Sunday, June 30, 2019

in this house that I call home

After two years of marriage and two years of paying rent in an apartment, Mrs. Pincus and I bought a house in the small Philadelphia suburb of Elkins Park. The house, a three-story, six-bedroom twin, was just a few blocks from Mrs. P's parents' house, the sprawling residence where Mr.s P grew up. 

Ripped from the headlines
My mother-in-law had been scanning local newspapers ever since my wife casually expressed an interest in purchasing a house. She spotted a small ad in the Classified Real Estate section of the Montgomery County Times-Chronicle offering a "Spacious stone Twin. Elegantly refurbished. 1 block to train, shopping, school." There was a phone number, but no address. My mother-in-law (with, obviously, a lot of free time), scanned each and every page of the modest Elkins Park phone book until she located an address to match the published phone number. My wife covertly drove past the house-in-question like a former girlfriend stalking the cause of a bad break-up. She eyed the place up and concluded that it was a good fit for us... at  least from the outside.

Then, my wife called the number. There was no answer. She called again and again at regular intervals, but there was still no answer, no matter what the time of day. Finally, the next day, her eleven billionth phone call was answered. Her inquiry about the house was met with a bit of hesitancy. The man on the phone – the house's owner – informed us that the home would not be officially shown until Saturday. We made sure that we would be the first ones there on Saturday morning. And indeed we were. The house was perfect – filled with charm and character and fortified with apparent solid construction. We offered the asking price and it was accepted. A few nights later, we found ourselves sitting in our future dining room, signing an Agreement of Sale with the current owners. We packed up our little Northeast Philadelphia apartment and moved into our new home on Labor Day weekend 1986.

Over the course of 33 years, my family seemed to have accumulated a load of stuff. And while we do have a spacious home (as the original newspaper offering promised and delivered), we managed to fill it up to near-capacity. As my wife and I approach our 60s, we decided that it is time to purge. We enjoyed our various collections displayed throughout our house. But, as they say: "You can't take it with you." Last year, when I unceremoniously lost my job, the incentive to "clean house," as it were, became more imminent. Plus, I was determined not to leave a houseful of shit for my son to sort through, as my parents so thoughtfully left for me. We have always sold the occasional household item that we no longer needed or that certain collectible that had been replaced by one in better condition. But, in the immediately desperation of not knowing what the uncertain employment future held for a 57-year old artist, we began to seriously concentrate on thinning out our accrual. We started with our massive Disney collection and never looked back. For months and months, my wife and I sat side-by-side and listed the thousands of items that comprised our 30+ year collection in her eBay store. Soon, we were reassessing everything in our house, trying to determine whether or not we really needed it. Things that were deemed "eBay-worthy" went that route. Items that didn't make the cut were stored on our back porch for inclusion in our yearly yard sale... one of which we staged just this past Saturday.

Early on Saturday (and I do mean "early'), we filled our humble front lawn with, what we hoped to be, someone's new treasures. Happily, many folks came and perused the items strewn across our grass, obviously enticed by the 100 or so signs we tacked to utility poles throughout our neighborhood.

Around noon, an older woman ascended the two cement steps that lead from the sidewalk to our front walkway. She was accompanied by a woman about my own age. The older woman approached me, ignoring the plethora of items lining her path. She was focused on me and not interested in any of our household cast-offs. She stood before me, gestured towards my front porch and asked, "Do you live here?"

"Yes, I do." I answered.

