Friday, August 5, 2011

Looking Back at Merced

The other day I was watching TV. I don’t remember whether I was channel-surfing or the image appeared during a program. But it was a high school dance in a gymnasium. Now I’ve had moments of déjà vu – we all have, but this was a little more intense, somehow. I was instantly transported back in time to the Welcome Dance at Merced Union High School my freshman year. It was the first Friday night of the school year after the first football game. Back then we had to play our games at the grandstand at the county fairgrounds. Then everyone traveled back across town to the high school.

It’s amazing how much detail I remember about that night. I remember what I was wearing. I even remember dancing with James Blauert, a kid I knew from junior high. I was very nervous because the weekend before school started I fell while skating and fractured my right wrist. I didn’t have a full cast – just a half-cast, sort of splint-like and wrapped with an ace bandage. I was nervous because I was afraid that the cast would be too heavy on poor Jim’s shoulders. I remember the darkness of the gym and the loudness of the music…and I remember how I felt. That teenaged angst, the fear no one would ask you to dance…and conversely, the fear that someone would ask you to dance. That “new” feeling, first week of high school, first football game, first high school dance. All those anxieties when the biggest part of your life seemed to be social.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my home town this week. I joined a new Facebook group: You Know You Grew Up in Merced When??? (Apparently it’s becoming a Trend – I’ve seen people on my Friends List posting to pages like You Know You Grew Up in Auburn, AL or You Know You Grew Up in Pasadena When.)

I discovered this page when a friend posted something on it, so I’m not sure how long it’s been up…but not long. So far they have more than 4200 members and there have been almost 11,000 posts.

Lots of memories are being posted, inquiries about long-lost friends, pictures shared. It’s been fun (and somewhat addictive) wandering down memory lane – which in Merced’s case would be 17th – between G and R Streets (our version of Cruising Main).

We seem more able, or more apt, to remember all the happy memories. Time seems to color our past in a soft, fuzzy, golden glow of nostalgia. I remember the houses I lived in…some very vividly. I remember the oppressive heat of summer in the Central Valley of California and I remember the “tule” fog in winter, when often you wouldn’t see the sun for weeks.

I remember swimming at Lake Yosemite.

Playing on the swings and merry-go-round, and hanging with my friends at Applegate Park.

All-day Saturday movies at the Merced Theater.

I remember sneaking into the Country Club and going ice-sliding on the golf course at night.  Church bazaars and spaghetti suppers, getting to go to the big social event of the year - the Job's Daughters/DeMolay New Year's Even Dance. Early morning bike rides - before it got too hot. Slumber parties and girls camp. Toilet papering houses and egg fights on Halloween. High school plays in the auditorium at old East Campus.

And of course, I remember the people. My friends and neighbors, teachers from school and church, people who owned restaurants and stores, the major "players" in town.

We are what we’ve experienced and where we’ve been. Merced formed a lot of what I was and what I am – for good or bad. I think of it with a certain sense of longing, for the good that was, for an opportunity to re-live and perhaps re-form the past that wasn’t so good. There is an ache of homesickness for the place…and the time.

But there is the knowledge that Merced has changed (a lot) and so have I…and you can never really go home again.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Five O' Clock Shadow: Get the Look!

My father has been obsessed with electric razors for some time. I cannot figure out how millions of American men can buy shavers and have no problem and Dad has had seven or eight in the last five years…and none of them work. (According to him.)

So a couple of weeks ago he told me his (cheap) Remington (that I bought him last year) wasn’t working and could I please have it fixed. There were several reasons for procrastination. One, it would probably cost almost as much to fix the thing as it would to buy a new one. Two, I’ve been fairly busy (and stressed) with home maintenance issues…and dental issues and other Dad issues (don’t get me started on the subject of pants), and fixing a “back up” razor is not at the top of my list. Three, and this really puts me in a bad light (and I apologize in advance but if you don’t have an elderly father in assisted living don’t judge me too harshly okay?), but I was hoping he’d just forget about it. (Sometimes at 94 they do…but apparently not my dad.)

Then Saturday morning he called and woke me up from a sound sleep. (Yes, I was sleeping in, but my neighbor and I had enjoyed a Girls’ Night Out and got home very late the night before.) He telephoned to tell me that his primary razor had bit the dust. (Why he couldn’t have waited until at least 8:30…I’ve no idea.)

I decided to go grocery shopping before I went to see him Saturday afternoon so I could pick up a new razor for him. Fortunately Target carries Braun products (his razor of choice), and while I didn’t want to spend too much money (he’d just break it relatively quickly, after all) I did want to get him a nice one. So I settled on mid-price at $129. (“Mid-price” used to be forty bucks…but I digress.)

It took me ten minutes just to get the plastic box off the cardboard box. (WHY??? Why do you need a machete to open packages these days?????) Then I got the parts of the razor out. It had a very substantial-looking charger…that according to the advertising on the package charged, cleaned and “refreshed” the shaver. (?) I thought it looked a little complicated…until I started reading the instructions and realized it was a lot complicated. MIT Graduate-nuclear physicist-rocket scientist-type complicated. It was so complicated I had to turn off the TV in order to understand what I was reading. And the additional realization came over me that a 94-year-old man could not possibly deal with the International Space Station-level of technology this stupid electric shaver required.

I took it back today.

The lady in customer service was very nice. She gave me a gift card with the refund and I trotted back to the personal care appliance aisle to get another one. A simpler one.

I had glanced at the three shelves full of razors on Saturday, but narrowed the search quickly so I didn’t really look at what was available in depth. Oh. My. Gosh. I was looking for a razor. With a cord. That charged via the cord. PERIOD.

Who knew there could be such variety of implements designed and manufactured with the purpose of scraping the facial hair off a man’s head? Er…face. Er...both. They had models with charging stands. (That was dismissed out of hand. See above.) They had floating heads. Triple heads. Heads that had little vacuums that sucked the shavings into little compartments for easy disposal. They had trimmers and clippers and buzzers and bells and whistles. One had so many attachments...I swear it had a nose hair trimmer, a goatee shaper, a sideburn swiper, a mustache flicker, a chest hair swather, an earlobe fondler and something that would shine shoes and wax a car. (It also got Dish Network…but I already have cable.)

And there was one that was made especially for stubble.

Excuse me??? You buy a razor so you can have stubble? Isn’t that kind of counter-productive?

Back in the day you either had a beard and/or mustache or you were clean shaven. A guy who ran around with a five o’ clock shadow was either one of those lazy types who wore tank-style tee shirts, had a pot belly and drank Lucky Lager for breakfast or they were criminals. (Or both.) If a man had such a heavy beard that he started getting stubble mid-day he’d just shave again. I remember all those Aqua Velva commercials where the sultry blonde would smooth her long-fingered-highly-manicured hand along a fellow’s jaw line and purr. (Seriously, they purred.) Shoot they even have commercials like that today.

But the world has changed. Men have changed. Apparently men’s looks have changed. They now want bald heads and bristly faces. (And there are shavers for both.)

I don’t understand anything anymore.