Tag Archives: nostalgia

Why the Washington Capitals Will Win the 2016 Stanley Cup

Stanley Cup 002 (2)I’ve been a Washington Capitals fan for all forty-one years of their existence. During that time, I’ve watched other NHL teams possess what it takes to win at the highest level while the Capitals for one reason or another have not. Now, for the first time, I’m watching the Capitals do to other teams what they’ve been doing to us in a million little ways for what seems a million long years, and I can’t believe my eyes. Here’s how Washington attacks opponents, 2015-16 style.

Throwing Braden Holtby at them near every night, arguably the best goalie in the game; playing mistake-free hockey like they’ve never displayed before; having great team depth from top to bottom; grabbing a lead and holding it – toying with the opposition when a lead’s actually lost, then winning convincingly in the end; having player trades pay off – finally; hurling a combination of youth, prime-age players and experienced Stanley Cup-winning journeymen in the lineup. Oh, and throwing Alex Ovechkin at them, the best player in hockey right now.

Things are looking up. So what’s brought all this about?

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Bernie Wolfe  1975-79

Two years ago this summer, the Caps ousted nineteen-year general manager George McPhee and coach Adam Oates for Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz respectively. MacLellan outed some old guard players and replaced them with solid talent through wise player trades and pick-ups. Trotz has combined just the right blend of no-nonsense coaching, consistency and effective talent assessment to produce at least three great lines nearly every game.

For the first time since their inaugural 1974-75 season, all things are coming together: GM, coach, players – not to mention important intangibles like player chemistry, luck and perhaps even fate. They’ve never had all these ingredients at one time before. Why? Just look at their history.

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Early Capitals squads played hard, only to be left downtrodden for their efforts.

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Gord Smith 1974-79

The Woeful Era, 1974-75 through 1981-82
The NHL awarded Washington an expansion team, one named after the Washington Capitol, the nation’s symbol for enduring stability and strength. Just a kid starting college then and anxious to see NHL hockey in the newly constructed Capital Centre sports arena, I volunteered to be a statistician for the Capitals game night staff. I wound up seeing close to 400 NHL games from the press box as statistician during Washington’s first eight seasons. Only a hopeful, exuberant boy of a man could endure what he was about to witness during the forthcoming era.

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Bill Riley 1974-79

Hard-working, hungry, and interesting to say the least, the Capitals’ players were cast offs from other teams. The eight Caps squads during this era failed to post one playoff game. Often, rosters were so depleted, above average players rose to savior status quickly. As for all others, frustrations ran deep. (I’ll never forget a large color photo that hung in Capital Centre’s lobby. It was of Ace Bailey – wow, you mean the Ace Bailey who once played for the Boston Bruins!? – crouched on his knees, head bowed in anguish, holding half a smashed stick in his glove. It went without saying he shattered it out of frustration). Equally frustrated was owner Abe Pollin who announced not only that the organization had lost 21 million dollars so far but that changes had to be made immediately.

The David Poile Era, 1982-83 through 1995-96

Young David Poile became general manager and turned the franchise around. During his tenure, the Capitals made the playoffs fourteen years in a row, sending out great players like Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, Mike Gartner, Peter Bondra and Olie Kolzig. With the addition of Rod Langway in particular in 1982, the Capitals were suddenly feared. Just the look in Langway’s eyes scared opponents from entering the corners. Scott Stevens could hip check you two zones back to dreamland. Mike Gartner would skate past you and score all in one breath. Bondra could beat anybody with his offensive skills around the net. And Kolzig could stop near anybody from scoring. Even so, during this era, somebody else always halted the Capitals from getting beyond a first or second round of playoffs, reaching a third only once.

