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Posts Tagged ‘Retro’

I remember little bits about my first day in Kindergarten. Back then, since hardly any kids went to preschool or dance class or played pee-wee ball, we usually didn’t know another soul in the classroom. You’d think that’d be traumatic for some kids – especially a little paranoid four-year-old like me – but I couldn’t wait to go to school. Luckily, my best-friend/next-door-neighbor, Randy, and I were the same age and we went to school together that first day. But when we got there, he cried like a little baby so his Mom took him home to wait for the next school year. Still, I was excited. I couldn’t wait to get into that classroom and eat paste.

Kindergarten featured a lot of finger painting, coloring, singing songs and playing in the fake little kitchen, but my favorite part of the day was snack time. Every day we’d get graham crackers and milk. My second favorite part of the day was recess, for obvious reasons. My least favorite part of the day was nap time. I don’t know about you, but I could never fall asleep on a dirty plastic mat on the floor. I’d just lay there. Apparently I was resting on my left side on Picture Day.

Yes, my Dad cut my bangs (see: “Papa Don’s Discount Salon“) and my Mom put that crazy bow on my head, on top of what was at one time early in the morning my hair pulled back tightly and neatly into a ponytail. Anyway, nap time was magical if you were the kid who got to be the “Wake-Up Fairy.” Each week several kids were assigned different tasks to carry out for the week. I can only remember two tasks: one was the Wake-Up Fairy and the other was the “Kid who had to make sure all the jump-ropes, four-square balls and other playground equipment were accounted for after recess.” I remember that task vividly because the one time I had it, I was trying to fit all the playground stuff into the big storage closet and a big wooden post fell on my head. Anyway, I always wanted to be the Wake-Up Fairy. That lucky kid received the magical wand from the teacher and was able to get up a few minutes early from nap time to go around and touch each kid on the head with the wand to wake them up. It was the first taste of power for a little kid.

Once I hit first grade, it was serious business. We had to stay in school all … day … long. No naps, snacks or skipping home at noon. But I still loved it. We actually ate lunch in the cafeteria. Everyone popped open their Partridge Family, Campus Queen, Archies or Superman metal lunchboxes and dug into food that had been sitting unrefrigerated in the back of classrooms for four hours. And everybody had milk money (usually a dime) taped to the inside of their lunchbox. Some sandwich and snack trading would happen, but all liverwurst, deviled ham and olive loaf sandwiches ended up in the trash. The week after a Payday Friday, Mom often packed my favorite lunch: a PB&J, a little plastic baggie of BBQ chips, and a few apple slices or half an orange; sometimes even a few store-brand cookies thrown in to make it fancy.

There were several magical days every elementary school kid would wait for each year. First was Halloween, naturally, because we got to dress up in costumes and walk around the school in a little parade. And we got candy. After Halloween, we waited for Christmas to roll around. There would be Christmas crafts, songs and other activities for the week leading up to Christmas break, and then usually a fancy party the day before Christmas vacation. And we got candy.

Nothing was quite as exciting as the holidays as a kid, but there were a few recurring events at our elementary school I always looked forward to. Besides field trips, I loved Ice Cream Days; I’d get a dime each time to buy a Lemon Bar or Fudgsicle. But one of the most magical days was Scholastic Book Day. Every few months or so the teacher would hand out Scholastic Book Order Flyers.

Scholastic Book Club Flyers by Enokson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’d pick out several books in our flyer, take the form home for our parents to approve and then bring it back to school with an envelope of dollar bills and coins for our purchase. Then we had to wait for the day the books arrived. When they did, it was like Christmas. Each kid who ordered books received their little bundle, packaged together with a big rubber band. I guess it was the early version of Amazon. It was so exciting getting your own brand-new books. And if you had brothers and sisters, your book supply at home was even sweeter. We had a cool, built-in cabinet in our house with lots of shelves and a fancy pull-down door accented with a metal treble clef and music staff. That’s where we kept all of our books and encyclopedias (Note to Millennials: Encyclopedias are primitive book versions of the internet). When my sister, Coleen, was a baby, she’d go to that cabinet and pull every book off the shelf. My Mom said it was a daily routine.

