WFB August 2016

Fashion senseless 

I have no fashion sense, whatsoever. None. I’m lucky to get out of the house every morning with matching socks, let alone a shirt that goes with my shoes.

But that doesn’t bother me. I know that I am not alone in my lack of style and am comfortable with that.

Granted, there are a lot of men who would never be caught wearing white after Labor Day, just as there are a lot of women who couldn’t tell the difference between a Vera Wang and a thrift store gown, but I believe that most of your normal, everyday American males are just as happy in blue jeans and a Tee shirt instead of a Brooks Brothers suit.

It’s referred to as Fashion sense, and I just never developed the skill.

As a young child my mother would lay out my clothes every morning before school. Going to a parochial school, I had little options other than a pair of slacks and a dress shirt. Add to the fact that it was the 70’s and you will see a lot of pictures of me in tacky sweaters (although they were considered fashionable back then).

By the time I entered public high school in my sophomore year I was completely out of the loop in what clothes were “cool” and muddled my way through the best that I could.

The good thing was I didn’t care. Knowing that I didn’t have a clue gave me a certain calm when I walked the halls.

Sure, my high school years were during the heights of the “preppie” movement, and several of my classmates were sweating out the day wondering if their Izod shirts were still hot or not.

Being fashion senseless taught me a valuable lesson: no matter what clothes you are wearing, you are still yourself underneath it all. Donald Trump is just as much a boorish snob in cut-off jeans and a tee shirt as he is in a $5,000 suit.

Conversely, I have met hundreds of people that are outstanding individuals and deep thinkers, but prefer to wear coveralls and flip-flops.

My wardrobe is filled with polo shirts bought off the rack at chain stores. I will wear the same pair of jeans until they literally fall apart and then go out and buy a new pair.

My only criteria when picking out new clothes are if I like the color (blue, green and red are my staples) and if it fits, and sometimes I can’t even get that right.

Around the house I wear shorts and tee shirts, I have about 100 of them and never can seem to get rid of them. I still have shirts I got during college and they still fit just fine, just a little faded, but I don’t care.

The only time anything gets added to my closet that resembles anything in style is after Christmas when my sister and mother try to get me some nice clothes to wear.

So if you see me looking stylish, thank my family. I had nothing to do with it.

Then and now

I’m old. I know it, but try not to act like I am.

But sometimes I stumble across something that really makes me feel my age.

Every year since 1998, Beloit College has released a “Mindset List” for the incoming freshmen class. The list was conceived to give the professors a better idea of the cultural mindset of the incoming students, but it has grown to demonstrate the fast-moving world we live in today.

In perusing the list for the class of 2020, meaning the students were born in 1998, I was stunned to realize that these kids have never known some of the things that shaped the world I grew up in.

For example, high schoolers today only know about the Berlin Wall through their history classes, and they have never known the idea of two Germany’s and the tensions of the cold war. In fact, Americans and Russians have been living together in space for most of their life. They never had to worry about the threat of Russian ICBM’s pointed at us.

Clint Eastwood is a sensitive director rather than Dirty Harry, Philo Beddoe or The Stranger in spaghetti westerns. Today, when kids love a movie, they only have to wait a few days to download their own copy, rather than wait a few years when they may be able to catch it on a special Sunday Night Movie on television.

Fox has always been a major network on TV, but they also have hundreds of channels to choose from if there is nothing good on the big four networks.

Forget writing actual letters and dropping them in the mailbox, now, email is too slow and they can communicate instantly with their friends.

Everyone has a cell phone and don’t know what it was like to try and convince your parents to install a phone line in your bedroom; let alone dealing with a twisted phone cord as you pace around the room tethered to the wall.

Bottled water is commonplace, rather than an expensive novelty. They don’t know that MTV used to play actual music videos and was the driving force behind music stars, rather than reality stars. It can be argued that neither really contributes much to society, but at least you can enjoy the music.

John Madden is known for a video game rather than a Superbowl winning coach. And Bo may still know, but kids today don’t know Bo.

When I was a kid and did something stupid in front of my friends, they all laughed and we moved on. Now days, taking a header off your skateboard is viewed by millions of people on You Tube, and can make you famous for a few minutes.

Missions to space are routine, and only get attention when something terrible happens.

Perhaps most shockingly of all is the mistrust in the national media.  There are no Walter Cronkites, Peter Jennings or Dan Rathers who report the news without any obvious bias.

I’m not saying that my age of enlightenment was any better or worse, but it is frightening to see how things have changed in just a few years.


How come there is no such thing as an insect rights activist?

