Friday, November 10, 2006

On This Day

On this day, November 10, 1969, Sesame Street was broadcast for the first time. Most of us Products of the Seventies were not young enough to really be Sesame Street kids, but we all recognize the influence on future generations.

From Wikipedia:
Sesame Street premiered on November 10, 1969. The very first scene was a clay-animated sequence showing two creates forming the words "Sesame Street", followed by the opening theme music. The first regular performer to appear on screen is Gordon (Matt Robinson) who introduces one of his students to his wife, Susan, as well as Bob and Mr. Hooper. Big Bird also appears, though the first puppet-style Muppets to appear on screen were Ernie and Bert.

During this first season, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch were the only Muppets to regularly appear in Street scenes, while Ernie and Bert and others debuted in separate segments. Big Bird had a much more naïve voice and a smaller head with fewer feathers, and Oscar was a "toxic" orange...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Burger Wars

"Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun."

"Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce. Special orders don't upset us. All we ask is that you let us have it your way!"

And of course, once the eighties hit, perhaps the most memorable...
"Where's the beef?"

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Grievous Angel

Recently I have rediscovered Gram Parsons. For those not familiar with Gram Parsons, he was a tortured soul who was the driving force behind the country-rock scene that began in the early seventies. From The Byrds to The Flying Burrito Brothers to duets with Emmylou Harris to a solo career, Gram Parsons was an important figure in the evolution of seventies music. He was rumored to suffer from bipolar disorder, which would explain his legendary alcohol and substance abuse issues.

Parson's last album was called Grievous Angel, and was released after his death in 1974. It's a marvelous album, full of hearfelt songs. A very country feel, it was a precursor to the country rock that became so popular in the later seventies. I highly recommend it.

His death is legendary, he died of an overdose in the desert, at a place called Joshua Tree. It was a place he regularly visited, a spiritual oasis for him. After his death his body was stolen by his manager who was fulfilling a promise made to him earlier. Using a borrowed hearse, they drove his body to Joshua Tree and in a drunken festival botched a cremation attempt. Google him up and spend some time reading the history - it's truly fascinating.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

This won't turn into a political blog, I promise. But being election day in the US, it brings this to mind.

The final nail in the coffin of the seventies was the election of Ronald Reagan. This is not meant as a commentary of Reagan as president. But the election of Reagan was the beginning of the current age of US conservatism. The mindset of the sixties and seventies was unceremoniously flushed in November of 1980.

It was inevitable, I voted for Reagan as I was ready for a change. I think we were all ready for a change at that time, I just didn't think that change would lead to where we are now.

Monday, November 06, 2006

1974 School Assembly

It was the fall of 1974, and they herded the entire school into the gym for an assembly. We had a big school, particularly for being in the middle of the US heartland. No freshmen at our school, grades 10 – 12 only. But of those 3 classes we had in the vicinity of 2000 students.

We had no idea why we were being pulled out of class, but anything was better than algebra so we were happy. Kind of. We had to sit through a speech by some southern governor. It held my attention for maybe 5 minutes. At that time, the political process couldn’t have interested me less. Not surprisingly I still remember the girl I was sitting next to, her name was Nancy and she had this exotic Brooklyn accent. But do you think I can remember ANYTHING the speaker said? A few years later I became interested in the political process, was a member of the “young republicans”, and a student volunteer for a few campaigns.

That speaker became President of the United States 2 short years later, beating out Gerald Ford, who was one of the candidates for whom I was volunteering. It was, of course, Jimmy Carter.

I now have a deep respect for President Carter. He wasn’t an effective president, but he is a compassionate person and a brilliant statesman, both are qualities hard to find in today’s politicians.

I wish I had paid attention that day.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Cigarette Machines

My kids don't believe me. I tell them when I was a kid, you could go anywhere and buy cigarettes from a machine. When I was just starting to fool around with cigarettes in the early seventies, you could buy them out of a machine for about 50 cents a pack. We had a Dairy Queen close to our junior high school and they had a machine, as every place did. When the owner wasn't looking we'd buy them from the machine, always Marlboro box. If he caught us, he'd buy them back, yell a lot, then kick us out.

I still remember those cigarettes, the smell and feel of a new pack, and the swimming head and nausea that went along with them. But I stuck it out, and became hopelessly hooked. Today, after having quit 17 years ago, I still miss them.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Lost Wedding Ring

It's a strange story. Don't know if it's ghost related, kid related, or miracle related.

Many years ago - 15 or so - I lost my wedding ring. Just a simple band, nothing fancy. 15 to 20 years pass and I don't often think of it any more. I consider buying another one, but there's always more pressing uses of the money. Over the years I accuse my wife, in a teasing way, that she pawned my ring. She rolls her eyes and ignores me. Kids come and go, possessions come and go, and we even move about 4 years ago. If it was going to turn up, it would have turned up by now.

