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Archive for March, 2012

Funny thing about memories. The ones from our youth become more vivid and important and dear to our hearts while the ones from yesterday and a half hour ago go pfffffffffft into thin air.

What were we talking about? I don’t know, but I remember the smell of the kindergarten finger paint; the first-grade teacher’s perfume; the police whistle the second-grade teacher would blow to shut us up; the third-grade teacher’s cardigan (always over the shoulders and one top button buttoned; rarely with the arms in the sleeves); and the taste of the very first Nutty Buddy ice cream cone I had in the fifth-grade cafetorium.

Until fifth grade, I thought the only ice cream available to school children came in a plastic cup, half vanilla, half chocolate, with the paper lid you pulled off by grabbing the tab. (Licking the ice cream off the back of the lid was a job requirement. Even though there wasn’t much ice cream there; and what was there tasted like the paper lid. And, hey look, half the lid is brown and the other half is white.)

The ice cream had to be eaten with a snowman-shaped tongue depresser that gave me goose bumps every time it scraped against my teeth. The very thought, today, brings the goose bumps back to life.

Leaving the wooden spoon in the mouth too long — sucking the ice cream off of it — made it taste like wet wood. Getting the spoon too wet made it split down the middle. And two wet half-a-spoons were pretty much useless to a kid trying to scrape every last drop of ice cream out of the corners of a round ice cream cup.

Bit of a diversion there, but the sunlight looks warm and the birds are probably chirping on the other side of this office window. And there’s no sense in having an office window if daydreams cannot be cultivated on this side of it.

This, young people with your lives ahead of you, is the important stuff we grownups have to deal with while gathering our thoughts in preparation for another day at the grindstone. Some day, perhaps, you will also have thoughts. And pleasant childhood memories with which to fill them.

Spring does a thing to the sap that, during a cold, impersonal winter, tends to harden in our souls and shut us down.

And by “us” I mean “me.”

The promise of a new growing season reawakens the parts of us that can’t wait to start hibernating at the end of one year and can’t wait to thaw out and return to life at the beginning of the next.

You can tie off your YouTubes, dummy up with your smart phones, stick your joy sticks, and otherwise smother the technological advances that have since smothered what should be celebrated as the gift of childhood.

Give me a warm spring day, a stick, a rock, a creek and another chance to go home again. I’ll spend all day outside and come home in clothes covered in and smelling like the universe of my youth.

I’ll do this any day, every day. Maybe we can’t go home again. But we can wish it so.

Far too many decades ago, play and discovery, for me, were under-appreciated. Taken for granted. Today, with greater frequency, the memory of what I had and how much I frittered its value are taking the time away from the time I spend worrying, working and fending off the stupidity each new day, without fail, brings.

These are the things, technoboys and technogirls, that grownups think about when they’re seated at their desks in their offices. How to solve the next crisis? How to avoid the one after that? What happens if the top dogs don’t cover the bottom line?

This is not what we think about when the sun gradually begins to share more of its warmth, the birds return in full throat, and the office window unfairly separates us from all of it.

There are more important things to think about. And all of them are memories. Like threading a minnow onto a fishing line and the wzzzzzzzzz-click-plunk of flicking that minnow across the pond, off the end of a trusty spinning reel.

Like the day the mailman ran over Tim’s tricycle in the driveway.

Like how the water in the creek can be ice cold — even on the hottest day of the year. And how every time that sip of water — gathered in the shimmering reflection of the 10-year-old daring enough to get thisclose to the water’s edge without accidentally slipping in, face first — was more refreshing than mom’s lemonade.

This, technoboys and technogirls, is what your glassy-eyed parents are thinking about when, mouth slightly agape and ears completely tuned out, it looks like they are contemplating something very grownup important.

They are thinking about something much more important than anything found in life’s grownup world. Nothing holds a candle to the memories upon which that world is balanced, too often precariously.

