My Tree! My Squirrel! My Brand!
One of the biggest changes in my alleged life occurred in the mid-80s. I "grew up" in New York City and my sojourns to the country were of limited significance. But I lived not far from Central Park, and would occasionally be banished thereto when my parents got tired of having me underfoot, or go there voluntarily when I was old enough. It even served as a shortcut on occasion. Being a city boy, I was always impressed that natures could grow in that large plot that was curiously devoid of skyscrapers. In particular, I enjoyed watching the squirrels redistribute their food items and "beg" as they appeared to do, although I imagine the squirrels themselves don't have that concept. Central Park, of course, was sacred territory. It was there for the benefit of all Manhattan's denizens. The notion of exerting dominion over any portion was unthinkable to me, and there were plenty of Park Rangers or whatever NYC called them to enforce that. You didn't see a lot of citizens out with their chainsaws gathering firewood for their mock-fireplaces!
When I bought my house in New Jersey I still had my apartment in NYC, and wasn't ready to propel all my chattels over the bridge quite yet. The house closing was late in the afternoon, and I did want to check out my new abode as soon as it was my new abode. I went "home," looked in all the cabinets, nooks, crannies, and rooms, and discovered that the sellers had left me a number of useful items, or at least items they didn't care to move. One was a sagging bed, which looked better and better as the day wore on.
Mele Graf, my new insurance agent, who insured the house and the car without ever once meeting me and yet somehow decided I was trustworthy, gave me a gold-coin-shaped wind-up alarm clock as my first new gadget for a house that would be seeing many more. If she ever goes ego surfing, she will be very surprised to find her name here. Thanks, Mele!
Eventually I went to sleep on the saggy bed and, as has happened pretty much every day since (I am very pleased to say!) I woke up the following morning. I slept reasonably well even though silence replaced the sounds of the City. I didn't wake up in panic every time I didn't hear a siren. In the morning I looked out the window and saw a tree. Its leaves were gently rustling in the breeze. A squirrel was being squirrely in its branches. And I had my first epiphany as a new homeowner:
My tree! My Squirrel!
It Isn't Tinsel
Instead of trips to the "country," my ineluctably urban parental units would drag me off to places like Atlantic City and Florida.
We've been reading about recalls recently. The Chinese improperly used lead-based paint in some toys that Mattel bought and distributed in the USA. Panic! Instant Recall! What if a precious small human accidentally licks one of these benighted toys? Ruined for life? Brain leak? Destined to paint "Slow Children" on the road as a career? Or is it just barely possible that maybe one toy out of hundreds coated with paint with a little lead isn't quite so deadly as the scary headlines would have one believe?
Vacationing in Atlantic City during Christmas break, there was, of course, a tinsel-draped tree in the hotel lobby. I collected elements even as a kid, and finding that the tinsel was made of lead foil was a special boon. My parents made sure I didn't take too much — after all this wasn't my tree — and I put the lead tinsel into envelopes or whatever else was handy to take home and use in whatever experiments or activities I could contrive at that age.
I don't recall any dain bramage caused to me by playing with all that lead. But then I wouldn't, would I? I do recall being disappointed in later years when I found that lead had been replaced by those silver Mylar strips which, I'm sure, are safe for everyone but the cat. I can't stop myself from saying "Even the tinsel is made of plastic nowadays" whenever I encounter this pallid substitute for real tinsel.
Speaking of Hazardous Substances
It wasn't just the tinsel that took away my Nobel prize and relegated me to writing blogs and saving the planet. It was the mercury, too. (The explosives and poisons had their chance, but apparently muffed it with only some charred hair and no metabolic challenges to show for their years at bat.) I acquired mercury by one means or another. There wasn't a silver coin (remember them?) in the house that was safe from attempts at amalgamation. There were little globules of mercury everywhere. Dain bramage? Maybe the lead amalgamated with the mercury and was safely excreted.
Speaking of lead, I'm sure you know that if you remove the lead (which it isn't, of course) from a common lead pencil, you can connect it to a model train transformer with a piece of wire. Two of these assemblies make a fine, bright, carbon arc that produces really high temperatures and emits ultraviolet for good measure. Safety goggles? Are you talking to the younger, electric-train-using Richard? Short circuit in the Wayback machine, dude!
Of course, freedom from my parent's influence didn't reduce my interaction with lead. Many Heathkits and other projects found me hovering over a soldering iron while the fumes wafted up and in. Gimme that old time Kester!
"My Brand" will have to wait. I just realized that I was so occupied with my stupid computer that I completely neglected to commemorate the anniversary of Sputnik, which I actually remember from the original date. So, I'm going to use my own Wayback machine and slip in a blog for 05 October. It will magically appear in order, despite my not having written it until later today or tomorrow. I love time travel tenses.
NP: "Joanni" - Kate Bush