Location: marengo, il, United States

Sunday, December 20, 2009

it's never easy being green

i once had a job in the military where i worked along side my contemporaries as a graphic artist for leatherneck magazine, published by the united states marine corps. it all sounded glamorous when i first arrived, but i soon learned to hate the assignment.

i discovered right away that it was tedious and boring work. confined to a small cubicle, each artist sat at a tiny drafting table where he struggled to make the text of a given story fit a two or three-page layout. he was also supplied with a handful of eight by ten black and white photographs which he had to crop to fit on the page in an eye-pleasing fashion.

all of our efforts came under the scrutiny of the art director. he typically criticized everything he saw, while offering his own ideas of how a page should look. we all learned that there was no winning with this guy.

during slow times, we layout artists would congregate and complain among ourselves about how unfair and depressing it was to work for such an egomaniac, and how things should change. that is, all except paul.

paul lloyd had transferred to leatherneck magazine directly from viet nam, where his job overseas meant hauling ammunition for a machine gunner through hot and humid jungles filled with leeches, poisonous snakes and, of course, lots of viet cong guerrillas who were bent on killing him and other marines.

he would patiently listen to us gripe about the horrible working conditions in our building as we sat next to one of several air conditioners located on our floor.

and then he would shake his head after we were done complaining, and would say how thankful he was just to be working indoors, as well as living with his wife and kids in a nice apartment in arlington, virginia. he had also stopped having bad dreams and sweating like he used to, he said.

the rest of us quit our bitching after that.

paul could tell a great story and made most of us laugh with his animated way of saying things. soon after hearing him describe a gorilla who rejoiced with his clan after discovering that a large bone could knock a gorilla from another tribe senseless, i made a point to go see the newly-released movie called "2001: a space odyssey". it turned out that i liked paul's humorous narrative best.

then he told us about the wilkins coffee ads he had seen on television in philadelphia, where he grew up. we laughed ourselves sick as he acted out several of the commercials for our entertainment.

a customer in a check-out line wants to buy a cheap brand of coffee.

the cashier inquires.

"wouldn't you rather try wilkins coffee?"

"nope. i like the cheap stuff."

the cashier glares at him and growls.

"cheap stuff is for the birds."

and with that, a giant hammer comes out of nowhere and knocks the customer unconscious. little birds fly in a circle, singing "cheep-cheep-cheep!"

the cashier looks down at the the floor and then stares into the camera.

"cheap stuff is for the birds."

in another ad, a cab driver pulls to a stop on a busy street. someone on the sidewalk screams into his window.

"i have to get to the airport, and fast!"

"do you drink wilkins coffee?"

"no! why?"

"too bad."

and the cab zooms away, leaving the dumb-founded passenger stranded.

yes, i laughed at the way paul told things. the man had a knack for comedy.

but then recently, while doing an internet search, i learned the shocking truth about the wilkins coffee ads: muppeteer jim henson was behind them all.

he used early versions of kermit the frog and rowlf the dog as his two main characters. henson made lots of the coffee commercials, which aired across the country during the 1960's.

i found a few examples you can watch on youtube.

no wonder i thought paul was so funny.


Blogger Chris said...

Giving guitar lessons is a funny gig week to week. One day I walk in and the guitar shop owners daughter tells me she's signed me up a new student. Name's 'Jim Henson.'

He never showed. The owner and I got a chuckle though. That was the week ole Jim Passed on.

BTW, I love your stories Dad!

7:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home