dadsville - Ward
Cleaver's Prozac Fever


I screamed and screamed again,

my stomach whompin' around the ol'

abdominal cavity like a super ball in Zero-G.

I spun furiously, the G-forces

splattering me against thick rubber walls

where my limbs and head were paralyzed.

The floor dropped like a trap door

in a made-for-TV-movie guillotine,

and I was suspended on that wall

twenty-some feet in the air,

spinning and spinning

and urping and burping

ghosts of Loganberry Juice and

Tasty Freeze

and Humphrey popcorn balls.

Escaping at last,

I stumbled and staggered down

a splintered wooden gangplank,

urgling, gurgling and dizzed;

triumphant at this most

auspicious rite of passage from

the murky depths of childhood.

I had tangled with Euclid Beach Park's

fearsome centrifugal tour-de-force,

"The Rotor,"

and, to some small extent, survived.

"The Rotor" and all the other mythical

rides of turn-of-the-twentieth-century

amusement parks like Euclid Beach ---

the vintage parks that ain't

there anymore --- were man-makers,

not like the pansy-ass

politically correct auto-ma-crap

of Dinnyworl,

where last we dads discoursed.

Euclid Beach Park was, quite simply,

the diddly-dadly-est of 'em all,

and the only way you can get there

now is by closing your eyes,

and letting guys like me summon the

long-dead ghosts who gutted out the

crick-rickety coasters, the flagrant

OSHA code violations, and the

pervasive bouquet of

hillbilly summer sweat and vomit,

all in the Ward Cleaver pursuit of family fun.

There was a Fun House there,

guarded by a maniacal mannequin everyone

called "Laughing Sal," whose

job was to stand sentry for eternity,

drunkenly hee-hawing with a voice

provided by a stack of 78's playing

on some secreted ancient record-changer,

spooking the living beejezus outta us

slack-jawed zit-head pre-dads.

Though you may not find it in the

history books, the scoop on Sal is

that the owners of Euclid Beach Park

fancied the bawdy laugh of some

long-forgotten turn-of-the-century

opera superstar. One scheming night

a hundred years ago, they spirited her

out to a schmancy dinner and got her

good and liquored up enuf to

perform her psychotic chortling bray

on one of them thar new-fangled Edison

voice-recordin' gadgets,

and voila!

A soul for Sal!

Way back when, Old Sal even had a boy pal,

"Laughing Al,"

whose cackling watch at the Fun House

came screeching to a halt

when the wife of the Park's owner

proclaimed that Laughing Al had a

suspicious protrusion in his

pantalones that was no laughing

matter in leftover Victorian society.

Sal, the merry widow, remained.

Summer after summer upon summer

I'd horde my meager lawn-cuttin'

paper deliverin' dinero to squander at the Park.

I'd blast past Sal into that Fun House

over and over and over again, braving

distorto-mirrors, rockabout

walkways, jet-bursts of air from

clandestine floor nozzles, rooms

with no discernable exit and whistles and

caterwauls and tempera demons on

plywood that leapt up and threatened

and creaked menacingly on

dimestore hinges.

But with each successive summer,

Euclid Beach Park plummeted further

into decay like the Thriller

Coaster arcing its killer hills

on a race to Oblivion.

In those final seasons, I'd hide

the growing humiliation of being seen

with the fam-damily in public by

breaking off early and hanging around

Sal and the nearby Penny Arcade,

where in the year before the Park closed forever,

I hatched a billion-dollar scheme that

would launch me one of them how-ya-call-it music

superstar careers in show biz.

Had me a Gibson gi-tar 'n ever-thang!

Arcade today, Big Time tomorrow, baby!

There were intriguing Rube Goldberg-ian

machines in that Arcade ---

those old "Flip-Card-O-Scope"

thingies where for a penny you'd crank

a handle and see a pre-historic Chaplin

or Lumiere flip by on a

stack of yellowy cardboard cards.

There was the ultra-spooked-out "Grandma,"

a sort-of Zoltar machine with a

granny mannequin (a "grannequin??"),

who'd peer far beyond the Veil into

The Great Uncertain,

long as you kept feedin' her coin.

But the machine the Park installed that

year --- a Recording Booth that let you

actually make an honest-to-pete

vinyl 45-rpm record --- it was

THAT machine that kept me coming

back to Euclid Beach Park

despite the ugly encroachment of adolescence.

I embarked upon a plan that in those

technologically advanced Sgt. Pepper four-track recording days,

would have set even the Beatles' esteemed

producer George Martin on his tin English ear.

