Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Of Fever, Fantasy and Flight: "Red Hawk" Fights The Axis in "The Carnival of Courage!"

Greetings, my faithful friends!

My august apologies for such a long pause between postings here. 'Twas not intentional--it was medical!

I had been having pain in my feet for the last couple of weeks. It was not sufficient to cripple me, but I did find myself hobbling from home to office, in and out of The Pantheon, and on various spouse-instigated "missions of mercy."

This issue came to a crisis this past Friday night. Dorrie made another of her delectable pieces de resistance: Mushroom Double Sour-Cream Five-Cheese Nachos.

Few foodstuffs can boast such a mouth-watering array of delightful ingredients. I admit I ate more than my fill of this manna. It always pleases Dorrie so when I enjoy her cuisine efforts.

After dessert (banana-caramel cream pie with real whipped cream, topped with diced macadamia nuts), I settled in my den to select some future candidates for showcasing in this blog.

When the clock struck 10, I began to feel searing, agonizing pain to my right foot. It hurt when I breathed; it hurt when I held my breath.

Finally, I cried out to my wife: "Dorrie... I need a doctor!"

Dorrie doesn't drive often, but she rose to the call of duty on that gloomy night. We sped to the nearby Walter Murvis Memorial Medical Center's emergency room. There, 'midst the moaning and groaning of other ailers, we sat until 2 AM.

The doctor's prognosis was mercifully quick: I had the gout!

The physician said my uraic acid levels were "through the roof" and it was "no wonder" that I was in such pain.

The first thing he asked me was pertaining to my diet. Did you know that the foods you eat can make your foot hurt?

The upshot of it all is that Dorrie's delicious recipes are a tad too rich for my system. I am "getting up there in years;" I'm the first to admit it. The doctor's stern advice: I am to avoid rich foods for the next month, and to eat vegetables whenever possible, drink plenty of water, and, as my pain subsides, engage in regular physical exercise.

I am not quite up to speed on that last assignment. But I am following doctor's orders on the other two. To my pleasant surprise, certain vegetables are quite palatable. Did you know that broccoli, lightly steamed, is quite delicious? The same can be said for carrots, and even for that old standby of "Pop Eye," spinach.

Although I still cannot do without my morning "slug from the mug" (that's coffee, to you non-drinkers), I supplement those soothing brown sips with fresh, crisp draughts of tap water.

I am able to drive without excessive pain, after some of the swelling to my right foot has receded. Today I happily embarked on my first errand for the "missus" in some days.

She requested some Halloween decorations from the "Big Buy" store on Lancaster Bridge Parkway. Having assured her that I was "up to it," I warmed up the trusty Chevy Nova and hit the road.

Along the way, a curious sight caught my eye. It was a slender, sad-looking soul dancing by the roadside--in a loose, checkerboard-patterned costume! The garb was neither a jumpsuit nor a clown's costume--but something in-between.

Held in his jittery hands was a coffin-shaped sign that read "COTTAGE CHEESE HERE."

In the back of an adjacent parking lot was a farmer's truck. Some agrarian vended his home-made cottage cheese, fresh from the farm! I was tempted, but I recalled the doctor's orders. Altho' cottage cheese is a "health food," it is on my "must to avoid" list until I again pass muster with my physician.

Do you know who was in those indecipherable "duds"? Raphael!

Once I recognized him, I went 'round the block and approached him cautiously.

I rolled down the passenger's seat window of the Nova. "Raphael! Is that you?"

The lad stared at me, shock and bewilderment in his eyes. He did not recognize me!

"I guess so," he meekly replied.

"It's your friend, Mason! Don't you remember me, son?"

Raphael stared at me, scrutinizing me, but no light of accord came into his dark eyes. "Nuh uh."

I felt my heart sink a bit. Surely he must recall his solemn oath of fealty to me! But perhaps times have been hard on the lad.

I did not want to dicker with him. I simply smiled, nodded my head, and said, "The Home Depot. The storage shed."

That did it. "Yeah, I 'member you. Hey, listen, I can't talk here."

With perfect timing, a man in overalls ran towards the boy, belligerence in his ruddy face. "Stop wagging your tongue and start waving that sign, boy!"

Raphael shuddered in fear. "I gotta go." The farmer immediately berated Raphael. His choice of words was coarse, as befitted his rural background.

I had no choice but to drive on to "Big Buy."

I am glad to know that Raphael is gainfully employed, albeit in a line of work without much dignity. Perhaps the farmer's sales are healthy, and my young ward is making ends meets. In these hard economical times, that's the best I can hope for anyone.

Last night I had a disturbing dream. One that haunts me so, I feel compelled to share it with you. I am no artist, but I carefully re-created an image from this vision--or is it a nightmare? Read on and see...

In the dream, I was back at the hospital, for my follow-up appointment. Doctor Doynter had me sit in a gleaming white room. The room was empty, save for an examination table and a large "flattened screen" television.

I waited for what seemed an eternity. Finally, Dr. Doynter appeared. Held in his hands was a large plastic jug--at least three gallons, I'd wager. This translucent cask was filled with a light pink liquid.

"Mr. Moray, we need to run a test on you." He handed me the jug. For its size, it was astonishingly light. I hefted it, and the syrupy liquid gently sloshed within.

Dr. Doynter switched on the television. Its giant screen hummed. On it appeared the word: DEGUSSING. "In a moment," the doctor said, "a series of images will appear on this screen. I want you to drink the liquid in that bottle until you see the image of Mickey Mouse. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Do not stop drinking until you have seen Mickey Mouse. Otherwise, the tests will fail. Get ready..."

