Sunday, November 4, 2007

Cleaning out my closet with Erik Estrada, or "Grand Funk Show and Tell"

I didn't realize until after it was done that I had managed to clean my closet out on National Coming Out day. I think I'll make it my new habit.

This was actually in honor of my latest breakup. I have a lot more space, not just cause she moved out, but because I managed to purge a lot of things while she was here. She hated clutter, and I thought that since it looked like things were finally ok, it was maybe ok to start letting go of some things. She didn't stick around, but the new habit of letting stuff go did stick.

In retrospect, I would have held on to the 1000+ classic Northern Soul 45's had I known she would stay for less than a year, but I digress....

Anyhow, I just counted 9 pairs of absolutely identical khaki cargo shorts. I had dozens of band and tour shirts, thousands of white tube socks, and a lot of other repetitive wardrobe items. I buy the same items compulsively, like I’m afraid they’ll stop making cotton socks or something. I don’t know why. Oh, I do know why, but I don’t know why I can’t stop. No wait, I know why I can't stop.

The perfect moment. Change is bad. Everything good is in short supply and the things you love disappear. Stock up while supplies last.

After cleaning out the closet, I went shopping. So now, I am wearing brand new olive green cargo pants and a grey zip up hoodie instead of the ragged ones I just threw out. Today isn't even the day that I realized I've been wearing this basic outfit for 30 years. About five years ago, when cargo pants came back into fashion (well, you know what I mean) I found myself running around Pittsburgh playing phone tag with my friend Diana. While retrieving my cell phone from my leg pocket I was vividly thrown back in memory to a day spent riding my gold Schwinn Stingray (with the sissy bar and banana seat) around the neighborhood, with a walkie-talkie in my leg pocket, playing CHiPs with my cousin Johnny. Not the Cousin Johnny that caught 18 crawfish for me, but the other Cousin Johnny. What was I wearing on top that Autumn day? You guessed it: a grey zip up hoodie.

The reason that memory sticks is this: the walkie-talkies were another completely unsolicited Christmas present. My mother ordered them from a catalogue- she was rabid for mail order. If she had lived into the internet age, or even in the home shopping network era I shudder to think what might have happened- there would have been a trebuchet in the backyard.

I'm not talking the SEARS catalogue, either, my friends. She was on mailing lists for educational and experimental egg head toy manufacturers from around the globe. The pure possibility found inside those pages called to her inner Svengali. She was going to find the toy that would inspire my adult greatness. As a result, I never got anything that I asked for, but I did get a range of exotic and frankly very dangerous 'toys.' She was always embarassed that I wasn't very lady like, but she gave me crewcuts and bought me 'toys' that could have been used for Navy Seal training. I was doomed from the start, right? Examples:

Asked for matchbox cars and track to race them on- got drafting kit- a real one with lots of sharp things.

Asked for the little bleep bleep electronic football game every one had- got set of oil paints and easel.

Asked for Rubik's cube- got wood carving kit complete with very sharp chisels, a mallet and x-acto blades.

Asked for Crayola Markers - got mini printing press, complete with type blocks.

Other 'interesting gifts included: Stilts. Real ones. Pogo stick, "Medical Kit" This included a real microscope, slides, chemicals, a variety of animals preserved in formaldehyde, and a dissection kits with real scalpels and a BUNSEN BURNER. Again, very sharp things. I was under ten. This woman was afraid to drive over bridges and wouldn't let me ride roller coasters.

With the exception of my guitar there was never anything I could take to show and tell, and for some reason, none of the other kids thought it was cool that I could play the riff from Grand Funk's "Closer to Home", even though I thoughtfully brought along the record so they could hear both versions and see the fascinating cover art with the moving eyeballs. Mrs. Bannon, my second grade teacher, now treated me with even more suspicion. I had, not long before my 'show and tell guitar god' debut, come to school with one of my big sister's roach clips, thinking only that the feathery thing was a neat sort of hair thingy that the girls who had long hair would think was cool. Now I had brought the devil's music into her classroom. Clearly, I would be firing up giant spliff during kickball if she didn't keep an eye on me. That was the year I threw up every morning before school. It was also the year I started listening too my big sister's abandoned record collection like she had left them behind to throw me a ifeline, to comminucate some sort of secret message to me. Kids never wanted to play with me or my toys. I had no friends at school (gradeschoolers that talk like Bette Davis and listen to boogie rock have a hard time with their peers) and there was nothing but old people in my neighborhood. I was a weird, lonely kid.

So, that's why in addition to being totally unsolicited, the walkie-talkies were, not cruel, but definitely a thoughtless gift. I had no one to use them with. I had no one to play with, my little sister was 3, my next oldest sister was 19. As imaginative as I was, I could find nothing to use them for until the day Cousin Johnny was there and we tore around the neighborhood playing "CHiPs" on our bad-ass Schwinn Stingrays in our matching cargo pants with the walkie-talkies stuffed in them. It was a good day for me, and I've been dressing for a repeat ever since. You be Ponch, I'll be John.

1 comment:

Tracey said...

If you were from WV, you would have had more cousins to play with--hahaha!! I had walkie talkies, too!