More fake news
I’m calling shenanigans on the pair of musicians called Twenty-One Pilots that took their pants off before ascending the stairs to accept their Grammy award on Sunday night. Okay, whatever, they took their pants off, but I don’t buy the back story. Not one bit. They related a tale on stage that, so many years prior, they were watching the Grammys together on television, the two of them and some other male friends, and they realized at one point that they were all in their underwear. They vowed then and there that if one day they won a Grammy, they would accept the award without wearing pants.
That never happened. Two ostensibly heterosexual boys-- one of them now married, living at the time in Columbus, Ohio, who were home-schooled, practicing Christians (according to Wikipedia), were not
suddenly in their underwear watching TV. I used to hang out with lots of other heterosexual boys and such a thing never happened. It never almost
happened either. This was a story conceived out of thin air to justify the taking off of their pants and creating some easy buzz at an event that is defined by how much buzz its participants are able to generate. And it says a lot about media coverage of the Grammys that everybody bit on it. Not
Sorry for the delay in posting. News about the Chris Moeller Archives-- the Book is coming soon. Kellyanne Conway thinks you should buy it-- but I'll be making it available for free.
The Bomb and Ban Play
Donald Trump’s imperial executive actions are a terrifying escalation of the inhumane programs established first by President George W. Bush in 2001, and then brought to bipartisan normalization by President Barack Obama. Many commentators have noted that the seven countries upon which Trump has imposed his immigration ban-- Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and Iran, did not produce any of the 9-11 hijackers, nor the killers of any Americans in any terrorist attack on American soil from 1975 to 2015. Fifteen of the 9-11 hijackers, conversely, were from Saudi Arabia.
What the citizens of these seven particular countries are being punished for then are not what they have done to us, but perversely, what we
have done to them
. They have been, minus Iran-- which has nuclear capabilities, the targets of our senseless and endless drone bombing campaigns over the last five years. In 2016 alone, the Obama administration dropped 26,171 bombs, an average of one every 20 minutes, somewhere on the people of these countries, 90% of his victims, innocents. Much of the bombing was covert-- or at least, intended to be. These refugees now being denied life in the United States-- and in many cases-- throughout Europe, are the Bush and Obama refugees.
In 2010, Barack Obama, acting under the outline of his administration’s “kill list,” ordered the assassination of an American citizen living in Yemen-- a cleric named Anwar al-Awlaki. This man had never been convicted of crime, nor even charged with one. Obama’s order was successfully carried out via drone strike in September of 2011. It was followed two weeks later by another strike that killed dozens, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old, Colorado-born son, Abdulrahman. Initial news reports, promoted by U.S. military sources, claimed that Abdulrahman was 21-years-old. Discovery of his birth certificate in Denver exposed the deceit, one that was consistent with the U.S. military's stated policy that any military-aged males in a U.S. strike zone are considered enemy combatants, “unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” At the time, Obama’s press secretary Robert Gibbs offered the disgusting justification for the murder that the boy “should have had a more responsible father.”
The bombing has only escalated in Yemen in the past five years as the U.S. and the U.K. carry out the muscle work for the gangsters of the House of Saud. Now comes word that a commando raid in Yemen by the Navy’s SEAL Team 6 yesterday has taken the life of 30 more civilians, 10 of them women and children, including Abdulrahman’s 8-year-old sister, Nawar. Reporter Jeremy Scahill of the Intercept reports that the girl was shot in the neck and bled out for two hours before dying.
The New York Times reports that the raid had been planned and organized for several months, and the Obama administration deferred the decision to execute, as it were, to the incoming Trump team. The Trump team has now acted, and as the new president, during his campaign last year, vowed attacks against terrorists’ families as well as the terrorists themselves, that motive in this killing will certainly now be investigated.
These are photos of a pair of American siblings-- Abdulrahman, killed by a Democratic president in 2011, and Nawar, killed by a Republican yesterday.
