My Collection

I am a collector. Collecting is a great hobby, if you can afford it. I can’t. So my collection is a little different. There are lots of things to collect, but I have no interest in collecting physical things, mainly because I have no where to put them. Plus I have noticed that people who collect thins tend to be a little annoying about it, unless, of course you have a genuine interest in whatever it is they have devoted their life and/or life’s savings to. The problem is, you have to look at their entire collection of baseball cards, comic books, Elvis plates, or whatever, and pretend that you really care. And the stories surrounding their collection can do the impossible, which is, they are more boring than the collection itself.

My collection is different; I collect trivia. I have found this to be almost the perfect hobby. It costs no money, takes up no space in my house, and occupies very little of my time; all attributes that appeal to me. It is not entirely perfect, however. I have found that it is possible to annoy others with my collection. I have been threatened with bodily harm if I didn’t shut up. (The actual words they use are usually more colorful than just “shut up.”) And forget about playing Trivial Pursuit. Like Monopoly, it is a game that can bring out some very ugly emotions from the most stable of people. I am convinced that my wife and I would not be together if we attempted to play Monopoly together more than once every five years. An even then it’s a little touchy.

Lately, I have been working on a particular collection of trivia, specifically the full names of everyone from that hallmark of modern culture, Gilligan’s Island. Hey, I’m a child of the early seventies, what do you expect. Oh sure, Thurston Howell III and his lovely wife Lovey are easy. But how about Mrs. Howell’s maiden name. A little tougher than you thought, huh? Sure, everyone thinks it’s easy, but this trivia business is definitely not for weenies. I doubt that more than one person in a thousand know the professor’s name, or the skipper’s. And even rarer is the person who knows Gilligan’s full name. If you ever meet such a person, do not be afraid, they are mostly harmless. Please do not stare at them, as you will make them uncomfortable, and they may scamper back into the woods. Be careful, they may bite if cornered.

Here then for your approval is the complete list of passengers and crew that set sail that fateful day for a three hour tour. Yes, I know, if it was only a three hour tour, why did they take their luggage. My sister-in-law can explain it, but it involves Camelot, and John F. Kennedy, and is very bizarre. It is a little beyond the realm of my comprehension, although to hear her tell it, it makes perfect sense. That is until you sit down and try to sort it out for yourself. Enough about that, here then is the list: In addition to the Howell’s you may already know the full names of Ginger Grant and Mary Ann Summers. Those are the easy ones. By the way, Lovey’s maiden name was Wentworth. Give yourself extra credit if you remember that episode. The professor’s real name was Roy Hinkley. It was mentioned less often than Wentworth, which is to say it was mentioned once. Likewise only revealed once was the skipper’s name, Jonas Grumby. You really had to be paying attention to catch those.

At last we come to the holy grail of seven stranded castaways trivia. Gilligan’s full name. If you don’t remember it from the reruns, don’t feel bad, it was never mentioned. (Although they did mention a brother named Peter.) The question of Gilligan’s name has been a great kept secret from the masses for all these many years. A question left to only the most serious of trivia collectors. Gilligan was named by, Sherwood Schwartz, the creative genius behind the Island. (Okay, maybe genius isn’t the right word.) For many years, not even Bob Denver, Gilligan himself, knew his character’s full name. After growing tired of not being able to answer this seemingly simple question, Bob went to Sherwood to find the answer to this, the mother of all trivia questions. I saw Bob reveal the answer to this last piece in my collection tody on TV. It was truly a momentous occasion. At last, my Gilligan collection would be complete. Maybe now I would be able to sleep at night. As the great Bob Denver spoke the words, I felt a heavy weight lift from my shoulders. His full name was…Willy Gilligan. I feel much better now.

When Dreams Come True

I have had a dream come true. First time that’s happened to me, at least that I am aware of. It wasn’t a very good dream, nothing to do with world peace, fortune and glory, or leggy super-models. No, it was just a silly little dream that I honestly never expected would come true. There are no great ramifications of this dream coming to pass. At least not for me, although it may have destroyed the career of a promising and moderately popular Irish folk singer, but it didn’t change my life one bit.

Okay, I will attempt to explain this dream. It involves Gordon Lightfoot, Gilligan’s Island, and several pints of imported ale. If you don’t see the connection between Mr. Lightfoot and the tropic island castaways, well that’s where the beer comes in. If you’ve never heard the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot you probably will not understand. You really need to hear the song to get the full impact of what happened. (Call up some of you old hippie friends, one of them probably has an old 45 or 8-track you can listen to. If you don’t know what a 45 or an 8-track is, you’re too young to be reading this.)

