Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Sunday Funny Papers

Again, sensory perception conjures up another memory.  

When I return to my New York existence from time to time, I immediately fall into some immediate patterns that I don't really practice in Los Angeles.  There are certain foods I will only crave in New York.  Or schedules that I adhere to there and not here.  The here and there are, of course, interchangeable.

One such beast is Sunday morning.  In Los Angeles, I will wake up and get ready for church.  While dressed and waiting for my hair to dry, I will have an English muffin with Nutella and open up the Los Angeles Times that has been delivered to my front door.  Most Sundays, I will immediately zip through the sports pages and then tackle the Sudoku puzzle.  If I can get that done before church, I am gold.  Usually, I won't tackle the rest of the newspaper until later.  If there is a Sunday afternoon Dodger game at home, I may never finish that Sunday's LA Times.

When in New York, after all these years, I revert back to habits developed decades ago.  And now performed only when I am there.

I don't get a newspaper delivered there so I have to get dressed (with a baseball cap covering my bed head) and drive to the...wait for it...local candy store which is adjacent to the...wait for this as well...local bakery.  I'll get my breakfast of a muffin or a bagel.  Purchase the New York Daily News and, thanks Dad, for establishing that priority when I was five years old.

I drive home.  Lay out the food on the dining room table and open the paper.  

I have to eat my breakfast while reading the Sunday comics.  Or, as you may have called them, the funny papers.

Of course, without the driving, this was my Sunday morning since I was about six years old.  Heck, I was reading the paper before that.  But I absolutely had to this each and every week.  Even when I was going to Sunday School in the Bronx, I couldn't leave the house until those funny papers had been completely absorbed by my eyeballs.

In the summertime, I would particularly savor the whole process.  With Sunday School in remission for July and August, the comics would be lingered over.  I'd take them to my favorite reading spot next to the kitchen fan.  I would wedge myself into that corner.  And spend the next hour lost in the color drawings that seemed to go on endlessly.  

In 2013, the comics in daily newspapers are always condensed to fit now into just two pages.  The type in the Los Angeles Times is so small that I need a magnifying glass to see what Linus is saying.  The same is happening in New York.  

But, back then, the Sunday comic supplement went on endlessly.  And so did I.

There were some Sundays that, despite my ability to read at a very young age, I would go downstairs and let my grandfather do his best Fiorello LaGuardia impersonation for me.  As I sat alongside him at the kitchen with their window fan blasting nearby, I would be enraptured as Grandpa would take me from panel to panel.

"So, Moon Mullins picks Kayo up and puts him to bed and says..."

Grandpa and I had our favorites.
Gasoline Alley, which had a character named Skeezix.  I once asked Grandpa what kind of name that was.  My grandfather's reply : "I don't know but it sure as hell isn't German."

There was the little bald-headed kid named Henry.  He also was apparently a deaf mute.  Henry was written with no lines.   Grandpa and I would survey the panels and then simply chuckle at the end.
There were the continuing stories starring the likes of Brenda Starr, Steve Canyon, Rex Morgan MD, and Winnie Winkle.  For those, you had to read the paper Monday through Saturday to keep up.  But, most of the action was saved for Grandpa and me on Sundays.

While Grandpa was not a fan, I loved the exploits of Dondi.
The kid was close to my age, so I could identify with him.  Except, as I later learned, he was a WWII war orphan, so our similarities ended there.  

At some point, Hollywood attempted to make a movie based on Dondi.  I hounded my dad to take me to see it.  When it came to life before my eyes, I realized it was more fun to read it.  As it turns out, a variety of film historians call it one of the worst movies ever made.  Agreed.

Meanwhile, on the back page, there was Dick Tracy and Grandpa was a fan of him.  At one point, they made a series of TV cartoons based on the character.  This was confusing to me since Tracy was always there at the beginning but never carried through the entire cartoon.  Instead, you saw a bunch of borderline offensive subordinate detectives named Go-Go Gomez, Joe Jit-su, and Heap O'Calorie.  The politically incorrect police today would have a field day.  As for me back in the day, the cartoons were nothing like what Grandpa had to read to me the previous Sunday.  Another foolproof way to confuse the shit out of a seven-year-old.

Somehow, though, my favorite comic strip was always Blondie.
Although the confused person that always sat firmly inside of me couldn't figure out what the comic was called Blondie when it was always about Dagwood.  Still, despite the title issue I would raise, the adventures of the Bumsteads were ideal for me since my family values were being formed on television situation comedies.  Where one of the parents was always getting into trouble and the other, usually smarter parent was there with the wise crack. 

In Blondie, nobody ever seemed to grow old.  Alexander and Cookie were eternally in high school.  Dagwood was always sleeping on the couch.  And Daisy the dog was in every frame.  

Life was quiet and good.  Just what I was looking for.

Perhaps that's why, to this very day, I continue to read Blondie every morning.  Oh, sure, the gags have been updated.  There are references to Twitter and e-mails and reality television.  But, the format has stayed the same.  

Life is still quiet and good.  Just what I'm looking for.

On my last NY Sunday, I made the usual drive for my Sunday morning needs.  Only to be greeted by a sign hanging over the stack of New York Daily News editions.


My heart sank. I drove to two other stores before I could pick up a copy of the Westchester Journal News which also features Sunday comics.  Luckily, many of my favorites are included.  But the drama was too much for me to handle.

Eventually, I got home.  The weather was toasty.  I spread out the funny papers on the dining room table.  I devoured my chocolate chip muffin in front of the portable fan that I had propped up next to me.

Suddenly, I was six again.  Grandpa, where did we leave off with Nancy and Sluggo?

Dinner last night:  Chicken tenders at Johnny Rocket's.



Anonymous said...

No mention of lifting and stretching comics with Silly Putty? A clear memory for me. And the fighting with my brother for who gets to read the comics first. Sibling rivalry always.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the brief flashback to the Sunday Comics circa 1965. Although Dondi was one of my favorites I completely forgot that strip.