February 27, 2003


I learned what a platypus was from Mr. Rogers, and have some foggy memories of the puppets' personalities and voices (all done by Fred himself). But I remember the sets the most vividly; the opening pan of model streets and houses, the owl's tree, the trolley that disappeared into the wall and reappeared at King Friday XIII's castle...

But what I still, to this day, want to know is; what was the deal with that house? Who's house was it? I mean, the show opens with the panning shot, following the street en route to the little red house, and then Fred opens the door and walks into the house, but we're already in it. Then at the end he changes from loafers to shoes, sweater to jacket, and walks out the door leaving us inside. Huh? Was it supposed to be our houses he was visiting? No, 'cause Fred's stuff was in the closet, Fred's food was in the kitchen, and it's where Mr. McFeeley delivered Fred's mail. So when Mr. Rogers left at the end of the show, why was he leaving us there, and where was he going? It stymied me as a kid, and doggone it, it still does.

But my most memorable visit to Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood wasn't a childhood visit. In the summer of 1995 several friends and I took a trip up to York, Maine for a week. Norm and I were up early one morning and turned on the TV. "Wow, Mr. Rogers! Haven't seen this in twenty years!"

There was a momentus event in the Land of Make Believe; a dancing horse and Henrietta Pussycat were to be introduced.
Now, my memory of the show I'd seen in the early '70's is hazey, but I remember Henrietta. She would say things like "how meow meow are you Mister meow meow Rogers?" This time the cat was dressed as a witch. Then it started to get weird.
First they were the "World's Smallest Dancing Horse and the Talking Cat-Witch". Eventually they became "the Dancing Horse and the World's Smalling Talking Witch" ("meow meow Cat-Witch" she corrected). I wouldn't doubt that they finally ended up as "the World's Smallest Talking Horse and the Dancing Cat-Witch". Bugs and Elle joined us during the show, and we were just laughing hysterically in a post-all-nighter morning fog as the bizarre storytelling unfolded.

I also remember Fred destroying the illusion. He had model sets of the Land of Make Believe, and would set them up in a line, to show us how they might look as one. And he would occassionally show the actual model of the town that was shown in the opening and closing credits.
So I think the set was not so much a house as it was a home. It was was where we spent our special time together. Fred's sweaters were in the closet and his milk was in the 'fridge just because he was Fred and we were us. It was a special place that wasn't his or yours or mine; it was ours. It was as much a part of the Land of Make-Believe as X the Owl's treehouse.

My friend Stacy, back in high school, met Fred Rogers on the Metroline commuter train that runs from New Haven to New York City. She got his autograph, and gave it to me:

"To Bob, Best wishes from your TV neighbor. Mr. Rogers 1980." I still have it. It's something I keep to remember two friends by.

Posted by Tuning Spork at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

February 25, 2003

what is love

I totally owe Dawn Olsen for inspiring this drivel:

Love is like time; I know what it is until you ask me what it is...then I don't know. But much of the the character of love is time.

Patience is, I think, the best clue. We have the most patience with those we love the most.
Love is where we invest ourselves. We live our lives WITH other people, other things, otherness. Eager for connection. Maybe it isn't always pleasant, but it's what we want anyway.
Love is generous and needful, like any event...any relationship "Please make the most of me--I promise I'll make the most of you." Love is the meaning of life. Without the promise of love why would we even bother.

To see the view from the top of the mountain is worth the effort to climb it. Love is worth that struggle, all of it. But some have climbed that mountain and fallen from it--or have been pushed from it--and have decided that's it's better to settle in the valley than to struggle up the mountainside again.
Maybe the view wasn't worth the heartache. Maybe the view wasn't all it was cracked up to be.

Then, sometimes you climb the mountain and not fall off; but rather the mountain sinks and just crumbles underneath you.
Or, maybe, you're on the summit, she's brilliant and beautiful, you love each other like crazy...then she guzzles a bottle of uppers and hangs herself with the belt to your bathrobe. The view suddenly looks really really different. So you fold your arms, whistle a happy tune, and amble back down the mountain...with no regrets.

Yeah, sometimes we'll wonder why we even bother. That's normal enough. Then my nephew will wonder aloud how a camera works, coin the phrase "lunch powder", and refuse to smell his cousin's fragrant hair. ("Smell ya later" he said.)
We could spend our lives pondering just what love is, and why we should bother it. Me? I don't waste my time anymore. Say cheese and pass the lunch powder.

Smell ya later...

Posted by Tuning Spork at 01:03 AM | Comments (1)
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