dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I don't know why this particular toy returned to me lately, but it did. So, I went searching about, and I found this image:



I think that I asked for one of these things in the 6th grade. Radio Shack had a great catalog back then, including fascinating things like this. I imagined myself wiring together circuits, and soon afterwards, designing my own. I'm pretty sure that this kit fits the time period as my, like this kit's, had an LED.

Not to surprise you, but like many kids of that age, my intentions did not match my experience. I used the little enclosed wires to connect some springs together, making some sounds and hooking some things together just as the enclosed experiment book said, but beyond that, I did not make of this kit what I could have. That's entirely aside from getting your wiring to actually work, because somewhere along the way, I attached a connection poorly. The drawings were all detailed and there were all these wires to hook up to make anything work. It all seemed so much. I did not show the patience to get through even the medium difficulty projects, let alone work out the principles of electronics.

Yeah, ADHD, I'm looking at you.

I'm afraid my kit sat in the closet a great deal, just like many other kits.

I remember the wood. It was cheap stuff, very light, but effective at its job. I also recall that I had that side slot to store my parts.

I doubt that my kit even reached high school. Like so many things, I have no idea what became of it, other than it went out the door sometime or another.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe picks up where the Guide left off, furthering the adapted radio adventures of Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian. The book inherits all the strengths and weakness of the first adaptation, while attempting to remediate the radio series's flaws.

The strength of this book remains Douglas's wit and humor, his stunningly realized comedic characters, the bizarre scenes, and his ability to highlight the flaws in our own technological society. The weaknesses of this book remain the story. That is to say, it doesn't have one. Well, it does have one, but it doesn't really matter.

Douglas does try to create an overarching story to hold the work together, with Zaphod's search for the man who rules the universe, but we never really care. He even rearranges the end of the first radio series and the entirety of the second radio series to make it all happen, but to no avail. Even for a Hitchhiker's fan like myself, the book looses its wind in the middle, begging you to put it down.

Overall, a work of comedy must work as comedy before anything else, and in that, this book succeeds. The book works where it matters most. But if you want a good overarching story that your local writer's group won't tear apart, you'd better read something else.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Guns of Avalon (1972) continues the story begun in Nine Princes of Amber. Lord Corwin is free, ready to follow his revenge against Eric. All he has to do is return to Avalon, and on that hangs a tale, for strange and terrible things now come out of darkness everywhere, including at Amber itself.

If you didn't know that this story was essentially a serial, now you do. Although the books cover distinct episodes, and could stand alone, its stands far better together with its peers. Our enemy has bee introduced in our power fantasy, and that enemy is anybody else. If you will, if this was a business power fantasy, the enemy would be the competition, the only thing more fearful than your co-workers.

The story reads mildly more polished than the first book, but contains few literary sensibilities. This is not the kind of book you read if you want beautiful writing. Zelazny's prose is all business, getting done what it needs to get done, sometimes effectively, and at other times, with all the ugliness of a car wreck. The book was written in one draft, possibly two, containing all the flaws that you would expect to get from fast drafting.

As the story is a serial, it moves at a different pace than a more traditional work. It answers some questions, raises others, leaving you with an ending that is indeterminate rather than satisfying. Its power comes from the unfolding of evens, and the continuous downward cycle of the situation in Amber. Everything gets more complex, but never for the right reasons.

As for all its flaws, it contains many. They will either alienate you or refuse to stop you. I can't see someone being lukewarm to this book. It follows what came before, for all its blessings and curses.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
If the standard single, white male power fantasy is, "defeat your enemies, win the girl, take the throne," which is very popular in the young man's mind, then what would a power fantasy look like for a middle-aged office worker, around 1970, who read paperbacks on the train as they rode into work?

Nine Princes in Amber.

Let's look at business. In any business, you want to get to the top, but there's no easy way to the top. Everyone wants to get to the top. It's a dog-eat-dog competition. He who steps on the most people wins. Yet, you can't get to the top alone. The only people who can help you are your co-workers, who might help you or betray you as they see fit. Your position depends entirely on your ability to know the strengths and weaknesses of those around you, and the cleverness of your own mind in planning gambits.

That brings us to Nine Princes in Amber (1970), by Roger Zelazny. Raw edged, sparse, and to the point, this book introduces us to Prince Corwin, a prince of Amber, the only true city in the world. Dad is missing from the throne, so whoever can take the throne gets to be king. His only help and his only enemies are all his brothers and sisters, depending on which side they were this time. I would put this book into the "sword and sorcery" genre.

Despite its almost diminutive word count, this book packs a stunning amount of world building and politics in a brutal, sometimes merciless adventure, where there is no sense of idealism or nobility. No, this book is all about POWER, how to get it, and how to keep it.

Magic here is not "magic" in the normal fantasy sense. The primary power is the ability to walk in shadow, possible alternate universes which may or may not be there before you think them up. If you go far enough, creatively enough, you find things which weren't there before. Sometimes magic is just the local rules where you are, such as Remba, where everyone can breathe the water. And sometimes magic is just not explained, as with the trumps, which allow the princes to contact each other and to teleport.

Nine Princes in Amber is a book which will never live in the academic annals as fine literature worth studying, but if I was to recommend fantasy books worth studying, this one would be on my A list. Despite everything that it does wrong, in the end, it does the most important things right.

Play-Doh

Jun. 5th, 2015 10:48 am
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Play-Doh. Oh, Play-Doh, how doth Shakespeare praise your squish'y fun?

'Cause, you know, PLAY-DOH. I still know that smell. I still know that cold texture that warms up in your hands. I know those little bits of it that somehow get onto the rug and are murder most foul to rip back up. I came here to not bury Play-Doh, but to praise it.

In my day, Play-Doh came in annoying to open containers that challenged your fingers at every eager opening. I think that they still had tin lids when I was tiny. These days, the tops are oh-so-much better to get off. The great thing, though, is that the stuff inside is still the same. That smell. Oh, that smell.

To be honest, I can't tell you how much time I spent playing with Play-Doh, nor how much time I spent forgetting to clean it up. The two really go together. Of all the messes that your parents could buy you, Play-Doh was both the most omnipresent and well liked. There's no other toy, so well loved, that it keeps its audience clear through adulthood. I literally cannot think of anyone, at any time, who got shamed for being too old for Play-Doh. That concept just doesn't exist. Play-Doh is the closest thing to the true universal toy. Not only do you not grow out of it, you cannot grow out of it.

