Sunday, 3 March 2019

Summertime Sadness

When we last left off the events of the Science fair had ended.  Soon I would be experiencing two life-changing events in June. The first was that my dad would be working in Kuwait, where he had previously worked. The second event was that my tenure at Marion Carson Elementary where I had spent six sensational years was nearing the finishing mark. Over the course of time, I was taken by surprised once June had approached.
A sample of my recreation of Barks' cover to "Lost Beneath The Seas' (1964, US46) done in this time.
The previous night Ian phoned me asking if I would be interested in working together on a book report. I jumped at the opportunity when he asked if I would like to partner with him. I was giddy working with Ian on a project because he usually partnered up with Spencer. He told me the book we would be reading, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” by Lois Duncan. Immediately I phoned Chapters in Crowfoot if there were any copies of the book available. Unfortunately, there were none over there, but many were in Dalhousie. The following morning, I stopped by the Dalhousie Chapters and picked up a copy of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” en route to Marion Carson. I arrived a bit late when my class was finishing watching “Mulan” in class. Mr. Pugh allowed us to read our novel wherever we wanted. Ian and I chose our spot which was the corridor outside the classroom. We would read up to a certain point then we horsed around.

During recess Ian and I were shooting hoops and he was wondering why I laughing. I told him how the previous night I joined my dad when he was viewing an episode of FAMILY GUY,  where Peter was watching Bert as a drunkard cop, and Ernie as his life partner lying in bed.
Bert was woken up by a phone call reporting an attack at Hooper's, at which point after getting up, he and Ernie get into a quarrel with each other for the former drinking, and the latter eating cookies in bed. It was hysterical seeing characters you grew up with in your childhood in adult situations.

Soon Ian was giggling at the cutaway gag of FAMILY GUY I described. He commented how I was lucky to have a dad to expose me to all of these shows.I was a regular viewer of THE SIMPSONS, but I felt the early seasons of FAMILY GUY pushed the envelope similarly as THE SIMPSONS did when it started.

In order to live in the moment, I put the thought of my dad leaving out of mind as much as possible. I was involved with completing school assignments I didn't have time to worry. The weeks leading up to his departure were memorable. He would pick me up from school, and occasionally drop off Ian and Spencer to their homes. It was business as usual, as he helped me prepare for the grade six provincial exams for Science, Math, Language Arts, and Social Studies.

As a passenger, I strapped myself in while my dad the pilot took me to the soaring heights of aerodynamics. I was frustrated with how the rest of my classmates were easily making paper airplanes, while I was struggling to make one. Later that day, my father assisted me in making paper airplanes by following directions in a book. In due time I perfected the plane making process without looking at instructions. I learned that by folding the ailerons of a paper plane made it loop de loop.

When we would run laps starting from Marion Carson Elementary to the outskirts of F.E.O, I would have a burst of speed mentally hearing “Pop Goes The Weasel” in my mind. I eagerly looked forward to borrowing the “Curly Classics” DVD with my father after school finished, so I could finally view “Punch Drunks”. I was familiar with the premise of the short and I had seen snippets of the short. I remember how enthusiastic my father was in waking me up early on weekends when The Three Stooges would air. It was loads of fun watching “A Plumbing We Will Go” again. I loved how Moe, Larry, and Curly escaped from the law. The best part was when Curly, trapped in his maze of pipes uses a brace-and-bit to let the water run out, which leads to the floor to collapse and dismantle the pipe Moe had fixed (Yeah, who said you need brains to be a plumber?). Another entry “Micro-Phonies” (1945) which I hadn’t seen in some time was a favorite among my father, sister, and I. Curly’s expressions as he lip-synched to Christine McIntyre's performance of “Voices Of Spring” was a highlight.
Señorita Cucaracha attempts to silence Alice Van Doren (Christine McIntyre) from vocalizing.
Curly appealed to the inner kid in me with his high-pitched voice, unique mannerisms of singing “Laaa-deee”, and vocal expressions (“Woo-woo”, “Nyuk-nyuk”) or as I coined “Curlyisms”. I saw the joy he imbued in all of his performances, especially if he was dancing. The last day when we were learning dance moves in our physical classes, I spontaneity dropped to the floor and spun like a drop. Had I been in grade seven, I would not have the courage to do it, as I was inhibited by my classmates’ perceptions of me. When I watch his shorts, I learn that it is all right to feel frustrated when situations that our beyond our control. Sometimes don’t we all feel like making a Curly-esque squeal, or slapping ourselves in the face and saying “I’m a victim of coicimstance”? In an unorthodox way it is an outlet of ridding the angst inside all of us.