Like most things of little or no value, this dream was born of sheer boredom. My wife and I were at our friend’s house, sitting around very bored, and drinking beer. Yes that is the textbook formula for trouble. But since we are all older now, trouble doesn’t usually involve getting arrested. At some point we began singing old songs that you don’t hear on the radio. This was inspired by the discovery of an old K-tel record, a veritable time capsule of old songs so bad that even the oldies stations wont play them. At some point later we began singing the theme songs to old TV shows.  This was most likely inspired by the beer.  Did I mention we were bored.  Tremendously, stupifyingly, where no bored man has gone before, bored. We were then blessed by a divine inspiration. At least it seemed so at the time. We found that you could sing the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Try it sometime, it works, just make sure no one’s listening first. Much to our surprise we found that the words to many other songs fit this tune. An amazingly adaptable piece of music, this Wreck of the Edmund FitzMinnow. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, they all fit. We couldn’t find one sitcom from the 60’s that didn’t work. The Partridge Family was kind of tough though, mainly because we couldn’t remember the words. Since that moment I have had this silly little dream of standing up on stage in a bar or pub somewhere and singing out the Wreck of the Gilligan FitzIsland. Don’t ask me why, it just one of those things.

A few weeks later I had completely forgotten my dream. We were sitting in the Fox and Hound, one of our favorite pubs in the Tampa area, with some more of our friends, not at all bored, and then it happened.  The dream suddenly and miraculously did not come true. What did happen is the Irish folk singer that night began his set with guess what; yep, it was the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Correct words and all. While he played we sat at our table and happily sang the theme to Gilligan’s Island.  Once again it fit perfectly, and we were all quite pleased with ourselves. That was truly the high point of the night. It turns out the singer was not one of those bright, cheery, come-on-everybody-and-sing-along type of folk singers.  Rather he was one of those dark, depressing, always wearing black clothes type.  He started with a song that is, after all, about death, and then moved on to more depressing songs that were even more about death. Rousing songs like Bloody Well Dead, We’ll all be dead in the Morning, and Happy Birthday. His version went something like: “Happy Birthday, soon you’ll be dead.” We have since heard that he will not be returning to the Fox and Hound, so it remains one of our favorite pubs. On our way to find somewhere more cheerful, like maybe a cemetery, we saw that one of our favorite folk singers, one of the bright and cheery kind, was coming to town in two weeks. We made a point to come back and see him.

Noel Cooney is a real, honest-to-God Irish folk singer straight from Dublin, Ireland. (Well, by way of Orlando, but he’s definitely Irish, in the long-standing tradition of bright and cheery Irish folk singers.) Unlike most Saturday nights, this night our little pub was surprisingly empty, just our table, one other paying table, and a table that featured the manager and her friend, who was already a little drunk and had to leave soon. So Noel, trying not to let this get him down, spent a lot of time talking with his audience.  Both tables.  So after a few pints of the imported ale I mentioned earlier, we asked Noel if he knew a certain song. Yes in fact he did know the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but unfortunately he did not know the words to Gilligan’s Island. (You have to remember, he’s not from this country.) That’s when it happened. Noel, being one of those come-on-and-sing-along type folk singers invited us up to sing our special little version of Gilligan’s Island, while Noel’s guitar played the mournful melody of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I have never been more proud.

Then a strange thing happened. (As if this wasn’t strange enough already.) Noel discovered, as we had, that this tune works with the words of many other songs.  With no prompting from us he launched into the Edmund Fitzgerald Hillbillies, a stirring story of a man named Jed. He then found that all those traditional sing-along Irish folk songs also fit with the tune.  In fact, he found that every song could be sung to the tune of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He called out for requests from the audience to prove it And he did. If there was any doubt, it was completely and utterly erased when he did it to the song Tequila, very difficult when you consider the song only has one word. The man is truly a master of musical juxtaposition. (Go look it up.) He had practice though. It seems that for some time he had been performing songs to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky. You cannot imagine what Amazing Grace sounds like when performed like that. It is, well, amazing. For several hours that night, every song was played three times. First to Edmund Fitzgerald, then to Ghost Riders, then, if the audience protested loudly enough, to it’s own tune. I think the manager threatened to physically injure Noel if he didn’t play something else. Like I said, we may have seriously damaged his career. What if he’s unable to stop playing that song. What if he can no longer find work and becomes homeless and destitute.  What if he is reduced to playing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on street corners for pocket change from sympathetic passers-by. We hope not, we hope to see him the next time we are at the Fox and Hound.  We hope he will not be too angry with us. Just let this be a lesson to all you bored people out there. Dreams (silly ones anyway) can be a dangerous thing.