Blog Eight

On our way to get ribs take-out, the world seemed almost normal with cars on the streets and kids in their yards and Trump banners on the sides of homes.

The sun was out and the temperature was fairly warm. All in all, somewhat what you’d expect for a spring day in New Jersey. Except for the fact that lurking not far beneath the calm veneer is a gigantic, hairy monster that threatens to eat everything insight.

Rather than go on about the hairy monster, I’d like to talk about Jackie Gleason. Last night I dreamed that I went bar hopping with the bug guy.

Just me and the big man right out of our black and white Dumont TV. Go figure. I could have picked Brando or Bogie or even Garbo or Ingrid Bergman. Maybe my subconscious will pick one of them for tomorrow night.

But for now it’s memories of the Honeymooners and Ralph Cramden’s blustering, “One of these days, Alice, pow, right in the kisser” and “Bang! Zoom! To the moon Alice, to the moon!” and finally, “Alice, you’re the greatest.”

He made me laugh then and still does now, the sorrowful, windbag, big-hearted, bus driving Ralph Cramden. He was always coming up with lame ideas with his sidekick, sewer worker Ed Norton.

Ralph’s wife, Alice, would rescue him from his hairbrain schemes and finally leave him showered with her love while Norton’s wife, Trixie, had equal affection for her goofy husband.

Back then, in the postwar days of black and white TV, Ralph was everyone’s dad. You could laugh at him or yell at him but in the end you had to love the guy.

Stating the obvious, it was a simpler time, much simpler. At least looking back it seems that way. I know it wasn’t really simple. There was disease, war, poverty, racism and all the rest. But the show was a beautifully, funny diversion about a loud-mouth who always got his comeuppance but never really hurt anyone but himself in the end. All Ralph really wanted was to give Alice a better life. Sweet.

And there was Ralph’s foil, Norton, who had the simplicity and intellect of a good-hearted child. You had to cringe when you saw Ralph’s latest plan and how Norton was inevitably suckered in. But Norton and Ralph always somehow survived to screw up another day.

Alice and Trixie were there to save the day, standing by their men through thick and thin. And you just knew their marriages would last an eternity. Funny they never had kids but that would have detracted from Gleason’s brilliance.

I did some research about the man who was born John Herbert Gleason in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Feb. 26, 1916. Gleason smoked six packs of cigarettes a day until he died at 71 on June 24, 1987, in Lauderhill, Fla.

He was 19 when his mother died in 1935 of sepsis from a large neck carbuncle that her son had tried to lance. He reported for induction into the Army in 1943 but got out of serving and was classified 4-F after doctors found that he had a pilonidal cyst existed at the end of his coccyx, and that he was 100 pounds overweight.

His first big role was a Chester A. Riley in the television comedy, “The Life of Riley.” After that came his breakthrough and “The Honeymooners.”

I know I would be a poorer man without my memories of The Honeymooners. Ralph, Norton, Alice and Trixie can still transport me back to a time when my biggest concern was whether I could have ice cream that night.

Journalist for 40 years and now a creative writer