Saturday, February 28, 2015

Time Lapse

I am awash with mystery. I swim with the confused.

Outwardly, I am normal like that guy and that guy and that. But inwardly images and sentimemnts swirl like Spirograph gone out of control. There's a turbulating turmoil of thought, desire, franticness and fractals.

This guy that writes this, he is no different than he was twenty thirty years ago.

Yet he is.

No, he still aspires to the same sensations, the known qualities to which he has grown accustomed over the years. He reaches for that which he has reached since his youth.

But he doesn't.

It's so very strange to change. The years pile up and an odd morphing takes place for life is not static no matter how long one lies on the couch watching television reruns.

Yet, all the while, little pieces of youth are being demolished one by one, crushed under the weight of an ever-heavying clock.

People die. Those icons with which I grew up have been dropping like errant flyballs in a Little League rout. And each time one passes, I feel a bit sadder. This has been one of my mysteries.

I didn't know the person. It's not as if he or she were family. Yet, in a way, they were for there was time spent together as they came into the living room once a week, or maybe five times a week, in the morning or evening to play out stories which kept me enthralled.

And I grew to like them. (love them?)

And now they have succumbed to the same forces which tear at us all.

The warm homeliness of Mayberry lies buried in the past. But I know we lived it. The mystique of a wild wild west with tight pants and beautiful belles playing in dark realms of mad midgets and daunting giants has faded from all imagination. The thrill of boldly going where no man has gone before has turned into trepidation that maybe moving forward is a bit less desirable than once seen.

How did it all get this way? Why do my father's once strong and steady hands now shake?
And why have the mysteries that once called out so richly and deeply become quietly sere?

The shore is rapidly shrinking as I glide into dark waters under full sail. I leave a large part of me behind, but still carry it with me.

The confusion seems normal. Maybe it will all settle one day and everything will start to make sense again. Or maybe nothing ever really made sense, and I just told myself it did.

Anyway, the fractals aren't unwelcome.

Only disconcerting.

Monday, December 15, 2014

28 Christmas Gifts You May Remember if You're My Age

With the plethora of links to "list websites" rampaging through Facebook, it's no surprise that some of them play on the nostalgic feelings of the otherwise unsuspecting masses. After seeing a list of toys from the 80s, complete with Cabbage Patch smarm and Care Bear dreck, I decided to create my own list.  Here are toys I remember receiving as Christmas gifts back in the day. They were so much neater than what passed for toys in the 80s.

1. Matchbox Cars:  The quintessential car toy for young boys. Now they are collectibles, especially if they come with their original box. But most of us were "driving" them in dirt driveways and letting them roll downstairs, so they may not be in particularly good condition today. Plus, who kept the boxes?

2. Hot Wheels Cars: The sportier, cooler cousin to Matchbox. Hot Wheels were made so as to roll more freely than Matchbox which made them perfect for zipping along hardwood floors and crashing into walls or furniture or even each other with damaging results.

3. Matchbox City:  I could spend hours driving my cars around Matchbox City, stopping at the service station for an oil change, driving over the bridge being careful not to fall off, going through the construction site. Of course, those hours turned to minutes and then nothing at all. But on rainy days, when boredom was the deciding factor, we may just pull it out again and take a spin around the block.

4, Hot Wheels Race Track and Supercharger: The track didn't stay together well, and the weight of the cars flying down it made it somewhat unstable. But it was a hoot to hook up the supercharger and see if we could keep the cars going around the oval on their own. At least until the supercharger's batteries wore down.

5. Mr. Potato Head: A classic. Give him different eyes, mouth, nose, hair, hat, etc, for a different look and then make different voices (I guess) as you try to animate him. I think there were other vegetables also, but they didn't catch on as well.

6. Gumby and Pokey: Flexible, able to be thrown into trees, it took a lot of effort to tear Gumby apart by the legs. But you could.

7. Lincoln Logs: In one can there were enough logs to build a small cabin. Want something bigger? You need more cans. I took my small ones and painted the inside flat connecting section either gray or blue and re-enacted Civil War battles.

8. Tinkertoys: Sort of a relative to the Lincoln Logs, the only thing I remember making with mine were dragsters.

9. Pick-Up Sticks: A game with plastic sticks that really wasn't that interesting. But we still had them for some reason.

10. Spirograph: Enough to keep a kid busy for a long time, it was always torture when you went too fast or hard and the drawing cog jumped out of the guides leaving errant marks in your otherwise beautiful work of spiral art.

11. GI Joe: I was into Sea Hunt and any other shows which had scuba divers. Heck, I used to get books out of the library about scuba diving. I've never gotten my diving certification, though I have done some snorkeling. GI Joe with scuba outfit was great fun during bathtime. And when done with that, we'd throw him into the trees. (Maybe to look for Gumby).

12. Toy Guns: Toy guns were the de rigueur playtime toy. If they were just regular toy guns, you had to yell "bang" to shoot them. If they were cap guns, well it took the play to a whole different level. That is until you ran out of caps because it was so much neater to take a whole roll of them and smash a rock down on them. The bang was much louder.

13. A different sort of Toy Gun: I had something like this, but I can't remember if it was a handgun or rifle. But I remember the plastic attachments that would shoot off the end of the barrel like a rocket propelled grenade. Only it was a soft plastic and it didn't travel very fast.

