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This Year, Santa’s from the Seventies, Like, Man

16 Dec

by Roger White

I must have fallen and hit my head again. Do you hear those mountains? Listen to all that purple. Ding! Ooh, time for cocoa! I swear, from looking at the little calendar icon on my computer, that it is December 2014. That’s what it says, right there on my screen. Yes? No? But as I run down the list of Christmas presents requested by our two offspring types I realize that it must be approximately December 1974, give or take a decade.

Do you know what our oldest daughter, a college freshman, wants for Christmas? A record player. That’s right. An actual turntable with an actual needle that plays actual albums. I had to ask her again to make sure I was hearing correctly. I didn’t think she grasped what a record player was. Or a record, for that matter. Apparently, they’re all the rage with the college kids now. Who knew? I never crank itshould have gotten rid of my old Magnavox solid state stereophonic hi-fi phonograph with diamond stylus. Ah, those were the days. Put on a little “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks, slap on some Hai Karate cologne, slide on my polyester bell botto—OK, never mind.

Our oldest kiddo, who has Pink Floyd and Hendrix posters in her room by the way, also requested headphones. Not those microscopic little earbuds that can get lost in the inner canals of your cranium, mind you. No, she wants the mammoth vintage-style phones that cover half your head, like those awesome KLH monsters that looked more like heart defibrillators than musical accessories. Remember those things? Your mom could be screaming at you not two feet away that the house was on fire, and all you could hear was Edgar Winter. Yeah, man. Rock on.

awe. some.

Anyway, those giant ear-suffocating mufflers are back, too. Retro is in, apparently. Going down the list, I see that our youngest daughter—she of the Smartphone Taylor Swift Maroon 5 Instagram generation—wants, get this, a Polaroid Land Camera. Seriously. If you need a memory jog, the Polaroid Land Camera was that behemoth box of an instant camera that would spit the photo out right then and there immediately after you snapped it. You stood there and shook and waved and shimmied the photo as it developed in front of your eyes. Remember that? A technological marvel! Instead of waiting a week and having to run to your pharmacy to see that your thumb was over the lens, you got to see your stupid mistake instantly. By the way, Polaroid didn’t call it the Land Camera because you could use it only on land. The guy who invented it was named Edwin Land, who was cofounder of the Polaroid Company. Just so you’ll know.

Oh, and let’s not forget about shoes. Sneakers, to be more precise. Do you know what sneakers our youngest runs around in nowadays? Keds. Old-style, high-top, Johnny Unitas-looking Keds! Except they don’t call them Keds now. And they dang sure don’t sell them for $10 anymore, to be certain. Holy mother of johnny umackerel, they’re high fashion now, produced by hoity-toity outfits with names like Maison Martin Margiela or Steve Madden or some Nordstrom-sounding company called Giuseppe Zanotti—and for only $759.99 they come in gold lamé or day-glo lace or faux snakeskin. I’m thinking if I snag a pair of original Keds from Goodwill and spray-paint them gold leaf, she’ll never know the diff.

So all this retro rage got me thinking about my Christmas list. I might as well go with the flow, I reasoned. Why not? OK, Santa, this year I’d like: 1. Soap on a rope (preferably English Leather or Irish Spring); 2. A Sony Walkman (in lemon yellow or groovy grape color); 3. A Rock ’em Sock ’em Robot set; and 4. A Man from U.N.C.L.E. lunchbox with thermos. If you don’t have Man from U.N.C.L.E., I’ll take Green Hornet, but please try. Thanks, Santa dude.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

The Morbid Tale of the Marlboro Man–And Others

20 Nov

by Roger White

A moment of silence, please, for Mr. Eric Lawson. Mr. Lawson, 72, died earlier this year from respiratory failure due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The real cause: smoking. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll certainly know him by his professional moniker. Eric Lawson was the Marlboro Man. You remember? The rugged cowboy dude rode the range, ten-gallon hat on his head and a smooth Marlboro in his hand, in those iconic cigarette ads of the 1970s.

