Time to cover ears and shout ‘La la la la la la’ la’
My friend Martin has been a private person since about the time of the 1972 presidential election. He’s such a private person, in fact, that I am calling him “Martin” in this column even though his real name is Al.
“Why ‘Martin’?” he asked. “Why not call me ‘Buddy’ or ‘Bud’? Those were my nicknames when I was a boy.”
“Uh, well, if we’re disguising your name to protect your privacy, why would we choose a nickname?” I asked. “It’s a small town. People could put two and two together, and there’d go your cover.” Martin doesn’t always think things out.
So I’ll call him Martin and say he works in a feed store. He really sells cars, but we’re maintaining his privacy. He’d rather have me say he works as a fitness trainer, but I’m just not listening to him anymore.
Martin, who works in a feed store, became a private person the very year Sony marketed the first VCRs. It was 1971, and Martin wore orange leisure suits with wide lapels, unusual attire in feed stores even in those days. (Less unusual on car lots.)
Martin says he invented the idea of video taping sporting events that occurred while he was working at the feed store and then watching them when he got home.
I don’t know if he really “invented” the process, but he certainly pioneered certain aspects of it. He says he was the Neil Armstrong of putting one’s hands over one’s ears and going, “La la la la la la,” when anyone nearby tried to say anything about a completed game he had not watched yet.
Eventually, it became so difficult to keep from hearing the outcome of games he had taped that he started avoiding people almost altogether, and in not hearing what people were saying about the games he hadn’t yet watched on his new-fangled VCR, he was missing out on everything else they were saying as well.
The odd thing is that it had some positive effects.
Along about 1972, he discovered he liked people best if he didn’t know who they were voting for, so whenever people started discussing presidential politics, he would cover his ears and do that “La la la la la la” thing he did.
He found he liked people better the less he actually knew about them, and he’s pretty much stuck to that path all of these years.
One year, in fact, he hated all of the presidential candidates equally and used the “la la la la la” thing to convince himself everyone was boycotting the election or writing in obscure candidates.
He even stops wearing his glasses when driving during election years so he can’t read bumper stickers. He’s rear ended a couple of cars and his insurance rates are up, but his blood pressure is down.
Needless to say, he’s had to stop reading The Observer, and he fast forwards through anything from TV he tapes that might give away the political predilections of his contemporaries. (Oh, yes, he still has that VHS player and a stockpile of blank video tapes, and he’s a happier man because of it.)
He is completely oblivious to the entire Jimmy Carter presidency because Carter used green as his campaign color and Martin, without his glasses, thought those green signs were new bushes people planted on their front lawns that year.
“But the signs were square,” I told him.
“Topiary was big back then. Even in hairdos,” he said, pointing at his own quasi-Afro.
Before he could cover his ears a couple of years ago he accidentally heard the news we had a black president, but he assumed they were talking about Shirley Chisholm, for whom he had voted in the 1972 primary. She was a brilliant woman and the country might have been a better place had the Democrats chosen her and she had gone on to beat Richard Nixon, but my friend Martin voted for her entirely because he liked her mod attire. Her wild dress patterns matched his six-inch-wide
Chisholm did win primaries in three states that year, but Oregon was not one of them. But don’t tell Martin because he’s a very private person and his bliss is based entirely on…
Well, everyone knows what bliss is based on.