Towards the end of April when we were working on the book report, most of our time was spent listening to music that we introduced each other. One of my favorite songs Ian shared was “Le Tigre” by Decapton. We were hesitant about setting up the review, Ian looked at one of his old book reports and we based it off that. We had a dry run of our interview making sure that there were no awkward gaps when we presented in class. I borrowed my father’s tie in order to look like the part of the interviewer. I was Brian Linehan opposite Ian who was Barry one of the characters from the novel. Mr. Pugh told us that our book report was well delivered which made us feel content with our efforts. I was pleased that our project went well. I wanted him not to regret his decision of choosing me as his partner.
Page One of the interview with Ray Bronson.
A script leading into our interview with author Ray Bronson.
The first of two stories I had written "Land Beneath The Ground' where I cribbed a lot of Barks stories.
In Language Arts, we were steadfastly preparing for the first part of the exam, which consisted of writing. I constructed two tales that were pastiches of two Carl Barks’ tales “The Old Castle’s Secret”, and “Land Beneath The Ground”. In the first story, I used the trope of a character thinking that what he experienced was a fantasy. I had the ending of the Bugs Bunny short,” Knight Mare Hare” (1956) in mind as I finished the story. “The 2004 Stanley Cup” was an event that all of my classmates were excited about.

A sample of my influences that I purloined when creating my story "The Old Castle's Secret".
I recall how I was crushed upon hearing that my father would be working in Kuwait. In retrospect, it was an event that was a blessing. On Monday, May 31st as I would not be there to see my father off at the airport, because I would be embarking to Camp Kiwanis the following day. I was allowed to miss half a day of school. My family and I went to Chinook Mall in order to complete some errands. I was effervescent as ever standing in line waiting for payment. The feeling knowing, he was mine as the clerk put him in the bag. Among the Duck memorabilia, I possess it is what I treasured the most. It was a touching gift that my father purchased for me before he left for Kuwait.

Acting as a chaser to the entertainment that night my mother, father and I first watched “All The Worlds A Stooge” and then “The Three Little Pirates”. In the first short we enjoyed the Stooges acting as children.

The premise of the later short of the Stooges stranded on Dead Man’s Island and escaping from there was fun. We enjoyed how there were many precious gems in Curly’s performance. When they were entering the Governor (Vernon Dent) finds it hard to believe that the trio are actually sailors due to their modern uniforms, but changes his mind once Curly starts flirting ("Hiya, babe!") with his fiancée, Rita (Christine McIntyre). I was smitten by how radiant Christine McIntyre's appearance. I was amused seeing Curly as the bespeckled Maharajah of Canarsie, as he improvised his way of crossing his legs and sitting down at the table. As director Edward Bernds commented, “In Three Little Pirates, he was terrific. It was the last flash of the old Curly”. The infamous Maharajah routine between Moe (The Gin of Rummy) and Curly (Maharajah) was performed flawlessly between them. I enjoyed the doublespeak and gibberish traded between them. “I would like to see some babes myself” was among the one-liners that tickled me. I detected from Curly’s voice that it was strained, especially when he sounded off to Moe, “Aw. Shut up. I don’t have too”. I thought Canarsie was a funny sounding word. Later when I was viewing TOP CAT that I discovered Canarsie, Brooklyn was among the localities in New York. Ain’t it interesting what you can pick up from watching television.
The infamous "Maharaja" exchange between Moe and Curly was previously performed in TIME OUT FOR RYTHM (1941) featuring Allen Jenkins who voiced Officer Dibble in TOP CAT.  
Before we went to sleep we read “Cave Of Ali Baba” (US37) from Abeville’s treasury of Scrooge stories. The whirling dervishes that appeared, and the nephews fantasizing about Jinns leaping to and fro were the references to Arab folklore that I lapped up. The terrifying Rocs that grabbed the Ducks off into the air was thrilling. I always thought the Rocs were a creation that Carl Barks devised. Later I discovered they were from “1001 Arabian Nights”. My dad mentioned how the story took place in Iran. It was fitting how the night prior to the first day of grade six started we read, “McDuck Of Arabia”. The day before I left we read “Cave Of Ali Baba”. The stories were both set in the Middle East.
Uncle Scrooge clasping onto what he believes is a jugful of rubies.
The next day, I remember in the courtyard of “Marion Carson Elementary” were parents of all the students. My parents were conversing with Ian’s parents. It was a bittersweet moment as I sat in the bus departing for “Camp Kiwanis”; I looked out the window seeing my father and mother among the sea of parents. I pretended as if I was one of Donald’s nephews embarking on a trip to the Junior Woodchucks. Coincidentally when we were preparing for our trip, we were making our “nature names” using wooden pieces from a tree stump from Mr. Pugh’s backyard. Woodchuck was my nature name. It as extremely informative learning about nature, and later we would play games like Capture The Flag, Tag, and many others. I remember one of the counselors made mention of the film “Cool Runnings” (1993), I was ever so interested in it starred my favorite comedian the late John Candy.