The George McPhee Era, 1997-98 through 2013-2014
New owner Ted Leonsis backed his general DSCN0278 (3)manager, George McPhee, for fourteen seasons. Their player acquisition style of trading players and draft picks for big name stars failed to work and swung the Capital pendulum backward from the Poile years. Under McPhee, the Capitals failed to make the playoffs five seasons. During the eight they did – spread out over several campaigns with a mishmash of coaches – Washington reached the second round of playoffs only three times. The Capitals seemed predictable, a franchise regularly constructed of choking teams. Trying Hall of Famer Adam Oates as coach in 2012 was a prayer to change things. But midway through his second year in 2014, his system fell apart. Players failed to respond. Fans grumbled. Even the Capitol Dome just down the road from Verizon Center was crumbling, necessitating the government to begin a huge repair project still in force today. But could the Capitals be repaired?

The New Hope Era, 2014-15 to present
Leonsis fired McPhee and replaced him with MacLellan who selected Barry Trotz as coach. Trotz immediately instilled a different attitude in the locker room, his first season marked by stability, a balanced system and ability to communicate and teach (especially Alex Ovechkin about how to play a 200 foot game), not to mention having solid defensemen – Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik – to work with, acquired in savvy MacLellan trades. During this current year’s campaign, MacLellan has added outstanding players, including T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams (even giving Mike Richards a comeback try. Why not?).

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Capitals spirit still lives on, now with new management, coach and players.

My biggest concern, despite the vastly improved cast of defensemen, enforcers and elite passers skating alongside Alex Ovechkin, is how the Capitals rely on the Great Eight. He is key to their offense and power play. Without him, they don’t have the big threat great teams often possess to win championships. Very durable throughout his eleven-year career, Ovechkin’s missed only two games this season, but both were losses without him (combined 10-2 scores), and both to the Florida Panthers, my second biggest concern. The Panthers seem to have the Caps number (not to mention the Dallas Stars since ’08). However, other than a forthcoming trade deadline move for another solid defenseman, I’ll take my chances with this team as it is.

To date, the Capitals hold an astounding 40-9-4 record – the next best team is eight points behind with twice as many losses. Since the league expanded from the original six teams in 1967-68, only the 79-80 Flyers have more points in a fifty-three game span. As a result, the Caps may very well wind up the NHL’s regular season top points leader, earning the league’s Presidents’ Trophy for the honor. But the Caps have won the NHL Presidents’ Trophy before, during the 2009-2010 season when, overconfident, they were embarrassed by Montreal in the first round of playoffs. The Presidents’ Trophy may be an honor, but this year’s team talks about the truest honor there is, hoisting the Stanley Cup.

After all, isn’t that sport’s greatest payoff where, for one moment, a grown man acts like a boy again, embraces the world, hugs his teammates, jumps up and down, and hoists the biggest crown ever above his exhausted body, adorned in uniform that bears the logo he’s so proud of?

If the Washington Capitals win the Cup this June, a boy’s dream will have come true. A franchise’s mission will have been fulfilled. Although foundations were tested, what we all shared – the franchise, it’s long-frustrated fans, and this boy dressed in mere writer’s garb – was a daily, never-ending foundation built on hope. And a few unanswered prayers.

 

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Pat Ribble and Caps celebrate a 1982 goal at Capital Centre’s east end.

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This writer and friend Paul Kane at Capital Center construction site nine years earlier.

Capitals artwork and photography by Mike Andberg. Capital Centre construction photo by Paul Kane.

Mike Andberg was born and raised in the Washington DC area and, although moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1996, has continued to follow all Washington teams closely, particularly the Capitals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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From Super Bowl to Hyperbole

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There’s Curt Gowdy, NBC’s main play-by-play man. Dressed in bright green sport coat, he’s superimposed over a live image of a packed Orange Bowl Stadium pre-kickoff crowd. All that, scrunched within the square aspect ratio TV screen. On the field, helmets look a little square, too; same for the huge shoulder pads. Even the head coaches are square – or dapper – both dressed in ties.