The MMGet this: Lawson was the latest in a string of Marlboro Men to expire due to “hazards of the job.” Before him, aspiring actor David Millar, who did TV spots for the cigarette company in the 1950s, smoked for four decades before dying of emphysema in 1987. Former stuntman Wayne McLaren, another Marlboro male, died of lung cancer in 1992 at age 51. Western TV actor David McLean, who appeared in such shows as Bonanza and Gunsmoke, played the MM in print and television ads—he kicked the bucket in 1995 after 30 years of lighting up. His widow sued Phillip Morris, claiming the company made him smoke five packs per ad; she lost when the suit was dismissed. And then there was Richard Hammer, a firefighter-turned-actor who died of lung cancer in 1999 after his reign as the smoking cowboy. Talk about a risky profession.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are many sordid stories of TV and magazine pitch men who’ve succumbed through the years, overwhelmed by their corporate personas. It’s the sort of thing that Hollywood and Madison Avenue have conspired to keep quiet, fearing the backlash of negative publicity. Here are just a few I’ve become privy to:

ow!Did you know, for example, that the original Pillsbury Dough Boy, young Timothy Yeastley of Bakersfield, California, died of peritonitis after being poked in the belly 417 times during a marathon attempt at a particular TV commercial? “The director was never satisfied,” one stagehand remembered. “We kept shooting it over and over. It was gruesome. Timothy gamely tried to carry on, even laughing that silly laugh to the very end. But by the 400th take or so, he was black and blue.” Outtakes have apparently cropped up on Youtube; don’t watch them unless you have a strong stomach. So to speak.

Or how about the sad tale of Gunther Sauber, otherwise known in TV land as Mr. Clean? Poor Gunther became so consumed by his on-air identity that he died of OCD in 1977. Near the end, he spent all his time cleaning, polishing, spit-shining, mopping, shaving his head. They found Gunther, dead of a heart attack, in the Flatbush Avenue Subway Terminal in New York. He was Mr Cdressed all in white, a bottle of cleaner in one hand, a filthy rag in the other. Notes found in his apartment indicated he intended to degrease the entire New York City subway system.

Then there was Lee David Squibny of Hastings, Nebraska—the original Kool-Aid Man. Although Lee went violently—he died of repeated blunt-force trauma after crashing through 46 walls during a grueling TV ad taping session—an autopsy revealed early onset of diabetes. An unsettling side note: All of Lee’s internal organs were stained a hideous grape purple.

And let’s not forget ill-fated Ike Lipshitz, the original Jack of Jack in the Box fame. Mr. Lipshitz, apparently obsessed with staying in character, met a ghastly fate when his bulbous Jack in the Box head became stuck in an elevator door on his way to his fiancée’s apartment. When the elevator Jack is Badarrived at the fiancée’s floor, she was horrified to find only the giant Jack head inside, and a bag of tacos.

I could go on. I would, for instance, tell you about the fate of the first two Mr. Peanuts, but you’d never look at a jar of peanut butter the same way. Or of the original Jolly Green Giant—oh, the endless skin grafts… Suffice it to say, it’s not all glamour and glitz.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Get Pa Out of the Fruit Cellar–It’s Mashup Time Again

24 Jun

by Roger White

 

Simmer down. Simmer down, people. I know very well that it’s been months since I’ve indulged you with a Movie Mashup contest. And I know that you know, based on the influx of cards and letters and e-mails and texts and pokes and tweets and twits and skypes and likes and tags and yelps and yips and things. And you know that I know that you know, because here we are, revving our engines for another go. So you see, I know you know that I know that you know. You know? And furthermore…

Let’s start this again.

If you recall, what we have here, my fellow intergalactic itinerants, is a collection of famous lines from movies. However, quotes from two different movies have been smushed together to make one confused line. Here’s a for instance: “It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with Poor LucaMcFly.” That there, you see, is a conglomeration of quotes from “The Godfather” and “Back to the Future.” I suppose, then, that the mashed-up movie would be called “Back to the Godfather.” Or something. But that’s irrelevant.

What is elevant is that the name of the game is Movie Mashup. I should copyright this concept, so here you go. © 2014, by Me. All rights reserved by Me. Me Incorporated is a subsidiary of Me Enterprises, Norwalk, Connecticut.

So. Below (or to the left if you are perpendicular) are 20 Movie Mashups. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to tell moi what two movies flirted around and had relations to produce the mixed-up quote. The first 283 people to respond with any semblance of an answer win a genuine “Jesus is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker. Seriously. If you get pulled over by the cops for displaying said bumper sticker, I will not be held accountable. E-mail moi at roger.white@tasb.org with your best guesses. Void in Iowa, Algeria, and under that bridge where the dogs wear shoes. Good luck, players. And, go:

1. “Thank you for a memorable afternoon. Usually, one must go to a bowling alley to show me the money.”

2. “Milt, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs to infinity and beyond. Mmmkay?”

butbutbut3. “Is it safe? I’m king of the world! Is it safe?”

4. “A boy’s best friend is his mother. I’ll have what she’s having.”

5. “Keep your friends close but the Barrow Gang closer.”

