Saturday, January 31, 2009

I was remembering yesterday some of the clueless things I did in my young adulthood. I smile at my younger self from the vantage point of some 20 - 30 years' experience. I used to get embarrassed thinking about them but now I see, at least they were harmless and well-meant.

I lived on a farmstead in northern Iowa during my first marriage, when my son was a toddler. We had farm cats, and we had an Indoor cat. We fed the farm cats generic cat food in huge brown paper bags from the local farm supply place. The Indoor cat got Purina Cat Chow. It was the early 70's then, and though we lived far, far off the beaten path we did get one UHF (or was that VHF...) TV station from the "big" town twenty miles away, and we read the newspaper and I went to the library all the time, so we were well aware of Earth Day and the environmental movement just in its infancy. One day I fed the Indoor cat the last of one bag of chow and got to looking at the bright, slick bag with its gorgeous cat on the front. I thought, what a waste of paper and beautiful pictures. I sat down and wrote the company a letter congratulating them on their lovely cat food bags and helpfully suggesting they run a contest for the best re-use of the bags. I mailed it (post-box at the end of the long driveway) and then cut up the bag to make a dust cover for a book, and forgot about it. Some time later I got a response! It was a letter from their marketing department thanking me for my interest and enclosing a few coupons for Cat Chow. I don't remember the exact wording of the letter all these years hence, but I do remember the tone of polite bafflement. They regretfully nixed the suggestion of the contest, I do remember that. Ah well, we got a few cents off the next few bags of cat food.

One of the shows we could get on the one TV channel was the Dinah Shore program, the morning one with the now-classic morning-show format: she'd sing a song, there'd be a guest of fame or accomplishment, they'd do some cooking, she'd sing another song, and maybe there'd be a humorous bit with someone bringing their talented pet or children. I watched that show every day. (I remember being very intrigued when Burt Reynolds was the guest; EVERYONE knew they'd been an Item a few years before.) I got the idea that the local TV station needed a local show like that, only environmentally-oriented, and of course hosted by Yours Truly. I spent a few days developing ideas and themes for a bunch of shows. I even made up a list of what I thought would be likely advertisers. THOSE were thin on the ground in an agricultural state in the early 1970s, let me tell you. And I made an appointment with the station manager to discuss it.

I was terrified through the whole conversation. He was polite and kind (though it was obvious he was first and foremost a businessman) but when he asked how they would possibly pay for it, my paltry hand-written list didn't impress him. He of course knew all those vendors in the region and (as I realize now) knew they wouldn't have the slightest interest in footing the bill for an environmental talk show. In the face of the station manager's cold realism, my beautiful idea withered as I sat in his office. I felt like a complete idiot and slunk home to nurse my sore ego. (He did do an interview with me and a couple of other people I'd started a theater group with a few years later. I was on TV! With, of course, no way to record it back then, so I never saw myself. It's no doubt just as well, lol.)

There may be a few other such memories lurking just out of reach in the back of my increasingly rusty memory bank. I think I was naive long after the age I should have got wise to the world. Now I think of it as a baby chick struggling to peck its way out of the shell.

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