The world of Play-Doh can be split into three types of player: those who make cool stuff, those who make freakish monstrosities that don't look like anything, and kids who just don't care. I fell into the category of freakish monstrosity maker. It's not that I sought to make monstrosities, but that's the best that my mangled mind could do.

Fortunately, there was more to Play-Doh than the finished product. The product is an experience all to itself. You squish it, roll it, mix it, flatten it, and pretend to do all sorts of things with it, such as cutting, stamping, texturing, and extruding. These actions were as legitimate as construction, if not more so.

The purchasable tool sets, even back in my day, were colorful and durable. The most coveted on, for me, was the extruder. My friends may have had some, but I don't recall having one. (That doesn't mean that I didn't have one.) You simply put the substance into a pusher, which went through a template, giving you a shape. The commercials always made that seem way fun, or at least far more fun than it actually was.

Play-Doh wasn't perfect, of course. It really liked to dry, so you always had to be vigilant about putting it away. Even so, it still dried out and got tough. If you made anything from it, the Play-Doh cracked as it dried, often ruining your creations. (Well, other people had their creations ruined. Mine were never good enough to ruin.) As Play-Doh disintegrated as you used it, small bits often got left over, then flattened into whatever they landed on. Fortunately, the bits usually came up easy, but anything ground into clothing tended to stay there.

The cheap version of Play-Doh was made of flour, salt, and a few other ingredients. This is the type that the parents made for school, as Play-Doh is relatively expensive and cost way too much for a large classroom. It wasn't quite the same, but it did good enough.

Wikipedia tells us that Play-Doh was created in the 1950's as a wallpaper cleaner to rid your house of those troubling coal stains. When natural gas came in, there was no longer much ado about coal, so the manufacturer had to find another market. That turned out to be schoolkids who were already using their product for school. After taking their product to the educational market, their fortunes were made, as a non-toxic cheap modeling substance was exactly the kind of thing that educators craved.

I am happy to say that I played Play-Doh with my daughter, which was always a challenge when she was two. The first thing that she did was to mix all the colors together. Yeah, kids. I remember my parents working furiously to keep our colors apart as well, but that's more important as they had five kids.

Water

May. 29th, 2015 03:43 pm
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
With the return of summer, I am reminded of that fabulous childhood toy, WATER. As kids in the summer, we just couldn't get enough of that stuff.

Water all starts with bath time. If there is any better childhood enjoyment than the bath, or the supercharged enjoyment that is the bubble-bath, I want to know, because anything great enough to beat out bathtime has to be a huge gap in my childhood experience. Bubble meant eating bubbles, putting bubbles on the walls, making bubbles, and watching all the bubbles go flat. No kid ever exited the bath before the bubble went flat if they could possibly help it.

Hoses were entirely filled with water. One of my earliest memories is of my sister chasing me with a hose, traumatizing me for life. I curse you, my sister, and I still vow my revenge. Hoses also meant washing cars, which meant more soap and bubbles, which meant more getting squirted. Washing the car was never a civilized affair in my family. The suds ran deep in the streets, and sometimes the cars got washed.

Sprinklers attach to hoses, giving yet another layer of summer fun. You didn't need parents around to play in the sprinkler. Set it and forget it until the kids came in. You also watered the lawn while you were at it. There were two main types of sprinklers, those that spun around, and those that watered back-and-forth. I'm sure that there are technical names for those. The practical effect was that those sprinklers that spun around were like getting attacked with a hose, while those that went back and forth were far more gentle and begged you to leap through them.

Then there were yard toys, things that attached to the hose on purpose, the most famous of which is the Slip'n'Slide. I remember sliding down them. Strangely, I don't remember that happening too often. As all cheap toys in the 70's, I am sure that we destroyed them post haste. There were also toys that flailed water about in crazy ways, but as sprinklers were already owned, doubled as lawn watering devices, and were honestly more fun to play with, the crazy sprinklers lost their luster pretty quick.

Water guns are to summer as summer is to water guns. They're the same thing! This has been scientifically tested. We didn't have super-soakers in our day. We had clear plastic guns with cheap triggers and lousy seals that delivered thin lines of liquid assault. I'm surprised that any one of them lasted more than a few days. That clear plastic was brittle.

Thunderstorms meant water rushing down the street. Near the bottom of the hill, as we were, the water picked up the heat from the host streets and rushed down the gutters warm as bathwater. If you got out there right after a thunderstorm, you had a world of warm fun, usually in your clothes.

Summer rains also meant playing in the rain. There's nothing like getting wet and not caring about it. This never happened enough to be a reliable thing, so the moments always had to be seized. Too early in the season, and rains were just cold. Too late, and rains tended to be thunderstorms, and your mother wasn't letting you out in a thunderstorm. Those warm summer rains, where you actually got to enjoy them, happened only a few times a year.

The peak of summer water fun was always a pool. Summer started when pools opened and closed when pools closed. The two were intimately linked.

When I was tiny, we had a pool in the back yard, but for some reason we didn't keep it. (Money surely had something to do with it. My parents had five kids and one income.) My neighbors went for the new fashion of in-ground pools. So the two houses up the hill got pools, along with friends at the top of the hill, and an older family across the street, and one directly behind the house. (This make whiffle ball all that more challenging. Balls into pools were an instant out.) Another family behind us had a large, very nice, above ground pool. Under the deck, there were stones. In the hot summer days, I we would get into the shade and play among those stones.

The neighbors had to clean up their pools at the beginning of every years. After removing the covers, there was a base of green sludge in the basin and lots of mold, and that had to get cleaned. After cleaning, the hose got turned on and the pool filled over many days, each day bringing us to a larger brim of excitement. Traps were emptied and chlorine sticks put in. The water got tested with PH kits. (The use of these kits always counted as entertainment.) Gunk got removed with the skimmer. Eventually, that pool was ready.

The fun thing in pools was the water itself. As all kids, I was restricted to the shallow areas and I didn't like it. We had floating things that would carry us out. I believe that I wore a life vest when I was tiny. I recall being taken to the local private pool for swimming lessons. I only had one set, but that was enough to get me going. (If I recall correctly, I already knew a little swimming, so the lessons weren't entirely necessary, but I have to think that I learned something.) A few years after me, Water Wings hit the market, that horrible idea that would help kids swim, but actually didn't.

Then as today, things that floated in the water made for fun, usually rafts. There were always fights over who got to float on one, tests to see how many people could float on one, and general abuse heaped upon them. They never lasted long. (The only good rafts were those heavy duty ocean rafts for riding the surf.

