Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Putt Putt

We’ve done some fun things lately like watch Harry Potter (2nd week of August), walks whenever we can, biking when one of us doesn’t have a flat or it’s not scorching hot or we’re not dealing with work or a cold onset. But last Friday, I finally realized we were going to do it: Putt Putt!
So I nap, watching it fall towards dark. By 8pm, we were in the borrowed car (She-Hulk, our truck, has no A/C), jamming out to “Solo” by Demi Lovato on Hwy 27, Redmond Circle via the Veterans Parkway. I saw her admiring the horse being transported next to us on the way past Garden Lakes. The long way ‘round did us little short cutting but as she says, it was a nice drive, wooded neighborhoods. We passed the place where we recorded our demo, back when that was revived as important. It was a long ways out to Putt Putt, seemed like, but I’d looked up the hours and seen the address on Yelp! Sure enough, the modest family rec and entertainment area popped up on the left. We parked, with a certain thrill running through me.

Putt Putt!!
We walked into rather familiar settings. My eyes no longer scanned the Frogger or Donkey Kong machines, but it was no longer 1981 either. And now I was on a date with my sweetheart!
The girl, fresh out of high school, hooked us up with balls for $5.50 each while I asked questions about Lazer Tag and the package deal, then Anj came from the restroom and selected a plastic-headed club (red) and a blue ball, while I took the grown folks club and a red ball. Stuck One and Stuck Two filled out their card, and with daylight still glowing outside against the encroaching dusk, we stepped up to Hole One, which she made in an effortless Hole in One! Took me three. The waterfall showered some fifteen or so yards away, as we picked out the course way over the wooden parapet. Game On!

I set up for a photo on Hole Two, starting a trend towards about a score of them, which is a pain on our limited phone space. I did it with joy, even if it was a bit less relaxing, juggling sending and erasing at decade-out-dated speed, throughout the 18 holes. I reminded myself to stop and watch her, as we juggled that along with rushing to each hole to stay ahead of the biker couple. We kept switching out the score card, easier if I hadn’t been fucking with that old ass phone- yet how many times have we dropped it and it’s kept ticking? I like its funky old alarms and familiar phone number. By hole three I made note of the speakers hanging uselessly above: “Queen of Hearts” and “I Love A Rainy Night” were the pop tunes I recalled from our long-ago family visit in the early 80’s. It felt like we’d been with Dixie and Charlie ages ago, too, but never in this millennia. That alone lent the night a novelty.

“Queen of Hearts” was a hit in 1981, so I am probably remembering that year. “Rainy Night” came out in Nov. ‘80, on the heels of #5 hit “Drivin’ My Life Away” and topped Country, Adult Contemporary and Hot 100. It followed “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton- the only time Country crossovers ruled, back to back. My fondness for both of those songs was born on that Putt Putt course. It’s the era I remember my parents enjoying being young, and generally happy together!

Hole one’s straight forward. For some reason, like most people who haven’t been mini-golfing in a while, we went the maximum number of strokes- five- as soon as things got weird on Hole Two. One imagines that’s exactly what happens time and again on that course: you feel pretty good about putting it in or almost putting it in straight-away. Then hole two leads you around strategic bumpers and it starts getting away from you! A tiny lesson in humility, and most likely, a chance for a good laugh.

She finally got a nice picture of me at her request, too, by Hole Four, when it was still nice and sunny out. I’m surprised how suddenly it seemed night fell out there, by the time we reached the cave in the back nine. I only recall one five-shot folly myself; I had taken a good lead by the nine hole total, and would only get better. I tried thinking it through a bit, old instincts that made me feel like I’d figured out this course and this simple game ages ago. I could feel Dad with me, a vague feeling our original four were together again. I am so glad for the time he spent taking his family out for fun!

Most likely I first went out there as a guest at Kendall Coleman’s birthday party. I tried my hand at both of those hot video games. I didn’t really have any close friends, though I’d been to David Salmon’s house as a guest a couple of times and wanted to count him, but he was much tighter with Freddie Smalley and Stephen King. I also went over to Evan Locklear’s house a couple of times; I used to play house with him and Nell Whatley. I remember it as the trip excited me enough to interest Dad in taking us all out there. The early to mid 1980s were peak time for my family unit, for sure. Trips were really where many of the other highlights came in. It's meant to be a bonding experience, getting out of the regular routine and surroundings.