6. “Round up the usual suspects. They’re heeere!”

7. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, my dear Watson.”

8. “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily. May the Force be with you.”

9. “After all, tomorrow is going to be a bumpy night.”

10. “Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of hakuna matata and came out clean on the other side.”

11. “I like them french fried potaters. Is that…is that hair gel?”

12. “I am big. It’s the pictures that can’t handle the truth!”

13. “You buy a hat like this, I bet you get a free bowl of soup. You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?”

Calpurnia14. “That boy is your company. And if he wants to eat up that tablecloth, you’ll let him. It’d be a lot cooler if you did.”

15. “So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. You guys made me ink.”

16. “That rug really tied the room together. I spared no expense.”

17. “Oh, dear. Mister Tibbs’ idea of foreplay was ‘Effie, brace yourself!’”

18. “This isn’t the real Caesar’s Palace, is it? Did Caesar really live here? We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

19. “You know how to whistle, don’t you? Just put your lips together and dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.”

20. “What is your major malfunction, Molly? The love inside you, you take it with you.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Dead Cars Are Today’s Coalmine Canaries

9 Sep

by Roger White

 

You see them more and more these days: dead cars by the side of the road. Sure, the cops and the towing companies attempt due diligence, but they can’t keep up now. There are just too many croaked clunkers all over our highways and byways. I sat and thought about it the other day; you know what the proliferation of all of these deceased vehicles means, don’t you? That’s right, we’re all poor now. Well, 98.8 percent of us.

 he dead

It’s just like the canaries in the coalmine. Miners in our grandpappies’ day used canaries (those brave little birds) to make sure the air was breathable in their unbelievably dangerous underground offices. If Tweety Pie stopped singing and was suddenly on his back with his widdle feet in the air, it was time to haul out of there—the air had turned bad. Well, all those roadside stalled Chevys, puffing smoke with their widdle tires in the air—they’re today’s coalmine canaries. It ain’t good, folks. The air has turned bad.

 

The simple reason for this phenomenon is that our economy is barely breathing. There’s no more economic oxygen. Prices for staples such as groceries and gas are unacceptably high; cost for basic medical care is astronomical—and the whole system of for-profit care is at the very least misguided (and at worst, utterly evil); wages are stagnant; and jobs are about as scarce as an untattooed NBA player. Add to this the fact that the stock market today goes haywire anytime a terrorist sneezes in Yemen—and everyone’s retirement account is somehow inextricably tied to the market—and you have all the makings for a slippery slide right back into 1929, only perhaps worse.

he dead too 

Hence all the inert autos floundering near parkways hither and yon. It’s all about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 21st-century style. People are barely keeping their heads above water. It’s all most of us can do to feed the family, pay the mortgage, and keep the electricity on. Ancillary things, such as regular car maintenance, swiftly fall by the wayside when the money is just not there. And so, kaplunk. The trusty old Ford keels over because its financially strapped owner couldn’t afford to change the timing belt—which, by the way, costs approximately a cool grand including time and labor and all the extra nebulous charges your friendly fix-it shop always manages to throw in.

 

Unfortunately, we can’t really hightail it out of this particular coalmine, can we? And from all appearances, it’s a damn deep mine. In many ways, it’s downright disgusting. There truly is no middle class anymore; there are the mega-uber-wealthy, comprising less than 2 percent of the population—and there are 250 million shades of poor in these United States. The average corporate CEO income today is about $4,615 per hour; minimum wage is $7.25, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

 

the trapMore and more of us are carrying four- and five-digit credit card balances and are using credit cards often to pay not for entertainment or the occasional luxury item but for groceries and monthly bills. In many cases, it’s unavoidable. My neighbor down the street recently posted on Facebook that her electricity bill for one month was more than $400—and her home is less than 1,900 square feet. AARP magazine noted that in 1963 a 49-ounce box of laundry detergent cost 69 cents; today, it costs $8.00. A movie ticket in 1963 was 86 cents; today, just under $10. Even adjusting for income, we’re much worse off now than we were 50 years ago. Boy, it’s getting tough to breathe in here.

 

Keep your eyes on the roadside, people. The air has surely turned bad.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Well, Hit Me with an Anvil–It’s Contest Time Again

25 Jun

by Roger White

 

OK, OK, you don’t have to klonk the Spouseman over the head with an anvil. Speaking of, you don’t see too many anvils these days, do you? Think about it. When, in your daily comings and goings, have you come across a nice, sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing anvil recently? Critics of modern society may hold forth about how the increasingly technological, service-oriented nature of our economy today has killed such former life staples as record albums, newspapers, actual books, travel agencies, home phones, and the pleasure of becoming permanently out of touch with that behold the anvilglommy high school friend, but I say a true death knell for the world that was is the marked lack of anvils. There was once a time when every decent home needed a good anvil. Nowadays, I’ll bet you can go a whole year without even saying the word “anvil.” And this is so because we simply don’t make things anymore. We tweet. We blog. We text. We don’t plow and dig and forge things. Today’s kids may not even understand the term.

