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CSotD: Looking backwards

Today’s F-Minus (AMS) touched off an odd bit of nostalgia, because when I was a small lad, we had a mother-and-daughter teacher team — Mom was music, daughter was art — who were reportedly convinced that the poles were about to swap any minute, at which point the land would be flooded, and so kept the trunk of their car packed with supplies so they could escape immediately.

I say “reportedly” because it might have just been gossip, but, if so, it was well-based gossip. In a small town, people know who the news-sources are and who are the toxic people making things up, and these reports fell on the “news” side.

Also, the pair were eccentric enough that it didn’t add much to their established splendor.

As the water rises, I’ve sometimes thought of them, but I remain convinced that, whether it rises from global warming or shifting poles, it isn’t going to happen as suddenly as they evidently believed, while, if it did that Suddenly, even keeping your car trunk packed would probably not save you.

Anyone who thinks life in a small town is dull just doesn’t know where to look.

And casting (heh) my memory back all the way to yesterday, I wish this Wallace the Brave (AMS) had appeared sooner, because it brings to mind another of the Amazing Rich Guy stories my friends told after working weekends at the rich folks place on the lake.

Seems one of the plutocrats bought a very, very expensive fishing rod which he had no idea how to use, and recruited a local kid to help him catch a big one. But, as he was lure-casting, he caught a snag and couldn’t pull loose.

My friend told him it was no use and he should cut the line, but he became furious saying he wasn’t going to abandon a $4 lure and began yanking with the pole pointed down towards the snag.

Whereupon the middle joint of his very, very expensive fishing rod gave way so that the top piece slid down the line into the water, at which point the line snapped.

At which point he snapped and flung the rest of his very, very expensive fishing rod into the lake.

I don’t know what anyone was paid to wait upon these folks, but the entertainment alone surely made it worthwhile.

A double “Timing Is Everything Award” goes to Arlo & Janis (AMS), because, for one thing, I just bought a pair of shoes on line which were the exact same model number and size as some I’ve worn for years but are apparently now made in another sweatshop because they are at least a full size smaller . (Yes, I’m returning them.)

Meanwhile, as Arlo rants about sea monkeys and X-ray glasses, someone coincidentally brought up these giant inflatable dinosaurs, which I fell for and which turned out to be balloons with pictures — black ink, no color — stamped on the side and cardboard clown feet you could put on the knot to make them stand up.

And not up to four feet tall, because I was four feet tall and the damn things barely came to my waist. This was the point at which I realized the ads in comic books were not to be trusted.

Or maybe it was when my pal Stuart sent away for the tank that turned out to be stickers. You were supposed to stick them on a cardboard box and then crawl around inside it.

Stuart also sent away for those crappy, barely-three dimensional Civil War soldiers which were only fun to play with if you owned a BB gun.

At least when you bought Cracker Jack, there was a 50/50 chance of something moderately interesting being inside, and, if there wasn’t, you still got some stale caramel-coated popcorn and an occasional peanut.

This Pickles (WPWG) rerun touched off some much more contemplative thoughts, because, while — having already done the things that really mattered to me — I don’t have a bucket list, I am a little jealous of my contemporaries who are traveling in retirement.

This does, however, hinge on “things that really mattered to me.”

When I did career fairs at schools, one of the pre-programmed questions kids were told to ask was how much it paid. It was a silly question because, at least back then, there were all sorts of careers at a newspaper, from reporting to ad sales to running the presses.

I’d confess that journalism was the lowest paying job that required a college degree, but that I’d have done it for free because of all the fascinating things I’d seen and interesting people I’d met.

My only regret, I’d tell them, was that I didn’t make enough money to travel, but, then again, if I cared that much, I’d have become a travel writer and gone all around the world on the company’s Nickel.

Which reminds me of this brilliant clip from Jules and Jim:

Pas spectacular, vraiment, and perhaps a remnant of a fading moment.

I had this poster from Paris’s Mai-Juin riots in 1968 on my wall in college, and, when the 10th Anniversary rolled around, Daniel Cohn-Bendit confessed that, while they had some genuine societal goals in mind, the real conflict came when they went marching down the street drinking wine and kissing pretty girls and the cops broke it up.

Which was, of course, an intentional understatement, but as well as a reflection of the casual sexism of those days, it was also a reflection of the romantic vision our generation once held.

At about the same time as that anniversary broadcast, I went to see Jules & Jim again at an art house, but found the new generation of college students scoffing at the film’s self-destructive romanticism.

I came out of the theater very depressed that we’d shifted to a cynical, pragmatism where safe bets were better than foolish, idealistic risks.

I suppose it’s cyclical. Back in 1916, after all, the moth told archy

it is better to be a part of beauty
for one instant and then cease to
exist than to exist forever
and never be a part of beauty

(No, I don’t know how much moths earn.)

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