Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

Puff and Jackie Paper

June 5, 2018

For many, many years I have wondered about Peter Yarrow’s mention of “a land called Honah Lee,” in that silly old song he wrote about a dragon named Puff.

Just yesterday I was wondering as I wandered along the shoreline of Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii.

While vacationing on the north shore of Kauai I had been feeling a little constricted by the touristy setup there. It was obstructing my sense of adventure.

So, busting out of conventionality, so stealthily did I violate the boundaries of tourist propriety by launching into an unauthorized jungle trek.

Jungle2

Past the condos and the pool and the shuffleboard court and the boats-for-rent and the obligatory paraphenalia of predictable recreation, I stepped stealthily into a kapu area of overgrown, untended wild Hawaiian hoohah!

Through broadleaf wild flora damp with recent rain I did venture, stooping beneath gangly trees, tromping around some ancient black volcanic boulders and fearlessly bounding over others, I hazarded the uncharted course I had serendipitously set for myself, plodding along the secret shore, and footprinting wet brown sand, I splashed forth  through shallow wavelets along the neglected eastern edge of Hanalei Bay.  This untamed pocket of Hawaiian paradise has somehow proliferated between two resortified developments of American flimflam.

’T’was then the dragon entered my mind:

“Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea,

and frolicked in the autumn mists of a land called Hanah Lee.”

Here was I, perchance, sauntering adventurously through the last wild boundary of Hanalei Bay, maybe a little like the legendary Puff in that old classic Peter, Paul and Mary song:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z15pxWUXvLY

Within the deep recesses of Baby Boomer recall, Puff the Magic Dragon still yet  blows through, across an ocean of imagination. Can you hear the tale?

“Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff

and brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail;

Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff’s gigantic tail.”

Once upon a time, when there was as yet no jet-plane, no cruise-boat, no trans-Pacific ocean liner. . . long, long ago while approaching an island far, far away, during an age in which the only transport to these remote islands of Hawaii was by sailing ship. . .

“Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,

and brought him (from highly developed, civilized countries far, far away) “strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff.”

Do kids these days even know about strings and sealing wax? This is ancient legend stuff. I mean, who uses strings and ceiling wax these days? Who folds an envelope and closes it and then affixes the back flap with a buttoned string and a blob of richly-colored wax impressed with a regal insignia?

Nobody I know of. You?

These were communicative implements of a by-gone age, when persons of certain authority or rank used strings and ceiling wax to assure a remote recipient that the letter or parcel being hand-delivered had originated with the accredited sender.

Such strings and sealing wax were used in centuries long gone, when mighty sailing ships voyaged halfway around the globe from London or Lisbon or Boston or some such port of great commerce.

Those majestic ocean-going vessels would arrive with pomp and fanfare at many  an exotic destination along the way, where fabled creatures inhabited magical shores, places where a fast-industrializing world had only recently managed to  impose  its rigid demands of productivity, efficiency and conformity on clueless, unsuspecting noble savages such as Hawaiians were when all this commercializing globalization had only just begun.

Puff the Dragon was the quintessential  wild uncivilized creature of old; he held sway over that formerly vast, untamed region where primeval legends prevailed, as yet unspoiled by modern mediocrity, a time and place where magic and myth, not capitalizing pragmatism, still reigned supreme.

So, in the 1950’s-60’s televised commercialized USA where young Baby Boomer imaginations ran wild with the likes of Mickey and Minnie and Davy Crockett and the Jetsons and the Flintstones . . .

Little Jackie Paper, the nascent civilized child, found Puff among his privileged playthings. And letting his imagination run wild, he frolicked with Puff in the autumn mists of a land called Honah Lee.

For a few years, he made play of Puff— until young Jackie decided to move on to bigger and better pursuits . . . baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet, Elvis and the Beatles, Mustangs and Volkswagens,  Lost in Space and lost in purple haze,  caught up in fantasy and privileged college days, gathered up in protests and rockfests and counterculture forays, and eventually outgrowing even all that stuff and finally picking up the better “toys” of governments and companies and  corporations . . .

“A dragon lives forever; not so little boys.

painted wings and giant’s rings make way for other toys.

One grey night it happened; Jackie Paper came no more,

and Puff that magic dragon ceased his fearless roar.”