I don’t recall P-Putting that day of the party, just burning through my arcade tokens with my usual ineptitude at video games. It was the year Arcades ruled, for sure. I used to daydream of walking into Aladdin’s Castle in Riverbend Mall and doing the one thing I thought cool kids did. The Mall and 1981 set me off on another nice memory of Dad. He’d be 70 if he were alive, September 2nd.

Rabbit’s smash hit- this was when my folks were young enough to enjoy some popular music and cards at a friends’ trailer, can’t recall who they were- was dug out of the 1960’s, itself, from a phrase Rabbit recorded onto a cassette. Eddie found it in his basement in 1980 and got together with two other song-writers to perfect his finger snappin’ clappin’ feel-good hit. Digging around in the past to find fond memories and catchy phrases can positively change your life.

So, back to hole five.

That was my first hole-in-one, and sort of where the game started to turn in my favor. She took a five stroke cap on that one. Hole six was my next hole-in-one! However much her shots bonged around, Angela never lost her good cheer. Hole seven was her next hole-in-one; she pulled up a bit as it took me three. She started getting it together, and by the middle nine, we were only four strokes apart, me in the lead.

I only felt compelled to write because in our quiet little life, this was a special day. A date. I wanted to hold on to the memory vividly. The years have a habit of slimming things down to impressions, and certain clusters around moments somehow out of the ordinary. The drama’s very low, unless you play it for comedy. I don’t recommend putt-putting with anyone who’s not up for a laugh.

Hole in One! Triumph!
Cartoons love mini-golf. Along with that bit from the Wong not-so-mini golf in one of the Futurama movies - the Green one- here's one we loved that I just remembered:
Watch Regular Show Season 6 Episode 3 Daddy Issues Online - Regular Show

There’s three variations, really. You’ve got the ‘pipes sticking up around the hole’ obstacle, which eventually adds the second kind: the dreaded hills! As we closed out our front nine, she kept her blue ball steady on the rise without rolling off, which set her up to follow on holes eight and nine with two strokes each. Then you’ve got the third obstacle: those wooden triangle you have to bank around. Once you combine that with, say, a hole on an upwards tilt, it gets harder to predict the best way to shoot. That’s how the next nine began. We both did okay.

The sun sank to twilight as she took a picture of the simulated waterfall down the side of the cave. We stopped for our portrait together beside the worn elephant. From this point on, I got the intuitive pressure of the putt down better. One thing we did I don’t recommend: she began letting me go first. Don’t change your order unless you are ready to screw up your scorecard! It’s hard enough with the missing scorecard platforms around hole fourteen or so. I was sketching our numbers in on a fence as we kept up our pace, so the biker couple behind us wouldn’t have to wait. We never had to wait on the family of six- I’m not sure how many were playing, but the bearded guy seemed to be dating the late teenage daughter, while little brother, an adolescent, kept sneaking a glimpse of Angela’s backside.

At least, hole sixteen was another Angela hole-in-one. I begged her to please re-create her moment of triumph- it’s hard to participate AND take good pictures, especially if you have a phone where you wait forever to send each individual one, then have to erase for space (due to the lovely pics I’ve kept over the past four years we’ve had it). Our phone is even older, model-wise. It’s become a spot of familiarity, I guess, outlasting the second, smarter phone we got. She looks like she’s holding a bolt of light, she said.

I can’t blame you for rooting for her to win. I got her by eight strokes on the back nine, though. By the time we sank our ball out of sight on hole eighteen, it was dark. We’d had a fun summer evening.
Call My Killer, Arcade!

Turns out, we didn’t play a second game, because she wanted to try the arcade. This idea got better and better as we went along!

Some games might have a ticket pay out if you master them, but they are one play and done affairs, with more lights than fun. We had to try our hand at skee ball, sure, and I think we tied. We offered a ball to a little boy who came up. His mom declined, explaining he had a habit of throwing the heavy skee balls at people! I could tell you she tried a game of dropping a ball through a hole for a reward, where you time the plunger for the most points possible.

When we finally found Elk Hunt, we two non-shooters got back in touch with our ready-aim-fire sides!

