THE PINKS AND THE BLUES

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

When I was growing up, all efforts were made to keep the boys separate from the girls. At my elementary school there were even separate entrances for each. The girls couldn’t play with the boys on the segregated playground’s pickup softball teams. They might skin a knee or something awful like that.

It went on like that until high school. By that time separateness was pretty well established.

Adolescent boys had buddies, pals, homies; comrades described in various macho ways. Bruises were common. Spitting was encouraged. Belching was a competitive sport.

Adolescent girls had girlfriends and phoned each other each evening to ask what the other was going to wear the next day. They had circled their wagons into cliques dedicated to delicate activities in which they would not skin their knees or something awful like that.

The upshot is that by the time we hit our teens we didn’t really know much about the opposite sex. How could we? The boys were always over here wearing blue; the girls were always over there wearing pink.

So, there I was at 17 with some mysterious force at work drawing me to this group of total strangers. What’s a poor hormone-saturated teenager to do? Woe is me.

To make a long story a little longer, we worked it out. Clumsily, I admit. Lots of kicking the dirt and blushing and finally getting around to asking one of those alien beings on a date.

It became a little less clumsy as time went by. We learned the rules: don’t honk your horn at the curb when you pick up your date; say nice things about her mother and, when discussing what time she is to be home, never tell her father you’ll have her in bed by ten.

Sure, we got better at sorting out the gender differences, but the truth is, a lot of the mystery never did go away.

The years went by. We got married, continued to work at figuring out the other half, failed monumentally, divorced and went our separate ways.

When I got suddenly single at 37, it wasn’t much different from when I was 17. Again there was an entire world of strangers out there.

I’m married again. Got a good one this time. Maybe I became better. Hard to say.

I don’t kid myself that I have entirely figured out the pink half of the species. But I learned a couple of tricks to avoid trouble. Saying “I’m sorry” goes a long way toward domestic tranquility.

Saying “yes dear,” usually takes care of the rest.

Advertisements

GOING TO THE MOVIES WITH GRANDMA

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

By Steve Liddick

Saturdays were special in the 1940s. There was no school and it was the day I got my allowance. My 50-cents and I would get on a bus to the city to see a movie. The bus ride cost a dime. The movie ticket was a budget-busting 15-cents and a box of candy was a nickel. That left ten-cents for the bus ride home and one lonely dime for two comic books.

I would usually stop off at my grandmother’s apartment in the city on the way to the show to say hello, maybe get a snack, and ogle the pretty nurses from Grandma’s kitchen window as they went by on their way to the hospital next door.

Grandma was a pretty hip old lady who understood kids. She knew the young would always have oddball fashions and terminology all their own. She understood the need of the young to be the same as their peers in fashion and different from grownups in their language.

“Where are you going, boy?” she would say.

“To the movies, Grandma,” I’d say.

“Wait, I’ll get my purse and go with you,” she’d say.

“Uh . . . ”

Now, when I said I was going to the movies, I meant I was going to the theater Grandma would not have been caught dead in. The grungy Rio Theater showed a western and mystery double feature, 24 color cartoons, a Three Stooges short subject, a Superman or Rocketman serial and a live talent show on stage. We all got to holler and cheer and boo at what was on the screen, sit with our feet up on the orchestra pit railing, and be obnoxious where our parents couldn’t see us.

But, what my grandma meant by “wait I’ll get my purse and go with you” was, “we’ll go to Loews Regent Theater.”  Instead of watching Lash Larue whip the bad guys into line or Red Ryder and Little Beaver thunder across the silver screen, we would be watching Howard Keel sing to Jane Powell. Or maybe it would be Fred Astaire dancing alternately with Ginger Rogers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Ann Miller or Mitzi Gaynor. And you couldn’t holler and cheer or boo at what was on a classy screen like the one at Loews Regent Theater with its plush carpets and gilded decor. Certainly not with your grandma sitting right next to you. They didn’t even have an orchestra pit railing and even if they had it would probably be covered with velvet and you wouldn’t have been allowed to put your feet up on it.

But grandma paid for the tickets and the candy and I got to spend the time with her.

Many years later, long after Grandma had passed away, MGM came out with a video compilation of clips from their movies of the 40s and 50s.

Those Saturday mornings all came back to me in a warm wave as Howard and Mitzi and Cyd and Fred and all the rest sang and danced in glorious Technicolor.

But the best part of watching those videos was that for a couple of hours I got a chance to sit beside my grandmother one more time.

STOP ME BEFORE I HURT MYSELF

REFLECTIONS – updated every Wednesday

by Steve Liddick

I gathered together all the materials I thought it would take to create a small workshop–even though I had no previous experience at building anything bigger than a ham sandwich.

How hard could it be, right? It would be like Legos for grownups.