I guess getting new books back then is similar to the experience when kids today get a new tablet, or phone, or laptop or electronic game. Only when I was a kid, no matter how much we loved those shiny new books, we’d drop them in a heartbeat to go run around, ride bikes, climb trees or run through the sprinklers with other kids in the neighborhood. Actually, I have lots of unread books lying around today because I’m still always outside running through the sprinklers.

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Just about every day after school in the late 70s, my sisters and I would listen to our records. First we’d have to catch the latest episode of “Days of Our Lives” and do our chores, but then we’d head to the family room to blast our tunes on the stereo. Sometimes it was rock, other times it was soul, depending on if we felt like dancing. Okay, so every day there was soul, with some rock mixed in.

Before we started our music fest, we’d usually walk to the little store up the street to get some crap to eat and drink. Back then, my trusty dollar allowed me to grab a candy bar or Oompa Loompas, plus a tall bottle of Dr. Pepper and (for some reason) a cherry yogurt. Today, I don’t think I could even get a candy bar for a dollar. My younger sisters, Coleen and Melissa, often tried to stretch their money as far as they could by stocking up on penny candy or 10-cent Jolly Rancher Fire and Watermelon Stix.

I remember the first album I ever bought. I was 12, and used birthday money to buy Queen’s A Night at the Opera. I freakin’ loved that album. In fact I still have it. I’d listen to “The Prophet’s Song” on full blast with the head phones on to hear the lyrics and music jump around from ear to ear. And of course I rocked out to “Bohemian Rhapsody” like everyone else — long before Wayne and Garth did.

Many of you probably remember this awesome way to get a ton of records cheap:

Columbia Record Club Advert, 1970s by Joe Wolf is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

You could find this ad in all kinds of magazines. Just one penny (plus shipping and handling) gave you anywhere from 8 to 13 albums. Since you were probably reading the ad while sitting next to your stereo, you could just grab a penny off the turntable – you know, the penny you used to keep your 45’s from skipping. Once you signed up, you just had to buy about seven more records in the future at regular club price, which actually wasn’t that bad. Each month, Columbia House sent you their little music magazine. The problem was remembering to mail back the Selection of the Month card every month – assuming you didn’t want to receive a default album by artists like Starland Vocal Band or Rick Dees.

I remember how exciting it was to scan the ad’s selection and pick all those ‘free” albums. Of course the ad only showed about 150 options, and that included all types of music genres like Easy Listening (pass) and Country (no thanks). You had to wait for the first monthly magazine to arrive to see all the other cool selections available.

Naturally I chose records over 8-tracks. The only people I knew who bought 8-tracks had inherited an old car that actually had an 8-track stereo. Listening to 8-tracks was painful. You’d be singing along and then the song would fade out, making you wait about 10 seconds for it to fade back in on the next track. I believe this is how the phrase “Wait for it … ” originated.

Anyway, when that box arrived from Columbia House, it was like Christmas. I couldn’t decide which record to play first. I loaded up that turntable and my sisters and I had a music fest in the family room that lasted until our parents couldn’t stand it any longer.

Along with Columbia House purchases, I bought records all the time once I started working for the man. I still have some of my original albums, but most fell victim to sleepovers in junior high or parties in high school. Somewhere, somebody is listening to my original 12″ version of “Rapper’s Delight” and trying not to break a hip.

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I think I’ve mentioned I love Friday the 13th. I’ve always loved Friday the 13th. When I was a kid I simply loved Fridays. Which is strange, because that often meant Friday Night Casserole for dinner. But Fridays after school were also the start of the weekend, and when it was a Pay Day Friday we were able to pick up our favorite fast food or go out to dinner. And then we’d sprawl out on the living room floor to watch our favorite prime-time lineup: “The Brady Bunch,” “Nanny and the Professor” and “The Partridge Family”:

So when I combine Friday with 13, I can’t go wrong; 13 has always been my favorite number. I don’t know why. It’s just awesome. And I’ve won my fair share on the roulette wheel betting on 13 Black. It’s also a baker’s dozen, and you can never go wrong with one extra donut, amiright.

