Tales from real life
|Well, if they're not true, they oughta be!|
|Back in the sixties, we had a Rexall Drugs in our small town. The proprietor, Cal Lindbergh, was a really nice guy who would stock almost anything on his high, and highly disorganized, shelves. He had everything from a display case of modestly priced jewelry to a bin of warm roasted peanuts. The brick building was located on the sunny southeast corner of the block, but seemed to stay dim and cool even in the summer heat. It was an adventure to wander the narrow aisles and look at items that might have been there for days or maybe decades. You could check out a state-of-the-art transistor radio, or buy a hundred-year old patent medicine cure-all that harnessed the power of placebo. A pharmacy window in the back dispensed real medicine. Best of all was an old-fashioned soda fountain on one side where a kid could get an ice cream cone or a root beer float.
As a precocious ten-year old, I was most interested in the rack of comic books near the front door. I’d eye them longingly, but it was well understood that they weren’t to be handled until after purchase. Unlike the other stock, they weren’t kept around forever. Once a month, a new batch would arrive, and Cal would dispose of the unsold issues. He’d tear off the covers and return those to the publisher for a credit, but it seemed a shame to toss the remainders into the garbage. Instead, he came up with an alternative that became the basis for one of my favorite childhood rituals.
Cal would roll up half a dozen of the left-over twelve-cent comics, and tie them with a twist of string. He’d stack them by the magazines and charge 25 cents per bundle. I was no collector, so I didn’t care about the covers. I just wanted to read them. Four cent comics were a great deal! The element of mystery was also a plus. What hidden gems would I find as I unrolled my treasure trove?
We lived nine miles from town and mom made the trip once a week for groceries. I had little interest in tagging along with my mother and sisters as they did our weekly shopping, so I took my fifty cents of allowance money and made a beeline for Lindbergh’s every Saturday morning. I’d buy a bundle of coverless comics and climb onto a stool at the counter. I’d wait with delicious anticipation while Cal made me a root beer float. Then, and only then, I’d carefully remove the string and read the entire pile of comics, in order, so each one would be a new surprise.
Superman, Green Lantern and The Flash were good, and even the war comics were okay, but no one really wanted Richie Rich or Casper the Friendly Ghost. There’d be a triumphant little ‘yes!’ when I found a Batman or Spiderman, and a disappointed, ‘aww’ when it was Little Lulu or Baby Huey. But I read every word on every page anyway, except for the occasional horror of finding a romance comic. Those I gave to my sisters. With tweezers.
I think Cal enjoyed the ritual, too, because he’d shake his head, or nod approvingly when I was picking out a bundle. I can’t help but think he was upping the odds for a steady customer.
|There was a newsfeed post a few days ago that asked "what's the weirdest thing that's happened recently?"
I didn't have anything then, but I do today.
I've been on my own for a few days while my wife is out of town. That means I can stream old episodes of Deep Space Nine while fixing myself scrambled eggs for breakfast. It took about half an hour to slice and dice peppers and onions, sauté them in olive oil, stir in three eggs, top with cheese, and eat same. DS9 was still wrapping up as I settled down in my recliner to finish my coffee and watch the final scenes. Our cat, as if waiting in ambush, immediately leapt into my lap and settled down.
I had my smartphone and newspaper at hand, so I was willing to provide the lap, but I hadn't grabbed the remote to turn off the TV. Not to worry - the wind was blowing briskly and the power flickered just as the closing credits started to roll. It wasn't enough of an interruption to reset the clock on the microwave, but the Roku rebooted and returned to its home screen. It was just as good as turning it off. I felt a prickle on the back of my neck. It was kind of eerie to merely think, darn, I wish I didn't have to disturb the cat, and then have the power flicker on cue.
An inquiry from RICH made me realize that others might be interested in the cover image.
It's a 1972 Harley-Davidson Sprint 250, made by Aermacchi in Italy and sold by Harley dealers in America. It's somewhat unique in that it has a single cylinder laid down in front of the crankcase. The geometry results in a long wheelbase and a low center of gravity. This yellow one belonged to my Dad. I had a black Sprint 350 when I was in High School, and I always enjoyed the way it handled.
I grew up on a small ranch among cowboys, farmers and loggers. I sometimes rode horses as a child, but abandoned four legs for two wheels the first time I straddled my Montgomery Ward minibike at the age of twelve. I had several real motorcycles over the years, including a Harley Rapido 125 (also made by Aermacchi) and a BSA 250 single, but I finally settled on Yamahas. I could wheelie my RD250 two-stroke twin through three gears. After getting married, I traded it in for an XS650 parallel twin that was better suited for two-up riding. My last bike was an XV920RH V-twin with an enclosed chain drive. I rode it more than 50,000 miles and it still had the original chain.