One neighbor had a diving board. Although we dived off of it, we never achieved any proficiency with diving, although some boys did achieve proficiency in belly flopping. Their pool also had a light, so when you went swimming at night, the whole pool lit up. This was beyond cool.

Our next-door neighbor had a slide. You had to hook a hose to it in order to get water lubricating the slide, but once that happened, you were good. We usually did a good job of not landing on each other, as that bit was drilled into us by our parents, but collisions still happened. One kid broke an arm, but that only happened once. Considering our recklessness, there should have been death and dismemberment.

Underwater and holding your breath consisted of a whole different level of game. Most variations consisted of who could hold their breath the longest. In this contest, I was among the best, and sometimes the best by far. I don't know how that happened. It's a hidden skill that has provided me with no ego boost in my adult life. No sports valued holding your breath.

When we got older, we would take our trunks off in the water, then put them back on. That's as brave as we ever got towards skinny dipping. I'm sure that there are lots of folks out there who did, including my friends who didn't talk about it. You can feel safe. I don't know your secrets at all.

The preeminent underwater game was Marco Polo. In this watery version of Blind Man's Bluff, "It" closed his eyes and said "Marco," and everyone had to respond "Polo." From there, it was a matter of catching somebody. That one was always good for fun, extending well into your adult years. That's a game that nobody outgrew.

As for lakes and streams, we didn't have any nearby. When we did encounter them, they were a treat. Streams got splashed in, but lakes were more intimidating, and we either weren't allowed to swim or didn't dare. Mostly, lakes were for learning how to canoe.

As for the ocean, that's a whole topic on its own.

Of course, being wet brought its own issues. Being wet and sitting on the furniture was verboten. Being wet and entering somebody's sub-arctic air conditioned house could lead to hypothermia. The usual solution to a wet bottom was just to wrap your towel around yourself. Getting changes wasn't worth it as you often went back out to play in the water again. Sometimes you put your shirts back on, and sometimes you didn't. Strangely, I didn't feel exposed when wearing no shirt, but if I put on a tank-top, that was embarrassing because I was so skinny.

I do recall us siblings wanting to go to join the neighborhood pool. That always got nixed. I'm sure it was money. And yet, there was also this feeling among us that the kids who went to the private pool thought themselves "better," even though our houses had their own pools. I don't know why the kids who went to the public pool thought themselves better, but everyone knew that they did.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I would be remiss in idolizing my childhood without a few moments of praise to the humble stick. The stick itself is a symbol of not just the stick, but all the sorts of natural things that come with it: twigs, dirt, leaves, rocks, mud, grass, and anything else that can or cannot be bent, folded, or mutilated by children.

Let's face it, modern humans survived for 200,000 years with no other toys than these. And what did that get us? Everything great, as long was we ignore rampant global warming, war, terrorism, and over-played pop songs. So given the results, I have to say, the humble natural toy has stood up pretty damned well.

Consider the stick. Every boy knows that the stick is a gun and a sword, at the same time. I shot more indians, back robbers, enemies, and friends with those stick than I can count. Sticks are free. You find them littering the ground. They are destructible, meaning that no adult will ever yell at you for destroying one. They burn, which means poking them into the fire and burning them down to the nubs. Even better, you can break up all the sticks to make the fire in the first place. Can you get cooler than that? Not only that, but you could swing them around dangerously.

The ultimate form of the stick is the tree. If there's a tree that can be climbed, it will be climbed, even if you have to nail old boards to it. The purpose of trees is to be climbed, and otherwise provide sticks and leaves. There was really no ultimate point in climbing trees, it was just one of those things that had to be done.

As for rocks, these gave us boys our first access to truly hazardous weapons. Forget putting an eye out, you could cause pain at range. Rocks were so hazardous that your ass was grass if you parent caught you throwing rocks at each other. (Never mind that centuries of boys have the bruises to show for this. Parents have to put on the show even while knowing that the boys are assaulting each other. Your job is to keep it from getting out of hand.) Flat rocks could be skipped across ponds. Not-flat rocks could be hurled at whatever other objects were available (preferably glass ones that broke and not wasp-filled ones that caused you to run in terror.)

As for leaves, their uses were just as myriad. Their most famous use is as a leaf pile in autumn. If there's a pile of leaves being made anywhere near children, dollars to donuts, those children will destroy that leaf pile by hurling themselves into it. When my daughter was tiny, her first response on seeing such a pile was to climb it, then bury herself in them. She needed no instruction whatsoever. Leaf piles rock.

Leaves themselves are the ultimately available bendy-material. If you were playing with toys and you needed something flat and bendy, leaves were it. Leaves always part of my stick-buildings so that the top dirt layer would not sift down between the sticks of the roof. My daughter uses leaves and grass to make dresses for her fairies. Where there is fire, there are inevitably leaves to get burned in the fire.

As for dirt, where would we be without dirt in all its forms, from dirt piles to mud pies? I are say that ate certain ages, as boys we would voluntarily spend more time in dirt than in any other condition. It's as if were were all wild boars, needing that coating of dirt to keep the insects off our backs. Meanwhile, our mothers were fighting the good fight to keep us clean. Eventually this escalates, especially for those boys with powered off-road vehicles. It's about that time that mothers give up, and boys think that all that dirt is great until girls start looking a whole more touchable than they did before.

An important part of dirt is trucks. Trucks doesn't just mean trucks, it means any vehicle of bigger size appropriate to playing in dirt (bearing in mind that a boy's definition of appropriate doesn't match anyone else's definition.) Almost always, these sorts of toys are earthmovers of various sorts, but with leeway, a firetruck or ambulance can get slipped in. Work areas always proved suddenly hazardous, especially if dinosaurs showed up. (This has been known to happen.)

I don't think that boys ever get dirt out of their souls. Grown men dominate the construction and mining industries, and if you want the ultimate in dirt-toys, those powered behemoths called earth-movers shame everything else.

Coloring

May. 7th, 2015 02:19 pm
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
I come here to praise the humble coloring book. This type of book preceded my birth, continued after my childhood, and still holds market share today. These books have created billions of hours of free time for harried adults, and countless hours of occupation for their children.

Most coloring books are 8.5" x 11" in size, and about 48 pages long. (I made that number up.) All contain basic line drawings with no color, printed on newsprint, making them exceedingly cheap to produce. The only colorful thing about them were their bright colors. Some books were thicker, being labeled jumbo coloring books, and some were legal size, or even larger, also counting as jumbo. (The coloring world is not known for its killer categorization.) Some are small, often being sold with some sort of crayon or pencil as a complete set.