Some people freak out and think Friday the 13th is totally unlucky and scary. Probably because of scary movies. One time after the original “Poltergeist” came out, my sisters and I pulled a prank on my Mom, figuring we’d freak her out when she woke up on Friday the 13th. After she went to bed the night before, we placed dining room chairs on top of the kitchen table and scattered a few around the room. And we opened up a bunch of kitchen cabinet doors. We taped this note to the dining room table, and by the reply she left, you can tell we didn’t scare her one bit:

fri-the-13-note

Anyway, I always look forward to Friday the 13th being a lucky day. They don’t happen that frequently. The last Friday the 13th was in May. And that was the exact day Jay and I received a letter in the mail letting us know we were chosen to be “Wheel of Fortune” contestants. True story; stay tuned.

So don’t sit home like a scaredy-cat on Friday the 13th. Get out there. Go buy a lottery ticket. Ask that special someone out on a date. Send in an audition tape to “Wheel of Fortune.” The next Friday the 13th isn’t until October, so today’s your only chance for another 10 months. Well, if you’re Irish, you have St. Patrick’s Day coming up. You know, luck of the Irish and all that. Plus all the alcohol. So essentially you have another lucky day in just two months.

Of course, if you’re planning a camping trip this weekend at a place called “Camp Crystal Lake” you might want to change your plans.

 

 

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When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the day my parents would let me use the phone to call someone. It was such a magical idea, thinking I could talk to someone who wasn’t in the same room with me. When I was nine, I finally got the chance. Of course the only person I could think of to call was my next-door-neighbor, Randy; even though I could simply yell to him out our back door if I wanted to. But I didn’t care, I was gonna get to stick my finger in that fancy rotary dialer and whirl it around seven times to reach Randy. And hopefully no one else would already be on the phone when I lifted the receiver off the hook – we actually had a party line shared with another household back in the day.

Like probably every other family in the early ’70s, our phone was mounted on the kitchen wall. And under the phone was a metal cart with this setting on top:

avocado

I think you know where this is going. Naturally I got that long, curly phone cord wrapped around the toothpicks, and that jar with the avocado tree that was never going to grow crashed onto the floor. That was the end of my phone privileges for a while.

Eventually I was able to talk on the phone again. And I didn’t stop until I was 18. It seems like I lived to talk on the phone, like most kids. Now I hardly ever talk on the phone. There are so many other things to do on it. We may not be the “Jetsons,” or the society envisioned in “Back to the Future II,” but we’re pretty close. Just think of the hundreds of items a single smartphone replaces today. Here’s a sampling:

  • Actual House Phone
  • Camera
  • Video Camera
  • Stereo
  • TV
  • Video Games
  • Wristwatch
  • Computer
  • GPS
  • Tape Recorder
  • Alarm Clock
  • Calculator
  • Flashlight
  • Pedometer
  • Your favorite book(s)
  • Encyclopedias
  • Remote Control
  • Photo Albums
  • Yellow Pages
  • Datebook
  • Calendar
  • Timer
  • Stopwatch
  • Notepad

Not only can you save thousands not buying all that stuff above, but you don’t even have to go to the post office to send a letter, go to the library to do research, call information for a phone number, or even drive to the bank to make a deposit. And not only do our phones carry out a thousand different tasks for us, but they’re also so easy to use a toddler can operate one.

phone

So it’s no wonder we freak out if we lose our phone, or drop it in the toilet (I don’t recommend carrying your phone in your back pocket). Of course, phones still can’t make sandwiches. When I grabbed my phone and asked Google to make me a sandwich … well, try it for yourself.