Never one to be discouraged just because I have two left thumbs, I jumped headfirst into the project. My wife stood by in case I needed a second pair of hands–or an ambulance. The inept can use all the help they can get.

It was going to be a simple work area. I had bought a standing work bench at a yard sale. It was eight feet tall, four feet wide and two feet deep. It had upper and lower cabinets and drawers as well as a flat work counter. I built a redwood foundation to set it on a few paces from my back porch. Redwood resists rot. In fact, archeologists have dug up redwood logs buried deep in the ground for centuries that were still in pretty good shape.

But I realized that if I expected to use it in rainy weather, my work space needed to be covered. So I built a roof that ran from the workbench to two posts I put in the ground.

But even that didn’t seem like much of a workshop and was certainly too small to store anything in. So I added a 10’ x 10’ foundation next to it with a plywood floor and built a small frame structure on it. It was walled in and even had a little window for extra light.

Still not satisfied, I added a 10’ x 10’ side rooflet to store my lawn tractor and shovels and rakes and other gardening items that I avoid using as much as possible.

Now I had, in effect, a shotgun shed where I kept adding as my needs and my compulsions dictated.

In the years since then I have learned that a proper roof needs an overhang so rain can drain away from it without getting the wood siding wet. I didn’t know that then, so the roof is without an overhang and the shed looks like something a gang of kids would build out of scrap lumber to use as their clubhouse. In fact, I put a sign on it, “No Gurls Aloud.”

If I stand back and look at it, I wonder what I must have been thinking. But when I see that everything inside is dry, secure and well preserved, I can’t really complain. If I had it to do over again I would do a lot of things differently, of course. I’ve built other things since then and can now claim some basic competence, if not expertise, in that department.

So there it sits, all ugly and efficient. I’ve stopped apologizing for my earlier lack of knowledge. My little shed does just what I need it to do.

It just goes to show you, if you don’t know you can’t do something, you can sometimes do it.

FIGHTING THE DREADED EAR WORM

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head that just won’t go away? You hear a song and then it stays with you for days—sometimes weeks. Those are known as “ear worms.”

In a semi-related subject, I’ve had tinnitus for more than 40 years. It is ringing in the ears that can come from a number of sources, including damage from loud noises and, according to hearing specialists, having taken too much aspirin.

The constant ringing drowns out a lot of sounds. That can be really inconvenient at times. Without hearing aids I can’t hear my own footsteps as I walk. I have dropped things and not been aware of it. I recently lost a set of keys and that has been an ongoing frustration.

I understand from psychologists that they often have patients come to them because the ringing in their ears is driving them crazy. It doesn’t bother me to that extent. I have adjusted to the condition. Besides, I was already crazy before the ear worms.

I mention the tinnitus because I have a theory about its relationship to ear worms.

My theory goes thus: I believe a song that repeats itself endlessly is nature’s way of placing another sound over the offending one, drowning out the ringing—giving the tinnitus sufferer a psychological break.

In my own case, when one song fades, A default tune often takes its place. It’s a bouncy tune, but one whose title I can’t identify—as opposed to the fading worm tune which is always a familiar one.

A line in an old TV commercial went: “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Well, I have a trick I play on her. When I get really tired of that maddening loop, I purposely find a recording of a different song and play it repeatedly until it replaces the tiresome one.

I’ve become my own deejay.

 

FLASHBACK

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

It was around Halloween,1976 when my pal Bridget Sienna and I went to a dinner party in Hollywood. Bridget is an actress (“Rain Man,” “Seinfeld,” “The Groundlings”).

My friend, actor Virgil Frye (“Easy Rider”) and his wife Sondra, were the hosts of the get-together. Sondra is a caterer who provides meals on movie locations. The apartment was filled with the aroma of the ducks Sondra was roasting.

Guests included actress Piper Laurie, whose horror movie, “Carrie,” was still playing. Several other show biz people were scattered around the living room; familiar faces whose names may be on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t quite remember. Mike Pataki was one. He was in “Rocky V” and a lot of other films. Billy Green Bush was another. He played Vernon Presley, Elvis’s dad, in the TV movie, “Elvis and Me.”

Dinner was running late because Virgil kept opening the oven to see if the duck was done yet. That delayed the meal further because the heat kept escaping. Marijuana messes up a person’s sense of time. In his weed fog, Virgil apparently figured 20 minutes should be enough.

While we were waiting, Virgil said, “do you want to see the baby?” So we went into the bedroom to have a look at their two-month-old girl who somehow managed to sleep through all the clatter in the next room.

The little one was only about a foot long and looked like every two-month-old baby you have ever seen—all pink and wrinkly. Fingers about the diameter of a spaghetti noodle. I hadn’t had much experience with babies. None of my other friends had children of any size so this was a novelty for me. On those rare occasions when I do encounter one that tiny it always blows me away that we could possibly have all started out like that.