Surely we now understand this about Peter Yarrow’s classic song of forsaken childhood innocence: In the end, Puff ceased his roar because . . .

Jackie ceased his playing. The roaring voice that had bellowed was not Puff’s at all; it was young Jackie’s intonation of Puff’s imagined roar.

Remembering this old tune while trudging along Hanalei bay. . . dredges up old memories.  My feeling is that the quaint longevity of this simple song slips up from beneath the surface of a sea deeper  than mere child’s play.

It is a longing for the past; it is a vague recollection from our collective vault of  wishes and dreams; it is a pining away for a former age of mankind, a time when the people who were in charge of things were benevolent and empathetic, a Camelot time before the brouhaha of democracy, a Shangri-La time before the anarchy of revolutions, before the abuses of communism. . . a simpler, Arcadia time before everything got so complicated and leaders were not so self-infatuated, a time when . . .

“Noble kings and princes would bow whenever they came;

pirate ships would lower their flags when Puff roared out his name.”

  King of Soul

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The Parentals of Disney

December 23, 2017

The Disneyland idea was originally hatched in Walt Disney’s mind as an amusement for his daughters. Walt’s impulse to incorporate family togetherness into his life’s work  led ultimately to his developing Disneyland in Southern California, beginning in the early 1950’s. Later, in 1971, DisneyWorld in Florida became an eastward expansion of the visionary’s influence on us baby boomers, and beyond.

If you visit Disney World today, you will see that Uncle Walt’s original vision for facilitating family togetherness is still intact. In fact, it is alive, well and proliferating. A stroll through any one of the four theme parks on any given day reveals that people in the world today still lovingly maintain and extend their families.

 

 

 

 

 

Everywhere you look you see uninhibited Motherhood ripening and blooming; you find unfettered Fatherhood flourishing in spite of all the forces of modernity arrayed against us. But all those Mamas and Papas know that the real stars of this show are the kids; they’re all over the place.

Families

In spite of the free love movement of the 1960’s— and the stillborn ZPG zeitgeist, and women’s careerism, increasing wimpishness in men, birth control, the hefner hedonism,  neuterizing lgbtquidation and rampant ubiquitous debilitating online porno—despite all those developments that might have stricken us Boomers with infertility, we and our children have done quite well thank you.

If you don’t believe me, go to Disney and see.

Families love to come here to Disney in droves from all over the world and proudly wear their wholesome familihood, like badges of honor. The purveyors of Disney wonder cultivate a haven in which we parentals feel welcomed and affirmed in our natural roles as moms and dads.

Strollers

Here We are free to revel in our unadulterated fertility.

It seems that ole Uncle Walt understood this urge to procreate;  by building Disney for his daughters and then opening it to the world, he hath given us permission to revel in our parenthood, along with millions of other likeminded moms and dads from the far corners of the earth.

Family

And the purveyors of Disney culture understand that it all starts with love—a mutual love between a man and a woman. And then the love grows into offspringing children—one, two, three, however many pop out.

We discover here that there is no entity anywhere that can allegorize and romanticize love and procreation better than the Disney gang; and they’ve been doing it a long time . . .

Bambi

That’s the mushy sentimental stuff. But there’s also the economics of all these little faces. Yes, we are all consumers, and we don’t mind admitting it. Watch Dad whip out the wallet for a round of ice cream cones. Watch Mom stoop to conquer the sloppy fudge on those little faces. Watch ‘em as they buy Mickey ears, Cinderella T-shirts, light necklaces etcetera etcetera. Watch ‘em whip out the cards to pay the whoppin’ resort bill.

Disney is, like it or not, the mecka of the material world. Here we celebrate all that we hold dear: Makin’ Family and Having Plenty, if we can get it, for all the young’uns.

I’ve noticed on this trip that the Disney phenomenon is really a great paradox. Everything Disney does seems to be both politically correct and incorrect at the same time. You drive or fly here from far and wide via some internal-combustion machine; you settle into the groove, drive to the Magic or the Epcot or the Animal Kingdom or the faux Hollywood; then you are whisked through the parking lot into the Dream vortex on a green-engined roaring propane tram.

You gotta follow the rules, of course. Parentals know this. Stay behind the yellow line until it’s your turn to get on. Then glide, with your fellow World-travelers, through the asphalt aorta of this vast vehicular field of dreams. Then maybe you amble over to Epcot’s The Land and view a demonstration of sustainable agriculture, corporate style.