Many coloring books are generic, featuring objects or people. Sometimes they contain special features, such as mazes, puzzles, matching activities, or even stickers. Most coloring books had some sort of theme or character, so you might get a Christmas coloring book, a Muppet Show coloring book, or even a Muppet Show Christmas coloring book. The licensed characters would usually be popular cartoon characters, TV shows characters, or comic book characters.

The preferred medium for coloring was the humble crayon, almost always by Crayola. The most common type of crayon set contained the basic colors, about 10 crayons, although bigger sets were available. Some contained 24, 48, 96, or even 128 different shades. The bigger boxes came with their own crayon sharpeners built into the base. However, the most popular form of the crayon as the assorted bag/box/container of broken crayons. Every school and house had these, because kids are pure murder on anything breakable, and crayons exactly fit that definition. One of my teachers would melt down the remaining crayon bits into multi-colored coloring bars. To use second graders, that was just too cool.

Pencils were sometimes used on coloring books. The main issue with pencils is that they are more expensive than crayons, lighter marking than crayons, need pencil sharpeners, and were not as comically over-available. They also weren't any cooler.

If you wanted cooler, you got markers. As markers wore out quickly, mostly because you left them uncapped to dry out, but sometimes because you actually colored them to death, markers had a far higher status that crayons. Their colors were bold, but at the expense of bleeding through the newsprint, sometimes bleeding onto the next page, and far too often, drying out as you colored with them. They are also expensive enough that they don't get replaced as quickly. And if they did get replaced, you wound up with a zillion of your least favorite colors because you never used them, and your favorite colors just kept wearing out.

If you wanted to ruin your coloring book, you used watercolors. No child knows how to use watercolors. They smash their brushes into the watercolor blocks and then try their best to paint on newsprint. This is a recipe for failure. Watercolor always loses against newsprint unless its particularly heavy.

All kids start out coloring by scribbling. I'm sure that psychologists describe this in detail, but I'm no psychologist. Eventually you get it through your head to not scribble, which took me extra long. I was a scribbler for far longer than is proper.

Most kids get to the "reasonable colorer" stage, where you color in the lines and generally keep yourself busy. Inevitably, there were those kids who went ABOVE AND BEYOND in their coloring, making you look bad. They would add shading, texture, extra details, and other show-off sorts of things. Those kids were EVIL and BAD and HORRIBLE, mostly because they made you feel inadequate and not up to snuff.

At some point, you stopped coloring. There's no real reason why, but you do. My guess is that the pictures just aren't interesting. There a woman recently who produced some adult coloring books by creating absurdly complicated pictures, and what do you know, they sold like gangbusters, giving the hardcore coloring aficianados something to be an aficianado about.

I also have to suppose that at some point, the seriously artsy kids got into painting, drawing, or something like that. They continued their enjoyment of the visual medium that is coloring, while not-so-interested kids drifted away.

The people who get to come back to coloring are parents, because where there are kids, there is coloring, and sometimes, you suggest coloring because that's what you want to do.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
There was some pretty wacky stuff created back in the 70's, and I am loud and proud to have owned one small slice of it, although an objective observer would claim that I wallowed in bizarro as hey, that was the 70's. One of the things that I owned was my first Nintendo, but alas, it wasn't a video game at all. For one Christmas, 1974 or 75, I received a Nintendo Shotracer rebranded as Ricochet Racers.

You can see a video here: https://youtu.be/hJKfkctKrAU. The most noteworthy part of this video is that I had the exact same red and white shirt that the boy is wearing in the video. A second video for a black model is here, https://youtu.be/-k1FZnHTOSY, including innovations such as a three car magazine, no cartridge necessary to load, and glow-in-the-dark styling.

Stylized like a bolt action carbine, this rifle-imitation device fired cars along the floor, presumably to perform stunts, but more likely used to assault my siblings, which inevitably resulted in parental scolding mode. The action was simple enough. You pulled back the bolt to compress a spring, chambered the car in the car holder (what caliber would that be?), then pushed the bolt forward again. After that, you aimed and shot, sending your car across the kitchen floor at high speed, or maybe down the basement steps.

Once I saw the barrels, I recognized this as the version that I had.



You'll notice the bold red, white, and blue styling. This color pattern was big in the 1970s. When Star Wars Galaxies introduced paint jobs to their starships, I noted that the Millennium Falcon had that prototypical 70's color pattern for one of its designs. I don't think that most of the kids got the visual reference.

The one firm memory that I have of this toy is playing with it in the back hall of the house. Running along the outside of the house, this short hallway connected the kitchen to the den, and hosted both the basement stairs and the downstairs bathroom. I was down on the floor racing cars along, not only because it had an imitation brick linoleum floor, which was perfect for racing cars, but because my siblings had surely camped in other rooms, making that the only place to play.

I have no recollection of the fate of that particular toy. I just presume that my mother scurried it out the door while I wasn't looking. She was good at that trick.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
If you were a boy in the 1970s, or the 60's or the 80's, or just about whenever in the later 20th century, Matchbox cars were the toy for you. They were portable enough to take anywhere. They were cheap enough that you always got a few for your birthday, or Easter, or Christmas. Over the years, you accumulated enough dirt-covered cars to fill a shoe box, and in some cases, far larger containers. You had them. Your fiends had them. Every boy had them. They were so ubiquitous that nobody needed to have them explained.

When I say Matchboxes, I also mean Hot Wheels or any other sort of similar scaled car. It's just that we didn't say "Let's play Hot Wheels," we said, "Let's play matchboxes."

You can see what a boy's imagination was like in cars. It was all about the big engines. It wasn't just the engines, it was BIG CHROME ENGINES with HUGE MUFFLES. Talk about crazy-crazy. But it was the 70's, and big engines were a thing in that decade of automotive decadence.

Matchboxes got played with EVERYWHERE. And by everywhere, I do mean everywhere. Inside, outside, in pools, in dirt, on tracks, on streets, down hallways and stairwells, across grass, out second story windows, and just about anywhere else that a boy could park himself and start playing.

Outside, I recall two favorite places. One was under an oak a few yards away, and another was on a flat area up a small hill. These areas were turned into dust with the frequency of our play. The top of the hill was the clear favorite. We would make streets lined with sticks, build garages out of sticks, leaves, and dirt, and also build businesses. I always built a Duggie's Donuts because that was just too cool.

Inside, we preferred playing on any decently flat surface. Roll-ability was king, but carpeting proved no obstacle.

