Your Wish Is My Command

I can’t remember what site I saw this on, but thought it was interesting to see the responses. If you had one “genie wish,” what would you wish for?

I think what makes the question tough to answer is that whenever we think of a genie, there always seems to be three wishes. That’s not the case here. Before you give your answer, let’s just rule out the wish for “more wishes,” too!

Here were some of the answers given by participants in the piece I read:

The ability to be fluent in all languages – past and present

I can see where this would come in handy.

Teleportation ability.

I can totally see wanting to do this! The money we’d save on gas alone would be worth it!!

Money

Well, you knew someone would wish for money. While it would come in handy, if it were me, I’d wish for just enough to get by. No need to have boatloads of it – it is the root of all evil after all.

Time Travel/Live Life Over Again Knowing What I Know Now

These two were separate answers, but I think they both kind of are the same. The problem I have with this wish is all it would take is one major change to your life (knowing what you know now) to change the rest of it. That would mean a whole different time line, as Doc Brown illustrates in Back to the Future II.

The Power To Be Invisible At Will

This reminds me of the “I’d like to be a fly on the wall” cliché. I think the reason someone would want this power would be to be able to spy on someone primarily. Personally, I have found that I’d rather NOT know what others are saying about me…

The Power of Shapeshifting

This one goes along with the invisibility thing. As a matter of fact, the person who answered mentioned that if they could shapeshift, they would become a dog or a fly or a cat or something that would go unnoticed when getting close to whatever they wanted to observe.

The Ability to Do Everything Perfectly

Wouldn’t this get old? Sure, I can see it being nice for some things, but for EVERY thing? This just sounds like the plot line to a Twilight Zone Episode.

Free Healthcare World Wide AND A Cure for Cancer

These two were actually part of the same wish – but is it really two wishes? Anyway, Free Healthcare would be nice and I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want a cure for cancer!

Knowing the Answer to Any Question

As most people know, having ALL the answers isn’t always the best thing. Sometimes it is best NOT to know all the answers. I could see where this could work for good – and bad.

Never Having to Feel Anxious or Depressed

In other words, being happy? I can relate! While most of my anxiety and depression is gone, there will occasionally be a bout now and then. It’s not easy to be happy all the time, because sometimes life throws those curveballs at you. It would certainly be nice, though, to get rid of anxiety, depression, anger, and those other emotions that bring you down.

That Every Person Holding a Position of Power Would Have Empathy For Others

Wow! Yeah, that’s a good wish.

Two more and I’ll turn it over to you. One is silly and the other struck a chord.

A Magical Fridge That Always Gave Me Whatever I Was In The Mood For When I Opened the Door

This made me laugh. I also feel like who ever had this wish wanted a whole lot of alcohollic beverages in there …

I Wish I Never Had a Reason to Wish

Let that one run around in your head for a bit. THAT is a powerful wish!

Now – What would YOU wish for if you had just one “genie wish?”

Hardly Prepared For The Real World

I have made it no secret that Math (Algebra in particular) is NOT my best subject. I did poorly in my high school algebra classes. Yes, I did pass the college Algebra classes I had to take, but it was harder than I could have imagined. It didn’t help that I hadn’t looked at an algebra problem in almost 30 years.

Luckily, my oldest son only needed my help a few times with his math stuff when he was in school. My middle son, on the other hand, brought home some really tough stuff from his summer school class last month. I really struggled to help him. I had my college books, my college notes, store bought aids, and even a friend who is good at math all at my disposal, but nothing really helped. He squeaked by … just barely.

I want to go on record stating that I never really had a problem with basic math. Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division and other basics like finding percentages, figuring out mileage, counting money and making change and balancing checkbooks were all things I did well with. Those basic things are still taught in school today, yet it doesn’t seem to be something people are retaining.

Case in Point:

Normally, before work I would make a pot of coffee and bring a cup with me in the car on my way in. Today, I forgot to make some, so I drove through the local Tim Horton’s to get one. Most of the time, I would just hand the person at the window my debit card and the transaction would be complete. Today that was not the case.

They are usually pretty quick at Timmy’s, but something seemed to be slowing the line today. There were two cars ahead of me. I saw them pass an iced coffee to the first car and they drove off. The car in front of me tendered their money and the wait began. Almost five minutes later, a hand reached out with their change and then passed out a small coffee cup.

I wondered if the customer was waiting because they had to brew a new pot of coffee. Or maybe they were changing cashiers and they were switching out the till. It just seemed weird that it took that long to get a cup of coffee (or tea or hot chocolate for that matter.) When I got the the window, things became clear.

It was obvious that the gal at the window was a new employee and in training. She was having a discussion with the manager before she even opened the window. Directly to her right was my coffee. It was ready to be handed to me as soon as the money changed hands. I was paying cash, so it shouldn’t be too difficult, right?? Wrong.

When she finally opened the window, she told me that I owed $2.85. I order the same thing every time, so I had $3.00 ready and handed it to her. She typed into the register what I handed her and she placed the three $1 bills in the tray with the others and stopped. She stood staring at the till.

My change was 15 cents. For some reason this seemed to stump that gal at the window. She looked at the till, then at her manager. The window was open, so I could hear their conversation. The manager said, “He gave you three dollars. You owe him 15 cents.” She stood there looking stumped. The manager pointed to each one of the compartments at the bottom of the drawer saying, “There you have 25, 10, 5 and 1.”

Is real money such a new thing to this gal? Has she never seen a dime before? The whole thing was like something out of the Twilight Zone! The manager literally told her “give him a dime and a nickel.” She could have given me a dime and five pennies, two nickels and five pennies, three nickels, or 15 pennies – I didn’t even care if I got my change! Honestly, I would have drove off without the change if they had handed me the coffee!

