Saturday, July 23, 2016

Kickin' it old schoo.

When I was in the shoe store last week, I was amazed to see one of these on the counter. 

I was the last generation of kids who went to shoe stores where shoe salesmen waited on you, ran back for shoes in stock, and always measured your feet with one of these. I felt like every time I left the house I was getting my foot smushed in one of these. Probably happened twice a year. I figured it would always be part of the shoe-buying process. I didn't know that A) shoe stores would become like grocery stores one day, everything laid out for the grabbing, and B) eventually your shoe size kind of stabilizes. The latter I should have known, and the former I could have guessed. We had a Fayva nearby, after all, although I think we only went there a couple of times.

The tool pictured is the amazing Brannock Device, a hard metal gizmo that measures for length, width, and arch length to get the best fit possible. Charles Brannock invented the thing in 1927, and it is still made in the U.S. by his company today. I was very happy to find one in a Famous Footwear, and judging by the Brannock site, Payless uses them as well.

So we salute you today, Charles Brannock! With a simple but complex idea, persistence, and an erector set, you changed footwear and podiatric health for the better. Those devices were the very symbol of the adult retail world to me, along with items like cash registers, rubber stamps, deli scales, adding machines, and of course the credit card imprinter with the gas station logo on it.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Blade or electric?

Okay, boys---and girls too, if it applies---which do prefer?

 Or electric?
I hate to shock anyone, but I swing both ways on this issue. I use both razors and electric shavers. I know. Decadent.

The thing is, they each have their advantages:

RAZOR: Closer shave, no matter what the Remington commercials say.

ELECTRIC: Faster shave.

RAZOR: Easier to get the thicker beard on the chin.

ELECTRIC: Easier to get the sensitive areas, like around the lips and under the nose.

RAZOR: Disposable; doesn't need a big cleaning or expensive new blades.

ELECTRIC: Not as disposable, so fewer trips to the CVS.

RAZOR: Lower initial investment.

ELECTRIC: Generally lower cost in the long run.

RAZOR: More portable for travel.

ELECTRIC: May irritate the skin, but will never cut it.

RAZOR: Don't have to keep going over the same spot to clear it.

ELECTRIC: With standard attachments, can remove a full beard on its own.

RAZOR: Easier to not miss a spot, as shaving cream delineates shaved/unshaved areas.

ELECTRIC: Attachments can be used to get (sorry!) ear hair et al.

RAZOR: Wife prefers razor shave on my face.

ELECTRIC: Easier to face earlier in the morning.

RAZOR: Manlier.

ELECTRIC: Santa can ride on it.

So what do you think? Razor or electric? Or are you just a slob? (Or is your last name Robertson?)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Name Game.

Come on everybody!
I say now let's play a game
I betcha I can make a rhyme out of anybody's name!
The first letter of the name, I treat it like it wasn't there!
But a B or an F or an M will appear
And then I say bo add a B then I say the name and Bonana fanna and a fo
And then I say the name again with an F very plain
and a fee fy and a mo
And then I say the name again with an M this time
and there isn't any name that I can't rhyme!

What's your name?


Buck, Buck bo uck, Bonana fanna fo F--
Uh, what's YOUR name?


Art, Art bo art, Bonana fanna fo F--
All right, what's YOUR name?


Rich, Rich, bo B--
Never mind; what's YOUR name?


Yeah, rhymes with Bastor, right? You?


No. Next?


Skip it.
I'm not taking chances with you people.
Anyone got a normal name?


Ooookay... anyone else?



"It's normal in my country."

All right... [deep breath]

Chiranjeevi, Chiranjeevi bo Bhiranjeevi Bonana fanna fo Firanjeevi
Fee fy mo Miranjeevi!

That's enough
I'm gonna go lay down
From now on I'll stick to chess
When you bonana fannas come to town

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Supermarket archaeology.

Yesterday I posted a picture of a *blecch!* back-to-school sale in one of our Hudson Valley Dollar Tree stores. Dollar Tree stores pop up in new developments, old strip malls, any old place. Here's one I was driving past the other day:

Any American of a certain age recognizes that structure immediately, and knows exactly what should be on the peaked brick face in front:

That, or one of A&P's many other logos.

A&P supermarkets had distinctive roofs, whether in town or country. You'd recognize them anywhere...

Excelsior Springs!

Norwood, NJ!

Active one back in the day

Various chain restaurants have similar uniformity of construction, which sometimes persists long after the restaurant closes. The peerless Not Fooling Anybody site maintains a photo library of Hojos, A&Ws, Pizza Huts, and so on that have survived as other businesses but kept the original architecture. No one has made a comprehensive list of old A&Ps, although Groceteria has quite a few.

A&P was sort of the Walmart of its day; at its peak there were 15,709 stores in the U.S., much more common than the ubiquitous Carnegie libraries (a mere 1,689). Now A&P is the Ozymandius of this day, a destroyed giant whose collapse was amazing.