I’ll tell you why. It is because they are ugly, annoying little pests. People are always concerned with panda bears, kittens and other adorable creatures. But for some reason, the same level of concern is non existent if the creature in question is a member of the insect family.

I don’t want to defend the little buggers (pun intended), but it is one of those things that keep me awake at night. My good friends at PETA will strike up a protest at the slightest hint that a chicken may have lousy living conditions, even though it is destined for the dinner table, but they have never (as far as I know) raised one outcry over an insect.

I keep waiting for them to complain about all the bugs that get eaten on Fear Factor, but they never do. I guess they think it is beneath them.

But bugs are not the most intelligent of creatures though. How many times have you been driving down the road and had a bug splatter all over your windshield? I know it has happened to me thousands of times, and I have never hit a bug from behind. They always fly right into the windshield. I admit, bugs are brave suckers. They see my big head coming at them at 50 miles per hour and don’t flinch. They scream “Bring it on!” just before they hit the glass.

I imagine in the bug afterlife there are a lot of conversations that go like this, “I was just flying around and I suddenly exploded.”

I sometimes like to think somewhere in the insect community there are bug scientists trying to discover the mysteries of glass. Little insects wearing white lab coats hold press conferences to discuss the seemingly random slaughter of their brethren. “The best we can figure is there are invisible force fields that appear at random.”

Windows must confuse the heck out of bugs. All night long, they constantly fly into my bedroom window, trying to get to my light. I would imagine that after five or six unsuccessful attempts to get past the glass they would give up. But not bugs. It is like they have a dire need to get inside, no matter what the cost. And you have to give them credit. They never give up. It’s like they have a child’s belief system. “If I don’t believe in it, it will disappear.”

And once they do get inside, good luck convincing them to go back out. They constantly swarm on the window, trying to get back into the wide world, but can’t. Even if you open a window and try to coax them out, they won’t go. In the meantime, twenty more bugs have flown in and all will soon be with their friends, bumping their heads on the glass in a vain attempt to fly to freedom.

I try to take pity on them, but it’s so hard to do. I avoid swatting them, knowing that for the most part it isn’t their fault. Their life span is so short anyway, it doesn’t feel right to mercilessly end it so soon.

But at three in the morning, when the buzzing and bumping conspire to not let me sleep, watch out!

Playground games

Most of my school-related memories from my grade school years really center on my experiences on the playground.

We had twice a day recesses, a short 20 minute romp in the morning, then an hour and a half during lunch.

The lunchtime recesses were either a blessing or a curse, depending on what grade you were in. First through third graders got to eat first, and depending on how quick you could wolf down your fish sticks or chicken strips, you had the rest of the recess ahead of you. Seventh and eighth grades ate last, so you had plenty of time to get in a game of dodgeball before heading to the cafeteria. Fourth and fifth graders had it worst, their lunch came in the middle of the recess, so you had to suspend whatever game you were playing to eat, then wait until everyone finished to resume the kickball match. Lord help you if you dallied over lunch and held up a game because you couldn’t finish your vegetables.

(The nuns that patrolled the cafeteria in my school were very draconian when it came to cleaning your plate. We heard the “Children are starving in Africa” mantra for eight years.)

Back then we weren’t like kids today. We didn’t stand around and argue about pocket monsters, and we didn’t care about social standings. There were only 22 kids in my grade and we all grew up together, so even the misfits had a sense of belonging.

We all stuck together, and any games we played had to involve everyone in the class.

My last year at that school really stands out for memorable recess periods.

We started out with the traditional kickball games. But we were quickly banned from playing that when we started launching the infamous red rubber balls into traffic every afternoon.

So we moved on to dodgeball, but that had its fair share of controversies. Primarily, our playground area was right where the little kids would have to line up for lunch. It only took a few first graders hitting the ground from errant throws for the powers that be to put an end to that particular game.

For a few weeks we were forced to improvise, playing tag or other boring games like that, until my friend Mike came up with a brilliant idea.

We would have Sumo Wrestling matches. A circular patch of tarmac served as the ring and we spent a few weeks bumping and knocking each other around until that, too, was stopped by the principal for being too violent.

Of course, it all came to an end anyway when the Wisconsin winter rolled around and we spent the frigid days roughhousing in the snow.

Of course, there was the time we buried John Peters up to his knees in the snow. When the recess bell rang, calling us back to class, we left him there, unable to get out. When our teacher noticed his absence, and looked out the window to see him struggling to extricate himself, she send two janitors to dig him out…and the rest of us to the front office for a reprimand.

Good times I tell you.