I unscrewed the cap to the jug. I lifted it to my mouth as a battery of rapid-fire images shot on the screen. The liquid was sweet, yet salty--with, indeed, the consistency of a soothing syrup.

The images on-screen were all of "cartoon critters" I recognized from my collection. The Fox and The Crow! The Ginch! Heckle and Jeckle! Pudgy Pig! More images than I can recollect or tell!

Yet each one was instantly recognizable. I kept drinking and drinking. I felt my insides filling up with this pink liquid. I watched the screen... and then, at last, I saw the image of Mickey Mouse--so recognizable and universal!

I pulled the jug away and gasped for sweet oxygen.

"Why in the world did you stop?" was the doctor's cross rejoinder.

"But," I said, panting, "I saw him. I s-saw Mickey Mouse."

"No, you didn't," Dr. Doynter said, dissaproval rampant across his face. "I'll show you what you really saw."

With a remote control, he "freeze-framed" the image I'd thought was that Disney icon. This is my crude drawing of the vision. I am no artist, but I believe this is an accurate rendition:

This image was fleshy-pink, save for the white eyes and red tongue. Mickey with his ears removed!

Dr. Doynter laughed and laughed. "No one ever gets that right!" he said. "You're not the first, and you won't be the last!"

He turned to his nurse. "Get this guy out of here." Then he left the room, and, in real life, my eyes parted wide open.

I drew the above picture on a scratch pad in the bathroom. I brought it into work, along with today's featured panelological presentation, to scan on the office scanner, which still remains in my possession.

We have a new sales "team member" at the office. His name is Charles J___________. He has insisted I call him "Charley," with an "e." He is a young, raffish go-getter, festooned with all sorts of modern gadgets, including one of those "blue stone" telephones, which permanently rests in his right ear.

Aside from some grating personal affectations--e.g., his constant referral to his automobile as his "zoom-zoom," and to young women as "hoes" (that latter one completely baffles me: of all the gardening tools to use as a metaphor, I would not associate a garden hoe with a female. I might consider a watering can, as it is in a woman's nature to nurture and help the male to grow and flourish. I have suggested that he make this substitution. He is as baffled by my metaphor as am I by his. So be it.), he is a good-natured rascal. I hope he will restore stability to our "playing field."

But enough of this non-panelological patter! Let us get down to business. Here, today, is a gem of warfaring realism, from the Second World War. The source: Blazing Comics issue 5, published in 1944.

I was born in 1946, and have never seen the battlefields of war. I consider myself fortunate indeed.

My father, Austin Moray, was a file-clerk for the Air Force during "The Big One." Although he never handled a gun, nor bayonetted an Axis spy, he had a lion's share of exciting tales about his wartime escapades. It is to him that I dedicate this story.

Unique for the comic magazines of the war, the following feature, "Red Hawk," depicts a Native American (or Indian) as a trusted fighter pilot for the Air Force. I find this kind gesture to the "red man" touching. My father knew some "Native Americans" and deemed them pleasant, intelligent peoples.

Here, then, is war hero "Red Hawk," fighting with flight in the war against evil.

Rich in wartime detail, "The Carnival of Courage" offers the "red man" a unique berth in panelology. Here, for once, we have an intelligent, talented, capable "Indian." He can fly a sophisticated jet plane. He can "down the Japs" and take orders as good as any other soldier.

My father once told me that, while the war was on, racism and hatred knew no takers. All Americans, regardless of their skin tone, were as one in their fight to keep liberty and freedom alive.

A few years ago, I showed this very story to my father--this was right before he went into the retirement center. He still worked--as a night guard at a supermarket--and still drove a pickup truck.

"Son, that's the way it really was," my father mused, as he turned the time-faded pulp pages. "This is Air Force life as I remember it!" Then he paused, in reflection, and put the comic magazine down. "Who'd of ever thought," he said, "that's we'd be driving their cars--instead of ours?" He shook his head at the irony of his own statement.

In the years since this story was published, we have forgiven Japan and Germany for their crimes of intolerance and destruction. We now eat their foods, drive their cars, and watch their motion pictures. All is well with us.

If I have offended any of my large Japanese contingent with this posting of this tale, please regard it as symptomatic of its era. Everyone in American wanted to "slap the Japs" back then. "Slant eyes," "buck toothed snake" and "yellow rat" were standard nick-names for those sons of Nippon. It was a time when all panelological heroes--even the "cartoon critters"--did their bit to eliminate the "rotten Japs" from the earth.

This is no longer the case, of course. Nor would we address Germans as "Krauts," "Nutzies" and "stinking ungodly Huns." The world is a better place now. Even if its current crop of comic magazines leave much to be desired, we have advanced as a people, and as a culture.

Stories such as this serve as a potent reminder of bygone days. I feel "Red Hawk" remains a visionary character. There is still ample room in our armed forces for Native Americans to fly fighter planes! They would save on uniforms, for one thing. As a tax payer, I am out for every "cut corner" I can find. If our air aces should go shirtless, so be it. As long as they're defending this great country of ours.

I must get home. Dorrie has waiting for me a spinach salad with buttermilk ranch dressing, bacon bits and shredded cheddar cheese. Yes, I'm beginning to enjoy this new regime of health and good nutrition.

'Til we next meet--may the skies be clear for your flight through life!

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