Category Archives: Remember This?

Being Benjamin: “The Graduate” – Then and Now (an ode to Mike Nichols)

At the end of the film, “The Graduate,” Benjamin Braddock and Elaine Robinson are running for their lives. Darting into a Santa Barbara municipal bus, barely escaping their parents’ contempt and wrath, Benjamin and Elaine are on their way to living their own lives. Yes! Good for them. They made it. And “The Graduate” will end on a happy note.

But wait. Their jubilant smiles have disappeared. Sitting alone together at the back of the bus, they’re not even talking to each other either. Fade out? Roll credits? The film’s over? What? And who is this Mike Nichols guy?

Mike Nichols was one of the new, young Hollywood directors springing up in the sixties. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” his directorial debut in 1966, presented controversial social issues rarely seen in Hollywood films then. The following year, “The Graduate” was released on December 21, 1967 – forty-seven years ago today. Sadly, on November 19 of this year, Mike Nichols passed away at 83.

Because of Mike Nichols and the power of “The Graduate,” I saw life through a close-up lens, one that expanded a view of the world I desperately needed at the time. Watching “The Graduate” this week brought back that same hyper-impressionable Mike Andberg, the half-person who, more than anything, wanted to be anyone but himself. Sad, but true. Such is the power of film and how it can be used as a benchmark in life, for better or for worse. I had no idea at the time how Mike Nichols – through his lead character, Benjamin Braddock – would influence me in so many ways.

About to be a freshman at Maryland University, I couldn’t wait to look like Benjamin strolling around campus in a brown corduroy sport coat (just as Benjamin did at Berkeley for what seemed like the entire second half of the film. Hmmm, not a bad way to live life – to stroll, to wander, to drift.) Sadly, I wore baby blue tee shirts under my open corduroy coat, blowing away any sex appeal the jacket may have initiated.

My next goal was finding just the right shades to look like Benjamin. Shopping all over College Park was worth the effort getting my hands on a pair of large, dark-rimmed sunglasses (that really looked nothing like Benjamin’s, nor did I look any more like Benjamin when putting the spectacles on). Wearing them at night was cool, too – perhaps the best pay-off. That’s what Benjamin did.

Since Benjamin shunned the bar scene, so would I. I, like him, preferred to spend my Saturday nights gazing for hours into space, out the window, or through an aquarium, all to the introspective sounds of Simon and Garkunkel’s “Parsely, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” playing in the background.

Being part of the So Cal beatnik scene one day could be cool for me to join, but I’d seen how Benjamin tuned out the hipster crowd at the hamburger drive-in by rolling his ragtop down so he could eat alone with Elaine. That’s what I really wanted – an Elaine. Beautiful girls, beautiful dates, beautiful never-ending campus life. Benjamin (played by Dustin Hoffman) had a big nose; so did I. Benjamin got women; so would I.

Benjamin was a master of casual, deadpan reactions. He even yawned after his big kiss with Elaine. How cool and suave that act was, as if an attitude of “not really needing it (love)” turned women on! To him, marriage was a game. To him, his parent’s marriage was a wreck; Elaine’s was a wreck; in fact, my parent’s marriage was a wreck. It’s best to play it easy with love. And whatever you do, don’t do what your parent’s did.

So, here it is, many years later, and I’ve never married. I’ve also discovered treating women in an unemotional, casual, even-headed and deadpan way never really worked. Neither did it keep me from feeling deep pain when rejected. Even though I eventually dropped use of corduroy coats by day and shades by night, I wonder now how many years I felt far too comfortable as the man who inspired the coat idea in the first place.

I also wonder what took me so long to pay attention to the positive sparks ignited by “The Graduate” – my desire to go west and get away from my native east coast security; to feel the excitement of Hollywood; to experience the warmth of Southern California; to explore the San Francisco area bridges – all images of places introduced to me in the film. Yet, I waited until my forty-third year to go to film school. Forty-fifth to see Hollywood and Southern California. It wasn’t until this September I visited San Francisco and beautiful lower northern California for the first time. In part, this is what became of me.

As for Benjamin and Elaine, one wonders what became of them. Much older and wiser now, I say they probably became just like their conventional, values-depleted, money-oriented parents. Perhaps that was Nichols’ view, too (who, like many things, was far ahead of me in seeing this scenario). Mike Nichols was a visionary and great director.

I’m a film devote and helluva DVD spinner.

I guess I can live with that Mike.

