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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.

Fly High, Young One, But Visit the Ol’ Nest Please

27 Aug

by Roger White

 

“…the eyes of Texas are upon you,

’Til Gabriel blows his horn.”

 

The wife and I recently experienced the hopeful heartbreak of helping our firstborn bird to fly the nest. Somebody should have prepped us for this one. Jokes and tender clichés aside, this was a much more difficult task than we ever imagined. We pitched in as Lindsey gathered necessities and knickknacks from her room—the only room she’s ever called her own in her lifetime—and moved into her dorm at The University of Texas at Austin. Now, it is true that we live in Austin, and it is true that Linz is only about 11 minutes away, but to her emotionally fragile parents, she may as well have enrolled at the University of Guam. Our baby’s gone! The dingoes have eaten our baby! Wait, that’s different.

Linz in her dorm

The days that have passed since our lovely Longhorn’s departure have been filled with little melancholy milestones, and they have come upon us at odd and unexpected times. You veteran parents know what I mean: the first quiet night it hits you that she’s really not around; the first time you start to call her down for supper and realize there’s no need; the first time you walk into her darkened room to empty her wastebasket, only to see that there’s no trash to empty. I don’t think my eyes have been this stubbornly moist since the last time I watched “Brian’s Song.”

 

Funny, but one of the things we found that we miss most is Linz’s morning call, that melodious rumbling din we’ve all become quite accustomed to around our household. Every family member always knew when our oldest offspring was up and at ’em when Linz blew her nose in that unique honk of hers.

 

“Linz, you up? Almost time for school.”

 

“WHAWNNNK!!”

 

“She’s up.”

 

How I miss that whawnnnk.

 

young bird old birdOf course, from our daughter’s point of view, she may be regretting the fact that she didn’t look into the University of Guam. It’s only been a matter of days, and yet the wife and I have found dozens of reasons (excuses) to drop in on our undergrad at the Forty Acres. “Hi, sweetie, I figured you could use some more highlighters.” “I’m at the front desk, Linz, I thought you might need another blanket.” “It’s us again, Linz. We have a rutabaga.” “Linz, the front desk people are giving us dirty looks again.” You get the idea. We lobbied to have our own dorm key made, but the UT people frowned upon that notion.

 

It’s an exciting time for the young bird, full of nervous anticipation, hard work, new people, grand adventure, as she flies on her way. Kind of tough on us old birds, though, back in the old nest. We still have one fledgling not quite ready to take wing. When that baby flies in a couple of years, we may be ready for the old bird asylum.

 

Hook ’em, Linz. We know you’ll do wondrous things. And we hope you remember where the old nest is. We have fresh fruit and Ramen!

 

“…The eyes of your folks are upon you,

So Lindsey blow your horn!”

 

P.S. It was close, but Mr. R.L. Mitchell of Baton Rouge beat Bob Kolar of Austin to win the “Find the Fib Follies” contest from our last episode. They both correctly guessed that the weeeinventor of the “para-shirt” story was about as factual as a three-dollar bill—but R.L. wins the big bucks by beating Bob to the “send” button. A bunch of other folks got it right, too, but they were too slow. You know who you are. I gotta make up better whoppers. Thanks for the kind words, guys. You like me! You really, really like me! Oh!

 

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.

 

It Takes a Village to Save the Squirrels

18 Nov

by Roger White                                                                              

It dawned on me the other day, as I was returning yet another socket wrench and assorted metric sockets to my neighbor Jim, that regarding many things about life and the cosmos I’m mostly talking out of my, uh, hat.

This particular moment of clarity came to me as I realized, watching my long-suffering and patient neighbor reseat his tools into their precise positions in his immaculate garage workshop, that as vociferously as I rail against modern society and pine for the days of yore, I would have lasted maybe a week and a half in the a slow squirrelolden times. My family would have lived under one of those quaint covered bridges. We would have subsisted on wild turnips and slow squirrels. Oh, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even know how to trap a squirrel, much less cook the thing and eat it.

You see, I have no skills. Zero. Nada. Bupkiss. Save helping you proofread your short story or guiding you through the distinctions between the possessive apostrophe and the contraction apostrophe, I’m about as useful and handy as excess nose hair. I don’t build things. My attempts at simple home repair often conclude at the minor emergency clinic. I don’t use a miter box. I’m not even sure what a miter box is.

woopusThe point is, I understand now that I should be thankful to the Large Kahuna that I live in a time and place where hammering nouns and verbs into place can actually put food on the table for me and mine. I’m sure the squirrels are thankful, too. Especially the slow ones. Life in the era of barter and wampum and manual dexterity would have been a tad severe for yours truly. As Quint said to Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, “You have city hands, Mr. Hooper.” City hands, indeed. And a city brain.