As for the refugee debate and those not yet killed by any of the parties engaged in the War on Terror, it’s worth pointing out that there was virtually no al Qaeda presence in Yemen before Obama’s bombing campaigns began there in 2011. We’re so far past the question of illegality here that it seems almost absurd to have to point out that the United States has not declared war against the country of Yemen. Those drone attacks are the direct and immediate cause of the explosion of anti-American sentiment in that country. But under a President Bush-- or a President Trump, there would have certainly been a public outcry among American liberals in response to the sociopathic destruction of a starvation state, one that serves as a virtual slave labor nation for the Saudi monarchy, but under President Obama, there is widespread delusion and perverted rationalization.
The banning of green card holders and refugees from these nations from entering the United States is finally the bridge too far for self-proclaimed liberals and for Republican apparatchiks of the military state like Lindsey Graham and John McCain (and Mike Pence, before Trump selected him as his running mate), and it is certainly a relief that we have finally identified the exact depth of the well’s bottom. It’s also encouraging to see America’s “mainstream” journalistic organizations back at their post, expressing anger at actions that are clearly unconstitutional, but I don't think that it’s entirely accurate to call the new bans “anti-Muslim” because, if they were anti-Muslim, then Pakistanis and Indonesians would be forbidden to enter the U.S. They are not. The countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, and UAE have produced the most anti-Western terrorists, and their citizens are all excluded from the ban as well. The difference between these two groups of Muslim countries is that the ones that escaped sanction have militaries-- and, even more importantly, they have capitalists.
It has nothing to do with where Donald Trump does business, however. This is long-standing
American "guilt-by-nationality” policy, and these countries were each singled out originally during Obama’s presidency. He signed a bill into law in December of 2015 called the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act. It serves as the Trump administration's legal marker in this matter. With this law, citizens from 38 friendly countries were approved for entry into the U.S. without a visa, unless
they had visited-- specifically-- Iran, Syria, Sudan, or Iraq, and Obama added Libya, Somalia and Yemen to the list in February of last year. The playbook of discrimination that Trump is drawing from arrived at the Oval Office before he did. The power of extrajudicial authority that he’s wielding from the executive branch were put there by Presidents Bush and Obama, and by a very bipartisan consensus of Congress. Therefore, regarding Trump as an aberration, rather than as the inevitability he's been since 9-11, promotes a monstrous historical lie. America’s war theory has deep roots, its operations, deep tentacles, and if I haven’t already belabored the point: it’s as sure as shit that this didn’t all start on January 20th.
Love is All Around
I could write a lot about Mary Tyler Moore. Not only did she star in two magnificent shows that defined their era and set the stage for every comedy series that followed-- The Dick Van Dyke Show
and The Mary Tyler Moore Show,
but she had her name-- or initials-- on a dozen more.
Mary and then-husband Grant Tinker's production company was named for her-- MTM Enterprises. That house produced archetypal comedies as well as dramas-- The Mary Tyler Moore Show
, The Bob Newhart Show, Rhoda, Phyllis, Hill Street Blues, Newhart, St. Elsewhere, Lou Grant, The White Shadow, Remington Steele, The Mary Show--
featuring young comedy players David Letterman and Michael Keaton, and my favorite television show of all-time: WKRP in Cincinnati.
group of shows birthed-- the concepts, the iconic moments, the actors, the writers-- cannot be measured, Mary Tyler Moore
principal among them. I've heard Al Franken tell the story, circa his run on Lateline,
that he ran into Mary at an event and told her that he and his colleagues were currently doing the 1,000th rip-off of her show. There were no "workplace" comedies of importance before The Mary Tyler Moore Show
, which won a then-record 29 Emmys during its seven-season-run from 1970 to 1977. Hip people were staying home on Saturday nights during the 1970s and they were watching CBS. Mary,
at that time, anchored the greatest night-time lineup in the medium's history-- All in the Family, M*A*S*H, Mary, The Bob Newhart Show,
and The Carol Burnett Show.
Some of us came along immediately after-- but that was the golden age of reruns for these shows.
The production logo for the company was the iconic meowing kitty, Mary's real-life cat, Mimsie, who died in 1988 at the age of 20. The MTM logo was a take-off on the MGM lion. Over time, the various shows under production at MTM had some fun with it. Instead of the cat meowing, Newhart
featured its star performer deadpanning a meow. The New WKRP in Cincinnati
substituted the meow with "Les Nessman" cooing "ooh." On the final episode of the medical dramedy St. Elsewhere,
Mimsie was featured on life support, attached to an EKG machine, and flatlining. If you see that MTM logo, know that a noteworthy, intelligent program has just aired. Unfortunately, it comes at the end of each episode, so you got to keep checking your local listings for these series listed above.
