By John Hood
The year is 1970. The setting a suburban backyard. The day bright with summer wonder. And 10-year-old Peter “The Magnificent” is about to pull a rabbit from his hat.
All the kids in the neighborhood are there — the scowl with a pack of candy cigarettes rolled up in his t-shirt sleeve, the chatterbox and her pom-pom squad, the band campers clutching their recorders, the geeks sneaking peeks at the pom-poms, the Toms, Dicks and Marys that give a place its throughline. Each in their own way wanting very much to be wowed.
Peter wants very much to wow them too, especially the pig-tailed pixie from two houses over he’s made sure to seat front and center. But the pixie’s playing hard to get. Or at least hard to get along with. And the pink portable radio in her hands threatens to wreck his whole show.
“You know this is my favorite song, Peter. Can’t you keep your silly rabbit still until it’s over?”
The song is “I’ll Be There.” The latest hit single from The Jackson 5. Peter likes the song as much as everyone. More importantly, Peter likes the pixie. A lot. And show or now show, he’s about as likely to deny the girl her wish as he is to tell the girl he likes her.
So the kids sit. And the kids listen. And Peter waits to be Magnificent. Three long minutes. To a kid waiting to prove himself in front of a crowd, three minutes could be an eternity. To Peter, it’s a quick lesson in the hierarchy of popularity. Being the most popular kid in the neighborhood may be one thing, but being the most popular band in the land is quite another altogether.
As the young magician finally pulled that rabbit from his hat, unheard was the vow that this would be the last time Peter Tunney would be anything but another thing altogether.
That’s the first impression I get while strolling among the many wonders on display in A Life in the Day of Peter Tunney. Yes, the impression is helped along by the song playing on the circa ‘70s jukebox, as well as the newspaper clipping that heralds an appearance of Peter “The Magnificent” himself. More though is the notion that each and every one of the shadow boxes in this new series of works can be read like a book of stories.
Okay, given the vast array, each piece would need to be a big book. And this but one of its many splendid stories. Further, granting the extent represented, each would also have to be proportionally epic. Then again, when someone’s lived such a vast life, to such immense extent, epic seems only natural.
Even more epic is the fact that this marvelous collection of exquisite curiosities shows what the Peter of Then would tell the Tunney of Now, and that’s: “Thanks for keeping our Magnificent Vow”.