Monthly Archives: October 2012

Halloween Punkins

Blaheheheargh!  Did I spell that right?  I don’t know, but you were scared weren’t you?  Tis the season of ghosts and goblins, hauntings and yes, pumpkins.  Not just pumpkins though.  Big, spooky Jack-O-Lanterns.

Three weeks ago we ventured up into the mountains in search of turning leaves and ripe pumpkins.  October or no, neither did we find!  My family has made this same trek, this same time of year, for decades and never have we failed to see at least one crimson leaf or bright pumpkin.  Not this year.  The locals said we were too early for the leaves, but there was no mention of pumpkins.  The leaves can be tricky to time just right, but the pumpkins, what’s going on with the pumpkins?  Beats me.

Several years we have also gone to the local pumpkin farm.  There we can pick the beauties fresh off the vine!  Some are small, and some are huge.  We always go for a big one.  Running through the pumpkin patch we would each pick the perfect orb, and then decide between us which one really was perfect.  Sometimes that perfection was measured by a gnarled stem.  Or green mixed into the color scheme with the orange.  Not perfect by breeders standards, but exactly what we were looking for.

When it was time to carve we’d set up a space in the kitchen.  On the floor, or on the table.  I would cut out the hat, or top, and then the fun began.  We all loved to cry out, “eeeew!” and “yucky” and “blech” as we stuck our fingers into the meaty, seed filled inside.  Lots of funny faces that would have been good on a Jack-O-Lantern.

What kind of face actually wound up being carved would be chosen by the children.  They would draw what they wanted and I’d do my best to copy that onto a sphere.  As they got a little older we got much fancier.  We bought one of those kits to transfer designs onto the pumpkin.  Things like moons and cats and witches.  Very intricate sometimes.  And not too easy to carve.  Once they chose the design, the children couldn’t be of much help in the carving.  Which sometimes took hours.  And seemed like days.  Well worth it in the end as the pumpkins always garnered rave reviews from the trick or treaters, and their parents.

Some years I’d take the kids out on their candy quest and others I’d stay home to greet the goblins visiting my door.  When I went out, I always checked out everyone’s pumpkin.  I’m competitive that way.  Rarely did I find one better than the one gracing my own porch.  We trekked through cold nights, rainy nights and hot nights.  We walked, we rode in a car and we even got pulled along in a wagon.  Costumes galore.  Cats, cowgirls, dolls, M&Ms.  Always fun.  And always productive in the loot department.  I usually sorted through everybody’s basket to pick a few choices nuggets of joy for myself.

This year, the girls are away at college.  Wow.  Where did all that time go?  When we didn’t find a pumpkin in the mountains, we planned to go to the pumpkin farm.  Somehow the time slipped away.  My wife told me to go to the grocery store and just pick one off the floor.  Some how that didn’t seem right.  Indoors.  On a concrete floor.  Couldn’t do it.  So I went to a local church that was having a pumpkin sale and picked one off the ground.  At least it was on the real ground.  Earth.  Dirt.  Trucked in, just like the ones at the grocery store, but these were outdoors, sitting on the ground.  I let me self be fooled.  Yes, I’m sentimental about some things.  Including a pumpkin.

So, there it sits, hollowed out, with a scary face carved into it.  Tomorrow night it goes onto the porch.  Candle lit, it will shine like a beacon to treasure hunters: come here for a treat!  My wife suggested we just keep the lights off, lock the door and ignore the whole thing.  I just can’t do it.  I’m a child at heart, and I enjoy the trappings of holidays.  Including pumpkins transforming into Jack-O-Lanterns.  Always will.  And I hope my children have seen that, and will also carve pumpkins in their future.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  http://www.personalhistorywriter.com 

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Home Movies

Y’all come over tonight and we’ll watch home movies.  Wow!  What an exciting invite.  Back in the day getting together with friends and neighbors often included watching movies or slide shows from the family vacation.  I’m talking about back in the sixties and seventies.  We had three channels on TV.  No video games.  Heck, there were no computers.  No DVD.  You actually had to use your imagination.  Or get together with people and interact.  In person.

