Friday, April 28, 2006

My Secret Life (34)

Last Saturday when I was supposed to be getting ready for work—who says men can’t multi-task? -- I caught part of a news segment. Maybe you saw it. It was the one about living a secret life.

Exhibit A: Your average everyday housewife with three children and one (apparently clueless) husband. This young and attractive woman is a PTA member, church choir leader, a hospital volunteer, who in her spare time, holds down a full-time job as a legal secretary.

What “secret life” could she have? Well, you could have knocked me over with a birthday balloon: she is a prostitute. She looks like the girl next door, which would be the title of the Lifetime Movie that’s sure to be made about her except they have already used it 7,000 times.

The working title is said to be: My Secret Life as a Call Girl: A Moment of Truth Movie in Which the Heroine Carla Luanne Smith-Siddons Makes the Startling Discovery that it was Her Husband’s Fault.

It seems she was getting bored with being your average everyday housewife. Glenn Campbell was singing throughout the segment; he later complained while riding a horse that he was “getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know”.

This was such a great news video that I tried to track it down on the Internet, but nothing came up. I regret particularly the loss of the very helpful list of hints that you, the viewer, might be having a secret life without even being aware of it.

I’m sure I have a secret life; I probably just haven’t told myself about it. Inspired by this great piece of TV, I decided to do a little research in my very own billfold. (It beat getting ready for work.)

First thing I did was to check my photo ID only to discover that it was obviously a picture of my Dad. Whoops! It’s me. Could it be I’ve gotten old? Is my Secret Life that I’m now masquerading in broad daylight as one of my parents? Shocking isn’t, it?

I’ve noticed that for some time now younger people (defined as practically everybody else) actually call me Mr. Perhaps this is my secret life: I’ve been pretending to be an adult for many years, so long in fact I’m now passing myself off as two weeks short of being a geezer. This is absurd of course; it’s hard to be an adult when your actual age (six) keeps tripping you up.

My secret life really comes home when strangers draw a bead on me and claim me as one of their own. They are usually rather old looking people. I listen intently while wondering, “Who are these people and why are they talking to me?”

They think they know me, even call me by my first name as though we are bosom buddies. (I know, I know—poor word choice since you are now thinking of Tom Hanks and that other guy.)

This used to puzzle me, but I’ve decided that there are people who apparently know someone who looks like me, probably my exact double, but who keep coming up to me by mistake.

Frankly, I’m sick of it. If I had wanted to be an old person, I would have been born at the end of WW II, would have graduated from high school when The Beach Boys were on the charts, and would have voted for the first time in 1968.

Oh, crap. That is me.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Sleepwalking Towards Hidalgo (33)

I began my sleepwalking career at age five. I slept downstairs, as did Mom and Dad. Brothers Jim, seventeen, and Jack, fifteen, slept upstairs; they were second story men. The “big boys” were out roller-skating the evening I took my first tour.

After a fresh snow that winter night, I walked out on our front porch and headed for downtown Hidalgo (POP. 100), which was closed.

I was making tracks, like a Man with a Mission, or a five year old with the midnight munchies. I was probably going to Meeker’s Grocery. Reba, the owner, was asleep along with the rest of Hidalgo. There was nothing else to do. Only three families in Hidalgo had TV, but they were tucked in as well.

Television was a still a great novelty, but only the test pattern was playing at that hour. The lucky three households stayed up to watch the test pattern at first, but gave it up after a few nights as, heck fire, they had to get up the next morning.

At age five I was having scary enough dreams without watching TV—bears seemed to be chasing me, for example. Sometimes I would smoke a few cigarettes to calm my nerves.

But this night was different, as I was on the prowl. Luckily Mom thought she heard something. Dad didn’t think so. Women were always hearing something, according to Dad.

Mom got up to look around and came back after checking my room: “Danny’s gone!”

Dad ran out on the snow-covered porch in his bare feet and Fruit-of-the-Looms. He banged his toes on a porch post and spoke loudly.

“Where’s Jack and Jim?”

“They’re not home yet”.

“For crying out loud. Who said they could stay out this late? They need to be looking after their little brother.”