I hope today’s entitled, with more electronic gadgets hanging off of them than seems practical (or affordable) for people that age, eventually reach this same conclusion. I further hope that when they do, they are looking up at it and not down at their thumbs, which are sure to be flailing away with lightning quickness as the next BFF ROFL(his or her)AO.

What will fill the memories of the next generation’s nostalgic years? Do kids still walk dogs, sip from a babbling brook, bait hooks, skim rocks, jar lightning bugs?

OMG. Are you, like, serious? Bugs? Walk?

I live in a very neighborhoody neighborhood. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy streets. The neighbor dogs are walked twice every day and their poop is carried home for them twice every day and I can’t for the life of me remember the last time I saw a dog walking with a kid at the other end of the leash.

OMG. Are you, like, serious? Poop? Walk?

I do find it ironic that if we old folks didn’t have access to the technology so loved today by the thumbs of the young folks, we wouldn’t all have reconnected with the other old folks we used to know as young folks and be so dripping with the nostalgia that has, from all appearances, engulfed us (or, me).

We’re fortunate, in this best of both worlds, that we can use new gadgetry to travel through time to the faces and names of our pasts, polishing the memories we’ve spent our lives preserving.

Today, Memory Lane is the main street in my perfect world, in my perfect neighborhood. Today and every day, it is crowded with grownup versions of our former selves. We all walk and jog and chat and mow and plant and stop and chat some more and care and smile on our quiet, tidy street.

Just outside this window.

 

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I wish we could get things done without everyone acting like they’re mad at everyone else always.

I wish I could type a simple sentence without my pinky hitting the shift lock every time I aPPROACH THE LETTER A.

I wish more of us could hear criticism, realize it’s constructive, and use it to our advantage. We have become a society that revels in the opportunity to find fault.

I wish we were happier more frequently.

I wish teh and hte were acceptable versions of the word “the.” It would cut in half the amount of time it takes me to type.

I wish this also held true for adn.

I wish over-stuffed, bombastic, narcissistic blowhards like Rush Limbaugh would dry up and blow away. I credit him for helping to change, in a negative way, the way we hear and react. Statements like this, however, only add fuel to his fire and make him stronger. Talk radio that fuels hatred does not improve society. He would love to hear this.

There was a time in our society when all we wanted to do was buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

How good that soda would taste today. (Provided its ingredients have not in the years since been found to kill white mice in science labs.)

Sidebar: Has anyone given thought to the possibility that laboratory rats get cancer from needle holes? We injected them with soda; they got cancer and died. We injected them with lighter fluid; they got cancer and died. We injected them with Cap’n Crunch; they got cancer and died. We injected them with artificial sweetener; they got cancer and died. We injected them with caffeine; they got cancer and died.

Conclusion: Injections cause cancer in sacrificial rodents.

I’m over it.

I wish someone would explain to me why the current, inexplicable rise in gasoline prices is the fault of the current president but the gas bags presently making this claim were remiss to announce that the last inexplicable rise in gasoline prices was the fault of his predecessor. Shut up. All of you.

I think it should be “March forward,” not “spring ahead” on the second weekend of March, when we adjust the countless clocks we now have on every appliance in the house. It’s not spring, it’s still winter. But “winter ahead” is stupid. Several years ago, we changed the time of year, by a few weeks, when we change the time. It’s now time to change the name we have for it.

Why someone else hasn’t suggested this yet is more than a little disappointing. Ican’t be responsible for everything. Ihave a mouth to feed.

“March forward” has a positive sound to it. And the thing we’re marching toward (nicer weather) is worth the trek. This is what I think. Also: I know it’s been a week since we set the clocks. This epiphany did not dawn on me until Monday, when a full day of feeling an hour behind was really starting to get on my nerves.

I wish someone would justify to me the suggestion made by one of the very scary Republican men running for president that he can’t understand why this president has not yet pulled our troops out of Afghanistan; yet, nowhere a scant three years ago were these words being uttered from this same stagnant cavern about our previous doe-eyed leader.

I wish more holidays were like St. Patrick’s Day. It’s a happy holiday. Also, it has meat boiled with vegetables. And beer.