She smiled and maybe even choked back a tear as she continued. "I used to live here. I grew up here and I was married right in the living room." She pointed to the younger woman and said, "My niece grew up here, too." She went on to explain that she got excited when she saw our yard sale ad on Craig's List and recognized the address immediately. She continued on, saying that she grew up in my house in the 1940s, eventually getting married in a small ceremony held in my living room. She implied that her husband was no longer in the picture (either a break-up or death – this was not made clear) and when her sister passed away, her sister's young daughter came to live in the house with her aunt and grandmother. They sold the house in 1980 when the niece (the younger woman by her side) graduated from high school. The house was sold to the couple that Mrs. Pincus and I bought it from. The woman cheerfully related many anecdotes about her childhood in my house, punctuating her stories with questions about accouterments and amenities of the house and if we still kept them in tact. I was treated to a lengthy session of reminisces, including a very cool tale of the woman who lived next door in the 1950s – a mother of three – who jumped to her death from a second story window. I noted that a story like that is usually a deterrent to a potential buyer, but for me, that would be a selling point. After a while, I uncharacteristically offered the inevitable. I welcomed the pair into my house as a trip down the Pincus version of "Memory Lane." 

Leaving my wife to tend to customers on her own (which, with my meager level of help, was a fairly simple task), I took the two women on a tour of their childhood in the current guise of Chez Pincus. Curiously, as we entered my house, the older woman mentioned that she was glad to see that we had not changed anything in the dining room. Puzzled, I ask how she knew that. She sheepishly admitted to reviewing my wife's Facebook photos, using the yard sale post as her entrance. She saw pictures from the phenomenal spread my wife puts out at our annual Thanksgiving Dessert Party. 

The two women grew huge smiles as they looked around my living room, examining the fireplace mantel, the locks on the windows, the original cast-iron radiators. If I didn't know otherwise, I would have thought they were casing the place for a planned burglary. As we moved into the dining room, they caressed the tiny crystal pulls on the louver-doors to our built-in china closet and gazed misty-eyed out the windows that reveal our backyard. In the kitchen, they marveled at the rearranged appliances. The couple from whom we purchased had done extensive remodeling in the six short years they occupied the house. The older woman pointed out that the small attached extension behind the kitchen was referred to, by her family, as "the outside kitchen." We just call it "the back porch." The basement was the biggest shocker to the two women. In the early 1990s, we remodeled our basement as an alternative to moving, transforming a cement-floored, purely utilitarian storage space into a close approximation to a 50s-era diner, complete with a vintage Formica table, black & white checkered floor, vinyl booth seating and a working pinball machine and Q-Bert video cabinet. They remembered a confusing (and somewhat spooky) series of doors and closets making up the dark basement, the younger woman confessing her fright at the thought of going down there alone. It was in stark contrast to the now brightly-lit space, the faux-tiled walls decorated with numerous autographed and framed photos of various levels of celebrities. In the laundry room, I was told that the closet where we currently keep detergent and the small collection of basic household tools we own, was used by the older woman's family as a food pantry.

We headed back upstairs so my charges could see the second and third floors. The older woman stopped to examine a small crevice alongside the banister where she hid small objects as a child. I assured her that nothing would be there anymore, as the mother-daughter team who clean our house probably made off with any trinkets they discovered – that weren't long-forgotten cat toys. Once on the second floor, my guests jogged their collective memories as they scrutinized the moldings at the base of the walls, the fixtures in the bathroom and the unique push-button and turn-knob light switches. They waved off my apologies of not having the made the bed or the state of disarray in the room that previously housed our Disney collection. They were excited to see that we had preserved the beautiful linoleum floor. I told them that we loved that floor, inlaid with muted color nursery rhyme scenes and game boards, from the moment we saw it on our initial tour of the house. Also, it would be impossible to move and would probably crumble if the attempt was made. Moving into the top-floor bathroom, our claw-foot bathtub brought smiles to their faces as did the red-velvet upholstered chair perched under the window (my own addition to the retro "theming" in our house), a prize rescued piece from my grandparents' Philadelphia antique store by way of my parents' living room. And against my better judgement (with Mrs. P's mortified voice in my head), I even opened the door to a walk-in closet that's filled with a jumbled assortment of eBay items, our luggage, a surplus of all-occasion wrapping paper and stuff for the next yard sale.