And thus, with this dawning, came the glow of appreciation for guys like Jim. This may also be a Large Kahuna type of thing, but is it mere happy circumstance that so many of my family’s friends and neighbors are people who can really do things? I mean, criminy, there’s Jim next door, who can fashion anything from an acoustic guitar to a backyard deck from a piece of tree bark; there’s Matt across the street, who’s fixed our computer so many times that when I call him now, instead of saying hello, he simply says, “I’m coming.” There’s our friend Rodney the homebuilder, who put our bedroom ceiling back together that time I fell through the attic. And there’s neighbor Glen, whose truck has saved us so many delivery fees through the years that we’ve been able to buy a new dryer. Oh, about that truck this weekend, Glen…

You get the picture. Sans our friends and neighbors, we’d be out several grand a month just keeping the place running. Ya ever try to bargain with a refrigerator repairman by offering to conjugate his verbs?

I’m astounded at the amazing people around me—not just because they can actually accomplish the things they do with their minds and hands, but because they have such generosity of spirit. I think sometimes if I were Jim, and the clod next door rang my bell yet again beseeching me to diagnose his ailing garbage disposal, I’d seriously consider feigning a communicable disease. Or keeping the lights off until my nettlesome neighbor went away. Not Jim. Not Matt or Glen or Rodney. They answer every time.

i build sentencesSo yeah. Color me humbly mindful that it takes a village. It takes a village of wonderful folks to keep me from having to wear “Will Edit for Food” signs on the streetcorner. I’m earnestly thankful. As are the squirrels, I’m sure.

 

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.

Daddies, It’s OK to Miss Your Little Girls

28 Aug

by Roger White

Watching my oldest daughter stride so smartly into her senior year of high school, and my youngest girl, a sophomore, confidently follow in her steps, I found myself struck recently with a peculiar mix of great pride and vague twinges of guilt. It took me some soul-searching and serious contemplation—and serious contemplation comes grindingly hard for me these days—to determine the root of my emotional mélange, but I think I figured it out: I miss my little girls. And I feel guilty for missing them because they’re not even gone!

But in a way, they are.

Somewhere along the line, at some moment in time among those precious years, my little girls grew up. Somewhere between those nights reading them Goodnight Moon while they settled to sleep in their Winnie-the-Pooh footsies and then suddenly watching them, dressed so beautifully, walk out the door with their boyfriends, my babies became young women. How did that happen?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll the old jokes about sitting on the front porch with a shotgun aside, watching one’s little girls mature into womanhood is such a tough and tender time for fathers. It’s not so much that I’m not the No. 1 man in their lives anymore. Heck, most of my daughters’ boyfriends so far have been pretty good guys—most of them, mind you. And if you don’t know which list you’re on, boyfriends out there, that’s intentional. Watch your step. No, it’s the small things I miss—those little girl moments like the times I would take them for a ride up the stairs, either piggyback or on my feet, as bedtime came; those long summer days at the neighborhood pool when they would yell for me to throw them higher into the air for that great splash; the giggles and smiles I’d receive when I’d bring them little toys and trinkets; and the unashamed kisses and hugs I somehow took for granted. One of my sweetest memories of those days is the time I was tucking my youngest in for the night, and she asked me: “Daddy, can I marry you when I grow up?” Gets me every time when I think about that.

Now that they’re teenagers, most shows of affection—and bits of parental advice—are usually met with a long roll of the eyes and a sarcastic “Oh, Dad!” But I know that’s only normal. The species humanus teenageus can be a snarling, confounding breed. My wife and I often sit and ponder when that time will come when they first realize we’re not complete lamebrains and they utter those cherished words: “Mom and Dad, you were right!”

And now that I’ve had time to work through my thoughts, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to miss my little girls. They’re big girls now, and I love them with all of my heart for who they are and for the bright, talented adults they’ll become. One of the things I’m most thankful for is that even though I’ll always miss those days of Barbies and cartoons and forts made of bedsheets—and letting them do makeovers on me in their Two Sisters Salon—I didn’t miss the days as they happened. It wasn’t all roses; all parents know and ruh rohappreciate the great challenge, the tremendous patience, and the utter lack of sleep involved in raising little ones—but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything in the world. Well, on second thought, if I had it all to do over again, I’d skip the fingernail polish. How on earth do you get that out?

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.

 

‘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.

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

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.