Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Passing of Jim Buck (Chuck Foley, too)

Last week, I read a couple of interesting obituaries.

One was that of Chuck Foley, who “invented” the game of Twister. which I suspect every American of a certain age has been embarrassed into playing at one point of another.

Right hand blue, left foot green.

I remember playing Twister in high school a couple of times, but no game that involved being limber and/or ending up with your head in someone’s crotch was ever going to be on my all time favorite list.

Hasbro Inc., which now manufacturers the game, said it continues to be a top seller.

"What makes the Twister game timeless is the fact that it's always been about showing off your free spirit and just having some laugh-out-loud, out-of-your-seat fun," Hasbro said in a statement noting Foley's death.(Source: Huffington Post.)

Hmmm. I hadn’t thought about the “showing off your free spirit” aspect. Talk about the anti-me. On top of that, I have always been – and always will be – the last “gal” pulled out of her seat for the fun of getting thrown in the pool. So forget Twister. Give me Clue or Monopoly any old day.

Still, it must be fun to have something like Twister as your legacy.

I also wish to note the point of interest that Foley was an Irish Catholic who somehow must have managed to skirt the repressed gene. He had nine children, so he must have understood pretty well just what he was inventing with Twister, at least after Johnny Carson demonstrated it with Zsa Zsa Gabor on The Tonight Show.

Slán leat, Chuck Foley.

You can do worse than invent a game that millions have played and some have no doubt actually enjoyed.

Meanwhile, Jim Buck, the father of professional dog walking has passed on the great dog run in the sky. Buck got the chatty NYT treatment:

There are eight million occupational stories in New York City, and none cries Gotham louder than that of the professional surrogate — the shrewd city dweller who spies a void that other New Yorkers are too hurried, harried or hard-pressed to fill and rushes enterprisingly in.

Over time, the city has spawned professional car-movers and professional line-standers, but its most visible — and audible — paid surrogates are indisputably its professional dog walkers.

By all accounts, Jim Buck was the first of them. (Source: NY Times.)

Perhaps because I am neither rich nor a denizen of Manhattan, I have never heard of professional car-movers or professional line-standers.

I can, of course, see the point of both.

Even though I haven’t owned a car in years, and even though I never owned a car in NYC, when we were in New York over The Fourth, every time we walked down a side street, a little voice went off in my head that said ‘look at all these free parking spaces.’ This is the same voice that goes off in my head on summer weekends in Boston whenever I see all those gorgeous parking spots just sitting there empty. Almost makes me wish I had a car to back into one of them.

So I get why there’d be demand for professional car-movers, given that parking spaces are even scarcer in midtown than they are in Boston.

On the other hand, if you can afford a professional car-mover, maybe you can afford to rent a parking spot?

Just sayin’.

Professional line-standing is anther one that I would never use but can see the point of. New Yorkers seem to wait in line (or on line, as a New Yorker might have it) far more than Bostonians do.  Think of the weekend lines at movie theaters. And the queues at ATMs.

But while I can see the point of hiring a surrogate to stand in line, I know that if I ever witnessed it, I would be supremely irked, and would feel compelled to give the person doing the hiring the stink eye when he/she came to claim his/her place. And if that person were a mind-reader, they would certainly be channeling the word a-hole coming out of my brain.

Just sayin’.

Dog walking, on the other paw…

I love seeing the dog walkers out with their packs in my neighborhood. And I know that my dog-nephew Jack almost jumps out of his pelt he’s so excited when his dog walkers swing by to take him on his afternoon outing.

Dog walking is a wonderful service.

There is, of course, no proof that Jim Buck is the first professional dog walker ever. Surely, there were people who charged to walk your dog before the early 1960’s. (Maybe before that time the swells juts used their servants.) Nonetheless, according to the nation’s paper of record, Buck:

…is widely described as the first person to professionalize dog walking in New York City and, by extension, in the United States.

Love that “by extension.” It’s just not possible that someone in Chicago, or Boston, or San Francisco actually did it first.

But that’s a quibble.

Starting in the early 1960s, Mr. Buck, the scion of a patrician Upper East Side family, rose each morning at dawn to walk passels of clients’ dogs, eventually presiding over a business in which he and two dozen assistants walked more than 150 dogs a day.

When he began that business, Jim Buck’s School for Dogs, it was the only one of its kind in New York. Today, the city has scores of professional dog walkers.

Buck hung up his leash and retired a decade ago, his legacy the current crop of professional dog walkers, many who worked for his company at one point or the other.

Chuck Foley. Jim Buck. Some lives are just plain more interesting than others, at least from an outsider’s perspective…

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