On Saturday, I awoke with my usual intentions to check off several items on my grown-up to-do list: mop kitchen floor, pay bills, go grocery shopping, find missing DVD on “gentle yoga,” prepare healthy food, mail Christmas letters in time for January postmark, etc. Instead, I took a long, hot shower and spent extra time on my hair, which already looks younger than the rest of me (thanks, Christine!). Then Phillip announced a craving for Cam’s Ham, so we drove to Huntington and ordered the usual: sugar-flaked ham sandwiches w/special sauce, fries, Pepsi, and oh yeah–a side order of onion rings to share. (In case you haven’t guessed, Cam’s isn’t a health food joint.)
Phillip then suggested a quick visit to Empire Books in Pullman Square. He wanted to read something new and different–not one of the 100 books in his “read this next” pile at home. He asked for suggestions. Perusing the shelves, I came across this:
Not Phillip’s kind of book, but a tell-all by Bristol Palin’s baby daddy WOULD be a change of pace after all that science fiction. Well, maybe. I checked the Amazon reviews on my iPhone: “I was shocked that I enjoyed this book. I felt ashamed and dirty for reading such trash, but this was surprisingly good trash.” Perfect!
I shared my find with Phillip. He admired Levi’s acting in the cover shot but returned the book to the shelf in his familiar “I’d prefer not to” manner. Oh well. I’d done my best to assist him in his quest and was now free to move around the building (ding!) in search of esoteric wisdom. (Shirley MacLaine and I have no doubt read many of the same books. Don’t judge us.)
I was in the self-help section when a small, red-headed woman approached and said, “I can’t find the psychic section either.” Before I could say, “How did you….,” she held up a book by Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. “Do you watch this guy’s show on TV?” she asked. “Me neither. But he’s in town. He came into my store, and while he was there, he asked if I watched his show. So I said to him, ‘Mister, unless it’s about psychic abilities or the paranormal, I can guarantee I’ve never seen it.’ He said it was about his family, and they were filming in Huntington. He asked if I thought I’d watch that episode, since it would feature local places, but I told him: Honey, I don’t see the point. Cause I already see local places all the time.”
Had I stayed home to mop, I would have missed that encounter. A sobering thought.
Leaving Pullman Square, I remarked that I’d never shopped at Mack & Dave’s, even though the department store had been in business for 60 years. So we took a brief tour (the offerings were sparse). We were greeted by an older woman with pancake make-up and a hairstyle from 50 years ago. Phillip told me she’d worked there when he was a college student in the late 70s/early 80s and looked the same. Pale-skinned clerks watched from the periphery of the store. Only their eyes seemed to move. Once we were out the door, I recorded a Reminder Note: Write short story about Mack & Dave’s as front for vampire den. Explore possible connections to Mothman, UFO sightings, and Silver Bridge disaster.
At our next stop, Baskin-Robbins (at this point, I’d abandoned all health concerns, along with my to-do list), I was delighted to discover January’s flavor of the month: Chocoholic’s Resolution, “a Swiss-style chocolate ice cream with chocolate ganache cake pieces, white caramel-filled cups, and a chocolate ganache flavored ribbon.” I restricted myself to only two scoops.
It was still daylight when we parked in front of Books & Brews in Hurricane. A lanky fellow emerged with a bag of books–Gordon Simmons, who ran a used bookstore in Charleston many years ago! It seemed like a good sign. And it was–I found a biography of Elizabeth Bowen (author of The Death of the Heart) and spent most of the next 2 hours looking through a box of magazines (Look, Time, Saturday Evening Post) from the late 40s, 50s, and 60s.
The August 39, 1949 issue of Look featured an article on the battle over sex education. Should schools show the 19-minute film Human Growth (produced by Eddie Albert, who later starred as Oliver in Green Acres!) to junior high school children? Opinions in Middletown, New York, varied. Some citizens favored it, but a Catholic priest said showing the film “without accompanying spiritual guidance, is just obscene.” Mrs. Mae Paddock, who had no children of her own, said, “The kids already know enough as it is.”
In the same issue of Look, an article announced the discovery of “a revolutionary chemical compound…that turns black skin white.” The subtitle says, “When it is perfected, Negroes who use it could ‘pass’ as whites. The article concludes, “Whatever the results it is virtually certain that the discovery will bring a new era. No longer will skin color be a criterion of human ability and acceptance. Monobenzyl may do more for race relations than any other scientific discovery to date. And the color line, the shame of the twentieth century in America, may go forever, as slavery did in the nineteenth.” I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. Here’s a link to the article if you don’t believe me: https://chawedrosin.wordpress.com/2012/04/21/1949-look-magazinearticle-on-skin-lightening/
That night, at Bob Evans, I concluded the topsy-turvy day by ordering breakfast for dinner. Phillip and I agreed it had been a while since we’d had such a thoroughly “unproductive” day. Yet those unstructured hours and random encounters with interesting people, places, and ideas had produced something after all: Joy.*
*And maybe an extra pound or two.
Life’s simple pleasures really ARE the best.