Sadly, tales of bad heirs, poor business judgment, blindness to competition, and inability to adapt to changing times are as ubiquitous as A&Ps at their peak. It's a pity; we were a solid A&P family for decades, and we've all had to move on, in sorrow.

But apparently those old stores were really well built, weren't they?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The cruelty of retailers.

Welp, kids, summer was fun, but it's aaaaaaaallll over!

Dollar Tree, last Saturday morning
Yep, the back-to-school stuff is in the seasonal section. The flip-flops and suntan lotion have been shoved aside. It's all pencils, books, and teacher's dirty looks from here until next June.

This actually is an improvement over last July, where I'd seen my first big B2S display by July 12, and my first freaking Halloween candy on July 27. But I still think it's unfair.

I just don't remember retailers loading up the stores with this stuff before August when I was a kid. Maybe I was just in flat-out denial. "Noooo! It's not a stack of notebooks! They're... beach blankets! That's it! Little, rectangular, black-and-white beach blankets... by Mead..."

Not that my summers were an endless string of crazy, fun-filled activities. We didn't go to camp; we often didn't do any vacation trips at all. My folks worked a lot, and they did their best by us. What I remember best from my childhood are sweltering (A/C was not the omnipresent force it is today, neither in our home nor elsewhere), daytime TV, bugs, the playground with metal swings that could fry a steak, the local amusement park or mini-golf once in a while, helping Dad with the lawn and other chores, reading, and being bored.

So I've never gotten so hung up on summer that I can't bear to see it fade. But I do feel for the kids. Even the dullest, hottest, most miserable summer was better than going to school. Ah, freedom, sweet freedom!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Modern LIFE.

If you grew up at any time in America after 1960, you probably played the board game known as the Game of Life.

As the incomparable Board Game Geek describes it:

This game attempts to mirror life events many people go through from going to college, raising a family, buying a home, working and retiring.
The intent of the game is to have the most assets at the end of the game, assets are earned primarily by working and earning tokens with dollars amount on them. Additionally the first person to complete the course gets additional money tokens.

They've made changes to the game in various editions, as inflation has raised costs and salaries, unfriendliness was reduced ("Revenge" and "Poor Farm" were changed to "Sue for Damages" and "Countryside Acres"), and, worst of all, in the new edition they let kids pick careers. The game was supposed to teach children about being a grown-up; if the careers are Badass Rap Star and NFL Quarterback, they're not going to learn much.

So that's where I'm stepping in.

Here are some new board spaces I recommend for the next edition of the Game of Life, spaces that will bring the game back to the sense of reality, what it means to be a grown-up in America now. I'm sure you'll agree they would make the game more risky and more interesting.

Lose all turns; game over

Collect prizes
Wife leaves you for woman; gets the car;
move only 1 space at a time until you get over it

Bank takes home; live in car

Lose all money; collect a handful of promissory notes
Choose new, lower-paid career;
tell everyone it's been your dream for ages

Stay home on sofa; lose about five or so turns, whatever
What's with this mansion?
Buy new car; take girlfriend to Paris
Waste time, lose turn
Ponzi scheme unsuccessful; game over

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Demanding Dora.

The grandchild of a friend of mine recently faced a terrible crisis, one that caused a massive tantrum. 

He'd failed Dora. 

Some background is in order if you, like me, are not acquainted with the genre: Apparently in the course of an episode of Nick Jr.'s Dora the Explorer, Dora has some puzzles to solve. Toward that end, she requires the help of the children in the TV audience who, if I know anything about children, gleefully scream the answers out to Dora, even more loudly if Daddy has a hangover.  

Dora the Dictator, shown here with Boots the monkey,
because she can't do a freaking thing on her own.

The young preschool grandson of my buddy had a complete meltdown the other morning because he had been unable to solve one of Dora's puzzles for her in time. He'd let Dora down. He'd failed. The episode ended, and he knew he would have to endure the shame and dishonor of being a Dora Failer.

He couldn't bear the disgrace.

Fortunately his mom convinced him that Nick Jr. would rerun the episode later in the day, and that Dora would be just as happy if he helped her when he watched it later. And he'd be better prepared!

My question is: Since when do we let TV characters dictate to our kids what they should be doing? I asked my friend if Howdy Doody was giving him orders when he was a boy, and he said no. Cookie Monster wasn't telling me what to do. I know that Steve of Blue's Clues wanted help to solve his dog's puzzles, but I don't think kids were hysterical about letting down the Steve side.

Then again, there was this:

So like Dora, Little Orphan Annie inspired slavish devotion in her audience.

Dora may even be worse, though. Apparently Dora is blamed for bullying a teenager into vaping. How much lower will she sink? And what's Boots's responsibility? Is he the brains of the outfit? Maybe Boots is getting kids to drink liquor and commit crimes!

I'm just saying, if your kids are hooked on Dora, keep an ear open to any untoward orders being issued. Words like "heist," "money," "riot," "revoluciĆ³n," and/or "blood in the streets" are red flags.