Morning Music: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk EndsShel Silverstein has a devilish wit. I think that’s why he is a children’s writer at the same time that he isn’t. He has a child’s sensibility with an adult’s knowledge and experiences. I believe I share this with him, without being on the same creative plane of existence. It is this kind of stuff that parents normally complain about regarding me. It is the parents’ job, after all, to socialize children. I see it as my job to remind them that they can be both good and devilish.

Where the Sidewalk Ends is filled with devilish stuff. There is also a version with a CD, which I used to have. There is something extra that we get when Silverstein reads his own poems. They always sound so much sharper than they do in my head. Poems like “For Sale” are horrible in their way, even as they are too extreme to be taken seriously. It’s the literary equivalent of Tom and Jerry. But I’m going to highlight another poem from that collection, “Crocodile’s Toothache,” even though I actually love dentists. As the animator, Aida Alemy, says, “No crocodile or dentist were harmed during the making of this animation.”

29 thoughts on “Morning Music: Where the Sidewalk Ends

  1. So here’s a fun story. When I was in 4th grade, our school had a kid writing contest. The author of the book “Slugs,” a kid book about how gross and funny slugs are, was coming to our school to do a reading, and would judge kid writing for an award, a ribbon or whatever.

    I wrote some disgusting thing about people being eaten by sharks. I included drawings. My parents were called. I believe vivid descriptions of innards falling out are red flags that your kid may be a nascent serial killer (I think I copped the imagery from “Patton,” my dad’s favorite movie, and transferred it to sharks, which I loved.)

    I won the ribbon from the “Slugs” author, and after that the school stopped worrying.

    Here’s the great part:

    My SO’s sister has two kids, and the sister is unemployable, so my SO pays for their housing, has them over every weekend to keep an eye on how they’re doing, etc.. So I spend some time with those kids. Mostly helping them with homework, going on outings to museums or bowling alleys, that sort of stuff. I don’t intrude on their personal life or share details from mine.

    And one got in trouble for — yes! — a gruesome shark story!

    For whatever assignment, one of the kids did a version of “Titanic” where the movie heroes were in the water and sharks eviscerated them. That’s not in the movie (I assume, I never saw it, but I don’t think sharks ate the “Titanic” survivors.) She included drawings! No guts (not as twisted as I), but blood everywhere, and the sharks looked quite happy.

    Even though I had no hand in raising these children, I couldn’t help but feel proud. If nothing else, the kid hated “Titanic.” Yay!

    • I think a Titanic-Jaws film would be great. Great Whites might be found that far out, but it would be most likely White Tips. But I’m not sure if they are around when the water is that cold. Of course, how long do people last in water like that? A minute or two?

      Funny when an “authority” says your story is okay, everyone accepts it. Did you ever read How to Eat Fried Worms?

      • As always, the internet has the answer:

        2. Hypothermia: This was the cause of death of most of the people who landed alive in the ocean. When a human’s body temperature goes below 95° F (35° C), the phenomenon of hypothermia has set in. The temperature regulation process of the hypothalamus malfunctions and a flush of core blood rushes to the extremities, causing a false warmth sensation. Shortly after this, the internal organs begin to shut down and death occurs rapidly. In the 28-31° F water of the North Atlantic, this process likely took no more than 15 minutes for the healthier individuals. The elderly and the youngest, as well as the infirm, would have lasted much shorter periods of time. Getting out of the frigid water would have helped raise the body temperature for a short while, but prolonged exposure to the cold air would take its toll, albeit more slowly.

        The survivors aboard Collapsible B managed to survive only because they needed to exercise to keep afloat. Reading Colonel Gracie’s description of the ordeal aboard that lifeboat shows clearly the need to keep busy to stay afloat; the men aboard Collapsible B probably never realized that they were raising their body temperature back to survivable levels by doing so.

        Interesting in the article the person does point out that the bodies would have floated under the water all over the Atlantic which means that it is absolutely possible that sharks ate some of the victims.

        And there is a movie based on sharks attacking the Titanic: The Legend of the Titanic and yes, it is on YouTube.

        • I could definitely turn that into an article. But I don’t think I want to watch that movie. I wonder about the sharks though; they don’t tend to eat just anything. At least, Great Whites go after moving objects. Great Whites are amazing fish.

          • The movie was awful-either a total rip off of Titanic or Titanic was a rip off of the movie. And if I think it was bad, since I have no taste, it probably is pretty bad.

            The Wiki on Titanic is interesting though, sometimes I think you can really find anything on the internet.

