Posted: Sunday, November 21, 2010

I am always pleased when someone comes up to me in the store and comments on my most recent column. Or even those who look at me quizzically and say "Do I know you?" then brighten and say "You're in the paper. I remember Blackjack gum, too."

Usually it is people of a certain age -- those who chewed Blackjack gum or rode on a running board -- but occasionally a younger person will tap me on the shoulder and comment on something I recently wrote with the universal lament: "Yeah, my kid can't write cursive, either. What's wrong with the darn kids these days?"

Of course it is vanity as much as pleasure. Everyone likes to be recognized or identified with something going on and given credit for contributing. Some people suggest topics that I often use, but usually I get my ideas from what is happening in the news or around town or something I want to rant about. Making a full column out of it is another thing.

For instance, since my last column four weeks ago the election has finally ended, to everyone's relief, I'm sure, if not to everyone's satisfaction. But what can I say? I'm a non-partisan voter. My ballot looks like the answer sheet to a teenaged boy's multiple choice achievement test.: ovals filled in all over the place. The Dems are picking up their toys and going home; the GOP is doing the Happy Dance all the way to the next Congressional session and those of us just a little skeptical of politics in general are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not the fodder for 800 words (more or less) on a Sunday morning, especially now that it is finally over (well, almost).

One thing I did glean from the news one evening is that Kimberly-Clark, the paper mogul, in the spirit of being "green," is experimenting with rolls of toilet tissue with no cardboard core. The hole is still there, and it will fit onto the holder in the bathroom, but at the end no little tube to be thrown away. Apparently this will save space in the land fills and also multitudes of trees. No word on what kindergarten kids are going to use for projects in the future, or if the last several squares of paper come off whether you want them or not, not even a decision if the paper rolls from the bottom or the top (front or back?), but it seems to be an idea whose time has come. I'm sure we should all rejoice in becoming part of the green movement even in this most mundane way but even I, who Hubby says can talk for half an hour on the phone and never SAY anything, can't get more than a couple of column inches out of toilet paper going green.

A little more serious news in the past month was sports related. I've made no bones about not being a football fan. I was a little confused a few weeks ago when pro football generally -- owners, players and fans -- flew up in arms about a new ruling that the players can't intentionally maim each other. Suspension and fines will be imposed if the "devastating hits" continue. Duh!

And more to the point, many fans criticized the ruling, suggesting it takes away from the game if they can't anticipate at least a concussion or two on every play, and maybe even someone being carried off the field to the hospital with the expectation of life-long injuries.

What is wrong with that picture? Football was never my Saturday afternoon pastime, but at least when it was the autumn diversion before basketball season began, spectators were a little more civilized and the game a lot less lethal. Maybe this is the "remember when" moment in this column: Remember when football was not 'R' rated for violence. My esteemed colleague a couple of weeks ago did his part for football and political comparisons with much more humor than I ever could and made my point exactly: "When I played there was honor on the field."

Which brings us to the next rant on my agenda: During one of my middle of the night radio stints, the topic of conversation was "what code did you grow up by?" Granted, a little heavy for 2 a.m. but I think it was probably 5 or 6 wherever the program originated. Each person replied "The Golden Rule." That surprised me, political correctness being what it has become these days, but the panel was mostly "old guys," 50 or more probably. Early morning isn't the best time to be thinking deep thoughts, but I wondered what 20-somethings might have answered or if they would have even understood the question. (Lack of sleep can lead to cynicism.)

Then my falling asleep thought was remembering what it was like to be 20-something. And hearing my folks ask, "What's wrong with you darn kids these days?"

To paraphrase my Unhinged fellow columnist, "Sometimes it's necessary to look in the mirror."

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai.

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