Some titles tell you everything you need to know about the article, skit, show, etc. My latest favorite example is a cartoon short from Saturday Night Live, entitled “Middle Aged Mutant Ninja Turtles.” No need to actually watch the cartoon, the title (assuming you are familiar with the reference) tells the whole story.
Until recently we had a rooster that cock-a-doodle-doo’ed the opening chords of the theme to “Get Smart!”, the spy spoof from the 1960s. Maybe the bird is the reincarnation of Don Adams. I wanted to get the sound on tape—meaning I wanted to record it, nobody does actual tape recordings anymore. But whenever I pointed the cell phone at the unnamed rooster in question, he clammed up (pardon the mixed-species metaphor.) A few days ago my wife sent him off with the guy for whom she’s incubating turkey eggs. Thus, no evidence to offer you, my patient readers. Perhaps one of the turkeys will gobble the theme from the Dick van Dyke Show, or whatever.
One of my prouder achievements is having solid claims to all 50 states. It’s well down the list from being a husband and dad, but still. The feat was not something I imagined back in my days of turtle-portrayal (see an upcoming paragraph), or even a couple years before then, when I repeatedly put on the costume of medical student, but here I am at the Advanced Age That I Don’t Like to Acknowledge in Public, and after many years of criss-crossing the country for my career, personal vacations, and various business, I not only have visited all 50 states but have done something unique and interesting in each of them.
Kentucky? Mammoth Cave National Park
Rhode Island? Bike trips to the ice cream stand in Cumberland
Oklahoma? Cheered on John Elway and Stanford as they upset the highly-ranked Sooners. In the rain, mind you.
I’ll spare you details of the other 47.
The other day, we were cleaning out the back seat of the green car when I noticed, embedded in the cushions, what seemingly was a highly-rusted nail—burnt orange in color and covered in tiny nasty spikes—thus an object really stupid for anyone to reach out and touch. Which of course I do. It pricks my finger and I yell “ouch!”
The next proclamation from someone who isn’t me might have been, “Why was I so stupid to touch that nail?” Instead I shout, “Why is there a rusty nail in the back seat?” To which my wife, upon inspecting the object in question, replies, “That is not a nail. That is a desiccated sweet potato French fry.”
The offending foodstuff is carefully removed and disposed of, but the splinter sets up shop in the pad of my right index finger, where it remains. It hurts slightly as I type this essay. I could take a tiny needle and dig it out, or I could try soaking it in warm water and then squeezing, as my wife recommended. But I will not seek professional care. The reasons: A) No one should waste time and money on something as trivial and resolvable as a tiny splinter, and B) I simply do not have the tolerance for embarrassment to admit to a doctor and/or nurse that I received a splinter from an ossified slice of potato.
I still retain a few shreds of dignity.
More news: the battery of the very same green car opted to drain to zero, and so we called Triple A for a tow to the repair shop. Fairly mundane, you might think, but not the case to Nathen, our 3-year-old (and soon to be 4). With silent and intense concentration—not his typical M.O.—the little fellow watched the tow truck’s light-flashing arrival, its precision maneuvering to lift the stranded car, and its light-flashing departure with green car behind it. Now, over the past several days, tow trucks have dominated his interest and conversation. We rehash the tow truck visit, we look for other tow trucks on local streets and highways, we contemplate a toy tow truck for his birthday (which he’s getting, courtesy of grandparents,) and of course, we watch videos about tow trucks.
Which brings me to the relatively obscure, underappreciated, and surprisingly diverse subject of tow truck videos on Youtube.com.
The gold standard of the genre, and one we’ve now watched maybe a dozen times, is part of the “Twenty Trucks for Kids” series. Each of the videos presents tightly-edited footage of a specific type of vehicle, accompanied by a professionally-performed and arranged musical number. In quiet moments I find myself repeating the catchy lyrics of the tow-truck song (tuh-toe, tuh-toe, tuh-toe, tow truck. Drive me safely home, tow truck, drive me safely home.) Other titles cover such intriguing categories as airplane deicing trucks, logging trucks, and road resurfacers—but Nathen currently has no interest in any of them. We keep replaying the &*(%*^& song about the tow trucks.
Other tow truck videos range from the boring to the distressing to the borderline sleazy. Several instructional videos show how to lift and secure a stranded vehicle with a tow truck, which could be useful for an audience that does not include me or pre-schoolers. Then we’ve got the driver POV, hand-held video accounts of tow trucking exploits, with commentary, generally involving the repossession of automobiles, and generally at night. Presumably the auteurs are fans of certain exploitation flicks of the 70s, as the offerings seem to channel them. If anyone wants to give awards to legitimate jobs that seem disreputable, repo tow truck driver would certainly be a competitive nominee.
Then we have tow truck funeral processions—which apparently is a Thing, as the millennials would say. When a beloved and veteran tow-truck driver dies, all the other tow trucks in the community file in line behind the hearse. The video I watched, which was filmed in New Jersey, was accompanied by “Arms of the Angel,” by Sarah McLachlan, which at least I enjoyed more than the music for the repo videos.
Circa 1989, Minneapolis, Minnesota, I am working at an outlet of Title Wave, a local chain of video rental and music stores. Hard to imagine today, but the video rental business was booming for many years, and large stores were hububs of activity and popular neighborhood gathering spots. At Title Wave, the management occasionally brought in costumes for an employee-volunteer to don and parade about, entertaining the masses, especially children. So I was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Specifically, Donatello, as so proclaimed by the initial D on his belt and distinguished, I think, by the color of his bandana-mask.
The night before, I researched the role. I learned the origin story of the turtles, the names of their mentors, friends, enemies, and their personal habits and preferences, among them martial arts, pizza, and phrases such as “Cowabunga, dude.” (Or so memory serves; I might be confusing the turtles with Bart Simpson.) When showtime arrived I felt well prepared, and that was correct. I was a decent TMNT. Children followed me around the aisles, enjoying my antics, asking questions that I answered legitimately. Parents smirked and slapped me on the, um, shell.
My main memory of the experience was getting in and out of the costume. It was an elaborate, heavy, multi-piece costume that covered the body from head to toe, including a codpiece that fit over the crotch. One of the other employees, a girl, helped me in and out of this thing. Afterward we had one (1) date–she was uninterested in anything further. I don’t even remember her name. We seemed to hit it off only when I was portraying the turtle.
Drive me safely home, tow truck, drive me safely home.
So my challenge now—and yours too?!?—is to keep up with the interesting and personal accomplishments and achievements, pointless and otherwise. I’ve published my novel, I keep publishing my essays, and I want to start up the Next Big Project, whatever that’s gonna be—I do have some ideas. I’ll keep working on raising my soon-to-be-4-year old and his teenage brother, too, with the essential help and partnership of my wife. Hopefully no more splinters from French fries, but if they arise, I’ll deal, I’ll deal.
That’s the report for today. Feel free to reach out to me on Facebook or email or whatever, and say “Hi Joe, how’s it going?” I’ll reply “Not bad, how are you?” and we can have a conversation. That’d be nice.