If we could, we hooked up track to a table or some stairs and rolled the cars down, either racing, or just seeing how far we could make a car go. We usually exceeded speed limits, causing our cars to flip off the track at the turns. The tracks themselves began with a plastic clamp that screwed to the table. The things were amazingly sturdy for their poor construction. Essentially, they were as tough as a plastic item could be formulated. The tracks themselves connected via plastic tongues which were often easier to get on than they were to get off.



I had a Matchbox City. This was a suitcase style play set that opened up into a city. I took pretty good care of it for most of its life, although I did lose the tops to the houses. Somewhere around 5th or 6th grade, I was done with it and stomped it, so my father had words with me about breaking my toys. I guess we could have given it away, but my odds were on tossing it out. If I still had it, it would be no collectible.


My brother had an oval race set, where pulled levers to make the cars go. Research tells me that it was the Thundershift 500. I didn't remember the scoreboard at all because it was long gone and we just used the turn. As the turn wasn't banked enough, we often lost cars over the back edge. As you can see, the inside driver had the advantage.




I looked for my favorite car, which was something like an orange Lamborghini. I think that this was the one. I loved it. It was my special car. I chose it above all others. I never lent it out. To protect it one winter, I wrapped it in tape. Predictably, that was a horrible idea and I lost some of the paint. I was very annoyed when my  mother gave my cars away. My beloved orange car went with that. (This sort of thing was pretty typical of my mother.) I'm not sure what exactly it looked like, so here's a few representative cars.



Below are some cars that I remember. In almost all cases, the stickers went missing, and other odd parts were removed. We played with those toys hard. It's a tribute to their construction that they withstood our assaults. The cars themselves have to bee seen to be believed, so do a Google search on Hot Wheels and Matchbox. I do no justice to the sheer variety of cars that were out there.

This one had no sticker left on front and the engine was missing.



I have no idea why I had a hovercraft, but I had one. Mine was in far worse condition. The thing had thin little wheels on the bottom.



One of my friends had this weird car below.

dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
My mother didn't believe in pets. She may have believed in other people having them, but not us. (Even so, she noticed that other people's houses smelled like animals, and that was a cut.) She didn't want to take care of them as she already had enough children. Having no faith that we would keep up our responsibilities, she never gave in to a dog, let alone a cat.

My sisters did have some pets. We won goldfish here and there, and the poor creatures lived somewhat random lives in our house. I can't say that we were the best pet owners. On the other hand, they were goldfish.

Judy did have an aquarium for a while. I don't know how that got afforded. I think that we kept it for a few years. The tank ended up getting smashed when I had tried some weight lifting. It was straight out of a comedy. I put the weights on the bar, lifted it above my head, then immediately went backwards, the weights falling and hitting the tank. (So I guess that I earned a reputation for clumsiness about my family.)

The only pet that I had in my youth that was my pet was a hermit crab. We bought him down at Ocean City, one for me and one for my brother, and we were awfully excited to get them. We would pull them out and let them crawl across the floor. We had food for them, too, put in bottle caps, and water, in bottle caps as well. The cages lived on our book shelf.

As you can guess, the excitement didn't last. After the excitement comes forgetting, as you forget all toys. One day we noticed that the water caps were empty and the crabs weren't coming out of their shells. We had ignored the poor critters to death. I think that I was more disappointed than sad, and I had convinced myself that I was going to pay attention. In my imagination, I was going to be the best hermit crab taker-care-of ever, and my crab would get bit, and it would all be COOL. I would be everyone's envy. That's not how it turned out.

These days I have a cat, not a hermit crab, and he does a good job of making me pay attention to him, so there's not much forgetting. I would be truly pained if I were to forget him. That cat has a temper.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The Key to the Treasure by Peggy Parish was one of those childhood books that I greatly enjoyed, and beyond belief, my parents still had floating around. Published in 1966, with a bright yelow cover, the story is that of three nice white children who have a nice white adventure at their grandparent's house. In the past, their white ancestor went off to fight in the civil war, but he left behind clues for his children to follow. Alas, the children never got the proper clues. With a little luck and a little pluck, it falls to these three kids to discover and decode those clues.

To be honest, as I read this book, which sometimes flowed easily and other times sounded stilted, I found that excitement in my belly and knew why I came to this book again and again. The books picks up an energy by the middle. I once again wanted to reach the end and see how everything turned out. To my surprise, I still remembered a few plot points all these years later when the rest of the story had turned to mush.

Of note, Peggy Parish is also the author of the Amelia Bedia series.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
A bit about my childhood that I often forget is that I had speech issues.

When I was in first-second grade, I went weekly for speech therapy for saying my R's correctly. I recall playing with animals from the Noah's ark set on the floor, flinging them this way and that, because animals needed to get flung. The vey nice woman who helped me had a circle of foam stuck to the wall, and around the outside of that she stuck lollipops, forming a foam-lollipop flower. I thought that very clever at the time. After she worked me on my R's, she sent me home, and there were game to play with saying R that needed to get played. I recall my father playing those games with me.

I also used to mumble. My speech isn't always the clearest, even now, but back then, I mumbled.

I recall one neighbor, the father next door, who would mumble back at me, which I understood as making fun of me. That frustrated and hurt me back then. Today, that stokes up my anger and I am mightly glad that I don't believe in violence. That man should have known better.

When I read children's books to my daughter, I took that as an opportunity to practice clear speaking. When my jaw gets tired, I fall back into unclear speech fairly quick.

Strangely enough, when I drink or I get sleepy, I don't mumble. Instead, I swap about my word order. When my sentences stop making sense, my speech centers have started shutting down or going wonky.

I was considered a late bloomer. My parents gave me a book, Leo The Late Bloomer. Do you know, I never thought that the book applied to me? I missed that. Really. I was good at being clueless. I think that the book taught me all the wrong lessons, as Leo never had to work to bloom. It just happened. In truth, I had to put in time and attention to produce a better me.

I recall that chapter books confused me for the longest time. I was a decent enough reader, but in 4th grade, I simply couldn't hold the story in my head. I tried reading The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and all that produced in my head was noise. I eventually jumped about the book and abandoned the idea of reading books without pictures. It was too much. I didn't start in earnest on chapter books until the summer of 6th grade, where I found that I could now track a story. I supposed that some of my short term memory had trouble with tracking that much information, but it eventually developed. I still have a preference for serial reading over parallel reading.