Dad liked my Harley Sprint so much that he bought one for himself. It was handier for him to kickstart the bike for a quick trip out to the fields than to saddle up a horse. The original street mufflers didn't fare well in the dirt, so we used a hacksaw to create the 'megaphone' look. The bike didn't run quite as well with the open pipes, but it sure sounded cool! Also, check out the home-made mud flap on the front fender. It was cut out of an old tire and mounted with three bolts.
This photo captures a juxtaposition of the old and new west. Dad's horses all passed away and he finally got too old for the motorcycle. He created this 'artwork' from the remnants of his riding past.
|Approximately a lifetime ago, my uncle gave me a simple four-function pocket calculator with a one-line LED display. It was my personal introduction to the space age, just four years after the first moon landing. My current smart phone is about the same physical size as that pocket calculator, but contains more computing power than the room-size mainframe that I used at University in the mid-70s. I won't even describe the stone-age programs that we wrote for the mainframe, or the green-screen CRT terminals that displayed their output. Modern apps are orders of magnitude more sophisticated, and today's ultra hi-res screens are beautiful. And, though today's smartphone is primarily used for updating social media, it can also make phone calls!
Younger folks will be shocked to learn that phones were once attached to the house. They had to be plugged into a phone jack in the wall to connect to the 'network'. The only mobile phone I saw as a child had a thirty-foot cord so it could be carried into the next room. If you were outdoors, or in your car? Then you were out of touch, maybe for hours. The horror!
Today, nearly everyone posts the excruciating minutiae of their daily lives on the world wide web for anyone to see. They willingly cede all right to privacy in the desperate hope that somebody, somewhere, will like them. It wasn’t always so. An early form of today’s social media was called the ‘party line’. It consisted of a single telephone circuit that served multiple homes. This was especially common in rural areas, where it was cost prohibitive to run dedicated phone lines to all of the widely separated houses.
Each home was assigned a unique ring code made up of short and long rings. The idea was that each household would answer only when they heard their own code, but it was more entertaining to pick up any ring and catch up on the local gossip. Or, pick up at random to see if someone was already on the line. You could listen in on your neighbor as she chatted with aunt Minnie, or hear about her medical issues as she made an appointment with the doctor. Of course, back then people thought it was rude to eavesdrop. There was considerable friction between those who were 'just curious' and those who felt violated by the snooping. Today, people are offended if you don’t pay attention to pictures and posts with intimate details.
What a difference a generation makes!
Author's Note: ▼
Late for class / wearing pajamas / no homework / didn't study / surprise test / etc.
It's been over 40 years since I graduated from college, but I'm still dreaming variations on these themes. The most frequent scenario has me suddenly remembering that I signed up for a class, but never attended a lecture or opened the textbook. In my dream, I somehow know that today is the midterm, but I haven't been to class and I don't even know the room number. I wander aimlessly, already late, wallowing in the certainty of failure because I don't know the material.
And now there's a new wrinkle (pun intended). I dreamed last night that I'm back in school (at my current age), and living in the dorm. This time, I don't know my dorm room number, but it doesn't really matter because I don't have a key, either. I wander the halls aimlessly, looking for an RA to help me find my way home. There are a series of rooms and alcoves as I make my way up and down stairs, and along the corridors. Groups of students are playing pool, watching TV, or just hanging out. They smirk and make snarky comments about the 'old guy' as I pass by. I can't quite catch the words, but the tone is clearly not welcoming. And the topper? There are little piles of blue N95 masks on various tables and countertops, yet nobody in the dream is actually wearing one.
How's that for social anxiety?
|There’s something about the first day on the job that just seems to invite disaster. We’re overeager, self-conscious, and feeling lost in unfamiliar surroundings. Is it any wonder that we manage to find new and novel ways to embarrass ourselves?
Growing up doing chores on the ranch taught me about hard work, and as a high school Senior, I felt ready to get paid for doing a ‘real job’. My academic record was in good shape, so I arranged to spend mornings in class and afternoons at the two-register Mission Mart grocery store. My position as bagboy, stocker, and third checker paid the princely sum of $2 an hour.
The store was mostly empty when I arrived for my first shift, so the boss handed me a broom and sent me outside to sweep the sidewalk. I went at it ferociously, determined to make a good first impression. But, as I swept briskly along the edge, the head of the broom caught against the curb and the wooden handle snapped in half. My face burned red as I contemplated just giving up and going home. I’ll never forget the amused and exasperated look on the boss’s face when I sheepishly brought the pieces back into the store. To his credit, all he said was “I guess you better grab another broom.”