A Zazaloph’s Journey*

I became a lifelong fan of Stan Freberg’s genius when I was seven, shortly before I sat on and broke our 78 rpm recording of “Little Blue Riding Hood”, which was released in 1953.  So, going on sixty-six years.  Another time I could talk about the Schwann’s catalog, and an actual record store close enough to walk to, and finding “The Old Payola Roll Blues” in a miscellaneous bin.  I bought all the LPs up until ‘Freberg Underground’, which was released in 1966, my sophomore/junior year when I had strayed from my Frebergphiliac inclination.  Another time, I can discuss the tantalizing hints of unheard magic I connected with on odd occasions, like the “Custer’s Last Stand” bit from the radio shows, which wasn’t on the double lp Grammy-winning Best of album, that I heard one Sunday night on Dallas’ WRR-AM.   Later:  did I really  hear that?

All that is prelude to me wanting to talk about perpetuating Stan’s work ethically.  This concern stems from my longtime membership in the Yahoo! mail group.  Some of FB’s “Fans of Freberg” migrated from that group, which I joined somewhere in the 2004-2006 time frame.  There are three or four well-known members, who joined before I did,  still in the group, who are not down with Facebook, that are much more knowledegable than me, some who knew and worked with him, some who are avid collectors, etc.

Collectors, and I mention no names just because, put together impromptu collections – ‘The Uncollected Freberg Collections’ –  that we traded as CDs via snail mail.   There were four CDs, with the third collection having two.  These included radio interviews, the CBS program spots, the Guide Dog spots (there’s one or two more besides the one with Betty White), “Wide-screen Mama Blues” (a particular favorite that wasn’t on TotF), and a bunch of other … well … uncollected stuff.

One member of the group was close to Stan and Hunter, and at that time, they were dismayed that his work was available for free.  This member, I believe at the Freberg’s urging periodically chided the other members for the sharing that was going on.

That ship has since sailed.  I think everyone realizes that there is no monetization, nor a speck of disrepect intended, when Stan’s rarities are made available to people who, like me, just wanted MORE FREBERG.

I’m not trying to set up a “come and get your Freberg here” site.  Not gonna.  I’ve mailed out copies of the CDs over the years to those who declared they would donate to a local food bank, but that’s more trouble than I think it’s worth anymore (though, donate $100 and the CDs are in the mail, baby).

You are welcome to comment here (preferred) or on FB about doing the right thing by the Frebergs and by the Frebergians.

Peace out.

*Zazalph refers to the family of acrobats who wowed Stan’s radio audience with their daring performance in 1957 on his CBS show.  They were Swiss, so as to not offend anyone.



Popping a wheelie – a true story

Have you ever been on a 1966-ish Kawasaki 175 cc motorcycle, a young lady who was your blind date for the evening confidently clutching your midriff  from behind while you were waiting, first vehicle in the middle lane, for the light to turn green, on a warm summer evening.  You have, you say?  Or, perhaps, you were that young lady?  What an evening, eh?

It was a Friday night in downtown Dallas, waiting there on Commerce at its intersection with Houston, at the top of the rise that extended from the Triple Underpass.  The intersection of Elm and Houston, two blocks north, is the last one that JFK went through on November 22, 1963.

I wasn’t thinking about that macabre event  from a few years past.  I was thinking that being a relatively unskilled motorcyclist with a passenger on board for the first time, and coming in from Irving on Carpenter Freeway and then onto Stemmons and then heading into downtown Dallas on Commerce on a Friday night was not as much fun as it had seemed when the first plans were sketched out with Howard and  his girl friend, whose workmate was the lassie giving me the “I’m hanging on” treatment.

Howard and his girl were on his Kawasaki 350, a candy-apple red ride that put the basic-black rental I was riding to shame.  They were occupying the same lane and even with us to our right.

I mentioned that the intersection with Houston is at the top of a slight rise.  Waiting, I told my date to “hang on”, because I intended to give it the gas to ensure I had enough traction to continue on into the mean streets of downtown Big D as soon as the light turned green.

Green it turned.  Gas I gave.  Hang on she did.

Which was fortunate because I myself was hanging from the  handlebars, including the twist throttle, and it took me a few milliseconds to haul myself up enough with my left hand to release the gas I was giving.

Fortunately for us, I had kept the front wheel pointed straight ahead, and when it regained contact with the avenue, we were able to proceed somewhat normally, albeit with admiring salutes from motorists who passed, honked, smiled, gave OK-signs, etc.

I actually owned my own ‘sickle a few years later.  It wasn’t that great an experience either, but I never tried to pop a wheelie.

Leave me a comment, why doncha?

Was it really only fifty years ago???

Woodstock was very far from the forefront of my attention in Phu Loi, RVN, serving as one of America’s stalwarts in the cause of … in the cause of … remind me what the cause was again?  Anyway, if anyone talked about it, it wasn’t to me and it wasn’t mentioned on AFVN, the station that occasionally played in the FDC where my shift team and I spent twelve out of twenty-four hours every day.  Of course, at that time, I probably hadn’t smoked my first joint yet, so maybe I was just hanging out with the wrong crowd.