I felt very old this week when I read in the newspaper’s celebrity birthday list that it was that little baby’s 42nd birthday.

I hadn’t seen her again until 1984 when Soleil Moon Frye played Punky Brewster on TV.

 

GETTING IT OFF MY CHEST

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

You know how people say, “I don’t like to complain, but . . .?” Well, I don’t like to complain, Not just because it doesn’t do a bit of good to moan about this and that. No, I try to avoid complaining around other people because they don’t want to hear it. They have their own problems and don’t need to take on mine.

You want to kill a conversation, just start complaining about something—anything—and watch as people drift away from you. The more often a discouraging word is heard, the more cloudy the skies are all day.

Complaining takes many forms. Say you’re at a four-way stop intersection and some clodhopper pulls out in front you when it’s not his turn. You lay on your horn, make all kinds of specialty hand gestures, and scream nasty bits about the offender’s maternal parentage.

Who do the other two drivers at the intersection get upset with? Not the aforementioned clodhopper who cut you off. They stare white-hot daggers at the guy making the fuss. Nobody likes a complainer?

When people greet you with “Hi, how you doin’?” you are expected to say, “Great, how’re you?” Start unloading woes on them and watch as their eyes glaze over and they remember meetings they’re late for.

I am here to tell you that, while nobody wants to hear your beefs, it is injurious to one’s health to keep it all bottled up. Something has got to give. An outlet must be found for the steam that is building, threatening to explode your head.

Mental health professionals are of no use at all. In fact, when they say, “and how do you feel about that?” you know they’re not really listening and that just ticks me off that much more.

I can’t even get it out of my system by yelling at my wife. She knows where the frying pans are and I have to sleep sometime.

 

OLD HABITS DIE HARD

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Strange how we get locked into routines. For example: To make space for my paper shredder I moved my office wastebasket a few feet from where it has been for many years. Yet I still forget and toss scrap at the spot where the container used to be. I spend a lot of time picking stuff up off the floor.

About the same time I retired, the battery in my wristwatch died. I didn’t replace it. Why bother? I didn’t have to be anywhere on time—or at all. Yet, not a day goes by in the dozen years since I stopped wearing it that I don’t look at my bare wrist. If I really have to know what time it is, I can look at my cell phone. I don’t even have to remember appointments because my cell phone alarm can be set to remind me.

Another habit I can’t seem to get rid of has to do with shifting gears on my pickup truck. I don’t have to shift gears because the truck has an automatic transmission. It had been at least thirty years since I last drove a vehicle with a straight stick, yet I still occasionally come close to stepping where the clutch pedal would be if there were a clutch pedal, which there is not.

To make things worse, we recently bought a new Toyota that has—you guessed it—gears you have to shift the way the pioneers did.

It didn’t take me very long to adapt to shifting gears. The real problem is that when I get into my pickup truck now I sometimes forget where I am and stomp down on a clutch pedal that isn’t there.

Now here is a real puzzler that makes me think my brain may have retired around the same time as the rest of me did: When I was a new driver, a hundred years or so ago, I often took my little brother with me. In those pre-seatbelt days he would sit next to me. When I pushed the brake, I would automatically put my arm up in front of him to keep him from falling forward.

As recently as two years ago I hit the brake on my truck and raised my arm as though I were protecting my brother.

Paul would have been seventy years old in October.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve Liddick – Author of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Str

TRYING TO DIET; DYING TO TRY IT

REFLECTIONS

by Steve Liddick

Sticking to a diet requires a will of iron, but keeping that weight off is more in the titanium class.

I’ve lost hundreds of pounds. Not all at once, of course; twenty pounds here, thirty pounds there. Then I would look at myself in the mirror and say ‘what a good boy am I’. People would tell me how great I looked. Clothes I had delayed giving to the Salvation Army fit me again.

For the good job I had done I would treat myself to a banana split with double whipped cream. Now that I weighed so much less I figured I could stop torturing myself and have some of the good stuff.

The problem with that logic is that it takes a certain number of calories to sustain the weight a person is supposed to be. Any more than that goes on places incompatible with the bikini season.

I discovered that, while I am an expert at losing weight, I am an absolute failure at keeping it off. In six months I had gained back every bit of what I had lost—plus another ten pounds.

Walking across a room became a challenge. Getting in and out of my car or my easy chair took a rocking motion to get me on my feet. It was like carrying a four-year-old child around with me all day long.

The bathroom scale would moan when I stepped onto it as if to accuse me of cruelty to appliances.

Okay, I said, that’s it! Once more my weight-losing expertise kicked in. I knew that losing weight fast was a sure way for it to come back. It took me about a year to get to the weight I wanted to be. No more sugary stuff. No more of my beloved ice cream. My idea of an appetizer had been a bag of Cheetos. No between-meals snacks of any kind. Part of keeping the weight off is to train oneself to eat only at mealtimes, use smaller plates and bowls for meals, and never go back for seconds. No snacks ever. Fruit was my dessert.