I would lay an acapella vocal track down

right there in the booth at Euclid Beach,

allowing me to take a finished record to

any audition, anytime, and strum along

with my pre-recorded yodel.

AND --- I figgered I could

even sing a harmony part with myself

as the disk played to boot.

It wasn't gonna be no Beatle roof-top concert.

I had exactly one year's time until my

return to Euclid Beach Park to prepare a tune.

But which tune would it be??

At age 11, my contemporary repetoire

was limited to whatever the newspaper's

Sunday magazine published in its

"Teen Beat Rockin' Rhythm" section.

(Even at that tender age, I suspected

that moniker was dreamed up by some

poseur old editor fart somewhere).

My real guitar lesson gave me no workable

toonage whatever --- a smelly old

cardigan-clad geez taught

me misery like "Lemon Tree," and

"Oops, there Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant,"

and similarly with-it nuggets.

So I waited Sunday after Sunday for the

local paper to publish the perfect pop song.

It came down to either the Royal Guardsmen's

chestnut "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron," (ooch!)

or Glenn Campbell's monstrously insipid mega-hit

"Gentle on my Mind"

(I'd have chosen the exotica of Zagar & Evans'

timeless "In the Year 2525"

if I coulda mastered the other-wordly

chord changes, of course).

In the end, Gentleman Glenn won it on an

ordinary coin toss. The paper printed the piece

in the key of "G," and my

musical chops still bordering on the primitive,

I was quite convinced I somehow had to

train myself to sing the song in "G,"

and in "G" only --- necessitating the

development of perfect pitch in

just 12 months' time.

Though it took a millennium, the next year

finally came, and I was more anxious to

return to Euclid Beach than I'd been in

many a season, to the noggin'-scratchin'

chagrin of my P & M., who only recently began

to notice my existence as a result of

my increasingly frequent hormonal outbursts.

Making a beeline from the front Gate on

past Laughing Sal to the Penny Arcade,

I lunged breathlessly into the Recording Booth,

pulled the shower curtain closed behind me,

and defiantly plugged the recording machine

with the two bits that would buy my way out

of the lower class blue-collar hell to

which my brother and I were condemned by birth.

When the green light snapped on,

I began to sing Mr. Campbell's classic ode,

and hopefully, in "G."

Toward the end of the first phrase,

I heard someone --- a teenaged someone,

I thought --- some guy who

started pounding the wall behind the

recording booth and screaming

through a beery throat:


I hesitated and slurred my phrase but

didn't miss a beat; I not only needed

to stay in "G," but had to keep a

steady tempo thing goin' on as well, o' course.

I began to warble the line leading into

Mr. C's famous signature chorus.


I broke the tempo and listened in the booth, silent.

The green light was still on, but the

three-minute clock was ticking down.

There was almost enough time to finish,

but I knew now the heckler was out for me,

and I knew he was just revving up.



the voice confirmed, and I heard the

cackling exclamation point of what

sounded like a whole

greaser of thugs.

The red light clicked on,

and the machine spat out my demo record.

"...maybe the machine didn't pick up that stuff,"

I thought, leaving the booth,

redfaced and prickly with humiliation,

"...probably won't hear it at all."

We got home from Euclid Beach Park

later on that night, and I went

straight to work making drawings

for my record's picture sleeve.

I drew it in Cray-Pas and tempera

in a faux-psychedelic swirly and at the

very end I put my name and a

copyright circle and the date --- 1969.

When it was done, I grabbed my guitar,

tuned it carefully, and popped the disk

into my little turquoise-n-white

Close-n-Play record player.

The record began to sing, and I turned

it up over my parent's usual nightly

screamfest combat exercise downstairs.

I flipped the Sunday magazine pages

to the dog-earred Glenn Campbell

cheat sheet and began to strum along.

My pitch was right there.

Key of "G," it was.

Right there.

And then I heard it.


The needle scritched through an edgy silence, and then,


I stopped down the player, put

the 45 back into its customized jacket,

carefully put my guitar away in its

case, walked down the stairs unhearing

past my parents

screaming and screaming and screaming

at one another over the dining room table as usual;

down down down to the basement workbench

where I chose the heaviest looking

hammer I could find.

I smashed that 45 into

nine-hundred-fifty-seven shards,

and melted them in the basement incinerator

where I was burning my custom-drawn

picture sleeve.

It would be nearly a decade before

I learned that Euclid Beach Park's season

was finally over that very next year, and that

none of us could ever ever return.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

2003 Arhythmiacs

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