Thinking about listening to the radio, which has been a continuous part of my semi-attention-at-any-given-moment experience, the first song in my “Vietnam Period” that I think of is ‘Time of the Season” (The Zombies) which I heard while reclining on a cot awaiting my orders at the replacement depot in Long Binh, near Saigon and Tan Son Nhut Air Base where we arrived in-country.  A guy in a nearby “bunk” was Gordon Joseph Norman, from Somerville, MA.  He and I had identical training – I was assigned to Alpha Battery, 2/13 Artillery; he went to Bravo Battery, where he died about eight months later, on December 3 as the result of hostile fire.  Rest well, brother.

The show I really liked the most was ‘Joe Allison’s Country Corner’, which brought Hank Thompson’s “Smoky The Bar” to my delighted earlobes.  When I started doing cruise karaoke a few years ago, it moved into my starting lineup first thing.  I’m here to tell you that you can NOT pile too much corn on that little ditty.  The other country hit I can remember hearing was “A Boy Named Sue”, which I expect bled over to the R&R-oriented shows.

Looking at the Woodstock playlist, I KNOW some of the songs played were current hits, but man, I can’t find a one that I know I heard before I got back to Dallas in 1970.  Songs I remember from the time: “Good Morning, Starshine”, “Get Back”, “In the Year 2525”, “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”, “My Cherie Amour”, “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”, “Gitarzan”  – some list, eh?  Of course, those are just ones I can summon up a memory of place and time; I’m sure I heard almost all the Year-end Hot 100 at one time or another.

I have thoughts about what might have been different if I had been working at the moving company in 1969, like I did in 1967-8 and 1970-71.  I hung out with a different crowd, and I’m pretty sure I would have heard about some music a lot sooner than I eventually did.

Here’s a like to a page dedicated to Gordon Joseph Norman.  I left a remembrance.


Here’s a link to an episode of “Joe Allison’s Country Corner” from 1969.  I’ll update if he plays ‘Smoky The Bar’ or ‘A Boy Named Sue.’  Follow the link and click, under his picture, “Country Corner – 1969”


Here’s a link to “Smoky The Bar.”

Thanks for reading.  Leave a comment, why doncha?

Film criticism as an art form – a true story

Thoughts inspired by two movies I haven’t seen: ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’ and 1969’s ‘The Wrecking Crew.

The link between them is that Sharon Tate had a featured role in the Matt Helm film and in OUATIH she attends an afternoon feature to watch it. As a pretty big fan of Matt Helm, whose twenty-seven paperbacks have his signature and are on my bookshelf, this fact caught my attention, and I’ve now done enough research to know why I didn’t see ‘The Wrecking Crew’ when it came out. I haven’t seen any of them, which also include ‘The Silencers’ (1966), ‘Murderer’s Row’ (1966), and ‘The Ambushers’ (1967), for a simple reason. They’re really stupid, and the similarity between the wry assassin between the covers and the broad comedy stylings of Dean Martin’s character under them starts and stops at the name. He makes Sean Connery look like Laurence Olivier.

The hot takes come from a look at the “plots” described in the Wikipedia articles, as well as the critical remarks made by people who had to watch them and then write about it. Too be fair, I think there may be some modest appreciation if you look harder than I cared to. The trailers don’t do much to sell them, either.

I don’t remember what year of college (64-68), I started reading the books, but I was current (# 10) in the summer of ’66, which was halfway between the late winter release of the first film and the December premiere of the second. I probably saw a trailer, or read enough about one or the other to take a pass on the whole concept. Big 007 fan, though, books and films. It took a few Roger Moore flings for me to continue to anticipate the next one, though I usually did, if nowhere else, on the telly. Daniel Craig has, of course, remade the role.

I thought I had seen ‘The Wrecking Crew’, because the final scenes take place on a train, but now I think it might have been a Bond film. Is there a high-tech gang that tries to hijack a trainload of gold in northwest Europe. I watched some of that on TV not long ago, and yeah, I would have remembered if it had Dino camping it up.

Fun fact for me: I thought the only thing that Tina Louise ever did was ‘Gilligan’s Island’. She is also a featured actress (one of four: Elke Sommer and Nancy Kwan being the other two – and Nancy Kwan should have refused the part as soon as she saw her name would be “Wen Yu-Rang.”

Leave me a comment, why doncha?

Cutting the cord

I received a personal email a few days ago, from DirecTV.  I discarded it without reading.  How did I know it was personal?  Why did I choose to discard it unread?   Dear Reader, can you read a subject line like “(Your name here), we miss you already.  Call for our best offer” and not feel the deep emotional connection that this subsidiary of AT&T has forged with you, or at least a twinge of curiosity about what it would be like to be reunited with this old flame, that led you into the world of enjoyable TV viewing, after years of eschewing that medium as only sometimes worthy of attention?