Better yet, I wish corned beef was the same price all year long that it is during the week leading up to today.

I think House Hunters should be what we call presidential candidates. When we’re not referring to them with more appropriate and richly deserved adjectives.

I wish more of the money “raised” by youth organizations actually went to those organizations and not to the international corporations responsible for sending our gullible cherubs out onto our neighborhood streets and in front of our big-box retailers all in the name of delicious, cartoonishly over-priced cookies.

Also, I wish more of the actual “selling” was conducted by the children themselves and not the parents. It should be about interpersonal communication, responsibility, initiative. Instead, it’s more about how many boxes Suzie’s mommy sold while Suzie was flat on her posterior, thumbs flailing across a smart phone, LOLing with her BFF about how her lame mother agreed to do the work for her.

And while we’re at it, I wish someone could tell me why 15 cookies the size of a poker chip cost an arm and a leg. Cookies this expensive shouldn’t come in single-serving packages.

(Yeah. Right. Like you can’t down a sleeve of thin mints in the length of time it takes to fill a glass with milk.)

I wish Rick Santorum could hear what we hear when he opens his mouth. He might stop.

I wish the justification for an apology was not based on what was being accidentally burned and whose nose was getting bent in the process. Politics has long been a filthy business, but now that it’s constantly on every TV, radio, telephone, ticker, headset, Jumbotron, cable, satellite and microchip, the stench has become overwhelming.

I wish the contest for the White House would return to the schedule it once shared with the Olympic Games. It never goes away. It would be less taxing and breed more tolerance and interest if it was around a lot less.

I know this will never happen. But a guy can wish, caN’T HE?

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A return to the healthy yet boring, worthwhile yet sad, necessary yet sober, mandatory yet malnourished, doctor-recommended middle-aged life of a gym rat affords one plenty of time, while watching the calories and the seconds tick away on the treadmill, the food channel on the overhead TVs, and the Spandex perform downright amazing feats of strength and resolve, to listen to hours of iPodded music through modern microscopic headphones locking the skull in a death grip while sweating off the tonnage and, at a glacial pace, turning the flab to fab.

With apologies to song writers Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant, fans of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the entire sweet home of Alabama, the following is meant to be sung to the tune of the Skynyrd favorite, “Gimme Three Steps.”

It is mind exercises like these, conducted during physical exercises necessitated by decades of neglect, that make it easier for some among us to keep from choking the snot out of a physical trainer. Also, it makes the timer on the treadmill go faster. But only a little.

 

I was stuck in a rut,

Just sitting flat on my butt,

Couldn’t bend to tie my shoe.

When up walked a man,

Lifting weights with one hand

(A trainer looking for you-know-who.)

He said, “Hey there, dough boy

with the mouth full of french fry:

Whatcha tryin’ to prove?

’Cause if you want to explode

Add one more fry to the load.

And what’s that smell that comes from you?”

 

(I said, “Excuuuuse me.”)

 

“You should be scared and fearing for your life,”

He said, “Come join me at the gym when you’re free.”

See, he was lean and mean

And had no fat, ya’ll,

One of them fitness freaks.

“Oh, wait a minute, mister,

I’m gonna catch a blister

To lift these weights with you.

And although you don’t know me,

But I hope you don’t force me

To Zumba class at 2.

 

He said:

“Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister;

Gimme three sets, then three more.

Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister,

And then do sit-ups on the floor.”

 

“Four?” “More.”

 

Well the sweat ran the way

Of an ice cube in May,

And the water dripped on the floor.

But I’m telling you, son,

That it ain’t no fun

Weighing three hundred forty-four.

Well, he turned the pressure up on me,

And that’s the worst that I could have asked for.

For you could hear me screaming a mile away

Before I passed out on the floor.

 

“Now won’t you: 

Gimme three sets, gimme three sets, mister;

Gimme three sets, then three more.

Gimme three sets, just ignore that blister

Or you’ll never fit a-through that door.”

 

And I mean the garage door.

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