Forty-man rosters stand compactly within a twenty-five yard space along their respective sidelines. Just beside both, photographers and spindly, tie-clad policeman linger only a yard behind the out-of-bounds line; beyond them, the lonely cloth goal line flag flapping in the Miami breeze. It’s January 12, 1969. The upstart NY Jets are playing the mighty Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

Jets’ Bake Turner, a straight-on kicker, boots the ball and Super Bowl III is off and running. And running. So many running plays. After just a couple of series, millions of viewers already know play is tough, players are gritty but the completion is clean. Bodies are tackled, not heads, nor footballs to strip them free.

In their high tech production, NBC is using the miracle of instant replay, reserved mostly for pass play reviews. There’s close-up camera work, too, although used far too amply for the face and bodies of referees. NBC’s picture quality is state of the art, but is still rather fuzzy. For example, it’s difficult to count the number of face bars on player’s helmets. Is it true the punters and safeties have only one face bar? But the on-screen graphics are fairly tight, with streamlined, typewriter-like all cap white letters superimposed over images.

Colts’ Tom Mitchell dives for an errant throw. Laid out in prone position, he’s saved injury by Jets safety Johnny Sample who holds back from landing on him. Such grace under pressure.

Sublime is Joe Namath’s flick of the arm that tosses a perfect spiral fifty-five yards downfield. An incomplete pass, all players hustle back to the line of scrimmage. There are no player substitutions. There are practically no shifts at the line of scrimmage. If anyone is subbed, it’s done during time outs or commercial breaks, of which there are very few.

Super Bowl III has evolved into a defensive clash with the Jets leading 10-0 in the third quarter. Namath looks conspicuous on the sideline, the only player with his helmet off. How strange no one else utilizes this opportunity for valued face time. He’s so talented and so cool. Joe Willy has become my idol. But he trots off the field a series later, favoring an injured throwing hand. No one, even a trainer, comes over to look at it. Heroically, Joe Namath comes back in, pain and all.

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Colts’ Jerry Hill scores a touchdown with three minutes to go. With the score 16-7, Baltimore goes for an on-side kick. They get it, but safety Rick Volk is dazed, unable to get off the field. Thirty million viewers watch four Colts drag him to the sideline. Even the great Johnny Unitas, replacing ineffective Earl Morrall, can’t perform magic and the Colts, eighteen point favorites, lose, 16-7. In a landmark sports event, the AFL (now the AFC conference) has caught up with the once far superior NFL teams in talent.

~

January 24, 2016. It’s the AFC Championship game between the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, with today’s AFC winner going to Super Bowl 50. Invesco Field, seen with gigantic Jumbotron on one end, military units the other, is being presented by CBS in HD Cinemascope-like scale, including scintillating graphics to expand the viewer experience (all this just for coverage of the national anthem).

New England’s opening series is three and out. The two pass plays are reviewed by five replays; there are none for the boring run. After the punt, four commercials follow, their combined real-time exceeding the game clock time for the entirety of New England’s initial possession (1:58).

Denver’s first drive includes fancy on-screen team statistical comparisons, a close-up revealing one eyelash missing from Peyton Manning’s right eye, shots of both coaching staffs dressed in casual sweat suits, and – oh, yes – a passing touchdown culminated by the receiver celebrating near the stands. The subsequent extra point is overshadowed by four more commercials.

After Denver’s kickoff, the game is stopped again for four more commercials, including one with Peyton Manning singing and selling insurance. New England suffers another three and out, their possession highlighted by player’s constant bickering over pass interference. After their punt, four commercials follow, including one touting player character and what NFL warriors are doing for underprivileged kids in their communities.

Just before the first quarter ends, New England scores, making the score 7-6. Add also nine more commercials, a three-minute and ten second coach’s challenge, an on-field interview, two ugly personal foul calls, another TD celebration (a demonstrative Rocky-like pose for fans), a missed extra point, 76 total player substitutions (just a guess), and an awesome plastic pylon cam shot of the touchdown.