            • That’s largely true. But there are vast areas where there isn’t information. That’s why colleges are so great. They make it easy to track down people who know stuff. Like I would love to have a conversation with someone who has read the Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda Don Quixote. It has never been properly translated into English. But these are the kinds of minor things that will never get deep coverage on the internet.

                • Actually, I just found an expert on Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda. I’m going to write an article about him and then write to him. That’s a great thing bout the internet. If you can find an expert, they will normally make time for you because there are damned few people who are interested in their life’s work.

                  • Yes! A friend of a mine who teaches comic books was mentioning how startled the people he invites to talk to his class are but they are very happy to do so.

                    • It doesn’t surprise me that much. My graphic artist friends are some of the most literary people I know. But it’s easy to forget that the graphic novelists are the same kind of people. I mean, look at Bernie Wrightson who introduced me to both Poe and Lovecraft and doubtless other literary geniuses.

                    • Is it? I only know a few graphic artists and we never really talk about books.

                    • The ones I know. Probably not a representative sample. But it shows they are out there to create interesting erudite stuff.

    • I wrote a story about a shark that got stuck in a little cove and survived by eating people. Luckily this was in high school and my teachers all knew about my “issues” being completely messed up in the head. Plus it was a very poor high school so unless it seemed like I was going to shoot up the place, they didn’t really care I was having sharks eat humans in some story.

      • See? We need to rethink our “disturbed kid” red flags. Sharks? Not a red flag. There are much spookier indicators of socially maladjusted behavior, like rooting for the junior-high football team.

        • I did wonder when the SO’s niece had the same quirk. I can’t remember how I felt as a kid with any accuracy. It’s pretty vague. I imagine I was rebelling against all the kids from perfect homes who wrote stories about happy families and magical unicorns. Although it’s likely most of those kids were writing fantasies and weren’t any happier at home.

          Poverty sucks always; it sucks worse when you’re a kid. It’ll take the SO’s niece ten years, or far more, to realize her mom isn’t mean because she deserves to be treated that way; the mom’s mean because poverty in America deranges people. Add to that how the kid is half-black, and you’ve got a whole other mess of self-loathing to surmount. That is a lot of social programming to unprocess. Many people live full lives as adults without unprocessing any of the shit they ingested as kids.

          Oh, whoops, I was supposed to be talking about sharks and kid authors! But I’m not too far off the rails. Two of my favorite modern authors, Benjamin Percy and Ta-Nehisi Coates, are currently writing comic books. (Coates you know. Percy writes dystopian fantasies; his last was a hellscape version of Lewis & Clark where travelers on the Oregon Trail meet radioactive giant vampire bats and mutants worship exposed nuclear meltdown sites. Percy’s basically doing the grownup version of having sharks eat everybody.)

          I wasn’t into comic books as a kid; I didn’t like the artwork. I’ll pretty much guarantee you that kids who were into it, and adults into it today, were drawn to that fantasy world where things made sense. And it was a rebellion against the “real” world where nothing you’re told is sensible makes any sense at all.

          Hence less introspective sorts getting into the “Left Behind” series (which are just comic books for the dumb.) And I realize I’ve written an entire fucking article here, so I’ll stop.

          Sharks are cool!

          • All I remember is trying to come up with something I could use in multiple classes because I was and am a lazy student.

            I agree on comic books-never was much of a fan and I still am not even though they have exploded in popularity and I actually know a professor of comic books. As in he teaches courses at real colleges about this.

            And finally a book reading challenge:

            • You lose the “lazy student” war. You have a law degree, I have a BA it took me 20 years to complete. And even with that, I basically cheated to finish getting it.

              That’s a neat list of book types! I don’t need it, because I don’t own a car. Bus riders read; that’s what we do. Gotta spend those 75 minutes on the way to work somehow.

              I understand a lot of comic books are written by very good authors, now. But to get into them, you need to know the whole backstory of the characters — AKA, reading all the garbage from when they were junk, and today’s gifted authors escaped into the junk when they were kids.

              It’s hard enough convincing anyone that some of the final seasons of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” were good, much less saying “yeah, to get them, you had to tolerate three seasons of shit.”

              So I’ve been looking to pimp “Doctor Who,” especially the fifth season of the new series, for a long time. And now seems the time. You don’t need to know any of the history to like it. This summation by actor Matt Smith does it well:

              “As the doctor ages he gets younger and sillier. He’s over 1,000 now, I think. And – oh, I just like him. His lack of cynicism. He’s like a baby. He wants to sniff, to taste, everything; he’ll never dismiss anything. As we get older – perhaps I’m just speaking for myself – we can get too cynical. If he had a… bath, it would be filled with rubber ducks which could talk or something; he’d find a way to reinvent the common bath. And I admire that.”

