Monday, August 29, 2011

Let's Do the Time Warp

I'm from another world. There. I said it. 

Well, maybe I should say I'm from another time? It’s surreal how time creeps by. 

I remember gathering in front of the neighbor’s black and white television, the room illuminated in silver and grey as we watched a man step on the moon. Of course I didn’t appreciate the historical significance of the thing at the time – I was five.

I remember the smell of Play-doh. It smelled like fortune cookies, or so I’d discover later in life. I miss Play-Doh. But does it still smell like fortune cookies? I mean, they change everything to make things “safer.” They ruin everything. I’m just sayin’.  

When I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s we had toys made of metal with sharp edges: cars and firetrucks were METAL, not plastic. And things that got hot: the Creepy Crawler Thingmaker machine got hot. I mean it got HOT. You had to squirt Plastigoop into a metal mold and then put the metal mold into this HOT tray that cooked the goo. Then you removed the hot metal mold with metal tongs and dropped it into a water bath to cool off so you could peel the little rubbery bugs out of the molds. I burned myself often. And god knows what the hell was actually IN Plastigoop?

Mr. Potato Head – and his pals Pete the Pepper, Katie Carrot and Mr. Soda Pop Head – had hard, sharp, LITTLE pieces that you stuck into him to make goofy faces. Very small, swallowable pieces.
But somehow, despite the apparent mine field I walked through each day of my childhood, I managed to survive. I wonder how many kids died from 3rd degree Thingmaker burns or chocked to death on a Mr. Potato Head eye? Oh! And back then Mr. Potato Head SMOKED! He came with a pipe!

And whatever became of Jello-O 1 2 3 or Funny Face drink mixes? Funny Face was originally sweetened with calcium cyclamate, but calcium cyclamate was one of the victims of the sweetener witch hunts of the 60’s and 70’s. I guess it caused bladder cancer in rats. But how often do you see rats drinking artificially-sweetened drinks in the wild? I’m just sayin’. 

Oh, and smoking. Everyone smoked. A ride in the car (which didn’t have backseat seatbelts, by the way) was an adventure in chemical warfare when my grandfather was driving. At least he’d flick his ashes out the window… of course, they just blew back in and into the backseat and all over us. But that was the way it was.

I remember rushing back to my grandparent’s house to watch President Nixon’s resignation speech. Of course I didn’t appreciate the historical significance of the thing at the time – I was ten. 

I didn’t really get the whole thing with President Nixon. I mean, he seemed like a nice man to me – he’d been to see the Chinese and brought back pandas. How bad can a man with pandas be? I’m just sayin’.

All in the Family was remarkable, although I didn’t realize this until I watched it again in the new millennium. Though not nearly as extreme or venomous as Archie Bunker, words like “colored” and “chink” were used in my house. I remember. There was always talk of finding some aunt and uncle’s hooded robes stashed in a trunk.

But somehow, despite growing up in the tail end of an era where those words were commonplace and acceptable, I saw no difference between people. Even back then I didn’t understand why diversity was BAD. I still don’t. But I appreciate Archie Bunker and the lessons he taught in spite of himself. I’m just sayin’.

I remember the Iran hostage crisis. It all seemed stupid to me. Of course by then I did appreciate the historical significance of the thing – I was fifteen.  Childhood innocence was gone. The world was hostile and dangerous. Santa Claus was dead. There was no Easter Bunny. How had the time crept by so quickly? So unnoticed?

I remember when “simple” computers filled entire rooms. When “mobile” phones were the size of cereal boxes. I remember cassette tapes and records and even 8-track tapes. I remember the first “computer games” played by hooking a contraption up to your television and watching squares bounce back and forth between pixilated “paddles”. Even then I don’t think anyone could have seen what was coming; how we would soon become a cyber-world, connected across continents, microseconds to send messages half way around the world, yet so disconnected and isolated. I’m just sayin’.

Today we’re safe from danger – Big Brother watches out for us, taking the sharp edges off toys, taking away things that get hot, making everything safer, simpler, dumber. We self-edit and kneel at the altar of Political Correctness -- lest the simplest, most innocent word offend -- making everything safer, simpler, dumber. Computers take care of us – our finances, our schedules, our personal information, all of our secrets -- our souls -- making everything safer, simpler, dumber. What a utopia we live in. I’m grateful for the advances in medicine and technology and social thinking – don’t get me wrong. I just wonder if we can’t have some of the innocence back.  I’m just sayin’. 

Until next time from the House of Secrets,
The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
'Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river


  1. Great post. Having been born on September 1, 1961 I have similar memories.
    Don't forget the wood burning sets that were one of the "must have" Christmas presents around 1972 or so. I am surprised that more kids did not burn down the house with those "dangerous" toys.

  2. Oh, and who could forget chemistry sets?

  3. Ah yes...chemistry sets. I still have mine in a box somewhere in the attic. Could be a story idea in there somewhere. Child in the 1970's finds "something" and uses it as part of his/her chemistry experiments. Flash forward to years later and the adult is beginning to clear out the attic of the house after their parents die and stumbles across what the experiment has turned into. Twisted and enraged from the pain of being the subject of experimentation, seeking revenge.