Finally, this gal delicately grabbed a dime and a nickel and handed it to me with my receipt. She told me to have a good day and stared at me. She obviously wondered why I hadn’t left yet. Her manager said, “I’m sure he would like the coffee he just ordered.” I’m not sure how much longer she stared at me, but eventually, the manager grabbed my coffee and handed it to her and she finally passed it out the window to me.

As I drove off, I looked at the 4 cars that were behind me wondering how much longer each of them would have to wait. I also wondered what kind of grades this 30 something year old gal got in high school math class ….

2021 – What a Year!

At midnight tonight, we’ll start a brand new year – 2022. Some have compared a new year to a book. The book with 365 blank pages – one for each day – and said that the book is ours to write. There is truth to that.

As I looked back over my “book” entitled “2021,” I see that (despite the pandemic and all the crap that came with it) I really did have a good year. Bear with me, he’s the recap:

January

January started with some snow. It actually looks like we should be getting snow again this week. Ella absolutely loved being outside in the snow. It was fun to watch her try to figure out just what all the white stuff was. Today, when she sees it, she get’s excited and yells, “Snow! Snow!”

In mid-January, we scratched our heads and wondered just how Ella was 11 months old! I mean, it seemed like she was just born!

The pressure was on as we closed in on her first birthday. With Covid, we weren’t quite sure if we’d even be able to have a party for her.

February

As we got closer to Ella’s birthday, Sam was just not feeling right. 3 days before Ella’s birthday, we found out that baby #2 was on the way!

This took us both completely by surprise! There was great excitement all over again. The hardest part was keeping it a secret…

Ella’s first birthday was a fun and busy day. We ditched the pink blocks and marked the birthday with a HUGE number “1” balloon. This was followed by a trip to the Sea Life Aquarium, the Build a Bear place, and cake at Nana’s house.

We were glad to be able to get some professional “1st Birthday” pictures, too!

March

In March we got our first look at the baby we now know as Andrew/AJ and announced Ella’s promotion to big sister.

Ella also got her first haircut

March also consisted of many walks around the neighborhood and stops at the park.

April

Big brother, Dante’ turned 19 this month! Before that, Easter fell on my mom’s birthday. We got Ella all dressed up in her Easter dress, stopped at the cemetery to visit grandma on her birthday and then went to Nana’s for an Easter Egg hunt!

Ella is so very blessed to have wonderful people in her life. Aunt Margaret is one of them! (She will kill me for posting this picture, but I just love this!!) She and cousin Marissa came to visit and the highlight was watching them read books together.

We also found out the baby’s gender, but that wouldn’t be revealed until May.

May

Birthday’s have never really bothered me, mostly because I opt for the Jack Benny attitude and say that I am stuck at 39. However, in reality I turned 51. 30 was big. 40 was tough. 50 a bit hard to swallow. Over 50? Well…..I examine my own mortality every day.

The month started warm enough that Ella got to spend lots of time in her sandbox and pool.

We revealed that Ella was having a baby brother and got another look at him on an ultrasound.

Ella and I worked on a special project for Sam for Mother’s Day and we got to visit the Detroit Zoo.

May also brought Ella her first taste of corn on the cob!

June

My second oldest boy celebrated his 14th birthday in June. We got to spend Father’s Day together by visiting Crossroads Village. They had a Classic Car Show there and we walked the village and rode the train. It was such a great day with my kids!

It was SO hot that day!!! By the end of it all, Ella was physically exhausted. June was a hot month and we did get to get out and enjoy walks in the park and a day at the splash pad.

July

By July, Sam was 5 months pregnant and was so sick. The pregnancy was a rough one on her. The heat didn’t help things. Despite that, the middle of summer was packed full of amazing things and our family had loads of fun.

We celebrated America’s Birthday, Ella had her first visit to the public library and bowled for the first time, and we all visited the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.

August

As Summer drew to a close, we continued to squeeze as much into it as we could. I got to spend a perfect day doing a daddy daughter picnic, my name was finally on the board at the Corner Cone for a free ice cream, Ella spent lots of time drawing with crayons, and our stress levels were through the roof as we took Ella in for her ear tube surgery. We also got another peak at AJ and had a visit from my brother.

September

Fall! My favorite season of all. I was glad to be able to get together with Margaret, Walt and my buddy Chris at Margaret’s house. Since she’s already mad at the one picture I posted, I’ll just share the one she told me I could share. Hopefully, that makes things a little better….

We always love going to get pumpkins and decorating the front of the house for fall. Ella seemed to like it, too.

Ella and I also got to take one last trip to the Saginaw Zoo before it closed for the season. It was a great day for us, and Sam actually got to relax a bit.

October

We had been told more than once that there was a possibility that the baby would come before his due date. He held out almost until the date! Just two days before he was born, Ella and I got to go outside and enjoy the fall colors.

On October 11th, AJ entered the world. I watched in awe as my son was born and all the pride of being a daddy again filled my soul. We weren’t sure how Ella would handle it, but she welcomed him with open arms.

They still did not have a photographer at the hospital, so we went to JC Penney to have some newborn pictures taken. AJ looks spiffy in his outfit!

While this wasn’t Ella’s first Halloween, it was the first real Trick or Treating adventure for her. She was happy that big brother was there to walk with her. AJ was obviously way too young to attempt to go out this year.

November

Fall walks are among my favorites. I love looking at the colors. Ella and I took many fall walks and there were many instances where she’d just play in a pile of leaves! AJ kept us all busy and so it was just Ella and I making the trip to Bronner’s to get his ornament for the Christmas tree. We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving at home and got the house ready for Christmas.

December

The final month of the year brought many happy memories. Professional Christmas pictures, my annual reading of Dickens, AJ turned 2 months old, a visit from Papa and Grandma, Christmas Eve with my boys, Holiday lights at Crossroads, our first Christmas as a family of four, and the anticipation of a brand new year.

