So this dude got pissed off about my last blog about The Price Is Right and tweeted the following:
I guess he thought I was talking crap about Bob Barker and the early-70s version of the show. I guess he thought I was some kind of youngster who couldn’t appreciate the “progressive” nature of the program. I guess he made quite a few assumptions about me, so I had to set him straight.
I messaged him and said that I both personally experienced the 1970s and wore my hair big (and my clothes tight) as was the custom at the time.
Let it be known that he did not respond to my retort.
This talking about the 70s has got me reminiscing. Those were the days of disco, and like many red-blooded American males of that era, I enjoyed blow-drying my hair, getting tipsy (on beer before leaving home), hauling ass to the nearest bar—one with strobe lights and a dancefloor—ordering rum and Cokes (upon arrival at said joint), and finally, after drinking away any and all inhibitions I might ever have had, getting down in the manner of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.
All this recollecting got me so fired up that I went online and prowled around until I found this video from 1976. It shows a live performance of Dazz, by Brick, one of the all-time best boogie songs and dance bands from an era when folks really knew how to shake their groove thangs.
That performance inspired me to dig a whole lot more. I ended up unearthing I’m Your Boogie Man (that’s what I am!) by none other than KC and the Sunshine Band.
If these don’t make you want to shake your booty, I’m pretty sure you’re either dead or ain’t got no booty to shake. Either way, you’re screwed.
Woe is me! It’s Monday, but not just any Monday. It’s the first one after the end of last week’s Spring Break.
Now that I’m a middle-aged fart, I’m no longer disentangled enough to have the sort of foot-loose-and-fancy-free spring holidays I once had. Way back, when I had real freedom, I would (with a long-haired friend or two) load up into some fast car, ice down a case or two of adult beverages, drive to the beach, pitch a tent, and then go walleyed nuts.
Now that I’m a home owner and such, I spent a lot of last week mowing the grass and using one of those buzzy Weed Eater thingies. I did manage, two mornings in a row (Tuesday and Wednesday, I believe), to watch The Price Is Right on CBS. Here in Texas, they put the long-running game show on at 10 a.m. sharp. Right after that, on the very same station, there’s a soap opera that goes by the title The Boastful and the Bashful (or something like that).
Drew Carey is the emcee now. Pardon me while I write that he’s a poor substitute for Bob Barker, Mr. Have Your Pets Spayed and Neutered. (Of all the great needs in this world, I always wondered why he’d chosen to focus on the fairly minor problem of what comes from animal fornication, but that’s beside the point.)
It was my first time to have seen The Price Is Right in like forever.
Watching it again got me curious so I went online and Googled “The Price Is Right 1972” and found the following video. It happens to show the very first episode of what they were calling The New Price Is Right.
Here are some of my thoughts after watching the vid:
The 70s seem nearly like ancient history (even though I remember them quite clearly).
That was some truly trippy background music (especially the xylophone stuff).
The show certainly looked amateurish (to say the least) and I’m surprised the TV powers that be didn’t discontinue it after such a start.
Boo-Boo (the first contestant) perhaps wasn’t a ditsy blond in real life, but she certainly played one on TV.
I’m amazed that a person could buy a real live automobile for such a price.
By the way, those who didn’t finish reading this blog all the way to its conclusion will receive a lovely parting gift, courtesy of American Tourister.
I just now looked out my window at work and saw him walking on the sidewalk. The timing was perfect. As luck would have it, I began writing something about him—he was front and center in my mind—and then, while I was trying figure out what I wanted to say, here he came, walking on the sidewalk right on the other side of this pane of glass.
I’ll have to keep using male pronouns when I refer to him because I don’t know his name. I do know a few things about him, though. I’ve bulleted these factoids:
He’s in in 60s
He wears a necktie and sweater vest every single day even when it’s very hot
He is retired and now does part-time work in one of these offices around here in one of these buildings
He drives a 2006 Subaru Forester station wagon
On point number four, I’d like to mention that I also drive an older model Subaru station wagon. Mine is a 2002 Legacy. That’s the difference. Here’s the similarity: Both are silver in color.
I got to know him because we work together at Palo Alto College, a little school that does yeoman’s work in an economically depressed area of south San Antonio. We also arrive at work a little earlier than is required on most mornings. (I’ll leave it to you to determine what this says about us.) Anyway, because we are such eager beavers, our cars are often the first two to arrive and are thus the only ones around. Despite having a million choices about where we might situate our rides, we both enjoy parking right next to one another. (I’m beginning to wonder if this practice isn’t turning out to be something akin an almighty Subaru show of force.)
He arrives slightly earlier than I do on some mornings. When this happens, I find him sitting behind the wheel—perhaps he is waiting for me to arrive?—and smoking. I don’t know what brand he prefers. (He’s probably a Marlboro man if I had to hazard a guess. He doesn’t wear a ten-gallon hat or chaps or anything like that, nor does he generally go unshaven for a day or so or have that rugged sunburned look, but I’m pretty sure he’s a Marlboro man nonetheless.) I pull up next to him and look across the little space that separates us and wave. He fills his lungs with smoke and nicotine and other chemically things and waves back. This is how we greet each other almost every morning.
Once parked, I’ll gather my things together and open the door to get out. Often—maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe it isn’t?—we’ll lock up at just about the same time. This synchronized exiting of vehicles gives us the opportunity to actually exchange a few words. Because we have old Subaru station wagons in common, we mostly talk about our cars. “How’s the Subaru running?” he’ll ask.
“Pretty good. About a month ago, the ‘check engine’ light came on. Other than that, pretty good. How about yours?”
“I’ve got a little engine clatter, I’m afraid,” he said earlier this week.
His mentioning of the engine gave us a chance to stand in the parking lot for five minutes and discuss the famed “boxer” motor that older Subarus are so well known for.