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What the next three quarters reveal is one very great game. Competitive, exciting, and well-played, one in which Denver prevails, 20-18, demonstrating yet again – much like Super Bowl III – that hard nose defenses win championships.

But these last three quarters also provide great insight on modern NFL football.

There are many sideline reports interspersing – or interrupting – the game with in-the-moment media information: a player “has just passed the league’s concussion protocol,” “…tablets on the New England sideline are okay to use now,” a reporter’s views on the kicker’s specific thought process and physical protocol preparing for the upcoming kick, and even a shot of Rob Gronkowski lying flat on his back, oxygen mask over mouth, receiving massive leg massages on the sideline.

Perhaps the game no longer needs referees. All game long, Patriot and Bronco players are most adept at gesturing what should be called, among their specialties fumble recoveries, out-of-bounds calls, touchdowns, first downs, and incomplete passes (their favorite). Regular gesticulations to the crowd about just how great they are is another forte players possess. Seizing camera time, but in this far more grandiose manner, is where we’ve come from Namath’s seemingly harmless quest for attention removing his helmet on the sidelines many years ago.

Since referees fail to impede player’s constant pushing and shoving of opposing team members (even the kickers!), do we really need the zebras? Then again, if players are so smart, why were the majority of penalties for brainless false starts, unnecessary misconducts, and pass interference calls? It’s interesting to note the championship game had 14 combined penalties for 104 yards while Super Bowl III saw a total of three yellow flags.

Gang tackling by speedy, yet heavy-muscled players reveals a game far more brutal than pioneer Super Bowl contests. Today, offensive tackles average a height of 6’6” while nose tackles average 322 pounds. The median player weight of the Super Bowl III teams was 229, whereas the 2015 Indianapolis Colts squad averaged 256, a 27 pound increase in muscle, strength and power. This, combined with speed, make collisions frightening, yet hard hits are what make fans and defensive backs salivate.

Perhaps the heaviest weight put upon the modern game is commercials. One hundred and five thirty-second commercials were broadcast during the Patriots-Broncos game (not including halftime). That’s 52:30 in real-time of a game that’s 60:00 long. No wonder it took three hours and thirty minutes to complete this contest, keeping in mind most commercials interrupt play: players wait while television viewers are sold cars.

Maybe it was Curt Gowdy’s soothing voice that made Super Bowl III such a great game for me to watch. Or is it my inner voice, one continually tapping my shoulder from some distant, foggy time, that constantly reminds me of the once simple, swift and comparatively innocent NFL game I remember from 43 Super Bowls ago.

 

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Lightfoot!

blog Lightfoot photos 012Three houses. Fifty years apart. Two people. One great musician. Come inside.

Gordon Lightfoot, songwriter of such hits as “If You Could Read My Mind,” “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “Sundown,” writes songs in total isolation and composes in big batches. Solitude is a must, part of his music methodology.

Owning two houses these days, he writes, practices the guitar and plays songs in one house while his wife and family live in the other. Isolation, Lightfoot’s key to creativity, must also be a killer. “Gee, honey, if only you could read my mind. Be back at sundown.” But it’s who Canadian-born Gordon Lightfoot seems to be, and has been from the start of his career. Liner notes from his second album, The Way I Feel, reveal him working alone for a week in a room of producer John Court’s house, perfecting the album’s material. The persistence produced a great collection of songs. But his very first album, Lightfoot!, released in January of 1966 – fifty years ago this month – is what interests me most.

The house I grew up in in Silver Spring, Maryland, was nowhere near Canada, no den of folk music, but – from time to time – entertained greatness. I’d already been educated by Bob Dylan and the Beatles from songs I heard over my family’s various transistor radios. Listening to Lightfoot!, a vinyl treasure brought into the house by my older sister and brothers, I’d never heard such personal ache set to music and lyrics, at least as our old living room Motorola stereo set could produce.

