Thursday, April 21, 2011

Book Covers Facebook Would've Deleted,..50 Years Ago

With all the kerfluffle over book covers being deleted over at Facebook, I decided to take a peek at paperback cover art from years ago. After all, these so-called "offensive" covers that are being deleted are something new, right? Our parents would NEVER have allowed risque covers to be seen by the public at large, right? I mean, they would've been offended, and forced publishers to remove them from the drugstore book racks, right?

Yeah, not so much. In fact, it seems like the rule of thumb was the sleazier the better. The one common denominator among these covers seems to be half-naked people. I had so much fun digging up these old covers, I think I may make this a weekly theme. Btw, the publishers of some of these covers are still around today, including Bantam.

I want to know what these guys were doing before they started fighting, especially since the man with the chain has his pants unzipped. And I don't even want to know why the guy in the red shirt is holding a Barbie doll.

Evidently, the early concepts of spacesuits involved underwear and gladiator boots.

So..., is he going to sacrifice the baby to the mantis-people, or is this the earliest known fictionalized account of male pregnancy?

I believe the artist time-traveled and watched Pirates of the Caribbean, because if that pirate isn't Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, I'll eat my keyboard.

Is that a naked man she's pulling up out of the water? Why, yes. Yes it is.

Mommy, why are they giving Tarzan electroshock?

There's nothing that sells books faster than a maniacal grin plastered on the face of a half-naked man slaughtering Native Americans.

Because everyone knows the Eerie Canal was built during a frat kegger.

It's a PUZZLE book! 'Nuff said.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Going Home Again

There's an old saying that goes, "you can't go home again." Not true. Well, not exactly. Of course, you can go home - to the place you grew up, to see the people who populated your world. I mean, unless your face is on a wanted poster on the wall at the post office, or the city of your birth met with some catastrophic event that wiped it from the map, chances are good that you can return to the physical place where you were born and raised.

The problem is that nothing and no one will be as you remember them. They've changed.

And so have you.

I've just returned from such a trip. My family and I left the warm sunshine of Florida and made the trek into the blustery northeast to see relatives in New Jersey. I needed to go - I hadn't seen my three elderly aunts in years. Two are in their mid-to-upper eighties, the third is ninety-one. My mother's sisters, they still live together in the house in which they were born and lived all their lives.

They are the single exception to the rule and have not changed an iota in the intervening years. Not a wrinkle among them (somehow, I was sadly shorted that familial gene). Their smiles made the trip worthwhile.

I cannot say the same about the area in which I grew up. It was an odd feeling, going home again. Have you ever seen the episode of The Twilight Zone where the scientist goes back into the past and changes the future? He didn't change it completely, but just enough to make things...not right. That's what it seemed like to me.

Many things looked the way I remembered them, but strangely different at the same time. In the old neighborhood, many of the homes I remembered were torn down to make way for monstrous Mc-houses. These cookie-cutter mansions were strewn side-by-side among much more venerable, humble homes like gaudy, paste rhinestones set alongside tiny, precious gems. They seemed cold and out-of-place.

Most of the smaller stores and boutiques I remembered, the family-run businesses, were gone, replaced by Walmarts and convenience stores. Oh, there were landmarks aplenty that I remembered, for instance, the three Catholic churches that were the cornerstones of the community in this deeply religious, Old-World Italian neighborhood, but two of the schools were closed, the buildings rented out.

The faces on the street were different, too. Strangers now lived in homes that belonged to people my family knew for generations.

Many of the neighborhood traditions are gone now. I remember that every year on the Feast of St. Ciro, parishioners (most of whom spoke Italian and little English) from our church would march in a mile-long procession that led from the church, through the streets, and back again - many of them walking in their bare feet as a sign of devotion. They carried banners with images of the saint on them, to which people would pin dollar bills. They also carried a litter bearing a statue of the saint through the streets, and a three-piece band would play unrecognizable hymns.

I find it sad to think traditions like this one have disappeared. They were part (along with the people) of what made my hometown what it was - a unique and charming place.

You can go home again, but chances are you'll return just a little sadder.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

When Did I Get So Freaking Old?

I knew it was coming. I was warned repeatedly (usually by people older than me) that it was inevitable. Someday, somehow, I was going to get...old.

Surely, this wouldn't happen to me. I might be wrinkling up enough to qualify as a spokesmodel for the raisin industry, but inside I was still juicy.

Until today, that is. Today, I feel like the turkey in the movie Christmas Vacation. You know...the one that exploded into a dust storm of dried turkey bits when they cut into it. Seriously, I may henceforth be required by law to have the words, "Caution: Extremely Flammable. Do not allow near open flame" tattooed on my forehead.

What happened, you ask? I went and got my hair cut, that's what happened.

Now, I've had my hair cut many times. Every four or five weeks in fact. But today for some reason, it just dawned on me how much the experience has changed in the past, oh, thirty years or so.

Used to be, there was a local beauty parlor in the neighborhood (yes, that's what they were called, beauty parlors, not salons, or hair-atoriums, or whatever the hell else they call them these days. Oh, and a man wouldn't be caught dead in a beauty parlor - unless he was gay and doing the cutting - they went to the barbershop). This beauty parlor had been in existence at that same location for as long as you could remember, probably since the invention of the scissors. Not only did you go there, but your grandmother, aunts, mother, sisters, cousins, and everyone girl you ever knew since grammar school went there as well.

Everyone knew everyone else. The beauty parlor held the distinction of not only being the only place in town to get your 'do done, but the best place to get your gossip fix as well. You had a standing appointment, and woe to the woman who missed it. Squeezing you in required you be read the riot act in full hearing of whoever was in the parlor that day, but it would get done, even if the beautician (not stylist, mind you) had to stay late. in after hours. Nowadays, you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than to get an after-hours appointment. In fact, back then, if you were sick, the beautician might just make a house call.

I remember the parlor in my neighborhood. It was on the corner, right next to the funeral home (and yes, I think some of the beauticians earned a little extra money doing color and sets for the recently departed).

There were three chairs in the parlor and only one wash station. There was also a sink in the back of the parlor behind a curtain that I think may have been a converted bed sheet, where perms were applied to lessen the stench in the parlor. Also in the back were two dryers which looked - and sounded - like jet engines. Good luck trying to hear anything short of a nuclear explosion while under those babies. There were always two elderly women parked under them, their hair pulled up into giant rollers the size of toilet paper rolls.

The thing is, getting your hair done back then wasn't a chore. It wasn't something you fit into your schedule - your schedule was built around your hair appointment. It was an afternoon out with the ladies, gossiping and trading photos of your kids and recipes. In other words, it was a social event.

Nowadays, with all the chain hair salons around, it's no different from coasting through the drive thru at Mickey D's. Ten minutes tops, from wash to blow dry, assembly-line format. Chances are good that the person who cuts your hair this month will not be at the same location next month. Every time you walk in, you take a chance that you'll walk out looking like Don King on a bad hair day.

Back then, you went in and got a hair cut. That included the wash, product (which amounted to hair spray, or if you were lucky, a little mousse), style and blowdry.

Today, everything is separate, like an ala carte menu. Oh, you wanted conditioner? Tack on another three bucks. Blow dry? Another five. I keep waiting for the day they start charging you by the snip.

Thinking about all this was what forced the astonishing revelation on me. I'm old. I realized I remember the "good old days." You may as well set me down on the front porch with fifty cats and a basin of snap peas on my lap.