 

Old guy: “I need me a good anvil.”

 

Young guy: “What’s that? An Advil? Got a headache?”

 

Having said all that, however, I did find a reputable anvil supply house—on the internet, ironically enough. For all of your anvil needs, visit www.anvils4sale.com. A classic, German double-horn anvil will set you back about $2,700, but if you’re not fussy, you can land a decent, used church window anvil for right around a thousand bucks. I’m not exactly sure what a church window anvil is, but it sounds righteous.

 

I’ve been told by more than one Spouse reader that I tend to ramble. This may be true. Let me just say the word “anvil” one more time, and we can get to the meat of this column: Anvil. OK, I’m good.

 rambler guy

So, anyway, the whole reason I didn’t want to be klonked with a church window anvil is because you guys have been clamoring for another contest—namely the Movie Mashup. In retrospect, I realize it’s been since last December since we mashed up some good movies, so here we go. Father John Connor, you’re now eligible to participate again. And thanks for the rosary beads.

 

If you recall, what we have here, fellow catnip cosmonauts, is a collection of famous lines from movies. However, quotes from two different movies have been squished together to make one line. Here’s a for instance: “What we got here is failure to phone home.” This is, quite obviously, a collision of “Cool Hand Luke” and “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial.” Get it? No? Okay, here’s another one: “My precious goes all the way to eleven.” That’s a combo platter of “Lord of the Rings” and “This is Spinal Tap.” Or as I call it, “Lord of the Spinal Rings.”

 

So. Below (or above if you’re reading this upside down) are 10 Movie Mashups. Your job, if you choose to accept it, is to tell moi what two movies got cozy and had relations to make the mixed-up quote. The first 18,427 people to respond with any cinderfella storysemblance of an answer win a genuine “Jesus is Coming, Hide the Bong” bumper sticker. If you get pulled over by the cops for displaying said bumper sticker, I will not be held accountable. E-mail moi at rogdude@mail.com with your best guesses. Void in Maine, Oshkosh, and in that little gin joint over by 5th Street. Ready? Set? Bang.

 

  1. “You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been Mister Tibbs.”
  2. “Love means never having to round up the usual suspects.”
  3. “You’re gonna need a bigger damn dirty ape!”
  4. “Attica! Attica! Toga! Toga!”
  5. “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become a martini. Shaken, not stirred.”
  6. “Say hello to my little wire hangers.”
  7. “Shane, you’re trying to seduce me. Aren’t you?”
  8. “As God as my witness, I’ll never see dead people again.”
  9. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets a box of chocolates.”
  10. “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice elephant in my pajamas.”

BONUS: “I’m gonna get medieval on your pod bay doors, HAL.”

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

I’m Blowing the Lid Off The Candy Desk

6 Mar

by Roger White

 

Oh, my cosmic cohort, there are so many secrets. So many insider goings-on that we, the average work-a-day peons, know nothing of. Woops, ended a sentence with a preposition there. I meant to say “so many shenanigans of the rich and powerful that we pee-a-day workons of which know so little.” Or something.

 

You know, we hear things now and again. We get these vague hints of the clandestine workings of the movers and shakers. Like the Bohemian Grove. Have you heard of the Grove? This is a private patch of forest in California where, every summer for a fortnight The Groveor so, presidents and industrial magnets and oil typhoons and such all gather to rub elbows and smoke cigars and urinate outdoors. Women aren’t allowed, presumably because they would ruin the whole pee-party milieu. Look it up if you think I’m joshing.

 

There are other such truths kept in the shadows. Hopefully, most of them don’t involve urinating outdoors. Ya know, stuff like Area 51; secret underground bases where alien races are kept as gold-mining slaves; the president’s ultra-secret attaché case; black helicopters; Skull and Bones; the Freemasons (not to be confused with the Freemansons, a cult that worships deceased Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson); etc. BUT…there’s one tightly kept secret I recently uncovered that will curl your ear hair. I don’t think even Alex Jones has gotten wind of this one.

 

It’s…

 

… The Candy Desk.