Yesterday I'm looking for something and open a jewelry box on my dresser. There, laying on top of a pile of silver coins I've collected over the years, was my ring.

The wife thinks it's our ghost. I think one of the kids stumbled across it and put it in there. It doesn't really matter. When I found it, I immediately put it on. Remember it hasn't been on for 15 years, and 15 pounds or so ago. It was difficult to slide on, and will probably never come off. So I won't have to worry about this scenario again...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Seventies Ghost

It's the stereotypical seventies house, built in 1970. Large, sprawling split entry in what was a suburb back then. Now, of course, it's mid city. Still has the harvest gold counter tops, the dark woodwork, seventies plumbing. And there's one other thing this house has:

A seventies ghost.

We've owned the house for 3 years now and have heard him from the start, definite and distinct footsteps through the house. My kids have big feet, he sounded just like them. He turns the radio on and off. He opens doors, and sometimes plays a single note on the piano. Finally, my wife sees him. A perfectly clear view of him. Medium height, stocky build, thick blonde hair that's seventies long. Tight white tennis shorts and nothing else. Oh yeah - he had big feet.

A seventies ghost. Why am I not surprised?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Alvis Edgar Owens Jr

The country music star known as Buck Owens died last week, at the age of 76.

Now many Products of the Seventies will be wondering why they should remember a country hayseed. Buck Owens was HUGE, and any POTS should recognize this.

First, as co-host of the hit show "Hee-Haw" he was one of the most recognized TV celebrities of our age. Everyone claimed not to watch Hee-Haw, but we all did. That's OK, you can admit it now. If you think you never watched, that's just your chemically induced memory loss kicking in.

Next, he was an important force in music. Not just country music, but rock & roll and popular music. He influenced countless of musicians of that era, and had a hit with the song "Act Naturally", that the Beatles also recorded.
"We played rhumbas and tangos and sambas, and we played Bob Wills music, lots of Bob Wills music," he said, referring to the bandleader who was the king of Western swing.

"And lots of rock 'n' roll," he added.

Owens started recording in the mid-1950s, but gained little success until 1963 with "Act Naturally," his first No. 1 single.

There's a giant doing cartwheels a statue wearin' high heels.
Look at all the happy creatures dancing on the lawn.
A dinosaur Victrola list'ning to Buck Owens.
Doo doo doo Lookin' out my back door.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The M-80

One of my best friends in high school drove a little Datsun. Back then, there were not that many Japanese cars. You'd see some German Opels, and a few British MGs and Triumphs, but very few Japanese cars. For small cars, Vegas and Pintos as far as the eye could see.

One night we were cruising in my buddie's Datsun and he had scored some M-80 firecrackers. Firecracker is misleading, these things were close to dynamite strength. You'd put one in a mailbox, and it would shred the box. And that's exactly what we were doing - putting them in mailboxes. I'm sure our experience was enhanced in some manner, they usually were. Schlitz, Bud, PBR - it could have been any of them. Or it could have been something different...

We were down to our last M-80. We had driven into a field, wondering what we could do for maximum effect. Finally, my buddy said screw it, let's just get rid of it before we get busted. He rolled his window halfway down, lit the M-80 and through it hard at the window. It hit the edge of the window, and bounced back into his lap.

SHIIIIIIIITTTTTTTT! He yells and bails out of the car brushing off his crotch. I'm still clueless as to what's happening and he's running full blast away from the car. I look down and see the M-80 burning fast, the fuse almost completely burned. I bailed too. I get a few steps away and...

WHOOOOOOOMP! We look, and smoke is rolling out of the car. There was so much smoke we thought the car was toast. Literally. The smoke cleared after a few seconds, and we crept back. My buddy gingerly reached in for the overhead light, and we took a look. A burned spot on the carpet. That was it! We got in, still shaking a little, and drove away. We didn't screw with M-80s again after that. When we wanted to take out mailboxes, we did it the old fashioned way - with a baseball bat.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Any Major Dude Will Tell You

It fits my mood today.

I never seen you looking so bad my funky one
You tell me that your superfine mind has come undone

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you

Have you ever seen a squonk's tears? Well, look at mine
The people on the street have all seen better times

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you

I can tell you all I know, the where to go, the what to do
You can try to run but you can't hide from what's inside of you

Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again
When the demon is at your door
In the morning it won't be there no more
Any major dude will tell you

Steely Dan
Any Major Dude Will Tell You
Pretzel Logic
©1974 MCA Music Publishing, a division of Universal Studios, Inc. (ASCAP).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Neighborhood Drive In

What would a seventies blog be without a drive-in movie post?

