Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Rest of Rest

James Garner is dead.  This saddens me.  Not because I will miss him, I rarely think about him unless an old episode of Rockford Files or Maverick happens to be showing on TV.  It saddens me because an era is at its end.  The golden age of television.  Within the last few years, the stars of the TV shows I watched as a youngster have been relocated several feet below soil.  All of the Nelsons are gone, Ozzie, Harriet, Ricky and David.  Every actor and actress of I Love Lucy has succumbed to oxygen depletion.  The entire Bonanza family is all gone.  So are other western heroes such as Gunsmoke's James Arness and Dennis Weaver.  Have Gun no longer Travels after the mortal departure of Richard Boone.  Although Wagon Train only lost half of its acting staff, the ones left alive are in their mid-eighties. Both of the Beaver's parents are pushing daisies (and Lumpy and his dad are right there with them).   Jethro and Ellie May may still be kicking but Jed, Granny, Mr. and Mrs. Drysdale and Miss Jane are kickless.  Gilligan's Island is now a cemetary being tended by the Ginger and Mary-Jane.  (Anyone else ever wonder why Ginger brought so many changes of clothes for a three hour trip?)

Basically, I cannot think of single show I watched as a child that still has the entire cast above ground.  I shall list many of my old favorites and tell me if I am wrong.  These are the comedies: Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeanie, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, Gomer Pyle, The Andy Griffith Show, Laugh-In, The Smother Brothers, Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke, Jackie Gleason,The Odd Couple.  These are the dramas: Perry Mason, Route 66, Alias Smith and Jones, Wild Wild West, 77 Sunset Strip, Star Trek, Laramie, Rawhide, Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, The Man From Uncle, The Fugitive...   and Maverick.

James Garner is dead and this saddens me.  The reason is because I am now closer to that age group which this planet refuses continued habitation.  The weekly episodes of Rockford feels as if it were not that long ago. Today, I am older than when Garner portrayed him.  This brings to mind one of my favorite adages; Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer to the end, the faster it goes.

I have taken this writing in a complete different direction than I originally intended.  The idea that was in my head when I began, was to question the phrase "Rest In Peace."  James Garner is dead and countless condolences contain the words "Rest In Peace" or simple "RIP".  What puzzles me is the meaning of the word rest. Rest can mean a period of respite, which in turn implies that Jimmy Garner, after an indeterminate period of rest, will resume the stage and entertain us again.  Or rest may refer to the remainder, such as the rest of time.  Do people want James Garner's corpse to go undisturbed until the end of eternity.  This is highly unlikely.  Decay will occur.  And what if he's cremated?  Being transformed into a pile of ash does seem a very peaceful way to rest for the rest of evermore.

I understand the phrase "Rest In Peace" seems a proper way to bid farewell.  But only if you're planning a nights sleep.  "Hey, I'm going to bed now."  "Okay, rest in peace."  This is correct because I am only taking a temporary leave from my rigorous active life.  From rest will I return.  If I was dead, people wishing for me to rest in peace are wasting their wishes.  I will not rise from dead in the future and say, "Now that was a nice little rest."

Okay, I'm done writing for now.  Until my next endeavor being a wordsmith, I shall rest in peace.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Greater Escape

Fifty-one years ago today, "The Great Escape" debuted.  In the following weeks, since none of us were old enough to own a motorcycle, the boys of Center Line were busy digging tunnels in every vacant lot and field available.  At first the tunnels would collapse because they were barely under the surface, then we children smartened up and became human moles by digging deeper before burrowing off perpendicular.  We used scraps of lumber to sheer up the walls and ceilings.  The lumber was acquired from local construction sites.  When the adults caught on and we were warned off the sites, we resorted to dismantling our tree forts for the much needed wood.

There is a lot of work that goes into digging a tunnel, but when you have a dozen determined boys devoting all their free time to labor, then the improbable becomes inevitable.  At first, the boys were groups of two or three, each working on their individual tunnels, but when one group failed, they would latch on to another group that was succeeding.  And there was failures.  Looking back, it is amazing that no one was buried alive.  The worst injuries were blisters from using shovels.  So as tunnel after tunnel collapsed, there was one tunnel that remained strong.  It was located about a half block from my home, on a corner lot.  There were trees on the lot, and it's my belief the roots of the trees is what kept the tunnel from collapse.

In between the trees on a corner lot was our tunnel.  It went from a hole about four feet deep, under the ground for around twelve feet, and exited into another hole.  There was an offshoot in the middle of the tunnel that had been abandoned.  Once the tunnel was complete, the beginning of the offshoot was widened and deepened into a three by three box.  The tunnel itself was a tube that was less than two foot across and even less from top to bottom, barely enough room to crawl through.  But it was a working tunnel with a small room in the middle.  Two boys could enter the tunnel at one end.  Boy 1 could cuddle up in the middle room allowing boy 2 to pass and thus exit the tunnel in reverse order from their entrance.  We could re-enact the Bugs Bunny cartoon where Elmer Fudd chases Bugs through a hollow log only to have bi-passed Bugs somewhere in the tight quarters.

And for a short while the tunnel was our secret!  Only us boys who dug it, knew about it.  Then one day Ronny showed his little sister, trying to impress her I suppose, and she ran right to their father and snitched us out.  Ronny's father collapsed our tunnel that same afternoon.  He had us watch and claimed it was for our own safety and welfare.  I thought back then, and I still do, that some adults just do not want to see kids have fun.

So that is how I spent the last summer of John Kennedy's presidency.  In case you're quizzed later.