 

Yes. The Candy Desk. Unbeknownst to the common rabble, since 1968 U.S. lawmakers have kept a hidden stash of gum and jawbreakers and little butterscotch treats in a secret desk somewhere on the floor of the congressional chamber. The whole thing apparently started with a California senator named George Murphy, and for some reason, The Candy Desk has largely been in Republican hands ever since. That makes sense somehow. Ostensibly, the desk of delectability is accessible to both parties, but given today’s polarized political environment, I would imagine the Democrats are relegated to the The Desksecond-tier sweets—you know, the licorice and candy corns and all those off-brand pieces of drek you find in your Halloween bag. Meanwhile, I’ll bet the Repubs get the Dove bars and Milky Ways and all. It’s outrageous, really. I can accept the political infighting creating such gridlock that the nation’s economy ends up in total ruin, destroying millions of American lives—but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit by while the political heirs of greats such as Ted Kennedy, Tip O’Neill, and LBJ have to chew on Smartees and Necco Wafers while the fat-cat Republicans hog all the Hersheys.

 

Anyway, this was not my major point. While tracking down the history of The Candy Desk, I found some other secret stashes—these hidden in the chambers and catacombs of many of our very own state legislatures. Take, for instance, the Colorado General Assembly in Denver. Did you know that in the Colorado House of Representatives chamber, there is—known to only lawmakers and a few insiders—The Doobage Desk. Yes. This is why, although there is still a political divide in the Rocky Mountain State, it consists mainly of debate over things such as naming the State Munchie. At present, the Dems favor Xtra Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, while the Repubs lean toward Caramel Kettle Korn.

 

There are others. In the State Capitol in Austin, you have The Ammo Armoire, for those forgetful lawmakers who may have left their sidearm bullets at home. The Florida Inside the Ammo ArmoireLegislature in Tallahassee has a well-hidden desk known as The Hanging Chad Hamper, where legislators can view with pride their state’s claim to national fame. The Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson houses The Dictionary Drawer, to be used to look up those pesky big words and spellings of high-falutin’ terms. In Sacramento, capital of the debt-ridden California State Legislature, they have The Coupon Cubby. This is a secret pile of two-for-one lunch deals at Arby’s and such for lawmakers working for a state on the brink of total collapse. Now, here’s an interesting one. In the lower Alaska House of Representatives chamber in Juneau, they have a well-guarded little cabinet known as The Binocular Bureau. Alaskan lawmakers dip into this now and again so they can view Russia, following the lead of that great Alaskan, Sarah Palin.

 

I’m thinking of starting a secret drawer of my own here at work. Known only to me and those like me, it will be accessible only through a cryptic passcode, kept by me. I’ll call it, say, The Smirnoff Shelf. Oh, wait. I already have that. Well then, skoal!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

‘Stepped on a Pop Top, Cut my…’ Stepped on a What?

28 Feb

by Roger White

 

There is a narrow greenbelt that runs behind our back yard, and in my meager efforts to keep fit—which involve a weekly tennis match followed immediately by heavy beer intake—I must cross this swath of forest to gain access to our neighborhood tennis courts. In one of my recent forays into the foliage I kicked over a large rock by accident and promptly fell on my keister. Whilst sitting upon my keister there in the wilds, I noticed something shiny and silver glinting from where the rock had been stealthily perched. Ho, I thought, buried treasure perhaps. Have I oafishly unearthed ancient coinage, precious metals, or long-lost jewelry? No? Yes? No?

No. No such luck. It was a pop top.

ye olde poppe toppeBut as I sat there, still on my ample keister, I contemplated this little doohickey. I realized this was buried treasure, in a demented time-capsule sort of way. A pop top! When was the last time you saw a genuine, throw-away pop top? In fact, I’ll bet you that 99.34 percent of the people born after 1980 don’t even know what a pop top is.

Called a “pull tab” by the beverage can industry, the pop top, for you whippersnappers, was how we opened our cans in ye olden days. You pulled the ring, the pop top opened the top of the can, and you promptly tossed the pop top on the ground. I don’t think that’s what the inventor had in mind, but we all did it. Did you know that if you google “beverage can history,” you’ll find that one Ermal Fraze invented the pop top in 1959? You can google just about anything, I believe. Anyway, I should sue Mr. Fraze for damage to my foot—and mental anguish.

Yep, just like the pirate himself sings, “stepped on a pop top, cut my heel etc. etc.,” I did the same as Jimmy Buffet out at Lake Benbrook when I was a teenager in the ’70s. Those little damn things were everywhere, and, yes, if you stepped on one just the right way, it would slice through your bare foot like an angry weasel. Had to have stitches and everything.

