Friday, November 16, 2012

Speed of Lightning, Power of Thunder

What do you think of when you think about Thanksgiving? I would venture a guess that many of you will conjure up visions of eating a mouth-watering turkey with homemade stuffing, mashed potatoes and Grandma’s pumpkin pie, while sitting around a big oak table enjoying the fellowship of family and friends. I’m pretty sure that is what most of you will think of. For me, without a doubt, without even the slightest pause of a doubt, it’s got to be Underdog.

Before we go any further with this, I would imagine that my Dad is now asking my Mom, “What the heck is he talking about?” So, for my father and all the others out there who might not know, Underdog (voiced by Wally Cox) was a much-beloved television cartoon that debuted in 1964 and followed the heroic exploits of a dog (aka ... Underdog) rescuing his Sweet Polly Purebred from the likes of evil characters such as Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff.

Underdog has always held a special place in my heart because I didn’t get to watch it very often. It was one of those Sunday morning cartoons that, along with Go Go Gophers and Tennessee Tuxedo, I missed because my family was almost always at church when they aired. I assumed they were the cartoons of the unwashed heathen. The only way I could watch Underdog was by faking sickness and playing hooky from church. Looking back, there’s a chance I might get to spend eternity with Satan because of a childhood dalliance with fine television programming. But I digress. Please allow me to get back to my original point.

Our house is distinctly divided between two types of people: Those who love parades and me. As long as I can remember, I have never been a big fan of parades. Parades to me are kind of like mobile circuses, and when you have a circus-like atmosphere, there is always the possibility of a clown being present, and as I’ve said before, clowns freak me out.

With this in mind, you can imagine the conundrum I was placed in as a little kid when, on Thanksgiving morning, I turned on the old black and white television set to find that two of our three channels were covering the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. “Romper Room” was my third option, but I had a little problem with Miss Peggy. She never, and I mean never, saw me waving to her through her magic mirror. She saw all of my friends and said hi to them individually by their first name, but somehow she never saw me. Yeah, “Romper Room” and I didn’t get along so well. But I digress. Please allow me to get back to my original point.

In our house when I was growing up, I basically had two choices on what I could do on the morning of Thanksgiving. I could either help my mother out in the kitchen as she tirelessly slaved away to prepare a delicious holiday for my entire family, or I could be a lazy, selfish, slug of a kid and watch television like I did the other 364 days of the year. (365 on leap years.) I usually stuck with Plan B even though it came down to a choice between a parade and the evil Miss Peggy.

As was customary on most Thanksgiving mornings, I would usually make myself a big old bowl of sugary cereal and plop down on the linoleum and read my comic books while the parade played out idly on the television. My mind was delving deep into the shenanigans of Richie Rich when something suddenly caught my attention. Out of the corner of my Captain Crunch-addled eye, I saw him. A seven-story, 360,000 cubic foot (I have no idea if this figure is correct because I just made it up) helium-filled Underdog balloon sailing majestically over the cheering throngs of people filling the streets of New York City. No more of a beautiful sight have these eyes ever seen. Except maybe for my wife when we did that whole getting married thing.

Nowadays, since I am allegedly an adult, and since everyone else in my house likes them, this is the one time a year I’ll actually sit down and watch parts of a parade. I don’t know why because Lord knows there still might be clowns present, or at least Al Roker.

I guess I like really big balloon animals. My secret hope is that one of these days, one of them is going to get loose. I like to imagine some visitor coming to America from a foreign land, not knowing about our holiday customs, staying in New York City at some posh, fancy-schmancy hotel, waking up on Thanksgiving morning, ripping open the curtains to behold a beautiful sunrise and finding himself face-to-face with a gargantuan Underdog balloon. That would be hilarious. But I digress. Please allow me to get back to my original point.

You can have your turkey and gravy, friends and family when it comes to treasured Thanksgiving memories. I’ll always have a humble and lovable shoeshine boy that has probably inadvertently helped me along the road to eternal damnation. Isn’t that what the holiday is all about?

And in closing, I’d like to point something out. I know you saw me, Miss Peggy. I know you did.

Oh yeah, I about forgot, Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally published Saturday, November 19, 2011, Bureau County Republican.

You can now view my comic strip "Nothing is not Something" at GO Comics.

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