We’d gather in the living room or the den and set up the silver screen.  That was my job.  Get the projector ready and then lights, projector, action!  Great way to spend an hour or so watching a series of still pictures, each with a long description of the who, what, when, where and why; or five or ten minutes worth of film clips.

Most amateur movies back then were always short clips.  And there were a lot of vignettes on one short reel of film.  The film was expensive and no one wanted to waste it, they just wanted to capture a glimpse of what was happening.  In these clips people were often running, or jumping.  Acting silly.  And moving toward the camera.  They always seemed to be somewhat staged.

Fortunately for movie stars, most people weren’t great actors.  People didn’t know what to do with this technology.  How many of these home movies were made without reference to the place or the date or even who is appearing?  Jumping people at the beach.  Children at a birthday party wearing silly hats.  Christmas morning with sleepy, excited eyes.

If it’s not your family, or your vacation, or you’re not in the flick, it might not be very interesting.  Hence, the dreaded invitation.  But now, in retrospect, there is a great deal of value in these films.  In my family, at least in my early years, we would gather all of my father’s side and have a great birthday bash for everyone once a year.  It was always during the summer, when we were on vacation, and centered mostly around the children.  So I remember the silly hats, including my favorite, which was a beanie with a propeller on top.  There would be gifts, cake and ice cream, swimming in the pool.  And, home movie magic.

Looking back, one could watch as the family expanded and the children grew.  New people came in as spouses.  Some left as exes.  But beyond the trip down memory lane about family members, there are a number of other valuable details about society.

Can you believe those clothes?  Look at dad’s stripped bell-bottoms!  That’s some hairdo!  Look at the car.  Land yacht.  And the house.  What’s that color?  Harvest gold and avocado green appliances.  Celery shag carpet.  And look, a Hi-Fi sound system for vinyl records and AM radio.  Can you believe that, Auntie Sue has a color TV?!  Those silly home movies are filled with information about how we lived.  What our world was like at a certain period in time.  It’s history!  And valuable antiques!

I went to an event yesterday called National Home Movie Day.  The local University was hosting.  They have an awesome library of rare documents and a film archive dating back to 1917.  But this was largely a bring your own film event.  Reminded me of my youth, and all of those movies we took.  Not just a family history.  World history.  I wonder where all those movies are now?  My kids would laugh at them.  And learn.  Preserve your family history.  Contribute to our understanding of the history of our world.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

http://www.personalhistorywriter.com

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A Simple Hat

Daaad, you can’t wear that!  I hear that all the time.  Really dear, you’ll embarrass the children.  Well really, she means I’ll embarrass her.  Sure, I have a “style” that’s a little different from what most people wear.  That’s the idea.  I have pieces representing many styles, and I just put them together as I see fit.  I haven’t’ finished collecting pieces.  The family ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

It’s just a hat.  Men don’t really wear hats any more.  John Kennedy stopped that when he went hatless as President.  Up until then men always wore hats.  Fedoras, Homburgs, Stetsons.  Now, if men wear hats, they wear ball caps.  Maybe I should call them bald caps.  Lots of guys wear that old baseball hat to cover up the fact that they are bald.  Maybe a little spot in the back.  Or, maybe all they have left is sideburns. 

Not everyone would agree with me, but I don’t see being bald as a terrible thing.  No, I’m not bald.  And no, I don’t have the hair I used to.  In the back I’ve got a little spot where some skin shows.  I can’t see it, even when I look in the mirror, but I know it’s there.  Just a little.  But hey, admitting to that is, for me, a big deal.  But like I said, bald is no crime.

My hat isn’t intended to cover a bald spot though.  The hat serves many purposes.  It keeps me from getting sunburned where my hair parts, and on my nose.  The brim keeps the sun out of my eyes.  If my hair is a wreck in the morning I can slap a hat on and hide my resemblance to Medusa.  Lately though, I’ve been using my hat to keep the sun off my ears.  Poor things, they’ve been frostbitten and sunburned.  Now the skin is gone and in places the cartilage shows through.  That’s what the doc told me anyway.

