We are watching H. R. Pufnstuf, about a boy named Jimmy, slim and cute with shaggy black hair and a lisping British accent (“that’s tewwific!”). He's stranded far from home on Living Island, a psychedelic Paradise, with a friend, a green Dragon named Pufnstuf, and an enemy, Witchiepoo, who wants his magic golden flute.
The flute: not gold in color but dark bronze, thicker and blockier than a real flute, and alive, with eyes, nose, and mouth made of diamonds.
Suddenly Cousin Joe laughs. “You know what the flute represents, don’t you?”
In year or two, I will be able to think of something dirty, but I have just turned 11, and all I can think of is Jimmy's essence, the most important part of his being. “His heart?” I suggest.
“Ok, that's good enough. Pufnstuf and Witchiepoo are fighting to see who gets Jimmy’s heart. And who wins?”
“Think about it: Jimmy always picks the Dragon over the Witch. The boy over the girl. .."
Suddenly I understand what Cousin Joe is trying to say: Jimmy has managed to escape the "discovery of girls" that the adults are always going on about. He wants a boy, not a girl. Why is he free?
“Maybe." But Rock Island isn’t really an island,” Cousin Joe points out. “It’s just some bluffs between the two rivers. So if you stay in Rock Island when you grow up, you and Bill will need wives."
"Well, what about if we move to Australia?" I sometimes watch Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, where teenage Mark and helicopter pilot Jerry like each other.
"I guess." I think of all of the other "good places" I've been looking for, Greece and Africa and Japan. They're all far away on the other side of the world.
"Where you and Bill want to go is San Francisco. That's only a couple days' drive. And there's lots of cool cats out there. You can sing and dance and put flowers in your hair."
Years later I wondered: Was Cousin Joe advising me to move to a gay mecca when I grew up? Did he know something that I didn't? Or was he thinking of flower children, not gay people?
He doesn't remember the conversation. But I do: a glimpse of my future on a cold Saturday morning in 6th grade.