"Mary Richards," the character Mary played in her eponymous series, reminded me of my own aunt Mary. My dad's sister was also an independent single woman (she also had spunk) that took off for points north and west, moving from Iowa to Montana in the mid-1960s. She actually came first, as Mary Richards didn't make that drive to Minneapolis to start her new life until 1970. Like Mary, my
Mary also had a decorative wooden "M" nailed to a wall in her home. She still might.
Moore's #1 legacy will always be that series.
It stands as
an Everest in the landscape of TV history. Fortunately for fans like us, the players on that show, by and large, have a terrific record of age longevity. Gavin MacLeod is still kicking at 85, Ed Asner 87, Valerie Harper 77, Betty White 95, Cloris Leachman 90, and Georgia Engel 68. The only other major player on screen was Ted Knight, who died in his early 60s in 1986. Creators James L. Brooks and Allan Burns are 76 and 81, respectively. Even Sonny Curtis, the man who wrote and performed the show's iconic theme song, "Love is All Around," is still living at 79 years old.
A similar story can be told about The Dick Van Dyke Show,
an even older series. Creator Carl Reiner is currently 94. Van Dyke is 91. Rose Marie lived to 93 years of age and Morey Amsterdam to 87. Emmy-winning writer Bill Persky is 85. Mary must have been an extraordinarily healthy spirit to work with.
Dissent attempts a comeback
Welcome back, protestors!
Marchers are hitting the streets tomorrow for Inauguration Day. They are energized-- and they should be. They’ve taken eight years off. Sadly, our wars didn’t. Under Obama, 26,171 bombs were dropped-- in 2016 alone
. That’s one every 20 minutes. 90% of the casualties were innocents. He becomes the first president in U.S. history to be at war for the entirety of two four-year terms. The prison at Guantanamo Bay remains open. No bankers involved in the 2008 economic collapse went to prison and 95% of the nation’s income growth over Obama's eight years went to the top 1%. Two and a half million people were deported by this administration, only half a million less than what Donald Trump says he will do. But the president had a “D” after his name. So today we say thank you.
Good to have you back.
Manning to be freed
Chelsea Manning will be a free woman, and that is a wonderful thing. On his way out the door, President Obama does the decent thing, chilling his war on whistle blowers and his persecution of this heroic former member of the U.S. military, by commuting the remainder of her 35 year prison sentence. Her crime was exposing, through WikiLeaks, a dramatically-higher civilian death count in Iraq and Afghanistan than had been officially reported, abuses of detainees by U.S.-backed Iraqi military officials, spying by American diplomats at the United Nations, and passing to Julian Assange the so-called “Collateral Murder” video of a U.S. Apache helicopter killing journalists in Iraq. She has spent more than seven years in military custody already, including 11 months in solitary confinement. She’s been repeatedly denied medical care for her gender dysphoria, and has survived two suicide attempts. The United Nations has described her treatment under the military justice system as “cruel, inhuman and degrading.”
Under Obama’s watch, nine other cases of leaking government secrets have also been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act. That’s more prosecutions than that of all previous presidencies combined. The final numbers are not in, but Obama will have to hustle through Thursday to come even remotely close to the number of pardons issued by his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush. For what it's worth, only 9%
of Obama’s pardons have been for African-Americans, though they make up 38 percent of the federal prison population.
It holds logic to still be frightened on Manning's behalf. Her release, which will not come until May, will eventually permit her, theoretically, to take on a higher public profile, but there are certainly figures within the nation’s military industry that stand to lose a great deal with renewed interest in old actions. None of the perpetrators of the crimes she exposed have ever been brought to justice. It is imperative that she also now be granted an honorable discharge from the Army in return for her service in defense of the Constitution. Many in Washington and within the Intelligence community are criticizing this decision by the president because it will inevitably encourage people to act upon their conscience when on the battlefield. You would have a difficult time convincing me that Hillary Clinton's defeat at the hands of Donald Trump in the election was not a factor in this enlightened decision as well, as the Deep State is less likely to punish Obama with Trump, highly-critical of the Intelligence state, waiting in the wings. Yet, as Americans, we should be hopeful that this decision might spur more Chelsea Mannings into action as a truly authoritarian president-- virtually-unrestrained now thanks to the security precedents encoded by Obama’s White House-- takes the oath of office.