But hang around until evening and you enter into the questionable World celebration of fire and mist wizardry. Now a plethora of fireworks captures the World’s imagination, brilliantly proclaiming their politically incorrect carbon-spewing mastery over us awe-struck, wishing-upon-a-star gazers.

Dream on! It’s okay here. We are here in the deep, Deep South, far, far from myriad inside-the-beltway carbon-counters.

Behold those brilliant combustion trails zippedy-do-dah-ing through the rockets’ red glare! Streams and streams of smoke, trails and trails of fizzy-fire, sending out a message:

This here’s the land of the free and the home of the brave! Citizens of the World, this is the way we do things in America. Send us your prolific masses yearning to be free, and we don’t care if you call us middle class, or working class, or any old class you please. Please, please throw us in that briar-patch theme park!

We earned it.

See the signs. Copious consumption and emissions.  Read ‘em and weep, all ye bean-counters, all ye carbon-counters. This is what human beings do; we have kids and we have a good time.

So we’re politically correct and incorrect at the same time. Families always have been, always will be. We’re too busy living life to get hung up on the emissions. Leave it up to the experts to build a better mousetrap technology, and we’ll climb aboard if the budget allows.

Here and now at Disney, one minute we’re cruising through the tunnel of World brotherhood singing along with our fellow-travelers about how it’s really A Small World, after all.

Next thing you know, we’re whizzing through the roller-coaster ride and hearing B’rer Fox’s skedaddle rap that strives to entrap us in the dreaded . . .

Consumption!

Sho’nuff! B’rer Fox is out to get us, but I think we can outwit ‘im, because we are, after all, parentals. We’re watching out for our own.

Glass half-Full

Vienna

July 8, 2017

My mama raised me to be a Catholic. Daddy wasn’t into religion much.

After I grew up, and became a man who could/would relate to the world on my own terms–after I had reached the age of reason and I had decided for myself what this life was all about. . . after I had lived life to the full, and managed to do a few things right and many a thing wrong–after I had made a grand mess of my life, then allowed the Lord of the Universe, our Creator, to take hold of me at the ripe old age of 27 and turn me around and plant my wayward feet firmly in the ground of the gospel of Jesus Christ–after all that. . .

I met my wonderful little women, Pat from New Jersey. We got married in 1980 and by n’ by she presented three lovely children to me. Eventually the kids grew up, became responsible adults, etc and, long story short, we have followed each one of them to various points of interest all over the world.

Our current adventure in following progeny has brought us to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.

Now I have to say that this is an amazing place. Walking around this city for just one evening has already taught me some profundities about what life is all about and where things came from, long before I was born. Previously unexplained elements of my childhood, my heritage as a Catholic kid who later turned born-again Christian, can now be contemplated from the perspectives of history itself, and the movement of certain people groups at various periods of time from the Old World to the New, which is to say, America.

I mean, we grow up and we see things and we don’t really have a clue where all this stuff came from or how it got here and how we came to be in the midst of it all. In my case, I was a kid in the middle of the Deep South, in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Growing up, snotty-nosed and clueless as I was, now I’m wondering how likely it could have been that I grew up Catholic instead of Southern Baptist.

Well, my mama was a French-American Catholic from Louisiana, and my daddy’s people were from Scotch-Irish stock from up in the piney wood of Mississippi and before that they had come through Pennsylvania and before that from the old country, Ireland or Scotland or somewhere over there on the other side of the Pond.

So now, at this particular moment in time, it just so happens that I wake up this morning on the other side of the Pond, which is to say: now we are in Europe, the Old World, because yesterday (or maybe it was the day before that) we flew from America– formerly the New World– to this Old World, and one plane led to another and now I find myself in Vienna on a sunny morning and thanking God for such a wonderful life a the one we now find ourselves in.

As we strolled along the Karntnerstrasse last evening, we encountered this very impressive big cathedral structure, so I snapped a pic:

Steph-z

The immensity of history–what has gone before–is what I’m feeling as I pondered this structure. The erection of this church building took lifetimes of work and toil and sweat, and devotion, back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, whatever that was, and its long tails of historical development through Peter and Paul and later Constantine and then all the Popes in Rome and eventually the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Hapsburgs and their hunky-dory relationship to the Catholic Church. . .