Roll up!
Our tour completed, we made our way back downstairs and outside to join the yard sale festivities once again. The two women were grateful and appreciative of my hospitality. I was actually surprised that I was so accommodating. It was so unlike me. The older woman told me that she enticed her niece, who was visiting from her current New York City home, with the promise of a mystery trip to a mystery location. I never imagined or even considered that my home would feature in someone's fond memories – other than those with the last name of Pincus, of course.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

nothing but the water

I used to drink a lot of soda. My all time favorite was root beer. I loved drinking root beer when I was a kid, eventually discovering the miraculous flavor transformation my favorite soda made with the addition of a scoop of vanilla ice cream. (Recently, a young neighbor of ours was introduced to root beer floats — or "black cows," as they are called regionally. He told Mrs. Pincus and me that he was going to make us root beer floats, as though he had just invented them. He excitedly ran across the street to his house, we assumed, to prepare his version of the treat. Minutes later, we saw him run out of his house — empty-handed — and head down the block. We called to him, asking where he was going. He screeched to a halt, explaining that he was lacking some of the ingredients... specifically root beer and vanilla ice cream. He said he had everything else.) My father also liked root beer, which is kind of odd, because my father didn't like anything.

Somewhere also the way, I switched my soda preference to Diet Dr. Pepper. Sure, I tried regular Dr. Pepper, but I had always shied away from sweetened soda. All I could ever taste was the sugar. I gravitated towards the diet versions. I really don't care about the alleged detrimental effects of artificial sweeteners, so I actually preferred diet sodas. I liked Diet Dr. Pepper, but I eventually started drinking Diet Coke. I drank a lot of Diet Coke. An awful lot. Then I started drinking Coke Zero, buying into that "zero sugar" claim, but I really didn't care for it. I started to search for some other carbonated beverage to drink.

After one of my vasovagal syncope episodes, a doctor recommended that I drink more water. I interpreted that to mean any form of water. So I began buying and drinking a Walmart branded product called Clear American. The label ambiguously declared Clear American to be a "carbonated water beverage." My son, a seltzer aficionado, turned his nose up at the product, calling it "no better than soda." To prove his point, he served me a bottle of Topo Chico, a bubbly mineral water bottled at a source in Mexico, for comparison. It was good, much different from the 63¢-a-bottle, artificially-flavored stuff I was buying by the case at Walmart.. But not good enough to get me to buy it regularly. I finished the one-and-only bottle of Topo Chico I've ever had and moved on to find the next thing that would become my drink of choice. After passing on another brand of soda and plethora of trendy — and overpriced — seltzers, I found what I had been looking for right in front of my face. It had been there the whole time. 


There is actually a pipe in my kitchen that dispenses it any time I want. I have totally given up every other drink in favor of water. No exotically-named water bottled at some secluded, faraway source. The plain old clear H2O that I pay the fine folks at AQUA PA to pump into my house is a perfectly suitable drink. It goes with everything and clashes with nothing. It doesn't over power that taste of any accompanying food. Sure, I still drink coffee and tea, but, technically, they are just brown water and lighter brown water. 

I don't miss soda at all. I haven't had any in years. I find it amusing when I skip the soda aisle at the supermarket. I get a laugh at the growing number of choices of flavored seltzer and sparkling water...  and the folks pondering the selection.

Those are the sort of important decisions that I reserve for the cereal aisle.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

nazi punks fuck off

I think we can all agree that Nazis were awful. Following Germany's defeat in World War II and the discovery of the full extent of the Holocaust, Nazi ideology became universally disgraced and is widely regarded as immoral and evil.

Except by assholes like Steve Johnson.

Steve lives at 1041 Lindell Drive in El Sobrante, California, sixteen miles north of Oakland (and fuck him if he doesn't like the fact that I published his address). Recently, Steve installed a 10 foot by 10 foot black cement swastika in his front yard, not far from a flagpole on which the ol' Stars and Stripes waves proudly in the breeze coming off the San Francisco Bay. Steve's neighbors aren't so proud. As a matter of fact, they are overcome by concern and ire. A very short time after the installation was completed, local news outlets descended upon Steve Johnson's home, in search of his reason for making such a bold statement. The media, I'm sure, didn't just happen to stumble upon Steve's home renovation project by accident. Lindell Drive is not a major thoroughfare. The entire street only stretches a quarter-mile and dead-ends at another home's driveway, just behind the Pinole Vista Shopping Center – where a Sizzler Steakhouse still operates.. Obviously, one of Steve's justifiably outraged neighbors called the Bay Area newspaper The Mercury News.

