Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Collecting Memories

Guess what these things have in common:
Broken pencil leads
Empty Nerd boxes (all sizes)
Eraser pieces
Mechanical pencils (broken or working)
Playground rocks

Give up? Those are things currently being collected by children in the fourth grade at our school. I know that those are collections because we have to save all of those things so my daughter can distribute them to the appropriate people. And it doesn’t seem gender-limited: a boy collects the eraser bits, girls collect the broken pencil leads.
Remember baseball cards? Those collections make sense to me. Remember stickers, especially Lisa Frank stickers? Again, things that I can wrap my head around. Even Pokemon cards and bottle tops fit into a “normal” category in my world-view. But empty Nerd boxes? It’s not like they have cute quotes or different pictures or romantic memories associated with them. And playground rocks? Easy Christmas shopping: one stop at Home Depot, one bag of “river rock” and you’ve got 30,000 individual gifts for $4.95.
Other things about my Elementary years don’t make sense. We used to give ourselves eraser burns. Well, my friends did it daily, comparing who had the deepest, the greatest number, the most unusual spot, etc. I did it once and my Mom, a nurse, quickly put the kibosh on that silliness. We also used to rub each other’s arm hair until little knots formed—it is especially effective if you do it in the elbow joint area. Try it on your husband—you’ll see what a good threat it makes. Then there were Indian burns, which I think are now called “self-inflicted skin burns which represent the White Man’s treatment of indigenous people” or something like that. And remember the whole “lick your finger and slap someone’s wrist” phase? A younger cousin to the “locker room towel flick on bare buttocks” phase.
What bizarre fads do you remember from Elementary school?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Diamond in the Sky

He looked into my eyes and waved. Sorry, Hal, but if I were 30 years older, I’d throw my support bra at him. Not that there’s much to support...
I’m talking about The Jazz Singer. You know who I mean, and if you don’t, you’re really out of touch with white culture. Physically, he stands under 6 feet, but legend wise, he towers over them all. I dragged Hal to his concert because my Mama weaned me on Neil Diamond. My sister, poor girl, got named after a prostitute in one of his songs. My first concert at the tender age of 12, with Mama dear, was Neil, and even then, I knew all the words to all the songs. This ain’t no Raffi, friends, (but it ain’t far, either.)
Now, you might pretend you don’t know his songs. $20 says you do. He sings only what he writes, and he writes a lot. “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and “I’m a Believer” rank among them. Maybe it isn’t his voice you’ve heard, but you know the songs anyway.
But here’s what I like most about a Neil Diamond concert. The crowds are, well, they’re just nice people. Several gentlemen sported suit coats, most of the women had sequins, and not a few of them wore skirts. Not thigh-showing, belly-toting skirts (thank the god of taste), but ensembles, probably from Talbots. Because this is not only a very nice crowd where you’ll sit next to people destined to be your best friends, but it’s also a very vanilla crowd. And by that I mean tapioca and milk toast and not even fake tanning vanilla. I hear that a black guy from Houston went to a Diamond concert this year, but my sister frequently hallucinates, so I wouldn’t place money on that bet.
A Coldplay crowd this is not. Even Sting appealed to a hipper group. But with all the concerts I’ve been to in my long, long life, I’ve never been to one where I left feeling so happy (and, as far as I can tell, there were no illicit drugs present. Prescription pills by the truckload, all properly applied I’m sure, but nothing smoked or inhaled or floating around in nebulous space to be shared by all concert-goers.) Unlike the Coldplay concert, there were no fights. Everyone smiled at everyone. And, as a front-row-behind-the-stage sitter, Neil looked right at me, in my eyes, smiled and waved. I swoon.