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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bad humor

As a longtime grouch, I can get mildly irritated when the ice cream vendors come down the street playing their inane jingles. And in this, I am apparently not alone.

Comments (14)

My wife and I saw this earlier and laughed about all the parents who want to ensure that everyone MUST bend to how they view the world. Living just a short distance from Prospect Park I can tell you that these are parents in name only, since their kids run their lives. When I lived in Portland, sadly, that trend had already begun.

My own gripe is not related to our children. It is with the loops of bad, tinny music that accompany today's mobile hawkers of sugar and fat. The old bells that the guy used to ring once, when he stopped, were fine. I've long since maxed out on a bad computer version of "The Entertainer."

Here's the best part of the story, in my view:

"There used to be this image that was wholesome and cool," Mr. Semanko said. But these days, in Tacoma, there is a guy in an old mail van with no shirt on, smoking a cigarette, he said. "I heard one kid complain that the guy actually burped on him. That’s creepy to people."

I admit that the trucks with the bad music badly played* really grate on my nerves.† But this parent has clearly flipped her lid.

[*: Seriously, guys, can't you invest in some better speakers? And maybe a decent recording to play instead of that awful old midi crap? You can find better playback in a flippin' greeting card! And "Jingle Bells" in August? Who do you think you're fooling?]
[†: The La Super guys pedaling their little trikes around, ringing a much less annoying bell, now those guys have the good stuff. Worth every penny.]

Its not just ice cream in my neighborhood. I also have vendors with annoying music for ethnic bread, veggies, and tamales. They come through every day of the week. The bread guy plays "Eye of the Tiger" through a megaphone speaker on the roof of his van. Sounds terrible.
All but one of the ice cream vendors that come through are all old mini-vans with about the same quality of "music". The one guy I can handle rides a three-wheeled bike with a small cooler on it. He just has five or six bells on the handlebars that jingle as he comes down the road.

Last week, I was walking downtown behind a woman (25-30, I would guess) and her young daughter.

The girl was complaining about not getting ice cream.

"Why not?", she moaned.

"Because we don't have any money," the mom replied.

Jon- Yeah, that's the one. Stop him and have some of his ice cream. You will not regret it.

As a hard-hitting columnist for the Portland Tribune I was on this years ago - granted in a very positive, fluffy way. But I still managed to close strong. Any mistakes here are mine - I think this was the version before the excellent copy editors cleaned it up. (I still miss you Margaret and Kate!) I also have to say I was overly optimistic as I still hear "The Sting" way too much.

I have seen the future of ice cream truck music and it’s a small black box named Omni. Made in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it offers 32 different selections, an 8-fold increase from the mind-numbing, 4-song selection of yesteryear. “Everyone was going crazy with just the 4 tunes”, admitted Michael Shillingford, President of the Portland Ice Cream Company.
Employee James Morris, who’s spent many an hour behind the wheel of the little trucks, agreed that the repetition sometimes got to him. I asked him what music was the most relaxing after a day of hearing “Turkey in the Straw” ten million times? His answer said it all: “Slayer”.
Several summers ago when the trucks in my neighborhood started playing the theme from the movie “The Sting”, I didn’t complain. After all, it was Scott Joplin and the descending harmony line was brilliant. Sure, hearing it over and over was annoying, especially for those of us who can’t eat as much ice cream as we’d like. But this was Ragtime, a great musical form.
Recently, when I heard “Turkey In The Straw” for a couple of days, I realized it was time to act. With a mindless lower harmony part that consisted mainly of one note, “Turkey In The Straw” was the last straw. Let’s not even go into the other two selections, “Pop Goes the Weasel” and a “Ding Dong” pattern that isn’t even a song.
There are lots of causes in the world, but sometimes an injustice is so great that it has to be addressed immediately. I envisioned a new organization: A.F.I.C.T.J.I. − Amnesty From Ice Cream Truck Jingles International.
First, I’d try a visit. The main thing I noticed was that the Portland Ice Cream Company is quite an operation with Michael Shillingford putting on a clinic in multi-tasking. He somehow managed to find the time to explain the music upgrade, print out a list of the trucks it’s already available on,(there are 61 in Oregon and southern Washington.), and even give me a tour inside the big freezer, all while handling a steady stream of phone calls, faxes, and orders. The new refrigerator is 50 ft. by 12 ft, with 12 ft. ceilings. It holds $50,000 worth of all kinds of ice cream treats. I paused for a quiet moment of respect at how much joy was contained in that room.
Oh, yeah. The songs. I needed a list of the new songs. Michael was on the phone in a blur and within seconds the song list was being faxed in from
God knows where. Channel 1 features such selections as “Romance de Amour”, “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, and “Music Box Dancer”, along with several scary ones like “Small World” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”.
Channel 2 has “I’m a Little Teapot”, “Brahms’ Lullaby” and the appropriate “Song of Joy”. The scariest? A disastrous reprise of “Turkey in the Straw”.
The new machine is a great leap forward, but problems remain. We’ve got to move to an automatic selection rotator. These still are changed by hand, so once the driver zones out we’re stuck. This is important stuff. After all, with school budget cuts, the music from ice cream trucks may be the only musical education our children will ever get.