 

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Remember This? Cat Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman album (or being miles from nowhere and back again)

50s Record Album Jackets 005November 23rd, 1970. On that day, Cat Stevens released his second album, Tea for the Tillerman. Yes, it was that long ago.

As I young teen sowing his primitive social and musical oats, I was a sponge. As I listen to the album now, drops from my musical memory bank bring back each song from this magical – often confusing – album, and with them, the angst and joy of those times.

Forty-four years ago today, sometime in the afternoon, I heard the album for the first time. Those hours resonate as if experienced today.

 

Side 1

“Where Do the Children Play?”
Instantly, I like this song. And it’s easy to play, basically all written around a D chord – my favorite one. Could I, would I, might I try to play it for friends? I bet they’d be  impressed.  But I’d only do it if they sang the lyrics. Playing the song is one thing; singing the damned thing is another.

“Hard Headed Woman”
I return the phonograph needle to the beginning of “Hard Headed Woman” three more before I get my fill. What beautiful violins. I’ve never heard classical music like this in a rock album. I’m so in the moment listening to “Woman,” although I don’t really know what he means by “hard headed.” I love how he yells out “I know!” in the line “I know … many fine feathered friends, but their friendliness depends on how you do.” I can yell it, too, but that’s about my only vocal contribution.

“Wild World”
Of course, everyone’s already heard this on the radio a million times. Because of “Wild World,” however, people will know who I’m talking about when I mention how great “the new Cat Stevens album is.”

“Sad Lisa”
Oh, God, the sad piano, and more violins – the violins. Now this is the kind of woman I know, a sad girl “with eyes like windows, tricklin’ rain.” It’s like Cat Stevens is speaking for her, for me. But the song doesn’t really work on guitar. It’s a piano song. I don’t have a piano. A man needs his guitar. Without one, I am sad. Bad sad.

“Miles From Nowhere”
Cat groans boisterously “Miles from nowhere!” And my own “nowhere” groan is pretty good, too. It’s great to sing out like this. And the chords are easy so I can strum loud like an electric guitar. “Miles from nowhere / not a soul in sight / but it’s alright / I have my freedom / I can make my own rules / The ones that I choose.” My once unflappable folk roots seem miles from nowhere, too.

Side 2

“But I Might Die Tonight”
I’m confused. It seems the words are knocking having a good job, getting ahead and all that. I mean, if Dad didn’t have a good job, wouldn’t our family be in poverty? And the song’s too short. I don’t get it.

“Longer Boats”
These lyrics are weird: “How does a flower grow?” “Longer boats?” “Mary dropped her pants by the sand and met a parson come and take her hand.” So far, Side 2 has taken me aback but, as usual, I don’t really care about lyrics. It’s the music that moves me. The guitar hook that sails from the beginning of “Boats” through to the end has landed me in musical bliss.

“Into White”
More strange lyrics, but, for some reason, I relate. Is it because I like to paint and he paints, too, like he did to create the scene on the album cover? His colors and subjects – “Brown-haired dogmouse,” “Yellow delanie,” and “Red-legged chicken” – are they all “emptying into white,” as if onto a blank white canvas? Or is Cat Stevens on drugs? It’s still a good song though.

“On the Road to Find Out”
Yes! I’ve figured out how to play the opening guitar riff. It’s hard up that high on the last two strings, but I get it. Yes,  I am Cat Stevens now! And I’m playing the song out in the woods of College Park (Maryland), simulating the woodland world depicted on the back photo of the album jacket. “On the Road to Find Out” is hard for me to sing but, being way out here, no one can hear that.

“Father and Son”
Dad’s not like the father portrayed in this song. He’s not the compassionate “I was once like you are now …” kind of father. But he’s never made me feel like yelling, “From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen [to you, Dad]” either. For this reason, even though it seems to be all my friend’s favorite song from the album, “Father and Son” has never been mine.

“Tea for the Tillerman”
Tea for the tillerman? What’s that? And this song is too short and too out there for me to get into. I can’t believe it’s the title song to the album.

Some songs on Tea for the Tillerman are not me. So why does the album grab me so hard? Why? The songs go round and round in my head. I can’t let them go. I can’t let the album go.

 

That was then. This is hindsight. Little did I know at the time how Cat Stevens’ album would speak for me, free me, both musically and personally. After inhaling his collection of tunes, I no longer felt miles from nowhere. Even if I inhaled life indirectly, I at least lived more. And from that place of experience, I moved on, matured, and learned life is a celebration – banquet, if you will – of love, people, events and beauty (and that “Tea for the Tillerman” is, after all, a good song, one all about life).

