Sunday, November 18, 2012

Monocrome Dreams & The Road to Borneo

I grew up in the last gasping death of black and white television.  Coming home on the yellow school bus, I’d sit cross legged on the orange shag splitting OREO cookies and dipping them in hot chocolate while watching all those great shows from the 70’s switch over from monochrome to color:  Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched.  I remember, even as a boy, distinctly not wanting the change, feeling nostalgic for something that I never really had, a belief that the past was better than the here and now, speeding into an uncertain future.
I used to even dream in black and white as a kid.  Gray fields to play behind closed eyes.  Gravestone skies over tree houses.  Ashen faces of the neighbor kids and racing my bike toward sooty horizons.  Despite this I was happy, I just needed color.  But it wasn't there.
My list of family culprits to pin this on is endless.  My mother who showed us Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland every Christmas, or my father who would slap his knee when Abbot & Costello did Who’s on First?   My older sister Lisa, the romantic, leaving the Monopoly game unfinished to sit on the sofa all afternoon watching Errol Flynn’s The Sea Hawk or Bogart’s Casablanca.  I wanted black and white.  I held onto it like a truth.
I loved those old black and white films so much, especially the comedy teams:  The Stooges, Martin & Lewis, Lucy & Dezi, the Marx Brothers (oh… Harpo Marx is still my favorite actor of all time), but one pair would always delight:  the Road movies of Bob Hope & Bing Crosby.
I was thinking about Hope & Crosby today while walking along the beautiful sands of Borneo, trying to remember their seven different “Road to” movies that spanned over twenty years.  Here’s the list starting in 1940 and ending in ‘62:  Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Utopia, Rio, Bali, and Hong Kong.  The plots were always the same, Crosby talking Hope into some get rich scheme and Hope doing all the dirty work.  Both pledging never to let a woman get in the way and both falling for the first pretty smile that catches their eye.  How “patty cake” always got them out of trouble, and Hope mugging for the camera saying, “Crosby’s about to sing ladies and gents, you might want to go get some popcorn.”
I remember those stories so well, hearing the names of those faraway places and laughing along with the songs, closing my eyes and beginning to dream. Life is so much better in color, isn't it?

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