Now, it is at this point in my musings that I must make a choice. Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics? Or do I abandon this train of thought altogether and snag a cold Shiner?

Decisions. Let’s go with lyrics that don’t make much sense these days. We’ll liken it unto a symposium for the youngsters who actually enjoy old songs but don’t always understand them. Here’s one, for example:

In the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles, they opine, “If I should call you up, invest a dime…” Yes, kids, it’s true. There used to be things such as pay phones, and they did, long ago, cost only a dime to use. Jim Croce also attests to this in “Operator,” a song whose title also harkens to the ancient past, when actual, real-live people, called “operators,” helped you—in English—to place your call. Anyhow, Jim tells the operator, “you can keep the dime” in his tale of unrequited love. Similarly, Joan Jett belts out, “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby” in “I Love Rock and Roll,” reminding us that you once could use dimes for many purposes other than collecting them in old mayonnaise jars.

ye olde pinne balleThen there’s this from The Who: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Plays a mean what? Pinball! “Pinball Wizard!” The Dairy Twin in Burleson had a great pinball game, Bobby Bewley was killer at it, and we were in middle school. It didn’t involve a video screen, or blasting mutant zombies—the entire game revolved around keeping a very cool, very real metal ball from rolling past your flippers. There was much tilting, and there was much being yelled at by the Dairy Twin manager.

In “Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hightails it out of town because “the rabbit done died.” Yes, it did. Ya see, they didn’t have reliable EPT tests then. A poor widdle wabbit had to give his life to see if your girl had a bun in the oven. So to speak.

How ’bout this: Do you remember the Five Americans? “Western Union”? Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah…. No? They complained about having to fork over “fifteen cents a word to read a telegram I didn’t need…” Man, I loved that song. Still do. See, the guy in the song ye olde telegrammejust received a telegram (again, a communications method from the dark ages) informing him that his girl has dumped him. Again, a dumping song. It was a double whammy because not only did he get bum news, he had to pay the guy who delivered it.

And, of course, you have Paul Simon noting how “Kodachrome gives the night bright colors…” Ya see, kids, cameras used to have what we call “film.” And this film had to be (air quotes here) “de-vel-oped.” Digital cameras were not built into our foreheads then.

There’s plenty more, I’m sure. If you can think of any, write me at rogdude@mail.com , and I’ll send you a pop top. Or maybe a Mercury dime.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

They’ll Take My Lawn Darts When They Pry Them from My Cold, Dead Hands

26 Nov

by Roger White

Every Christmas season, right on cue, under the guise of “the public interest,” some Grinch-worshiping cults masquerading as nonprofit research groups publish their annual lists of the most dangerous, evil, and malicious child-eating toys of the year. I have a toy bone to pick with these guys—not a large toy bone, just a small one. In fact, it’s small enough to lodge in the throat and necessitate a trip to the emergency room. But nevertheless…

Don’t misunderstand, I acknowledge the need for watchdogs in our society, especially when it comes to the safety and well-being of our tiniest community members. There is surely no call for manufacturing and marketing such items as Mister Mickey’s Mini-Molotov Cocktail Set or Captain Smiley’s Fun with Asbestos Removal. But some of the selections for the naughty toy list are a bit nitpicky, if you ask me.

Take this year’s U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) survey of toy safety, for example. The PIRG Nerds spent all of their time from September through November hanging out in toy stores and malls playing with all the toys, games, and gadgets. (Side note: I want a job at PIRG.) According to the PIRG report, “Our investigation focused on toys that posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation, or noise hazard.” The report mentioned nothing about all the obnoxious, overly-sexed, street-walker-dressed dolls aimed at the preteen set—but then, maybe I’m being a prude.

 

No, PIRG’s pet peeves involved amounts of lead, tiny magnets in toys, little toy pieces that kids could swallow, loud toys, and toys that contained something called phthalates. Not only do I not have the foggiest idea what phthalates are, I don’t even know how to pronounce them. Trying to pronounce phthalates produces enough spittle as to discourage me from even investigating them, and I recommend the same for you. This is the “if you can’t pronounce it, it can’t hurt you” school of consumer protection. I will note that the PIRG study reported that the state of Washington had the toughest phthalate protection laws on the books—they went as far as making toy manufacturers that used phthalates spell out the amount of phthalates on the toy. This, I’m sure, caused toy manufacturers in Washington to increase the size of their toys just so the word phthalates could appear on the toy.

