Friday, November 30, 2012

The Lamb Chop Murders

Today, an old friend made the mistake of asking me if I remember the kiddie TV character "Lamb Chop."  Ha!  Do I remember Lamb Chop?  Who doesn't remember Shari Lewis' adorable and timeless Lamb Chop?  Yeah, that would be me.  At least, I don't recall the puppet itself, or the show.  But I remember the incidents.

Not many people know of the first one, because there was another, much more widely-publicized story, involving a frozen leg of lamb, from around the same time.  This story, short on details though it may be, is better, because it's true. 

There was a wife, mercilessly berated and belittled by her bully of a husband for years, who reached her rope's end one evening and cracked his head open with a stack of lamb chops that had frozen together in their icebox.  Thinking quickly, she screamed a few times, broke the window that opened onto the fire escape, threw the bloody chops into a sink full of warm water, and called the police.

By the time the deputies arrived, she had concocted a story about a break-in by a crowbar-wielding thug who had struck the fatal blow upon her husband's crown and fled when she had screamed.  She had also cooked the lamb chops - pan-seared in a little olive oil, rosemary and mint.  She was never even arrested, and always thought it pathetic that the cops hadn't bothered to ask why she had cooked eight chops, when the table had been set for two.  She had no idea that they had absolutely made that observation, but that her husband had been a monster and her actions were more than justified.  Why put her through a trial, they had decided before even knocking on her door.

The second "Lamb Chop" murder took place in a studio prop room in the 1980s, and well, we all know about that one, don't we?

The third incident, and the only one I was lucky enough to have witnessed in-person, was more about "Rambo III" than it was about Shari Lewis or her TV puppet. I was working at Erol's Video Club in late 1988 when "Rambo III" was released on VHS.  It was a Friday night, and the video had come in the day before.  All 25 copies - a lot, for our store - had all gone out Thursday, so most of them were coming back at random times throughout the evening.  We didn't have a waiting list, because they had always been more trouble than they were worth, so there was a small crowd gathered around the "returns" table, waiting for Stallone's latest Razzie Award-winning masterpiece.

I hated approaching that table under those circumstances, with a copy of the sought-after video du jour or without.  This time, I was with.  A couple of people shouted something or other about having been there first, but I just tossed the tape onto the table and ran.  NEEDLESS TO SAY, a scuffle immediately ensued.  Punches were thrown.  Our brand-new candy display carousel was toppled.  Noses were bloodied, screams and obscenities filled the air. The police were summoned. 

I didn't see anyone leave in particularly serious condition, but we learned the next day that one of the combatants had died of his injuries, having been struck in temple with a videotape.  A detective came by that afternoon to pick it up from the manager's office.  It had been the only other tape on the returns table, at the time of the fracas, and it was the only one that had turned up broken, that night. 

It was our lone copy of "Lamb Chop's Sing-along, Play-along."

Do I remember Lamb Chop?  Yeah, I do.  In my nightmares.          

Thursday, November 29, 2012

They Wrote Their Own Vows

I have been asked many times about hobo relationships.  Were there female hoboes?  Did they date fellow hoboes?  Did they ever marry?  What were their weddings like?  Where did they register?  What did they do for honeymoons?  Now that I think about it, I've never been asked any of those questions.  But I have wondered why no one's been asking.  There are plenty of stories of hobo love.  Here's a peek at just one.

The October 1932 wedding of Maria the Pumpkin-Patch Crooner and Pierre Tin-Hat was lightly attended, because it was raining.  Rufus Caboose was their officiant, because he "liked God stuff," and could talk fast enough to get through the ceremony before the hobo congregants had time to get bored and wander off.  Given the average hobo's miniscule attention span, this was no small feat.  He got to the vows, which the bride and groom had written themselves, within ninety seconds.

"I, Pierre Tin-Hat, take thee, Maria the Pumpkin-Patch Crooner as my wedded drifter wife.  I promise to give you half of my beans and all of my heart.  I will protect you from vermin and police dogs, and let you wear my coat.  I will not harshly criticize your singing, or your constant, obsessive searching for pumpkin patches.  I will not yell at you, and I promise to share you only with my very best friends.  This is my more or less sober vow."

[Long pause, during which Maria the Pumpkin-Patch Crooner stared at her groom, tears welling in her eyes, as Pierre Tin-Hat grinned sheepishly at her.]

"I, Maria the Pumpkin-Patch Crooner, take thee, Pierre Tin-Heart, to be my partner, my best friend, my love.  I promise to help you with your crippling inability to read hobo signs.  I will chop firewood when you are weak, which everyone knows is always.  I will listen to you better than you listen to me.  I will stand watch while you relieve yourself, so no one sees you and makes fun.  I will walk beside you and remind you to look both ways before crossing.  I promise not to bring you to any of the hundreds of pumpkin patches I have, um, visited before with other men.  I'm sure eventually we can find at least one to call our own.  I will mend your trousers when there is thread.  I will not light your whiskey on fire unless I'm terribly, terribly cold.  I will bear you no children, unless we can find nothing else to eat.  Ha ha ha.  But seriously, I'm barren.  What?  I thought you knew that.  Sorry.  I also promise to read to you from what's left of my Bible.  I choose you, Pierre, and I will walk the length of the Union Pacific with you as together we weather life's storms.  Also, yes, I will finally sleep with you.  But you just mind your manners, mister!  Oh, and I love you.  Amen."    

