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‘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 Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics?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.

 

A Penny Earned Is a Penny Spent

9 Oct

by Roger White 

Powerful thing, motivation. Think about it. With proper motivation, master sculptor Gutzon Borglum led a small army of workers from 1927 to 1941 to transform a stark South Dakota mountaintop into the 60-foot high carvings of presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln we now know as Mount Rushmore. With an amazing store of motivation, Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin took 28 years to single-handedly construct the astounding Coral Castle in southern Florida, a bizarre collection of more than 1,000 tons of limestone monoliths—all fashioned together so intricately and mysteriously that the estate is a major tourist attraction today.

Yet more unbelievable than that, given the appropriate amount of motivation, a 14-year-old daughter who normally wouldn’t deign to put her dirty dishes in the sink is now dynamo girl—washing the family cars, plucking weeds from the yard, sweeping sidewalks, and (gasp) even cleaning her room. To fully appreciate the (gasp), one must experience this room for one’s self. But if I shared an actual photo of this, this…place with all of you ones then this one would surely be shunned by our young one for a long, long time. And we might risk a visit from a certain one wearing a CPS jacket. But I digress.

Borglum’s motivation was fame, spiced with a hefty dose of national pride. Leedskalnin was inspired by mad genius. Our kiddo? Cold, hard cash. And the fact that she’s been coveting some $100 pair of shorts that she simply must have because “all the girls are wearing them.” Personally, I think shelling out a nice, crisp Ben Franklin for some scant fabric that will likely be passé within three months time is ridiculous, but who am I to argue fashion? I still have a leisure suit in the closet. A green leisure suit. And saddle shoes. Besides, if I can spring for a fiver here and there to avoid yardwork, I say give the kid some real-world responsibilities. Heck, she’s even learning the fine art of negotiation. You should have heard her working her grandmother; she would have made a used-car dealer proud.

Bubbie: “Jamie, I hear you’re needing some money. I’ll pay you five dollars to wash my car.”

Jamie: “Five dollars? Your car’s filthy. Look at it. Twenty.”

Bubbie: “You’d charge your dear, old Bubbie twenty dollars? I’m on a fixed income! Seven.”

Jamie: “It’s a mess! How do you drive that thing? Fifteen.”

Bubbie: “Eight.”

Jamie: “Ten, take it or leave it.”

Bubbie: “Do the windows and hubcaps?”

Jamie: “You’re a hard one, Bub. Deal. Cash up front.”

I must say, watching our entrepreneurial offspring make sky-high stacks (as they say on “Breaking Bad”) has now motivated Mom and Dad. Thanks to our beneficent Bubbie, who has grown weary of her massive collection of mint-in-box Barbies, we’ve recently found ourselves in possession of several hundred anatomically exaggerated blondes in everything from Bob Mackie gowns and Queen Elizabeth garb to Harley leather. Our first instinct was a giant garage sale, but Bubbie scolded us into submission. These are collector’s items, she insisted. Look them up!

So we did. Sweet ghost of G.I. Joe’s grandma, she was right! Apparently, the first edition Harley Davidson Barbie goes for about seven hundred dollars. Another one in that same series lists for almost as much. Whole bunches of these tiny babes sell for pretty pennies, based on how many they made and how hard they are to find. And then there are the variations and errors. On some models, they may have run out of brown paint for Barbie’s eyes, so they made five or six of that line with blue eyes. Or a certain doll may be mistakenly looking left instead of right. Or a certain Ken doll may accidentally have three testicles. To true collectors, these rare gems are the golden fleeces of Barbie hunting. And these crazed toy hunters are willing to pay beaucoup bucks to get them.

OK, I was joking about the Ken doll. Stop searching. But hey, if you need your weeds plucked, I know a kid…

 

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.