“Tea for the Tillerman”
Bring tea for the tillerman, Steak for the sun,
Wine for the woman who made the rain come
Seagulls sing your hearts away, ‘cause while
sinners sin the children play, Oh lord how they play
and play, For that happy day

50s Record Album Jackets 004

 

 

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Remember This? The Idyllic World of “To Kill a Mockingbird”


Sometimes I get the urge to house hunt. I go to open house events and savor the dream of owning my own house one day. And sometimes I wonder just what it is I’m looking for, what I’m attracted to, what I’m not, and where my preferences come from.

One of my favorite movies from childhood is “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Although a 1963 film, it’s set in Depression-era Alabama. As a young boy raised in Maryland during the sixties, for some reason, I sensed the days depicted in the film were “better” than the contemporary times I lived in. It was just my reaction to the film when I watched it.

Visiting various open houses last weekend here in Santa Fe, I walked away several times feeling empty. Where were the rose gardens in the front yards? Where were the people mingling in the street, walking to and fro? Where were the houses adorned with porches and stoops and sidewalks welcoming visitors to the front door?

Cue: “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Oh my God, the image of my perfect house is exactly what I viewed in “Mockingbird.” Could I have held on to this image of hallowed house and home for so long?

Yes. That’s exactly the image I still yearn to see. After watching a DVD of the movie later that house-hunting day, I realized I wanted not just the houses, but the streets, the people, the neighborhood, the community – even cranky old Mrs. Dubose. Call me corny, but I still crave the Maycomb, Alabama, I saw in “Mockingbird” with its white, wooden houses and green grass lawns, and apparently have all my life.

Cue: the documentary on “To Kill a Mockingbird” enclosed inside the DVD case. No, the Maycomb in “Mockingbird” was not filmed in Maycomb. It was not even filmed in the South. In fact, it wasn’t a real town, but a movie set. Every house was constructed from scratch and the street built on a Hollywood back lot. What? My entire image of house and home is –  and was – built upon the foundation of a movie set, flats and scene designers handy work?

I viewed “Mockingbird” one more time. Yep – a suspicion come true. Upon closer inspection, beyond the beautiful hickory trees adorning Maycomb’s main street where Scout, Jem and Atticus lived was the beautiful Alabama Mountain Range (er, the San Gabriel Mountains just outside Hollywood). Boy, had I been duped. As a child, even an adult, I never thought to question whether Alabama had big mountains. Or I consciously didn’t want to.

And that’s the power of film, and specifically “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It took us to a quieter time in America. It also took us to a period where discrimination and ignorance were far more prevalent. In teaching his children to face prejudice in the eye, Atticus Finch tried to construct an uplifted community, not just one surrounded by the idyllic trappings of a world surrounded by white picket fences. For all these reasons, they made an irresistible world to me.

Cue: a sense of reality. I guess I can abandon the idea of house hunting in rural Alabama some day. And what have I been thinking here in Santa Fe: rose bushes, pitched roofs, green grass – in New Mexico?

I’ll just have to return to the movie and the Alabama of my mind for that house (and all the nostalgia that went with it).

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Remember This? New Math and the Old Wooden Desk

image032wooden classroom deskLet’s see. Let me figure this out.

How long have I sat in a chair-desk combo contraption like this one throughout my years of sixties public school education? (The answer, of course, is probably infinity, or something ethereal or endlessly mathematical like that.)

But to be sure, let’s try answering  the question by looking at one classroom subject – math. Based on the average 183-day academic year, and assuming I had a math class every day since first grade all the way through high school, that comes to an average of 183 hours times twelve years, or 2,196 hours end to end, or ninety-one and a half days without stop, or – worse yet – three months straight of summer vacation. Then, assuming there were six other periods a day I was strapped into one of these chairs – and I have no reason to doubt I wasn’t – that adds up to a total of 13,176 hours, or 550 days in a row, or an entire year and a half. My back hurts just thinking of all the hours spent in one of these straight back electric chairs.

