Friday, January 30, 2009

Cultural and generational crossover - with a side of fries

Back when cartoons were cartoons before they were bestowed with their fancy labels of "animated characters" and "toons," Bugs Bunny was my childhood Saturday morning hero.

He almost always won (okay, one time his tail was snipped off), almost always had a snappy comeback or one liner retort, and had the greatest opening line ever uttered by V.O. genius Mel Blanc.

Yet when my Grandfather from Hawaii visited us for vacation, and he huddled around his morning coffee while my brother and I absorbed weekend early a.m. cartoons, it was Wiley E. Coyote that got the old gent laughing.

I'm talking hearty, from his gut, teary eyed laughter. Everytime that wiley coyote would land at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in a "poof" of smoke, my grandfather's face, burnt brown from a lifetime of working in the blazing Hawaiian sun, would crack open yet another deep crevice and the joyous melody of childlike laughter would echo throughout our small living room.

And I remember watching him and enjoying his unfettered laughter as if it were yesterday. To this very moment, it's a memory I draw upon when I need a quick spiritual uplift.

I flashed on that memory the other night, as the girl's and I partook of our Thursday night after-dance class dinner routine. It's normally their eat-out dining choice, but somehow an emerging tradition is breaking through the barrier of free choice and they've been choosing to eat at the downtown burger g-spoon as of late.

Sure, the burgers are superb (onion fried, cooked through and through on the flat iron before being tossed onto the open grill for a quick flame-ridden charring...yum!) and the atmosphere is family-oriented and relaxed, but it's the glowing humongo-screen plasma displays at each end of the joint that I belief is at the heart of their once-a-week culinary dinnertime splurge.

Call me a tyrant, but dinner time at our house is a pretty old-fashioned, sit down with the family, talk and eat festival of family-time. "Please pass...," will get you just about anything you need table side, and the latest rule of conversation being limited to non-bodily function topics is seemingly taking effect -- not an easy task with a 9 and 5-year old.

Therefore, at the burger joint where the girls can catch some junk on the tube and eat it too (simultaneously in fact), well, that's too much a luxury to pass up for their once a weekly eat-out-a-thon.

I'm on pretty good terms with the owners and my ordering convention has become somewhat of a routine. I hand over the cash for the girls food, he hands over the remote for the tv in the back. Some people don't get that good a service at home.

While the girl's used to plead and beg for yet another Hannah Montana (or Suite Life of Zack and Cody, or Wizards of Waverly Place, or iCarly) viewing, I'll usually default to the familiar and less-sassy dialogue offered by the Cartoon Network Boomerang's nightly offering of the classic, Tom and Jerry.

Violent and PETA-unfriendly though it may be, it's visual humor and slapstick sight gags can still make me chuckle continuously, and genuinely laugh-out-loud at times.

I mean, c'mon, how many times can Jerry make Tom take a bite out of his own tail before you just have to bust a gut?

And from my vantage point, sitting at the back of the burger joint on a weeknight at dinner hour, there are more than a few adults and elderly folk alike, who seem to dig the physical comedy stylings of one tom cat's ongoing endeavor to make a snack of his best friend and lifelong animated nemesis, the mouse.

And my grandfather's spirit is sitting right there with me...probably wondering when the Road Runner toon is coming on?


gorockets! said...

I miss the coyote and roadrunner cartoons as well. Tom and Jerry are a staple at our house, they rush through their dinner so they don't miss a minute, although they always say that "they have seen this one".

OkieCardinal said...

Uh oh...trip down Looney Toons lane:

1. I have the exact same memory only it is my grandfather laughing to near exhaustion over the original "Singing Frog" cartoon. Modern generations only know him as a logo for a now-defunct TV network. I can still pretty much sing every word to the songs that frog sang. Beyond classic.

2. My favorite Bugs Bunny is the one where he & Elmer Fudd are doing an opera episode, and yet another time Bugs is impersonating a woman to escape Fudd. I have this on Laser Disc...which means of course I no longer have this!

-M. said...

It wasn't until I was in a train station in China that I realized how many Tom & Jerry cartoons are not shown anymore because of the violence. I hadn't seen them in 20 years but I still remembered each episode and laughed every time.