Archive for June, 2012

“Don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll go blind.” – Mom: Nineteen-Seventy-Something. Really, every adult said this during the 70s. I actually kind of miss it.

“Only one hour of TV a week.” – Also Mom, also the 1970s. I eventually wore her down, and by ‘eventually’ I mean approximately 3 or 4 weeks. “But Ma, The Fonz is going to jump over a shark on water skis…”

As I sit and watch Three’s Company on TV Land I am reflecting upon what a huge part of my life TV has been, and how I still have many observations on the various TV cliches. I was just talking to Gow about the old Batman TV show with Adam West and how it used to frustrate me so much as a little boy. “How?” asked the Gow dutifully. “Well…” I began…

Even as a 6, 7 or 8 year old boy I saw major flaws in the Batman TV show. I know it was never meant to be that serious, but 6 year olds shouldn’t be questioning their logic and inconsistencies. We just aren’t wired for that level of scrutiny.

OK…My first issue was that there was a painfully obvious formula that plagued my childhood sensibilities. Episode One. The villain (Joker, Ridler, King Tut. Cat Woman, The Penguin or EggHead (Vincent Price) starts a crime wave. Batman and Robin track them down at one of the many abandoned warehouses that seemed to abound in Gotham City. B&R would engage the villain and their 4 goons and would lose the first fight. “THWACK”, “BOFF” and “SOCKO” Then the villain would put the dynamic duo (who just lost a fight to 4 flabby middle aged fellows…not so “dynamic” really) into a half assed death trap after informing them which bank they’d be robbing. The crooks would never take away B&R’s utility belts…. this drove me crazy. “They’re gonna get away!!!” I’d scream at the TV. These belts had everything one would need for escaping half assed death traps, and every gadget was prefaced with “Bat”. “If I can just reach the Bat-Handcuff Keys and the Bat Glass Cutter we can get free old chum.” Of course they were going to reach these things.

Then they’d get away, go back to the Bat Cave for a pow wow and later beat the snot out of the crooks in a rematch “SMASH” “BANG” “THUD”. Things aren’t supposed to be so predictable for a 6 year old. I puzzled over the obvious criminological errors that these people kept making. First of all…if 4 flabby, middle aged goons were beating up B&R 50% of the time…why didn’t the Penguin or whomever just splurge and pay for 2 or 3 more goons? There seemed to be no shortage of them in Gotham. This isn’t rocket science people. Why did the criminals feel the need to gloat and tell B&R every last detail of their criminal enterprise? I mean don’t crooks lie anymore? Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying for B&R to show up to The First National Bank of Gotham only to find a note saying “Hey Losers…we’re really at the second national bank. Hahahaha. Sucks to be you! Love, Riddler”

Speaking of “The Riddler”, what a lame-assed and low rent master criminal. Was there ever any riddle that B&R couldn’t figure out in all of 15 minutes? Hell, I was 6 years old and my cousin and I were figuring out these “riddles” “Oh, he’s planning to steal the Mona Lisa and draw a mustache on the painting unless the Bruce Wayne Wing of the Gotham art museum coughs up a million bucks….Duh” What was the point of this guy’s MO? I’m amazed that the Riddler’s goons didn’t turn on him and mug his green suited ass for being so lame. The Penguin was kind of stupid too, but at least he had those cool umbrellas and top hats that did things. Don’t even get me started on “Egghead”, Vincent Price must have needed the money.

Mike Myers pointed out some of these silly issues Austin Powers, so I was relieved that I wasn’t the only kid noticing this stuff. It abounded in all the James Bond films too.

“Before I go and rob Fort Knox Mr Bond, I’m going to give you…oh I don’t know … twenty or thirty minutes to die in this overly intricate death device. Yes, I know one of the 10 guys I have here holding guns on you and your bimbo du jour could just shoot you…but I have faith that this will work and that a highly trained naval officer and spy will just give up and die. I’m leaving you with your MI-6 designed tuxedo, because I’m fairly certain that the buttons don’t explode and the belt doesn’t extend into a 40 foot cable, and what kind of pussy would put a Swiss army knife in the heel of their shoe? So…like I said…twenty..thirty minutes, I’ll be at Fort Knox. Did you have any good one liners before I go? Oh, that is good…Later Gator.”

