THIRTY DAYS, THIRTY YEARS, THIRTY BORING STORIES...
My Fifth Year (4 years old)
October 2nd, 1978, to October 1st, 1979
My parents didn't believe in daycare, and, back in the 1970s, I think kids that went to daycare were the exception, not the rule, but I did go to preschool, which, back then, was called "nursery school" though the term seems to have gone out of fashion, over at Beaconsfield United Church, and my teacher was Mrs. Matthews, a woman who seemed like an old lady to me at the time, but may have been as young as 40 or so. (Likewise, I really liked watching Captain Kangaroo in that era off WCAX-3, the CBS affiliate in Burlington VT, and, at the time, I thought that Captain Kangaroo himself was a very old man, so I was a little surprised to read last winter, when Bob Keeshan actually died, that he was only 76, which means he would have only been around 50 or 51 at the time I was watching the show.) Anyway, I don't remember that much about the daycare, especially not the first year... I think I had a friend named Denise, and I didn't like naptime much and (Too Much Information warning: highlight to read) I remember seeing the penis of a boy named Walter (yes, I say that because that's all I remember about him, that he had a penis. Even though I have one too. And the association was so strong that I thought about the name "Walter" for years whenever I looked "down", almost like I thought that was the word for "penis". Guess it was the first time I ever saw one not on me or one of my baby brothers.).
I was also friends with Tracy C., who wasn't from my daycare but who was the middle daughter of "Auntie Lynn", my mother's friend, and I remember her and I playing this game when she would crawl on me and pin me down, I guess like a wrestler, and I know that probably sounds a little dirty, but what do four years old know? I don't think there was any sexual aspect to it, it was just normal rough play.
Also, my earliest memories of Fairview Pointe Claire shopping centre, the largest shopping centre in Montreal's West Island suburbs, often have me going with Lynn rather than my own mother, for whatever reason. Believe it or not, kids, back then Fairview was just one storey (the second storey was added in 1985) and didn't have the skylights it has now (I think Fairview had some skylights, but they didn't stretch from one end of the mall to the other), so it was a darker place. And Fairview's "anchor" stores were the now-defunct Eaton's department store in the west (where Sears is now), the now-defunct Simpson's store in the east (where the Bay is now), and the now-defunct Steinberg's supermarket in the north (where... umm... that home decoration store is now, I think), and Fairview didn't have that fourth arm stretching south where Sears used to be before Eaton's closed in 1999 and then where Les Ailes de la Mode attempted to make a go at it before it failed and left a large depressing empty department store. So many other stores from Fairview are now gone, a trend that started with the closing of all Oglivy stores except for the large landmark downtown Montreal location, followed soon by the Pascal's hardware store, which had this complex wrought iron interior facade with a lot of tools even a couple of things with hinges like mailboxes that children could open and close, Simpson's, Steinberg's, Woolworth's, Marks & Spencer's, and Eaton's; the recent closings of Smithbooks (formerly W.H. Smith) and Compucentre (replaced with CompuSmart) at Fairview were the last links to stores I frequented as a child that were still open.
My Christmas memories as a kid are largely centred around Fairview, which had very elaborate displays with mechanized animals and people very similar to the old display they still put up every year in the front window of the downtown Oglivy's (different from the ones they've used from the past decade or so, with the ugly mechanized kids with the fat rosy cheeks)... it was probably Santa's village, but Santa takes a backseat in my Fairview Christmas memories to the mechanical animals, and the my visual memory of the entire village was framed with the large Eaton's store looming in the background with people looking down at us from their tables in the restaurant on Eaton's second floor... goddamn, that memory is magical.