My sister picked me up from “Marion Carson Elementary” on Friday, June 4th. On the way home, Madonna was playing in the car, listening to the song “La Isla Bonita” I imagined Donald out on the terrace while Daisy was on the balcony in Spain. When I entered the house it was hard to imagine that my dad was not there. it felt strange when I talked to him over the phone. I was melancholic throughout the evening.
My renditions of Barks drawings surround autographs from my camp counselors.
After a week of being disconnected from technology, I looked at the issue of “Scoop” online. The section “Industry News” offered a glimpse into the latest Disney comics that were released. When I saw Branca’s vibrant cover for “Uncle Scrooge” I was sure that I wanted to pick it up. Before I slept, the thought of picking up issue #330 of “Uncle Scrooge” at “Comic Kazi” made me look forward to tomorrow. I always welcomed Barks’ reprints, as I had never collected his stories before. It started a long-term coping mechanism where my spirits soon lifted after perusing an issue of “Uncle Scrooge”. In class when we would start our silent reading sessions I would pull out issue #330 from my desk. I would let my friends Ian, Spencer, and Jerry read it when I finished it.
I was hooked after seeing Daniel Branca's inviting cover for Uncle Scrooge #330.  The first issue of Uncle Scrooge to be picked up during my dad's leave. 

One afternoon in class we were constructing tie hangers for a Father’s Day present. In the process of completing mine, I had completely lost my nerve; I started sobbing about how my father was not there. Usually, I always maintain my composure, but in this instance, I had lost it. I remember Ian chucking a screw while saying, “Screw you” at those who were laughing at me. I felt grateful for him standing up for me. I hoped that the screw did not injure anyone’s eye.

Friday, June 25th marked the last day of grade six. I bought my mom’s camera and took pictures of my friends and Mr. Pugh. Summer was a time where every student eagerly looked forward to - not me. My father not being there, and Ian and Spencer vacationing in their cabins in Invermere, a community of B.C. left me feeling lonely.

Ian and I bid farewell to Marion Carson Elementary and look forward to the future.

The schedule for June 2004 shows a secession of review sessions and Provincial Exams. 

When I said farewell to Ian and Spencer as they were walking home, the realization that I wouldn't be seeing them for a while didn't hit me until a week later.
In my mind, I was content with spending my summer with the Disney characters as the back cover from "Vacation Parade" displays.
The first week of summer was spent recovering from a cold! I had a fever during the warmest days of the year.  In the afternoons, I watched episodes mainly from the fifteenth season of THE SIMPSONS that aired on FOX (Channel 22). After THE SIMPSONS, THAT '70s SHOW would air.