But maybe it was worth it. As you can see, this baby boomer learned some pretty good math skills. Math came much easier than learning English, a subject I needed a whopping 2,214 hours to get me to read and write (2,196 hours of regular English class plus 18 extra hours of various after school remedial help). There’s no doubt reading was my biggest hurdle. For every hour teachers asked me to “Read quietly at your desk,” there was another wasted hour re-reading material, discovering I’d read passages three times already, or nodding off (attesting to reading’s serious narcotic effect if I nodded off in one of those hard chairs). In fact, even though libraries have far better chairs to sit in – even sofas! – I continue to get chills just walking into a library. Read more about my bibliophobia in the excerpt from chapter 6, “Reading,” from my memoir, “Maybe Boomer.”

 

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Remember This? Splendiferous Summer Camping and the Family Ties That Bound

FmlyWhitStps 48bit 800 color dust113SKINNY
One Friday morning in August of ‘65, we packed all our clothes and gear into the Plymouth station wagon to head off to Thurmont, Maryland, and a camping area in the mountains called Crow’s Nest Lodge.

Mom – setting civilized rules from the get go – declared dried fruit as the official family snack food for the weekend. Oh, great. Flatulence City. Steadily munching on dried apricots in a vehicle that had no air conditioning would be suicide.

Well, ha! Talk about eating her words. Mom barfed all her dried fruit snacks only an hour into the drive.

By the time we’d set up our gear at the site, I’d already begun to see what it meant to live in the wild outdoors.

With camping, Mom now had the beauty of nature in which to feed the family, do the dishes, pick things up, and take care of the kids. Similarly, Dad could set up the tent and go straight to reading the newspaper to the sound of bucolic bees and whippoorwill. It was beautiful to watch both my parents unwind in the out-of-doors, particularly Mom, who got away from unnecessary modern conveniences like pillows, clothes washers, chairs with backs, and flush toilets to become one with our forefather’s bygone days of outhouse living.

Dad was a natural in the outdoors with his talent for knowing just how to erect the two-hundred-twenty pound quarter-inch-thick canvas army-style six-man box tent that when fully constructed looked strikingly like a cinder block.
And I noticed how Mom brought the same cooking skills with her from home to the campsite. At dinner Friday night, her meals cooked over the Coleman camp stove were as brittle and overdone as ones charred on our electric range at home. I picked at my food, trying to separate the blackened parts from areas that still retained some semblance of color.

To truly scar my first camping experience, I discovered I was a high maintenance sleeper who repelled a sleeping bag at night – I actually woke up Saturday morning bound by rope. What? Maybe I did wiggle a bit, but rope? I was too sleepy to remember this rodeo, but come daylight, the memory of Dad sloughing it off by saying it was all part of roughing it in the wild rang a little hollow.

Then, after Saturday night’s dinner of Mom’s Crow’s Nest special of very baked beans and scorched franks, I filled up on real food – Jiffy Pop. It was not only satisfying, but shaking the aluminum encased platter of corn kernels over an open flame was a metaphysical experience for me. By ten o’clock, I was still there, igniting everything short of the picnic table. Eventually, with all wood articles incinerated, I burned wax, Play-Doh, foil and anything I could get my hands on, all as if I could burn my varied anxieties away.

Sunday morning, loosening myself from rope once more, I heard raindrops hit the tent roof. Scrambling to get out of the tent as fast as I could, I saw how the entire campsite had been protected from soggy wetness by a huge tarp that completely covered it.

Hallelujah. I knew Dad had to be good for something someday.

As the rain fell harder, the tarp began to leak. Drops of water plopped into the bowl of milk that had already drenched my cornflake breakfast. Everyone ate, but no one talked. Just plop, plop, dink, plop, plop.

When my sister, Cathy, couldn’t take the silence anymore, she turned on her transistor radio. As Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” screamed out, Mom frantically spun the dial for relief, finding the only other audible, stable voice – the local weatherman.

“The National Weather Service has just announced a severe weather bulletin for Thurmont and the surrounding area…. ”

Mom flipped off the radio and, along with Dad, decided it was time we pack up all of our belongings into the Plymouth and head home.

During the long, lackluster drive back, I reminisced the weekend experience.

Camping wasn’t fun. I hated rain. I hated commodes. And I hated our tent, the biggest six ring circus on Earth. Not only was there my rope fiasco, but the tent had been too small for everyone’s sleeping bags, blow-up mattresses, and clothes left strewn all over the musty floor. The only thing that was remarkable about the weekend was how each of us tiptoed through every one of these articles and managed to never touch them or another Andberg for two entire days.