I had learned the hard way that when someone tells me I look good, that is not permission to hop back on the pig wagon.

It was a daily fight not to return to my old ways. Those fat cells screamed to be filled up again. I expected it to be tough for awhile. I quit smoking nearly a half century ago and it took a couple of years before I no longer wanted a cigarette. I assumed it would be like that with food, so I prepared for the long haul.

I had heard all those jokes people made about my weight: “For my next vacation I want to take a trip around Steve,” “If you get on the elevator with Steve, you’d better be going down,” “He can’t sleep on his stomach because he’s afraid of heights.”

My metabolism may have been messed up, but there is nothing wrong with my hearing.

 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

I’ve heard that to become an expert at anything you have to practice it 10,000 times. Ted Williams said it took him that many times swinging at a baseball coming at him at 90-plus miles-per-hour to become the hitter he became. I’m sure it applies equally to basketball shots, golf swings and putts—just about every endeavor that requires us to lock an activity solidly in place.

The only area where I think that logic has failed on a personal level is my lack of competence at gardening—weeds aside. When it comes to growing weeds, I am in a class by myself.

After at least 10,000 attempts at growing flowers and vegetables, I have become an expert at killing them. If it were a felony I would probably be charged with flora-cide. I’m told that I have a black thumb. That is the opposite of a green thumb, which implies competence at making things grow. It has been suggested that I should probably buy my starter plants already dead to eliminate the middle step.

A friend of ours comes to visit about once a year. The woman can walk past a wilted plant and it jumps to attention. She can say hello to a philodendron and it explodes from the pot. I have watched her closely and can’t figure how she works her magic.

I’ve read all the books and taken the suggestions about soil preparation, plant food, watering—every aspect of keeping things alive. I have been an attentive gardener. I even talk to plants. Please don’t spread that around, half the people I know already think I’m nuts and the other half knows it for sure.

So you can imagine my surprise when a rose I ripped out of the ground at one place and jammed it into the soil at another, adding no nutrients and giving it only enough water to get it started. To my flabbergastment  it has begun to sprout greenery instead of brownery. I cannot recall that ever happening before. Is it possible that I have reached a 10,000 failure level and have transitioned to success?

I have a theory. Instead of lovingly caring for a plant as I usually do, I took no special care and it is going just fine. Was disgraced former Vice President Spiro Agnew right, that “benign neglect” is the way to go? He wasn’t talking about plants, but it apparently applies.

It is very possible that I have been loving my plants to death?

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”

 

 

 

 

 

PEOPLE OF A CERTAIN AGE

REFLECTIONS (updated every Wednesday)

by Steve Liddick

 

People of a certain age hate being referred to as “People of a Certain Age.” It is Political Correctness code for “Old.”

Being of a certain age, I spend a lot of time these days thinking about time and the rapid passage of it. When I was in the army, I thought my hitch would never end. Every day was like a dog’s days: 7 days long. Those in bad marriages can tell you the same thing; time really drags.

Then you retire from that job that was never—ever—going to end and everything speeds up. You look back at past events and say, “I can’t believe it has been15 years since I retired?” “Was it really three presidents ago?”

Of course, when we’re young we don’t give much thought at all to time. We have no sense of it in the long term or that we will ever run out of it. Time-related thoughts in the young center on such events as the agonizingly slow approach of holiday breaks from school and the ooze of time until we’re old enough to get a BB gun, a driver’s license, our first car.

I have been alive more than 29,000 days. It was more than 10,000 days ago that I moved to California. Trash pickup days flash by at warp speed. The lawn grows at a fearsome rate. I just mowed the back yard of my house yesterday—or was it last week—and it already needs mowed again.

If I’d had haircuts at the socially accepted two week intervals I would have had more than 2,000 of them. Of course, you would have to knock off a few years at the beginning of life until I had my first haircut and my mother cried about it. Then you would have to subtract quite a few more at this end of life because I don’t have enough hair left to waste a trip to–and the expense of–a barber. Clippers make short work of what little remains.

In fairness to Father Time and the Baby New Year, I should mention that not everything speeds up when you get older. It seems sometimes like that Social Security check is never going to get here.

 

Books by Steve Liddick: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=steve+liddick

Steve LiddickAuthor of “All That Time,” “Old Heroes,” “Prime Time Crime,” “Sky Warriors,” “But First This Message: A Quirky Journey in Broadcasting,” “A Family Restaurant is No Place for Children,” “Campsite Gourmet: Fine Dining on the Trail and on the Road,” and “Eat Cheap: A Cookbook and Guide To Stretching Your Food Budget Dollars.”