The premise of the sitcom—a decent if occasionally geeky kid named Eric Foreman (Topher Grace) who spends much of his teenage existence in Point Place, WI during the 1970s “hanging out” with his friends in his basement. Rounding out Eric’s “gang” were high school sweetheart (Laura Prepon), best friend, Hyde (Danny Masterson) comes from a troubled home, Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher) is the handsome idiot, spoiled rich girl Jackie Burkhart (Mila Kunis), and Fez (Wilmer Valderrama) the ‘foreign guy’ whose nationality is never revealed.

Viewing THAT ‘70s SHOW was an escape, a way for me to feel that I wasn’t alone. The series was a time-capsule that captured the nostalgia with appropriate music, clothing, hairstyles, references and the like.

On weekdays back-to-back episodes followed THE SIMPSONS on Fox (Channel 22): On weekends it aired on Global (Channel 7). I caught up on all six seasons of the show prior to the seventh premiering in the fall.
I was drawn by the relatability of the characters in the show. To quote Topher Grace, "If you lived through the 1970's or even just survived being a teenager, one of these characters could be you." You could substitute Eric's geeky obsession for Star Wars with mine for the Ducks. As an introvert, it was watching Eric's dynamic with his friends I was able to experience what it was to be a part of a clique.

The fantasy sequences where the kids would do twisted interpretations of pop-culture be it: “The Three Stooges”, “Reefer Madness”, and “Grease” was a highlight. How the other characters would comment on the fantasy sequence reveled in the meta-humor I appreciated.

I wondered where had this show been all my life. In previous grades, the show had not caught my interest. I, recall in gym class Jamie Hoffman mentioned one of the characters, Kelso. I started viewing the show when the last episodes of the first season were being re-run and became “hopelessly addicted”.

One of the earliest episodes that stood out was, "The Garage Sale". I was naive to understand that the ingredient in Hyde's "special brownies" was marijuana. It was humorous seeing Red as "high as a kite" especially when being lectured by Hyde and Eric about who Red sold the Vista Cruiser too. I was inspired in whipping a batch of brownies as Hyde did. I would ask my mom, what the "special" ingredient in the brownie recipe was. She responded, love. I, replied with my favorite line of Hyde's, "there's a whole big bag of love in there".

When I was feeling down, I went to Blockbuster to rent “The Three Cabelleros”, because it featured “Don’s Fountain Of Youth”. The Florida everglades was the setting for one of my favorite DUCKTALES episode, “Sweet Duck of Youth”.

The nephew’s eyes being glued to a comic book seemed out of character when compared to Barks’ stories, but then I disregarded that as the nephews could be occasionally mischievous. Donald as an infant tear up the nephew’s comic book was retribution for when Donald took their comic book and they started crying.

My mother and I enjoyed the part where one of the nephew’s reprimands Donald lightly on the hand for ripping up their comic book, and immediately wails. The end where the baby alligators tear up after Donald has left only to be reassured when their actual mother quacks was cute.

Saturday, July 3 I went to Comic Kazi to pick up this year’s issue of “Free Comic Book Day”. Gemstone offered reprints of two Carl Barks tales: “The Riddle Of The Red Hat” and “The Second Richest Duck”. The “flip cover” was an ingenious method of reading the stories from front to back. You could read the stories with the covers that originally accompanied them. Finally, my comic book retailer had received “Vacation Parade”. It was the first comic book that I purchased with my debit card.

When I went to bed that night I read the annual, which led off with Carl Barks’ classic “Vacation Time”. There was an unhappy camper that spoke with a Brooklyn dialect. I “mentally heard” Hal Smith provide his voice. I felt tuned in to the peril that Ducks faced when they were in the forest fire. It was ingenious how Donald dug trenches for him and the nephews and wrapped wet shirts around their face in order to prevent suffocation. I liked how Donald was not portrayed as a bungler, however as a protector for his nephews as they were in the midst of a fire. The beautiful forest scenery made for lovely vistas and crackling flames evocative and real. The smoky skies, the trees now were blackened stumps, and the murky water beautifully illustrated the grave reality of the once was a lively forest. 

