Thursday, April 9, 2009

When You Need Help Just Call...

I grew up on the Disney Afternoon. Long before the Disney Channel became a basic cable station (that's right - it started out as a premium add on like HBO - imagine having to pay extra for such sensations like Lizzy Maguire and Hannah Montana), back when Nickelodeon boasted a daytime lineup of Lassie and Flipper reruns, and when cartoons not only still dominated the Saturday morning landscape but the afternoon frontier as well, there was a two hour block on UPN that I would watch religiously every afternoon - and while it's iterations changed often over the years there was really nothing quite like the originals (though Darkwing Duck and Goof Troop were both excellent additions):
Gummi Bears
Tale Spin

and most especially Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers.

I absolutely loved Chip and Dale. Dale with his carefree, wisecracking ways. Chip's relentless sense of determination, adventurism, his responsibility. His unrequited feelings for Gadget. They were my heroes, my friends. They were awesome.
And I only realized years later just how much they had infuenced my fashion sense, as to this day I still think that either a hawain shirt or leather jacket/fedora combination are the ultimate examples of 'cool.' I've sadly abandoned the hawain shirts, but that leather jacket is here to stay thanks to Chip and his bomber jacket ways.
And of course I would be drawn to the Disney Cartoon about a group of concerned citizens running around solving pint-sized crimes.

I had the Disney afternoon audio-casette that I listened to almost every night (why lie, I still have it somewhere), and was terribly disappointed that the theme song was the only C&D song on the tape (what a great tape, but too much Tale Spin). I can still sing the entire extended version of the theme song, including the little known break-down section.

"Some times some crimes go slipping through the cracks..."

Chances are if you grew up in the '90s you're humming along right now, despite yourself. Don't stop. They did cartoon theme songs right back in our heyday, the second (or maybe third) golden era of children's anmation, an era that is certainly over now as we move into the grand age of Pixar and computer animation while Saturday morning lineups drop like flys and cel animators are losing jobs even faster than the rest of us.

So chances are you may have loved Chip and Dale too.
But not as much as me.

So when I went to Disney World as a kid, all I wanted to do was see Chip and Dale. That was it. Forget rides, or roller coasters, games and food. I just wanted to see the Rescue Rangers. And I spent the whole day looking and couldn't find them.

Until we got to a stuffed animal kiosk and there they were - Chip and Dale stuffed animals, Chip with his hat and jacket, Dale in his trademark floral print. Not just Chip and Dale, Pluto's tiny tormentors. The full on, honest to god, Rescue Rangers.
I mean, this was the mother load. I was going home with Chip and Dale.

I was told I could have one. Just one. I had to pick.
Who did I want more?

I started to cry. I couldn't do it. Any choice would have been a complete and total betrayal to the other. To myself.
So I cried. Because I just couldn't imagine one without the other. And in my head, if to no one else, it wasn't a temper tantrum. It was a moment of genuine turmoil. I didn't know how to choose.

And looking back on it I think I was confronted with one of life's extraordinarilly hard realities for the first time that day, at least consciously. The idea of priorities. That no matter how much you love two things, eventually you'll be forced to make a decision to love one of them more.

I think we have to do that all the time.

Eventually, after crying and begging and pleading, I picked Chip. I think, deep down, I knew that I liked Chip just a little bit more but didn't want to admit it. It was the fedora, and the lasso, and him being the leader. It was just a tiny bit more. But I didn't want the shame of having a favorite. That sense of guilt. I genuinely didn't want Dale to feel less loved.
I went to sleep that night in our hotel room clutching Chip to me, both sad and glorious all together.

But when I woke up, Dale was there too.

Forget finding them in the park, that was the happiest moment of my little life so far.

It turns out that after I went to sleep my Dad went back out to the park during the night, and bought Dale to surprise me. He put him there with me and Chip while I was sleeping. When I woke up, I was surrounded. The team was together again. It was my first understanding of joy.

It was one of those incredibly nice and kind things a father does for his son. I still have those dolls, somewhere at my old home.

I've never forgotten it, and I probably never will.

I'm sharing this story now because I haven't had a lot I've felt comfortable writing about lately. The things I want to say, the things that are currently on my mind may not best be explored or shared in a public forum, even if I want to, even if this sort of writing is what helps me process. That's a lesson I've learned a few times over - from Livejournal, to Serpentina, to that damn stupid play. And it's a lesson I have no doubt I'll be forced to learn again and again.

But suffice it to say, things between me and my father aren't very good. They haven't been for a long, long time. No stories, no specifics, just a context. Things are bad there, and most of the time that toxicity is all I can remember ever being a part of that relationship.

But then there's Chip and Dale.
And I remember that too.

PS - I'm Back.


ali d said...

A moving re-entrance to the writing world. As I stand poised between deciding either to move to D.C. and pursue theatre or to get my teaching degree and stay in Baltimore near my parents, (you're right, there's really no contest, but I don't WANT to have to choose!), the Chip and Dale debate tugged a bit at my heartstrings. I know that sounds cheesy, but it's true. And maybe one day your relationship with your dad and classic TV cartoons will come around to their former glory. We can hope.

Though I have to admit - I wasn't allowed to watch anything but PBS until the mid-90s (and we STILL don't have cable; Mom just doesn't want that stuff corrupting her babies), so by the time I started watching afternoon cartoons, we had moved on to the Darkwing Duck/Goof Troop era, and I never really watched Rescue Rangers.

But oh man... Duck Tales. Woo oo! I'll be singing that all day.

Dan Lyle said...

good to have you back!

i literally raised my hands in the air in triumph when you awoke to find the duo was reunited. i hope you know your writing is incredible.

Damo said...

I loved this show as well, and Duck Tales, oh man!

One thing I specifically remember loving is the Rescue Rangers Nintendo game:

Hell yeah.

Ozkirbas said...

Hey, I woulda picked Indiana Jones over Magnum PI too

I really like this story

We should, also, go out and get some sweet Hawaiian shirts

Jason Heat said...

Oh hell yeah.

lindsay said...

i liked this story.

and im glad youre back :)

~brennan said...

I, too, like this story and am glad you are back. CDRR is the essential TV show. my kids are going to have a disney afternoon, thanks to their parents' dvd-archiving.

King Platypus said...

You got both dolls, eh? Well, my father would have made me choose and then purchased neither, stating that seeing the dolls was as good as having them. Then we would trek on to Epcot and ride "educational" rides, talking about the environment and the future.

Oh sure, there would be the occasional encounter with a Disney character (a man dressed up in a dog suit), but my father would quickly stricken me away, claiming to the dog-man that he was sexually harassing his son with jovial dancing and promises of entering a world of sin.

But does anyone remember the delightful spin-off of Duck Tales; Gizmoduck?? Please believe.