Musician Phil Collins got extraordinarily popular in the 1980s. (It’s more fun if you read that first line aloud in Casey Kasem’s slick echo-y American Top 40 count-down voice.) Don’t worry, even if you have no clue or could care-less about the semi-retired English musician with a bad back and a bazaar obsession with The Alamo, it’s not a big deal. (You can stop using the Casey Kasem voice.) I mean, there is a reason why I mentioned him here. I’m not like that guy I saw every day when I worked in downtown Acworth Georgia that sat on a city bench loudly blurting out-of-context incongruities like “DANG SPIDERS” for no apparent reason (Really… drop the Casey Kasem voice! It would be better now if just imagined me Forrest Gumping it on a town square bench like the Acworth Georgia guy arbitrarily yelling out “Phil Collins, Phil Collins” in a sort of loud drunken parrot-y pirate voice.)
Remember, sometimes if you hang in there long enough seemingly random things end up eventually fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle. So fear not, Phil will be back and hopefully it will all make sense…but before that let me mention one of the first times my Wife ever saw me was in a photo with several cheesy plastic pink Flamingo lawn ornaments in the background. I’m not sure if that’s the reason, but ever since she has made sure that we have had some kitch-tastic classic pink flamingos at the house.
Although we have never discussed her flamingo stance, I’ve always assumed she simply is amused by the things and is not using them for passive aggressive evil purposes. Like I recall when an anonymous neighbor shoved a note in my friend Dan’s mailbox complaining about the unsightliness of an unfinished front lawn project I was helping him with, he retaliated by buying a few of the cheesiest tackiest brightest colored lawn ornaments (including a spinning legged ‘running’ flamingo) and shoved them in his grass for a couple of tense taunting days.
I have never received any complaining letters in my mailbox but I understand why it is hard to become close friends with nearby neighbors since often the only thing you have in common is a similar street address. I’ve always wanted to befriend a neighbor and have one of those special buddy buddy ‘Fred and Barney’ or ‘Ricky and Fred’ or ‘Fred and Grady’ friendships like on their respective TV shows. Maybe I need to move next door to a Fred? But most people have different tastes than me, so as a first step towards potential buddy-dom I have tried not to annoy my neighbors by displaying our bright pink flamingos in the front lawn. Instead they have resided somewhat hidden to the rest of the world in back porch planters, on garage shelves or more recently a few have been lurking in the alley behind our house alongside the driveway.
Still trying not to be the neighborhood pariah, back in October while buying a few last-minute Halloween decorations in a sad attempt to keep up with everyone’s elaborate horror house lawn displays, I spotted a box of on-sale Zombie Flamingos to greet the trick ‘r’ treaters. They’re similar to the pink flamingos we already had except they’re painted black with scary eyes and blood dripping from their little zombie flamingo mouths. My wife set them up to look like they were attacking one of our standard pink ones.
I guess wacky traditions have to start somewhere, so in case this one grows to be as popular as Phil Collins in the 80s, I might have to remember ‘2016’ as the date odd flamingos started showing up. In December, my wife ordered a pair of reindeer flamingos to add to our holiday decorations. Throughout the season our two all brown colored rein-ingos with tan pipe cleaner antlers stood proudly near our mailbox. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for bright red Valentines Flamingos, bearded Lincoln stovepipe hat wearing Presidents’ Day Flamingos or red white and blue Independence Day Flamingos.
I’m almost ready to tie all this together but first one more digression to way back when David Letterman still had a TV show. No, even farther back to the mid 1980s when he had an edgy irreverent Late Night show on NBC after Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. I recall watching one night when I was in college on my girlfriend’s sad little 12” black and white TV. There was a short comedy bit to open the show involving pop star, Phil Collins. In the sketch, Phil fictitiously gets the idea for the name of his oddly titled current hit song ‘Sussudio’ from dullard show regular Larry ‘Bud’ Melman who, while randomly building a birdhouse in the green room, hits his thumb with a hammer and yells “Hum-ina him-ina! Ooocha-ma goocha! Su-su-sudio!”
Yeah, it’s not a particularly funny joke 30 years after the fact. It probably was not too funny at the time. I mean I’ve seen better gags on Dixie riddle cups or Bazooka Joe gum comics but nonetheless I was amused by its oddball in-congruent humor. Amused enough that the punch line stayed burrowed deep in the cobwebbed recesses of some yellowed-with-age brain cell inside my baldy skull.
Like a long-term prisoner of war that quietly waited, carefully buying their time for hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades for that perfect moment to finally make a clean break for it. That tiny memory of that little bad joke that for 32 years watched a trillion other memory tid-bits escape my brain before it, waited in my head for just the right time to set itself free into the world.
Again, I really want our neighbors to not hate us and the only thing that will upset folks more than me standing in the yard arbitrarily yelling stuff like “DANG SPIDERS” or blaring Phil Collins’ music or having a front lawn full of tacky pink flamingos, is to be that bad neighbor that leaves all their holiday crap up till March. I did not have any Baby New Year Flamingos to put in the lawn for this past holiday weekend but I did use the unseasonably warm weather to take down our Christmas/Chanukah decorations.
I stowed away our lights and inflatables. Then I put our new Reindeer Flamingos into their original container and used my extended fingertips to slide it up on the tippity top of the box stack resting atop the tallest garage shelf. The box went up, stayed there ever so briefly and then slid right back down onto my head. Maybe that was the thwack that shook the memory loose but instead of cursing or yelling or even crying out ‘DANG FLAMINGOS’ in Casey Kasem’s voice, I instead stood there alone in the garage feigning pain and cried out loud “Hum-ina him-ina! Ooocha-ma goocha! Sussudio.” And so started my New Year.