Blog highlights included my entries to the 2021 Song Draft, salutes to Soupy Sales, my grandpa, and Ernie Harwell, a guest blog from my pal Max, silly blogs about hats and Bernie Sanders’ mittens, fishing memories, my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, and a blog about an amazing cartoon Dog Dad.

There were many sad moments in 2021. I lost classmates and friends to cancer, heart disease, and of course, Covid. If the past two years have taught me anything, it is that life is precious and another day is not promised. You never know when it will be the “last picture,” the “last phone call,” or the “last visit.” It takes me make to that quote that my band director wrote on the grease board my senior year. I have quoted it many times. “Live every day as if it were your last. Someday, you’ll be right.”

Life is too short. Live. Laugh. Love.

As we welcome 2022, I pray that it is a good year for all of us. May we find it full of happiness and good health. May God bless you and yours in the upcoming year.

Get ready. The Book of 2022 awaits. Grab your pen and turn to page (January) 1.

Be careful for nothing …

I needed to read this verse tonight. The Greek word translated “careful” in verse 6 is (μεριμνάω) merimnáō. It literally means “to be anxious” or “to be troubled with cares.” Anxious is defined: experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. So the verse is saying “Don’t be anxious about anything!” “Don’t be full of worry!” It is easier said than done sometimes.

I haven’t really said anything on here or really anywhere about this, but I think my anxiety level is starting to rise a bit too much. Ever get that feeling like things are closing in on you? Feel like you are surrounded by things that are just out of your control? That’s kind of where I am right now. I’ve been in this place before, and have been able to get it under control. It just feels like the things I was able to do to get them under control, aren’t helping like they did before.

Admittedly, there are things that I know contribute to this. Lack of sleep, for example. I am just not getting enough, and won’t be getting enough for some time. With a baby on the way, and a toddler, I’ll be grabbing sleep in little chunks for a while. What is bothersome to me about sleep is that instead of getting my usual 5-6 hours, I am waking up a lot, usually from weird dreams. Then my mind won’t shut off long enough about other things to let me fall back to sleep.

I made the choice some time ago to stop watching the news. This really helped eliminate much of the barrage of Covid stories that I was seeing. Covid and just the fear and uncertainty that came with it led to me having a breakdown a year ago. Staying away from those stories helped. However, my phone continues to “ding” throughout the day and night with Covid stories from Yahoo News and other apps. Then there is the constant stories that friends share on Facebook.

Let me put it this way, I can see why many people are choosing to leave Facebook. There is so much misinformation, countless arguments, and hatred within my newsfeed daily. I have muted or snoozed many people because of it. That doesn’t stop it, though. Any time a post mentions “Covid” or “Vaccine” there is a link that automatically shows up.

Then you have the fight between people who are pro-vaccine and anti-vaccine. This falls into the same category as whether you should wear a mask or not. It is amazing how polarizing this is. It is almost as polarizing as what we saw during the past few elections. Pro/Anti Trump. Pro/Anti Biden. There has always been divisions in our country, but it seems that it in society today, if someone disagrees with you, it leads to hatred and violence. I know way too many friendships that have been broken because of the failure to “agree to disagree”

I digress. If I am being honest, I am beginning to feel overwhelmed again. I know that I shouldn’t, yet I do. I need to take those verses and focus on them. I know that is where I will find peace.

Remember the opening of the Twilight Zone where all the things are spiraling around?

That is how I feel on a daily basis and it is taking my focus away from where it needs to be! I feel like I am surrounded by Covid and cancer and the deaths that they bring about. I feel like the vaccine is being talked about everywhere – whether the talk is good or bad. Then we have all the stuff that is going on in the Middle East, Earthquakes and natural disasters. I seem to have daily conversations with people about whether or not we are in the Biblical End Times. It is overwhelming.

THEN factor in that my wife and I are are expecting a baby and the pregnancy has had its share of scares and worry. Those worries outweigh ALL of the others. As mentioned in a pervious blog, those worries were put at ease to some degree with the latest ultrasound. However, we have 8 weeks left and I still have some concerns.

My mind is one big muddled mess at times.

I am struggling to remember things. I zone out during conversations for no reason at all. I can listen to something or read something over and over and not comprehend what I just heard/read. I’m scared about some things right now. I will spare you the details of that.

I’m hoping to dig myself out of the rut and get back to normal. I have the support of my wife and family. I have the support of my Christian friends. I have God on my side. I will do my best to “let go and let God.”

Thank you for allowing me to vent.

National Twilight Zone Day

My Facebook friend, Bill, shared that today is National Twilight Zone Day!

He says,

Twilight Zone Day is mysterious, weird, surreal and perhaps a little scary. I can think of many other adjectives, but I think you get the picture. Every once in a while, you have a day like this. And, May 11th is designed to be that day.

The television show The Twilight Zone, was created, written and narrated by the late Rod Serling. It premiered on October 1, 1959. The episodes were wildly popular, stretched the imagination, and captivated viewers. The show aired from 1959-1964 and is available on DVD.

My friend Max has been reviewing each episode of the series weekly. While I wish I had time to do that, I thought for today, I would give a run down of my 20 favorites (I’m sure there are more than 20, but I jotted down the ones I like from memory and there are 20).

What I have always loved about this show is the “twist” endings. It reminds me of so many of the great old radio shows of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s!

Time Enough At Last

By far, my favorite episode of the series. Burgess Meredith is fantastic in this episode! I wrote about it in detail in another blog, which you can read here:

Some Favorite TV Episodes…

This is the eighth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A henpecked book lover finds himself blissfully alone with his books after a nuclear war.

Escape Clause

Outside of his over the top portrayal of The Mad Hatter on Batman, this is a great performance by David Wayne.

