Friday, December 18, 2009

“TAL: Year One”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(12-09)



For this writer, duties at The Maple Leaf began in February 1998.

After submitting a letter to the editor, I found that erstwhile chief Don Buchanan was interested in adding a local columnist to his roster.

Several personal essays followed, using my own experience as a freelance scribe for inspiration. Eventually, the wordsmithing project lasted long enough to be worthy of regular publication.

Buchanan christened my series ‘Thoughts At Large.’

It was an honor I accepted with gratitude. For the remainder of Year One, I worked to establish my presence with local readers:

THE VELVET ELVIS

Recently, I bought an important treasure for the basement of our home… (my purchase) was a portrait of the late cultural icon, Elvis Presley, rendered on a canvas of cheap velvet!

Such paintings always seemed to appear at filling stations, and roadside markets. Were they sold anywhere else? Mine bears an irrefutable mark of authenticity. On the reverse side of its frame is stamped: 'Hecho En Mexico'!

As a collectible, their value is dubious. Does a plastic, pink flamingo hold any great worth? You may consider this tribute to 'The King' a cruelty, or a joke. Still, there had always been yearning in my heart for one of my very own!

In the center of a truckstop shrine, this cloth creation might prove useful in spreading goodwill, and cheer. The citizen's-band airwaves could crackle with a throaty "Thank you! Thank you very much!"

But, on (my) basement wall, it strikes a pose across from an autographed poster of Dolly Parton. They frame the entrance to our (home) with rhinestones, and screaming polyester!

The Velvet Elvis is Takin' Care of Business among a court of fellow members in the
heavenly hall of fame. John Lennon is at his side, and Keith Moon. Roy Buchanan, and Faron Young are nearby. Jerry Garcia waits in the form of a concert button. But this a chapel of Memphis devotion.

There will always be rockin' in our jailhouse!

THE GONG SHOW

During a recent visit to the library section of our local Salvation Army thrift store, I found a tome of some distinction. With a slight pretentiousness, it's colorful dust jacket announced notable contents within - "THE GAME SHOW KING / A confession by Chuck Barris." An irresistible bargain at... ninety-nine cents!

It seems fitting that his meandering tale would be offered in a setting of broken eight-track players, castaway bowling balls, and horrendous bedroom furniture. Was this not the fellow that once offered America an obscenity known as "The $1.98 Beauty Show"?

Barris amassed a personal fortune through the creation of such programs as "The
Dating Game" and it's progeny, "The Newlywed Game". He wrote the Rock 'n Roll standard "Palisades Park" (made a hit by Freddy 'Boom Boom' Cannon), and released a record of his own with "The Chuck Barris Syndicate". But his true legacy was birthed of greater stuff. What glory is there, that could surpass having given life to "The Gong Show"?

(With this program) Barris created a proletarian forum for self-expression. There
was no limit to the type of act that might be featured. Style and content varied with each episode. Some attempted a genuine artistic flight, while others simply permitted themselves to be humiliated before the probing electronic eye. Regulars included 'The Unknown Comic' (disguised with a paper bag over his head), and 'Gene Gene, The Dancing Machine'. Always, there was the terror of being 'gonged' before time, and a prepared routine, had expired. To know the sound of that awful, metal disc was to be banished to a netherworld of failure and chagrin…

As host of this festive spectacle, Chuck effused the playful humor of a whimsical elf. He was both a participant in the demented affair, and an amused observer. His gestures were exaggerated and slick, in the tradition of a 'snake oil' salesman, or boisterous politician. With a panel of 'celebrity' judges holding court, he pranced across the stage like Mick Jagger.

"Welcome... to the ol' Gong Show!!"

BREW BONANZA

The subject of beer is one that may produce a most strident tone of conversation
between otherwise civil, genteel human beings. The defense of a favorite brand is on par with lofty discussions of philosophy and political order… volumes of information may be discerned by simply inquiring as to the beverage predisposition of a particular individual.

Are we a 'team player'? More likely it would be for us to choose a frosty mug of Miller Genuine Draft, or Budweiser.

Perhaps a thrifty drinker, concerned with value? Pabst, or Busch might be selected to satiate such desires.

An iconoclast, perhaps? Such a citizen might seek out Guinness or Watney's Cream Stout. (These rules are void if discussing those who simply attach themselves to
whatever trendy conduct commands the moment!) Each stein brimming with brew is a
fingerprint of sorts…

Remember the heady days of playoff-bound Browns teams? Truckloads of Brown's Canadian Lager were dispatched to eager customers who had the erroneous assumption that this northern concoction had something in common with our beloved NFL franchise. Would it surprise you to learn that Canada also produces a 'Steeler' beer?

What could the odds be on such a coincidence?

In times of yore, 'generic' suds were offered as an alternative mode of thirst negation.

Kroger had a 'Cost Cutter' variety, wrapped in bright yellow cans, with a pair of scissors for emphasis. Fazio's offered their budget brew under the ubiquitous 'Heritage House' label. (Yet) what statement would be made by the consumption of such pedestrian products? A desire for the maximum amount of personal satisfaction, with little expenditure of ready cash?

Whatever the motivation to pursue such habits, all are bound by this similar notion:
We Came, We Saw, And We Were Refreshed!


After a series of personal challenges, Don Buchanan made a hasty exit from Geauga County, and The United States. But The Leaf, and this column, endured.

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
Visit us at: www.thoughtsatlarge.com

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