CSotD: Tuesday’s World of Amusement

Clifford Berryman

This week, Frazz (AMS) reminds me that I spent most of the summer of 1958 having my fighter plane shot down. There was a huge swing set in our neighborhood — three swings built on a majestic steel frame — and so Bobby and Keith and I would declare what planes we were flying (I varied between a Mustang and a P-38) and then go into combat, invariably ending up being shot down and having to bail out.

Even at eight, we knew that paratroopers rolled when they landed, so we were one up on this kid and, having the landing nailed, we could focus on distance, and, since we played this every day, by the end of summer we were getting some impressive air before landing, even though our planes were wildly out of control before we bailed out.

First of all, kudos to Jef Mallett for the slanted panels in Monday’s strip. And kudos to the kid for finding a swing set that still has wooden swings and not those nasty “safe” slings that make it hard to stand up and achieve altitude, much less bail out once you have.

Plus this: Not a lot of eight-year-olds carry pocket knives anymore, but we had them, which meant that, if we were shot down over a Pacific island, we could cut and sharpen spears with which to defend ourselves, as long as we didn’t get too close to Keith’s house, since his mother objected to small children hurling sharp sticks, even at venomous snakes just about to bite a fellow aviator.

A significant number of years later, my son was attached to a for-real military helicopter group at Coronado, on the Pacific Coast by San Diego. This Lockhorns (KFS) reminds me that, while parking was always at a premium on the base, there was one spot always open by the BX.

It probably should have had a sign, but everyone stationed there knew that birds nested in the o’erhanging palm tree, and not just any birds, but pelicans, which can go over 30 pounds, and, to add to the fun, live on a diet of fish.

I suppose anyone who pulled into the car-shaped blank spot in the middle of the splatter pattern deserved whatever they got.

Big Nate (AMS) is funny, but the days when only the instigator got in trouble are long since past.

I got called to the office when elder son punched out a kid who had purposely spilled something while Sonny Boy was working in the school cafeteria. In our discussion about the three-day mandatory suspension, the vice-principal confided to me that the entire staff and faculty were pleased to see this obnoxious kid get what he asked for, but that rules were rules.

Some years later, Other Sonny Boy got in a spontaneous shoving match that earned him a three-day suspension because the principal said he could not be expected to differentiate between horseplay and real fighting. I would have thought the laughter might be a clue, but, again, rules were rules.

I was lucky to go to school in the days when, for instance, the principal once reached out a finger to tuck the Old Golds pack deeper into my shirt pocket, with a shake of his head at my lack of discretion.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Yesterday was one of the first real spring-weather days we’ve had hereabouts and, as Macanudo recommends, a lovely time to soak up a little nature, though the traditional mother’s rule is to stay out of the water until June, since it’s still pretty icy.

And Bliss reminds me that my own rule is to remember that your windows are down and people can now hear your critique of their driving skills. The way Harry Bliss draws this, I assume he considers the guy in the red car to be the idiot, but it takes two to tangle.

I’m reminded of doing school pickup on one of the first warm days and sitting at the crosswalk, waiting to find a parking space while a dreaming eighth grade girl sauntered across the street. I didn’t swear, but I did say something along the lines of “Come on, sweetie, keep moving” and heard a burst of laughter from her mother, parked on the other side with her window down, and, no doubt, having said just such things to the child many times before.

Thank god I was in a gentle mood. My kids once advanced a theory that if Sophocles had never written that famous play, I wouldn’t have been able to drive a car.

But it’s intended to be a soliloquy, not direct address. Gotta adjust to the season of open windows.

Still in personal mode, Half Full (AMS) seems like a documentary, and I think of it as a budgetary strategy: At the end of the month, waiting for Social Security to come in, I’m particularly apt to forego the basket and buy only what I can hold.

Which triggers two thoughts: One is that, as summer approaches, I have fewer pockets, which is good because I’ve heard of people busted for things they forgot they jammed in a pocket when their hands became full.

The other is that Social Security and food stamps distribution is now staggered, and SS is available as a direct deposit. Back in the day, however, you’d see long lines at customer service once a month, with people cashing their checks so they could buy food.

At least in my neighborhoods, back in the day.

Betty (AMS) has been introducing Junior to the game of baseball, which is a dying sport, unfortunately, in part because kids aren’t just running around the neighborhood the way they used to be.

You can play catch with a friend, or monkey-in-the-middle with two, but you’ve got to assemble a crew to get anything approaching a decent sandlot ballgame going, even if you allow ghost runners and put a member of the batting team in as catcher. But everybody’s in after-school programs or at violin lessons or told to stay inside and be safe until the adults come home.

However, back when we all ran free, we all played baseball and so Hollywood fed our interest, and I don’t know how many movies Bub planning to list, but I’ll give him “Field of Dreams” and start my own list here.

Feel free to add to it in the comments.

(And not the crappy Disney remake — the real one! This one!)

(And, yes, she’s one of THOSE Corcorans)

13 thoughts on “CSotD: Tuesday’s World of Amusement

  1. Can’t beat Damn Yankees. Not only baseball but “Whatever Lola Wants. Lola Gets”

  2. Most baseball movies do nothing for me, but “A League of Their Own” I’ll watch anytime it’s on just to watch Tom Hanks and “Field of Dreams” for that ending, which tears me up every time.

  3. Even more worth exploring than baseball movies are the wonderful, sometimes transcendent , baseball novels, of which Shoeless Joe and The Natural are only the tip of the iceberg. I’d particularly recommend David Small’s Almost Famous and Nancy Willard’s Things Invisible To See.

  4. Bub probably doesn’t want to watch “Bull Durham” with Junior right now. Possibly not even “Damn Yankees.” “Bad News Bears” might work.

  5. I’ll add Roogies Bump,a story about the mysterious appearance of a bump on a kid’s arm that enabled him to throw a baseball over 100mph.
    As for the sport in general, my city of 100,000 had 300 adult softball teams back in the 70’s. The city no longer offers any leagues at all. A couple dozen teams play in private Moose Lodge leagues with many of the players on more than one team on different nights. In the 80’s and 90’s I lived near a baseball field at the end of my street and never once saw kids playing there. Contrast that to the makeshift “sandlot” fields every vacant lot turned into during the 50’s and 60’s. Is Robert Putnam’s “Bowling Alone” at play?

  6. I echo the Damn Yankees support.

    As a native and continuing resident of our National Capital area, I love that play and movie as it takes place in Washington DC (with the late lamented Senators as the setting) and has nothing to do with politics or government!

    The protagonist lives in Chevy Chase! Real people, with nothing to do with the government have always lived and worked in the DC area.

    It as if every story about Vermont was about maple syrup. You might enjoy a story about Ben and Jerry now and then.

  7. “Bang the Drum Slowly” is based on one of a trilogy of stories (by Mark Harris) by Henry “Author” Wiggins. If you learned to love baseball “back then” they are worth finding for a read.

    “Rhubarb” is an entirely different take on a baseball movie.

    1. My mom was a high school classmate of Mark Harris. When he died, they scattered his ashes on the ball field where they used to play sandlot baseball. I met him once when we went to San Francisco. I was nine. My memory of the meeting is that his basset hound sidled up to the coffee table and enjoyed a Manhattan. Good author, good dog.

  8. Ultimately, Steve Martin’s ‘My Blue Heaven’ – the only movie of his I like – becomes about baseball. Also stars Rick Moranis and Joan Cusack.

  9. My grandfather served as technical advisor on The Winning Team. He played pro for many years. Sadly, I inherited none of his talent.

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