A moody kid, I related to the yearning voice in Lightfoot’s songs, as if he called out from a place of wilderness, the same place I felt somehow akin to despite living in suburban Maryland all my life. There was something that connected the two of us.

Where the long river flows
It flows by my window
Where the tall timber grows
It grows ’round my door
Where the mountains meet the sky
And the white clouds fly
Where the long river flows by my window 
*[From “Long River”]

Listen to that song! Listen to all of them. I really want to play music like this. I love Lightfoot’s voice, precise guitar picking and great songwriting. Mom paid big money last year in hopes I’d learn guitar and piano, but I flopped both times, opportunities lost. I still play guitar in my room, dreaming I’ll be good some day. I ache – is playing music pleasure or pain?

Now here I am with my hat in my hand
Standing on the broad highway will you give a ride
To a lonesome boy who missed the train last night
I went in town for one last round and I gambled my ticket away
And the big steel rail won’t carry me home to the one I love
*[From “Steel Rail Blues”]

In a Orilla, Ontario, grocery store one day, Lightfoot’s mother heard him singing to himself. So moved by his melodic spontaneity, she encouraged him with music in school and church. By twelve, he excelled in voice, choir and piano, even going on to a regular gig in a barbershop quartet.

I’m gonna buy me two wings of silver
Yes ‘n Lord to fly me home
I’m gonna buy me two wings of silver
Yes ‘n Lord to fly me home
And when I get my silvery wings
Then an angel choir will sing
I’m gonna get me two wings of silver to get me home
*[From “Rich Man’s Spiritual”]

I’m no good. Maybe I should quit. It’s frustrating having to figure out keys and chords, not to mention what key Lightfoot is singing in. Winter is bleak and grey. Alone in my room, light has abandoned me.

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Oh gal don’t you say goodbye
Now that I need you by my side
Love me now or be on your way
If you go be gone to stay
*[From “Oh Linda”]

Bob Dylan, frontrunner of the early sixties Folk Revival, inspired Lightfoot. As a result, his songwriting became more personal. In a Toronto club one night, he played the mournful ballad, “Early Morning Rain.” Folk group Ian & Sylvia heard him play it and became the first big group to record a Lightfoot song.

Out on runway number nine, big seven-o-seven set to go
But I’m stuck here in the grass where the cold wind blows
Now the liquor tasted good and the women all were fast
Well now there she goes my friend, well she’s rolling down at last
*[From “Early Mornin’ Rain”]

Our house has come alive! No one ever agrees on anything, but all the sudden all four of us kids think Gordon Lightfoot is cool. Time to celebrate. I can even hear rejoice in Lightfoot’s voice.

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Gonna buy me a long white robe
Yes ‘n Lord to help me home
I’m gonna buy me a long white robe
Yes ‘n Lord to get me home
And when I get my heavenly gown
And I lay my burden down
I’m gonna get me a long white robe to get me home
*[From “Rich Man’s Spiritual”]

Putting the Lightfoot! album together wasn’t all merriment. The New York City recording studio was sterile and unwelcoming – lonely – despite human companionship of an unmoved assistant engineer who assisted in recording the album by misspelling names of Lightfoot’s songs.

Here in this cold room lyin’
Don’t want to see no one but you
Lord I wish I could be dyin’
To forget you  
*[From “Ribbon of Darkness”]

I can’t read a lick of music, but what feels so good is how I can play any song on guitar by ear. And my finger pickings sound just like what I hear Lightfoot doing. I’m actually pretty good. But I also spend a lot of time getting to be pretty good. Over and over. Day after day. Kinda alone.

The way I feel is like a robin
Whose babes have flown to come no more
Like a tall oak tree alone and cryin’
When the birds have flown and the nest is bare
*[From “The Way I Feel”]

Two albums later, with a folk following of his own, Lightfoot has a band family to support in addition to his own back home. Responsibility is high. Pressure mounts. And the Folk Revival is dying. Rock and roll is taking over. Lightfoot must reinvent himself without going that way. There’s still room for ballads and romanticism without sentimentality, isn’t there? Boom, his fourth album, Sit Down Young Stranger, goes gold in 1970.