We had one in our neighborhood, about 8 blocks from home. When we were kids, if we were lucky enough to get out after dark and able to stay out a while, we would walk down there. We had to cross a highway to get there, and if our parents knew we'd get in trouble. But there was a golf course directly behind the theater, and we'd pull a bench from the course up to the back fence, and watch the show.

I had a paper route when I was a teenager, and I'd deliver papers from my Schwinn Orange Crate, and later, from my 10 speed Schwinn Continental. If I got done early, I'd pedal down to the drive-in.

There was a couple of big, mean, brothers my age that cleaned up the drive-in parking lot the morning after shows. You had to get there early to beat them to the lot. But if you did... There were always cans of un-opened beer, partially full bottles of Boones Farm, and all kinds of assorted goodies. It was a teenagers paradise. I'd make a quick swing through, throw the best stuff in my paper sack, and pedal home before the clean-up crew got there. I'd ditch the stash somewhere on the banks of the creek that wound through our neighboorhood park. We'd come back later and pretend we actually liked the stuff.

Later, when we were actually driving, we hit that drive-in with buddies and dates. I saw "Star Wars" for the first time there. Yet another memorable night was spent with a few friends, beer, and other leafy "illicit substances". We watched "Marathon Man". The sound of that dentist's drill was absolutely horrific.

All in all, it was a spot of significant memories for this Product Of The Seventies.

Old Mill Hill

Building on my last post about Old Mill Hill.

We would scrounge behind service stations (remember those?) for old tires. Every sorry excuse for a service station had a mountain of old tires behind the station. Depending on who was driving, what vehicle they had, and how many people were in the vehicle, we took as many tires as we had room for. We would drive up to the top of Old Mill Hill and wait for cars to come along. When they got about 200 yards away, we'd start the tire rolling. It took great timing, skill, and luck, but we did manage to nail a couple of cars. Funny, looking back we never considered it vandalism or criminal, it was just a way of having fun.

Then once the tires were gone, we had more room in the vehicle. If Jud was along, he had some big ones. He'd go to the back door of the Holiday Inn, and steal an empty beer keg. Then he'd take it back to a liquor store for the keg deposit. We weren't often lacking for beer money...

Monday, March 06, 2006

My 72 Bug

All through school I drove a 72 bug. Not the one pictured here, but pretty darn close. While I hated that car, it was memorable.

We had a hill in our part of town called "Old Mill Hill". There was a Holiday Inn hotel at the top of the hill. You could drive the road around the hill, or you could gto across country, and climb the greater than 45 degree slope up the side of the hill. Guess what we liked to do in the VW? I'd get started up the hill, and we were pointing so far up you'd think you were going to flip over backwards. The people in the back seat were always terrified. It was a great time. More on Old Mill Hill in future posts. A lot of stories around that.

One time, we were off-roading in another field close to a highway. We had 3 or 4 of us in my VW, along with beer, of course, and we cruised across the wooded field to a big lighted billboard next to the highway. Crazy man Eugene (Geno), climbed that billboard, and stood on the lighted platform in front of the sign. He was mooning all the cars driving by, and they were honking, of course. We finally got him down, and drove back towards the road. As we get close to the road, we saw a vehicle trailing us, but a quarter mile off. We looked hard, and thought we say lights on the top. We floored it, hit the road, made a couple of quick turns, and were home free. A friend in a nearby house saw the whole thing, and confirmed that it was a police car. Yet another escape by the skin of our teeth.

I could tell stories about the VW forever, and probably will. When I got into college, they used to kid me about having 7 back seats in that car. But that's another topic...

Walk The Line

Watched "Walk The Line" last night, the movie about Johnny Cash. I was a little surprised. It was good, but not as good as I expected it to be. And it was much more critical of him than I imagined it would be. It also had a very unsatisfying ending. The characters were not developed well enough, Johnny and June were, but that's about it. The music was OK, but didn't show much of the stories behind the songs.

Overall, I give it 3, maybe 3.5 out of 5. Fair to good, but not great.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Peter Benchley Dies

Peter Benchley, Author of 'Jaws,' Dies at 65

Peter Benchley, whose 1974 novel "Jaws" turned shark attacks into a national obsession and who later used what he called his "fish story" to help promote oceanic conservation, died yesterday morning at his home in Princeton, N.J. He was 65.

The cause was pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive scarring of the lungs, said his wife, Wendy.

In Honor Of Oscar Night

The Top Ten box-office movies of the Seventies were, in order:

1. Star Wars (1977)
2. Jaws (1975)
3. The Godfather (1972)
4. Grease (1978)
5. Superman (1979)
6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
7. Saturday Night Fever (1977)
8. The Sting (1973)
9. The Exorcist (1973)
10. National Lampoon's Animal House (1978)

I don't understand why "Logan's Run" didn't make the list...

Here is a cool site with this information: