Saturday, April 11, 2020

Cabin Fever Regression

All this has me thinking peril, thinking masks and radio days. How back then we saw what we heard. Those of us born before Pearl Harbor were raised by radio. Stare long enough into the Art-Deco speaker and you’d see Jack Armstrong dodging poison darts making his way down the Amazon or Henry Aldrich, Coming Mother.

If you had a head cold in November, bad enough to stay home from school, when Ma Perkins was baking a pie it would be coming out of the oven for your fever in February. Time moved slower then. Jack Benny strolled the department store with Rochester to meet Mr. Kitzel and the floor walker. In no hurry. When held up at gun point he was asked, Your money or your life? Again, Your money or your life…….10 second pause…..I’m thinking. I’m thinking.  

Thinking is what we did back then and esteemed radio shows such as Information Please, The Quiz Kids and Doctor I.Q. We wanted answers. Intellect was valued. There were not two versions of the truth.

Life was a meander not down Memory Lane or Easy St. but across Allen’s Alley to visit Mrs. Nussbaum and Senator Claghorn. These were the Boulevardiers just taking a walk and bumping into the voices: Fred Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, the Great Gildersleeve. We saw the characters coming. We waited and were never stood up.

Conjured vividly from the radio we had a vision of the ballpark, the bar room brawl, even a beauty pageant. We saw what The Shadow saw.

Even though there were air raid drills, war bonds and blackouts the peril was distant. Two oceans kept us safe even when a German U-boat was spotted off Rockaway Beach. And then we had Superman. If that mild-mannered reporter was a disguised Uber Mensch then why not me? If I only had a phone booth.

Clark Kent, of course, wasn’t masked but Batman, the Green Hornet and the Lone Ranger felt the need to hide their identity. They all had side-kicks to help set the world right. When Kato was Bruce Lee his nationality suddenly changed from Japanese to Philippine overnight. Fair enough. You do what you have to do to get by.

The Lone Ranger wore one over his eyes while he hi-ho’d away to the overture when his white horse, Silver, heard William Tell. That mask wouldn’t have helped against this virus but Tonto’s bandana might have saved the day if he had covered his mouth and nostrils. Catching a cattle rustler or card sharp was a lot easier than battling this invisible blob crowned Corona.

We are now in a dark and stormy night. The heroes are the scientists and healthcare workers, truck drivers and grocery clerks. Heroes wear masks not to stay anonymous, just to stay alive. Our President refuses but his face is already a mask to
hide his deceit and bumbling self-absorption. Earth calling Krypton, Earth calling Krypton. Help! We have a situation here.

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