Our expedition lasted much longer than the other games, and ate another round of quarters. We seemed to get worse about shooting the cows – the female elk- as we went along! But we had a lot of good laughs. I had to remember to pump and reload after each shot. What creatures were we shooting in the bonus round? Boars! We went hog wild. We were after geese on the first bonus round, as she reminds me. We had put our names in on each other’s player, but as you can imagine, that didn’t matter.

She finally found a game that lasted more than one action AND paid some tickets. It was a jungle explorer sort of deallie-o, with a ball controller you rolled for ducking, jumping, and apparently, diving off the bridge out of control. We took turns playing out the rest of our tokens. Your pulse rises that incremental bit as you get sucked into the game, and the pace runs away from you, like so many fun things in life do.

We chatted up the girl working there, who’d given us our scorecard and told us about the deals on a relatively quiet point in the night. One of the long line of Coosa alumni to be Putt Putt employees, she was starting college locally. IN fact, we were very ready to go in part because I had my next-to- last awful two in the morning shift at DaDa. It’s only awful because there’s no time to sleep before the six in the morning shift, and then, your sleep careens wildly for days. But this is how I will remember it was Friday, August Twenty-First, too.

By the time we cruised by Taco Bell, we realized we’d only spent sixteen dollars on our date. I was glad to put aside speculation about how many checks and how many hours it would take to purchase our new truck- the key to our next move. Games bring you into the moment! Yeah, there was a nostalgia factor involved, but we made new memories. Anj said she didn’t remember us ever visiting an arcade together in all these years, but now, we’d remember. I’ll probably recall stopping at that grocery store across the highway, in hopes of a deal on a gallon of milk to drop off for Mom, fresh off her trip to Alabama. I just knew we’d had a time I wanted to imprint, in every possible minute. Yeah, I discovered it wasn’t quite a scenario I’d deliver two weeks later in precise detail- and I do desire strongly to write minute-by-minute scenes again, as it’s been too long. But who does that with their fond memories, anyway? I think we should hang on to them in the form that makes us most happy.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A day off with the world's strongest man: remembering Dad on his birthday

My recent date at Putt Putt made me remember my visits there in 1981. Thinking of those times has taken me back to a special day that year. Dad asked if I'd like to go somewhere, just me and him. Off we went that afternoon to Riverbend Mall, during a spell his sister and her three kids – four, there was a baby!- had moved in with us. Mom thought I might be lonely to get a bit of Dad’s attention- I probably admitted as much, glumly. (OR it could've been something else and I liked her guess? It made sense?) I was a fun lovin' kid, but I'd also sat beside a small bin of garbage and cried when I was three or four. The trash was done being part of our lives, you see. I knew it was going somewhere it'd never see us again..
Back when I watched G-Force and Spidey each afternoon, you find the days my young father would show me his muscles. So impressed, I was, with his ability to toss me and crush my hand in a handshake! I remember asking if he was the strongest man in the world. He always seemed able to lift anything, open anything. He didn't mind my speculation and questions. He never showed off the bigger feats like lifting cars and buildings, because, he said, he didn't want to- maybe later!

> Here's the original page that inspired most of the Reel B battle, set up with Doc's tragic origin and Spidey's mysterious, almost sinister peep into the facility before the battle at the end of Reel A.

I clicked through the story, bereft of Stan Lee’s script and captions, funky and quirky drawings so different than the usual commercial way I saw Spidey represented. I didn’t explore the entirety of the View Master Stereo-scope experience- I see they produced some amazing slides for the clunky plastic 3-D handheld toy of my childhood. Eames, Kaplan and Wright’s amazing nature and architecture. Did I also have the booklet? Funny what you don’t recall! More I think about it, I had to have read it.
My two heroes, side by side in 1979.

I do know I got a cool Hulk slide set later. I eventually tracked down a reprint copy of Hulk #125, think it is, where Hulk battles a very formidable Absorbing Man. My most vivid memory was figuring out that one side had the triumphant green Crusher Creel holding the boulder to crush Hulk, his foot absorbing Hulk's strength. But ViewMaster was a vivid way to experience the Banner/ Hulk transformation! Sapped of his power, the Hulk was changing back to his human alter ego. The villain strained as he also absorbed the change, now becoming human, too! In the other side of the slide- one for each eye- he was turning human. The Hulk's great secret spelled the unexpected downfall of the Absorbing Man! It's from a great action story, complete with Banner heroically piloting an experimental plane, only to pick up a deadly passenger and return them both to Earth in spectacular fashion. Reel C's climatic battle enthralled me.

