Growing up on a farm outside of our little town, I didn’t have many friends my own age. The 3 miles between us and town seemed like a cross country trip whenever I asked my folks to drive me there. I rode my bike when I could, but my chores and the weather didn’t allow me to do it that often.
My solitude while growing up helped to foster my love of reading and writing. I also became fond of stuffed animals. (As I’m writing this, I realize this is a familiar story in the origin of many serial killers.) I was a fat, smart kid and was pretty heavily ridiculed as a child. (Again, another notch in the serial killer deal.)
As I’ve written in a previous blog, I ran away from home in 1966. I was 15 and had heard enough of the fat jokes to last a lifetime. I wound up in Los Angeles where I worked as a gofer for Twentieth Century Fox for almost 2 weeks until they found out I wasn’t 18. I worked at a carwash for the rest of the year I spent out there, doing interiors.
When I returned, I was lighter, but a year behind my former classmates. While I wasn’t uber-fat anymore (a year of cleaning car interiors in LA heat will do that), my 1-year absence made me a bit of a pariah with my old and new classmates. I took enough credits to graduate in 3 years, but the hopelessly backward state of New Jersey made me go the full 4 years.
While in school, I got a job as a writer/photographer for a couple of local newspapers. I had the only darkroom in town and often developed and printed film for the local police. I had a police radio and was able to be the first on the scene for breaking news. Even won a couple of local journalism awards, not too shabby for a 17-year-old.
During this time, I still didn’t have that many friends (neither did Ted Bundy). I found the Rowlf puppet at Wanamaker’s while I was shopping for clothes. I had always loved his bits on the Jimmy Dean Show. Even at age 17, I had to have him. I shelled out the $15.00 and took him home.
When my mother saw him, she said I was too old for such nonsense. Yes sir, she always understood me. My Uncle Ed didn’t give a crap, which is pretty much his stand on everything. (When I saw the character “Bobby” on King of the Hill, I understood his situation.) I put Rowlf on a shelf in my 3rd floor room where he could se everything. I did put a towel over him when I masturbated. I wanted him to be proud of me.
I consulted with Rowlf late at night while I was pounding the keys in my 3rd floor room. (Again, a nod at the serial community).
In the 1990’s, I still had Rowlf and, from time to time, I continued to consult with him. Eventually my best friend Mandy would supplant him. But sometimes I needed advice and counsel from both of them. I wrote the song, “No More Than a Teddy Bear” about the impact my stuffed animals, Rowlf and Mandy had on me through the years.
After I wrote the song, I considered doing a children’s CD. Some of the song titles I came up with were; “Don’t Kill Your Parents, They Didn’t Know Any Better,” “Karma Will Get the Kids Who Mistreated You in School,” “Yes, Those People Whispering Are Making Fun of You” and many others. I just didn’t have time to finish the project.
The photo of Rowlf was taken today. I’ve had him since 1967. He still doesn’t answer me unless I’ve had a couple of glasses of Pinot Noir. Then, he’s the smartest person in the room.
Here’s the Soundclick link for the song:
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