Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tuned in

My first experience with portable music was a small transistor radio that I received for Christmas. Way back when. Best guess would be 1966. It was a gas station promo item, a red radio in the shape of a Sinclair gas pump. AM only. I spent many happy hours listening to KTSA and KONO in San Antonio, getting a new exposure to popular music as opposed to the vinyl collection of country music favored by my parents.

I've long since become disgusted with the Top-40 and with commercial radio in general, and spent several years recording my favorite album cuts to cassette tapes so that I could listen to my favorite tunes as I drove back and forth to work. The transition to CDs was a happy period. I could easily carry two dozen or more entire albums along with me. This was a definite improvement since my musical taste can run from Hank Williams to Beethoven in the course of a day.

Yesterday I entered the newest portable music market. I have a bright, shiny Dell DJ Ditty (Dell's equivalent to the IPod Shuffle). A quick enrollment to MusicMatch and I began downloading songs to my Ditty. I've found songs I haven't heard in years, songs that were on old cassette tapes that have been relegated to a box in the garage. And in CD-quality sound. I'm having more fun with this little gizmo than I've had with any other musical option since I opened that Christmas present so many decades ago.

I really didn't think I would succumb to the temptation to walk around with wires hanging out of my ears. But scratch that. I may look dumb (an old lady with an mp3 player?!?), but I'm enjoying blocking out the traffic sounds and the constant surrounding chatter at the office with the sounds of music I've missed for such a long time. And I can download audiobooks, too. Whee!

Goodbye unwanted noise and distraction! Me and my Ditty are making our own kind of music these days. Geez, I'm even thinking I may need a bigger version...


Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Road Less Traveled

Some days you just have to climb out of the rut.

This morning, bright and early, I bundled Mother into the car for a trip to Austin and a visit with her doctor. This afternoon I bundled Mojo and the cats into the car for a trip to Elgin and their yearly vaccinations. Hard to explain why those two events have me plumb tuckered out. Just let me say that wrestling little old ladies and little old cats probably burns up more calories per hour than biking or swimming.

On the way back from Elgin, I gave into the impulse to explore a country road that I've never had a reason to use. I've always wondered what lies at the end of the Old Sayers Road. I'm still wondering, because a few miles down the gravel road, huge construction machinery was blocking my way, so I veered onto Old Waugh Way and wound myself slowly back toward Highway 95.

I love to drive, but I particularly love to drive along two lane blacktops in rural Texas. I love the curves, the rising and fall of gentle hills, the barbed wire fences on either side, the grasshoppers suddenly buzzing out of the ditch, the odd roadrunner indulging in a brief race against you. I love the green, grassy fields, the tilting mailboxes, the cattleguards leading to distant farmhouses. I love being the only car on the road for miles.

There are a few diversions that I reserve for days when I need a pick-me-up. If I get desperate for a tranquilizing activity during a work day, I head to a book or hobby store. They can be depended upon to get me back on an even keel in a jiffy.

But on days when I am not tied to a desk and I find myself at loose ends for a few minutes, nothing satisfies like a drive down a previously unexplored country road.

Take me home, country roads
to the place I belong...


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Flickering Memories

We lived in little communities, surrounded by farm land. Many evenings we would be invited out for supper or fellowship with church members.

On the way home, I would be riding in the backseat. I was a pre-schooler, tired from playing and filled with good country cooking. Cars in those days had no air-conditioning, so the windows would be open, letting in the night air and the fresh country scent.

The headlights would cast an eerie glow on the trees ahead of us. To that little five-year-old, it seemed as if ghostly giants watched over us as we made our way home.

Fifty years later, I still feel the little girl inside when I make my way home after dark. My headlights flash on friendly ghosts, keeping me company as I drive.


Monday, October 10, 2005

Saturday TV

Back in my early days, Saturday morning meant three things: 1) my parents slept late and didn't want to be disturbed; 2) I made myself cinnamon toast for breakfast; and 3) the morning would be spent watching cartoons and children's programming. I sometimes wax sentimental about those Saturday mornings. These days kids seem to be up and out playing soccer or trying to reach the next level of a computer game. The children's programming today seems dull and wooden. We had Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, Walter Lantz, Walt Disney, and other animation pioneers to entertain us. And no one was much worried about whether we were watching politically correct material.

I can remember piling up on the couch with my blanket and pillow and making my way through Mighty Mouse, Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw, Deputy Dawg, Alvin & the Chipmunks, Mr. Magoo, Heckle & Jeckle, Yogi Bear and Woody Woodpecker. After a stretch of cartoons, the lineup would switch to Roy Rogers, Sky King, and Fury. About 11 AM, the kid programs would fade out, my parents would finally get up, and the weekend would commence.

Somewhere along the way I acquired a Mighty Mouse t-shirt, complete with a cape. I wore the tail off that shirt and then passed it down to David. Later on, when I started school, I carried a Deputy Dawg lunch box. I was such a fan of Fury that the horse became one of my numerous imaginary friends. Mother glanced out the window one day to see me passing by, remarking over my shoulder, "Fury, stop stepping on my feet!".

Who can think of Quick Draw McGraw and not remember the dog who went into paroxysms of joy over his dog treat? He would hug himself again and again until he shot upwards in ecstacy and then floated down with a satisfied "ahhhhh". Quick Draw's show also included the Snaglepuss character. Snagglepuss' "Exit, stage right" and "Heavens to Murgatroyd" became American catchphrases. You have to be a fifty-something to remember where those phrases started. Augie Doggie and Doggie Daddy also got their start on Quick Draw's show. And I think Pixie and Dixie were in that group as well.

Yogi actually started as a part of the Huckleberry Hound show, but moved on to his own show. I always had a fondness for Yogi, since his girlfriend was Cindy Bear. I've always resisted authority figures, probably a characteristic I developed watching the ranger being outwitted by a "smarter than the average bear".

If you're a baby boomer and would like to spend a little time remembering the good old days, you can visit Toontracker (be sure to visit the old theme songs page); Toonpedia; and The Fifties Web. You will be reminded of the good old days, back when you had 2 or 3 channels to choose from on Saturday morning. In black and white. And the quality of those black and white cartoons, in my humble opinion, was far superior to what is available to the kids today in full color and chosen from 200 cable options.

This little stroll down memory lane was prompted by a recent Ebay purchase. I got to thinking about that Mickey Mouse tshirt and did an impulsive scan to see what was out there for sale. I ended up with a nice little patch to add to my jacket. A mouse in flight, wearing a yellow suit and red shorts and boots.

"Here I come to save the day!"
That means that Mighty Mouse is on the way...