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I was about nine years old when Don McLean’s agonizingly lengthy song “American Pie” came out. It was a tribute to Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper – popular musicians from before my time who died in a plane crash on Feb 3, 1959. I remember that song would start playing on the car radio on the way to the grocery store, and would still be playing when we got back into the car after filling a whole shopping cart and waiting in line behind three other people. I never knew what “the day the music died” meant until I was older. And this week, coincidentally 57 years to the day when those three iconic artists perished, is when my music died.

Everyone who knows me thinks Billy Squier is my number one, my main man, my all-time favorite musician. Well, he’s certainly up there in the top two. I didn’t leave my hand unwashed for three years after he grabbed it because I think he’s just so-so. He’s the Bill-Man, after all. But there was someone before him. And his name was Maurice White.

I just read that Maurice passed away. It’s funny that we don’t know our favorite artists personally, but they become such a big part of our life that when we lose them, it’s like losing a good friend. I think most people from my generation will agree that Earth, Wind & Fire was one of the best bands ever. I own almost every album they ever made. And if you’re a true EWF fan, you know that it’s not their popular hit songs that are the best, but it’s all those others on their albums that never got radio play. Maurice could write and sing some seriously uplifting, mystical, spiritual, bad-ass lyrics. And who can sit still when “Shining Star” or “Let’s Groove” comes on the radio? I must’ve listened to those albums thousands and thousands of times. I played them every day through junior high and high school. We danced to their music every day after school in the family room and memorized the lyrics wearing those big ‘ol headphones on our ears. I think it’s safe to say I grew up on EWF.

 

Earth, Wind & Fire - Positivity On Demand

Photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/gjhall/14034306459/”>VibeRide</a&gt; via <a href=”https://visualhunt.com”>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>CC BY-NC-ND</a>

I think it was in 1981 when I went with friends to see EWF for the first time. It was bittersweet. See, although Maurice and the rest of my favorite group was right there on stage 20 feet away from me, I couldn’t see them because some guy with the WORLD’S BIGGEST AFRO was standing right in front of me the whole time. I’m not kidding, that thing was like a tiny planet. Plus, I had to pee worse than I ever had to pee in my entire life. And there was no getting out of that crowd I was smashed into to try to find a bathroom. Have you ever had to pee so bad that after an hour or so, the feeling goes away? Well, that actually happened. Either that or my bladder fell out and I didn’t notice. To add insult to injury, the guy who asked me to be his date that night flirted with my friend throughout the entire evening. But still, I could hear EWF, and caught glimpses of Maurice every now and then when the afro guy bopped his head to the side. And it was freakin’ awesome.

I saw them again about 10 years ago, and it was just as awesome. Even when I listen to them now, I feel like I’m 16 again. I can close my eyes and I’m right back in my old family room, at the dance, at a party or cruising the “J” in a friend’s car. Luckily, the music doesn’t really die. Maurice and all the others who have left this place have graciously left their music behind.

But, Billy Squier, if you’re reading this, don’t EVER die. I’m not having it.

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If you have to live in Fresno, California, one good thing is you usually have at least some type of citrus tree in your yard. We do. In fact, we have 12. There’s a small orange grove in our yard, which is like an acre and a half. And we have two kumquat trees. And a loquat tree. If you don’t know what that is, you’re missing out. I can’t wait till those ripen. We had a loquat tree when I was growing up in Napa. Those things are delicious. I didn’t think I’d ever find one again, but when we got here, there it was in all its glory. That was my first sign that maybe Fresno wouldn’t suck.