Oh may the light of freedom shine
For all the world to see
And peace and joy to all mankind
Through all the years to be
For soon the leaves will die
And the long hard wind will blow
May this world find a resting place
Where peaceful waters flow
*[From “Peaceful Waters”]

A song comes to my mind. I like writing songs. Each breathes its own air. It’s the boss. It leads me, I do not lead it. I must listen, listen carefully in the cold silence, for which direction I must go. Song – is king.

I can’t say I’ll always do
The things you want me to
I’m not saying I’ll be true but I’ll try
*[From “I’m Not Sayin’”]

Suddenly, there’s regular Lightfoot gigs on weekly TV shows, Midnight Special and Don Kirchner’s Rock Concert. But then a diagnosis of Bells Palsy, drugs and alcohol abuse in the 70’s and 80’s, a 2002 abdominal hemorrhage that left him in a coma for five weeks, and a small stroke in 2004.

This old airport’s got me down, it’s no earthly good to me
‘Cause I’m stuck here on the ground, as cold and drunk as I can be
You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train
So I’d best be on my way in the early mornin’ rain
*[From “Early Mornin’ Rain”]

In an 2008 interview with Matt Fink of American Songwriter magazine, Lightfoot said all his marriages were doomed to fail due to his need for isolation to write. Yet, as of today, he’s compiled 20 albums, 16 Juno awards (Canadian Grammys), Canadian Music Hall of Fame membership, and has had many of his songs sung by an impressive list of great musicians. Was all the work, the grind – the isolation – worth it?

~

I have to get out of the house. It’s time to go fishing.

As I drive through the beautiful forests in Bandelier National Monument on my way to fish near Jemez Springs, New Mexico, I slide the Lightfoot! song collection into my CD player.

Sixteen miles to seven lakes way up among the pines
In some hidden valley where the twirlin’ river twines
Where the fish swim up and down and the sparklin’ waters falls
Where the thunder rolls and the lonely puma calls 
*[From “Sixteen Miles (To Seven Lakes)”]

A tear comes to my eye.

Isolation isn’t so bad, at least when shared with Gordon Lightfoot.

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Many thanks to the following sites for providing additional information:  American Songwriter and connectsavannah.com. Check them out for more on Gordon Lightfoot.

*All lyrics from original Gordon Lightfoot compositions in Lightfoot!

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Stories From Maybe Boomer: Compassion, and Befriending “It! The Terror From Beyond Space”

Paul and I perused the channels on my family’s ultra-modern new television set hoping to find a great color show. Zippo. Every progarm was in black and white. I wanted to impress Paul, my new companion, and so far, the Quasar – Motorola’s beautiful twenty-four inch console set – was letting me down.

Things changed at precisely two o’clock.

“Oh, wait, flip back. Flip back,” Paul said.

I cranked the Motorola’s spiffy all-metal dial back one click to the opening credits of a movie.

It, the Terror From Beyond Space! This could be cool,” I said.

“Look, look how clear the title is,” Paul replied. “You’d never be able to see that on your old Silvertone set.”

So blown away by crisp picture quality, we’d forgotten the fact the movie was in black and white. We didn’t care. The alien creature creating havoc inside the spaceship’s darkly-lit hull devoured our attention. To us, this standard 50’s sci-fi flick was a classic.

Halfway through It, I cried out, “Look at the scales on the monster’s skin!”

“And look! Look! There’s a zipper!”

“What?”

“On his back …”

“It’s really a rubber suit …”

“It can’t be …”

“It’s a rubber suit!”