So, in trying to preserve my skin, I’ve started to wear a hat with a brim all around.  To cover my ears.  Sunscreen isn’t enough.  I started with a straw Panama.  It was a little too fancy.  Cost a pretty penny back when I got it.  A shop in Georgetown.  But I wore it to concert or two.  And to the beach.  Couldn’t bring myself to wear it working in the yard.  It seemed to sit too high on my head anyway and I tried to modify it, but I think I might have ruined it.  It kinda looks like an old bale of hay now.

That was replaced with a cheap farmer kind of straw hat.  A buck fifty at the thrift store.  It didn’t last long with me sweating in it all the time.  That’s when I decided to spend a little dough on a good hat again.  I ended up with some kind of trekker hat.  Hi tech stuff.  You know, it floats and breathes and rolls up for travel and has UPF 200 built into it.  And if I lose it, or break it somehow, the manufacturer will replace it for the rest of my life. 

Nice hat.  Very nice.  But I can’t find it.  The fashion police got it.  So, now I have a red bucket hat.  I keep careful tabs on that one.  It’s ugly as sin.  But I tell the family that red is the color of the local college football team.  So there.  It’s just a cotton hat.  But this one I can wear sailing, kayaking, bike riding, in the yard, to the football game, the baseball game.  Even under my scooter helmet. It’s my greatest hat.  Now, when anyone gives me a hard time about what I’m wearing, I tell them I’ll put on the red hat if they don’t hush.  For them, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, worse than the red hat.  Maybe that’s why they keep buying me those baseball hats.  Wait until they see the flame boots!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  http://www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Time Disappeared

Time disappeared recently.  Really.  Did you miss it?  Didn’t make the news.  Why do we track time?  I’m no dummy, but I don’t know that I would have been able to track the phases of the sun, moon, stars, and tides to develop a calendar.  Interesting phenomena, but I wouldn’t have written it down.  That’s cool, what’s for dinner?  I certainly wouldn’t have been able to figure out how to build an accurate timepiece- hourglass, Stonehenge, sundial, Big Ben or Citizen Eco Drive.

I love clocks and watches.  Especially the wind up kind, even though I never remember to wind them up.  Not sure why I have such a thing for them, or why I forget to wind them.  But I love the tick tock, bing, bang, bong.  My dream is being in a room with sixty-four clocks going off simultaneously at the stroke of midnight!

Some watches are solar powered,  some are auto wind, juiced by the movement of your arm.  But most timepieces today are run by a quartz movement fired up by some itty bitty button battery. Not the same as an old wind up skeleton piece where you can see all the gears turning.  But that’s what I wear on  my wrist.  A quartz watch with huge digital numbers.

Not too long ago the face on my six year old watch cracked, somehow.  I suspect it was at the beach while I was wrestling sharks, or napping in my lounge chair. A drop of water got in to the case.  Bad combination.  The water fogged up the inside of the face and I could no longer read the numbers.  In effect, time disappeared.  Time for a new watch.

I have a couple of “good” watches, and a sentimental favorite or two.  I have a pair of skeleton watches.  Metal bands, cloth bands, plastic bands and leather bands.  Digital and analog.  What I wanted was simple.  A cheap watch.  Plastic, digital, quartz movement.  With one of those little button batteries that last longer than the watch.  Needed a calendar and a back-light.  And BIG numbers.  Oh, water resist too.  But mostly cheap.  That is, low cost.  But at the same time it had to match my personal style, to suit my touch of vanity.  Had to look good!  And did I mention, cheap?

The Internet is full of stuff.  Ninety nine cents with free shipping.  Not my style.  Japanese LED.  Cool, but my old eyes had a hard time reading it.  Fake Rolex, TAG, and Movado.  I don’t do fake, and I’m too practical for a real one.  Antique watches on EBAY.  That opened too many options and I lost my focus.  But I did find a lot of really cool watches!

In the end I went to a chain retail store and bought a twenty dollar watch.  It met most of my criteria.  It doesn’t express my personality or my love of watches, but it does it’s job.  Not perfect, and I’ll keep looking.  I’ll always be looking for something.  That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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