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

An Evening With A Schizophrenic iPod

With my luck, it'll play a 26-minute Tangerine Dream track, 13 minutes' worth of Meatloaf and Yes' album-side-filling opus "Gates of Delirium," but come what may, we're doing this.  I have nearly 10,000 tracks on my old-timey iPod, and I'm listening to it - on shuffle, of course - for an evening and sharing the playlist with you.  You might be surprised at what comes up.  It surprises me all the time, and it's my iPod.
  1. Aerosmith - "Sweet Emotion."  People who know me are already scratching their heads at the appearance of this crusty old thing in my collection.  I like the old stuff.  This song was already a classic before I learned to like it.  I always liked it, but it took a 1990s arcade game called "Revolution X" to get me to love it.
  2. Ladysmith Black Mambazo - "Baba Wethu Singenile."  Yes, these are the guys who backed Paul Simon on his "Graceland" album.  They're neat and can work a harmony like nobody else - plus they're named for an AXE, more or less - so I like them.
  3. Ziggy Marley & The Melody Makers - "One Bright Day."  Oh, Ziggy.  You'll never be your father, will you?  That's okay, you seem like a nice guy.
  4. Andrew Gold - "Lonely Boy."  What?  Sounds like something that would have come out of my little panda-shaped AM radio in the 70s - and it probably did.  I think [Maris] gets credit for this one.
  5. David Bowie - "Slip Away."  Of all the Bowie songs in my library (which is almost all of them), it picks this one?  Oh well.  2000's Bowie is still Bowie, right.  Bowie.
  6. Vince Guaraldi Trio - "Greensleeves."  It's a Charlie Brown Christmas!
  7. Simple Minds - "Kaleidoscope."  Eleventy-gazillion Simple Minds songs in my collection, and this one comes up now.  *sigh*  Long before their big year on U.S. radio, this band was weird and experimental - sometimes to the point of aural discomfort - and that's where this piece comes from.
  8. Dropkick Murphys - "This is Your Life."  [jumps around instead of writing]
  9. Rush - "Turn The Page." I remember seeing Rush in 1987 at the Cap Centre, and feeling the bass in my ribcage, but now... *skip*
  10. Blind Guadian - "Otherland."  We discovered these guys when we looked up some other band we saw on the MTV Europe awards show, and iTunes suggested B.G.  Queen meets Renaissance Faire Metal.  I don't know.  Guitars!
  11. Zydeco Boneshakers* - "Put It Under The Tree."  Zydeco music and Christmas!  Boom.  That just happened.
  12. John Waite - "Missing You."  I love the 80s, but *skip*
  13. Massive Attack - "Karmacoma."  Do you have to be high or having tantric sex in order to enjoy Massive Attack?  Probably.  *skip*
  14. N-Trance - "Set You Free."  Ooh - melodramatic techno!  It's 1996, all over again.  Okay, the vocal on this song makes me all goose-bumply.
  15. Gary Numan - "M.E."  "He's a pop star, AND he's got his pilot's license.  Can you imagine that?"  (thanks, Mighty Boosh) YesYes, we can.  He had no idea how influential he was going to be, when he turned his back on punk and fell in love with a synthesizer.
  16. Talking Heads - "City of Dreams."  *skip* - because [Maris] likes to deliberately mistake them for Simple Minds.  Or was that Tears For Fears.  Either way - she's mean.
  17. Kathleen Madigan - "Religion."  Finally, some comedy.  Kathleen is funny, and we like her.
  18. Van Halen - "Little Guitars."  I wanna be Eddie Van Halen.  From the mid-70's until about 1984.
  19. Paula Poundstone - "Pokin' at Ya, Pokin' at Ya."  Another funny lady, doing what she does best.  She once autographed our ticket stub and let me finish the joke she couldn't remember, after the set.
  20. Elvis Costello - "Oliver's Army."  Thanks to my good friend Godfrey Ozzenbarq III (not his real name), I can't see or hear the name Oliver without mentally adding "clothes off."
  21. Sleeze Beez* - "Stranger Than Paradise."  WHAT???
  22. KISS* - "Shout It Out Loud."  iPod, you're not representing yourself very well, tonight.  Nothing against KISS, but we have so much more to offer.  This clip is from the Capital Centre, though!
  23. Brian Regan* - "Chess."  Funniest.  Comedian.  WorkingToday.  
  24. Stan Ridgway* - "Can't Stop The Show."  His one hit, three decades ago, wo, was "Mexican Radio."  He's evolved SO much since those days, although this particular song is about strippers.
  25. Burning Spear* - "Jah Say."  Nice reggae tune, but really I'm just looking for a stopping point. *skip*
  26. AC/DC - "Shot Down In Flames."  Ooh - metal!  Okay, one more...
  27. Tom Jones - "Delilah."  Holy shit it's Tom Jones!
  28. Vangelis - "Spiral."  I knew if I listened long enough, it would play something that I discovered, albeit indirectly, through Carl Sagan's "Cosmos."
  29. OMD - "Crush."  If your only exposure to OMD is that movie song ("If You Leave") or their classic "Enola Gay," then this track will make you go "wha?"
  30. Bruce Springsteen* - "Glory Days."  That should do it.  

Harrumph.  The only thing weird about my iPod's mood tonight was how weird it wasn't.  I should have cheated.  Maybe next time it will pull out something truly bizarre.  I know Barnes & Barnes' "Fish Heads" is on there, somewhere...

*Note:  These links, which work beautifully in my draft, refuse to work (or even show up as links) for anyone else.  Google these artists/songs.  You might not be sorry.,