Passing the Torch

The other day I was talking to a young guy at work. Now, by young I’m talking relatively.  Looking at him and basing my opinion on appearance, work experience, the fact that he has a wife and a child, I’d say he’s somewhere between 27 and 32 years old.  Well, we were discussing stuff and Fred Flintstone came up.  We were talking about car tires and how Fred could chisel out a spare when he got a flat.  There were some general comments on the unenlightened character of Fred and I said that Fred was a cartoon copy of the Jackie Gleason character Ralph Kramden and how Ralph was a comical but fair representation of the working class guy of the nineteen fifties.  This elicited blank unrecognition of Jackie Gleason, Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners in general.  I guess this surprised me.  After all older shows that I watched on TV as a kid were still well known to younger people.  For instance, The Three Stooges were from the 1930s and 1940s and yet they are a fixture on television and are still relatively well-known.  I guessed that the Honeymooners must have disappeared from television far enough back to completely disappear from the present adult population’s collective TV consciousness.  That bothered me.

Why do I think that the Honeymooners shouldn’t disappear? First of all I don’t pretend that the Kramden household represents some golden age portrayal of American marital bliss.  Ralph is portrayed as pretty dimwitted and Alice is given a certain amount of the female empowerment motive that has reached its disgusting fruition in our present feminized society.  She often wins the argument by proving to Ralph just how superior she is and how unfair her role as homemaker is.  Deference to her moral superiority is on display most of the time.  But the basis of the show is the underlying rock-bottom premise that a man should be the king of his castle.  Even in the derisive arguments that Alice gives Ralph at every turn is the bottom line of “so if you’re the boss, what do we do now?”  No matter what dumb thing Kramden does, he is the master of his soul.  He will have to find a way to prevail.  And like it or not, Alice will have to back his play.  And good, bad or indifferent she would rather go along with him than go it alone.  He may be the lowest rung on the totem pole but he is still the alpha male.  And in a few episodes he does get to prove himself the king.  The one that stands out is of course one of the least plausible.  Ralph has obtained a bag full of counterfeit money.  When the gangsters catch up with him they threaten Alice and the neighbors and when Ralph defies them they take him in the back room at gunpoint to work him over and make him comply on giving them the money.  And in this crisis Ralph prevails.  He beats up the thug and rescues his wife and neighbors.  Of course, in the next minute he tries to cash in on his achievement and makes himself ridiculous, but his victory stands as proof that he is the man of the house.  And for once even Alice can’t diminish his victory.

And the other aspect that endears the show to me is the working class ethos. For the most part, American TV exists to reflect the world-view and the sensibilities of the upper middle class.  Even when they are portrayed as struggling twenty-somethings you can see that missing a meal or not having the status symbol item is not part of their existence.  They are the cloud people.  By contrast, the Kramdens and the Nortons (their upstairs friends and neighbors) don’t have two nickels to rub together.  Even buying a new bowling ball can be outside the realm of possibility.  These are people who aspire to be lower middle class.  Ralph dreams up countless get rich quick schemes to allow him to make Alice proud of him.  And he always fails but he never gives up.  That is the kind of message that the young people need to get.  Not that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter.  And not that they can’t decide what is good enough for them.  For that is the message that is out there now.  The government will provide what you need and also decide what you don’t need (or deserve).

So I’m going to do my best to spread the word to the kids about Ralph Kramden and the Honeymooners. I think the show is an antidote for the namby pamby male sterotypes currently infesting television and the movies.  He may be a colossal failure but he certainly is king of his castle.  And that’s a good thing to be.



Bowling Night

Scene 1 – 7am Monday, White House West Wing, President Trump in the Oval Office on the phone with Steve Bannon

President Trump (PT) – Look Bannon, just because I fired you doesn’t mean you can get away with ducking my calls.

Steve Bannon (SB) (on the phone line) – Sorry Mr. President, but it’s 4a.m. here in LA.  And last night I was detained by pressing business.  The whole Weinstein thing has got us working really late.

PT – Yeah, yeah whatever.  Look I’m supposed to get together with the President of Poland and he’s under the mistaken impression that I’m a pro caliber bowler.

SB – Is that because you told him you are?

PT – That’s beside the point.  What I need is someone to check my form and make sure I’m not hooking it.

SB – I don’t know.  I’ve seen you bowl.  There are navy jets with less hook than you.  Wouldn’t it be easier to just say you threw out your back?

PT – You’re not helping Bannon.

SB – Well look, I’ve got a friend who used to be a pro bowler.  He’s the perfect guy to give you some pointers.  I’ll send the security guys his info and they can have him in the White House tonight.  I’ll let him know he has his work cut out for him.