“It’s so fake …”

“And look, now he’s picking some guy up …”

“And twirling him around …”

“Like he’s gonna heave him …”

“But it’s so fake …”

“Just showing their shadows …”

“I know …”

“Instead of them …”

“I know …”

“So the zipper doesn’t show …”

“I know …”

“I hate that …”

“I know.”

“I hate that.”

“Me, too.”

However, It got clobbered in the end. But what a bad finale that was. The monster was our hero. How could the American astronauts, dressed in hokey space suits, zap It before he reached the ship’s cheesy-looking control room to eat everyone in sight? I was so let down.

After Paul went home, sudden pangs of nostalgia came over me for the Silvertone set my family had owned forever. It sat in the corner of the basement now, unplugged, abandoned, collecting dust. The beautiful, ash-colored television had once been the family’s universe, producing a relentless drone close to sixteen hours a day. Occasionally, Dad had spoken over the Silvertone in anger when its fifteen inch screen shrank to eleven by nine after the horizontal and vertical holds got their way with things. With the all-encompassing love for our new Motorola, I knew the Silvertone’s worn-out tubes and technology would be hauled away soon.

Sure enough, a few weeks later, the set was gone. Both the Silvertone and It had been beaten by technology. Just as the creature was left alone to decay on Mars’ barren landscape, I imagined the frightening sight of my cathode comrade dumped in a landfill somewhere, disrespected, with no funeral service conducted or head stone prepared. I’d have appreciated its ashes being put into a nice urn, or a Kool Aid pitcher if we couldn’t afford the urn, or at least sprinkled around the Quasar as a respectful remembrance. I would miss my companion terribly. After all, before Paul, the Silvertone was the best friend I had.

This is an excerpt from my memoir, Maybe Boomer. The post honors the fifty-seventh anniversary of It! The Terror From Beyond Space and its August, 1958 debut.  Note: the film takes place in the “far off future” – 1973!

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Memorial Day, Mom and Maid Marion

Maid Marion; arroyo dew drops grass 002For me these days, Memorial Day is about recalling memories of my mother, gone ten years now this November. Even as a boy, one who often sized his mom up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Cruella de Vil all in one, I realized Mom was everything, my queen, buried beneath an unfortunate plight.

On one drizzly Saturday afternoon, I stayed inside to watch TV in the basement. Curled up on the couch, basking in the warmth and eternal sunshine of Sherwood Forest, I viewed the entire two hours of The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn as Robin and Olivia deHavilland as Marion. The swashbuckling action and colorful pageantry of the uplifting tale thrilled me. But there was more to the story than that.

I most loved watching the scenes of Robin’s comradeship with the poor townsfolk, and particularly his quest for Maid Marion’s elusive love and attention. Zoned in on this sub-story, only one thing interrupted my focus.

The gentle whir from the sewing machine seemed much louder today than usual. I glanced across the basement at Mom, hunched over in her hard chair, struggling to darn clothes on our antiquated Singer sewing machine.

When I reconnected with Marion on screen, I saw a woman who – under the lavish headbands and finely darned dresses she wore – reminded me of Mom, her pretty face and petite body trying to reveal their selves.

If only Mom smiled more, I thought. When I looked at her, sometimes I wondered if she’d have been happier born in Marion’s times. I wished she could hold herself higher knowing she, too, was pretty and often kind. Like Marion, she stitched her own clothes and made home a court for her king. Had Dad ever noticed her face, her work, her beauty? Why did she take the disrespect, just to be Official Andberg Family Martyr for all her pain and suffering? I hoped one day she’d let loose of the rules, the ties that bound her, to be more joyful like Marion. Mom and Marion were inseparable to me and would be forever, while Robin became my hero instantly, and role model for life.

In his book, “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,” Howard Pyle wrote, “So passed the seasons then, so they pass now, and so they will pass in time to come, while we come and go like leaves of the tree that fall and are soon forgotten.”

Not forgotten, dear memories of Maid Marion – Mom.

The above excerpt is from my memoir, “Maybe Boomer.

