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Wednesday, Sept. 23 | The Bleat.

ozNot saying this is iron-clad science or anything, but my child hurled four times in the night after getting the nasal flu spray. Make that flu vaccine spray. I hope. I don’t remember specifying. She missed the bus, of course, and I phoned in an absence. The recorded voice asked you to specify flu-like symptoms, and I felt like saying “are enlarged buboes flu-like?” but then they have to go through the whole plague-reporting protocols, and they’re nice people. Don’t want to complicate their day. Once upon a time people would have chalked this up to the stomach flu, but I think we all know there’s no such thing. There’s food poisoning, Cruise Ship Fungoo, wile e. coli, and the rest, but no “flu” for the stomach.

Which makes me wonder what it was I got when I had the lower-torso grippe as a kid. Those miserable days spent in bed in a room with newspapers on the floor, a bucket, the TV dinner tray with a glass of warm 7-up – ugh. You could look forward to being well enough to watch TV, if you had a small set that could be wheeled into the room. Then it was “Noonday” and ladies’ shows and crappy westerns or B-grade mysteries. I must have watched a hard-boiled movie at some point as a child, because when I was nine I called my mother a “broad,” which she found amusing for 1.6 seconds before admonitions took over.

Since I was home with her for the morn until she went to bed – wife was off at Bunco – it had the character of the Old Days. From AM toast to the goodnight kiss. I miss those days, but of course I’ll miss these days in a few years. We had a little time to kill before choir, so we went to the antique store. As usual, delights:

rocket

This is a sewing kit that ripped off, without shame or fear, the famous Rocket 88 car ad campaign.

Charlie McCarthy and Willie Talk and all the other dead-eyed dolls can just go straight back to hell THANK YOU VERY MUCH

williespace

In a corner, an old wig model and some ancient fabric.
bustspace
I love her. That’s very 40s, pal, unless of course it turns out to be very 50s, daddy-o. I posted that one at the posterous account, which I keep reminding myself to tell you to go to. I try to put a picture up once a day.

I could fill up my camera on every trip. I found, and bought, two old Minneapolis Tribune cardboard inserts for point-of-sale displays; they’ll go up at my new desk. One of them promises full photo coverage of the Shriner convention.

Wednesday night somewhere in town they’re playing a “high-def” version of “The Wizard of Oz” on a movie screen. I won’t be going, but I’d like to. It’s a beautiful film, and it occupied a large portion of my imagination as a small child, simply because there wasn’t anything else like it. We had cartoons, of course, but they weren’t real in the way “Wizard” was real.

The movie came along once a year, and even if you’d only seen it a few times you knew it by heart, because you’d stored it away. A perfect example: years ago I heard a comedian do the Wizard in three minutes or some such compacted amount of time, and after he’d described the meeting with the Great and Powerful Oz he mimed the Cowardly Lion throwing himself through the window in the hallway, and said “COMMERCIAL.” The audience paused, stunned, then roared, the sound of a million synaptic vaults thrown open.

When you watch it again as an adult you pick up on the things noticed by the adults of the day; you slip into their cultural language. When you’re a kid the first appearance of the Cowardly Lion is delightful, because he’s the lovable Cowardly Lion. (My father would imitate him now and then: I’ll fight you with one hand behind my back. I’ll fight you with both hands behind my back.) At the time the shot meant something else: it’s Bert Lahr. There’s no way you know that as a kid in the sixties. If someone pointed it out you wouldn’t quite understand. It was a movie that took place in an entirely self-contained world with no external references. As the years pass and I learn more about the 30s, the styles and sounds, you reassemble the thing in your mind to make it more of a product of its era, but it resists. Either it’s utterly unique or there’s a little kid in your head who just doesn’t care and doesn’t want to know.

To this day I remember seeing the Emerald City in color on Grandpa’s TV. That glorious translucent green! Those futuristic towers! Things to come, surely, things to come – perhaps. Unless. 1939 must have felt like a damned odd and nervous time. I’ve been scrolling through the late ‘39 Tribune microfiche for a few weeks, watching the war news dominate the pages, and of course they’re side by side with cheery adverts for the latest in American conveniences. Like beer. Budweiser ran a series of ads about enjoying life drop by golden drop, and it hardly sounds like Depression talk. We’re free! We have appliances! We have natural resources and food and the most bounteous nation on the planet! Have a beer! People weren’t “Depression weary,” in the sense that they walked around with chins on sternums, exhausted by a decade of craptacular economic stagnation. The songs were cheerful – gay, if you wish – and the colors bright. The movies were a pleasure. So many new ideas. So many new arguments. Better days ahead. Perhaps. Unless.

In ’42 you wonder if they looked back at “The Wizard of Oz” and it seemed like it came from a place a million years away. Probably not; it was probably re-released to great success. But for every kid who sat wide-eyed in the theater there were probably a few adults who remembered ’39, and felt a pang for the last summer before the world went mad.

I don’t know; guessing. It’s the hazard of find easy symbols in things and dates. It’s always 1939 somewhere.

Later today: Out of Context Ad Contest! Stay tuned.

 

54 Responses to Wednesday, Sept. 23

  1. Greg VA says:

    Take a look at this matchbook , a short one, but the “Rocket Action” 65 Olds looks good…even on a matchbook.
    http://videomartyr.blogspot.com/

    My 6 year old just went through a bout with a brief head cold. I went 9 rounds with the school’s nurse and her verrry inaccurate aural Thermometer! Now that they have lowered the “kick your kid out of school” temp to 100.00 even a laughing fit will show a temp. Curse you unfounded swine flu fears!!!

    The bleat in neat!

  2. Greg VA says:

    That’s “The Bleat is neat!”

  3. Andre says:

    Don’t feel bad if you haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz on the big screen. I went to a screening several years ago. The opening scenes in Kansas were stunning. Then Dorothy gets to Oz. What looks so wonderful on the small screen looks really, really cheap on the big screen.

    Although even on television, the painted sound stage wall in front of Dorothy as she leaves Munchkinland was obvious. My brother and I always laughed, hoping that she’d skip right into it.

    Personally, I think The Wizard of Oz is the greatest American film ever made.

  4. Barry says:

    But for every kid who sat wide-eyed in the theater there were probably a few adults who remembered ’39, and felt a pang for the last summer before the world went mad.

    I could say the same thing about kids enjoying the heck out of Playhouse Disney and Nick Jr these days – even Hannah Montana and Cars and WallE – there are parents feeling a pang for the summer of 2001, before the world went mad.

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