As for the rest of the hazards on the list, come on. We’ve become a nation of coddlers. As far as lead goes, I found out after the fact that all of my beloved Hot Wheels cars of the late 1960s were slathered in lead paint. I never ate one of my Hot Wheels cars. I crashed them a lot, maybe even burned one or two to see how neat it would look, but I don’t recall ever licking or munching my toy cars. And I turned out fine. No, really, I did. The dangers of magnets, choking, poking, burning, toxins, all that? Let me just say that when I was a tyke, we had Creepy Crawlers (basically an open hot plate used to cook plastic goo); giant lawn darts, which my pals and I would use as WWII bombs on our toy tanks and soldiers (we wore makeshift helmets on the battlefield); BB guns, which we would fire at each other to reenact famous battles throughout history; stingray bikes with no safety helmets or silly pads; and junior chemistry sets complete with instructions on what to do if you caught fire. And we all somehow made it through to adulthood with nary a scratch.

Well, I wouldn’t say nary a scratch. There was that incident with Jimmy Peterson’s left eye. And, oh, yeah, Bobby Scoggins never could catch a ball again after that one time—and jeez, I forgot all about poor Stevie Blackwell. He was a fun guy, rest his soul. OK, OK, never mind. I suppose some of the old toys are best left in the old days. Who’s up for some Slip ’n’ Slide?!

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Of Parades and Fireworks and Your Second Cousin’s Missing Pinkie

2 Jul

by Roger White

 

As the blast-furnace breezes of July waft in, caressing our faces with all the warmth and subtlety of nuclear warhead testing, many of us harken back to the salad days of our youth and those old-time Independence Day celebrations—small-town parades, concerts in the bandstand, dazzling fireworks displays, and your second cousin showing off his missing pinkie finger as he regales you with his annual “cherry bomb accident” story. Why are the days of our youth called “salad days,” anyway? I never came near a salad when I was a kid. They should call them “Milk Dud days” or “Captain Crunch days” or something.

 

Nevertheless, as fond as I am of recreational explosives and intentionally putting oneself in harm’s way for a juicy whizz-bang, I must say that my earliest memory of Fourth of July festivities is not particularly joyous. In fact, it’s downright terrifying. I don’t recall exactly how itty bitty I was, but let’s just say the family mutt and I pretty much met face to face. And this was not a big dog. The family was in the back yard, my older sisters running around waving sparklers in the air. I was perfectly content to spectate; those white-hot sparklers scared the bejeezus out of me. Sure enough, my sister (which one shall remain nameless) placed in my itty bitty hand a sizzling, hissing sparkler, which I assumed would immediately set my entire arm ablaze—after which, knowing my sister, I would be waved aloft, an itty bitty human sparkler.

 

As fate would have it, my dad was bending down near me at that moment, lighting a smoke bomb or something on the ground. In blind terror, I dropped the sparkler—directly onto my dad’s back. Dad, clad in t-shirt and shorts, instantly began yelling and gyrating, doing every move from a Native American war dance to the electric slide. Dad’s t-shirt was a goner; Dad ended up with a permanent little line burned into his upper back, and I a permanent little scar burned into my psyche. To this day, I’ll light any firecracker, bottle rocket, roman candle or any other type of festive munition—but I cannot stand sparklers. Stupid sparklers.

 

While I’m on the memory train, however, I do have tucked away on the seldom-used tracks of my mind a much fonder pyrotechnic piece of the past. In this particular vinaigrette (OK, whatever), I’m about 12, hanging at Lake Benbrook with my middle sister’s boyfriend. He was probably 17 or 18, and he was a mad genius when it came to finding creative ways to blow things up. Bottle rockets were Brian’s medium of choice, and model cars and ships were his canvas. We spent much of that afternoon obliterating a great many unfortunate old hot rods of plastic and faux chrome.

 

Then came the piece de resistance. Or as the French say, the piece of resistance. Just as the sun was starting to set on the other side of the lake, Brian took from his car’s trunk five or six model ships. These were World War II vintage: battleships, aircraft carriers, and the like. Each model ship had a length of string tied to it, with a lead sinker attached to the other end. Brian had given this a lot of thought. He gave some of the ships to me, and we waded out into the lake. By 15 to 20 yards out, we were treading water. One by one, we gently released each ship’s line, and soon we had an armada of model ships anchored just off shore.

 

That’s when the fun began. With two coke bottles as cannons, we spent the good part of an hour firing bottle rockets at those brave battleships. As thrilling as it was to score a hit and watch our targets list and sink, the most exciting part to me was watching a smoking rocket dive just under the water and explode beneath the surface. This was like being on the set of The Longest Day. Of all the professional fireworks displays I’ve seen since, none match the “ooh” and “aah” factor of that special, simple day in my mind.