And, kids, as unbelievable as it seems, before 1986, the area across Saint John's boulevard (boul. St. Jean) where Complexe Pointe Claire (the shopping centre with Maxi et Cie. supermarket and Chapters bookstore) is now was a vacant lot, so no Toys R' Us and, as such, the best place in the West Island for a four year old boy to go was to the long-defunct Toy World toy store at Fairview, which was great for those small rectangular games made by Tomy that had a clear plastic front and usually featured manipulating one or many tiny metal balls, and Hot Wheels' stuff, since my mother introduced me to Hot Wheels on my fourth birthday and soon, just like Richie Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums, I had a huge collection of cars and tracks and sets, and looked forward to getting those packs of four or five cars with the really nice box (much nicer than the bubble packs they have now) where the cars were arranged horizontally, facing the large plastic "window", almost like a mini-auto dealership. Toy World is long gone, and it probably sucked compared to Toys R' Us (or even Wal-Mart, which didn't open in Kirkland until 1995), but, to a four year old, it's the place you never want to leave.
My Uncle Jim and Aunt Celia and I think my cousins Andrew and Martin came over to visit us that summer, and we went to Quebec City for a few days and stayed in a motel so generic that it's the motel pictured as the typical "motel" in Grolier's New Book of Knowledge encyclopedia from 19811, I shit you not. I remember odd things about that trip: having to pay to watch television, and that we had Kentucky Fried Chicken (Poulet Frit Kentucky) in the really old barrel with the orange band at the bottom and the flesh-coloured Colonel Sanders (who was still alive back then, though he only had another year or so to live), and I think we had to share a bathroom with the room next door (note to Best Western lawyers: I'm not 100% sure about that one), where my aunt and uncle and cousins were staying, but I remember very little about the actual trip inside the city; I know I went on the funicular, and I remember a little bit of the boardwalk on Dufferin Terrace outside the Chateau Frontenac, but that's about it.
Also, the summer of 1979 was the summer that I had an operation, to fix up "a little thing in the wrong place", as my parents put it. In other words? Yup, Cryptorchidism, or, an undescended testicle with a hernia. So, I went to Lakeshore General Hospital in Pointe Claire for a few nights to have an "orchidopexy," and I went in a semi-private room where I got to play with toys and eat ice cream and have my mother read books to me, and, at some point, I had the actual procedure done, and I remember them putting the anesthesia cup over my mouth, and, yes, I did have one of those intense anesthesia nightmares where I saw the doctors, except they were all covered with dark veins like monsters. Anyway, it's a common procedure, but I think mine was a little more compicated than most, because while the web page I linked you to says that "[a] small incision is made in the groin and on the scrotum", my own scar goes well up onto my penis, meaning the split at least a little of it open like an overcooked hot dog (wince). I think my penis was orange and black for a few days and my mother had to help me pee.
The other thing that happened to me that year was that my final brother, John, was born on August 10th, 1979, a day I remember because that was the day my father had to go to the town of Valleyfield, around 50 km southwest of Montreal, to do something driver's license-related, Valleyfield being where one of the main driver's testing centres in Quebec is located, and I think my father took us to look at the Beauharnois Canal a little bit.
TV shows I enjoyed in the era: The New Pink Panther Show, The Bugs Bunny & Road Runner Show, Superfriends, the old Filmation Batman cartoon, Clue Club (one of Hanna-Barbera's rip-offs of their own Scooby Doo; hear the theme song here), Scooby Doo), Sesame Street, The Friendly Giant, Mr. Dressup, Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood, The Electric Company2, Captain Kangaroo, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Price is Right, Family Feud, and The Flintstones, which, as people who lived in Montreal will remember, CFCF-12, in the days when it was only a CTV affiliate and not a network-owned station, showed every day at noon for years and years and years, up through my late teens (early 1990s), at least. And I have my first memories of watching the news, Pulse with Bill Haugland (who is still on the air, though the title was changed to CFCF News when CTV bought the station), hearing tales of things I couldn't possibly understand happening in far away Afghanistan.
Hmm... I've written way too much, at least without images to break it up. I'll try and be more concise tomorrow.
Special Feature: Things that scared the shit out of me as a 4 year old.
- When I was watching Mr. Dressup and Ernie Coombs wandered from his "living room" area to the area to the right of the "Tickle Trunk" when he did stuff that was sort of like a kitchen only you never saw appliances, just a counter. Why did this scare me? Because of the "Wise Old Owl"... it was a picture, but it talked! And its eyes moved! "Twit de Whee, Twit de Whame, what scared me as a child was pretty lame!"
