Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Autobiography of a Frog, Part III: The Rest of 1976

It's mid-August 1976, and the world is chugging along. I'm still developing, however, as I've only been alive for six weeks. According to my baby book, August 27 was the first day I laughed. (Laugh not pictured above.) I don't know why I was laughing; the day before, August 26, was the first recorded Ebola outbreak (in Yambuku, Zaire--now the Democratic Republic of Congo). A few days later, on August 31, a court ruled that George Harrison had "subconsciously" plagiarized the song "He's So Fine" on his hit single "My Sweet Lord." And Caitlyn Jenner (then Bruce) was becoming a star after setting a world record at the Olympics in the decathlon. Just some other interesting stuff going on around the world while I'm laughing and wearing diapers.

Last time, I said I read tons of books about UFOs, but I also read tons of books about space exploration as a kid. This is the first picture Viking 2 took after landing on Mars on September 3. I remember seeing this historic photo a lot in the space books, but didn't realize it was only within my lifetime that the picture had been taken.

This is me at seven or eight weeks old, mid-September. In mid-September, China's Mao Zedong died, Argentina began a violent crackdown on students and intellectuals, and Patty Hearst was sentenced to 7 years in prison (of which she served 22 months). But I don't have a care in the world. I look so much like my grandpa, Shorty Davis, in this picture. I feel like I'm channeling some kind of Sydney Greenstreet villain, only with headache-inducing pants and a giraffe sweater. My Mom seems to have put me in red a lot, which is kind of bizarre, as it's a color I don't like wearing very much. Not because of any childhood association, but because I worked at Target when I was 18 and it was an awful company to work for. Now I never buy red shirts.

Look how happy I am, though! You can tell the internet didn't exist back then.

That's comedian Jack Eagle in this classic Xerox ad. It was a Super Bowl ad, but I stuck it here because I like it.

On September 17, the Space Shuttle Enterprise was unveiled, with Gene Roddenberry and most of the cast of Star Trek in attendance. I enjoy the fact that I was born just as the Space Shuttle program was just getting going. Space Shuttle launches were always events for me when I was a kid.

What's up, ladies? Here I am, looking like one suave baby, on September 19, in my baptism portrait. I was baptized at Luther Memorial Church in Des Moines, Iowa. I guess as far as God is concerned, I'm a Lutheran. (I'm actually an agnostic and ordained in the Church of the Latter Day Dude. Look it up.)

Another important event in my life happened on September 27: The Muppet Show premiered in the US in syndication. I can't even recall how old I was when I first saw it. It was on for five years, and I just have a memory of watching the show with my parents and it having been something we always watched. I cannot overstate the amount with the Muppets have been a part of my life and how much they influenced me, from my love of comedy to my love of performing arts to my love of music to my love of creatures. I don't think there's anything in pop culture that has been more a part of my life.

The Muppets are so important to me, it seems like they deserve more. They came into my life at a formative stage and influenced my emotions, my sense of humor, even the way I've always thought you should treat people with understanding and kindness.

Hey, I see my Dad found a shirt! Must be why I look confused and scared; I clearly don't recognize him. At some point soon, my Dad will join the US Army, but I don't remember exactly when it happened.

October 19: The Ford Fiesta went into production. I just mention it because it was a random fact I came across and the first car I remember us having is a Ford Fiesta, I believe a 1977. It was the kind of beige color my Mom always likes because she's so boring and likes things to be the physical manifestation of bland. We had it for some time, too, I think until around 1983 or something, when we got a station wagon. Sitting in the Ford Fiesta was somehow hard and uncomfortable.

Also on this day: the Chimpanzee was added to the Endangered Species List. It currently remains there.

Cover-dated October 1976 is X-Men #101, the first appearance of Jean Grey as Phoenix. I just mention it because I this run of X-Men is still what I think of as *the* X-Men. Cyclops, Phoenix, Storm, Wolverine, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Banshee are my team. When I first got into the main Marvel Universe, these stories were being reprinted in Classic X-Men, which was my intro to the team, and which immediately captured my imagination, much more so than any team that followed.

On October 25, 1976, my amazing wife Becca, the love of my life, was born. We wouldn't meet each other until we were both 18, in November 1994.

Here I am on my very first Halloween! And I'm with a pumpkin, which is amazing, because you know I love me some Jack O'Lanterns. What's really trippy here is that two of the pictures on that chest are in this very entry of The Autobiography of a Frog. There are also two round pictures that I assume are high school graduation portraits of my parents, and their wedding picture, which I remember seeing all the time when I was a kid. I wonder who has that now, if anyone. That chest is my Mom's hope chest.

And since you know I savor Halloween commercials, here's a classic from 1976.