Getting back to Batman…Adam West was just too damn flabby to be a convincing crime fighter. Am I the only one that wondered if Batman and Robin had switched the poles they slid down into the BatCave would they haved come out dressed in each others costumes? Speaking of the costumes. Bright yellow panties and a green cape, Robin? Really?

Other issues that plagued me in regards to early TV…

How did Wonder Woman find the invisible jet? Were people able to see her sitting down and flying through the sky?

How come the Six Million Dollar Man didn’t have any facial damage from that crash?

OK…so, you throw a tied up Bruce Banner into the trunk of a car and drive it into a pond. 5 minutes later, the Hulk comes jumping out of the pond? Was this tough to figure out?

CHiPs – My step sister wrote love letters to Eric Estrada, who never had the decency to respond. I used to steal Tiger Beat centerfolds of Herr Estrada for her…then when I was angry with her, I’d sneak into her room and draw glasses and bras on the posters. She’d kick my ass afterward. Hey, she played field hockey..she was tough.

The Love Boat – There were never any inter-racial hook ups or couples on The Love Boat. This was also something I figured out quickly as an 8 year old. As the opening credits rolled and The Pointer Sisters or Roxie Roker were on…Isaac was going to get laid. And, that Vicky girl needed to be tossed over board.

Fantasy Island – Frankly all the “fantasies” sucked. A show with a name like that should do better than Paul William’s fantasy of being a jazz trumpet player in 1933.

So many questions and observations

As I got a little older, but as you will see not wiser; I became a fan of The Dukes of Hazzard. Now boys and girls…many decision makers in Hollywood during the 1980s had access to and indulged in large amounts of high quality cocaine. Cocaine is the enemy of creativity. At some point in the early 80s, someone came up with a TV show concept about 2 red neck cousins who lived with their uncle and female cousin and drove around in a souped up dodge charger named after a Confederate war hero. They didn’t have jobs, nor were they looking for them and they were chased around by inept country law enforcement employed by a fat, corrupt fellow named Boss Hogg who wore a white on white suit and cowboy hat. There was a meeting, too much cocaine and voila…a show is born! It’s also interesting to note that the actor who played Boss Hogg (Sorell Brook) in all likelihood got laid because of his TV fame. These are the thoughts that plague me when I lament being single.

The Dukes of Hazzard was on for several seasons and I have to admit that as a fan of the show this was the closest I ever came to being the kind of person who would vote for someone like Sarah Palin. Mind you, I was 11 years old. There are millions of Americans who haven’t outgrown The Dukes of Hazzard mentality. Parents hated this show, which only encouraged us youngsters. The only problem was that parents couldn’t articulate WHY they disliked the show.

Speaking of parental approval. Little House on The Prairie was a show that most parents approved of. I enjoyed this show and Michael Landon’s really awful fake laugh. I remember making fun of my mom who would tear up at the maudlin story lines. I’d look up at her while “Pa” Ingalls went to pray for a good crop after the locusts had eaten his blind daughter or something similar. She’d be on the verge of tears. I’d smirk and giggle she’d tell me I was horrible and storm out of the living room. OK. I was horrible.

My attitudes toward romance, sex and dating were probably partially formed to some degree by television. There was never any shortage of pop psychologists during the 70s and 80s who wrote of the dangers of sex and violence on TV. Maybe. It seems to me Toddlers and Tiara’s and My Super Sweet 16 are pretty emotionally numbing and destructive. At least I grew up with the sense of that. I also grew up with Three’s Company, Happy Days and The Love Boat.

Three’s Company abounded with double entendre and references to sex, yet no one ever seemed to get laid. At least the guys on Happy Day’s were trying. I’m not even sure the Fonz was successful in that department. On Happy Days, “making out” with a “chick” seemed to be the goal…which is really kind of sweet when you think about it.

5am at The Tune

Posted: June 7, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in Life, Me & Mine
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Three days off babies…That’s right THREE…count em, one…two and one more…three! Saturday, Sunday and that’s not all…Monday too.

I slept on my first day off, woke up had a great meal from a Greek place delivered, and then crawled back into bed for my sloth marathon. I woke up late (or early) and watched a movie about a serial killer with Judd Nelson and Tom Arnold. Interesting as Tom Arnold makes a pretty fair villain…maybe it’s that hateable face of his.

