Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Way back around 1972 I was on a short get away in Virginia with my dad. The reason we were there was the fact that his mother was not doing very well with respect to her health. Once Dad & I were done visiting with Grandma, we proceeded to make our rounds up and down all those awesomely wondrous Virginian mountains down there.
Eventually I realized we were pulling into my favorite cousin's driveway. Yes! We had made it to my cousin Calvin's place.
Now Calvin was an extremely cool cousin in my 10 year old mind. He was just several years shy of being twice my age, built hot rod model cars extremely well, and had been known for his routine generosity in that he would send me away with several treasured gifts. Who could ask for anything more?
Calvin had just started driving his brother Buddy's old first car which actually belonged to their dad. He had offered to drive to the local drug store so that he & I could each get a model car to work on together. Calvin's stylish ride was some big dark blue boat that I certainly don't remember the exact type of, but I sure as heck remember what was starring directly at me from under the rear windshield. There beneath the rear glass, to my two wide eye's utter amazement, was the biggest and most wicked looking rubber vampire bat that I had ever seen! Naturally I started losing my mind immediately. I BEGGED my cousin to see if I could play with the darn thing while we drove to the drug store. (play with it? in reality I was already WAY past that action, that thing was going home with me whether Calvin knew it yet or not!)
I don't want to get too side tracked here, but as my mind drifts back to this painful childhood episode, there we were, all of us innocent kindergartners sitting around in a circle drinking our milk, sitting on the big checkered floor, and having show and tell with this awesome new rubber thingy that Kimberly brought in. My positioning in this circle, considering my motives, was none too strategic. Come to think of it, I didn't even know what strategy was at the time so I forgive myself. I was nonetheless the last one sitting right next to Kimberly who had initially passed the object the opposite way from me in the circle. This naturally meant that I would be the last one to handle the little oozler prior to her getting it back. How was I supposed to know that Kimberly would notice the fact that she didn't get her toy back right away? Huh? The little sprite got suspicious almost immediately when her rubber gorilla managed not to return to her as it made it's way around the circle. Well, Kimberly just sat there looking at me with that look of expectation. I leaned over and whispered in her ear, "I passed it back the other way". Women and their intuition, you just can't get away with anything! As Kimberly shrieked and exclaimed to the teacher that her prize possession had disappeared, the teacher immediately began her student inquiry as to the whereabouts of the missing toy. Kimberly was frantic, starting to cry and hyperventilate. Naturally, the teacher asked me specifically if I had the toy since I was the last one to have it passed to them. I sat there looking straight ahead as innocently as possible and did my best to calmly keep from drawing attention to the somewhat large squishy lump I was hiding under my butt. My butt was not that large at the time, neither was I. Sadly, when I did muster the courage to stand up and face the music, the roar of the children's laughter filled the class room as Kimberly quickly scampered on her hands and knees to retrieve her treasure from underneath me. I'm certain that it was much warmer than she remembered.
So anyways, out of the blue one morning about a month ago I am doing my daily Etsy, eBay, etc. obsessive perusing and what do you suppose should pop up as having just been listed "buy it now" for a killer price? Now bear in mind that I have been looking for just one of these in any condition whatsoever, for what, 20 years now? Here was not just one, but two of the amazing flying creatures, and they were like brand spanking new! I mean as close to mint as would be possible because these babies didn't come in individual packages. You bought them out of a 5 and dime grab bin.
I remember quite clearly how much wear and tear (literally!) that old bat had on it the last time I played with it as a kid. There was absolutely nothing left of it except for it's body with a slight bit of wing to either side of it. The Achilles heal for these critters were their somewhat thin floppy wings which as they got thrown around and bounced hanging from the rear view mirror of your car, the wings would get torn off. With mine the wings would develop tears that eventually ripped, but when they did I would do my best to tear the rip in the sense that it still formed the original shape and angle of the bat's wings. You could only do this so many times before fondly referring to your pet rubber bat as "Stubby".
Just as a side note, Calvin did in fact graciously give me that big rubber bat to take home. This being of his own sweet, generous, Virginian good nature. I played with it nearly the entire time we visited with Calvin's family and he simply would not stand for me not taking it home, along with some Archie comics and my new model car that he helped me to paint. How many remember the cool old model car, The Rodfather? That was the model that I bought that day at the drug store that Calvin helped me to paint. He was/is one COOL cousin!
When I did receive these flying black beauties in the mail, I don't know if I have ever honestly been happier opening a vintage collectible. I was ecstatic.
Monday, March 7, 2011
So that's where today's "wuz" is going to land with pin point precision. Behold a few of my trinkets and trash, er, I mean TREASURES, that my collecting mind's well oiled time machine has retrieved from my foggy past:
First we'll start with a little ashtray that holds a GREAT DEAL of sentimental value for me. I have absolutely no idea where I got my original from, or where it eventually disappeared to, but I fell in love with it as soon as read the comical inscription in the ashtray itself. The ashtray is actually a souvenir from Niagara Falls. It has two snakes coiled one with the other with their heads raised, looking at one another as if they were having a conversation. In the ashtray it reads "I remember you when you didn't have a pit to hiss in".Still to this day, every time I think of that old saying, I just start smiling.
I clearly remember the original I had before it went it's mysterious bygone way. It had one of the snake heads broken off when I found it and the one remaining snake head only had one of it's semi precious ruby eyes. OK, ok, so they were just plastic rhinestones. But it didn't matter! I LOVED that saying because at the time, I didn't have a pit to hiss in, or too many if any pots to pee in.
By my own choice, I was truly living off the street at this time. Post parting ways with our country's glorious military, I was more or less just bumming around and staying with whomever I could score a couch or cot from. I had an old cardboard box that I used to hide in a storage shed and that was where I kept my clothes and what few belongings I had at the time. I may have found this ashtray in one of a 100 different places, but it was definitely during this time that I found it nonetheless. I can assuredly tell you that I doubt I paid much more than a nickle for it because of not having much more than a nickle to pay for it at the time!.
Anyhow, I had just scored a job and a single room at Mrs. Hills boarding house in Pontiac, Michigan on West Tennyson Street. The room was 25.00 a week, was about 8'X10', and included a community bathroom (joy!). It also included the fact that Mrs. Hills would clean your room once a week on a specific day. My specific day was Wed. There was just one minor detail that really concerned me. Being an old pot head from way back (well, at least I was back then), this cleaning business terrified the daylights out of me! This just seemed far too grievous a breach of my privacy as related to my more so subversive activities. But all that fear and anxiety soon faded as I eventually made the predictable mistake of forgetting about Wed. being the official cleaning day. When I left that morning, I forgot and left several decent size roaches in my ashtray on the night stand from the night before.
When I returned that evening....
I crept up the old creaky wooden steps, put my key in the door and opened it...
There they were! I had worried all day long for nothing about getting kicked out of that darn boarding house, and there they were, all accounted for and fully intact. Bless her heart, she had even lined them up for me on the edge of the ashtray so as to be right on top of the two coiled snakes!
I would have married Mrs. Hills right there and then but she was close to 80 years old at the time and I hadn't seen Harold & Maude yet. That woman was beyond AMAZING. She was in her late 70s and still zoomed up and down those old wooden steps like she had wings on her back and a song in her heart. This being while cleaning two (she had one right next to the other) BIG, 3 story boarding houses. You would be hard pressed to find one spec of dust in either place. I mean it, they even smelled clean. I stayed there for almost a year before moving on.
And here it is for your very own viewing pleasure, minus the roaches, a treasured piece that took me nearly 30 years to find again and procure: