Song Of The Day 2/8/2017: Sterling Holloway – “A Rather Blustery Day”
The Final 50
When I was two years old I almost became a statistic.
The details are kind of sketchy, on account of my not remembering anything from that time. The story hasn’t been told in a long time either. Oral folklore was never a big deal in my family. It’s not like Kate’s family, who have a trove of remembrances. My family was a little more anxious to forget things. When pressed I think we were free to embellish or conceal according to our individual intents, because nobody was in the mood to challenge the events. There are many chronological gaps in my upbringing for much the same reason.
But there was that one time when I was two years old. From what I hear, I wandered into a cherry orchard near my family’s house in Marysville, California. I went missing for around six hours.
This was back in the day before humans had instant messaging, video, Amber alerts and the reactive compulsion to instigate online panic. The orchard terror was all kept in-house. There must have been a search party of at least six or seven people. I’m not certain if the authorities were called. They must have been. Children going missing was far more intolerable than today.
How did my mother feel? I’m sure she was hysterical. I’m sure she imagined the worst. She tried very hard to keep horror at bay, especially with me. For reasons we'll get into later, her world view at the time was overwhelmingly negative, and she wanted to shield me as much as possible from accidents and questionable influence. I think that’s why I’m conflict-averse and whenever I’m in an actual conflict I’m incredulous, because in my sphere conflicts were programmed as failures. My vanishing for six hours must have been a staggering validation for my mom's regard of the world as Hell with strip malls.
What did I do for those six hours in the orchard? I’m sure half of it was spent in tears. Maybe after they subsided I did what I kind of do now: meditate, fantasize, stand outside my house with headphones on, rehearse forthcoming dialogues and re-do previous ones that didn’t go so well, smoke. There’s no way of knowing. It was my first “lost” period. Six hours. But they found me, which mostly turned out to be for the best.
I was also cross-eyed when I was two years old and had to have an operation. I don’t remember that either. But if you look really closely into my eyes you might be able to tell.
Visualize YubaThis is absolutely true: The town I was born in, Yuba City CA, was scientifically ranked the worst city in America.
During the mid-1980’s Rand McNally, the company that makes maps, published a list of all the cities in America over a certain population threshold, graded in order of livability. The criteria was what you’d expect: employment, amenities, education, income, all that good stuff. They assessed every city against those standards and made their findings. I know not why they found this exercise valuable, but they did it.
Yuba City, I kid you not one whit, came in dead fucking last.
Of course after the list came out Yuba City got all huffy about it and tried a little PR to dispel Rand McNally’s judgment. It didn’t work. They couldn’t capitalize on the free publicity and remained dedicatedly forgotten.
I traveled to Yuba City for business in the late ‘90s for the first time since I’d been a kid, and I got just from a cursory look around why it wasn’t a hotspot for our common values: boarded-up businesses, lack of a certain joie de vivre, Christian book stores with empty spaces around them, goths using the Taco Bell as a regular hangout.
I enjoy using the narrative to work in my favor, though. You think the town you come from is the worst place in the country? Mine’s worse than yours and I got data to back it up. If you’re plotting a rags-to-riches story, you simply can’t get more rags than YC.
Nowadays Yuba City isn’t really mentioned at all, and most everybody believes the current worst city in America is Stockton. Sacramento, where I grew up, is equidistant to those two towns. Call your travel agent today.
LonerismI was a bit of a loner. They all say that, don't they? "He was a loner. He collected fish scales and discarded Tupperware, and next thing we knew he defaced all those gravestones in the cemetery."
I wasn't that kind of loner, though. I was the other kind. To a certain extent so were my dad and my sister Cathy. I don’t mean that we were anti-social, selfish, misanthropic or bent over manual typewriters scrawling out our resentments before taking our frustration out in acts of violence.
Well, maybe Cathy was a little.
She had a few years of intense righteous indignation before she died. I had that righteous indignation too, but I got rid of most of it around the time my daughter was born. Lately it's been resurrected thanks to current events, but that seems to be a general thing.
But no, mainly we weren’t loners in the Holden Caulfield sense. My dad was very popular and possessed an indestructible sense of humor. He reminded me of the late comedian Jonathan Winters. And all the guys in my neighborhood had crushes on Cathy when we were growing up.
These days I truly like being around other people, although on balance I'm still introverted. But I manage it. Once I find a “tribe” to glom onto I feel like it’s an honor bestowed upon me, and I get kind of protective of others in it.
I guess what I mean by us being loners is that we valued our time alone to get our thoughts in order, that we turned our solitude into production and tried to create something. We could only do that if we were self-contained, and if we didn’t do it we’d go crazy.
Other Valuable InformationIf you must know, and since you’ve checked in here that’s a fair request, the first two memories I can vividly recall that can be cataloged are pretty simple. I don’t recall which one came first but they both happened when my family was living on Delone Drive in Yuba City.
The one I’ve always claimed was the first was when my mom took me to the local Hostess Bakery outlet store on Garden Highway. I got a fruit pie, either apple or cherry. The outlet’s now closed. In its place is a tree removal and pruning service called Big T’s. They’re well-rated on Yelp.
The other one just came to me and I think it happened later, but I’m not entirely sure. A marching band was going down Delone Drive. I’m not certain why because Delone was an every-day residential street, not something that normally hosted medium-scale processions. The band was in uniform and marched behind a giant banner, the contents of which I can’t recall. My sister Linda took me out to see it. When they passed our address I was terrified and ran screaming back inside the house.
Now that I’ve cracked that portal open other details from Delone Drive are trickling back, of course. A monarch butterfly on the ivy wall in the backyard. Kimba, the White Lion. The Children’s Television Workshop. The large stereo console — the kind of hi-fi cabinet that had the presence of furniture — that took up half the wall in the living room but still sounded bad. A 78-rpm box set of the soundtrack to Singin’ in the Rain. A Snoopy bedspread. The first album of which I had total ownership: the soundtrack to the Disney movie Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day.
And in the living room, a spinet piano which would get me into the mess I’m in now.