punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

In Search Of... happy memories

So, last night, I was on some web site where someone was making fun of Leonard Nemoy as being an "unlikely Hollywood star that makes Fred Gwynne look sexy," and they dropped the name of the show, "In Search Of..."

I used to LOVE that show.

And I forgot about this moment until Glark mentioned it on his Twitter feed about how most investigative monster hunt/alien sighting shows end with a maddening, "... but you'll have to decide for yourself." I agree with him on this point, because it made me stop watching these shows. "Then why the hell did I sit here for an hour then and watch your damn program?"

But this is not really a rant, but a rarity in my journal, a happy childhood memory.

It doesn't start off nice. There were many weekends I spent "alone" in my house because my father was on a business trip and my mother was drunk and passed out. One didn't happen because of the other, in my opinion, since both happened with enough frequency to make them overlap a few times a year by chance. The time that these highlights happened was from about age 9 to 12. I liked the time alone, because I felt I could be myself, and I got tired of my room all the time. Plus, I had the run of the house. Wheeee!

I would get up early on a Saturday morning. Normally, I got up late because when my parents were around, I felt I had nothing to look forward to in a day if I didn't have school. Even if I was up until o-dark-thirty the night and morning before, I'd get up early at watch cartoons. I wasn't allowed to watch TV as a kid, except a few sanctioned PBS shows, and only when I wasn't in trouble. But when I had the house to myself? Awesome... I'd crawl out of bed, check on my mother, and if she was passed out in bed, I was in the free and clear. Sometimes she'd be passed out on the floor or on the toilet, and I'd have to get her to the bed if I could get her awake at all. But most of the time she was on the bed, snoring away.

I'd go to the kitchen and see what food we had. Most of the time, we had an acceptable variety, and since my mother taught me how to cook when she was sober, I could make do with an odd assortment of ingredients. Like even at age 10, I could cook a steak, roast a chicken, make sauces, and so on. But usually I'd choose something easy, like frying my own hamburgers or a TV dinner of some kind (if I was lucky, my mother wasn't into frozen foods much). If there was cereal, I'd eat that, too. We didn't have a microwave, but we did have a toaster oven, so I'd often make toasted things. My favorite was a toasted PB&J, although it made a mess if the jelly dripped.

I'd turn on the TV in the kitchen, and flip around to the various shows. We didn't have a TV guide or anything, so at each half hour interval, I'd check and see what else was on. Generally, there were 4-5 channels with kid's cartoons in the DC area in the late 70s. You had channels 4, 7, and 9 which were the major networks of NBC, ABC, and CBS, respectively. Then you had local channels, 5 and 20 on the UHF dial. PBS was 26. On good days, you could also get channels 22 and 45 from Baltimore, which were PBS and a local Baltimore station. 5 and 45 later got bought out by FOX when it wanted networks. The "good cartoons" were on the major networks, and the local ones had older shows like Warner Brother and MGM cartoons, along with syndicated old shows like "The Little Rascals." The local channels gave up on cartoons fairly early, usually around 10-11am, and started showing various older, low-budget movies. The cartoons on the older networks ended around noon or so, usually when "Soul Train" started.

I'd watch a bad movie or two, usually on channel 20, which would then show some older serial cop programs like "Beretta" and "The Rockford Files." Then it would show, "In Search Of," which I'd watch religiously. In the later years, channel 20 would show "Kung Fu Theater," which probably saved my life since before that, I'd go down to DC to watch kung fu movies. I loved kung fu movies. I still do, in fact! I love watching some terrible flick from Hong Kong with grainy wow and flutter music and terrible subtitles. The gorier... the more DISTURBING gorier... the better. Regular, over-rehearsed fight scenes were okay, but I always liked the one way some guy would die and go, "Daaaaag!" I recall one guy died when someone stuck half a hornet's nest on his face, and pushed him over a cliff. Then he fell on some spiked fence and got torn in half.

I didn't just sit at our kitchen table and watch, though. Sometimes I did homework, but often I'd drag up my big collection of Legos and build stuff while watching. The sun might have been shining through the window, but I was constructing weird Rube Goldeberg machines with rubber bands, gears, and wheels.

The evening would bring about some scattered TV programs. The best was when Love Boat came on and then Fantasy Island. I would usually end the evening with Saturday Night Live or Benny Hill, checking on my mother every once in a while. Sometimes she'd get up and wander around the house, lost like a deer in a parking lot. My job was to make sure she didn't bump into anything, fall down the stairs, or pass out somewhere other than bed. But most of the time, she'd be snoring away.

Sometimes the weekend would extend into Sunday, but the TV was pretty awful on Sunday. When you're a kid, "Sunday morning" was dead for TV, and the TV didn't really pick up until the evening. I guess there was sports, but I hated sports, so.I had to find something to do. In the earlier days, I'd go down to DC and wander about. If it was Saturday, I'd take the 24T bus from West Moreland to Ballston Metro, but if it was Sunday, only the 23A bus to Crystal City was running near me, and so I'd have to walk about a mile down to Chain Bridge road to pick that one up. That one also went to Tyson's Corner, so I'd go there sometimes. I never had much money, so often I'd have some extra cash from some odd chore, or I'd... [gulp] rummage through my mother's purse. Yeah, I stole from her purse sometimes, but I "justified" it by taking only what I thought I'd need, and only sparingly, and usually no bills larger than a 5. Back then, bus fare was only about 35 cents, and Metro was like $1.60 round trip. A day in DC, with movie ticket, would have only cost about $6-8.

I guess I should have wandered around lonely and feeling sorry for myself, but in reality, I didn't. I actually enjoyed the "alone time." At age 10, you don't want your parents hassling you, and both parents fully knew I took the bus down to DC. It didn't bother them at all, since both grew up in Chicago. It's funjny, when CR was 10, I wouldn't have so much as allowed him to think that was okay, so I am not sure if it was parental neglect or things were different back then. Probably a little of both.

In DC, I used to go to the Zoo a lot. Museums, too. I also went down to some of the places where they showed cheap movies and the only staff at the theater was some old guy who didn't care if you were 10 and wanted to see an "R" film or not. In fact, that's why I saw a lot of the "Hong Kong Fooey" because they weren't rated anything, even though in reality they should have gotten an R rating for the extreme violence and gore.

I did have some friends to hang around; I wasn't a total social pariah. There was Neal in 6th grade, and before that, sometimes I'd hang around Pat, Andy, Kyle, Richard, and Carrie. Maybe FJ and Jean. But because my father insisted on spending so many weekends on his damn boat, I didn't really get to connect more than be that peripheral friend that hung around a few times a year (except for Neal that last year).

But those are happy memories, anyway. I don't really go down to wander around DC much these days. It's a shame I know more about Baltimore than I do DC.
Tags: childhood
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