Many parents of APD children report fevers among their children. I do know that I had my tonsils out at 5 years of age, may be 6. When I asked my father, the reason was because I was always getting sick, which doesn't give me much information to go on. Information from my parents, at this point, is pretty sketchy as childhood was simply so many years ago, and they have five kids to boot. I'm already vague on my own daughter's early years.

Interestingly, the one thing that I never felt was stupid. I sawy myself as "bad at" rather than stupid. My siblings and classmates called me foolish or strange. (Maybe the weren't allowed to use the word "stupid"?)

When it came to spelling, I just couldn't memorize a list. I eventually gave up memorizing at all, or even trying. That's a good way to make my brain swim. I learned by 6th grade that I had to do my worl and my reading as we went along, and do it for real. I had to learn some each day. Cramming didn't work. Not only didn't it work, but I got worse scores on the tests when I tried to memorize or cram.

My writing was truly awful going into college. One teacher explained that my ideas were good, but the writing was just a mess. On my next English course, I took to reading through my papers for all errors and taking in all comments, seeking to no do them again. By the time that I hit being a senior, my writing produced easy A's for any essay, except for English. Learning to write coherently has been a adult crusade for me. Even now, my novels have stretches where coherence goes out the window.

Learning math has been hit or miss for me. I honestly don't know how I worked it all out. I recall AHA moments in algebra where I finally got that you could Xs together. I kept missing things that the teachers were trying to teach. The system broke down at the end of high school and into college. What I really needed there was either a different teach, or more time to actually puzzle out every chapter. In my other classes, I came to learn the important of pre-reading my books.

At this point, I've read through one book on APD, Same Journey, Different Paths. The book is an account, mostly by parents, all of them women, about the struggles with their APD children. The book proved both interesting and annoying to me. On the interesting side, the book acts as a great resource for anyone looking to get an IEP for their child. You see story after story of what each set of parents had to do. You don't just see one case of APD, you see many cases with many variations. On the annoying side, each of these cases seems to be an extreme case. I'm fear that most of the discussions on ADP that I've found center around the more extreme examples of APD. They are a problem as they are the ones most likely to get detected, as milder cases of APD would either fall through the cracks or get mis-identified. Secondly, the worse cases are those who proportionately need more information and have more struggles, so they are more likely to join the communities. This self-selection tends to produce examples that aren't particularly useful to me or my situation. These examples would make me think that I could never have been APD despite the long list of matching tendencies that I found in myself.

If you are a parent, then I think that this is a good book for you. If you want to know the experiences of others with the condition, then the book is somehting of a miss.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Here's a rather good discussion of Whisper Network in Fandom, and other associated unsavory topics.

I'm glad to have a word for that. I've almost never been in the whisper network of any social group that I belonged to. People always just assumed that I knew, which was maddening, and when prompted for information, never could think of anything that I might need to know.

I hate whisper networks.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Castle Roogna was the third Xanth novel by Piers Anthony. The novel features Dor, Bink's son, who is in training to be the next king of Xanth. He is tasked with turning a friendly zombie back into a real person. And on that hangs a tale that involves going back in time to 800 years ago, during the golden age of King Roogna.

Stylistically, gone is the comedy that was A Spell for Chameleon, and also gone is the classic adventure of The Source of Magic. With Castle Roogna comes the final pieces that makes Xanth the juvenile series of the late 20th century, those being a coming of age story, the forced and gratuitous use of puns suggested by the fans, and a new lead character every book. The lighting is now gone, replaced by merely competent writing.

Castle Roogna disappointed me in my youth. I wanted a book about Bink and only about Bink. A trilogy involves a character that you like across all three books. To switch character is book three just spoiled my day. I could not forgive that in the book. That, I just didn't care about Dor. On rereading the novel, I found myself still unable to care about Dor. The further that I read into the book, the less that I cared. I found myself reading this book less and less, not more and more. By the end, I was glad to wrap the book up.

I must complement Piers in his ability to both open and close a novel. Although the middle lost me, he did quite a job at interpolating the whole affair. Interpolating is a technique often used in the Bible where a scene is given meaning by including information on each side of it to give the scene context. Piers uses this technique as well, using it to give the story context. His conclusion is also particularly nice, as he has many threads to wrap up and he wraps them all up quite naturally and well, down to the apparent contradictions that the novel suggests. If you want to improve your wrap-ups, this is a good novel to study.

As an adult, I now understand all the sexual references that the author never explained, for Piers always left the most detailed sex scenes to the knowledge of the reader. In this, Piers shows himself was quite the classy writer. It is this very suggestiveness that allowed youth to read his books and cracked open the audience for him.

It is noteworthy that this is the first Xanth book written after A Spell For Chameleon had been published. In this book, Piers had already received fan mail from his readers and had already learned a great deal about what his readership liked. Intelligently, the man gave the audience what they wanted, and kept his mouth shut on topics which were too explicit.

Sexism rears its head in this book as well. The man was clearly writing for boys, not yet knowing how powerful of an audience that girls would turn out to be. I think as the years went by, he came to appreciate that girls did read his books and he strove to increasingly use them as primary characters. What's obvious here is that he did not yet understand how to use them, although that I can't say that is entirely true. When Dor appears as a barbarian in Xanth, he essentially writes a book that could be called A Barbarian in Xanth. It's a story that plays comedic  homage to the barbarian trope, where his muscles destroy all comers and women throw themselves at the manly man. Here, Dor is never comfortable with his manly man-ness, and winds up succeeding by the use of his mind, not his brawn.

I will still accept Castle Roogna as an entertaining read, if not better than average, but I would not put it into the top tier of fantasy books. In my opinion, it misses the mark, alternately over-thinking and under-thinking too many parts of itself.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
The costumes for today's kids just aren't right. I remember the bad old days of the 70's when Halloween reached its pre-manufactured cultural low. My earliest memory of costumes consisted of wearing plastic tunics bearing the image of what I was supposed to be, and a thin plastic mask held on with elastic. These things always pinched your face a little, changed your voice, and didn't breath very well. But hey, that's what all the other kids were wearing, so it's what you wore, too. If you were lucky, the mask survived the night, but often enough the mask cracked or the elastic broke.

I know that I was a hobo one year and my sister was a gypsy because I have a picture of it. I don't remember the costume at all, but I do remember the texture on the burnt cork rubbing on my nose.

In later years I tried some different, home-made costumers. For a few years, I was a ghost. I cut holes in a sheet, but on a tie and a hat, along with a big nose attached to plastic glasses. This suit was far more comfortable than any of the kids costumes, but hot in its own way. When I was old enough to go out on my own, I wandered about in my tween years in the big glasses with the big nose. Yes, that was lame. I was lame. We all were lame. It was the 70's.



