published in Volume 6, Issue 3 on September 1st, 1999 Everybody's working for the weekend" the song says, but let's look at it. Obviously Friday night is a good start, but I can't stay up too late. I'm outta bed at 5:30 a.m., so by 10:00 Friday night, maybe 11:00, I am almost the walking dead. Sunday? Well, it's a good day, but you spend some part of it getting ready for Monday. No, the real heart of the weekend is Saturday. The whole day is yours; you can sleep in, and then stay up late knowing that the next day isn't Monday.
My earliest Saturday memory involves concern: One Saturday I was concerned that I was missing Supercar so I woke my mother. Mom was concerned that I woke her at 6:30 in the morning a full four hours before Supercar was to air. Here is one of the key differences in the use of Saturday: Mom had graduated to the adult use of Saturday as a day to sleep in, I had not. One of the less publicized transitional stages between childhood and adolescence is the change from wanting to rise to watch cartoons in the morning to wanting to stay in bed until adults think something is wrong with you.
I don't remember winter Saturdays, although I'm positive I had them. I mostly recall sunny, warm Saturdays. After the cartoons (Space Ghost, Jonny Quest, Fireball X-L5, Spiderman, Fantastic Four,) it was time to get moving. You didn't dare stay in the house on Saturday in 1960's Omaha. Back then there was no cable with 57channels and nothing on. There were only three stations in town and they were controlled by clueless men who believed that Omaha had a vast audience thirsting for golf and fishing shows.
Some Saturdays I would call my pal Randy and one of us would walk the miles to the other's house. Our play often involved us pretending to be comic book super heroes or the "two detectives." The two detectives must have had great incomes and lousy travel agents because they were always on vacation in some troubled Balkan village. This facilitated the supernatural menaces the two detectives most often encountered. Our stories were simplified homages to (rip-offs of) the old Universal classics, which aired on Dr. San Guinary's Creature Feature (on Saturday nights of course). The two detectives always got split up and one was "knocked unconscious" so that either Randy or myself could play the monster. As detectives, only Mannix got knocked unconscious more often than we did. Mannix was a detective drama that aired on Saturday night. I would take my Saturday night bath and listen to his cases as I sat pruning in the tub. To this day when I hear his theme song on Nick-at-Nite I get that Saturday night sensation--I hear traffic from the street 30 years ago, and feel the breeze that rustled my bedroom blinds.
Saturday nights I would spread my comics out on the bed and make-up and act out stories of my own. Because of all the physical contortions and histrionic aerobics involved in my writing at that time, my mother called it "hippety hop." I do feel that unfortunate term fails to capture the glory of that creative period. "Working the Dream Forge" seems better to me.
Saturdays often meant walking to the movies. My mother would let me take five dollars from her wallet stored in the upper right hand drawer of her desk. Five dollars bought a lot more than today, but it was a little harder to make the five dollars by working as a seamstress as my mother did. The multiplexes had not even a foothold in Nebraska then. Movie theatres were single, large screen affairs with multiple bills. In south Omaha there was a theatre called, The Chief. The Chief was vastly politically incorrect by today's standards, with its Indian head marquee and faded canoeing murals straight out of Longfellow on the walls. It cost 75 cents to get in to see triple and quadruple bills with great movies like Superargo VS The Faceless Giants, Goliath and the Dragon, Yog, Monster from Space, Blacula, The Lost Continent, and the Incredible Two-Headed Transplant.
The popcorn at The Chief was so covered in "butter" that it was often mushy. As a kid I thought that was real value. Mom never used enough butter at home. I remember the floors of The Chief. They were filthy, covered with a deadly mixture of "butter," spilled soda and Good and Plenty's. The sensation and sound of peeling my shoes off that floor is with me to this day. After the movies, Randy and I would go down to the Sportsmen's store and buy comic books for 12 cents apiece--I think it was called the Sportsmen's store because it sold racing forms. Certainly there was no athleticism evident. Indeed, a less athletic bunch would be hard to envision--everyone at the store was white-haired, overweight, smoking and wearing a cap with some herbicide or tobacco logo on it.
After buying our comics we would walk up to McDonald's (their slogan was "Change for your dollar"), buy burgers and walk to A&W where we would sit and eat while we read our comics over frosty mugs of root beer. (There was nowhere to sit at McDonalds back then, it was strictly a to-go joint) Sometimes Randy would spend the night and we'd watch Creature Feature.
My God, Saturdays were LONG. You had forever on a Saturday.
Okay, I do remember a winter Saturday. Some Saturdays Randy and I would walk to Frank's house and we would walk downtown over the 16th street bridge. In the winter that was a murderous trek, with the north wind chewing our noses, toes and fingers. Our goal was to get to the bus station and have hot chocolate. Hot chocolate that you can barely afford on a cold Saturday is among the best tastes on this earth. Savoring each drop because you know you don't have money for more.
On those Saturdays we'd all walk to one of the downtown theatres like the Omaha (it survived for years on blaxploitation films), the Astro (its Moorish architecture shielded it from the wrecking ball), or the Cooper 70 (incredibly high prices for soda and popcorn--it deserved to be torn down). At some point we'd end up at the Brandeis department store. We'd go to the record department on the fifth floor and hang-out in a little room with a pop machine. In there the black light would illuminate all the posters of peace signs and long-haired young people promoting drugs and free love (if we were lucky we'd see a bare breast or two). The big department store was dying as the shopping malls began to sprout up pulling all the traffic away from downtown.
On the way back home we'd stop at City News and Book. Randy and I would buy our comic books and Frank would get thrown out of the adult magazine section. As I'd walk I remember looking forward to getting home with my comics and seeing what treats Mom brought back from the store. One steamy Nebraska afternoon there was icy cold Welch's grape pop when it first appeared. Another time she bought Simba, a Mountain Dew-like drink that has long since vanished.
Some days I wish I could go back. Not to live, not to abandon the wonderful life I have now. I haven't forgotten getting beat-up, nor the agony that was, and is, math, but just to visit, just to taste the mushy popcorn again and feel the Saturday night breeze while reading comic books and waiting for old monsters on Creature Feature. It would be so nice to walk through the Chief once more, to watch the stories Randy and I acted out as the two detectives, to walk downtown with Frank and go home to see what treats my mom had brought from the store. I'd like to see my mom again, to talk to her, or just look at her for a few minutes. Old photos are not the same. I wonder what I'd learn about her if I got to see her moving and talking with my older, smarter, eyes and ears.
Yesterday was Saturday and as they should, things have changed a lot in thirty years. Amy and I drove to the multiplex by our apartment and watched The Sixth Sense. The popcorn was plain (how I prefer it now) and I drove to get some comic books afterward. Five of them cost me eighteen dollars. Rather than read them in my bedroom or some hamburger joint, I walked over to the grassy area behind our garages and I hoisted my creaky 200 pounds up onto the roof. I sat on the garage roof reading comics in the shade, feeling the breeze blow through my remaining hair, listening to the traffic sounds in my new neighborhood. I took great comfort in the knowledge that Amy would spend the night and that the next day wasn't Monday.