I felt an inexplicable but strong urge to strike back, as if to swing in the air at everything but hit nothing. That’s because there was nothing solid to hit. Everything lurked somewhere below the surface in my world. In venturing out into the wilds of dangerous woodland with basically only tents, flashlights and Jiffy Pop, I’d been afraid of change. As it turned out, camping wasn’t any different than being at home. In fact, the saddest thing of all was that there was no change.

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Remember This? The Traveling Carnival

002A carnival came to town last week.

With its Calliope music, bright colors and distinctive smells that only a carnival can produce, my stroll through our local extravaganza Sunday afternoon zipped me back in time to my very first carnival as a seven-year-old in Langley Park, Maryland.

I entered the gate alongside my parents that day with an appetite for new experiences. Naturally, I quickly partook in the carnival food fare. It didn’t take long to realize I had a low threshold not only for cotton candy, caramel apples and funnel cakes, but an even lower threshold for combining these tempting edibles with carnival rides.

Atop the tallest ride of all, something called a Ferris Wheel, I discovered my acute fear of heights – or was my vertigo from the incessant, annoying teeter-tottering of my chair, hanging on to the big wheel with just a few nuts and bolts? Failing to learn any lesson from the Ferris fiasco, I proceeded to experiment with my personal centrifugal force threshold on the Tilt-A-Whirl. It spun me around so fast I worried my carnival lunch would upchuck and meet me head on during my next pass around.

Battered, I retreated to safer rides. I rode the carousel and miniature railway, but felt like a big time weenie after. Laughs and screams – that’s what I wanted. I wished I was bigger, an older kid who could not only handle extremes, but relish in risky experiences. I’d never wished to be an older kid before.

A year later, I’d heard there was a much better carnival in Hagerstown, Maryland, about an hour’s drive from our house. I asked Mom if we could go.

“No, we’re not going to that Hagerstown carnival. It’s no place for a young boy, seeing the Bonnie and Clyde death car, Hitler’s staff car, those kinds of things.” Whoa – it had that kind of stuff?

“Can’t we see something there, Mom?”

“Like what?”

“The Globe of Death motorcycle thing and the human pin cushion.”

“Those are just acts and freaks, Michael. What’s wrong with rides?”

“Any carnival has rides. Hagerstown has a two-headed calf and a dwarf miniature horse. The Human Blockhead, too.”

It was at that moment I realized something – all my interests centered around side shows, thrill acts and Burlesque, things I could watch. Being a spectator was safer for me. No participation necessary. Just observe. In fact, hadn’t I chosen to be a spectator and not a participant for most things in my life so far?

The following year, returning to Langley Park’s annual carnival, I was surprised by my fascination with bumper cars. I was not only a willing participant driving them, but madman behind the wheel. In the protection of rubber-lined cars, I cherished the opportunity to hit people head on. I loved ramming their car so hard it made the driver cry. I especially craved the opportunity to smash into them when they didn’t know I was coming. I never knew I had such lust for legalized mayhem and controlled violence! What boyhood memories. What boyhood discoveries.

rodeo2 from fence 002The carnival I saw last week weekend at the Santa Fe Rodeo grounds was gone without a trace by Monday morning. What if carnivals go extinct just as quickly someday? What a shame. They are, if nothing else, a safe place for a child to learn limits.  How else could a vacant patch of dust and dirt provide such lessons?

May our carnival come back next year. And the year after. And the one after that.

 

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Remember This? The Pencil

Short Pencil
I’m at work. I need a pencil. There’s three cups of miscellaneous writing instruments on the desk around me, so I finger my way through each one.

Pens, pens, pens everywhere – plus an emery board, magnifying glass, ruler, book of matches, clothes pin, lint remover, shoehorn, screwdriver, pliers – but no pencil. I’ve noticed this about a lot of desk top cups these days – no pencils. What? – the world does it’s checkbook balancing in ink now? What? – I could file my nails, get a closer look at my fingernails, measure this desk’s dimensions, light a cigarette, hang my laundry, clear my fleece shirt of lint, slip into more comfortable shoes, and fix my toaster, all before I could find a graphite writing instrument?

I finally hit pay dirt digging out a stubby pencil from the bottom of the cup. But, like all pencils scrounged from cups nowadays, the eraser is petrified and, of course, the graphite tip is broken off.

If good pencils are hard to find, pencil sharpeners are even harder. This place doesn’t have one, so I’m forced to use the knife I saw a minute ago. I’m no whittler and manage only to club the wood into oblivion trying to sharpen the point.