Asshole's handiwork.
Reporters from the newspaper, as well as representatives from local TV stations, questioned Steve about his motivation for putting a Nazi symbol on display in front of his house. He gave wishy-washy answers that smacked of insincere innocence. He feigned misunderstanding when he countered an NBC-affiliate reporter's question with "What is a swastika?" He contained with: "It doesn’t represent anything. [It] represents me not having to pull weeds over in that part of my yard; that’s what it represents to me. What does it represent to you?"

His neighbors are furious, including one woman who has lived on Lindell Drive – near Steve – for 27 years. The neighbor, who is Jewish and rightly horrified and offended by Steve's display, said, "I was very clear with him about my feelings. I don’t agree with it. I think it’s wrong. I don’t like it, but it is his yard." She also noted that he had never done anything like this in the past.

Aerial view of an asshole's house.
But, Steve keeps changing his story. He told another reporter that it was a symbol of peace and tranquility from ancient Tibet. When asked if he was, indeed, Tibetan, Steve replied rather cavalierly, "Maybe I am."

Then suddenly, Steve gained some sort of new found knowledge about the history and significance of the symbol. However, he took a decidedly dismissive tone, when he said, "The Nazi stuff happened 80 years ago. Get over it." When a reporter pointed out a swastika sticker affixed to his motorcycle, Steve abruptly ended the conversation and ordered the media off of his property.

This is 2019. In the United States. Land of the free and home of the brave. Where any red-blooded American can grow up to be an asshole.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

all apologies

June is designated as "Pride Month." This is a story I've wanted to tell for a while.

High school is a brutal period in most people's lives and memories. I went to high school in the late 1970s. I hated high school and I attended as little as possible. For me, this was a fairly easy task, since there were 1100 students in my class alone, making an overall student body quadruple that number. So, blending in as a faceless entity was not difficult. I cut a lot of classes to avoid interaction with fellow students or I hung out in an art class when I should have been learning calculus or doing chin-ups. (A cool student teacher, just a few years older than I was, offered me sanctuary in her classroom and covered my actions with convincing excuses to the other teachers.) 

With over 4000 teenagers packing the halls and classrooms, nearly everyone was subject to judgement and ridicule and bullying at one time or another. Unfortunately, it was a time when this common behavior was not addressed with any sort of disciplinary action. It was usually dismissed by those in authority as "kids will be kids" — if it was addressed at all. I had a few "run-ins" with some guys who, I suppose,  got some sort of thrill threatening a skinny, pacifistic artist they knew wouldn't fight back. I was shoved a few times and, of course, several antisemitic slurs were levied at me, because that always makes for good "bully" ammunition. I did my best to avoid my infrequent tormentors and, eventually, they moved on to someone else (or maybe they were finally expelled).

If I was being picked on for being a free-spirit and just a little "out of step" with the "norm," I could just imagine the wrath that any of my gay classmates suffered — not that I really knew anyone who was gay. I'm sure there were gay students in my class. There had to be. It's just statistics. I just didn't know which ones were gay. I suppose they had to remain closeted because.... well, it was high school in the 70s. Calling someone "gay" when I was in high school was an insult of a pretty high level. In hindsight, that was horrible, just horrible. So, that added unnecessarily to the oppression that any gay student already endured. When I said 'I could just imagine the wrath any gay classmate suffered,' I really can't. How could I? But it must have been.... well, horrible. I can only understand that now.

