Monday, June 21, 2021

From Charles Atlas to Frank Columbo

 Waxing Gibbous Moon

Way back in the late 1950's I lived with my family in the modest little suburb of Chicago, Illinois called Villa Park. We were there from the summer of 1956 to the summer of 1960 while my Dad was earning his wings as a sales manager for a major food distribution company out of Fullerton. 

Our rental house was on a corner across the street from a mortuary/funeral home, which at the time did not mean much to me. It was just a building with a sign on it and occasionally a bunch of people came all dressed up nice. It had a huge parking lot, though, and when the snow came, they bulldozed it all into one big pile in the corner to make room for the cars. So naturally, on Saturday mornings, all the kids in the neighborhood bundled up in snow suits and raced over to the snow pile to play King of the Hill

I was pretty little so mostly what I remember was fighting my way to the top where some big kid would send me sliding back down to the bottom - over and over and over. I was delighted because swooshing down head first, feet first, sideways, on my stomach, or on my backside was more fun than I had ever experienced to that point. I didn't even know why they called it King of the Hill. I was too busy laughing and enjoying myself. 

When the snow went away, my friend Ricky and I would ride our giant 20-inch-wheel tricycles around and around the block like maniacs. The corner that was opposite from our house, way around the block and up a little incline, had a pretty tight turn which led into a fun little downhill. At least once a day, either Ricky or I or both of us would crash, racing each other to that turn to be first to haul ass down the hill. We had scabs on both knees every summer from crashing at that corner. Nobody cared too much. Mom would put merthiolate on the scrapes, then she would blow on them to make it stop stinging. 

So that was fun, too. But the most fun was playing basketball with my brother in the driveway. Our one-car garage was separate from the house, way back at the back of the great big unfenced backyard. The driveway was two strips of concrete that were about twice as wide as a car tire, split by a long strip of grass and dirt. Dad had nailed the hoop and the backboard up on the front of the garage. I'm not sure if the hoop was exactly ten feet off the ground or if it was ten feet off the concrete strips or if it was ten feet over my head, but it was WAY up there. When I was five and six I could barely heave the ball and hit the rim, so I became extremely useful and even pretty skilled at rebounding the ball, dribbling it mostly on the two concrete strips without losing it, and passing it to my big brother. My big brother in turn became impressively skilled at shooting. There was constant play-by-play chatter, with each of us taking turns pretending to be NBA stars of the day. We knew about them by reading the sports page of the newspaper every day.

Meanwhile, we both started to grow. He became tall and skinny and an even better shooter and played for his school teams. I could actually put the ball in the basket after a couple of years of practice so I could learn to do the fun stuff - give and go, pick and roll, right hand hooks, left hand hooks, bank shots - I learned a lot from my brother before I ever played with or against anybody my own age. And I acquired a love for the game that has lasted my whole life. 

When I was 7 or 8 and my brother was 15 or 16, he decided he was tired of being skinny. He wanted to get stronger because he wanted to make the high school varsity. So one day when I was reading a comic book, he looked over my shoulder and asked to see it. Inside the back cover of the comic book was an advertisement for a Charles Atlas bodybuilding program. You could send a small amount of money to the address on the ad and in exchange, Charles Atlas, a famous 1950's bodybuilder/hustler of young kids' allowances, would send you a program to follow to get big muscles like him!

Heck yeah we mailed him our accumulated allowances (10 cents per week if I remember correctly)! I failed to read the fine print of course so for about two weeks I was thinking Charles Atlas was going to send us a set of weights we could lift down in the corner of the spooky, dark basement of our rental house where we played catch and stuff whenever it rained. 

When I finally mentioned to my brother that I could hardly wait to start lifting weights and building big muscles, first he stared at me, then he laughed so hard there were tears in his eyes. We weren't going to get any weights for crying out loud, we were just going to get a brochure with exercises to do that would make us stronger (and dead broke) kids. That's when I discovered that eight year olds weren't supposed to lift weights. HA!

That is also when I discovered that there were people in the world who did things that were slightly questionable or underhanded, which led to my discovery of actual real life bad guys and scary tv/movie characters that inspired cop shows and murder mysteries and things. Somewhere in this time period I watched The Twilight Zone for the first time. And The House on Haunted Hill. And holy moley, I found out about The Alfred Hitchcock Show.

Thank goodness for basketball and little growth spurts here and there. That (and my parents, of course) kept me on the straight and narrow for a long, long time. The scary movie/murder mystery thing stayed on the back burner for the most part, but I have always had a little thing for spooky, interesting plots. When the tv show Columbo came out in 1971, I was hooked. This show combined mystery and puzzling human nature with humor and a sense of fair play/justice. Frank Columbo was half clown, half genius with a nose for sniffing out criminals and connecting strings of clues for solving their crimes. 

One thing he was especially good at was figuring out the murder weapon that was involved in a caper. There were some really weird ones in some of the episodes. To me, it was riveting to watch and to try to decipher the crime along with Columbo. Despite his clumsy, fake ineptitude and slovenly appearance, he was a smart, great detective. If you never had the opportunity to watch that show, I think you can find parts of some seasons (it lasted from 1971 to 2003) on YouTube. 