This is the sixth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A hypochondriac man sells his soul to the devil, exchanging it for several thousand years of immortality.

A Game of Pool

This episode features two amazing performances by Jonathan Winters and Jack Klugman. Like many of the Twilight Zone episodes, it has the “Be careful what you wish for” lesson …

This is the fifth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: A frustrated pool champ has beaten everyone. Everyone except one man; the legend, Fats Brown. Brown is dead, and the champ can only curse his name. But guess who just walked in.

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

A classic episode with William Shatner. This was redone in the Twilight Zone movie years later. Shatner’s performance is just frantic! His overacting only makes the character more insane!

This is the third episode from the fifth, and final season.

Quick Synopsis: A man, newly recovered from a nervous breakdown, becomes convinced that a monster only he sees is damaging the plane he’s flying in.

The Masks

Little known fact: This episode was directed by actress, Ida Lupino (who starred in a season 1 episode I will mention next).

Greed and vengeance are the central theme in this episode. The ending remains one of my favorite twists.

This is the 25th episode of the fifth and final season.

Quick Synopsis: Wealthy Jason Foster is dying and he invites his greedy heirs to a Mardi Gras party where they must wear the masks he specially had made for them or else be cut off from their inheritance.

The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine

Ida Lupino and Martin Balsam star in this episode. While I wouldn’t call this a time travel episode, it does focus on living in your past.

This is the fourth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: Barbara Jean Trenton is a faded film star who lives in the past by constantly re-watching her old movies instead of moving on with her life, so her associates try to lure her out of her self-imposed isolation.

Back There

Since I mentioned time travel, this is one of my favorite time travel episodes. Russell Johnson (the Professor on Gilligan’s Island) is the time traveler in this episode.

This is the thirteenth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: At a prominent club in Washington, D.C., a socialite argues about whether it would be possible to change history by traveling back in time. When he leaves the club he finds himself in 1865, on the night that President Lincoln will be shot.

The Odyssey of Flight 33

Ok, sort of another time travel story. The captain is played by John Anderson. Always thought he had a great voice!

This is the eighteenth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: Passing through the sound barrier, a commercial airliner inadvertently travels back in time.

Living Doll

Great performance by Telly Savalas. I’m not going to lie, this episode is one that creeped me out!

This is the sixth episode of the fifth and final season.

Quick Synopsis: A frustrated father does battle with his stepdaughter’s talking doll, whose vocabulary includes such phrases as “I hate you” and “I’m going to kill you”.

Eye of the Beholder

The beautiful Donna Douglas appears from under the bandages in this awesome story. I guess I just gave away the ending …..

This is the sixth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: A young woman lying in a hospital bed, her head wrapped in bandages, awaits the outcome of a surgical procedure performed by the State in a last-ditch attempt to make her look “normal.”

The Fever

I always loved Everett Sloane as an actor. He is great as the angry gambler in this episode. How can you not freak out at the fact that the slot machine has followed him to his room?

This is the seventeenth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A middle-aged man catches gambling fever from a slot machine that he believes is calling his name.

To Serve Man

The great Richard Kiel is featured as Kanamit in this episode with the great twist ending.

This is the twenty-fourth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: An alien race comes to Earth, promising peace and sharing technology. A linguist and his team set out to translate the aliens’ language, using a book whose title they deduce is “To Serve Man.”

Quality of Mercy

A MUST watch! How things would be different if we looked at it from the other side. Dean Stockwell is great in this episode.

This is the fifteenth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: Hot-shot new Lieutenant Katell tries to make his mark on the last day of World War II in the Pacific and gets a unique perspective on his actions.

Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?

Great cast in this one! Jack Elam, John Hoyt, Bill Erwin, Jean Willes, and John Archer all star in this episode which cashes in on the Martian craze.

This is the twenty-eighth episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: Following a frantic phone call about a crashed spaceship, two policeman try and determine who among the passengers of a bus at a snowed-in roadside diner is from another world.

A Nice Place to Visit

Another classic twist ending. Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French of Family Affair) is Mr. Pip. Little known fact: Cabot was reluctant to dye his brunette hair and beard blonde, since the peroxide used for it ensured that the color would remain for about six months.

Great story and again, a be careful what you wish for…

This is the twenty-eighth episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: When bad guy Henry Francis Valentine dies in a shootout with police, he wakes up in the next world where his every wish is granted forever, and ever.

Nothing in the Dark

This episode stars a young Robert Redford. I saw the ending coming a mile away, but it is still a good one to watch.

This is the sixteenth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: An old woman has fought with death a thousand times and has always won. But now she finds herself afraid to let a wounded policeman in her door for fear he is Mr. Death. Is he?

Nick of Time

Another over the top performance by a frazzled William Shatner! Good stuff. Watch for Batman’s Chief O’Hara (Stafford Repp) as the mechanic in this episode.

This is the seventh episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: A pair of newlyweds stopping in a small town are trapped by their own superstition when playing a fortune telling machine in a local diner.

Deaths-Head Revisited

Powerful episode here. Great performances by Oscar Beregi Jr. and Joseph Schildkraut!

This is the ninth episode of the third season.

Quick Synopsis: A former German SS captain returns to Dachau concentration camp and begins reminiscing on the power he enjoyed there, until he finds himself on trial by those who died at his hands.

One For the Angels

Ed Wynn was known as a comedian, but he gives a marvelous dramatic performance here! Murray Hamilton is great as Mr. Death.

This is the second episode of the first season.

Quick Synopsis: A pitchman is visited by Mr. Death and is forced to get his priorities in order.

Night of the Meek

A wonderful, feel-good episode to wrap up my twenty favorites. Art Carney is just brilliant in this episode. The episode looks weird because it was one of only a few episodes that were shot on video tape in hopes of cutting production costs. Don’t let the quality take away from a wonderful episode!

