I begin by saying that when I was 5 years old I was, of all things, a HUGE fanatic of Mister Ed (you remember... 50's sitcom, talking horse?). It was so important to me that, at that tender age, I learned how to use an alarm clock so that I could catch it at its 5AM time slot. Oh, how that peanut-butter-chewin' horse fascinated me! How does this matter, you ask? Fast-Forward two years...
I had moved from Alameda Island to the far-off wilderness of Placerville, a tiny rural burg a couple of hours downhill from Tahoe. It was, to be blunt, boredom central. I was used to having everything from Korean Noodle shops to Taquerias to Kosher delis to corner stores selling nickle-a-pop treasures from around the world within a ten minute walk of my house. The place we had moved into was no closer than a ten minute drive from anything, and my mother had never gotten her driver's liscense. I was trapped.
So there I was, having tried every amusement involving the materials at hand in this hinterland; namely: Mud, rocks, and fire. I got hosed down buck naked in the front yard for being covered in the first, a nasty goose-egg on my head from getting into a good-natured battle with the second, and my ass ruthlessly beat for trying to make popcorn in the backyard with the third. I was out of ideas, so back to the ol' TV I retired, hoping for the best.
In those low-tech days before cable had snaked its way up into the mountains, our television could receive all of six channels, and cartoons were only aired in brief snatches, when at all. Therefore, the vast majority of programming was limited to the types of shows that could never have held the attention of a wide-eyed seven-year-old. That is, until 3 O'clock. That's when the afternoon cartoon show began.
It was called "Uncle" or "Captain" "Somebody's" "Something" show, and it was a pure blessing; three solid hours of action-packed animated bliss. At first, the shows were mainly hero cartoons from the 60's: Birdman, Space Ghost, the Herculoids, and so-forth. One day, however, they threw in a curve ball... something different; something which would change my life forever.
So again, there I was, lying prone before our television set, ready to partake in another heaping helping of "Wham! Bam! Bang!", when it happened: I saw the sun rising over the surface of the moon, saw the blazing blue rockets, and then an amazing-looking space ship tore across the screen! As it dissolved upwards into the sky, the picture went black; stars emerged from inky background, and amidst a halo-like galaxy, these words appeared: SANDY FRANK PRESENTS... and a booming voice announced: "BATTLE(battle,battle) OF THE PLANETS(planets,planets)!!!
My muscles locked, my eyes glazed. I was transfixed. Who were these heroes, with their huge, sparkling eyes? Where did they come from? I didn't know, and I didn't care. all I knew was that this was something different, something special. Why did it remind me of the Ultraman show I had seen on channel 44 back home in Alameda? Why did I feel the same way I felt when I played with the Kaiju finger monsters I used to buy at that old nickle-a-pop store? I had no notion of the special connection these things shared, and it didn't matter. I had a new Thing To Do!
The best part, and the most important thing both to me at the time, and to the continuity of this story, happened next. As the intro ended, and I prepared myself to embark on this exciting new adventure, the scene opened on a robot, one which looked vaguely like R2-D2. This was an awesome event for a young boy who had just seen Star Wars the summer before. But better than the anticipation of being a part of something that might or might not have been as mind-blowing as that space epic, was the robot's voice. From the moment he spoke, I knew that this dull, dirty backwater town that my parents had dragged me to was going to be all right. I could now call it home.
For, as that robot intoned his first words in that most seminal of moments, I recognized, like a clarion call, a voice both warm and familiar; a voice from the near yet seemingly so distant past: Alan Young, the beloved Wilbur from my beloved Mister Ed. It enfolded me like a well-warn blanket, wrapping me up in a gentle hug, assuring me that indeed, Home is Wherever you Make It.
I needn't belabor the finer points of the show; it was what it was, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The important thing to me now, and the reason that this show is ever-qualified to be enshrined as one of the key "First Times" of my life, is that from that point on, whatever the show, whatever the premise, as long as it had those sparkling-eyed, otherworldly beings in it, I would always watch it with a soothing, comforted feeling, remembering a time when a small, displaced boy found out that the true center of any ones reality, any ones true home, is wherever one makes it.