Peace, Love, Hoops, and Sleuthing,


Sunday, June 13, 2021

Announcement #3 Email Notifications Ending July 1

Waxing Crescent Moon

Howdy Folks,

If you signed up to receive Palomino Dream posts by email notification (or if you had me do it for you), you should know that the company which provides that service is making some changes. Beginning this July, they will discontinue email notification service for blogs. 

Here is an easy fix. Go to the web version of Palomino Dream <> and look at the right sidebar. You will see where "Followers" are listed. Click on the box that reads "Follow" and follow the directions. They are as simple as entering your email address. Then you're good to go. You will be notified whenever a new post comes along. Easy peasy!

Note: this is easier to do on a laptop or PC than a phone. If you are using your smartphone, you get a reduced version of the blog. Looking at the blog on your phone, scroll down to the bottom and click on View Web Version. Then you will see the whole shebang, including the right sidebar, which is what you need to make the change.

Also on the sidebar is a link to my recent interview (part one) about Walks Far Man on Big Blend Radio. 

I am hoping to do a little traveling this summer and fall. If that works out, I will be blathering here more often. I know you won't want to miss it!

Peace, Love, and Sign Up If You Haven't!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Heavens to Murgatroyd

 Waning Crescent Moon

One of the many odd things about growing older is the peculiar way one's memory comes and goes. I think the human brain must be similar to my recently retired Smartyphone. It held a maximum of 16 gigabytes. When its storage approached that number, the phone still worked, but it gave off little protest signals that indicated I should start deleting apps and/or dumping some photos, that sort of thing. Annoying. I got a new phone a few days ago, cheaper than the old one was, that has a max of 138 gigabytes. Progress.

Anyway, I think my 1951 brain has about maxed out however many gigabytes of storage it came with and it's acting a little goofy. For example, every time I am getting ready to leave for a walk or to go to the store, I have to go back inside to retrieve something I needed to take with me - most frequently a list of stuff I intended to do while I was out. Very annoying.

Just as annoying, but a little more fun, is the equal but opposite reaction - my brain retrieves the clearest images of things that happened 60 or more years ago. Out of the blue yesterday, I spoke out loud the childhood phone number of the one and only Kirby Coe Kennedy, my greatest of friends whom I have known since elementary school (it's probably not a very good idea to transcribe something like that on the worldwicked web, so I will save sharing the number for the next time I talk to him). 

How does that work though? Repetition maybe? I dunno.

The day before yesterday, also out of the blue, as I completed an out and back hike on the local segment of the Juan Bautista De Anza National Historic Trail, I spoke out loud the words "Heavens to Murgatroyd." That phrase was from some Saturday morning cartoon character from long ago. I couldn't recall which character it was, but what puzzled me more was that in almost seventy years, never have I known what or who "Murgatroyd" was, much less what "Heavens to Murgatroyd" meant. It was just this little auditory/visual signal attached to a miniature pogo stick hopping around amidst my tired old brain cells.

How oh how could I be enlightened? Dr. Googlie to the rescue. I typed the phrase into the Googlie search box and presto, there was Snagglepuss in all his or her glory, spraying, not saying, "Heavens to Murgatroyd" in apparent frustration over something that was encroaching upon her or his happiness. What was the meaning behind these mysterious words? 

I quickly found out. Who knows how Dr. Googlie finds time to learn all these things, but there it was, all laid out in a tidy, little, bloggy article. I will share the link I found, along with some of the highlights. That way, even if you are much younger than me and never watched any Snagglepuss cartoons in your jammies on Saturday morning on black and white TV, you still stand a slim chance of having pointless junk memories pop up in your consciousness when you are old. You're welcome.

Who or what was or is Murgatroyd, you ask? And what does Heavens to Murgatroyd mean for pity's sake? Let's answer the second part first. I am afraid the answer is not very exciting, even if it is informative.

Heavens to Murgatroyd is a cry of surprise. The American exclamation Heavens to Murgatroyd was made popular by Snagglepuss, a cartoon pink mountain lion created by Hanna-Barbera in 1959. Snagglepuss’ voice was patterned on the voice of actor Bert Lahr. Heavens to Murgatroyd carries no further meaning than similar expressions such as Heavens to Betsy and Holy Cow.

Kind of dull, right? The selling point of the phrase, which distinguishes it from merely saying "Holy Cow" is the Burt Lahr voice. If you don't know who Burt Lahr is, my God, did you grow up in a cave? The Burt Lahr voice is most likely what jammed the whole thing so deeply inside a backseat fold of my cerebellum. 

So who or what the heck is "Murgatroyd?" I found this answer to be super-annoying.

Murgatroyd is a surname from old English aristocracy, the first use of the name is Johanus de Morgateroyde, a constable in Yorkshire, in 1371. Morgateroyde literally means the district leading to the moor. Several characters in Gilbert and Sullivan’s light opera, Ruddigore, are named Murgatroyd.

You can look up Ruddigore all you want, friends, but I'm not (yawn) gonna. I can only guess that the district leading to the 1371-ish moor was rather unpleasant, perhaps the antithesis of paradise, even. And if a person has the misfortune of being named Murgatroyd, he or she is probably either inherently evil or at least horridly misshapen. So if you, and by you I mean a cartoon, possibly cowardly, pink mountain lion with a Burt Lahr-like voice, should come upon anything or anyone Murgatroyd-ish, you might cry out in surprise, hoping to be saved by the Almighty or at least by the writers at Hanna-Barbera.

Peace, Love, and Great Horny Toads,