In my family, all the candy was dumped into a large pile so that my mother could pull out all the gum and anything else that looked suspect. In the 70's, everyone was afraid of adulterated food, such as razor blades and needes hidden inside them. Mind you, nobody ever knew anybody who actually did anything like that, but those were the fear. In the late 70's, some nut actually went and poisoned pain killers, killing a few people, so I can understand some caution in the late 70's. Once all the food was properly checked out, the family shared the loot. When I met my wife, I was surprised to learn that she got to keep her own candy, and keep it in her room. I never had such a privilege. Then again, if that had been true, my siblings would have stolen it all away anyway. They were shameless.

The nigh before Halloween was called moving night, because that is the night that things moved. If your house was going to get toilet papered, that was the night it would happen. My sister gathered us up once to TP our own house. Valeries has since gone on to become a professional party planner, which surprises none of us a bit. Who can't have a party with a TP's house?

Back in the 70's, there were vast herds of kids that roamed the suburbs as that was the end of the baby boom. Even at the end of the street, our house got lots of kids through. I used to give out the candy in the 80's when I was in high school. Even there we had lots of visitors. By the time that college was over, my mother had stopped stocking large hoards of candy. She had switched over to large chocolate bars as the hoards had greatly diminished.

My new house, on a culd-de-sac, barely gets anyway. The old house got lots of kids. Almost every year we got lots of kids except after 9/11. That year, I left candy on my stoop and not only did no one steal all the candy, but the candy pretty much remained there. The year after that, there was a sniper in the county shooting at school kids and parents were understandably paranoid. After that, Halloween picked back up until hoardes of hispanic kids were coming to our door. 
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
In the 1970's, you couldn't love dinosaurs without loving Land of the Lost, that Saturday morning darling of the dinophile set. How could a show which featured a dinosaur roaring into the camera go wrong? The answer is that it didn't, at least for a few seasons.

Land of the Lost opens with a toe tapping, banjo accompanying song describing the thrills and chills of the Marshall family. An earthquake sucks their raft down into a giant hole, which was really a portal into another dimension, the land of the lost. There, they find all sorts of things that should be, all assembled into the same place. In all of that, they do their best at being a family. They live in a cave up high off the ground, which they called High Bluff. They discovered and named dinosaurs galore, the most famous being Grump, the T-Rex that chases everything and roars into the cave to swell.



The family itself contained Dad, who had a name that didn't matter, Will, the teenage boy, and Holly, the gradeschool girl. Their sometimes visitor was Chaka, a humanoid called a Pakuni, who befriended them when they found the land. Chaka could speak Pakuni very well, but he was very bad at English.

The show wasn't just trash, either. This was full-blown juvenile SF. It featured a collapse alien civilization that had made the land, the last of whom was Enoch, the Altrusian. Their descendents, now nocturnal, are the Sleestak, taking every opportunity to terrorize the family. The land itself is runy by pylons which utilize the Altrusian crystal technology to regulate the sun, moon, weather, and even portals into other worlds.



The first series itself was designed as a loop, so that the last episode directly took you into the first. How cool is that?

Heaven isn't forever, and neither are perfect shows. After two seasons, Dad Marshall had enough of the show and the cave set for High Bluff burned down, so the family moved into a temple near the Forgotten City, trading Grumpy for an allosaurus name Alice and too many Sleestaks as neighbors. The great conflaguration that swallowed dad conveniently brought in Uncle Jack, who was a congenial fellow, but nowhere near as cool as Dad was. (Dad had a certain intensity and daring in the face of necessity that made you really admire him.) Chaka now spoke English pretty well and lost his family. They even got a few more creatures, such as a fire-breathing dimetridon. All in all, the third season was meh.

After filming enough episodes to go syndicated, Land of the Lost move to the weekdays and the magically profitable land of weekday repeats. Nothing as cool replaced it on Saturday morning.



Land of the Lost was not without competition. There was also the cartoon show The Land that Time Forgot or something like that, about a place with dinosaurs and cave men. Again, people got lost and wound up there. It wasn't nearly as good or as compelling, but if you wanted a dino fix, it did fill that niche.

Sid & Marti Croft tried to revive Land of the Lost in the 90's with a passable show. It wasn't nearly as fun as the original, but not nearly as bad as critics panned it. It was more passable than anything.

Will Ferrall bastardized the whole thing into a Will Ferrall movie, and you can guess how well that worked out. Will Ferrall is a "comedian" who produces "comedies." Personally, I think that he sleeps with all the financers. Gotta make all those little old ladies happy, right? Make a bad movie, then walk away with the profits. 
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
Back in the 1970's, every boy had a G.I. Joe, and possibly more than one. It was as much of a doll as a Barbi was, but they were MAN dolls doing MAN things. Girls couldn't possibly understand. (Unless you got stuck playing Barbi, then you used your own doll and NEVER Ken.)

In many ways, I am utterly at a loss to talk about G.I. Joe beyond that because that play was so ubiquitous. There was no story attached to him, or TV, or anything like that. He just was. I had this red haired G.I. Joe. First I shave his beard, and then I eventually shaved him bald. Why? I guess that he looked better that way.

I used to take the head off of my doll, because the head attached to the neck ball joint and was removable. It was just a soft rubber that gripped on. The head itself was hollow and squishy. You could drop these guys on their heads forever and they'd never notice. Eventually, after enough abuse, the elastic that held the doll together snapped, leaving my Joe a limp rag doll. Thankfully, mom had mercy on me and bought me another.


My brother had an AT-II Mobile Support Vehicle, which was the multi-part yellow vehicle, which could drive like a big camper, or split apart into smaller components. It featured a wind-up propeller that shut up from the rear camper. That was the satellite that you were supposed to track. The front connected to the rear with a simple plastic pin over a hitch. The back opened up into a technical area so that you could do techno-stuff. (We didn't use that word back then. If we had only known it, we would have used it.)


I had a green footlocker for my Joe and all his gear, along with some diving equipment (Deep Sea Diver set). He had one of those big helmeted diving suits. Some friend must have had the six-wheeler, because that looked familiar to me. The teenager across the street had a space capsule from the 60's which he gave away to us. I don't remember who got that prize.