- When Costas the barber had his barbershop in the Baie D'Urfé shopping centre (before he moved to Pointe Claire Village in the 1980s) and would greet us each and everytime me and my brother Nick passed it... obviously, he was trying to be friendly, but I was, and still am, pretty goddamned shy and this just made me uncomfortable.
- I used to have dreams about this rolling rock that was sometimes accompanied by a gorilla and it would always chase me and it could roll under doors somehow, and I guess I didn't want it to flatten me. One day, when I was about 6, I dreamt I took the rock to court and the dream judge man did something so the rock couldn't chase me anymore. I swear I'm not making that last bit up.
My favourite movie released between October 2nd, 1977, and October 1st, 1978?
I talked a lot about a shopping mall, so this choice is very appropriate.
I'm somewhat cheating... I know the Italian release date was September 2nd, 1978, but I already had Close Encounters of the Third Kind as my favourite film from my fourth year, so I'll use the American release date, May 11th, 1979, since it's a film shot in the United States and set in the United States.
Since I've written so much already today, I'll copy and paste my thoughts on some reasons I like the original Dawn of the Dead, taken from my review of the not-as-good-but-still-great "remake".
I certainly don't deny that there is a "consumerist zombie" subtext in the original, and I don't agree with the general view that consumers are mindless manipulations, but I can just choose to ignore that reading of the film, and, and here's something most liberal readings of the original Dawn of the Dead just ignore, there's satire for conservatives too, with the liberal talk show host in the TV studio refusing to listen to the simple advice of the scientist to shoot the brains of the zombie out or to decapitate their heads, with the host bringing up all sorts of silly objections about treating the dead with "dignity". Even in that most extreme of circumstances, he still feels the need to question authority, and it's the lack of respect of the simple advice the authorities give that is killing everyone in the cities, while the gunowning residents of the small towns are cooperating in a friendly way with the military and having a great time blasting away the zombies.
Also, it's one of the scariest horror movies ever, because it takes place in a very modern setting familiar to most North Americans, not some Transylvanian castle, or a clichéd "haunted house", or an Egyptian tomb, and, yes, it's very funny too. And it's great fun seeing them live out a lot of people's secret fantasy... living in a shopping centre with access to everything in it and no one else to share it with (until the marauders come). The remake, which only shared a premise, was a little more realistic as it recognized that the food would go "off" within a few weeks, but the first one was filmed at an actual mall, Monroeville Mall, so the setting feels a little more "real" than the remake, which was largely filmed on a set.
Also from this year, I still think that Richard Donner's original Superman film is the best superhero movie ever made (though I am very pleased to say that Spider-Man 2 comes within striking distance), and Alien is worth a mention too.
And, as an anime fan, I would be remiss not to tell you that Hayao Miyazaki's Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro is about the first theatrical anime film worth giving a damn about, at least if you're only a casual anime fan.
1 For the people who have to look this stuff up, the Motel is Motel L'Aristocrate, now the Best Western Hotel L'Aristocrate (after heavy renovations), in the Quebec suburb of Ste. Foy, and it was featured on page 259 of volume H in the 1981 edition of The New Book of Knowledge, in the article "HOTELS AND MOTELS" by Albert E. Kudrle of the American Hotel and Motel Association. Not that anyone else is this obsessed with ridiculously small details as I am.
2 Damn, Sesame Workshop, formerly Children's Television Workshop, forced David C. Horowitz to close down his excellent Electric Company website, with a "Cease and Decist" letter. Of course, it is their intellectual property and their prerogative, so they can do that if they so choose, but some of us who *liked* the show as a kid and *like* reminiscing about that sort of thing might not view that as the most positive course of action if they want us to have a positive opinion about their organization. At least there's the Web Arcived Electric Company page. I just hope that Sesame Workshop doesn't use such strong-armed tactics on all of those pages with video clips from Square One TV like "Angle Dance"...