“Dad, get some clothes on!”

“What in the crap for? Who’s going to see me?” Which was a good point as there wasn’t a single light on in town.

Dad raced to the corner and found that I had just turned the block. He caught up with me and asked, “You going someplace, Bub?”

Shortly after Dad delivered me to Mom, Jim and Jack got home separately just as he was getting ready to turn out the lights.

“It’s about time. Jack, why didn’t you ride home with Jim?”

“The Houser Girls dropped me off. Jim didn’t want to be bothered with me.”

“That’s not true. You just don’t like my friends”.

“You boys are brothers—act like it! Get to bed. Your Mom and I’ve had enough commotion for one night. Not to mention Danny.”

Dad looked around. “Where’s Danny?”

“He was just here”, Mom said.

Dad looked out the front door. “Well, what’s he doing on the porch?”

I had gone to sleep standing up and was getting ready to make the return trip downtown.

This time, after a little encouragement from Dad, Jack and Jim were in hot pursuit.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

From Dusk to Dawn (32)

From Dusk to Dawn

"Anybody got any gas money?”

Dale had pulled up at the Standard Station in Greenup. His brother Don and I fumbled in our pockets and came up with a total of 47 cents. Which in 1962 would have probably bought about two gallons of gas. We were on our way to Fairview Drive-in at Casey, 9 miles over.

Fairview was known for its exciting “Buck Night”, which was when you and seventeen of your closest buddies could pile into one car (the lucky ones got to ride in the trunk) and get in for a dollar.

Even better were the Dusk to Dawn spectaculars, one of which we were on our way to this particular Saturday night. “Dawn” meant you saw four or five movies, if you were still awake at 4:00 AM.

We were pretty sophisticated guys: we smoked Marlboros and probably stunted our growth by a quarter of an inch while regularly burning holes in our T-shirts.

I think the warning labels on cigarettes came around our senior year, when the Surgeon General determined that cigarette smoking might be hazardous to your health, but, hey don’t worry, we were told, Live Modern, Smoke L&M, just as recommended by Matt, Kitty, Chester, and Doc, the Gunsmoke health experts.

Dale didn’t light up, as Route 40 was a heavily traveled two-lane highway that demanded his full concentration. Soon he had to slow down for a truckload of chickens.

He stuck his head out the window (practically standing up with one foot on the accelerator) to see if the lane was clear. After all, we had to get a move on as the show started at dusk, which of course was at 7:53 PM CST.

It was still daylight when we reached Casey. Even so, some of the less patient movie patrons began honking their car horns to indicate they were ready for show time, dusk or not.

Within a few minutes the Snack Bar Players (Mr. Tasty Hot Dog who dipped himself in mustard, for example) appeared onscreen and the show started.

I volunteered to make the snack bar run.

Dale was a little skeptical. “Are you sure you won’t get lost, Danny? It’s nighttime--with your sense of direction you’ll probably take a wrong turn and wind up in somebody’s cornfield.”

“Oh, he’s not that bad, Dale”, Don said.

“What about the time he got lost in downtown Greenup when he had his paper route?” Dale asked.

“Hey, I’m not 12 years old anymore”, I said.

“OK, but if you’re not back in 15 minutes, I’m calling your Mom”, Dale said.

I ignored this remark and made my way to the snack bar. I got back well within the 15 minute limit even though it was dark and I was carrying a truckload of snacks, which I could barely see over.

I climbed into the back seat and started to hand out everybody’s order. I stopped in mid-delivery when I noticed a couple—not Dale and Don—sitting extremely close together.

I fell over myself and my Pepsi/popcorn delivery trying to get out of a stranger’s back seat.

I finally stumbled upon Dale’s car. I climbed in and said, “You’ll never guess what I just saw.”

“Never mind that--what took you so long? And where’s the rest of the popcorn?” Dale asked.

“I got in the wrong car. There’s was this couple up front who were practically sitting on top of each other. “

“Hey, what was going on? Did you see something?” Don asked.

“No, they were just sitting close—they weren’t doing anything. They were old married people.”

“How old?” Dale asked.

“At least 25”.