Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My New, Old Neighbor

Now that I'm doing the stay-at-home dad thing (on top of illustration duties), I've been watching a good bit of PBS kids. Mainly while feeding Romy. I love me some Arthur. I love me some Caillou. Sesame Street. And most of all, I am totally loving the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood reruns.

When I was a kid, I didn't take well to "the Neighborhood" (what Mr. Rogers called the show). I knew enough to know the show was supposed to make a kid feel good, but it made me feel depressed. That shack of a house with the blue and gray backgrounds. Mr. Rogers' piercing stare. Mr. McFeely's creepy hairdo. Those hideous curtains. Not to mention that horrifying Lady Elaine puppet. (Getting the flavor of the kind of kid I was?).

Now that I'm all growed up, the show has taken on a whole new meaning. I feel like I get it more, now that I'm an adult--backwards as that may be. I can look past all the superficial stuff on the set and really take it in. Everything about it is so, so great. I love the Neighborhood of Make-Believe (I actually always had a soft spot for ol' Trolley). And I love when Mr. Rogers goes out and visits factories and athletes and musicians and artists. Love that stuff. And I love the little model houses and town that show up at the end credits. And now I know more about the man himself. What a true saint and hero he was. I wish I were just half as good as he was. Maybe that's something to live up to.

Anyhow, I saw this Mr. Rogers post on kids lit writer/guru and friend, Esme Raji Codell's blog the other day (his b-day was March 20) and it got me all stirred up.

And I saw, there, this great MENTAL FLOSS link of Mr. Rogers anecdotes. He was very well-loved.

My favorite, from that list, is this:

According to a TV Guide piece on him, Fred Rogers drove a plain old Impala for years. One day, however, the car was stolen from the street near the TV station. When Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by every newspaper, radio and media outlet around town. Amazingly, within 48 hours the car was left in the exact spot where it was taken from, with an apology on the dashboard. It read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

Dang. Kills me.

And if you're really feeling the love of ol' Fred Rogers now, by all means go read this amazing bit of editorial lit written by Tom Junod for ESQUIRE, November 1998.

Long live the sweetness, goodwill, spirit and memory of Mr. Rogers!

"It's such a good feeling to know you're alive!"

But that Lady Elaine. Still creeps me out.


Kyle said...

Meow, meow, Mr. Rogers. Meow.

Oh yeah, I've been digging Arthur for some time now with my kids, we DVR all the episodes. It's a great show.

And Mr. Rogers...he's kinda like a saint, ya know? My favorite part of the show were the factory and celebrity visits, too. Fred seemed so child-like in his conversations with people, it was neat.

Thanks for all the article links, I got me some reading to do!

Heather said...

I always remember the episode where they went to the crayon factory. I liked the cat because it wore a watch. Carter likes the trolley. I'm sorry to say that I don't like Caillou. He gets on my nerves. We are big fans of the Little Einsteins. Different network though.

jimmyprell said...

Very nice, Matthew.

Matthew Cordell said...

Fellow Neighborhood fans--The out-of-neighborhood times were the best. I loved the interaction of Mr. R with real folk in the real world. Partly cause you could see and feel the reverence of those people for the man. So sweet and genuine.

Caillou. Little annoying at first, undeniably so, but in the end, plain and innocent and sweet. Pure. That's where I'm at right now.

Anyhow... missing you Mister Rogers!

Matthew Cordell said...

p.s. Arthur... YES! Totally like a modern day Richard Scarry, I thought. Wholesome, yet not without humor.

And that Tom Junod link (the ESQUIRE piece)... it's so heart-breakingly good. Required reading. I mean. Sniff.


Skyebird said...

i lovvvvved mr Rogers, except for when he forgot to feed his fish in some episodes, then i would go crazy because i thought that the fish would die!!! I kind of like arthur better though- especially now when i watch it- (when i can find it) i get a lot more of the jokes!!

James said...

you may already know this but i'll share it anyway. the director of the episode where he had his tonsils out was none other that George A. Romero. i saw him speak at a screening of night of the living dead and he talked about it. said that everyone that ever met Fred (as he called him) loved him.

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