Donald inhaling the smells of nature outdoors made me feel as if in that atmosphere. 
The enthusiasm that Donald displays about waking up early on summer vacation and the bleary-eyed nephew's reaction echoes the feeling between my father and I. Carl Barks experimentation of panel added to the uniqueness of this story. 
The story that followed it was Paul Murry’s “Mickey Mouse and The Whale”. The opening panel of Mickey and Goofy walking down a pier on a hot summer’s night, then being shanghaied aboard a ship by the villainous Captain Blow and his accomplice, Peg Leg Pete was suspenseful. It was a surprise how Minnie came on board the ship. The part where Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy were pulling the whale’s teeth looked realistic. I could imagine the pain the whale may have suffered. The red coloring was a good touch to indicate the soreness of the whale’s tooth. The style in which he drew the Mouse looked appealing.

One day I was helping my neighbor with some chores. On the way from completing a task, we went to a video store because he had to return a film. I was perusing the aisles to see what videos they offered. I saw a video of THE JETSONS. I was tempted to rent it one day, but I had a perception that the animation would have been off model. When I later watched the original run of THE JETSONS the animation was consistent. On the bottom shelf of the racks, there was a video cassette that attracted me... it was entitled “Daisy”. I had seen the cover art online, but I could not believe I was holding it. The next day, I went tutoring at Sylvan Learning, then I hit a round of golf balls at Bearspaw, and finally, I rented “Daisy” from the store.

Out of all the cartoons on the tape, “Donald’s Dream Voice” (1948) was one of my favorites. The animation of Donald dancing before he was selling his brush was nice. It was touching when Donald sat dejectedly, with his sulking shoulders as he explained to Daisy his inability to sell brushes. Daisy comforted him with a kinetic kiss, which sent him to do a backflip onto a recliner. The delicate gestures of her eyelashes swooping impacted how heartfelt the scene was. From there he hung onto a chandelier he slid onto the banister as she tossed him his briefcase. The underscore and the “plinking” sound effect as Donald rampantly retrieved the pill worked well.
The closeness between Daisy and Donald has been seldom explored in the cartoons. 
I developed the plot of Donald as an unsuccessful salesman further. When Donald then peddles furs door to door, he then tries on a fur of a loup-garou. Immediately he becomes successful in his relationship with Daisy. At night he transforms into a loup-garou and terrorizes citizens of Duckburg. When Donald discovers all of the damage he has caused he cries. I had dumped the plot when I couldn't develop it any further.

The following week when I went to return the video, I made two more discoveries – “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” and “DuckTales: Duck To The Future”. The videos made for a delightful ducky hour of entertainment that afternoon. “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” was a special that I would never tire of viewing. Each Christmas, I would regularly watch it along with “From All Of Us To All Of You”. Hearing the haunting song “Oh What A Merry Christmas Day”, accompany the sepia-toned illustrations put me in the Christmas mood. The backgrounds captured the style of Victorian England.

A sequence that delighted me was when the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jiminy Cricket) takes Scrooge to a Christmas party hosted by Mr. Fezziweg, where he met his fiancée the enchanting Isabelle (Daisy Duck). Before they were to dance, it was a cute moment as Scrooge coyly held his hand while he exchanged glances with Daisy. It was a great pleasure seeing the two interact. I was always bothered by her inclusion from the DUCKTALES cast. The upbeat underscore as they danced conveyed the gaiety of the atmosphere. It was a clever way of incorporating cameos from a menagerie of Disney players. After their romp she pecked Scrooge on the cheek, the animation showed his eyes dilating was a good touch.

A great angle captures the dreariness as depicted in Dickens novel.

I like the glance a young Scrooge gives Daisy.

Later that day, “Canadian Road Trip” an episode of “THAT ‘70s SHOW” aired. It was a surprise seeing SCTV alums Joe Flaherty and Dave Thomas as the Canadian Mounties. As a child, I had seen them paired as the Sleeze Brothers who take Big Bird in FOLLOW THAT BIRD (1985). Despite the typical Canadian stereotypes displayed it was extremely humorous. The subplot of Red adjusting his VCR in order to tape Roots was fun.