​Tall Tales by El Guru der Sandbagger

8 Mar

Tall Tales by El Guru der Sandbagger

Tall Tales

Can you remember when and where your eyes were suddenly not those of a child’s? When kick the can in a dusty country parking lot, hide and seek, Marco Polo, blind man’s bluff, tag, running bases, looking for a four leaf clover patiently and methodically, the fascination of all those hard working ants,…Where? Where did they all go? When did Cooties come off the list as an actual diagnosis? And so much more? When did it turn into another black spot on the pavement? Another man’s chewed gum. So many black lumps all over the city pavement. And yet our streets are far better than say those of Pompeii. Where a carved penis denoting the nearest brothel directs you to a building on the other side of the street. Crossing giant granite stones placed carefully and measured to allow chariot wheels to roll the thoroughfare where horse manure, and human waste, urine, the rot of humanity was like a lava pit even before the volcano blew.
And your front door is 4’ feet from it all.
“Hey let’s go down to the coliseum tonight! Tickets! New show! Good seats! Eh?!”
Can you just imagine what a Saturday night at the Pompeii Coliseum was like?
Can you just imagine? Compared to our current coliseums of today?

Thumbs up, Thumbs Down, and Ice Cold Beer

“Check it out! Get yourself this limited edition toga! The Great Sabre Lion vs Lionel the Large! One night only!”
Lionel the Large.
Can’t you just picture the scene outside the Pompeii Coliseum on a Saturday night? People tailgating on the backs of wooden wagons. There would have to have been a lot of torches lit for the night show. The lighting crew working like diligent Disney employees behind the scenes. I bet there must have been big money at the box office. Giant foam rubber Thumbs, candles to light up for the encore. Pre engraved stones that say,”I threw this rock on, the date, …___”, and a little old man in booth hard at work filling in people’s names. You could collect your stone after the show on the actual field of play and if you were lucky you may come across an actual artifact from the show while you crawled around on your hand and knees in the dark looking for your personalized stone.

I’ve heard that Tony the Tiger got his start at the Forum long before his face sold cavities to us as kids.

The Circus (The Bear Missed the Train)

When I was a kid just about four years of age I remember on certain nights my brothers would tune our small clock/transistor am radio to WOR. The oldest, John carefully searching through the static until a voice or a word or two emanated from this mystical James Bond quality device. A needle moved as John rotated the dial. 3 pairs of ears all saying “Stop!” in unison. John had found the storyteller Jean Shepherd!

“Shep” as he was known by his most avid listeners was one of the last real-time storytellers.

Believe it or not that art of storytelling dates back to prehistoric man. Way before an alphabet, naked men trying to stay warm in caves used dramatic hand gestures and a very selective series of grunts (very much resembling the Italian my grandfather spoke) to brag about each man’s own participation in the day’s hunt. Breast beating was not uncommon.

Mark Twain was the first storyteller I would encounter in my 13 years of stunted learning. My mother-in-law once reassured me that I was very bright but not very educated. This man Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain was his nom de plume) somehow slipped past the censure of the nuns at Sister Mary’s Rock of the Armageddon Elementary School and into my reading list. Sawyer, Finn and many other unsavory misbehaving characters for the first time were in print and legally in my little school satchel!

Under hypnosis, which I have successfully achieved only once in about fifty attempts, my earliest memory is that of my sister and two brothers rattling my crib in the dark of night. This was not just my first memory but also my first experience with abject terror!

My most vivid recall of my mother was being strategically placed between her and my old man on the front bench seat of our station wagon as Pops would back out of our straight driveway with more turning of the steering wheel than it takes to whisk an egg into an omelette. My three siblings took up the backseat.

Mom was a heavy smoker of Kent 100’s. She intended no harm but she put out smoke continuously. A dragon, had it been a passenger,!! would have had to roll its window down. By today’s standards I can’t believe my mother’s smoke of which I shared equally could hardly be considered secondary.

On one particular day the family piled into the wagon and we headed off Staten Island and into the “city”. Residents of Staten Island aka Richmond County one of the five boroughs of New York City never considered themselves really part of the “city”. Manhattan was the City. The words “circus” and “Barnum & Bailey” were being bantered about by the occupants. I had no clue what it all meant. But I sensed an air of excitement mixed with nicotine.

The drive into NYC was unmemorable which is very unusual. It must be an age indicator. Since I definitely remember my mother saying Novenas with rosary at the ready everytime Pops climbed behind the wheel. Many a Hertz rental’s passenger side armrest were left with my mother’s nails permanently imprinted in the cheap vinyl. We spent summers on the west side of the Rockies but had to get there by transversing Berthoud Pass after leaving Denver’s Stapleton Airport. When the Hail Maryies became audible to everyone aboard my father would go into the 5 mph switchbacks at the very least doing 10 mph. Mom would lean over everytime look at the speedometer and say, “5 mph, you’re doing 10!” He’d ease off the fuel a bit but inside I could tell that he couldn’t wait for the next bend.

I do remember some difficulty trying to find a parking place for the wagon. You know I don’t know if ever in my lifetime that I have seen Pops execute a parallel parking manuever. At 90 years of age I am not getting my hopes up that he ever shall. Not one attempt in all that time. Finally he found a piece of vacant curb and brought the wagon in for a landing. Everyone began piling out onto the sidewalk. After a discussion about the spot’s legality, I was unbuckled, lifted out of the vehicle and placed on my very first Manhattan sidewalk. A momentous occasion without any pomp and circumstance. It was a one way crosstown street. I recall a potpourri of sensory stimuli.

Heat, exhaust fumes, horns, holding tightly to Mom’s hand, I remember legs and shoes swiftly moving and without hesitation, the sound of rumbles coming from grates below my Buster Browns.

Our little clan moved as one organism, we started walking. Ten minutes later we were standing in front of Madison Square Garden. We were about to see Ringling Brothers & Barnum Bailey Circus!

It didn’t truly register with me on my “fun” scale not until we made it to our seats. As my eyes adjusted to the dark, three rings appeared on the floor of this immense arena. The floor was pea gravel. The scent of exotic animals permeated my little snot filled sinuses.

As we waited for the show we loaded up on


.this was going to be my very first forage into the Big City. The Old Man never looked at a map and only on his deathbed may even refuse to ask Death himself directions..


Candy, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Circus Trinkets (a flashlight with a clown face on it and a red plastic  wristband would become a treasure of mine for the rest of my life), balloons

Sitting in the doctor’s office. Knee swelling up. If you’re a kid and get nothing else from this gobblygook let it be this “not only do we all croak eventually, age doesn’t mean a thing and all this bullshit the human race thinks is important cannot be taken past the grave.” You’ll be lucky if anything useful goes with you. Maybe your favorite tee shirt and a good pair of shoes. Nice fitting pair of boxers and some comfortable steel toe workbooks. Shades. Shades would also be good for the bright li


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