              Also this endearing YouTube clip:


              Intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism. Whether the fans are of comic books, Trek, or Who, I’ll take their nerddom any day.

              • I don’t have a law degree-it generally shocks people with law degrees because I know more law then they often do because I may be a poor student (I spent about 90% of my time in school being incredibly bored. Only one teacher who wasn’t even a full teacher yet noticed that and gave me tasks that actually played to my strengths) but I do like to learn and I take my duties and responsibilities so seriously I have damaged my health.

                I agree on ST:TNG, some of the early episodes were awesome but mostly it was the last three seasons that really made something special. But like me and Bob’s Burgers, they find it hard to invest the time because it takes so long to get to where it needs to go. I did see that Rick and Morty you were mentioning. It was eye widening to say the least.

                • Thanks for checking out the cartoon I pimped. “Protect Summer.” So the car is evil, but brokers peace between spiders and humans if that’s what it takes. A very pragmatic evil car.

                  I’ve read that about “Bob’s Burgers,” how it takes a few seasons to get going. I didn’t feel that way when I watched it; I liked it immediately. But I’m a fan of “Archer,” which has the same voice actor, so I was already used to his dry line readings. H. Jon Benjamin has a very unique comic tone, it might come off as disinterested at first.

                  My secret purpose in participating on this site is getting Frank to love TNG. How can any liberal not adore Picard? He’s everything a human should be. When the shit hits the fan and I am so depressed I can’t even face tomorrow, I can always watch “Darmok.”

                  Of course, there’s this clip:

                  “You’re not married, you haven’t got a girlfriend, and you haven’t watched Star Trek. Good Lord.”

          • As I think everyone who has been in a relationship knows, financial problems are the biggest issue in a relationship. It shouldn’t be that way, but you know: and the land of the free…

            A friend of mine is using a group of Marcel Proust graphic novels to supplement her reading of the seven books of In Search of Lost Time. It’s a funny old world.

            • Because financial problems are the biggest issues, couples need to start their partnership spending 10K or much more on a ceremony nobody under 70 will enjoy. Hire a “wedding photographer” and “wedding caterer” and all kinds of other “wedding” racketeers.

              • That is why you get married in San Diego in Balboa Park’s rose garden with the reception at the nearest beach. You only need someone to man the grill to make the cheeseburgers that you get from Costco.

              • We just married my niece and it cost basically nothing. When I got married the last time, it cost nothing. Both were pretty great parties. Most weddings are silly. Just get some food and alcohol and say “I do.”

                • My brother just got married! He eloped, and sent a picture. He was worried that we other brothers would be offended (no invitations.)

                  Proud to say, all three of us congratulated him on not spending silly money. I don’t agree with my family on much; they were terrific on this.

                  Gay couples have been leading the way. Since the legality of gay marriage was really tentative up until the recent SCOTUS decision, most of us know gay couples who got married with little pomp & ceremony. Just wear nice clothes, file the forms, take a picture someplace pretty. No point in spending gazillions if you’re not sure of your legal status.

                  I do agree with Elizabeth — if you must have a party, have it in a public space. Support your local parks and civic buildings!

                  The worst thing about weddings, and there are many, many things wrong with weddings, is the double standard for bridesmaids/groomsmen. Men get to rent tuxedos (if the wedding couple don’t pay for the rental in advance, as they often do.) Women have to buy the dress. Which they’ll never wear again, since wedding outfits are ridiculous.

                  I saw one recently on the bus ride. It was a wedding at the local hockey arena. All the men had hockey jerseys on. The women, those damn custom dresses. If this had been reversed — men wearing tuxedos, women in hockey jerseys — I would have got off the bus and applauded.

                  • I think blockbuster weddings are totally great. The problem people have is trying to have one of these silly traditional weddings. Say yes to the dress! You can have a great pot luck wedding. What I think is sad is that people try to have weddings out of Cinderella when that isn’t what their lives are all about. Another thing I hate: photographers! If you want a photographer, hire a wildlife photographer who won’t get in the way. I’ve been to weddings where it seemed more like they were making a movie about a wedding. I like Paul Fussell’s idea of a Brand X lifestyle. Screw trying to be like other people. Be yourself. And that never means a traditional wedding — unless you are Chelsea Clinton.

  2. I suddenly remember that, in high school, our Drama class put on a play where we acted out several Shel Silverstein poems. I was the man who had a family of wrens stuck in his hair, and we got a Dr. Seuss hat, cut some holes in it, and put stuffed birds hanging out. Also I think I had a part in the one where a kid turns into a TV. We did the whole thing at a children’s hospital. No real point to this, but it was a fun memory.

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