07 November 2018


Growing up and coming of age in Oklahoma was, for the most part, fucking horrible. In retrospect and with hindsight, I think it was even worse and more damaging than I realized at the time...which is pretty bizarre to contemplate considering how terrifying and demoralizing it was then. There were friends, to be sure, so it could have been worse (and was, in fact, much worse for many others), but those friendships were often just bonds based on fear - fear of isolation, fear of violence, fear of humiliation. There was nothing "cool" about this adolescence, there was only coping, and we coped however we could. We entertained ourselves at the expense of strangers, we stole things, we sent sex toys to jock's houses (COD, of course), we vandalized - and sometimes we got caught and sometimes we got punched. And we made phone calls. When I found PARK GRUBBS after I left Ponca City and moved to Norman, I identified instantly...with the premise, with the delivery, with the boredom, indeed with the desire to have some kind of power and some kind of control over any situation, even if it was fleeting. These tapes passed from hand to hand for years - ask anyone who grew up weird in Oklahoma in the pre-internet eras and I would guess you'll be greeted with a knowing smile. Say "I wanna tickle your love offerins..." and you'll likely get a "Hey, that's fantastic!" in response. These kids from Bartlesville were straight fire - the shit they came up with on the fly was legitimate comedic genius, and the context within which they were not just making these calls but documenting them makes it all even better in hindsight, and it wasn't until years later that I had any inkling that the people responsible were punks and outcasts. This is pre-syndicated Howard Stern, pre-Jerky Boys, before the choice bits from "I'm In Your Band" call on Neil Hamburger's Great Prank Calls became ingrained in our psyche ("you ever heard of the fukkn KRINKLES, man?!")....this was as much a product of pre-technological boredom as it was a result of the creators' genius. The absurdity of these calls borders on high art, and the ability to bring the subject along is incredible (a trait shared with contemporaries Hamburger and Longmont Potion Castle), but for me it's the regional connection that puts Park Grubbs over the top. Heading over to Miami (pronounced "my-am-UH") from Talequah to check out a $100 canoe...the accents...the slang..."the reason I's callin' - I's wonderin' if later on if you would object too strongly if I'd come over and bathe y'all - you're entire family?" "no, you can't." "Uhhhhh, is there some surgical procedure I could talk to your husband about?" ...this is boredom in Oklahoma. 

A couple of Okies put together an excellent short documentary film titled Calls To Okies about the people responsible and the people they inadvertently affected, influenced and entertained. Former Buttman (the band, not the family) Wampus is prominently featured in the doc, as well as several people who were just a little older and/or cooler than I was when I lived there...people who experienced that same joy and the same sense of belonging when they heard these recordings. "P-A-R-K, G-R-U-Double BS"


convertido said...

Sounds like small town Oklahoma was not too much different than small town Texas. We entertained ourselves similarly to pass the time and to strike against those who made life as a kid in South Texas not fun.

The Bible said...

Post more stuff like this, stuff that actually means something. Much better than thousands of worthless tapes by upper middle class scum going thru a punk phase before they become middle managers at an insurance company.