This is the eleventh episode of the second season.

Quick Synopsis: After a derelict Santa Claus is fired on Christmas Eve, he finds a mysterious bag that gives out presents. With this bag he sets out to fulfill his one wish – to see the less fortunate inherit the bounties of Christmas.

Did I miss your favorite?

Tell me your favorite episodes in the comments! Happy International Twilight Zone Day!!

Birthday Tribute to “Fred”

If you have read my blogs in the past, you know that it consists of a mixture of pop culture things (like movie, TV and music thoughts) and personal things (radio stories, school memories, and things from my childhood).  As I thought about today’s blog topic, I realized that without this man in my life – this blog would probably not exist!  I guess I didn’t really realize it until now. As I scrolled back over the blogs of the past, I see just how much influence he has had in almost ALL of them!  I am talking, of course, about my dad.  Today – is his 72nd birthday.  So here are some birthday thoughts for dad.

In March I wrote a blog about his musical influence.  My musical taste is very broad, because I was introduced to so many different genres by him.  He introduced me to rock and roll with the music of Little Richard, Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Elvis.  He introduced me to the “Great American Songbook” with music from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Bing Crosby.  He introduced me to Jazz with Louis Prima, and Ella Fitzgerald.  He played me music from Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard to introduce me to country music.  The list goes on and on … but what about other influences?

Movies

I could spend an entire week writing about the various movies he introduced to me!  As far as the classic films, most of those were introduced to me because he saw that they were playing on the Monday Night Movie on regular TV or something.  You have to remember VCR’s and DVD players were not a staple in the home yet.  You also have to remember that I grew up at the time where “pay TV” was just being incarnated.  One of the first pay services was “ON TV”.  It came on channel 20 at like 8 or 9 at night.  They put an antenna on your roof and it unscrambled the signal so you could watch movies.  I remember one time I wanted to record Smokey & the Bandit – but as I said, VCR’s were not for home use yet.  The last showing of it on ON TV was at 1am one Friday night.  My dad actually stayed up with a cassette recorder in front of the TV and recorded the audio for me.  What makes this even better is there were scenes that were so funny to him, you could hear him laughing in the background as the movie played.

With Cable TV came The Movie Channel and HBO.  As more and more channels became available, American Movie Classics, Turner Classic Movies, and others were the way to watch them. So he’d tell me “You gotta watch AMC at 3 today – they’re playing ‘Angels With Dirty Faces’!”  Growing up, I remember hearing my dad talking with my grandparents, my Uncle Tom, or his friends about actors and actresses and the movies they were in.  “Great Movie!” or “What a great flick!” I’d hear him say.  Well, if he thought it was great – I wanted to see it!  Movies I remember watching – only because I had heard him talk about them included The Godfather, White Heat,  Little Caesar, Key Largo, Patton, Midway, The Maltese Falcon, and Night of the Hunter.  Many of these were films that I’d walk in to the living room and dad would be watching and he’d tell me about them and catch me up so I could watch it with him. I was introduced to Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Alfred Hitchcock, Robert Mitchum, Burt Reynolds, and SO many actors just be casually walking into a room where he was watching TV!

The Godfather Part 1 & 2 and Patton are probably some of my favorite films.  I remember watching Godfather the first time trying to keep all the names straight.  Don Barzinni, Don Stracci, Luca Brazi, Sonny, Fredo, and Tom Hagen were all characters that I had to remember (amongst many more).  Dad was there to explain so many things to me as I watched this film the first few times through.  I have found myself doing the same thing when I sit and watch it with someone who has never seen it.  (On a side note, for one class I had to read books and write book reports for it.  I remember dad wrote a book report for me on The Godfather! He got an A!)

TV

Look through my DVD collection and amongst the movies are entire series of classic TV shows.  This, again, is a direct result from my dad’s influence.  I remember watching re-runs of The Honeymooners on channel 50.  I remember when dad told me that Ralph Kramden and Sheriff Buford T. Justice from Smokey and the Bandit were the same person!  I don’t know if I would have known that as a 7 year old!  I remember staying home sick and watching re-runs of the Dick Van Dyke Show on channel 9 out of Canada.  I knew about Carl Reiner because he was one of many cameos in the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (which should have been mentioned in the movie section of this blog).  The other stars of “Mad World” were also known to me because of my dad:  I knew Mickey Rooney from a flick called Quicksand he rented.  I knew Milton Berle from The Dean Martin Roasts and other TV appearances. I knew Jonathan Winters from a classic Twilight Zone episode (Loved watching TZ with him).  Among the other “classic” TV shows he introduced me to:  The Untouchables, F-Troop, The Munsters, Car 54, Where Are You?, McHale’s Navy, Perry Mason, Combat, Star Trek, Hogan’s Heroes, Mission: Impossible, and Get Smart.

With the availability of video rentals, I remember dad bringing home TV shows that were not shown on TV anymore or shown late at night.  You couldn’t really watch The Little Rascals, Laurel and Hardy, or The Three Stooges on TV unless you stayed up late for comedy classics – which usually was on at 11pm or midnight.  With the VCR, though, we could go to the store and rent them!  I had listened to Jack Benny and Amos and Andy on cassette tapes of old radio shows (again, thanks to dad), but now I was able to see these TV shows – and they were amazing! I used to love watching these shows with him.  One thing I always love seeing is my dad laughing and these shows (and a couple I will mention in a minute) always made him laugh – I mean big belly laughs!

I guess you could say that I grew up at a time where some of  the “current” shows are now considered classics.  Those shows, my brother and I watched on a weekly basis and watched in re-runs.  These shows included The Love Boat, Mork & Mindy, Happy Days, Lavern and Shirley, The Dukes of Hazzard, Emergency!, Welcome Back, Kotter, All In the Family, The Jeffersons, The Carol Burnett Show, Barney Miller, Fantasy Island, and Charlie’s Angels.  Some of those dad introduced me to, while others he really couldn’t stand.