Yes, and no.  Asked and answered.

“Cutting the cord” sounds like such a millennial thing, doesn’t it?

If you’ve read this far, and you watch satellite TV or, possibly, a TV service provided by such as Comcast, Spectrum, UVerse, and  if you have reliable wi-fi, I can assure you that you can save a boatload of money by cutting the cord.

If you are already using a streaming service, such as Netflix or HBO Now or if you have Amazon Prime, you are poised on the brink of saving the aforementioned boatload.

Here’s why we depended on DirecTV.  Some cable channels are always worth a glance, at least, and might even have original programming you want to stay on top of.  AMC’s ‘Better Call Saul’ (and before that, ‘Breaking Bad’), along with its lineup of popular movies, fits that description.

HBO’s recently completed ‘Game of Thrones’, along with such recurring shows as ‘True Detective’ and ‘Westworld’ made it a regular to turn off-and-on-and-off again, which required a call to DirecTV.

Do you like ‘Outlander’?   Starz is another channel we only subscribe to part-time.

I know you love to watch da’ Boys on autumn Sundays, as well as other sporting events; I’m equally sure you watch local channels for all sorts of reasons (‘NCIS’ plays well in our household, as does KERA, our public TV outlet.)

Here’s how I cut my television bill from $156 a month, to about $40.  I bought three devices from Amazon:  a Fire Stick, a Recast, and an HD antenna.  This gives us our local over-the-air live programming, with DVR, along with a platform to stop-and-start-and-stop again almost every streaming service we want.  We already had Prime, and I was bowled over when I saw the vast library of programs, from Andy Griffith and Perry Mason, to Justified and The Wire.  That’s about $8 / month.  I also subscribed to Sling TV, which offers an array of familiar cable channels, for $25 / month.  If all I could ever watch again was those two platforms, I would still never run out of great programming to watch.

If you made it this far, and have any questions, give me a shout, and I will be happy to provide more info.  Thanks for reading.

A Brush with The Bureaucracy

If I was as smart as I think I am, there would be no story here.  Here’s the moral of the story:  ask the right questions as soon as possible.  Here’s the story:

I learned in mid-May that someone with my name, not a typical one, you probably agree, had a claim on a cashier’s check issued in 2007 by Bank of America.  The only address for “Christopher Powe” was Grand Prairie, Texas.  Hmm, I lived in Grand Prairie, Texas in 2007, and would be surprised if there was another one.  What could that … wait a doggone minute … the Missus reminded me that we sold our house (owned free and clear, I might add, talk about perseverance) in 2007, and not only that, we had had to tender money to escrow because of a mechanic’s lien.  We had hired a general contractor to spruce up the ol’ homestead.  He stopped answering the phone, so we finished up.  When we initiated the sale, we found out that a sub-contractor had not been paid.

Waddya do?  We rounded up a cashier’s check for $1781.15, closed the deal, and moved to Oklahoma City.

What else should we’ve did?  Keep some paperwork from the sale.

Flash forward to May, 2019, when I accidentally discovered that the check had never been collected, and that it was mine for the claiming.  Mine for the claiming ALONG WITH the actual proof of the claim.  Therein lies the tale.

I filed the claim, which involved uploading two forms of ID and providing documentation validating my claim.  The ID step was a snap, but documentation …

Spoiler, in case you’re tired of my story:  once I asked what they wanted me to provide, it went very smoothly.

Cutting to the chase, a knowledgeable friend told me that the closing statement for the sale would have the information I needed.  (Remember the part about keeping some paperwork?)  The title company, alas, had changed hands, and subsequently moved out of state.  (I was very recently informed that the company doesn’t keep those records longer than seven years.)  The US Department of Housing and Urban Development, the producer of the document HUD-1 I wanted to track down, was no help.  I emailed the office of my state representative (a Democrat, but who cares) to air my frustration, and received a response.

It was after a couple of consults with my rep’s rep on the phone, that something clicked.

Cutting to the chase again, I called the Comptroller’s office.  Their agent reviewed the informal claim information I had uploaded, which included my name, my residence in GP in 2007, my reason for believing that check was mine, all things I had provided, but not in the form of a “document.”  At last, I asked THE QUESTION?

What are you going to look at to validate my claim?  If I sent you a Xerox (yes, Mom, I went there) copy of the check, how would you know it validated my claim?

After a second round of annoying hold music, I got my answer:  the check’s in the mail, 7-10 business days.  My claim is no longer listed on the website.

Why not look for your name, and your family names?  My brother and  his family, in aggregate,  can claim over seven hundred dollars.  I’ve informed him about that!




Things to say

I’m getting a little long-winded on FB, without being able to expand enough on some things I would like to say.  I will explore my options here for editing posts after I save them, before I launch into a longer-form exposition of my thoughts and recollections.