Tag Archives: nostalgia

Remember This? February 9?

Last year, this date kept popping into my head and I didn’t know why. Why was February 9 such a big deal to me? It’s a day in the middle of cold, boring, depressing February, so what’s so special about February 9?

Ah-ha. Last year, February 9 marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first Ed Sullivan performance.

That live telecast was a benchmark event in my childhood. I’ve often wondered what the event meant to others. Did girls everywhere really scream when they saw the Beatles sing? Did adults hate them? What did boys think of the group?What do children of those who saw it that night think of the Beatles now?

Remember that night?

With just one enthusiastic yell and sweep of his arms, Ed Sullivan proclaimed, “The Beatles!”

girls scream Beatles 002A roll of screams overtook Ed’s voice, a cavalcade of shrieks that nearly obliterated Paul McCartney’s opening lines, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you ….”

As the four Liverpool lads sang  “All My Loving,” a camera cut to the audience: girls jumping, some pulling their hair, one crying in abject misery.

Cutting quickly back to the stage, the world got an up close and personal view of all four Beatles, each with their first name superimposed on the TV screen. The lads wore matching dark suits, white shirts, black ties, and tight pants. Their hair, completely straight and dry – nothing like Elvis Presley’s – was combed down to their eyes and over their ears, but their handsome faces bore striking differences – John’s long nose, Paul’s pouty lips, George’s angular jaw, and Ringo’s hawkish eyes.

A few minutes later, a close-up zoomed in on Paul as he crooned, “Till There Was You.” How could one guy sing so beautifully and have such great hair? It seemed unfair. Just as any girl wanted to be alone with the Beatles in any way possible someday, this boy – sitting around the old Silvertone TV set inside the basement of his unimportant little Silver Spring, Maryland house – wanted to be them. I, too, wanted to pull my hair out, but couldn’t. Not in front of my family.

I looked behind me at Cathy, my thirteen-year-old sister, sitting on the ottoman, keeping appropriate control of her emotions while watching the cuddly mop tops perform (or was she really leaning in closer and closer with each second, about to slip off the ottoman and crash on our hard, carpet-less floor).

Next to her sat Don and Doug, my seventeen-year-old twin brothers, flopped all over the couch, as if bored by the Beatles. But deep down, what were they really feeling?

And Mom rested in her chair, completely unmoved, except for a quivering upper lip, no doubt brought on by a view of John’s tight pants and crotch area as he led the way on the next song, a rollicking “And I Saw Her Standing There.”

Then I saw Dad standing there, just behind Mom, his arms folded, flattop haircut flat as ever, with not so much as one hair rising over the Beatles’ electrifying act.

What was wrong with my family?  I wanted to jump, kick, twist, shout – anything – but wound up having to wait an hour after the show to even tap my fingers. Finally, in private, while lying in bed, I patted the pillow, but that was all. How pathetic I’d look doing something outrageous like twisting my hips or dancing on the bed.

From that night on, I knew I wanted longer hair. Until I got it, I was a nobody to girls at school. Convinced I’d have hair like Paul McCartney one day, I rocked myself to sleep, savoring images of walking to school with my long hair flying about while I sang, “Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you ….”

That was my take on the Beatles performance from the Ed Sullivan Show February 9 so many years ago. What was yours?

 

 

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Friskies, Peas and Bacon Bits – Pets Surviving Human Responsibility

Dexter 48bit 800 dpi 167Pet Dental Health Month is coming in February.

I know. You didn’t know there was one.

I certainly didn’t know when I was a kid. There again, there were a lot of things I didn’t know about pet responsibility then. Because I had two very courageous cats – beloved Dexter and Spanky – I learned on the fly how to take care of my prized kitties. They survived in spite of me.

     Sure enough, Mom brought home a beautiful, sleek, royal-looking, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I immediately named Dexter. She told me my role was to feed and take care of Dexter. So, Number One for me was eliminating foul cat box odors. Not only would Dexter be annoyed by them, but horrific cat stench could wake Dad up to the fact we had a cat, potentially sending Dexter back to the shelter. In time, however, it was Mom who noticed the cat box, always fresh and feces-free.
     “Michael, I’m worried Dexter has a constipation problem. He may need more roughage than we’re giving him.”    
     The following day, Mom mixed a large spoonful of fiber-filled peas into the bowl of Friskies I gave him. These canned peas were the same ones reserved for our Sunday dinners.    
     Sensing a spoonful wasn’t enough, she took charge and switched him over to peas exclusively, justifying the move as a cost savings since our tins of peas were cheaper than pet food (making me wonder what our dinners were worth). Wasn’t Mom being cavalier about our needs? What kind of responsibility was she showing?
     With such high levels of fiber in his system, I had to scoop Dexter’s litter box three times a day. Re-establishing control of the situation, I switched him over to smaller food – Bacon Bits (a risky thing to do since Bacon Bits were the most expensive thing served in our house when weighed by the pound).
     Mom noticed and, without consulting me, overcompensated by feeding Dexter far too rich a combination of peas, Friskies, and Bacon Bits sprinkled on top. As a result, he shat everywhere. Then Dad discovered long, blue, curly strands of wool in Dexter’s droppings on the living room floor and had a conniption fit. How was I to know Dexter would resort to eating Dad’s favorite blue socks, let alone be such a special needs cat? 