Frustrated, I realize I must resort to using – gasp – a pen to write with. How many of these cheap pens do I have to go through to find one that actually works? What happened to good old Bic pens that blanketed civilized places forty years ago? Still, what I’m really craving is a vintage Eberhard Faber or Lippincott pencil with a fresh, pink, gummy eraser. I make lots of mistakes when I write (ones I eventually “erase” when rewriting on the computer later).

Ah-ha, the computer, modern day’s eraser, and – for all that matter – pencil. But good luck finding a computer in the bottom of of a desk organizer cup.

Doesn’t anyone around here have a plain old pencil? Dammit. Where’s a pencil!?

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Remember This? Roget’s Thesaurus

Quote of the day: Everything in the world is good for something. –– Dryden.

Roget illustration 001bPeter Roget is God, kind of. What would I do today without my 1961 edition of Roget’s International Thesaurus? It was a present given to me by my mother for completing my Lutheran confirmation classes.

At the time, after sweating through those confirmation classes, I asked, “Is this all I get, a book with a billion words and only one picture, a sick, sepia-toned print of the author, some guy named Roget?” Looking at his picture, all I saw was a stiff, scholarly guy staring back at me with an expression that said only one thing, “I am smarter than you will ever be.”

Unimpressed with Roget, for nearly a decade, his thesaurus was put to better use as a prop to hold up makeshift shelves in the living room that my precious TV sat on.

But one day, years later, when I needed to find a synonym for “lazy,” I slid Roget out, dusted him off, and life hasn’t been the same since. No more using “lazy” when there’s “dilatory, slack, shiftless, and lazy as Ludlam’s dog” around. I look at Roget now and give praise. What other gift could keep on giving like his thesaurus?

The answer is J.I. Rodale’s 1361-page synonym finder. I’ve been confirmed to the next level, and Rodale’s compilation of synonyms is the best around today.

Even still, I have Roget’s Thesaurus by my side. His book not only contains synonyms, precious American slang and colloquialisms, but is full of ancient, foreign and modern quotations at the bottom of each page. In fact, that’s where I found the quotation by Dryden for this post: Everything in the world is good for something. However, I could have found better use for Roget’s masterpiece than as some prop to elevate the almighty TV set on. How slack, lax and negligent.

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Remember This? The American Dream

iStock_000033701904Small

Memorial Day, 2014. It’s a day to remember the people and things we hold dear that are now gone.

At one time, I believed the American Dream would come through for me. As the middle class has disappeared year by year, I’ve watched the American Dream slip away from millions of Americans, even though they’ve worked hard all their lives.

I’m not bitter. Although I’ve lived most of my years at the poor to lower middle class income level, I’ve always had enough to meet my needs as a single person. But what about the millions of families for whom the American Dream seemed particularly built for?

Today, I take time to privately honor my stepfather who served valiantly in World War II. It seemed to me he lived the American Dream. He married, served in the Air Force, had children, divorced (perhaps no American Dream is complete without a divorce), married my mother, retired at a reasonable age, and had a pension. Risking his life in combat flying P-47s over Europe in WW II, he earned his military pension.

Although my stepfather is gone, I hope – for all Americans who in one way or another have sacrificed  and saved their hard-earned money – that our national dream will one day return.

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Remember This Guy? Chef Boy-Ar-Dee

047_ATT304848 (1)As a kid, I assumed this handsome Italian chef guy made all the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee brand spaghetti personally. I visualized him stirring a huge vat of it in a factory somewhere around Gary, Indiana, the factory capital of the US. But even as a four-year-old, I knew Chef Boy-Ar-Dee wasn’t great spaghetti.

Regardless, I learned one very important thing from Chef B-A-D: the taste difference between “canned” food and fresh. Unfortunately, Mom – head chef in our house – preferred canned spaghetti (and peas, corn, beans, Spam, potted meats, etc.) Tin-encased foods represented one less meal she had to prepare from scratch over a hot stove. (Mom took this to the hilt in retaliation for too many other housewife responsibilities. Read more about it in the introduction to Chapter Three, “Revenge,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer.)

Actually, the Chef Bor-Ar-Dee people are still around, but have a new guy modeling as Chef. I’ve gone to a health food diet in my adult years and kind of miss the old Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, even his Beefaroni and Spaghetti & Meatballs. Do you? Or do you still (secretly) crank out the can opener for an occasional comfort food hit?

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