14. Erector Set: Metal pieces you could screw together and make cranes or large structures (that's what the box said). I think I mostly made dragsters with mine. I could also scrape the surface of my fingernails with the metal beams which always gave me teeth-gritting willies.

15, Creepy Crawlers: And how cool was it that you could pour the liquid into the mold, bake it in the oven? kiln? whatever the box that got hot was - until the goop hardened into a rubbery shape. Then it had to be pried out, but you could make spiders, worms, centipedes, all manner of creepy crawler things that fooled no one because blue, red and yellow just weren't natural colors for such things.

16. Easy Bake Oven: Another kid's toy that got hot, this time from a light bulb. I guess liability wasn't an issue back the 60s and 70s. My sisters had one - I think it was yellow. They made the items and we ate them. I think we thought they were pretty good, though they really couldn't have been.

17. Etch-a-Sketch: A frustrating toy if you wanted to draw circles. And if you dropped one, all your hard work could get partially or totally erased. There are people who have since created nice works of temporary art with Etch-a-Sketches, but they must be super deluxe models because I just don't see how it could be done with the regular ones.

18. View Master: And how cool was it to view things in 3D? Very. But you had to have a lot of the discs for any sort of longevity to the novelty of it.

19. Battleship: You sunk my battleship! Seemed hit or miss at first, but we soon learned to vector in on targets and observe miss patterns to try and determine where the opponent's ships were.

20. Stratego: Another strategy game in which success was determined by how cleverly one could set up his/her army. The flag was never up on the front line.

21. Gnip Gnop: Ping Pong backwards. This game was far more exciting as a TV commercial than as an actual home game. The reality certainly didn't match the marketing.

22.  Mouse Trap Game: This Rube Goldberg-esque game never worked as well as what we saw in the commercial. The cage often got caught on the pole spikes where it was mounted, the ball didn't necessarily stay on the path on which it was launched. And it took some time to set up in order to play.

23. Operation: Yeah, another gimmicky game that was fun for the first few go rounds. Then, boring.

24: Shenanigans: I can't remember if I had this game, or a friend had the game, or if I just watched the TV show on which it was based. That's really all I can say about it.

25. Twister: Only worth playing at a party where many people can laugh at the silly contortions needed to win.

26. SSP Racers: Now these were cool. You take the toothed length of plastic, slip it down into the cogged flywheel in the center, give it a hard pull, set it down and it will fly. And they came in some rad models.

27. Supercar: A toy based on the Claymation TV show of the same name, I loved mine.

28: Vertibird: Possibly one of my all time favorite toys. Using the levers on control box, you could make a helicopter fly around and around in circles. The trick was to try to land it lightly or pick up items using the hook that hung from its belly. It was my first remote control toy, and even though it was tethered to the center control box, it was enough to ignite imagination.

There are other toys I could have named: Colorforms, Slinky, Monopoly, Legos, Johnny West, etc, but you gotta end the list at some point, right?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Candy I Really Didn't Want at Halloween

Open the trick-or-treat bag after a long night's work of walking the neighborhood and it was like a candy Christmas. There were delights to be found in lollipops, chocolate bars, chewing gum, Sweet Tarts and the like. But mixed in all this confectionery gold lurked things that would make the hungriest dog or dad turn up his nose and walk away. Oh, we still ate them, for the most part.

But we certainly didn't enjoy them.

Here is my list of those candies that were definitely not desirable.

1. Turkish Taffy - I don't even remember why, but I did not like Turkish Taffy.

2. Red Hots - Never a fan of something that burned the insides of your mouth and tasted like pepper. That's not the point of candy.

3. Mary Janes - Yeah, we'd eat them in all their peanut butter chewiness. But they were free. I don't think we ever actually bought them at the store. Well, that is if we had more than a nickel to spend.

4. Black Licorice - The red was good. But black was something I avoided at all times. I've never liked Anisette for the same reason.

5. Candy Corn - It was pretty ubiquitous. I guess it gave the candy-giver the sense that perhaps they had hidden health qualities because they were modeled after a vegetable. But these pure sugar candies shaped like niblets didn't have much of a flavor beyond sweet.

6. Candy Necklace - These hard, sugar pills strung together had a very vague taste of fruit to them. They were really insipid and more reminiscent of plaster chunks than a decent candy.

7. Chuckles - Sugar-frosted, congealed jelly candies. Need I say more?

8. Circus Peanuts - Shaped like peanuts, colored like pumpkins, Circus Peanuts had the consistency of slightly set wallpaper paste and a kind of pukey banana flavor. Strange, very strange, indeed.

9. Necco Wafers - A big roll of disappointment. These hard, powdery wafers were similar to the Candy Necklace mentioned earlier. We'd suck on them, but they were so very unsatisfying.

10. Boston Baked Beans - The box says candy coated peanuts, but I seriously don't remember the peanuts at all.

11. Good & Plenty - More of that snarky licorice flavor and sticky chewy.

12. Mint Juleps - I didn't hate these too badly. They were a mildly minty, soft, taffy-like candy.

13. Taffy in Plain Wrappers - The best description I've read of these is that they tasted like burnt hair. And that's all I have to say about them.