Maybe this is only relevant to Pennsylvania, but if any group of Americans ever needed cable, it is the Amish.
From a dream I had…I’m with some cool government white-hat cats in this purple old Ford panel van, something out of The Waltons via American Graffitti with slick modern Goodyears and the lush power rumble of a primo big block Chevy engine under the hood. The Feds are dressed to the nines: sharp suits and fedoras, vests, pointed shoes, but not effete: we’re talking button sleeves and half windsors, none of that Kevin Costner Armani crap–we’re going full bore Robert Stack.
We are moving in on the bad guys, who we know are staked out in a reservoir dog warehouse down a narrow alley, mostly shaded but for the weak glow of a single street light. I’m in the back. A man who would be Elliot Ness is driving with a beautiful woman from a soap opera riding shotgun–and Elliot, he drives that gaudy machine right down the alley and parks it so close to a black limo we’ve been shadowing, I say “They’ll spot this car in a heartbeat, it will stand out too much.”
And Elliot says, “we’re counting on it.”
Then, as soon as he said it, a wedge of gangsters appears from a building, moving towards us.
“Just stay cool kid, this is all part of the show.”
So it’s a setup, a sting. Elliot and the soap opera shotgun queen step out to greet the gangsters–but I don’t know the plan. Stay cool, kid, she stage whispers.
I sit there, arms crossed, try to look tough but ready for action–the body guard waiting in the car as a sign of good faith to the gangsters. I hear Elliot saying, “Just to show you my respect, Louie, I left my muscle in the car.” Gangster eyes peer in through the windows at me, the enemy muscle. I nod, try to make like a volcano: cool on the outside, ready to blow.
It is all about good will, and the gangsters ask me out of the car–they need to check me for weapons. I’m unarmed. They want to x-ray the packages.
There are packages in the back of the panel van, three of them. I should know which to give them but I don’t.
And then the x-ray.
And then they find the gun….
I can remember playing Star Trek when I was awfully small, maybe 6 or 7, with my friend Dan, who was Spock to my Kirk. Every once in a while, this weird kid named Jimmy McKelvy visited his grandparents on the next block over and he would play Bones–he had this awesome Phaser toy that fired little plastic disks that I’m pretty sure would have blinded one of us. Jimmy was a soft little kid–soft spoken, softly built, and from some other town. He made us a little uncomfortable, but he had that Phaser.
Everyone knows Star Trek, but not everyone knows the show that was actually my gateway vice into the world of Science Fiction, the one that set the seed that wouldn’t germinate until my mid-twenties, after too much time in musty lecture halls studying Literature–with a capital “L”…you know: Lit-or-ah-chore.
That was U.F.O. Remember it? A lot of folks don’t. Brought to you by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, the folks who made marionettes into action heroes in shows like Thunderbirds, (the hilarious Team America: World Police is a Thunderbirds parody by the creator of South Park), UFO was a cross between a soap opera and some pretty edgy (for television arond 1970, anyway) and occasionally dark Sci-Fi. It revolved around a secret military outfit called SHADO that was leading the clandestine struggle against an ongoing Alien invasion. The effects were primitive, but the models were cool and remain influential after more than 40 years, the stakes were high, and…the lunchboxes were the best ever.
I wanted one. I desperately wanted the U.F.O. lunchbox, but my mom called No Deal. My mom is a sweetheart, but she tends to give people things that she wants them to have, rather than the things they want to have or more specifically, the things she’d want to get if she was you. A few years ago, for example, when the RZR scooters with the skateboard wheels were cool, my kids wanted them for their birthday. Mom had her own ideas, because scooters were very different when she was a kid, so she bought two of these:
I wanted the U.F.O. lunchbox. My mom always loved Charlie Brown–she’s a lot like Charlie Brown, actually, and she bought me Snoopy. And Woodstock. Snoopy and freaking Woodstock, and not even in metal. I got bright, yellow plastic. Several girls in my first grade class had the same lunchbox. Snoopy. Jesus, Mom–really?
Tell me that’s not the greatest lunch box ever. I still want it.
There is a great fan site for this series:
And this is pretty cool, too:
And don’t buy this for your little boy–it will not only scar him for life, but turn him into an Adult Onset Science Fiction Junky. You don’t want that. Trust me. I own the complete DVD box set.
Seriously. I still haven’t forgiven her.