When I lived in Japan we had a great number of street vendors, walking, on bicycle, scooters etc. I remember one old guy who used to come down the street with a large battery powered bull horn strapped to the front of his bicycle. He was deaf as a post. He was selling squid of course. He would actually come up to our kitchen window and aim his horn directly into the house letting loose with an ear splitting "IKA!!!!" (squid). This would result in a crying baby and shattered nerves for anyone unfortunate enough to be inside. I chose to purchase my daily squid elsewhere...

Oh, Dean!! Thanks for the huge laugh. The visual your comment created is too funny. Man I wish I was an illustrator. I'm still laughing!

Todays local newspaper:
Ice cream vendor accused of suggestive comments:


I have mixed emotions about the ice cream truck song. One the one hand, it's a true "Summer Sound," one you don't hear in November, for instance. On the other hand, two notes are enough to send my 4 kids into major Whine Mode--"Please, can we? Can we? Huh? Huh? Huh?" Fortunately we live far enough away from parks and playgrounds that we rarely have the trucks drive by.

A friend of mine used to tell her young children that it was the "Music Truck" coming--wasn't it nice of that man to drive down the street playing music for them to enjoy?

I'm of two minds. I definitely agree with Bill that a wider selection of music is necessary for the actual ice cream trucks, and I also agree with Alan that the ice cream coming from the little bike-powered vendors is a lot better. However, in the interests of fair play, I'm willing to make a compromise. I'll gleefully give up the ice cream trucks in my neighborhood, and thereby give up my Bomb Pop addiction, if it means that I can take antitank weapons to the bozos with the 2000-watt stereos in the Geos that come blasting through my neighborhood at 3 in the morning. I can state from experience that I've never been awakened from a dead sleep on a worknight by an ice cream truck.

(Back in my sordid youth, I used to be a regular in the Exposition Park area of Dallas, which is what Alberta in Portland always wanted to be. At the time, we had a very pretentious bar called simply The State Bar, complete with the original filming model of the blimp from Blade Runner over the bar and a collection of 20something SMU brats already so far gone in cocaine addiction that their noses looked like Michael Jackson's. One night, an ice cream truck came by at the end of the block, with no sound but with lights on the front, and the owner came out screaming that the truck had to leave before he called the police because the truck was "destroying the mood". Now, the patrons from the other bar on the block, Bar of Soap, were thrilled to see the ice cream truck, and we all stayed in line and offered our support until our ice cream joneses were contained. Funny: Bar of Soap is coming up on its 25th year in business, and State Bar imploded in 1992. Who'd have seen that coming?)

Out of curiosity, what is the general opinion of ice cream vendors?
I agree with the article, in that they creep me out. My general opinion is "pedophiles & drug dealers" (no proof).
Do people still have a soft warm spot for this profession or they do they just creep people out now-a-days?

A young composer named Michael Hearst composed a CD of new ice cream truck songs- I remember hearing a selection on OPB one afternoon- they were actually very sweet. More here: http://www.songsforicecreamtrucks.com/

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