakes for the children - swallowed down by Hawaiian Punch or Kool-Aid.  I'm sure that school would have been more tolerable if the teachers had done that more often. 
I don't know many kids who liked going to school - I hated it.

I don't know if any other kid felt like I I wished that big clock on the wall would hurry up.  I believe school clocks are made to run slower just to torture you.

Monday, May 23, 2011

badge 417

Jack Webb
Apr. 2, 1920 – Dec. 23, 1982
My dad liked this guy.  The older I get, the more I like him too.  Jack Webb played a straight-laced straight talking gum shoe police Sergeant Joe Friday on the television series Dragnet.  Jack wasn't a 'hip' guy, and that didn't seem to bother him one iota.  Joe was a real good guy.  He and his partner always caught the bad guy, and Friday always had the last word.  Joe Friday was old school and a lot of riff-raff got old schooled by him.

If Joe were around today, I'd don't think he'd be much of a hipster.  He wouldn't be very PC.  He's too honest for that.  Like me, Joe Friday is a black and white guy with very little grey to be seen.  I never heard a Sergeant Joe Friday speech that didn't ring of truth, that wasn't spot on.  Now decades later, Joe's dialogue and style might seem campy and corny - but his sermons on right and wrong are still right on.

"A small role in the film noir classic He Walked by Night
(1948) led to the creation of "Dragnet". During production, Webb befriended a LAPD police consultant assigned to the film and became fascinated with the cases he heard told. He successfully pitched the idea of a radio series to NBC using stories drawn from actual LAPD files. Dragnet first aired over NBC radio on June 3, 1949. There was a time when Dragnet was used as training films at the LAPD Academy.

Jack Webb, the guy that played a cop, was buried with full honors befitting an LAPD detective, including a 17-gun salute.  When Jack died, the badge number 417 was officially retired by the Los Angeles Police Department.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

dusting off old stars

Ours was the first generation to have television.  Here in Gadsden, AL we got our pick of thirteen channels.  The vast wasteland wasn't as vast back in our youth.  There wasn't near as much programing that we have now.

There were no made for television movies, so the old movies that had long since been pulled from the silver screen were broadcast onto our little screen.  We were introduced to the stars of of yesterday.  The stars of our parents became our stars.

Still today I love old movies.  Not many of the films today can measure up to the films of yesterday.  I remember watching  Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan on Saturday mornings, along with Three Stooges and a show called The Funny Men.  The Funny Men was a collection of the old silent movies - Keystone Kops etc.

Most Sundays there would be a showing on one of the channels of Shirley Temple movies.  I think PBS aired those shows, as well as movies from the silent era with Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, and Harold Loyd.

Every day after school Tom York would host Dialing for Dollars.  It was there that I discovered science fiction and horror movies.  Vincent Price and Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre are some of my favorites from these genres.

Friday nights the Finlayson kids got to stay up late and watch an old classic together on our black and white Zenith.  Mom would pop come popcorn on the stove top for us and we'd be good to go.  I love the old movies, I enjoy seeing those familiar faces still on Turner Classic Movies.  It's my favorite channel.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

what they should taste like

This looks nothing like the one I just went to.  It's just a cool photo.
"Well, where do we eat?"  My sisters Irene and Cindy were with me returning from Birmingham early this afternoon.  Cindy said she wanted to cover our lunch because we were doing her a favor by driving down to the big city to look at a VW bug that's for sell down there.

We decided that Trussville was the best place to stop because of the variety of culinary choices.  Usually when I'm in the area with my wife and kids, we opt for the Milo's across the street from Whataburger.  They really like Milo's.  I'd never eaten at Whataburger, so I mentioned that we try them out instead.  I had seen the restaurant up on the hill on countless occasions, but had never had one.

We decided to dine-in.  I took my first bite and my mind shot back four decades to my youth.  This is the taste of the burgers I used to get at burger joints when I was a kid.  This is the way fast food burgers ought to taste.

Anyone that knows me knows that I am not a fast food hamburger fan.  Fast food burgers are just a means to eat, just forget about taste.  I was pretty impressed with Whataburger.  I had forgotten how fast-food burgers used to taste and wonder why they aren't as good as they ought.  Jacks, McDonald's, Burger King burgers are so mediocre.  The Whataburger is old school goodness.

Now I'm not saying that Whataburger is the greatest thing on earth, but that it's the kind of burger that we should expect from franchises today.  It just took one bite of that sandwich and my mind immediately went back in time.  My mouth experienced a flavor I had not had in years.  Just try it, it will come back to you.

I will be back.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Boy's Life

Boys' Life was my first magazine subscription ever.  It was chock full of cool stuff from cover to cover.  My favorite section in the magazine was always the adventure story.  Reading Boys' Life made me feel more like a Boy Scout as a kid.  That magazine made me proud to be a scout.  I was excited every time I got my issue in the mail.

I wonder if picking up an current issue would still stir one's curiosity and sense of adventure.  The magazine just celebrated it's 100th Anniversary.
  I hope the years haven't changed the basic function of the magazine - stirring that young imagination - encouraging boys to be the best scout they can be.

Friday, May 6, 2011

when good lost it's goodness

John Wayne was the last real movie good guy.  I remember watching my old hero slowly ride into the celluloid sunset, as a young gun-Clint Eastwood, rode into scene from the Italian West.  No more white hats.  After Eastwood there were no more real good guys.  Westerns were changing, and so was our culture.   The movie audience started paying money to watch anti-heroes rather than heroes.  Now this might not have started with Eastwood, but it was when I noticed the shift.

Now I like the anti-hero movies (especially Sergio Leone' movies) but The Good from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly wasn't really a good guy after all.  Let's shoot straight -the man with no name was a fortune hunter.  He wasn't a selfless character.  His motive, like that of The Bad and The Ugly was money.

Don't get me wrong.  I am a big fan of the anti-hero genre, but we lost something.  We lost the goodness in good.  We lost the real good along the way.  I miss it.