In the 1990s, I was working at as a layout artist at a composition house, something that really doesn't exist any more. I did layout for a bunch of newspapers (something else that barely exists any more) that served small local communities, colleges and a few special interest groups. One of those newspapers was Au Courant, an independent weekly publication with a fairly large circulation in the Philadelphia gay community. The small contingency that formed the staff at Au Courant had broken away from the mighty Philadelphia Gay News over editorial disagreements and started their own tabloid, which was scrappier and hipper than PGN. Every Monday morning, I would lay out the composition boards for the anticipated 32-page issue of Au Courant and soon, I would join my fellow artists in assembling the weekly issue in a "cut-and-paste" method. (Now you know where the "cut" and "paste" commands in various computer programs originate. TMYK.) The entire editorial and advertising staff of Au Courant would file in to the office (Don't be impressed. That only amounted to four or five guys. It was a small paper.) and offer direction for placement of articles and ads.

I have to admit, I was a little leery of these guys, at first. They casually discussed detailed aspects of a lifestyle of which I was totally unfamiliar. It was the first time I had every met anyone who openly and happily acknowledged that they were gay. Initially, it made me uncomfortable, but I also must admit that I was surprised by how normal they were. (In hindsight, that sounds really stupid and narrow-minded.) As the time at this job went on, the more interaction I had with the staff of Au Coutrant, the more I looked forward to Mondays. For the most part, they were a bunch of really nice guys — close to my own age — and I had a lot in common with them. While we worked, we enjoyed lively conversation about movies, music and current events. There was one guy, however, who was a total jerk. That was Michael and Michael was the editor-in chief of the paper. He didn't come to the office often, choosing to leave the composition to his assistant editor who was a smart and funny guy. But when he did come in, he was angry and demanding, barking orders at his staff and belittling those who didn't heed his call on the first bellow. 

It was then that it hit me. Why on earth would anyone dislike someone just because they were gay? It made no sense.... just like any prejudice makes no sense. Gay people are just people. Some are nice and some are jerks. As a self-proclaimed misanthrope, I know there are zillions of reasons to dislike someone long before "gay" makes the list. Michael was an absolute asshole. Conversely, Harry, the head of advertising sales, was a nice guy. A really nice guy. The fact that they were gay had absolutely no bearing or relevance to the types of personality traits they exhibited. They were just like everyone else. (There I go again. You know what I mean.)

After a year or so, Michael's visits became less and less frequent. When he did show up, he looked gaunt and weak and he remained seated most of the time. His voice was hoarse and it appeared to be an effort to speak. His boyfriend Joe, a nice, relatively quiet guy, led Michael around when he was asked. The most ubiquitous tool used in the newspaper composition business was an X-Acto knife. I used one at every one of my early, pre-computer jobs. I became deftly accurate at slicing up "galleys," another job skill that is now obsolete. On one of his last appearances in our office, Michael announced that he was not permitted to handle or be in proximity of an X-Acto knife. Shortly after, the Au Courant staff shared whispered conversations about AIDS. Shortly after that, we were informed that Michael had passed away. I surprised myself by how I felt. I was crushed. Michael was the first person around my own age that I knew that died. Dying was for old people, not for 35-year-olds. I didn't like Michael. Not because he was gay, but because he wasn't a nice person. I did, however, make a donation to MANNA (Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance, a volunteer organization that brings meals to those in the Philadelphia area that are battling AIDS) in Michael's honor. I have made yearly donations (when I can) ever since.

I eventually left the composition house and moved on to my first job where I didn't use an X-Acto knife. A few nights a week, I also helped my wife with her blossoming eBay business. One evening, I was wrapping some glassware with old newspapers that we had accumulated. I grabbed the top sheet of the pile as I carefully lifted a fragile Depression glass sugar bowl with my other hand. I'm lucky I didn't drop the piece, as I was startled by a headline I saw in the several-weeks-old newspaper. It was in the "Obituary" section of a recent Philadelphia Inquirer. There was a black and white photograph of Harry, the advertising sales guy from Au Courant, accompanying a three-paragraph synopsis of his brief life. I scanned the story. It highlighted his education and his career, noting, most recently, he was employed in the sales department of the Inquirer itself. What was missing from the story was a life-defining incident that Harry had told me one day.