Sanford and Soupy

The one show that I will forever associate with my dad is Sanford and Son.  These shows, no matter how many times we see them remain funny.  I can be on the phone with my dad and say, “So last night I watched “the piano movers” and we will both start laughing!  Years later, we can quote this show to each other and still crack each other up.  Why do we and can we bond over this show? Perhaps it’s the fact that the show is about a father and son and their relationship.  I remember how I thought it was odd that Lamont always called Fred, “Pop”.  I never used to call my dad that, although somewhere over the years, dad has become “Pop” to me.  I call him that all the time now.  As a matter of fact, he still often calls me “Lamont”!  It is not used flippantly, I use it as a genuine term of endearment!  He’s my Pop – and I use it with much love and affection!

Another show that dad introduced me to was The New Soupy Sales Show.  He grew up watching Soupy at lunch time.  My grandmother often told stories of how Soupy would say “Tomorrow, we’re having bologna sandwiches for lunch” and if dad didn’t have them, he was pissed!  Soupy’s new show on channel 20 was pretty much just like the old show.  It was full of puns, bad jokes, clips of old movies, funny horoscopes on the radio, the Words of Wisdom, and his friends White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie and Hippy.  It may have been on right after school and before dad came home from work, because I don’t recall him watching it too much with me, however, when it became available on video – we talked about it just like we talk about Sanford and Son.

Traits of a Good Dad

When I became a father, I remember reading something about what makes a good dad.  Let me say here that none of us is perfect.  My dad was not perfect and neither am I.  My point is that when you look at these things, we can assess things we are doing well, things we can improve, and things that we will start doing.  As I think back on those things – I can see where I strive to achieve those things and, at the same time, can see a lot of those things in my own father.

For example, a father must be a good disciplinarian.  All dad’s love their children, but you know and I know that you can’t let them get away with everything.  Dad was this way.  The old story about mom saying “Wait till your father get’s home” and the child being scared to death?  Yep!  That was me!  You didn’t want to make dad mad!  I would say I made him mad more than a few times.

One time in particular I remember telling him I was spending the night at a friends house.  I was out with my girlfriend at the time.  We were still in high school, and it was a weekend.  We had no money, so we weren’t going to a hotel or anything like that.  We just planned on staying out all night.  I don’t remember how he found out, but  I remember getting a page from the friend who I said I was staying with and he asked why my dad thought I was there!  I think my girlfriend’s mom had called my house or something.  At any rate – I was in BIG trouble! Dad’s punishment was a fair one (even though I didn’t think so at the time).  He proved a point and I NEVER did that again.  He let me know that he was in charge.  Another time, I got in trouble at school for something.  We had a meeting with the teacher and he said what he would go on to tell every teacher afterward in parent teacher conferences, “If he gets out of line again, you have my permission to smack his ass!” (Yes, this was back before a teacher giving the kid a paddle was considered wrong).

A good dad allows his kids to make mistakes. Dad watched me make a TON of them, but he knew that if I was going to learn, I needed to make those mistakes.  He’d never let me make a mistake that was life threatening or would put me in danger, but he’d let me make mistakes that he knew, when all was said and done – I’d mature and learn from it.  While there were things he questioned, he never really interfered.  I learned a lot from that – even though there were times I wish he HAD said something!

A good dad has an open mind.  Times change.  The way that things were done when he was growing up, well, they may be handled differently now (the paddling in school is a good example).  He respected that and embraces it to a degree.  As someone who loved all kinds of music, I will never forget the time he called me into the living room to play me this “cool song” he heard and liked.  It was “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-lite.  The song was not like anything he’s ever played for me, but he liked it and played it at DJ jobs!  He embraces change!

A good dad teaches his kids to appreciate things.  Those things can be anything.  My dad certainly taught me how to appreciate family and friends.  He taught me how to appreciate good music, movies and TV.  He taught me how to appreciate what you have and the importance of living within your means.

A good dad accepts that his kids aren’t exactly like him. This may or may not have been a lesson he learned from my grandpa.  My dad had always been very accepting of my brother and I.  While we all have a lot of similarities, we are all SO very different.  He respects that our religious and political views may not be the same as his.

A good dad spends quality time with his children. This is one of those things that is difficult to do in today’s society.  We spend so much time working and trying to get things done, that we often spend the hours we are not at work doing these things.  As a divorced father with limited time with my boys, I really try hard to make the time we spend quality time, even if it is just a car ride.  Some of my favorite memories with my dad are just him and I throwing the ball around in the front yard.  That meant more to me than he will ever know!

A good dad leads by example.  Dad was never really the “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of guy.  He was a hard worker and knew the importance of providing for our family.  I never once thought of growing up and not having a job.  Dad wasn’t always perfect in this area, but because of that, I was also able to take some of the things that I didn’t like him doing (like smoking) and not doing them.

A good dad is supportive and loyal.  I am sure that in my 30 year radio career, my dad probably thought “he needs to get out of that career and find something more stable”.  If he thought it – he never once told me that!  He was nothing but supportive!  If I ever came to him with something that he questioned, he might ask a question or two regarding the opposite viewpoint, but that was it.  He might ask “are you sure you want to do this” or “have you thought about what might happen if…”, and then he let me decide.  Whatever the decision, he supported it.  I have a great respect for that.

A good dad is someone who challenges his kids. I’m sure that there were many ways that dad challenged me.  I know there were times I wanted to quit something and he gave me the pep talk to keep going.  I cannot recall specific incidents, but I know they were there.