Eventually Dexter died (from too much sand grit in Friskies that clogged his urinary tract!). I cried. And cried. Mom took care of the situation from there.

     And so, a few days later, Mom brought home another beautiful, sleek, royal-looking, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I promptly named Spanky.
     I frolicked with my new friend everywhere. Our play included quiet, simple activities like hiding under the dining room table and batting a ball of yarn until it was no more.
     But the third evening of our silent undercover gathering was interrupted when I heard loud words batted back and forth between Mom and Dad from adjoining rooms down the hall.
     “What? It died? When? That’s impossible. I just heard it last night …”
     “Eric …”
     “Seventy-nine dollars?!”
     “Eric, calm down. It’s Dexter’s vet bill.”
     “What? You mean the one that’s out there now isn’t him?”
     “No. That’s Spanky.”
     “Who?”
     “Spanky. The one that died is Dexter.”
     “Who?”
     I couldn’t blame Dad completely. Spanky was all of Dexter’s Siamese twin in appearance. But what made Spanky different was his aloofness.
     Later that night, still steamed, Dad retreated to the living room. To block out the world, just as he did every evening, he embedded himself in his easy chair, then disappeared behind a propped newspaper.
     Hiding in the adjoining dining room, I watched Spanky smell out the detachment in Dad.
     Lining Dad up as an easy mark, Spanky jumped onto his lap. Dad, not one for cats, swiped Spanky away. Spanky, not one for being swiped, jumped back. Go, Spanky, go!
     Dad’s next swipe had more oomph to it, punctuated by “Goddam cat.”
     After the third round of cat and mouse ballet, Dad’s swift arm sweep was so smooth the newspaper didn’t move an inch. Not an inch. What control Dad had! Since he didn’t want to be seen as aligned with a cat in any way, I sensed Dad placed great pressure on himself to act out in this manner. But no way he was going to miss out on his daily allotment of aloof time. After all, that period of detachment was the fix he needed to survive in a world so chockfull of unpredictable animals and kids running around all over the place. (Perhaps it was from Dad I saw the world as unpredictable adults and events spinning about in chaotic, threatening space, ones I feared I’d never be able to handle.)

This is an excerpt in Chapter Six, “Responsibility,” from my memoir Maybe Boomer.

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The Silent Fire of Simon and Garfunkel

Simon and GarfunkelI have no idea what I did to celebrate my birthday as a young teen in 1967. It doesn’t matter. I’m celebrating now. Or will this Thursday. It marks not only my birthday but a special anniversary date.

On the evening of January 22, 1967, Simon and Garfunkel played in Philharmonic Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City. Growing up in the DC area, I was unaware the concert was happening.

However, by that year of my life, I’d already learned to play the guitar, mostly from figuring out – all by ear – the chords and finger pickings of most Simon and Garfunkel songs. Their compositions inspired me to caress music, to play it with my own two hands, even harmonize vocals with other musicians. By the time I turned twenty-one, I not only knew all the songs from their five studio albums, but recognized myself as a committed musician.

How great it must have been to see and hear Simon and Garfunkel perform live, especially that night. They’d just completed their third album and were honing their folk/rock oeuvre at a time when performers, audience and excitement truly harmonized.

As I listen to the CD of that concert now (released in 2002), the banter between Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel was sparse but sincere, often humorous.  During songs, the audience remained deadly silent, that is, until culminating every song with lively applause. The stage was lined with seats in front and behind the singers (I learned later), creating a sort of intimate theater in the round effect. So many people, such close proximity, yet still so silent: one could hear the slightest off note from Art Garfunkel, or drop of a guitar pick by Simon at any moment, neither of which occurred during a full two hour performance. From this concert and hundreds like it to follow, along with two more extremely successful albums, Simon and Garfunkel were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Not too long ago, just before they received their 2012 Grammy award, I attended an Arcade Fire concert. Like the Simon and Garfunkel event, their music performance had roughly the same size audience. And, as Simon and Garfunkel have been known for, Arcade Fire relies on ensemble singing and harmony. But times have-a-changed.