PT – Boy I wish I hadn’t fired you.  Then I could fire you now.  Goodbye!


Scene 2 – Early that night, White House Bowling Alley

PT – Hey you certainly got here early.  I wasn’t expecting you till ten.

Bowling Pro (BP) – I always bowl at this time.

PT – Okay, sure, whatever.  You want to bowl a practice game just to warm up?

BP – Sure pal, why not?  My partner didn’t show and it’s Friday so there’s no rush.

PT – Friday?  It’s Monday.

BP – It ain’t Monday.  Otherwise I’d be getting up for work tomorrow and wouldn’t be here.

PT – Bannon sure knows how to pick ‘em.  Okay, sure it’s Friday.  Let’s bowl.

BP – Whatever you say.  (mumbling) another nut!

PT – What?

BP – Nothing, nothing.  Let’s bowl.

(President Trump takes his first throw.  The ball hooks left only knocking down one pin).

BP – You hooked it.

PT – I know I hooked.  What do I do about it?

BP – You’re swinging your arm out during the advance.  Slow it down and concentrate on the pocket.  The ball will follow your eye.

PT – Okay, let me try that again.

BP – Perfect you got the spare.

PT – Yes I am actually an amazing bowler.

BP – Oh, now you’re an amazing bowler.  Listen pal, my neighbor’s kid Tommy Manicotti is in the fourth grade and currently has the measles but he could beat you bowling left handed.

PT – Oh, yeah?  Well I could have Tommy Manicotti investigated by the FBI.  Then he wouldn’t be so tough.

BP – You, are a mental case.

PT – Yeah, well I’ve got my form back, so you can just take a hike.

BP – Oh, yeah?  I’ll bet you ten bucks the next one ends up in the right gutter.

PT – How about ten thousand?

BP – Sure pal, make it ten thousand.  I’ll call up my Uncle Rockefeller for a loan. (mumbles) What a mook.

(President Trump throws the ball and gutters to the right)

PT – What the hell happened?  I always hook to the left.

BP – You lost your concentration with all the yelling and overcompensated.

PT – You really know what you’re talking about.  How did you figure that out?

BP – Well, to be honest, I kinda have the same problem.  I usually bowl with this neighbor of mine.  He’s the nicest guy in the world, would give you the shirt off his back, but he’s also the most annoying man on the face of the planet.  I sometimes have to count to ten after talking to him just to get my concentration back.

PT – Yeah, I know a guy like that too.  Vice President Pence.  Great guy but always annoying me about what people might think about my speeches.

BP – Yeah, I know what you mean.  The President at the Racoons Lodge is always going on about some charity thing we have to sponsor.  Very annoying.

PT – Yeah these guys never give you a break.  Sounds like we have similar problems.  Does it ever get you down?

BP – Sure pal, every New Yorker deals with the rat race every day but when he goes home at night he’s king of his castle.  If he’s got a good wife and a few good friends it doesn’t matter if his job is tough and there’s not enough money for that new bowling ball.  He’s still the richest man in the world because he’s free and as good as the next guy.  And he’s living in the greatest country on the face of the earth.

PT – You’re a New Yorker?

BP – And so are you.  Do we sound like we’re from Boston?

PT – That’s true.  It’s just being here I assumed you were local.

BP – Well my mother’s people were originally from Passaic but they moved to the Bronx way back.

PT – Hmm.  What you said made a lot of sense.  Mind if I use it in a speech I’m gonna make?

BP – Knock yourself out.  My lodge brothers usually wander off to the sandwich table when I start gassing about that stuff.  They’re more interested in who’s pitching for the Dodgers and Giants when they play a cross-town.

PT – You live in California now?

BP – Huh?  No!  (mumbles)  This guy’s got a screw loose.

PT – Oh, never mind.  Well look.  Thanks for the pointers.  And thanks for the speech line.  Maybe we could get together again sometime and talk politics.

BP – Sure I’m here every Friday night, unless Alice wants to go to the Hong Kong Gardens.

PT – What?  Okay sure. Bye.

Scene 3 -A little later that night, West Wing

(President Trump on the phone with Security)

PT – What is it Al?

Secret Service Agent (SSA) (on phone) – Mr. President, that bowling pro friend of Mr. Bannon’s just called to apologize.  He’s stuck in traffic outside Washington and won’t make it tonight.   …….  Mr. President are you still there?  Did you hear what I said?

PT – Uh, yeah sure.  Thanks. (hangs phone up)  Hmm.