Until that fateful day in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in Sarajevo by an angry young Serb and the Empire ended and the Old World ended and World War I dealt the final death blows to the ancient reins of power and the reigns of the royal houses that had ruled Europe for a couple a thousand years or so.

As I was pondering all this, we did stroll inside, into the Church at Stephensplatz. We found there a group of devoted Catholics celebrating Mass. This kind of thing has been going on here for a long time. And I don’t care what you think or say about it . . . This was a good thing.

Steph-in

That devotional setting took me back to childhood memories of being Catholic because that’s the way Mama raised me, even though Daddy wasn’t into it.

So as I contemplated, and in some sense, entered into. . . the devotion of these congregants to their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their expression of that devotion in the sacrifice of the Mass,  and as I reconciled in my mind between those ancient strains of high-church faith and the Protestant Reformation that later changed everything . . . right down to the johnny-come-lately tides of Charismata that had drawn me into my experience of the Christian faith in 1978, and my present appreciation for all that God has done for me and Pat and our grown-up children and their spouses. . . as I stood there in the quiet reverence of a tourist who just happened into a cathedral while other believers worshipped in their strange high-church way . . .

I could relate. I could relate to what they were feeling.

This morning, I can still feel it, devotion.

Devotion goes way back. This is a good thing.

King of Soul 

Time and Towers

March 4, 2016

In this life, things aint what they used to be. In fact, they’ll never be what they used to be. Things are–have always been–what they will be.

My life, for instance began as a gleam in my daddy’s eye. That shining life force moved, somehow, into mama’s domain, then emerged nine months later as me. My entrance into this world was  really a stretch, like maybe a kid passing through the eye of a needle. But I got through it all right, mama did too, and here I am still kicking, sixty-four years ago.

I remember hearing a special song almost a half-century ago; Joni Mitchell sang, “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day,”

Which is so true.

Now the something lost could be something small and insignificant, maybe a coin, or a hat, or a credit card. Or the something lost could be something important and irreplacable, maybe a rare work of art, a diamond ring, or a person dear to you.

In this picture from the year 1997, you see two buildings that no longer exist.

NY'97

To reflect on the their absence, maybe we could think of it this way: the two are gone, but today one is erected where the missing two once stood.

This is a little bit like life itself. In my case, probably yours too: there were two that stood for awhile, mama and daddy. But now they are gone.

In their absence, I remain, a tower of my own imagination and God’s enabling grace.  There I am in 1997 on the right side of the pic.

On the other end of the picture, my nephew Erik stands next to my son. But something tragic has happened.  As of yesterday, Erik is gone. Like an early March bud taken by the last frost, he was suddenly taken from us.

But that young man had become a father. So, while he sojourned with us for a while before departing,  now two children–a boy and a girl– remain in his absence.

This is the way it has always been for us. Mothers and fathers can procreate and love their children. Children can honor and cherish their parents.

For the children who remain, life as it is now will not be the same as it was for mom and dad. The world is a different place.

But however it turns out for you, I hope you can agree with me: Life is, by God, pretty dam good. Live it while you can because one day it won’t be there for you any more.

 You may be one of those stubborn persons, like me, who believe life goes on after death.  I know someone who has actually gotten through that whole death thing and lived to tell about it.

As for me and my nephew, I look forward to seeing him again on the other side.

Glass half-Full

The Child’s Laughter

July 19, 2015

ChildLaugh

 

 

Why here’s a sudden torrent of joy

spouting from a toddler boy,

an eruption of laughter spontaneous

provoked by his cousin’s zaniness!

Where in heaven’s name could it come from?

 

 

It’s as if this untrained burst of mirth

hath bursted from some reservoir beneath the earth

maybe from some fountain of amusement so vast

that its flood comes sloshing so fast!

 

There must be some great ocean of mirth

that preceded the boy’s recent birth

a love from which his joy suddenly rises

like in a carnival of silly prizes.

 

Evidence it is, I think, of some vast wellbeing unseen,

as if it’s spurting from a divine dream!

This bright shower of silly serendipity

must be a substance of the happiness we hope will be,

and now we suddenly see.

Yes! now so joyously we hear

a perfect laughter that casts out all fear.

Tussling