The first question Marvin asked me when I entered his palatial home in San Diego was: “Is yours as big as mine?”
He pointed to the humongous T.V. set in his living room. I already knew that he had 7 T.V. sets in his house. (And three of the rooms had an Elvis theme.) In fact, there was one just opposite this room, setting off the collectibles in his faux foyer. I often found his wife watching T.V. there in the mornings.
“How big is yours?” I asked, playing the game. “53 inches,” he remarked proudly. “Naw,” I answered, “Mine’s only 41.” He seemed rather pleased.
And without asking, he put on the first DVD of the Doo Wop shows, PBS specials that showed fifties’ artists performing as they are now. And that’s how my 2006 Christmas visit began.
I hadn’t been back for Christmas since Mom died in 2000. Actually, she passed away on Christmas day. I flew down two days later to start the sale of the house in Coronado. There was a lot to do.
And somehow there’s been a lot to do since. But on this short visit, five days, I promised my brother I’d come visit.
On the second night there, I attended his 66th birthday party at the Eagles. I picked up Rick after he got off work; thankfully he knew where the Eagles hall was. When we walked in, it was easy to recognize that I didn’t know a soul besides Marvin, Marvin’s wife, and Ricky. In fact, I didn’t even know the songs that the two bands played. Occasionally, or I should say “rarely,” the bands would go into English lyrics and play some ‘50’s song everyone recognized, like “Lil Darlin’.” And at that point, everyone would jump up and dance. But when the Captain told me they’d be playing oldies but goldies, I didn’t realize they’d be Tijuana oldies. I didn’t recognize most of the tunes.
But Captain Marbles sure enjoyed it. He sang two songs while we were there, and I understand he sang two songs after we left around 9:30. “Blue Christmas” was one song he sang, and it seemed to go on for about 5 minutes, 5 minutes of “decorations of red on a green Christmas tree….” I know Elvis sang other Christmas songs. You’d never know it by current record play.
The Captain wore a black Stetson hat and a black leather “Texas Hold ‘Em” jacket, both from Vegas. He was easy to spot, and ran around all night long saying hello to everyone. I have no idea where he gets the energy. And when the band resembling Los Lobos would play a song he recognized, he’d leap up and do some version of a modern twist.
I felt bad that I hadn’t brought my camera to record the birthday party. I did get a photo of me and him on my cell phone, though, and sent it to a few friends, those who know the Captain by reputation.
During the rest of the time, we squeezed a lot in. Ricky, Joel and I went to Disneyland, just for the day, and mostly for Joel. I got to visit Rick at his new job at the Coronado Senior Center, and a fine place it is. Marvin, Rick and I played the game of Life, a game I haven’t played in about 30 years. It’s amazing what you can do with a convertible and a couple of stick kids.
And I watched more Doo-Wop. We must’ve watched over 12 hours of those DVDs. It’s so weird to see people like that lead singer of the Fleetwoods singing “Mr. Blue.” He’s balding, he’s got a paunch, but he’s still got that sweet tenor voice. He’s older. How weird.
We’re older. But still connecting, somehow. Even if our T.V. screens don’t match.