Keep your eye on those supposed First Amendment advocates at the New York Times and the Washington Post, in regards to this story. The Times endorsed the idea of more Obama pardons this week but without referencing Manning. Former Times reporter Judith Miller has tweeted, “Obama commutes sentence of Chelsea Manning. How many people died because of manning’ leak?” The answer to her question is ‘none.’ But millions did
die when Miller blindly trumpeted the false claims of the Pentagon that Saddam Hussein was housing an arsenal of biological weapons. The Post has already buried the story, as of this morning, but for columnist Jennifer Rubin, who says that Obama’s decision “defies rational explanation.”
Deserving of major thanks are the advocates and supporters that worked tirelessly on Chelsea Manning’s behalf. Many of them have been First Amendment advocates dating back to Daniel Ellsberg and the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. And though there has been, sadly, a sea change since that time among Washington journalists in respect to information discovery that breaks existing law but exposes corruption, a steadfast few recognized and have done honor to the parallels that exist between these two patriots.
Edward Snowden has tweeted a response to the commutation: “In five more months, you will be free. Thank you for what you did for everyone, Chelsea. Stay strong a while longer!... Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama.. To all who campaigned for clemency on Manning’s behalf these last hard years, thank you. You made this happen.”
Old Times on the Mississippi
“And I remember Ferguson, Missouri still more pleasantly, for the summer sunsets. I have never seen any on either side of the ocean that equaled them.”
Substitute the town of Ferguson for Muscatine, Iowa (less than three hours apart by car), and you have the words of Samuel Clemens in his book Life on the Mississippi
in 1883, under his more famous pen name “Mark Twain.”
In the summer of 1994, my plan was to spend the three months between my freshman and sophomore years of college working at Busch Stadium. I had recently gotten a first taste of living alone when my roommate at Iowa State pledged with the Phi Kappas (or whatever) and left to live in the fraternity's campus castle following spring break. This was the life, I thought. All that was missing were several dozen Cardinals baseball games so off I went to pursue the glamorous life of a stadium concessionaire.
I attended the stadium job fair in May, after finals had been completed in Ames. I discovered that a job was mine if I only wanted it, and I determined also that an usher's
job, where you can actually watch the game, is far superior to a concessionaire’s job, where you have to bust your tail. But by this time, Major League Baseball’s regular season marathon was already seven weeks in, and I was also going to have to close up shop early, since school started back in the third week of August. By my account, that left what amounted to less than 25 home dates at which I could actually work-- plus a lot of down time during those days and weeks when the team was on the road. That particular summer also held the threat of a baseball players’ strike, against an absurd threat by the league owners to impose a salary cap upon them. The strike that would ultimately come to pass on August 12th and lead to the cancellation of the World Series. Therefore, my dream of working for the Cardinals as a stadium employee-- a long-time back-up plan to playing center field for the club-- was aborted, yet I still had the bug to spend the summer in St. Louis.
A Pilot's Memory
During that May trip to the city, with el Papa's help, I secured a hard-to-find three-month apartment lease. Hard to find is the three months, but we came to it finally near a college campus, that of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. I found employment alternative to the ballpark during that same two-day visit-- not bad results, I’d say, for a man with no college degree. I would go to work instead for eleven weeks with Frosty Treats, Incorporated, as one of their ice cream truck drivers. You know the kind of truck I mean, the ones that have the ringing bell and the brightly-colored photo menu plastered onto the passenger side of the truck, along with a couple drawings of clowns. It was a van, actually. If you live in Des Moines, Iowa, as I have for twenty years, you may not
know about these trucks as they have been prohibited in our city and its suburbs for decades-- considered a nuisance, I suppose.