Harry spent a good portion of his life trying to live up to his father's expectations. His father, he explained, was a Camden, New Jersey police officer — a tough motorcycle cop, as a matter of fact. Harry did his very best to suppress his homosexual feelings, so — as he put it — as not to embarrass his father in front of his cop friends. Harry went to his senior prom with a girl from his class. After high school, he married a woman in an attempt to make his father proud. A little over a year into his marriage, Harry's wife returned home unexpectedly early from a day of running errands. She discovered Harry in their bed with a man. Harry told me the feeling of "getting caught" after so many years of acting the way he was "supposed" to act was liberating. Harry and his wife divorced. Harry became estranged from his father (however, they reconciled just prior to his father's death). But, Harry was finally living the life he wanted to live. His life. His way. It's just sad that he was only able to enjoy that life for only a dozen or so years. That story should have been the inspirational lede to Harry's obit.

My interaction with the guys from Au Courant taught me a valuable lesson and it changed my outlook for the rest of my life. Sure, there are plenty of people that I dislike. I don't deny that and I don't think I will ever stop disliking someone. But, I have reasons for my animosity. It is based on things they have said and actions they have taken against me personally. I never, ever have contempt for someone for what they believe in or how they look or who they love (unless they love The Dave Matthews Band. I have no tolerance for that!).

I'm not gay. Nor am I black... or Asian.... or Muslim..... or tall.... or good at math.... or any number of other qualities that make me different from everyone else. So what? Is that a reason to dislike someone? No. No, it is not. That would be stupid.

Don't be stupid. Just be who you are. Let others be who they are.

Unless you're stupid.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

fiddle about

My love of all things Disney is no secret. This story, however, is about my love of small things Disney.

After many trips to the Walt Disney World Resort just outside of Orlando, Florida, my family and I decided to check out Walt's original theme park on the west coast. Of course the Pincus family doesn't do anything in a normal way. We headed to Southern California by way of Las Vegas, spending three days in Sin City before driving four hours across the Mojave Desert to Anaheim.

Friends told us that we would be disappointed by Disneyland as compared to Walt Disney World. The California version is small and quaint, they warned. You'll be bored after a day. They were wrong. We fell in love just moments after stepping through the entrance gates. There is something homey and warm about Disneyland that doesn't exist in Walt Disney World. Sure, we love Disney World, but it seems so big and sprawling and corporate. (Yeah, I know. That sounds silly. Disney exudes "corporate!") Planning a vacation to Walt Disney World is little like planning to lead troops into battle. You must have a preconceived strategy, a game plan, a proposal for attack. There is no down time! Move, move, move! No time for relaxation! There's Dole Whip to eat and singing pirates to see! Disneyland didn't seem like that... at least to me... at least in 2004. The first thing I noticed, as we approached a familiar-looking Main Street USA, was The Main Street Cinema was actually showing movies. In Walt Disney World, The Main Street Cinema had long been transitioned into another gift shop selling the same Disney trinkets as every other shop on Main Street. Disneyland had open areas with benches and beautifully landscaped shrubbery. And not just in one little place near the forecourt of Sleeping Beauty Castle. There were little shady spots throughout the park. Secluded quiet places with a bench or two taking up precious real estate that, in Florida, would have someone hawking membership in the Disney Vacation Club upon it. Disneyland, on the other hand, is a place that folks who live in the surrounding area can just wake up in the morning and say "Hey! Let's go to Disneyland!" Just pure spontaneity with no planning whatsoever. After a day of observing the little touches of thoughtful detail, my family was in agreement that Disneyland seemed closer to Walt's original idea of a theme park.

Our last trip to Disneyland was in 2011. Things began to change a short time after, with a big push for big change over the past few years. It worked, too. Park attendance has increased.... by three million annually.