So yeah, I have oranges coming out of my a**. I remember visiting Papa Don in Arizona and seeing his fancy electric citrus juicer. I went back to Oregon and bought one of those bad boys so I could juice oranges. Only I had to buy bags of them to do it. Now I have all the oranges I want … for free. It’s awesome. But I don’t know how much longer they’ll last. We’ve harvested them again and again, so there aren’t that many left now. But the trees keep getting new blossoms (which smell like heaven BTW), though I don’t think oranges have a second harvest. In the meantime I’m looking at a full bag sitting on the kitchen table. I can’t make orange stuff fast enough. I’ve made Orange Muffins, Orange Cupcakes, Orange Sugar Cookies, Orange Chicken, Orange Glazed Salmon … the list goes on and on. And naturally I’ve squeezed a gazillion oranges for juice and zested about a bazillion. My freezer is turning orange. But I’m not complaining; it’s awesome. I went home (to Oregon) last month and checked a huge suitcase full of oranges to take to the family. I can’t get rid of these things fast enough. I hand them out to Jay’s brother, Jay’s co-workers, visiting relatives, the neighbors, the pool guy … yeah, I have a pool guy. Fresno doesn’t suck.

Anyway, when I juice oranges I think of my Grandpa BK. When I was a kid and spent the night at BK and ME’s house, BK would go out to his orange tree in the backyard, pick a bunch, and come into the house and squeeze them (by hand, not with the fancy electric juicer like I have). Me and my sisters were raised on frozen concentrate and Tang, so when BK offered us the fresh-squeezed OJ, we’d wince – so he’d add a little sugar and it was all good. He was so proud of that tree. He’d be thrilled with our little orange grove.

Another thing I think about when I juice oranges is that ’70s kid show H.R. Pufnstuf. I loved that crazy thing. I wanted Freddy the Flute more than Witchiepoo did. And she’s why I can’t get this ridiculous song out of my head when I juice oranges.

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Mary Ann made Chicken Pot Pie when we were kids. Actually, I think Banquet made it, and Mom baked it. Hurl. I never liked it. Seems like it always ended up burnt on at least one side and half of the top. The only part I liked was the bottom crust … assuming it stayed soft and didn’t get burned also. There was always about one cube of fake carrot and about three fake peas floating around in there. Not a fan. Sorry I don’t have a fancy Chicken Pot Pie recipe for you, because I never make it. The only thing that comes to mind when I hear “Chicken Pot Pie” is this:

 

 

But I recently ate a Chicken Pot Pie … and loved it. Actually it was a Chicken Pie – no Pot. I had said pie in Fresno – the armpit of California. Why did I eat a Chicken Pie in Fresno? Because I live there now. I haven’t had a chance to tell many people because it happened quickly and this last month has been a whirlwind. Jay was offered a fantastic career opportunity, thanks to his bro James, and I reluctantly agreed to the move. We hope to be here just a few years, but still. If you asked me to make a list of 100 places I’d like to live, Fresno would not be on it. Fresno wouldn’t even have the chance to be honored to be nominated for the list.

So I left Oregon and my family, kicking and screaming the whole way. Well, I didn’t kick and scream on the drive here; that would’ve made it even more difficult to navigate my truck and trailer on the highway. Though once we hit California, the other drivers were kicking and screaming. Jay said some were even flipping him off as he drove the U-Haul ahead of me. Ah, I remember road rage.

I did some research on Fresno before the move. Despite boasting a super high crime rate, horrid air quality and ridiculously hot summers, the city has a cool area called the Tower District. I made Jay take me there last weekend, so I could try to find something to like about Fresno. And, it was pretty cool! Funky shops, antique stores, Sequoia Brewing Company and the art deco Tower Theatre. The theater was closed, so we were peeking through the front doors. An employee saw us and let us in … in fact, they gave us a tour of the whole place and introduced us to the owners. Very cool. And, across the street was the Chicken Pie Shop. I had read about it online, too, and figured it was worth a try. I knew at least Jay would love it.

Jay had to fight me for the Chicken Pie. We only ordered one to share, and one is just not enough. That thing was delicious. I hate gravy, but whatever they put on and in this pie was heaven – like eating Hollandaise. The place is retro – or actually, it hasn’t been updated since it opened that I can tell – and that’s part of its charm. I highly recommend checking it out it you ever make it here. Though I don’t recommend moving to Fresno.

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