I was all set to go-- a jay-oh-bee and an unfurnished apartment. I could work any and every day on one of the trucks if I wanted to, and since money would surely be tight, I vowed I would only take a day off, whether it be weekday or weekend, if I was going to a Cardinals game. I filled my apartment with the 13-inch television and the VCR from my dorm room, along with a card table, two folding chairs, and an air mattress. That was it. There was a bedroom, but it only served as a passageway to the bathroom. I think I used the bedroom space only for a week at the most-- to stretch out a poster. The building was located in Ferguson, Missouri, a town you now know as the home of Michael Brown’s family and the birthplace of the Black Lives Matter movement, and it was a great little town. Still is. I visited last summer, and I venture to say that, despite perceptions, I found it
than I did 23 years ago. It was a great building, too, that still stands. It's right next to the tracks of the Wabash Railroad, a refurbished brick hotel building built in the 1890s. 1994 was the centennial birthday of the town of Ferguson, and my
building was February in the centennial calendar. None of this is whitewash.
I become a Jack-of-all-trades
I drove my Cardinal red Pontiac Fiero to work every day, only a mile or so to Frosty Treats' regional headquarters. It was a small building that stood surrounded by a fleet of about 25 to 30 white vans, all stored safely inside a tall, barbed-wired fence. The freezers, which accounted for about two-thirds of the space inside each van, would need to be plugged in each night because they would be without power from the time you disconnected to hit the road at eleven o'clock in the morning until sunset. As drivers, we were obviously cautioned to keep the door of the freezer unit closed for as much of the day as possible, but there wasn't even air conditioning in the vehicle so you couldn't avoid the fact that the unsold frosty treats might be a tad soft by the time the evening hours rolled in.
St. Louis can be hot and unpleasant, as you know. It is the city, and the Mississippi the river, about which Mark Twain's contemporary, Charles Dickens, once wrote:
The banks low, the trees dwarfish, the marshes swarming with frogs, the wretched cabins few and far apart, their inmates hollow-cheeked and pale, the weather very hot, mosquitoes penetrating into every crack and crevice... mud and slime on everything; nothing pleasant in its aspect... No man ever admits the unhealthiness of the place he dwells in (unless he is going away from it), and I shall therefore, I have no doubt, be at issue with the residents of St. Louis in questioning the perfect salubrity of its climate, and in hinting that I think it must rather dispose to fever in the summer and autumnal seasons.
Those words were written just after the English author's visit to the Mississippi River Valley in 1870, more than a decade before either Life on the Mississippi
or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
would go into publication.
Perhaps the appeal of the area demands a certain sense of humor Dickens didn't possess.
Old French Settlements
I was assigned my own area of the metro in which to ply my wares to the good people. It was an unincorporated area of North County that adjoined the town of Black Jack. A year ago, I watched a documentary film online about this unincorporated area, which also abutted the Great River. The film was called Spanish Lake
. Residents there filed a lamentable lawsuit in the 1970s against new public housing construction that was going up shortly after the closing of St. Louis' rather-infamous Pruitt-Igoe housing projects. The area became the focal point of some hard racial feelings during the '70s that continue today. I didn’t particularly notice any of this in 1994. Everybody loved the ice cream man, and he loved them.
A Universal Grasp
A paper map of the city was my guide. It was glued to a big clipboard that was given to me to help me navigate my way through the streets. I would begin each day in what was the south part of the map, and business would not be brisk. The neighborhoods were more depressed in that part of my route, certainly, but they were solidly working class. More so, it was that parents were out working during the afternoon. I encountered really just kids until after about 5:30 in the evening. Most of them were gathered in groups out on the street. All summer long, I heard their refrain: “Can you hook me up? Can you hook me up?” They didn’t have any dough, lots of them. The more aggressive of them would jump on the back bumper of the van. Hopefully, I would have remembered to lock the back door. I found I had to give away a certain amount of product each day as good will offering. The 25 cent cherry pops were the go-to for that. They were the cheapest item on the menu. And that reminds me, I remember we also had the 75 cent Bomb Pop, that was the old red, white, and blue popsicle I was told was an American classic, though I had never heard of it. There was the Strawberry Shortcake drumstick-- vanilla ice cream, strawberry filling, and a shortcake crumb coating, and the one that was like the Shortcake, except it was chocolate instead of strawberry. I forget what it was called. These items can all be found, then and now, inside those little waist-high freezers at your local gas and go. The premium item in my freezer was the Choco Taco—two dollars strong! Chocolate fudge, ice cream, and peanuts inside a waffle cone that was shaped, yes, like a Mexican tortilla. But that was cost-prohibitive, and nobody that I encountered until after five carried enough cash to buy a Choco Taco. (I just looked it up online. It has double in price in a quarter century, and it is still the priciest item on the menu.) I would run clean out of some items on a good day, but Choco Tacos were always still available for purchase after dinner, probably a little soft inside the wrapper.
