Marlboro Musings: Now and Then

“Blow up your TV, throw away your paper.
Go to the country, build you a home” –
John Prine

I fear violence is nearing. Not on a national scale, but a much more centralized conflict. It’s a matter of time before things get ugly. I’ve had just about enough of the better-than-thou, you need me more than I need you attitude and general condescending tone I’ve been putting up with recently. I’m fixing to follow Prines’s advice and blow up a TV.

And the sad thing is it’s not the entertainment part – as shallow and offensive as it can often be – that I’m most perturbed with, it’s the commercials. They’re either dumbing me down or pounding something into my brain via relentless repetition.

And I know the advertiser that will eventually trigger me into a destructive rage: Geico Insurance. I wonder if they offer any type of coverage for destruction of personal property? If not, they should.

It all started innocently enough for me with that little green gecko, with a British accent, no less, they brought along as spokes..well, reptile, I guess. OK, cute. And kinda cool. And the ladies loved him.

Then it was the Neanderthals spokesguys who made it clear, over and over and over again, that it was so simple “Any caveman can do it.” Again, different and novel, and not too bad – it even spawned a short-lived TV series, and Geico kept it light as they moved into the “It’s HUUUUMP Daaaay” phase, with a genial camel somehow strolling through an office, sparking an international catchphrase.

I tell ya, these guys are good.

Then they got evil on me. Three words: The. Final. Countdown. They must have run that commercial on my favorite shows a million times. Now, if I ever hear that once-popular song, even on the radio, I can feel my blood pressure soar, my fingers get twitchy, my eyes darty and I have to race to remove myself from its proximity.

The evil-doers then doubled down with the Kraken that suddenly rises out of a hushed, golf tournament water hazard, grabbing players as spectators scramble—and commentators calmly describe the scene and its impact on scoring.

And while they knew they were on the right mind control track, after a couple million showings of that ad, they must have also realized that it was slightly escapable, so they brought a most obnoxious, grating, punch-him-in-the-face Peter Pan in for the big reunion. Another blood pressure rise, especially at the arrogance of the ending, with his flying around singing about his youth.

Thankfully they have granted me a bit of a reprieve by lightening the mood again. I’m a big fan of the free-range chicken who keeps sending selfies back to the farm as he rides the rails and roams, and I enjoy the irony of the Antarctic adventurers being met by Dora the Explorer.

At least they’re not an advertisement for another pill that Big Pharm has decided we need to lead a complete life. Never mind that it takes most of the commercial for someone to voiceover all of the possible side effects that taking their product might produce. Any of them.

Boy, sure not like the commercials I grew up with, I can tell ya.

Remember the TV ads back in the day? My favorite was how all us kids were alerted to the fact that we mustn’t touch blasting caps. BLASTING CAPS, people! Construction demolition EXPLOSIVES were apparently lying around everywhere back then and, should you find one, it was important to go get an adult and NOT TO TOUCH IT. What the heck blasting caps were doing lying around I still wonder.

Another commercial that stuck with me was how important it was to note that old refrigerators did NOT make good forts or hiding places, because the door would shut behind you, trapping to a death of suffocation or overheating.

Of course, not all commercials of our age were fear-inspiring as we also got to see ads for PF Flyers, tennis shoes that would make you “run faster and jump higher,” or a Slinky, that you could watch “walk” down stairs. Was that fun? You enjoy that? Good, carry it back to the top of stairs. And we would. It was a simpler time. Note simpler, not smarter.

Anyway, I never saw a blasting cap or was trapped in a used fridge, so I suppose all worked out well. But what a difference between now and then. And it gets even better as we move through this year with presidential political ads dead-ahead. what a circus that promises to be. Except instead of straw hats like we had, now the clowns have knives.

Mr. Prine might be right.

And given a choice between “Now” versus “Then,” folks, I’d vote “Then” — twice since I’m in Marlboro County.


On that note, every “Now and Then” you meet an absolutely unique individual, and I want to take a little space and time to say “Thank you, Annie.” The best part about my knowing Annie Newton was I knew her my whole life, and that I knew Annie best when we were both still young. Just knowing her impacted the life of anyone she met. And she NEVER forgot those she cared for. I read the memorials to her from so many young people and I know that her work here was done. Thank You for your spirit and gifts to us all, dear friend. You made a difference.

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