Archive for August, 2013

And I say,

August 28, 2013

When I was 5 I had a plastic phonograph in my room. I would carry in my mom’s stack of albums, push the stubby black spindle through the Apple sticker on Magical Mystery Tour and sit back, eyes closed, to enjoy Baby, You’re a Rich Man and Fool on a Hill.

My mother, who attended a Beatles’ concert in the 1960s, also has a thick piano book called ‘The Compleat Beatles.’ Thanksgivings of my childhood meant Uncle Rob and Chauncey standing behind her with their guitars while her fingers scooted around the keyboard.

Uncles Monty and Hot Shot and all the wives would be gathered around singing. We would shout requests until 3 in the morning. Nobody made me to go to bed and miss all the fun.

I know Uncle Hot Shot’s favorite is Run for Your Life, Monty’s is Martha My Dear, and  Mom hates to play Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.

I know all the words in that thick book.

Someone always wants to sing Here Comes the Sun.

Now we’re getting to the point of this post.

This is a beautiful song.

But I can’t stand it.

I would never say the sun was coming up. I don’t say the sun rose or set or went behind the mountains.

The sun is holding still.

I always say we’re turning away from or toward the sun.

I try to sing along, but I sound silly singing “Our part of the Earth is turning toward the sun, little darling.”

It’s not all right.

The banjo story

August 27, 2013

I was at a seminar last night for a cover story I’m writing for the paper.

The speaker said, “You know what they say about Davy Crockett’s hatchet.” It’s that easy to make me feel dumb. Presume I know something I don’t know.

I’m a history nut, and fancy myself a Crockett knower. I stood in the Alamo. I didn’t know he had a hatchet.

What they say is, “At some point the next owner had to replace the handle, then he had to replace the blade. Is it still Davy Crockett’s hatchet?”

This seems like a useful reference. My biological father’s banjo came to mind.

When I last visited him, he told me this story.

He came across a banjo that had been built and owned by some bluegrass legend whose name I would have been impressed with, if I were a bluegrass knower.

The instrument was beautiful. It had great sound. He had to have it.

He put a deposit and saved and finally bought the banjo.

He also ordered some special wood for the rim. There’s a sunken boat at the bottom of one of the Great Lakes. The kind of wood and its 100 years of submersion have given it a magical quality when used as a rim in a banjo. If I understand correctly, banjo owners can commission a guy with a scuba tank to go get some. I doubt I understand correctly.

He also replaced the strings and knobs.

Now, you know what they say about getting new carpet (anybody feel dumb?) — you realize you need new curtains and paint.

Next came a new tension hoop, flange and head.

The end of his story was, “I don’t think it still has any of the parts I had originally saved so eagerly for.”

If the seminar guy had said, “You know what they say about Jan Threlkeld’s banjo,” I wouldn’t have felt dumb.

The carpet tack story

August 26, 2013

I’m terrified of carpet tack, which I once lost a fight with, and which is now exposed around the perimeter of my living room.

Our new house, which we’ve lived in a little more than a year, is tacky and gross. The elderly women who sold it to us probably considered it chic, but its day has passed.

The window dressings and wallpaper make the biggest early-’60s statement, but the carpet may be the oldest thing in the house.

For the first month we lived here my son said, “It smells like old people.”

Like teenage boys smell good.

In fall I brought a kitten home from the grocery store for my son. It peed in the living room. Fine, cut that corner of the carpet out.

In June my daughter chose a kitten from the pound for her birthday. By the beginning of August our living room carpet was half missing. Not half all together, mind — half cumulatively.

Before my birthday party I made the kids pull it up from the whole room. There’s a nice wood floor under there. And tack strip.

Here’s why I’m terrified of it.

I was running late for work at the ’50s restaurant shortly after I had flooded my parents’ house. Tack strip lined the threshold between the living room and the enclosed porch I had stashed my uniform in.

As I ran by, I sliced open the bottom of my right foot, long and clean.

My grandmother took me to the emergency room. There was a lot of waiting. We played Scrabble together, but then I was alone with my thoughts after they led me into the exam room.

This is when I began to consider what would happen when I finally saw a doctor. He was going to want to stitch me with a needle.

Oh nuh-uh.

I tried to leave.

First my grama, then the doctor caught me before I made it past the desk.

I argued. “I changed my mind. I’m fine. It’s so silly. I don’t know why I came. I’m sure I overreacted.”

They probably thought I was in shock. “As long as you’re here, let’s have a look.”

More arguing. I lost that fight too.

“I need to stitch this.” Knew it.

“No, thank you.”

“No, really. You’ve sliced it clean open. Everytime you step, even if you tiptoe, you’ll re-open it as it tries to heal.”

“That’s OK.” I grabbed my purse. “I have to go to work now. I won’t step on it.”

“What do you do?” I was a hula-hooping dancing waitress. I had to wear saddle shoes. He didn’t think much of my good sense.

In the end, I was 19, and he could not make me get stitches. I stayed off my foot as much as possible, and it healed fine and quickly.

It didn’t even scar me, unless you count my fear of tack strip.

The playland tubes story

August 25, 2013

I recently heard tell that the ball pits that were popular when my kids were babies have been removed from all fast-food playlands.

I once sneaked into one as an adult — they didn’t have stuff like that when I was a kid — and regretted it. I took a flying leap into the pit. The balls are hard. It hurt everywhere.

Being a California native in Boulder, Colo., I struggled with preschoolers and snowy days. I used to call my friend Katherine up, and we would drive to Broomfield for a field trip. There was a McDonald’s there with the biggest Play Place I ever heard of.

It was indoors, but the walls were all clear plastic, so you could see all five stories of colorful crawl paths from the freeway. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the tubing structure had its own ZIP code.

I was such a rude costumer, I would feed the kids at home, and then just take them to play. I knew it was wrong, but it was 10 degrees below freezing and I felt wronged by the world. I spent winters feeling indignant.

The structure was intimidating, both in size and population. My son was pretty shy about it. He lingered around the little-people area, popping peek-a-boo through cut outs in padded plastic, or throwing the little balls that escaped the pit of pain.

One afternoon when I was almost nine-months pregnant with my daughter, he braved up and went into the maze of tubes.

For reasons passing understanding, he waited until he was in the center of the topmost tube path to decide he was frightened.

He called to me through the windows of his tube. I called back, “Crawl out!”

He could neither figure out how to turn around, back out the four miles he had traversed nor understand that going forward meant a short downhill path to freedom.

I had no choice. I crawled in to get him.

Picture an eight and a half-month pregnant woman in several layers of thermals and wool sweaters wriggling through a habitrail lined with dry, gummy ketchup.

The McEmployees were not pleased.

They scolded me, “The Play Place tube maze is for children only.” I supposed it was for customers only, too, but didn’t mention that.

Since then I’ve seen many things, such as the Internet, and learned that those playlands were said to be chock full o’ dirty diapers, vomit and used hypodermic needles. I read terrible tales of children getting trapped and killed in the depths of the ball pits.

The moral here is plain: never live where it gets cold.

A cell-phone beating

August 13, 2013

I ended my post the other day saying I wanted to beat Michael with my cell phone.

The trio on my talk radio station told a story about a kindergarten teacher who beat a child with her cell phone. Let me tell you, after my year of subbing, I am less sympathetic to this child than probably you are.

The talk jockeys invited people to come up with a punch line to the story for tickets to Universal Studios. All of the callers’ entries were dumb.

I couldn’t get through, but I tried.

My entry would have been: She totally misunderstood the function of the pound key.