Thursday, April 10, 2008

I Blame Charlton Heston

I'm in a wistful mood, so I might as well take it out on you.

It's probably Charlton Heston's fault. Here I was, just sitting around, mourning his passing a little - even though I never knew him personally - and that got me to thinking about how cool it was back in the day when local TV stations had "Apes Week," where they'd air all five PLANET OF THE APES movies right after school at 3:30 or so. I loved those movies. By extension, I loved Charlton Heston.

And that reminded me of how much I missed those days.

Now, I know the past is the past. I also know that the past was never really as cool as the nostalgia conjured since then. There was always some drama, whether it was girls, school, friends or all in my own head. But screw all that. "Wistful" doesn't mean "reality check." After all, I can be maudlin all I want.

So, forty some-odd years in, some of the long-ago things I miss.

My red, white and blue Jim Plunkett/Patriots-edition leather football. Don't even know where I got it; probably at Christmas or something. Odd that a young boy - a self-professed die-hard Cowboy fan, no less - in Tyler, Texas would even have one. But that sucker was pure awesomeness, and I had it for many, many years of neighborhood football games. Which brings me to ...

Neighborhood football games. Do kids even do this anymore? Oh sure, we never really had offensive lines or anything like that. Just a five-Mississippi count before the defense guy rushes the quarterback sort of thing going on. I can still remember some of the sweet spirals I threw for touchdowns. Of course, touchdowns were very rarely hash marks on a field; more often, they were a little yellow Vega parked on the side or the telephone pole down the street.

The bookmobile. Holy crap, you mean the library comes to me? Dang skippy, only about a hundred yards away from my front door. Conan the Barbarian, Starman Jones or Ball Four here I come.

Stretch Armstrong. Pull arms until inside stuff - read: goo - is revealed. Who said we didn't have entertainment in the seventies?

KISS. Unless you lived through their heyday in the mid- to late-seventies - roughly ROCK AND ROLL OVER through LOVE GUN, or DOUBLE PLATINUM if you can't be bothered to list the albums themselves - you really don't have a definitive clue how cool these guys really were. Now, of course, they're mere shadows of their former glory, but back then, they were a vital part of our lives, easily as unavoidable as junior high history in third period. What sticks in my mind: Bobby Lawson spitting up blood on the school playground. Jesse Fite doing a less-than-Simmons fire-breathing trick with a soda straw. I'm sure there were world-shattering events happening around this time, such as the Energy Crisis and Skylab falling to Earth, but these - THESE are the things I remember. I even dressed up as Peter Criss on Halloween. The Catman! And if you know someone who was a teenager around then, say twelve to fifteen years old, and you ask them if they saw the TV movie KISS MEETS THE PHANTOM OF THE PARK and they say no ... then I hate to break it to you, but they are lying. KISS did indeed rule the world, if only for a couple years. If you want to get a taste of what it was like, all you have to do is listen to KISS ALIVE II.

Steve Martin's stand-up act. I can't tell you how many kids back then would spontaneously break out in a crazy dance and yell out, "I'm getting happy feet!" Oh yeah. I had a t-shirt that had an iron-on of the phrase "Excuuuuuuuuuse Meeeeee!" that sprawled all the way across my chest. We all wanted to be a cat juggler and put our money in Fred's Bank. Everybody cracked up when you sang, "Grandpa bought a rubber." And we all - all of us, no exceptions - actually thought KING TUT was a great song. Why, do you ask? Why did we do and think all these things? Because we were wild and crazy guys, that's why.

Lynda Carter. You didn't have to be a thirteen-year-old boy going through some, uh, changes to appreciate Lynda Carter but ... wow, it was one hell of a perspective.

Baseball cards. Still got 'em all. '76 Big Red Machine? Yup. Oakland A's dynasty, including Reggie Jackson? Oh yeah. Mark "The Bird" Fidrych? Certainly. And you'll never pry the '75 Brooks Robinson from my hands, probably even after I'm dead.

There's tons more, but I'm losing the wistful. It was melancholy while it lasted.

I feel an "Apes Week" coming on.