CSotD: Sunday Variety Pak

Juxtaposition of Ancient Fads

Paul Conrad

Cornered — AMS

Paul Berge has a collection of cartoons from a half-century ago about streaking, which was one of those fads that becomes a fad because it became a fad.

Which is to say that it got a lot more attention than it deserved, but it appealed to people who like to get attention and it gave editors a chance to look hip and a little naughty as long as their photographers managed to get a PG-13 shot of a R-rated activity.

Fortunately for those in the newsroom, you couldn’t assign someone to go do a story about streaking because it was ostensibly spontaneous. Photographers happened onto it at various public gatherings, but only cartoonists could produce controlled, planning streaking pieces, which, as Berge’s collection indicates, they did, mostly of Richard Nixon, it being Watergate season.

And Ray Stevens had a novelty record about it, which did fairly well. I’ve featured some pretty annoying music here from time to time, but you’ll have to click on that link yourself. Gotta have some standards around here: Gitarzan, yes. The Streak? No.

But if you want to see what Richard Nixon might have looked like in the altogether, there ya go.

I paired it in this Juxtaposition with Dumpster Diving, which had become a minor fad in a whole other segment of the community perhaps a year or two earlier. There were a variety of ways recommended to get along without much income, starting with the Digger Store in the Haight around the summer of love and going forward with free clinics and runaway shelters and various pop-up free feeds.

The notion that there was a lot of good food being discarded inspired Dumpster Diving, which got favorable notice in places like the Whole Earth Catalog and Mother Earth News as revolutionary independence.

But the idea of eating things found in places where mold, feces and godknowswhatelse was being stashed kept the thing from ever becoming a fad among people who had other resources.

The good thing being that the notion of good food being discarded greatly inspired gleaner groups in most communities that gather up still-usable food and get it to food banks for redistribution without the food poisoning and other hazards of digging it out of the trash.

I did a story on the topic of leftover food back in the late 80s and was surprised to find out how much was already in place helping grocery stores and bakeries get their extra products out to people who need food.

It’s encouraging to find so much generosity, and discouraging to realize it isn’t solving the problem.

I guess the streaking fad also indicated a level of some sort of hunger that should be pitied as well, but that’s a rant for another day.

Brewster Rockit (Tribune) touches on a topic close to my heart, though I wouldn’t recommend putting Dr. Mel in charge of administering it.

In fact, I’m not sure anyone should be in charge of administering it, which only puts me at slight odds with the Canadian experts recommending risk play, since they’re more present than I ever was as a parent and certainly far more present than our parents were when I was a kid.

The summer I was eight we spent getting shot out of our fighter planes, which meant bailing out of the swings, then going into the gravel pit which was the island we parachuted onto, where we cut spears with our pocketknives to defend each other against snakes and lions that were just behind you.

Somehow, we always hit the lion and never speared each other.

But the real miracle was in finding places to play where our mothers wouldn’t look out the window and see what we were up to, because they’d have made us stop.

My kids found places I wouldn’t see them and I hope kids today do likewise. They need a healthy space to grow up, somewhere between the helicopter parents and total neglect.

Ditto with dogs, by the way, though I don’t recommend letting them run entirely on their own like they did in the good old days.

We were discussing how many dogs these days get cancer or hip dysplasia and suchlike, but quickly realized it’s because they aren’t getting run over by cars are often as they once were.

You rarely see a dog off on a self-guided tour these days, but at least in the country, you can let your dog explore a bit. Like the fellow in The Other Coast (Creators), you’ll likely use a call as first line of defense, followed by a whistle, followed by the dispensing of treats.

As with kids, there are helicopter dog parents who won’t let the poor animal have any fun and there are totally neglectful dog parents who have no idea what Bowser is up to.

Fortunately, if you know the right sources to check, you can largely predict the personality of the dog you end up as a parent to. Some are runners, some have health issues, others get bored and destroy the furniture. But each is potentially perfect in the right home.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if kids could be as readily screened and matched?

Bizarro (KFS) brings me back to the days when I not only went to coffeehouses but played in them.

The idea of Picasso coming down to present his latest opus raises questions, because, on the one hand, there were people doing not so great stuff, which this could be. We don’t know — or at least I don’t know — if Picasso were any good as a musician.

But interesting people were always welcome. Even if he were a hopeless musician, we’d have applauded him.

Or maybe he’d have been brilliant. There were people who showed up and blew everybody out of the place. Two high school kids, Eric and Leigh Gibson, appeared at our local coffeehouse one night and the rest of us just went home and threw away our instruments.

They never lost that sense of music as shared experience. Here they are with some Nashville colleagues, reminding me of evenings sitting around pickin’ and grinnin’, though we weren’t all this good.

We’d have found Pablo a seat in the circle.

4 thoughts on “CSotD: Sunday Variety Pak

  1. I agree the Gibsons are great. As I was developing as a musician. I was greatly impressed and influenced by the Dillards’ ‘Back Porch Bluegrass’ album. I have never heard instrumental bluegrass virtuosity that rivals them.
    On a darker, sadder note (pun intended), i read an article a couple of day ago (don’t remember where right now) that said Ray Stevens has become a rather ‘unwholesome’ ranting character.

  2. post script: the Dillards’ bass player, Mitchell Jayne, wrote a book called ‘Old Fish Hawk’ that is a very interesting character study about an aging Native American. I think it was made into a movie.

  3. Thanks for helping me celebrate the semicentennial of the streaking craze, Mike!

    P.S.: Pat Oliphant broke from the crowd by drawing his streaker cartoon about peripatetic globetrotter Henry Kissinger instead of Richard Nixon, but I didn’t come across any clean scans of that one. For which a nation can be eternally grateful.

  4. Well, I admit that I did some streaking back then (at 17 or 18) and it was pretty much harmless fun, scornful though you may be. I’m not planning a semi-centennial celebratory streak, though. I just move a lot slower now…

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