At 5 I wanted yum yums, so I put on some clothes and plodded down to the Neptune Diner. It was Sunday morning and the sun was coming up. Bottles and other casualties from the prior Saturday night littered the streets. I walked up and over the elevated subway station and used it to cross the busy boulevard. On the steps there was a half full nip bottle of Dewar’s scotch. It seemed odd to me that anyone could be so drunk as to not finish such a miniscule amount of Scotch. Not to worry, some homeless fellow with a penchant for spirits would happen along and consider himself lucky with such a find. There was a young man trying to pee discreetly in a corner just by the stairwell. His girlfriend was at the bottom of the stairs giggling at him, as he was about as discreet as Michael Jordan at a Klan meeting (wearing his Chicago Bulls gear of course and not the traditional robes…I’m sure there are a few tall Klansmen)

Half the sign of the Neptune Diner was burned out so that it read “TUNE DINER” I liked that for some reason. Seemed like something out of a film.

The diner was packed, save for the counter which was almost empty. I took a seat a couple stools down from an interesting looking guy who was reading a book. Most of the patrons of the diner were people who had struck out at the various bars, lounges and nightclubs in the area. The table behind me was full of Ed Hardy clad Jersey Shore clones who were taking out their frustrations on the hapless waiter by changing their order every 5 seconds and chiming in while he tried to take orders from their friends. As a writer, I feel the right to eavesdrop…especially on stupid and or entertaining people.

“Let me get da cheeseburger.”
“Oh yeah, I want dat too.”
“So, two cheeseburgers?” asked the waiter
“Whut’re you gittin?”
“A cheeseburger.”
“A fuckin CHEESE-burger.”
“Yo, you got chicken fingers?”
“Yes.” replied the waiter with more patience than I have ever possessed in my entire life.
“Lemme git some.”
“So, you want a cheeseburger with the chicken fingers?”
“You got buffalo wings?” He had found a picture of them on the menu and was pointing to it, but his reading was at a pre-school level so he had to check. I hate when customers do this. They see something on the menu or could look, but they just have to ask. It takes every fiber of my being not to respond to them with dripping sarcasm.

Clueless customer: “What kinda beer you got?”
Me, in my dreams: “Let’s see (gently taking the menu from them) hmmm…oh, here it is…Page One…”Beer List”
Clueless customer: “Do you have Corona?”
Me, in my dreams: “I’ll need to check, may I see your menu again…lets see….Amstel, Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light.. ahhh here it is under the C’s Corona. You know, we should probably give people a list of everything we have…kinda like a menu.”

Anyhoo…back to the Jersey Shore.

“Hey, uh I don’t wanna cheeseburger no more, I want brekfist.”
“Do you still want the chicken fingers?”
“Do you got buffalo wings?”
“Can I get a coke?”
“Let me get a Sprite.”
“No, gimme da cheeseburger…sorry boss.”
“Dat come in a can or a bottle? I don’t like no canned shit.”
“Can I have your fries?”
“You got buffalo wings?”
“Do dey come wit fries?”

You get the picture.

My seat at the counter had a view of the kitchen door. Waiters and bussers were hustling to and fro. In the kitchen I saw the waiter that the Gow hates. We came in for yums once months ago and he waited on us. He pestered us with useless and more importantly unwarranted trivia. I liked that he was trying to be friendly, but I understood why the Gow wasn’t crazy about him. The issue The Gow took with this man was that he passed “friendly” and went deep and long into being a pest. He was still rambling on and on about this and that as we tried to eat our meals. So out of politeness we felt the need to gesture, smile and nod our heads with our mouths full. “Dum Buvemteem empurr…you dun fay” (Translation: The Byzantine Empire? You don’t say.) I suppose it was a bit much, and he looks like James “The Ragin Cajun” Carvell.

“Ya know, originallly baklava was made with pistachios… “

My waiter was a friendly Mexican fellow in his ill fitting diner uniform (black pants, white shirt, black vest and tie) For some reason no one’s uniform fits properly at the Tune. Maybe it’s the staff’s way of stinking it to the man. I ordered my standard coronary special with a side of stroke, and a large orange juice…because the glass of orange juice does away with all the bodily harm the heart attack breakfast causes.