 

And then there was the time I nearly burned the kitchen down trying to make Rice Krispie Treats in a skillet. Wait, that’s a Christmas story. Oh, well, be safe out there, kids. Remember your second cousin.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Handing Off the Ball at Midcourt? Seriously?

17 Apr

by Roger White

Among my earliest memories of watching sporting events live and in person are yellowed images of a musty gymnasium with rickety wooden bleachers. You know, an old-world gym, built in the 1930s or ’40s, with the rounded roof, many windows long painted shut, and those ghastly caged halide lights bright enough to cause welder’s burn on your corneas. It was the mid-1960s, and I was a little kid, watching my oldest sister play junior high basketball. I’m not exactly sure how young I was, but I do remember that I was small enough to easily crawl under, in, and around all the tiny crevices in the bleachers to find hidden treasure—loose change, dropped candy, and the occasional dollar bill or two. It was a blast.

Early life lesson: Lollipops stuck to the floor are not good to eat.

What little I recall of the actual games was that, in those days, girls basketball differed radically from boys basketball. Girls’ teams had to divide themselves into frontcourt and backcourt squads, and crossing the midcourt line was prohibited. It was the oddest thing, especially looking back now, to see a girl running full speed on a breakaway only to come to a screeching halt at midcourt to pass the ball off to her teammate. But no one really gave it a second thought then. To paraphrase Mr. Hornsby, that’s just the way it was.

I have to tell you that growing up with two older sisters gave me enough insight to realize the ridiculous premise behind this Victorian-style rule. Conventional wisdom in those days was that the female constitution was much more delicate than that of the male of the species, so what competition our dainty girls were allowed to participate in was softened and slowed for their protection.

Horse patties.

A childhood spent variously trying to keep up with, fend off, outfight, outrace, outbite, outkick, run from, and savagely battle for bathroom rights against two merciless sisters taught me, often painfully, that girls are just as tenacious, spirited, and competitive as boys. Except their nails are longer.

It came as no surprise to me, then, when Billie Jean King beat the chauvinistic socks off of one Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973. Remember that? It was for $100,000, winner take all. (And one hundred grand was beaucoup money in ’73.) Yes, Riggs was in his 50s, and sure, he hammed up the dominant male role to the hilt, and indeed, King was in her prime, but the action on the court spoke for itself. King blasted Riggs, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, using the crafty old guy’s defensive tactics against him. And if you thought Riggs tanked the match, think again. Not many people are aware that Riggs played another “Battle of the Sexes” match four months before the one against King—and he defeated Margaret Court, one of the top women players of the time, 6-2, 6-1.

Not long after this was when Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova began their decades-long rivalry. As big a fan as I was of guys like Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe, I genuinely anticipated watching Chrissy and Martina go at it as much as any men’s match. To my great surprise and delight, it was about this time, in the early 1980s, that I happened upon Navratilova in, of all places, the University of Texas at Arlington gym. She lived in the area at the time and worked out with the UTA women’s basketball team to keep up her stamina. I was a UTA student, and I jogged in and around that old gym a lot. Martina walked by me once to get a drink of water, and there was not an ounce of fat on her body. She looked as if composed of granite. I blurted something about being a huge fan, and she smiled uneasily at me. Another crazed fan, great, I’m sure she was thinking.

Anyway, what got me thinking about how our society has long viewed women’s sports—you know, with that second-class air of inferiority—were two recent developments. A phenomenon named Brittney and my youngest daughter, Jamie. If you were unaware, the Baylor University women’s basketball team went 40-0 this year. Think about that. Forty wins, no losses. No college team—men’s or women’s—has ever done that. And anchoring that amazing team was one Brittney Griner, the six-foot-eight-inch dunking machine from Houston. Did you watch this team play? Lordy, I was more juiced to watch the women’s playoffs than the men’s this year. Incredible stuff. And it wasn’t all Griner, either. When teams figured out how to shut her down (by double- and triple-teaming her), the Bears’ outside shooters, such as Odyssey Sims, nailed them from long range.

And, oh, my daughter Jamie. It has been one of those dad things this year, I suppose, getting to watch my youngest run the half-mile. Sorry, they call it the 800 meters now. I was a trackster (Truman Administration, I believe) long ago, and it thrills me to watch a chip off the old block stride along that track. She asked me to run with her around the neighborhood, and after a couple of blocks of grunting and panting, I instructed Jay to go on ahead of me. Bad knee or something.

Handing off the ball at midcourt, indeed.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.