I imagine I had Rocky Road when we stopped in Baskin Robbins’ 31 flavors with Dad. The trip renewed a bond with him I will never forget. There is something special about being little, being loved, walking beside your big adult and feeling wanted. It seems crazy now to think it was ever so hazy, recalling how much I loved and admired him and Mom. I guess you have to go through enough changes that you, bored, think will never come.

If your Dad wasn’t the Strongest Man in the World, I don’t envy you.

HEre's to all the STrongest Men in the World.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A fun Goodbye song from Lelly and the Gang (an ESL story)

I've been having fun!
I taught a poem's emotional content- what is the speaker feeling?- with the help of my guitar, today. A poem has abstract thoughts that make one challenging, even to a reader who reads it in her first language. Imagine if it was written in a second language: how would you say how you understand its feelings, when you have just turned ten? ( It is "Guardian Angel" by Francisco X. Alarcon.)

I can't say I always feel I got the point across. But teaching any new concept is cool and fun.
You can be very entertaining, even you are teaching a foreign language (to a speaker in a language you barely understand- I am at a beginner level when, say, I speak in Chinese).
Who knows? This may help me :

Write things more clearly in English
Write material for children
...and show me things about childhood in other cultures!

As my friend Braband and my friend DAvid told me, I remind them of Mr. Rogers. With a touch of Negan on the side- in case of apocalypse.

So, I teach Say ABC twice a week. I also teach DaDA the other five days.
In SAyABC, we have this silly boat we use to go to different islands, which represent stations where you learn things in phases, like letters, vocabulary, phonics, usage.
I love the imaginary concept of me and the students and my charismatic animal helpers all boarding a boat and sailing across the waters.
At the end, on the Goodbye slide, you put the students into each window of the boat, and encourage them to etll you and one another, goodbye!

Well, my one student- I've yet to have all four slots filled for a class- was having some trouble with her computer. Meanwhile, I took her favorite color, Yellow, and made a song about what's coloured yellow, along with her name. I sit by the piano for Say ABC, to put me close to my router, for ethernet, so I like to introduce class with a song and a hello, as well as make a song halfway through that incorporates things we've learned (like orange, red, blue and green!).

So, poor Coco was disconnected. I waited. She made it back once, then, when we had only the Goodbye slide left, we got disconnected! Bummer! Just one more slide!!!

The IT person was enjoying my piano playing and encouraged me to keep making music to pass the time, so she could listen. I admit, this kept my spirits up. I stayed much longer than the class would've run- I didn't have another class, after all. So, I looked at the slide, and started picking up my helpers and putting them in the camera shot. Now, they would appear in each window of the boat, one at a time!

I used this to begin singing a jingle, as I like to do when I have the energy. It passes time and keeps me cheerful.

Sam and Jabot

Anne and Lelly

I sing, then Sam the Monkey sings. Lelly the Elephant sings, then Jabot Rabbit, Anne the Doll, then everyone.
I pecked out a bright major key tune!

Now, it took over an hour to get the piano part recorded right the next day, because I am out of practice and never was Mozart to say the least (more like MOrt's ARt).
Then I asked Angela DAwn, who created Lelly's voice originally as a voice she used to talk to our cat CAptain, to please sing the jingle. (Cap is trying to crawl up my arm right now- does he know I'm writing about him?)

I layered her attempt and another piano recording into my Audacity stacks of audio.

I did not sing them originally to a click track, and realize I could do them more precisely with a mixer, but...

do they not sound more like a classroom of children, in their boisterous, off-set way?

I can't wait to play it at the end of my classroom on Tuesday. :-D I may start using it for my other classes where appropriate.

I hope this is the first step I've taken in quite a while towards making some music just for kids. I think I'd do a whole online show, if I could pull the pieces of it together, with dubbed voices for the animals and everything.

Well, time to say goodbye!