A good dad is a teacher.  While dad taught me how to throw a “submarine” ball and how to swing a golf club, he also taught me some valuable lessons.  One of the things I have hoped to do is to write down some of those lessons and pass them down to my own children.  To illustrate my point: there is a cartoon I saw once of two guys standing in front of three piles of stuff.  The one guy asked what they were.  The second guy points to the first pile and says, “this stuff is the stuff my dad gave me that I want to pass on to my kids.”  He points to the second pile and says, “this is the stuff my dad gave me that I don’t really need.” He points to the third pile and says, “this is my stuff that I want to pass on to my kids.”  That’s the way it is – as a father, you take things that you learned from your dad and keep the stuff you want to share, throw out what you don’t, and then add stuff of your own.

A good dad protects and provides for his family.  When times were tough and money was tight, my dad would DJ or play in the wedding band to bring in extra money.  I remember as a young boy my dad going back to college to get a degree so he could move up in his place of employment.  It took me over 20 years, but I also decided to go back to school to better provide for my family.  I know that my dad would do anything for us, and I would do the same for my family.

Finally, a good dad shows unconditional love.  I read where this is the greatest quality of a good father.  Even though his child may let him down, upset him, make him mad, disrespect him, and disappoint him … the love remains constant.  Not to get theological, but it is one of the great principles spoken of about God in the Bible.  It says that no matter how much a child of God angers Him, ignores Him, or disappoints Him – His love is never ending and ever present.  THAT is the kind of love a father has for his children.

I am lucky that I have never had to question whether or not my dad loves me.  He has done so much for me during my lifetime and continues to do so.  I can only hope that he knows how much he is appreciated.  I can only hope he knows how thankful I am that he was chosen to be my father.  I can only hope that he knows of the impact that he has made on me.  I hope that he will never have to question how much I love him.

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Thanks, Pop, for being such an amazing man!  Thanks for being a wonderful example to me.  Thanks for everything you have done to support, encourage, accept, and love my family.  Today, I wish you a very happy birthday and wish you many more in the future!  I love you, Pop.

“Lamont”

 

 

 

 

Tube Tunes….

sanford 1

Today, Quincy Jones turns 85.  He is a legend in the music business.  He is a record producer, actor, conductor, composer, musician, TV & film producer, instrumentalist, magazine founder, entertainment company executive and humanitarian.  He’s worked with some of the best musicians and produced some of the biggest albums in history.  He has worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson.  Call my crazy, but despite all of the things Quincy Jones is known for – I remember him for one thing – he recorded the Sanford and Son Theme song!

There was just something cool about this theme song.  The opening bass line followed by the catchy melody.  To this day, I laugh when I see a beat up truck driving around, I will sing the Sanford theme out loud!  In an episode of Scrubs, JD and Turk are having a serious discussion, that eventually ends up with them singing and dancing to the Sanford theme!  Recently someone did a “mash up” with Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and, you guessed it, the theme to Sanford and Son.

Today, many shows don’t even bother with a theme song.  You see the credits scroll on the screen while the show is in progress.  This is sad.  A TV theme song kind of sets the mood for the show.  It will be a song with catchy lyrics or a melody that you can hum along with.  Today, lets go back and look at some of my favorite theme songs from TV’s past.  When we’re done – tell me your favorites that I may have missed.

The 50’s

Two of the earliest themes on my list come from shows considered classics.  First, The Andy Griffith Show.  This catchy tune is one that you can whistle along with.  Even without looking at a screen, whistling it makes you picture Andy and Opie walking with their fishing poles to the lake.  Second, The Dick Van Dyke Show.  What’s not to like about this one?  You only have to wonder whether or not he’s gonna trip over the ottoman when he walks in the house.

Then there is the Twilight Zone.  The haunting guitar part that plays those same four notes over and over is scary as hell!  As a kid, I remember freaking out when it was on.  Today, as I listen to it, it is perfect for the show.  It was the perfect music to play while Rod Serling explained that we were entering another dimension.  I can’t tell you how many times something obscure happens and I start humming the theme song!

Another one of my favorites was the theme to Perry Mason.  It was written by Fred Steiner who said he wanted to capture Perry’s sophistication and toughness.  The song is actually called Park Avenue Beat and it is a bluesy “piece of symphonic R&B”.  The song was re-recorded for the Perry Mason TV movies and was used by the Blues Brothers band while out touring.

Another theme song that I absolutely love, has a Blues Brothers tie in, too.  Peter Gunn is a private eye.  The initial base line accompanied by low brass instruments screams sleazy private eye.  It’s a great piece.  The song actually plays in the first Blues Brothers movie as the brothers are driving through Illinois.  They do a fine cover of it.

The 60’s

The shows of the 60’s and 70’s had some of the best theme songs!

The theme to Mission: Impossible is instantly recognizable.  It was composed by the great Lalo Schifrin.  What’s neat about the song is that it is in 5/4 time.  From the opening note – you can see the fuse light up and begin to burn.  It’s such a cool piece of music.  I was glad that they used it in the movies with Tom Cruise (even though I disliked them).

Wanna sing along with the theme to Batman?  You only need to sing the word “Batman” and you got it!  Neil Hefti, who was a composer and arranger, composed the theme with it’s simple guitar lick and vocal.  It was a hit for Hefti, The Ventures, and the The Marketts.

William Dozier, creator of Batman, also created the Green Hornet.  Even though the show didn’t last long, the theme song is memorable for a few reasons.  First, it is based on the classical piece, The Flight of the Bumblebee.  Second, playing the trumpet on the song is the great Al Hirt!  Classic!  One that you will hum for days.

Who can forget the theme to the Monkees?  “Here we come, walking down the street.  We get the funniest looks from, everyone we meet….”  Hey!  Hey!  They’re the Monkees!  For this show, they gathered 4 guys with little or no musical experience and made them a band.  The show appealed to kids and adults alike.  It was fast paced with quick jokes and 4 lovable characters who featured many of their hit songs on the show.