At night, the cash flow would come alive. By dinnertime, I would be rolling into the tony suburban neighborhoods to the north, mom and dad were home, and they wanted dessert. Here comes the whole family, and every member of the clan gets a treat! Even the infants! Cha-ching!
Speaking of-- in case you were wondering-- I think I’m keeping about 17 percent of my total sales at this time, something like that. I recall that I would take home on average of 70 to 80 dollars a day, the only day over 100 coming during 4th of July weekend. More experienced drivers had more lucrative routes than I did. Their evenings were likely similar, but they had office parks where you could score big dollars during the afternoon if you timed your arrival to employee break times. I didn't mind though. I was in it for the kids, right?
Just as on the TV show Taxi
”-- one of my favorites, as you know-- we had a dispatcher back at the garage that was seated inside a window (but no metal cage and no Danny DeVito). It was a cash-only business and we would turn in our envelopes at the end of each day, then mill about until they had figured everybody's payout for the day. I do remember waiting for my pay one night when a colleague informed us that, on TV, OJ Simpson had a gun to his head and was engaged in a slow-speed chase with police down the Los Angeles Expressway. We chewed on that one as we acted out our Taxi
-like, tragicomic Beckett scene in the garage.
Loaded to Win
Okay, now back to the ice cream van, and about that bell. It didn’t have a bell, actually. Instead, it had a loud speaker and a sound system that had a switch and four musical settings. This was the sound system that got ice cream trucks banned in Des Moines. One of the musical settings actually was a bell. It kept up a “ding dong, ding dong” noise that couldn't be endured by any of the drivers for more than 10 seconds. A second setting also could not be tolerated-- for the tune was “Pop Goes the Weasel.” So right away the first day I'm down to two options-- “The Entertainer,” by Mr. Scott Joplin (Hello again, St. Louis!) and the other one I can’t even remember. The sound system was, shall we say, unpopular. One man came out of his home during a steamy afternoon, told me he worked nights, slept days, and then he physically threatened me. I tried to keep the music to a minimum, but there is no ice cream truck without the sound system. The art of it is to drive down a street (ideally a cul-de-sac), blaring the music, average rate of driving speed, then turn slowly around, and go slower still back up the street. Give the people time to grab their pocketbooks. I do distinctly recall an incident of magic one evening-- turning a corner onto a street where the music could already have been heard for two blocks, then seeing in the far-off distance, the shadowy figure of a small boy jumping up and down next to his parents as the van came into his view. I saw only his jumping shadow at first, but there was pure joy on this child’s face as I drove closer. I don't think my arrival was ever greeted so warmly, before or since.
Almost every day I drove happily that summer. What's not to like about work such as this? The dress code permitted me to dress each day in t-shirt and shorts, and I always wore my Cardinals cap as a lid. That accessory would start conversations that I wished to have with people about the local nine. And I was a chatty one. Customers would ask me where I was from and what my story was-- both the kids and the adults would do this. And when you bother to talk to people, you find that you have friends you didn’t know you knew. I met my high school government teacher’s brother
. I met another Iowan, a lady who used to work at the Blue Bunny ice cream factory over in Le Mars. At summer’s end, a little girl named Jasmine, who was sweet on me, gave me a computer-printed greeting card she'd made, using cutting-edge 1994 printing technology, to create a likeness of an ice cream cone. Inside, the card expressed how much she would soon be missing me when I returned to university. Likewise, a little boy gave me a going-away card, but the artwork was poor.
