Tuesday, June 30, 2009

M*A*S*H comes alive

TOLEDO, Ohio -- Well, I didn't see Klinger. But I did buy a hat.

One of my favorite spots discovered during the course of 10 years vacationing in Michigan is Maumee Bay Brewing Company here in Jamie Farr's hometown. They have good pizza. They have good beer.

Didn't have to do too much coaxing to get David and Jen to take me down here, an hour from their home in Michigan. They are good friends.

It struck me that "while in Rome" I needed to look up the joint that Farr made famous on "M*A*S*H" -- his beloved Tony Packo's Cafe. Fans of the greatest show in TV history will recall that Klinger often spoke nostalgically of Toledo -- usually before hatching some plan to get out of the army. Inevitably, Packo's would pop up in the conversation.

So David mapped out the city and found that Packo's wasn't too far from the brewery. I tried to contain my child-like grin. I failed.

I kept hoping beyond hope we'd see Jamie Farr. As close as I got to that was a picture in the gift shop of Jamie and "M*A*S*H" co-star Mike Farrell, reuniting at Packo's for some unannounced cause in 2006. It was cool. Also spotted Jamie's autograph on a hot dog bun (they are everywhere, signed by everybody).

I bought a t-shirt modeled in the old M*A*S*H style, Packo's logo on the front and pictures of Klinger on the back. And I bought a sweet lookin' hat that declares Packo's "The Best Buns in Town."

"I can't come to Packo's and not get a chili dog," I say to Dave and Jen. So we walk up to the bar. There, I discover that Packo's sells Schlitz beer! The original '60s formula!

I toasted Jamie Farr, and that gentle and sweet show, and Chuck Kincade and Matthew Shelton and Alan Alda and anybody else I know that loves "M*A*S*H."

The only thing missing was a camera. I always seem to be without one at such moments. Kinda like the time I met Tom Selleck in New York. With no camera.

"You'll be back," David says.

And I grin. Because I know he's right.

Here's to memories of M*A*S*H.

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