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The Return of Rocket J. Squirrel

August 21, 2009

Yes, the “good old glory days” may be elevated in our imaginations but they really were good because most of our fathers were employed, we had comfortable homes to sit and watch TV, and we laughed at funny political satires like Rocky and Bullwinkle.


When Melissa Brandts and her husband were exploring Lake Minnewanka in Banff National Park-Canada, they stopped for a timed picture of the two of them. They had their camera timed to snap and before it did, a squirrel “popped right into our shot!” according to Melissa. “A once in a lifetime moment! We were laughing about this little guy for days!!” she wrote.

            When I saw this photo submitted to National Geographic in the Good News Network’s Top Ten list, I immediately thought, Thank God. Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel has returned.

            And boy is it time for the flying squirrel to come back to us. The modern world is just too fast and crazy for me, with its new Android software from Google and faster twittering on the Palm Pre. Should I get the new Blackberry Tour or keep my Pearl? Is Miley headed for a Brittney future after her pole dance on the Teen Awards? Will someone actually fire a semi-automatic rifle at the next Town hall meeting on government health care reform legislation? And is “Cash for Clunkers” on its way out after government funding ends? And then I find myself wondering who will be next to die after Walter Cronkite and now Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes.

            Wouldn’t it be nice to once again witness a familiar scene from the past like this one?

Bullwinkle: “Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.”

Rocky: “Again?”

Bullwinkle: “Presto!”

Lion: “ROAR!!!”

Bullwinkle: “Oops, wrong hat.”

            Ahh, the glory of nostalgia, the nostalgia that hundreds of thousands of Michiganders got to feel at the Woodward Dream Cruise last Saturday.  As I sat on my folding traveling chair next to three friends on the sidewalk of Woodward north of Ten Mile Road, staring as hundreds of old cars went by, I thought back to the glory days. I returned briefly to the time when I drove my ’68 Ford Custom, a real live clunker that peeled off yellow paint faster than the skin of an orange. When Rick Sherman saw a 1968 Catalina drive by, he yelled out, “I’ve been going to this Dream Cruise for years and I finally got to see my car drive by.” Yes, Rick used to own a brown Catalina which we fondly called the Brown Bomber, possibly referring to the hole in the floor in front of the second row seats. When I crawled into his back seat then, I began to think of Fred Flintstone sticking his feet underneath his wooden car for propulsion.

            The good old days, when GM, Ford, and Chrysler made “real cars,” though they had lousy paint jobs and no air bags for safety and rear wheel drive for extra spinning in the snow and they poured lots of lead into the air. Nevertheless, the “Big 3” were titans and Detroit was still a powerhouse city with lots of people and prestige even throughout the tumultuous riots of ’67.

            American cars were exciting, were colorful and fun and dangerous, kind of like cell phone and Internet companies now…fast growing, with big security problems but changing fast. Today, new models of cell phones come out monthly like cars. Who can keep track of all the models and all the whiz-bang features? Our kids are so much more sophisticated and “in” than we are, as we “old clunkers” sit by the side of the road, watching the cars go by.

            Joey, who has been working for GM for over two decades as an engineer, had to tell me which models went by. A car connoisseur who knows alot about the history of cars, he waits along with thousands of others for announcements of their futures at GM. He can only guess if the “new GM” will be successful in its new structure, financed by the government and American tax dollars. Like the rest of Detroiters, he and the rest of us hope for the best, but who can be sure of anything these days?

            On my way to work, I pass by the empty GM building on Schoolcraft and Levan and the Ford Transmission plant further down Levan that had three cars in its parking lot a few days ago. These huge buildings, like so many in the Detroit area, are ghosts of glory days, when our area was thriving and cars were exciting and dangerous, before we worried about huge health care costs and didn’t think we’d ever need a phone to wear on our belts. We opened our real mail daily and couldn’t imagine hearing a noise from below and getting a text or email message on a phone immediately from a friend or cousin from another side of the country.

            We came home and watched TV and laughed at Mr. Know-It-All, learned history from Peabody and Sherman and got our fairy tales “fractured” and then thought about the Cold War with the Soviet Union. I couldn’t tell where Iraq and Afghanistan were on the map, let alone imagine any American there. I laughed at bad guys like Boris Badanoff and Natasha Fatale and cheered Dudley-Do-Right and Captain Peter “Wrongway” Peachfuzz, who (thanks to Wikipedia,) was captain of the S.S. Guppy.

            Yes, the “good old glory days” may be elevated in our imaginations but they really were good because most of our fathers were employed, we had comfortable homes to sit and watch TV, and we laughed at funny political satires like Rocky and Bullwinkle.

            Yet, today, even though unemployment is too high, too many buildings are vacant ghosts, the federal government’s debt is ballooning, and the world is awfully scary, we can still sit by the side of the road and watch cars go by. We can laugh with our family and friends, we can learn incredibly pointless trivia on the Internet such as every conceivable detail of the Rocky and Bullwinkle series, and we can look on our cell phones to see every detail of a Major League Baseball game, live.

            While I sat with my friends while our wives, mostly uninterested in passing muscle cars, chatted outside Rick’s Living Modes store, I kept looking at the live details of the Detroit Lions preseason game and the Detroit Tigers regular season game. Thanks to the Internet on my Blackberry cell phone, I was like Ray Lane and Ernie Harwell, telling my friends the latest field goal, touchdown, and home run, keeping them tuned to the scores. By the end of the night, the Tigers had lost in extra innings but the Lions came back to win in the last minute, 27-26. If you exclude them losing every regular season football game in their record-breaking 0-wins-16-loss-season last year, they have won five games in a row and may end up being known as the Preseason Champions.

            Is the glass half full or half empty? That is the question. I would say half-full for the Lions because a new year is coming. For GM, it is half full because maybe, just maybe, a strong lean-and-mean car company will rise again. For Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel, it is definitely half full. Just look at the squirrel in the photo and imagine him wearing Rocky’s hat, looking right into the camera at Bullwinkle, and saying in that high-pitched squirrelly voice, “Hey Bullwinkle, we’re in real trouble now!”

            Then we can imagine being Bullwinkle and shouting back, “Oh good, Rocky! I hate that artificial kind!”




Woodward Dream CruiseDream Cruise at NightDream Cruise Pontiac Thunderbird

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