I flipped through the latest issue of Men’s Health magazine which I like to read while drinking alcohol, smoking and eating potato chips, or in this case a greasy breakfast. My food came out in no time at all. My corned beef hash resembled an alien autopsy (I know cause I watch SyFy), but I ate it anyway….at least it tasted like corned beef hash. My eggs were not over easy…they were over hard…is that the right term? They were over done and the yolk was cooked too much. My English muffin was late. I didn’t want to be a pesky customer especially since these poor guys were dealing with Vinny, Tony, Joe-Joe, Cheech and The Situation at the next table. However, there is a method in which I consume my heart attack breakfasts, and the tardy English muffin and over-cooked eggs were messing with this.

First, I look at the breakfast and do roll call to make sure everything is there…Eggs? Check. Sausage? Check. French Fries? Check. Corned Beef Hash? Check. English Muffin…currently absent. Then, I poke the yolk of the eggs and dip my MIA english muffin in them. Then I consume, in order, english muffin dipped in eggs, corned beef hash mixed with yolk, remaining eggs and then I alternate between sausage and my fries, which I use to mop up the last bit of yolk. Yolk ratio is very important which was why my over done eggs were so disappointing.This breakfast was throwing my routine off. I wasn’t going to complain about the eggs, despite my disappointment. Being a waiter, it takes nothing less than finding a gangrenous toenail in my quiche to send something back. Luckily, when my waiter arrived with my english muffin he asked how everything was and I sheepishly told him my eggs were a little over done. He went to get me some new eggs which I appreciated. He also asked if I wanted jelly for my english muffin.

“Yeah” I said “KY” (I’m such a wit)
“Um, we have apple, grape and strawberry.” He answered
“No thanks.”

While I waited, two big girls dressed to the nines were coming from the ladies room. They too had been clubbing but like the Jersey Shore clones hadn’t hooked up either. They looked like nice girls though…pretty dresses and benevolent faces. I smiled at them and they smiled back. The Jersey Shore Bonehead Brigade started to make comments about them. “Check out Tons- o-Fun over dere huh huh huh”. Men get so bitter after buying drinks for disinterested women all night. Frankly, as a waiter I get bitter about women accepting drinks from men they are disinterested in…but that’s the topic for another rant. The ironic thing was these girls would have nothing to do with the missing links who were now discussing whether or not buffalo wings were imported from Buffalo NY.

“I’m tellin ya, it’s like New York Cheesecake…you can’t call em Buffalo wings unless they come from Buffalo.”
“Naw, it’s cause they served ’em at Buffalo Bills games.”

My new eggs arrived lickety split and now I could eat my breakfast how I like to. While eating, I listened to the waiters discuss their customers. There was a bored looking security guard at the door of the Tune. My guess is that the place has seen it’s share of Friday and Saturday night drunken brawls with the post nightclub crowd. I got to thinking about how hard these waiters and waitresses must work and how much money they make. Diners in NYC are not cheap. Still, I wondered how many people stiffed them or under tipped. Again, because I’m a waiter; in addition to seldom if never sending anything back, I always over tip. Yet my 25 plus percent tip was only $5. This guy would have to wait on 30 people who were over tipping like me just to make $150, and that’s before tipping out the busboys and probably the bored security guard. Owners like when the waiters and bartenders tip out the other staff members. It saves them having to actually give a raise. This doesn’t include the demanding customers who under tip or stiff the poor waiter altogether. Also the demanding or cerebrally challenged customers like my friends in the table behind me keep a waiter or waitress from other tables and their tip can suffer that way too. They don’t get a break to sit down until things are quiet which can more often than not be several hours, and the cherry on the top is that they have to pay for their ill-fitting uniforms. They have my respect and my sympathy. The best I can do to counter act this is to be friendly, polite, say “thank you”, know what the hell I want within 45 minutes and tip well.

I missed eating with The Gow at our diner. She always lets me finish off her fries and I get to tease her about the waiter she hates.”Hey, there’s your buddy, want me to call him over? Maybe he can tell us about the history of the western omelet or something equally interesting.” She’s a good sport about it. We do crossword puzzles. I look through the Sunday papers and draw mustaches and underarm hair on the Macy’s underwear models and look through the circulars at things I want or need. Then she orders the baklava to go and leaves most of it in my fridge, and like her fries…I get to finish that too.

I finished up my meal, paid the check, tipped and thanked my waiter and off I went to Dunkin’ Donuts where they got my coffee order right…perfectly right…well it was a full moon after all.

Full moon, NY, wee hours, perfect coffee. Even for a curmudgeon, life has its wonderful moments.