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Remember This? “Lassie” TV (and cuddly collie obedience vs. indifference)

Lassie was a staple for millions of television viewers from the days of black and white sets in the fifties to the fancy color consoles of the seventies. Perhaps what I appreciated most about this nostalgic boy-and-his-dog adventure show was the rural life presented with such carefree access to fishing, camping, wildlife and outdoor recreation, activities I still appreciate today. They’re all elements in this early Lassie episode you are about to see entitled “The Bear” in which young Jeff, old Gramps, and trusty Lassie head out to the country for the weekend.

I have a dog, too –  a rough collie mix named Rusty. More than a wonderful companion, Rusty provides laughter. He’ll never be as obedient as Lassie (“Rusty, come back in here!”), smart (“If you wouldn’t wander off, you wouldn’t need a leash”), energetic or outdoorsy (“There are other places to be than the couch, Rusty”), but he’s my Laddie.

During each step of this Lassie episode, enjoy Rusty’s colorful take on what he’d do in each situation.

 

Lassie helps Jeff dig the campfire ring.
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Jeff shows Lassie how to set up camp.
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 0053Rusty out the door 002

 

 

 

 

In control whenever in nature, Lassie leads Jeff to a fishing stream.
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 002Rusty 1st Dale Ball hike 007

 

 

 

 

“That trout sure tasted good. And you were so good, Lassie, not begging at all.”
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“Gramps hurts his back, Lassie. Come quick!”
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 006Rusty looking down from the carpet 004

 

 

 

 

“I better get help. You stay right here with Gramps, Lassie.”
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Lassie hears a bear and wakes Gramps from a nap.
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The bear enters the camp. “Stay back, Lassie! Good dog – stay right there.”
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Lassie fights the bear!
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 0103Rusty out the door 002

 

 

 

 

“Lassie, you must be hurt, girl. Are you all right?”
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 011Rusty 1st Dale Ball hike 023WebStory6

 

 

 

 

Later, lassie catches a fish.
Lassie 'The Bear' episode shots 0123Rusty out door and fish 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Oh, yeah, Timmy eventually replaced Jeff on the show after three seasons, and there were a million Jeff-Timmy parents throughout the years. I, however, hope to remain Rusty’s obedient master forever.)

Doggie FIRST DAY PICTURES 018WebStory7

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why I’m Late, But It’s Not What You Think

sticky bun 2 002I admit it. Sometimes I’m late. I can be late for anything anywhere.

Oh, it’s not that I’m late late, just a few minutes usually. Some people have a hard time living with being late. But if I’m early, I will never be able to live with myself.

You see, to arrive early and have to sit and wait around is a crime. It all started long ago. In my family, wasting anything was a transgression like no other. Even Sunday morning pastries:

To Mom, squandering was a sin, and something God would know you did every time you did it. The minute she placed the bear claws, doughnuts, fruit rolls and sticky buns on the kitchen counter, I instinctively began working on saving the pastry bags.

Promptly folding the grease-stained paper sacks in nice, neat squares, I placed them in the “Used Bag” drawer. Perhaps one of the bags might be used to wrap frozen meat patties, carry my school lunch, or hold all the other saved bags in someday. I knew Mom would leave the pastries out until every leftover pecan bit and dried up doughnut fragment had been eaten (or saved in foil wrap). In the Andberg household, frittering away anything was a sin, anything – wax paper, paper clips, rubber bands, twist ties, nubby pencils, Saran Wrap. The guilt from throwing something out that could be reused – even tissue paper – should be a burden too great to bear.

So, as you and I plan to get together and you watch me arrive a minute or two late, please understand my plight. Thank you.

Of course, you might ask, “Why don’t you just show up on time and there’d be no wasted time?”

Yeah, but what if you’re late? Then I’m stuck here wasting time waiting for you.

My waste clock is always running.

 

The excerpt above is from Chapter Six, “Religion,” in my memoir Maybe Boomer.

 

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