That's John Fielder in the supermarket, with Tom Bosley narrating. Don't know who plays the Monster/Igor, but I dig the makeup. I remember drinking orange Shasta as a kid. Do they still make it? Jewel used to make a generic that had a very similar taste.

November 2 was the election of Jimmy Carter, his first and only term as President of the United States. I admire the man, but I have no memory of him as President. I was just too young to remember.

If you're looking for a pop song from November 1976, I highly recommend ABBA's "Dancing Queen." It's one of my favorites. It's one of a number of ABBA songs that spins in my life's soundtrack. Probably the happiest one. It's cheesy, sure, but really... who the fuck cares?

Want something not cheesy? Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the UK" came on while I was shaving this morning, and that's another in my personal canon of music. Endlessly listenable. This is the kind of stuff that sits comfortably together in my Spotify library. Maybe it's the ADHD, but I like wild tone shifts in what I'm listening to. Keeps my attention.

My baby book records November 10 as the day I first turned over on my own. This isn't me doing it in the picture, but it's the only picture I have from November, so here you go. (Most of the pictures I'm using to mention milestones just happen to be from the same month. It seemed obvious to me, but for some reason, it was extremely important to my Mom that I mention that.)

On November 13, Rowlf the Dog sang "Cottleston Pie" on The Muppet Show. I just mention it because it's my single favorite moment on The Muppet Show.

On November 15, the megamouth shark, a species previously unknown to science, was discovered. It's an elusive creature, one we still know very little about. Sharks were another of my obsessions as a kid, and something else I devoured books about.

November 21: Rocky was released in theaters. I love the Rocky movies. Hell, I was just trying to watch Rocky II on IFC last weekend. (I say "trying" because IFC's policy of a commercial break every 10 minutes no matter what is very, very irritating.) Sylvester Stallone’s uneven movie career will always get a pass from me because of this film. It’s gotten a lot of flack ever since it came out for being some kind of phony wish fulfillment fairy tale, but I’ve never felt that way. It’s a passionate movie that works for the ending it gets. Sure, it spawned a series of films that get progressively worse, but hey. (Incidentally, Bill Conti's score from Rocky is one of my all-time favorite film scores, too. If you're in the mood, here's my favorite track, "Going the Distance." Those bells always grab me.)

November 25: The Band played their final concert.

November 26: Microsoft is officially registered. Without them, you might not be reading this. (I’ll leave you to decide if that’s good or bad.)

And on November 27, Garrett Morris sang "The King Kong Dirge" on the Jodie Foster-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live. I used to watch the short, half-hour version of SNL on Nick at Nite, which was another important comedy influence, and that thing really grabbed my attention. I've always loved it. Can't watch King Kong and hear the music without thinking about it.

I don't have another commercial to share, so why not a Queen video?

"Somebody to Love" is an all-time favorite, and definitely my favorite Queen song. That’s how you use sound layering to make a personal, soulful song sound like it’s performed by a 100 voice gospel choir. You know what’s good? Listen to this song at night, in the dark, with no other sound. Turn the volume up. This song will move right through you, from the vocal backing to the piercing guitar solo. It’s amazing. Hell, you know. This song's 40 years old.

I guess nothing much happened to me personally that was of real interest in November, because I have no pictures from the rest of November, not even from Thanksgiving. The next picture I have is from December.

What up, world? My baby book records that the first time I ever sat up on my own was December 16, which--coincidentally?--is the date written on the back of this, yet another portrait from my first year of life. I don't actually have a picture of me from Christmas this year. That seems weird. Where did my first Christmas go?

The next day, December 17, TBS began broadcasting. No word if it was already "Very Funny." Not that it actually is now...

On December 20, Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley died. Though I was born in Iowa, I would spend most of my life in the west suburbs of Chicago.

I wasn't watching it, I imagine, but December 25, 1976, was the airdate for what became one of my favorite episodes of my favorite shows: the All in the Family episode "The Draft Dodger." This is the episode where Archie invites a friend of his to Christmas dinner; the friend’s son has died in Vietnam. Mike, meanwhile, invites a friend who dodged the draft. I eventually realized that the entertainment that hits me the hardest always revolves around understanding and acceptance. This one hit me hard when I first saw it, and I try to catch it if it's on around Christmas.

You know I love Christmas commercials as well, so here's on for McDonald's starring a very young Corey Feldman.


I always liked getting those McDonald's gift certificates in my stocking. I don't know why it seemed so special. Maybe because, as a kid, McDonald's was a treat and not a lifestyle.

So here I am, December 1976, five months old. and ready to face a new calendar year!

(Naked is probably the best way to start a new year, right?)

2 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

I watched Rocky with my mother, in a mall in Charlotte, NC, so I have a special affection for it.

MC said...

Dancing Queen was the first song I sang at karaoke.