Pilots and Captains
Even more memorable to me today was the circle of co-workers I spent time with-- and then immediately lost all connection with in those pre-Facebook days. My trainer had a first-class mullet and also wore a Cardinals cap every day. He was probably my best acquaintance-- think Otto the bus driver on The Simpsons
, but a much brighter bulb. I think he liked me because he liked the idea of a young man going on an adventure to do what he
did year-round. I spent an evening at his house with him and his lovely family, and another driver joined later. I recall chatting with both of them at one point about my all-time favorite TV show WKRP in Cincinnati
, and the other driver relayed that he loved the episode where Johnny Fever thought he was being pursued by the phone cops (Editor’s note: the episode was “An Explosive Affair, Part 2," originally aired 1981). What I remember best about the conversation with this other guy was his tobacco laugh and the fact that he had come to the house straight from county lockup on a charge of domestic violence.
Another Frosty Treats co-worker drove his van every day with his 10-year old son in tow. What a goofy little kid. He was the "what does this do? what does that do?" sort. One day he told he liked my little car, the Pontiac Fiero, but if it was him, he declared, he would have bought American. Another driver yet was a fantastic guy who was a French exchange student about my age. This fact was, of course, as surreal as it sounds. This company of less than 30 drivers actually had an exchange student on roster. I truly think his name was Pierre, but I may be stereotyping with my memory. I was invited one evening to go out with him and his friends, all French exchange students also. We gathered and drank alcohol (underage, in my case) in one of the high-rise apartments downtown-- FYI, the one next to the Days Inn on 4th Street. (You can see it plainly from the observation room at the top of the Arch.) Just like me, Pierre’s friends had no furniture. We sat on the floor that night and drank beers and I enjoyed some of their conversation in French. We ended the evening by going arm-and-arm and singing La Marseillaise. That part I just made up.
I didn't known then what I wanted to do with my professional life, what would satisfy my passions, but it came to me many years after the Summer of Ice Cream. I loved the shows WKRP
and, later, Newsradio
, and really internalized them, to the point that I made my career in radio for just short of a decade. What I always wanted though, I decided, and what was represented by these great TV shows I enjoyed, was to be part of a great workplace ensemble, and I’ve had that now with three different employers, the first of which being Frosty Treats, Incorporated. This garage was
. There were only a couple of ladies, older ones like the extras, no Marilu Henners. The French guy, being foreign, would be Latka, I guess. Some of us wanted to be actors, or boxers (the ones I didn't know, probably), others were probably like Reverend Jim, and would have trouble finding work anywhere else, some of us wanted to be stadium ushers. I’ve never seen any of these people again, with one possible exception. A couple years ago, I believe I saw the boss, the man whose name and phone number I kept in my wallet throughout the '90s, when I still thought I needed to list Frosty Treats on job resumes. He was with a group of friends sitting several rows in front of me at a night game in the upper deck of a new Busch Stadium. He was a big man, and several beers along, clearly enjoying himself. Not entirely sure of myself, I didn’t think it necessary to go say hello after two decades of time had passed.
From Roses to Snow
I made it to a record 15 ballgames during that summer living in the city-- though I would later tie that record through sheer hustle in 2000, commuting from Des Moines. At one juncture during that memorable year of '94, I went to four games in two days, thanks to back-to-back doubleheaders in a series against Atlanta. My wages, paid out in cash each one of those days, turned out to be enough to cover my lease and all expenses for the summer, with enough left over for an electronic sound receiver, a five-disc compact disc changer, and two speakers- all of which can still be found in my current living room. They are a living memory.
It dawned on me just the other day that my ice cream truck piloting venture is an equivalent to Samuel Clemens’ brief career piloting steamboats in the 1850s. For both of us, this youthful escapade would inform the rest of our lives. He made his way down the river from Hannibal, Missouri, and I came from Iowa. As he wrote in Life on the Mississippi
, a river pilot was required to “get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must… actually know where these things are in the dark.” And as I explained, my
work required me to give away a lot of cherry popsicles. His work in the field came to an end with the outbreak of the Civil War, during which he made out for Nevada Territory, and ultimately, to his first important writing assignment. My work ended with a return to the classroom. Clemens derived his alias from his experience-- in river boating, the phrase ‘mark twain’ stands in for the water depth measure of two fathoms, or twelve feet-- the level of depth considered safe for piloting. I have my
new pen name narrowed down to “Strawberry Shortcake” and “Choco Taco,” leaning toward the latter.