A SOLEFUL TALE

One of the first things Eve must have said to Adam as they trudged wearily out of Eden was, “Ouch, my feet hurt!”  Adam’s  probably started to carry his wife, but he would soon weary and suggest wrap-around footwear using nearby heavy palm leaves.  “No,” Eve would say. “That shade of green would clash with my fig leaf outfit.  We’ll keep looking. And I think you should cut down that apple tree over there and carve out some heels. Watch out for the serpent.”

Historians tell us we humans have been wearing some kind of shoes for about 7,000 years. I think it must have been farther back than that. Sure, archaeologists are finding remnants of pottery, weapons and other hardware in ancient ruins, but discarded worn out shoes would have turned to dust long before they started to dig.  There’s an old pair of loafers in the back of my closet now that are  beginning to resemble decomposing chipmunks.

I still have my very first pair of shoes and must admit they’re in perfect condition after more than 80 years, but that’s because my mother had them bronzed in 1940.  I don’t think a Bronze Age mother in 3000 BC would have gone to that kind of expense and trouble even if bronze workers then were into the shoe-coating thing.

Many of us have an innate resentment of shoes. They’re often the first articles of clothing removed at the end of a work day and always with a sigh of relief.  If you have a keen sense of smell, you’ve probably noticed a lot of shoes are removed by theater-goers as soon as the lights are dimmed even though their liberated tootsies might swell up during the show and no longer fit back into their wingtips and wedgies.

Little boys are probably the largest anti-shoe group. On the last day of school they look forward to a couple of carefree shoeless months. I know I did, but back in those nicotine days we boys had to be wary of discarded smoldering butts that turned sidewalks and park grounds into minefields for the barefooted.  A cast-off glowing ten-cent corona once put me on Unguentine rehab for a month.

STREET GANG MEMORIES

I was a street gang member during my early youth.  We called ourselves the 9th Street Musketeers and we clashed regularly with the 7th Street Robin Hood gang doing battle in the middle ground of the 8th  Street woods.

Our weapons included homemade bows strung with butcher twine, and stick arrows, swords and lances whittled from skinny branches.  Our shields were trash can lids that we had to get back in place before our parents and the neighborhood cats and dogs got wind of the exposed garbage.

According to our unwritten rules of engagement even the slightest touch with the point of an enemy weapon would render a warrior “dead” and committed to the sidelines. There were no referees so “fatal wounds” were often contested, but we managed to settle these arguments peaceably without fisticuffs.  Actual injuries were rare, a scratch here and there and maybe a nosebleed if a distracted charging swordsman ran into a tree.

Once during the heat of battle a Musketeer shouted,  “Hey you guys, blackberries!” and an immediate truce was called as all combatants gathered around the new-found blackberry bush and gorged. When hostilities resumed we were all dripping with berry juice, looking like walking wounded.

Usually after a battle, the winners and losers, the quick and the “dead”, traded comic books and searched the woods for deposit bottles and debris that the local junkman might consider salvage.  Later we’d spend the profits on a two-gang picnic.

That was almost 80  years ago.   If there were combat contests like that for kids today there would be compulsory helmets, face guards, chest protectors and expensive plastic weapons. Smelly trash can lids would be completely out of the question.  There would be an official rules book, adult coaches and  field judges,  waivers of injury claims forms and post-battle counseling for the losers.  The 8th Street woods has since been replaced by a parking lot so the contest would take place on an Astroturf field with grandstands, cheerleaders and a first aid squad.

There would be no searches for blackberry bushes, deposit bottles or saleable junk, but every team member, winners and losers, would receive a trophy.

MISDEALS

Every time I get into a give and take situation it turns out to be GIVE and take. When I was just starting grammar school I was talked into trading my brand new red pencil box with the Mickey Mouse logo and neato crayons drawer, for a turtle.

I had always wanted a pet turtle I could tell my troubles to in strict confidence and that I didn’t have to take for long walks.  I shouldn’t have told all this to my classmate Skippy who claimed to have a turtle ranch in his back yard and said he had just the hard-shelled beauty that met both my specifications.

I should have been more specific and insisted on a live turtle. That was in early September.  By the following spring I began to realize my lethargic pet, Snoozy, had not been hibernating, but had gone on to wherever turtles go on to.  By then Skippy had traded the pencil box for a BB gun and six comic books. The last I heard he was a big shot on Wall Street and owned a sizable portion of Long Island.

I’m really out of my element when buying a car. I was well into discussing a down payment and monthly installments on a small sedan when I noticed the framed plaque on the office wall and realized I was in the clutches of the dealer’s “Salesman of the Year”. I would rather have been haggling with some desperate fellow who hadn’t sold a car in a month.  Anyway, I managed by hard bargaining to get Mr. Hotshot to agree to a deal where I only had to give up lunches for three years.  I felt a little guilty when he said he was going to plead with his manager to okay this “overgenerous contract”.  But later I was sure I heard raucous laughter down the hall and what sounded like the popping of a cork on a champagne bottle.

Heaven help the country if I ever get involved in high level international negotiations. I can imagine reporting at the White House on the results of my meeting with Pacific Rim representatives. “Mr. President, I am happy to inform you that I have secured an agreement granting us unlimited tuna fishing rights between the Aleutians and the China coast.  I must add, on the down side,  that we have to give up Hawaii and a west coast city to be named later.”

TALES MY MOTHER TOLD ME

I now find myself giving my grandchildren the same false information my mother gave me and that I often repeated to my children. It’s a genetic thing and I can’t help myself. The subjects come up and I automatically start misinforming. I hope some day my grandkids will realize they’ve been misled about some of life’s important issues.

First of all, spaghetti is definitely not better the next day. Mom used to say that all the time but she had a good excuse. It was during the Great Depression and if it wasn’t going to be second-hand spaghetti, the only other available entree was baloney sandwiches on stale bread.  But face it, spaghetti on day two is no longer al dente, it’s al mushy. The family had already devoured any meatballs on day one, so repeat spaghetti was not only al mushy, it was without accompanyment except for the stale bread.

I’m almost certain a swallowed watermelon seed will not result in the growth of a watermelon inside your stomach. Mom must have been kidding. I wasn’t so sure about this when I was about four years old and saw Mrs. Swanson next door who was eight and a half months pregnant.  I gave up watermelon for several years. Just to be safe I now stick with the seedless variety. (Where do they get the seeds for next year’s crop?)

You can safely open an umbrella indoors without bringing on a spell of bad luck. Just don’t open it under the ceiling fan or next to the knick knack shelf and you can do it while cracking your knuckles without bringing on arthritis.

Eating all the bread crusts will not promote curly hair. Mom said that because she was trying to get as many vitamins and minerals as possible into us from a ten-cent loaf of bread in 1935.  I still eat the crusts but the only curly hair I have is dangling out of my ears and nose. I once thought my wavy hair was due to eating  the crusts but I realize now it was just waving goodbye.

Mom was right about her Santa Claus warnings. I”m sure he’s still keeping a list and checking it twice.  I’ve tried to be good and I’m still waiting for my pony, but there have been a lot of years and a lot of pounds, so maybe he should think about a Clydesdale.

ACHIEVING “COOL”

I thought I’d do a little bragging down at the senior center.  “Maybe you’ve heard,” I said to my pal Paul, “I’ve got a blog.”

Paul looked a little startled, just the effect I was hoping for.  “Don’t worry,” he said. “My brother-in-law had one of those.  It’s a simple procedure and after a week or two in rehab you’ll be as good as new.”