The audience I was with stood the entire night. They looked up at a six-foot high stage for hours. The speaker towers blew away any semblance of nuance. To me, the concert was one long loud note with interchangeable beats in the background as the only element to provide variety.

One raving Arcade Fire fan introduced himself to me not face to face, but butt to face, from behind, that is, from overhead, as he was passed to the front row by scores of outstretched arms of frenzied fans. Suddenly finding myself in the center of a mosh pit, it was a concert I’ll never forget! But, as a musical event, it’s one I’d like to mostly leave behind from memory.

Simon and Garfunkel vs. Arcade Fire – an unfair comparison of concerts for sure. All I can say is one blew me away; the other seduced me in.

On June 1, 1967, The Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released. Later that month, the Monterey Pop Festival occurred. In December, The Graduate was released, complete with Simon and Garfunkel’s signature song and smash hit, “Mrs. Robinson.” And with Woodstock two years later, pop music was evolving very quickly, and the Folk Revival of the Sixties was pretty much dead. Perhaps with it, innocence.

Even Paul Simon knew it was inevitable. In many ways, he speaks for me, too, in his words from “Leaves That Are Green:”

I was twenty-one years when I wrote this song.
I’m twenty-three now but I won’t be for long.
Time hurries on.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown,
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Once my heart was filled with the love of a girl.
I held her close, but she faded in the night,
Like a poem I meant to write.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

I threw a pebble in a brook
And watched the ripples run away.
And they never made a sound.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.
And they wither with the wind,
And they crumble in your hand.

Hello, Hello, Hello, Hello.
Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye, Good-bye.
That’s all there is.
And the leaves that are green turn to brown.

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Remember This? Geritol TV Ads (and a very special “mystery person” – or two)

Hey, wait a minute.

Although the old black and white Geritol ads have long since left the airwaves (an ad highlighted below), this month’s “mystery person” is still very much around television. From the clues below, try to name this iconic television performer who:

*  became the oldest person to guest-host Saturday Night Live, a performance which was critically acclaimed and a major ratings success
*  has hosted an NBC practical-joke show that resulted in three consecutive Emmy nominations
*  has received three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Golden Globes nominations, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and 23 Emmy nominations with six wins
* has a Guinness World Record for the longest television career for a female entertainer
*  is regarded as a pioneer of American television for being one of the first women to have creative control in front of and behind the camera
* holds the record for longest span between Emmy nominations for performances—her first was in 1951 and her most recent was in 2011, a span of 60 years—and has become the oldest nominee overall as of 2014
* is the oldest winner of a competitive Grammy Award, which she won at age 90 for her seventh book If You ASK Me (And of Course You Won’t)
* has been awarded American Comedy Awards, the Screen Actors Guild, the Television Critics Association and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts for her lifetime achievement awards, recognizing her contribution to television

By now you know who it is – Betty White, perhaps best known for her role as Rose on The Golden Girls sitcom. At 92 years young, she’s one of the world’s most amazing and vibrant entertainers, and is still active today.

So, what’s been Betty’s secret to success and longevity all these years?

 

 

That was Betty White in 1954. Somehow I doubt Betty White ever had iron poor blood.

But wait. “Feeling tired, run down…” “Just a tablespoon…” “And it’s good tasting…” Hm-m-m.

Is it possible Betty inspired another female performer to create this timeless skit?

 

 

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So Bright as to be Blinding, Part II

MeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPMeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UPTen fifteen, Christmas morning, and poof, Christmas was cooked.

Once the last gift had been unwrapped, the entire holiday season was a memory. No more anticipation, no more unbridled glee. With all the weeks of preparation and festivities concluded, Mom wouldn’t make me take down the tree I’d lovingly decorated now, would she? Would she?

She did.

I took a stand and left my masterwork up until April.

Sure, the tree was a little brittle-looking, but I was still in the holiday spirit. However, even I had to admit watching the Masters Golf Tournament on TV next to a still-lit Christmas tree didn’t look right. When was Mom going to explode about the matter, outraged how the pathetic three inches of tinder dry needles below the parched tree were going to make the perfect nest for this year’s Easter egg hunt? Or what if she blew up and asked Dad to remove it, getting him riled at me in the process?