My aunt made clothes for Barbies, and every time that she asked what I wanted, I requested a G.I. Joe Parachute. My poor aunt had no idea how to make such a thing. Even worse, she didn't give me something good enough to make me happy, because it's not like a parachute is that hard. It's s a circle with strings tied to a vest. Done. It can be crappy, it was for a boy who intended to throw his doll up into the air.

Over the years I did attempt to make some parachutes. None of them worked well, but I had fun testing them.

G.I. Joe wasn't the only doll on the block. In the early 70's, there was also Big Jim. Jim was an outdoorsy guy, and he was BIG, and his name was JIM. He had a camper and he could wear all of G.I. Joe's clothes. That's about all that really mattered. To be honest, I had no idea what Big Jim connected into, if he even connected into anything. All that I had for Big Jim was his camper. I figure that I got Big Jim somewhere before Hurricane Agnes (1972), because I remember pushing his camper around the dining room table, chasing my sister. So I must have gotten Big Jim when I was five, in 1971. In the end, Big Jim didn't make much of an impression upon me, but his camper did.


Another doll that I played with was the Six Million Dollar Man, Steve Austin. With the show starting in 1973, and merchandising coming soon after that, you can bet lots of boys had a Steve Austin. I certainly did. He had interchangeable arms, and the arms had flesh that rolled up to reveal his bionic workings. You couldn't get cooler than that. A friend of mine had a bullet man, which I think went with that toy line, but I could be so wrong.


Even cooler, Steven came in this capsule thingie which always did what you needed it to do. It sealed him and all his stuff up into one neat little container. I think that I only had the doll and the repair station as none of the other toys rings any bells.

The younger kid next door never had many big dolls, but he did have many super-hero action figures. I didn't know the marvel heroes back then, but he had them.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
With The Source of Magic, the tone of this and all other Xanth books change. Gone is the sexual comedy and extremly lighthanded humor that was A Spell For Chameleon, replaced instead by a very straightforward adventure book with humorous aspects. Three henpecked men go off in search of magic, and in the course of the adventure, discover things about themselves, and so establishing the the structural basis of all other Xanth novels to come. The characters featured our hard-headed and unspeakably lucky Bink, and reprises of Chet the Centaur and Crombie the Soldier.

This was the first Xanth novel that I ever read. (At the time, there were only two, so this was pretty easy to do.) After I read this book, I went back and found A Spell for Chameleon. So to me, this was the most definiteve Xanth novel ever written because I was thirteen and this book was just AWESOME and I had never read anything like it before!!! Together, these make up the only two REAL Xanth books written because all the others don't star Bink. (Yeah, can you tell I was a Bink fan?)

We still get some sexiness and some chauvanism stuff thrown in there. There's more than enough buxom to go around, Even the land of Xanth itself has cleavage with the Gap. Can you get more titty worship than that? I don't think so.

The story opens with some ill-behaved women behaving badly. Chameleon, who was at least likeably while she was ugly, even if she was rough around the edges, has become a totally unsympathetic character. Queen Iris is off the rails. And whats-her-face is trying to entrap Crombie into marriage. It's no wonder that people think that this book is mysoginist. In truth, what's going on here is an archaic comedy trope where of course husbands are henpecked by their wives. This trope, so popular in the 40's and 50's, fell out of favor during the 60's presumably because divorce had become more common and couples were no longer stuck being married to each other. In other words, it stopped being funny.

Bink wants to find the source of magic. Chester wants to discover his magic talent. Crombie looking for an alternative to Sabrina. Humphry doesn't want to go at all, but he comes along anyway to great comedic use. And finally, we get a trash talking golem named Grumby who just wants to be real. Together, they tramp along the wilds of Xanth that seemed to always have people living nearby in an episodic construction that always introduces just enough trouble to push off success until the next chapter.

You can add or remove almost any chapter from this book and not harms its execution. That's what makes this thing a straightforward action-adventure. Your goalposts are necessary and everything else is just enough filler to make the book enjoyable, although it's also long enough that it also makes the book feel a little tedious, because adventure is what keeps the characters from immediately solving their problem.

Now that I've reread both of them, I must say that A Spell for Chameleon is technically and literarily the better book. I had a blast reading it. Writing comedy is hard and Piers succeeded wonderfully. The Source of Magic, although a generally humorous read, often had the feeling of wading through filler. You know while you're reading it that the side adventures are superfluous. A good editor could hack the book in half and the reader would never notice. Even so, if you need a change of pace, I can recommend the book. Nobody is trying to take over. The fate of the world is not at stake. No great fate rests on the protagonists shoulders. No, it's just a book about somes guys wanting to find the source of magic, which is all that the book claims to be.

I declare The Source of Magic to be a fine beer and pretzel book and approved reading for all Real Men.
dmilewski: (Macbeth the Usurper)
After driving a Chevy wagon for six years or so, just enough to pay it off and for the shitty American engineering begin breaking down, my dad bought a Ford Grenada. My guess is the year 1976, give or take a few. I don't remember what I felt about the wagon going away, but I do remember being excited by the new car. What's not to get excited about?

What my father bought was a green Grenada, which looked remarkably like the picture below. It even had the same icky white roof and uninspired interior. (There were designs that the 70's strove to forget, and this was among them.) At the time, they were pretty normal, so it all seemed spiffy. As the roof was this textured vinyl stuff, dirt got into it, so keeping the top clean actually took a fair amount of scrubbing. If it wasn't for these pictures, I would be hard pressed to sketch a picture of this car.



The image below is from the Gia variant, but the dashboard is pretty much the same. I don't know what kind of wood the dashboard was trying to imitate, and to this day, I remain befuddled.



There are many details that I've forgotten, like that arm rest in the middle and the cushiony looking doors.

I partly learned to drive on the car. It had power steering, so it was pretty easy to turn the wheel. (At least, I think that I learned to drive with this. Memory is funny that way. I may just remember sitting behind the wheel and pretending.) The thing had no power to talk about, it being a family car and all that. Ours was an automatic, of course, because mom did not drive stick.

I was in this car when we had its only accident. My mother was taking a carload of kids to school in a car pool when someone pulled out in from of her while she was going 25 mph. I was sitting in the middle of the front seat for the ride. I saw the hood crumple as I bent over. Before I could sit back up, my mother pulled me up in a complete panic, horrified that I might be hurt. If that had been true, she would have done more damage to me than the collisions. I'm happy to say that the car survived with just a bit of love and auto insurance money.

This car ultimately met its end on the beltway while I was in high school. My dad was driving home when the engine decided to catch fire. He got out and watched it burn. After that, he bought a used Chevy.
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 08:34 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios