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Chicagoetry: Ray Rayner & Friends

Ray Rayner & Friends

Somewhere in the back
Of my life

Is a small television studio-
Much smaller than it appears
On the air-

Where the infinite world
Of a children's program
Runs continuously.

I believe all of us
Has a studio like it: with a Captain,
A Sargent, a Mister, even

A Soupy, supervising
Cartoons, comedy and crafts
For kids.

My man was Ray,
First thing on weekday mornings
From WGN-TV ("2501 W.

Bradley Place,
Chicago, Illinois 60618").
In note-strewn coveralls

He read viewer mail
With a floppy-eared, golden dog,
Cuddly Dudley,

A puppet of course
But no less real for it.
Just ask Mrs. McGillicuddy!

Invisible Chauncey contributed
As well, with crafts
That Ray re-made so badly

We couldn't help but feel
We always did it better.
He had a pet duck, Chelveston,

That didn't seem to like him much,
Also known as
Chelveston Le Duke.

Chelveston would chill
In his tub while a hit song

Or Ray would mime along.
Alan Sherman was a specialty.
Once Ray, in Beatle wig, via

"Special effects" split into four

Identical images,
Mimed along to
"I Want to Hold Your Hand."

And the vulgar, violent,
Vibrant Warner Brothers cartoons,
Rife with adult references

I didn't care to get,
Including my first introduction
To the classic tune

"Blues in the Night."
Bugs is singing
To a buzzard that had

And Italian accent:
"My momma done told me
A buzzard is two-faced . . . "

Decades later
I finally got the reference.

Ray'd recap the
Baseball games with a
Double-billed hat,

Sox on one side,
Cubs on the other.
They'd run traffic reports

From Flying Officers Ed
And Irv to canned film footage
Of expressway traffic.

And let's don't forget
Visits to Lincoln Park Zoo
With Dr. Lester Fisher.

If you got up too early

A strange, somber man
Named Orion talked about
Hog futures and

Fertilizers. It was like
Stumbling into church or something,
Nothing funny about it.

You definitely wanted
To wait for Ray.
Somewhere in the back

Of my life
That program plays

And I bet
Everyone in my generation
Has that channel

Running on.
A peanut gallery,
A dancing bear,

A grouch who lives
In a garbage can.

A world unto itself,
To a great extent protected
From reality

Though not perfectly,
Like on Sesame Street
When Mr. Hooper

Died and they had
To explain death
To Big Bird,

Or when Ray's
Flying Officer Irv
Was killed when

His traffic copter crashed.
Somehow the adults
Helped us understand

To the extent possible.
Somewhere in the back
Of our lives

Some of the adults
Got together and used television to
Try to ease us into it,

Into the fact of each day,

Into the rituals
Of each season,
Into life itself,

Grown men and women
With a job to do,
A burden to bear,

A generation to raise.

I mean to salute them
Because for me it's still working,
Somewhere in the back

Of my life.


J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.


More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance


Posted on March 22, 2017

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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