In the 60’s the guitar played a big part in theme songs.  Think about this, The Munsters theme had such a catchy lick that was sampled for the song Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.  It was cool enough to sample for one of today’s hit songs.

One of those great guitar theme songs was to Get Smart.  The opening sequence changed a little from season to season, but it always included Don Adams walking through a corridor with sets of doors one right after another until he finally makes it to the payphone that gets him into CONTROL headquarters.  Love this song and it never fails, if I am ever walking down a long hallway – I will almost always start to hum this song.

I mentioned the Ventures earlier, and they have one of the coolest theme songs – Hawaii 5-0.  It was a huge instrumental hit for the band.  It’s a great balance of guitar and horns.  The use of the tympani drum and the pyramid effect by the horns in this song is masterful!  It’s one of those theme songs you instantly crank up.

The 70’s

Disco was in and some theme songs were just “funky”.  Two examples of this are Barney Miller and it’s spin-off, Fish.  The funky bass in the two theme songs is prominent and sets the tone for the them.  The guitar melodies blend in and make them two themes that you could listen to over and over.  The horns in Barney Miller continue to crescendo to the end of the song itself.  It started slow and funky and ends in such a way that when it’s over you are disappointed cause you want more.

Norman Lear was a staple of 70’s TV.  He created All In The Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Good Times, and the list of his credits goes on and on.  The Jeffersons was a spin-off of All In The Family.  George Jefferson is “moving on up” to a bigger and better life and that’s where the theme song sets you up.  It tells you the story.  The theme song was written by Ja’net Dubois (of Good Times) and Jeff Berry and sung by Dubois and a gospel choir.  Her vocal is amazing and so is the song.

How do I describe the theme song from What’s Happening!!?  As the show opens, the main characters are running down a sidewalk bouncing a ball.  The music kinda sounds like a ball is bouncing and then the soprano sax jumps in.  It’s odd, but it’s catchy.  It’s also written and composed by one of the most respected men in music – Henry Mancini!

The 70’s introduced us to the superhero Wonder Woman.  I do not know a boy alive who did not have a crush on Lynda Carter.  Much like the Batman theme, this theme repeats the character’s name a few times, but then expands on how wonderful she is.  There is a funky little bass line that drives the song and I can’t really remember much more because I was watching Lynda Carter run ….

Welcome Back, Kotter was the show that introduced us to John Travolta.  It was a comedy about a guy (Gabe Kaplan) who goes back to his old neighborhood to teach.  The show was originally going to be called Kotter.  The title was changed, however, because of the theme song.  It was written and recorded by former lead singer of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian.   The song hit the charts and went all the way up to #1.  This song give you the feel of the “folksy” 70’s.

The 80’s

There are so many great theme songs from the 80’s!  Let’s start with Night Court.  Night Court’s theme song throws me back to the 70’s because of that funky bass open.  You also have that soprano sax melody.  It’s not a long theme, and when it’s done, you wish that you could find somewhere an “extended club mix”.

Police Squad only produced 6 episodes and it was cancelled.  It starred Leslie Nielson as Lt. Frank Drebin.  At the time, the network didn’t think that a show like Police Squad would be something an audience would want to watch (so they could catch all the jokes – remember, this was done by the guys who gave us the movie Airplane!).  The theme song was accompanied by a voice over announcer reading the credits.  He would also announce tonight’s guest star (who would always die during the credits) and give the name of the episode (which never matched with the title read on the screen).  Thankfully, when the Naked Gun movies were made, the kept the theme song.

In 1980, Urban Cowboy hit theaters and country music was all the rage.  It only made sense that we’d have a country comedy show on TV.  That show was the Dukes of Hazzard.  Talk about big name singers – Waylon Jennings sings the theme song, and he was also the show’s narrator.  The song was released as a single in August of 1980, and it went to #1 on the Billboard Country Charts!  Yee-haw!

The 90’s

It is here that we begin to see the decline in the use of the TV theme song.  As a matter of fact, it became a habit to edit them down to 10-30 seconds from the already short 60 seconds.  There are some that stand out for me though from this decade.

Tim Allen’s Home Improvement was a show based on his comedy act.  His grunts and vocalizations intermingle through the theme song, almost as if they are a part of the musical score.  The theme song almost sounds like a “work” song, both in sound and in tempo.

Seinfeld was one of those shows who used a theme song for a while, and used it at the end of the show, but often times especially in the show’s later seasons, it was shortened.  The bubbly, poppy, twangy bass, and silly feel will forever be associated with the show about nothing and it’s silly characters.

From the opening guitar of “I’ll Be There for You” by the Rembrandts, you are in New York with Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe and Monica.  The theme to the show Friends was an international hit.  It was a song that was requested on radio and used at wedding receptions to introduce bridal parties.  The song is heavily influenced by the Beatles (I Feel Fine) and the Monkees (Pleasant Valley Sunday).  It was originally just one minute long, but the band went in an recorded an extended version, which became a radio hit.

Who could forget It’s Garry Shandling’s Show?  The show, in itself, was silly.  Garry interacts with the cast, but often will interact with the studio audience as well.  It was just so weird.  The theme song is just as weird.  It’s a bouncy song that basically references itself (this is the theme to Garry’s show) and tells you how it came to be (Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song) and then asks how you like it (we’re almost halfway finished how do you like it so far?).  The melody is so catchy, you can’t help but want to sing (or whistle) along with it.

Wrapping up

With the TV theme song becoming more and more absent from TV…what are your thoughts?  Which ones did you love growing up?  Which ones do you still sing?  Which ones did you hate?

Now it’s your turn – I look forward to seeing your comments.