Fearing that scenario, sometime between the golfers turning Amen Corner and the final putt, I began the process of stripping the tree of all its sparkling adornment. In doing so, I made three mental notes about my tree responsibilities for next year. #1. Taking thousands of icicle strands off the tree was a lot less fun than putting them on (Mom insisted we save them all). #2. Trying to recall which boxes the 179 ornaments went back into was torture. #3. Not watering the tree was just an overall bad idea.

As I pulled the dry, browning evergreen out from the corner, a showy display of brittle needles rained to the floor. Just a few feet behind them was a frazzled electric cord plugged into a sparking wall outlet. Imagining the scene of our house going up in flames and Dad yelling, “How could you be so irresponsible!?” I dragged the crackling pine outside as quickly as I could. Then Mom proceeded to complain about the Appalachian Trail of needles that wound through the house all the way to the stack of trees piled in the backyard from previous Christmases. I couldn’t win. As I stared down at what was left of the tree, all I could think was Christmas was over, really over now, and that Mom and Dad were disappointed in my tree removal ability.

Regardless, I reminded Mom about wanting a pet for my next responsibility, suggesting a bear cub, maybe a St. Bernard. She said no. A week later, however, she said yes to a Venus flytrap. What? A plant?

My Venus flytrap lived inside a shiny, clear plastic box of dirt. It looked odd, but fashioned long, pretty lashes, inspiring me to name her Maybelline. I loved to watch her sit perfectly still one second, then snatch a fly inside her lightning-quick jaws the next. Assuming care of a Venus flytrap was Mom’s test to determine whether I could handle responsibility with a living organism (our Christmas tree didn’t count – fortunately), I didn’t want to blow it, and made sure Maybelline stayed on a regular eating schedule.

Soon, however, Maybelline stopped eating. Dead flies I dropped in her mouth sat there. Even bits of protein-fortified hamburger fell in with no change. Not until she turned yellow and her overflowing mouth looked like a dried-up, all-beef taco did I conclude she was actually dead.

“I don’t know what happened. She just died,” I cried to Mom.

“May this be a lesson to you to eat nutritious meals or you might shrivel and die, too.”

An image of Mom’s scary goulash came to mind, but I mustered enough strength to answer with words I absolutely had to deliver if I ever wanted another pet.

“Yes, Mom, I do know. I do. Nutritious meals are important. And the ones you serve are really really good.”

Sure enough, a few weeks later, she brought home a beautiful, royal-looking, sleek, gray-colored seal point Siamese cat I immediately named Dexter.

This is an excerpt from my memoir, Maybe Boomer, and the chapter titled, “Responsibility.” You can read more from that chapter and others in the Excerpts section from this website.

 

 

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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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So Bright as to be Blinding (was my tree decorating delight)

MeXmsTree 48bit 800 color  dust111JUST ICICLES CLOSE-UP“Being a man is about taking on responsibility,” Dad said to me one day in a  low and throaty delivery. “Some day your time will come to prove yourself.”
Thank goodness I was only nine and had a long time to go before proving myself, whatever that meant.

“Michael, I want you to put up the family Christmas tree and decorate it, then take it down at the end of the season,” Mom said to me one day. What? The moment’s here already? And I’m still only nine? And who, me? Given responsibility with tree icicles? Candy canes? AC powered bubble lights? Electricity? I’ll blow up the tree.

After Dad fulfilled his meek part of this year’s tree task – dumping a freshly cut Scotch pine on the basement floor and getting it to stand inside its cheap aluminum base – I initiated my big task.

I smothered the tree in a blinding sheen of bright silver icicles. Then, I covered the pine’s branches with twice their weight in bright ornaments and lights. To top everything off, I placed the heavy star contraption on the uppermost branch, bending it over like a week-old carrot. But it was fun standing on a tall ladder trying to get the wimpy limb to stand straight. When else had I been allowed to use a tall ladder?

I stood back, assessed my completed tree design, slapped my hands together and smirked. Responsibility wasn’t so bad after all – more like pure merriment! Decorating was art, and I loved it. Perhaps the best part was being allowed to create my tree masterpiece without being overseen, especially by Dad. It was all endless joy.

 

Ten fifteen, Christmas morning and poof, Christmas was cooked.

Once the last gift had been unwrapped, the entire holiday season was a memory. No more anticipation, no more unbridled glee. With all the weeks of preparation and festivities concluded, surely Mom wouldn’t make me take the tree down now, would she? Would she?

To be continued December 28th with my next installment of “Stories From Maybe Boomer.”

 

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