As soon as the engine talk was done, we walked silently, side by side, until he veered off to the left and I veered off to the right to enter Nueces Hall.
I still don’t know what his name is or where he works. Note to self: Find this out next week.
My wife and I just got back from Georgetown, Texas, the town I grew up in and the place my father and stepmother still call home. And now, this Sunday morning, I’m looking inward, to see what sort of thoughts bubble up about this recent visit with two people I’m very close to.
I feel that there’s a story I want to tell this morning about the visit. There are thoughts, some tinged with a sense of melancholy, that need getting down and organizing.
Earlier this week, days before we took off to Georgetown, my father was much in my thoughts. This preoccupation was triggered when I got into a box of old photos and found two of him that were taken when he was just a boy. I spent a long time holding those pictures in my hands and looking at them. They were likely taken in the early to mid-1940s, at a time when a great war raged and the world was a much different sort of place. Today, in 2018, my father is an octogenarian, but I can still see signs of that boy when I look at those images.
Last night, I sat across the dining room table from my father after dinner and while the dishes were being cleared. As often happens on such visits, I prompted him with questions about what his life had been like decades ago. He often complains about how bad his memory has gotten, but he somehow always manages to recollect past events, in minute detail, and then share them.
“Did I ever tell you about Billy Dowdy?” my dad asked as he removed his glasses, an act which allowed him, I suppose, to see way back.
“I don’t think so,” I answered.
“So you didn’t know Billy Dowdy?”
Janie, my stepmother, said, “Roy, he couldn’t have known him.”
As it turns out, Billy Dowdy was a man several years younger than my father. He’d grown up in a little shack of a place that was located in a field behind my father’s boyhood home and not far from the San Gabriel River, a vein of blue-green water that the two youngsters knew well and swam in together.
In 1953, after finishing high school, my father joined the US Air Force and was sent overseas, for four years, to places like Guam and Japan, to learn and send messages in Morse code. Before being shipped off to those faraway places, he recalls saying goodbyes to everyone he’d ever been close to. Of course, Billy Dowdy was one of those who’d received such a farewell.
In 1957, when dad had completed his military service, he returned to Georgetown and went to see Billy, to let him know that he was back in town. Much to my dad’s amazement, Billy, the boy, was now Billy, the alcoholic man. He’d aged more than four years could account for. Dad recalls that his boyhood buddy now carried a bottle with him wherever he went and that he would take his first swig immediately upon waking up and wouldn’t take his last until the booze ran dry or he’d pass out. Where had Billy, the lad full of life and possibility, gone off to?
My father liked to party too, and sometimes he’d pick Billy up in his old roadster and the two would go honky-tonking together. Dad remembers how his boyhood companion could sing exactly like Hank Williams. He had a beautiful voice, and my father would drive and listen to Billy sing those sad cowboy songs as the two moved through the dark night with the windows rolled down and the breeze ruffling their combed and oiled hair.
Billy got arrested a lot and died in the Georgetown jail. That was how Billy’s story ended. It was also the point my father stopped telling it. He put his glasses back on and looked down at the table.
When he looked back up again, he asked, “How had Billy gone from what he’d been to what he’d become in four short years?” Such a transformation was beyond my father’s understanding.
I’m sitting here thinking about the question my father asked and how universal it is. How have any of us become the people we are now? How much of all that was by choice and how much was outside our human control?
I opened the front door and the cold hit me. I stepped out into it. The sun was just coming up in San Antonio, and the outside colors were muted and tending toward the grayscale. We live a short distance away from Loop 410, the Alamo City’s inner ring road, and I could hear, even as I walked down the sidewalk toward the truck, a roar—the collective voice of a million cars being pushed along by human beings.
It was cold as I slid into the seat, closed the door, inserted the key, and fired up. I shivered, blew steam from my mouth. I punched a button that would, in a few minutes, get heat going into the cab. The truck was ready now, so I released the handbrake, put it in reverse and left.
I know a way to avoid the nearby school zone. San Antonio is a big city that is filled with people, many of whom have children. For the commuter, school zones mean slowing down and pausing for buses and children crossing streets. For the commuter, these delays are maddening. What we commuters turn into, at 7 a.m., is something single-minded and harried. We curse those things we would normally tolerate. We become something other than what we naturally are.
There is a moment, shortly after I turn off Marbach Road, when I can see the on-ramp to Loop 410. I punch it then and my machine, made by the Nissan Corporation, makes a guttural sound. I feel like an astronaut in the early moments of liftoff. The force of acceleration pushes my head back as I rocket toward the great flow of vehicles.
I know this route and routine well. I am one of a million now, jockeying for position, weaving in and out, and watching for signs of danger. We are heading south. Soon, I will make the big eastward turn and the sun, just peeking above the horizon, will cause me to squint. The sky is becoming more interesting, moment by moment. I would love to spend more time studying its shapeshifting clouds and nuanced colorations, but I have to remain wary. Surrounded by these machines, madness, and speed, anything, at any time, could happen.
We pass by all sorts of landmarks, including the factory that puts out plumes of steam or something else. The place produces God knows what. It marks the moment we turn toward the east, and I adjust the visor to keep my eyes shaded. What I am witnessing now, all around me, in this great flow of machines, is the human condition writ large.
I eventually take the Palo Alto College exit and the frenzy dies down. I have a left turn to make and then two right ones. A sign tells us we may drive our machines at forty miles per hour but no faster than that. I make those turns and then pull into a lot where I turn the key in the ignition, putting my machine to rest. Its engine pings and pops as it begins to cool down. It will spend the next few hours resting up and preparing to carry me home as the day moves from light to dark.
I envy my machine as I step away from it. It’s now my time to roar.