Five for five -- 03/05/09

Gary Rith thought up this meme -- and then John Bailey picked up on it -- and I thought "Gee, I'd like to do that one also" -- but it's taken me a while to get around to it and to find the time to respond. (Yes, I fear this is one of my long-winded entries).

1) What was your favorite snack when you were 5? What is it now?

This is a tough question because I did not grow up in a world filled with snacks. When I was five a snack would have been a piece of fruit or a home-baked cookie or something like that. Nothing with a brand name on it, nothing that came from a supermarket. (In fact, I would not have known what a supermarket was -- we shopped at the neighborhood grocery store.) If I came in from playing and was between-meals hungry, my mother might have sliced a banana into a cereal dish, sprinkled some brown sugar on it, and then added milk.
(Hey Charlie, remember bananas-brown-sugar-and-milk?) In the evening, with the radio on playing dramatic shows like Gang Busters (opening with the sounds of a police whistle, sirens, squealing tires, a machine gun firing) and The Shadow ("Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-heh! The Shadow knows ... "); or sitcoms like Our Miss Brooks (in my mind I can still hear Eve Arden's voice in the role) and Duffy's Tavern (which always opened with Archie, the tavern manager, answering the telephone -- and I can still hear him saying "Duffy's Tavern, where the elite meet to eat. Archie the manager speakin'. Duffy ain't here oh, hi ya, Duffy." -- and then he'd proceed to tell Duffy about the latest adventures of the various characters who hung out there. (Hey Dick, did you ever feel a proprietary interest in the show?) and The Aldrich Family (can't you just hear Mrs. Aldrich calling teenage son Henry: "Hen-reeeee! Henree Aldrich!"; or comedy/variety shows like Jack Benny or Burns & Allen... ah, but I am digressing when I should be talking about snacks. Well, we would sometimes have a snack while listening to those programs. It might be fresh popped popcorn (that my father would usually make, hot oil in a pot on the stove) or it might be a glass of root beer. We made our own root beer. Yes, of course, by "we" I mean my parents made it and I helped by doing things like handing passing another bottle to be filled or handing my father a bottle cap to put a bottle.

Now? Well, if either Nancy or Jill have done any recent baking, it would be whatever they had made -- cookies, cake, pie, etc. If not, most likely something like mixed nuts.

2) What was your favorite cartoon when you were 5? What do you like to watch now?

That's an easy one to answer: I didn't have one. No television. No cartoons.

Now? Well, if you mean cartoon -- i.e., animation -- it would be something like The Simpsons or Family Guy but I very rarely see them because I watch very little television. That is, I would enjoy watching them if it occurred to me to watch them and it happened to be the time that they were on. (I do have a DVD burner that can be programmed to record shows... but I can't think of any particular show that would be worth the effort to record and then to watch.) The last television program where I would make note of the time and go into the living room and turn on the television so I could watch a particular program was The Sopranos. Leaving aside special events (such as Wimbledon or the Australian Open -- remember, I'm married to a tennis addict) I mostly use the living room television to watch DVDs. We have been addicted to Battlestar Galactica and to 24, but we watch them on DVD from Netflix. (We do have a television in our bedroom and we use it in the morning to watch about fifteen or twenty minutes of local news and weather.)

3) What did you like to do after school when you were five? How about in your free time now?

After school? I played. Indoors or out -- depended on the weather. There was a radio program I used to love to listen to on Saturday mornings -- The Big Jon and Sparky show -- and eventually they added a short weekday late afternoon show as well, but I don't think that happened until I was in first grade.

Now, in my free time -- I'm usually either reading or on the Internet.

4) What scared you most when you were 5? What scares you most now?

There's lots of stuff that can scare a kid -- like I used to worry about some oil and gas storage tanks that were in our neighborhood but that may have been later because I'm not sure I understood what "explode" meant when I was five. However, I do remember one incident. To be fully honest, I am not certain if this happened when I was four or when I was five, but I think it was probably five. I was playing on the front porch and my mother had gone inside with my brother (to put him in bed for nap or something like that -- remember, he is my baby brother) and the fire horn began to blow -- if you counted the pattern it told you the location of the fire alarm box. Now the fire alarm closest to our house was also close to a Catholic K-12 girl's school and a nunnery, and a large scrap and salvage depot (i.e., a junkyard), and also those aforementioned gas and oil tanks. Thus, an alarm for this location brought out not just the two closest volunteer squads, it also brought most of the city department, including the hook-and-ladder truck.

In this particular instance, the alarm was not from any where near our house so no fire trucks arrived, but I was curious and, looking down towards the junkyard, I thought I saw smoke and thought that there might be something interesting to see... and, in violation of all the rules, I left the porch, just thinking I was just going to see if I could get a better look... but with all the wisdom and foresight of a five year old boy, I naturally kept going closer and closer until I was all the way down the street to the corner, right across the street from the junkyard. And then, despite not being allowed to cross this particular street by myself, I crossed it -- wanting to get a closer look at the fire I though I had seen. (Naturally, this being a scrap yard, they were always cutting up old cars and trucks with torches, so there frequently were displays of sparks and such.) And I found a way through the fencing and into the scrap yard and was so mesmerized by this wonderland of stuff, fascinating jumbled piles of stuff, really, really cool stuff to a five year old boy (oh, c'mon, you know how much all guys love stuff) that I had wandered down by the railroad tracks by the time a worker spotted me.

I was dragged back out to the street where we met my absolutely distraught mother looking for me. She took custody of me there and I was hugged and kissed and then sternly lectured to all the way back up the hill to our house and up the steps and inside and spanked and sent to my room until dinner time. Dad was rather strict but I wasn't worried about that (which should tell you how worried I was about something else). And, as it turned out, Mom conveyed a somewhat edited account of my wandering, so I only received a lecture rather than a thorough spanking. But rather than relief at getting off so lightly, I was feeling a combination of fear and grief.

You see, the guys in the junkyard had told me how I had been trespassing and that was a very serious crime and because of that I was going to be taken away and sentenced to reform school. And I couldn't swallow my dinner because of the lump in my throat at the thought that this was the last meal I would ever have with my family. I kept wondering when the doorbell would ring, announcing the arrival of the police to take me to reform school (which I knew was a special prison for bad children -- I think the junkyard guys had explained that to me) and I would only ever get to see my family again once a month on visiting day. Finally -- the next day -- after a night of terror and remorse -- I asked my Mom about my fears and she assured me that I was not going to be taken away.

Now? Well, these days I am scared by the utter stupidity and incompetence of those corrupt clowns in Congress who are meeting the economic crisis by passing a hideous collection of pork projects that not only won't help the crisis, they will cause an eventual eruption of inflation and a crushing increase in taxes. I've already lost almost half of the value of my retirement savings and they are going to destroy the value of what I have left through inflation and then tax me to death on anything I try to earn to survive into retirement.

5) What do you remember most clearly from when you were 5? how about in the last year?

Gee, I think I've gone on long enough... so I'm just going to end this now.

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