Your time is up.
As I write this, it is the eve of Disneyland opening one of its most ambitious expansions. After three years of secretive construction, Disneyland will unveil the much-anticipated "Galaxy's Edge," a 14-acre immersive land based on the beloved and lucrative "Star Wars" movie franchise (which Disney purchased the rights to in 2012). Much speculation, rumor and excitement has filled the Disney-loving community since groundbreaking on the project took place. As opening day drew closer, Disney began to issue reservations for admission. Due to anticipated popularity, guests will be limited to a four-hour visit during the first month of operation. Those who fail to comply with the time limitations will be escorted out of Galaxy's Edge by storm troopers straight out of the film series. (I kid you not!) Along with the enveloping experience, Disney is selling custom light sabers for two hundred dollars, custom "droids" for ninety-nine dollars and, if you get thirsty, Oga's Cantina will set you up with a rum-laced "Yub Nub" in a souvenir glass for forty-two bucks. Disney is poised to make gajillions.

But that's not what this story is about. This story is about the little touches at Disneyland. The things that Disney does so well and go relatively unnoticed by the theme-park going masses. Stuff that Disney doesn't have to do, but does anyway, because its part of the "magic" that Disney prides itself on providing. The kind of things that make Disney Disney and sets them apart from other theme parks. Sure, the big thrill rides are what draws the crowds and whips up excitement. But, the little one-on-one interactions are just as important and often much more memorable. So, as Disneyland excitedly gears up for the reveal of Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, it waves a tearful goodbye to one of those little pieces of "magic" — Farley the Fiddler

Have fun.
Farley the Fiddler was one of those special added touches that brought a smile to guests' faces as they strolled the wooden-plank walkways of Frontierland. At near hourly intervals, Farley — a tall, lanky fellow decked out in full Western regalia — would stand outside of the Pioneer Mercantile, draw a rosined bow across his weather-patinaed fiddle and delight the small crowds that would gather. He would play some classic cowboys tunes, He would perform a few cool tricks with a lariat. He would even tell a few corny jokes in the trademark Disney vein. Of course, he'd pose for pictures, too. Sometimes, Farley would hand out stickers as a free souvenir. (Wow! Something free at Disneyland!) Farley did this on a daily basis  (with a few days off here and there) for nearly a quarter of a century. Just this past Monday — Memorial Day 2019 — Farley the Fiddler hoed his last down and hooted his last nanny. After seven shows a day for twenty-three years, Farley the Fiddler called it a career.

Farley the Fiddler
My family and I stumbled upon Farley the same way most guests do — by accident. We were shopping (browsing) in the Pioneer Mercantile, scanning the merchandise and marveling at the detail of the displays and fixtures (as we do in most Disneyland gift shops), when we heard sweet fiddle music just outside the far entrance. We walked outside and right into the middle of a Farley afternoon front-porch performance. He offered a wide, friendly smile and gave us a nod, tilting his Stetson in our direction, never once interrupting the bright, cheerful tune emanating from his fiddle. He chatted with us and other guests between songs and rope tricks, peppering his banter with some groan-worthy cowboy puns. ("I get a lot of fringe benefits," he said, gesturing to his decorated buckskin vest.) He'd politely excuse himself at the timed conclusion of his set and let everyone know when he'd return. Then, he'd nonchalantly disappear behind a cast member door, like all the other Disneyland cast members.

We made sure we stopped to see Farley on subsequent visits year after year. While searching the internet for more information, I found a blog post from 2015 written by a woman about the fun she and her children had with Farley the Fiddler. I even left a comment on the post to let her know she was not alone and to express my admiration of Farley.

Farley's retirement is bittersweet. I know that the next time I go to Disneyland, Farley won't be fiddling on the porch at the Pioneer Mercantile. I know, instead, that the queue to ride "Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run" will probably wind down to where Farley spun that rope and cracked a few silly one-liners. But, that's progress... I suppose.

I hope they still have a couple of benches.