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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Gripping, not Griping

Headley again. As this is my third blog entry, Just Plain Stupid now ranks among the top 10% of blogs for endurance. If I do a fifth, I qualify for the blogger’s hall of fame.

The reason for my amazing persistence is that I recycle things I have in print. That’s always a good sign of blossoming creativity. The following rip-off of the Dave Barry style of saying nothing, is from my enormously needy e-book, Headley Makes Cents. Of course Go Figure Reads has not released the book yet, which is part of the reason it’s enormously needy. It needs readers. I need money. Once the… (breathing deeply) wonderfully generous and helpful people of Go Figure Reads ( release the book, please purchase several dozen.

Getting A Grip

If it’s not true, don’t tell me differently. I heard years ago that the way they catch monkeys in the jungle is to put a nut in a shell. The hole in the shell is big enough for the nut to slip out if you tip it right but too small for a monkey’s hand (while holding the nut) to pull it out. They tell me the monkeys refuse to let go of their prize, and kept working at it until the catchers come by and gather them up.

Most people who hear that story think:

Stupid monkey.

I think…

Hu Zha!

I guess it’s a thing I have about gripping.

It all started because of coaster brakes.

When I was eight years old, I got a new bike for my birthday. It was a lovely banana bike that managed to sparkle magically, while still being wicked macho. I only owned it a few weeks because my sister borrowed it when I told her she couldn’t… and it got stolen.

Maybe that story should wait for another time.

I loved everything about this banana bike except the brakes. Instead of just moving my feet backwards to stop, I had to squeeze two unmovable hand brakes. If my tires were wet (and I still consider mud puddles the ultimate in water-based recreation) the calipers slipped, and my wheels kept turning. At this point I had a choice between a neato smashup with a parked car, or I looking like a sissy dragging my feet to get my blue macho beauty under control. I had a typical boy-child appreciation for crashes, but no eight-year-old wants to look like a sissy.

After my bike was stolen, my father replaced it with a bike that was so ugly that I rode it through the woods just to avoid being seen on the street. Though the ugly bike had coaster brakes, my father also gave me two things that were so weird looking, that I didn’t know what they were, and still don’t know what they’re called.

Thanks Dad?”

You don’t know what they are, do you?” Dad always seemed to know what was going on when that slack-jawed blank stare came over my face. I think he cued in my third grade teacher, cause she picked up on it too.

Um, plastic nut crackers?” I guessed. “They feel a little tight.”

They’re things to help you build up your grip,” said my Dad who must not have known what they were called either, unless they really are called – things to help you build up your grip. “It’s so you can use hand brakes.”

But I have coaster brakes now.”

But you’ll have hand brakes again someday. You need to build up your grip so you don’t crash into so many parked cars.” (Turns out, the neighbors didn’t like seeing me crashing into their car. Who woulda guessed? Some people grow up too much.)

Here.” My dad grabbed the things to help you build up your grip (tthybuyg?) and squeezed them together until the plastic handles touched. “Now you try it.”

I took the tthybuygs and squeezed until the plastic diamond grip pattern made my palm and fingers look like pink waffles. Finally, I was able to bring them together.

Good,” said Dad. “Now, whenever you watch TV, keep squeezing these…things, and when your hands are too tired to continue, turn off the TV and go out to play.”


The year was 1966. It was the period of time when television discovered a salient fact. Adults born during the depression were too serious to watch TV in the afternoon. The children of these serious responsible parents were mostly knuckleheads like me! In television marketing terms, I believe that’s called ‘a softer target audience.’

I grit my teeth and gripped my way through episodes of Batman, F-Troop, The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, not to mention a Saturday morning cartoon line-up that was just teaming with superheroes! (who had no need for tthybuygs.) Then I discovered that there were stations beyond channel 13. There was a station in the thirties and another in the fifties that played nothing but programs designed to keep me watching and wincing as sweat and blood dripped from my palms.

The connection between pain and pleasure is something most people don’t learn about until their college years. I learned about it clenching my tenderized fists as Julie Newmar purred and pranced in her Catwoman leather unitard.

The payoff came at recess when we played my favorite game: Red Rover. Red Rover is one among the panoply of delightfully sadistic games children played at recess back when parents and educators cared more about character than safety. The point of Red Rover was to establish team spirit, co-operation, and to separate a few shoulders.

The class divides into two teams; each holding hands and forming opposing lines. One team chants, Red Rover, Red Rover, send Edgar right over. As Edgar disengages from his line, he pumps up whatever testosterone resides in his prepubescent body. His mission is to hit the opposing line, break through, and return to his team in victory. If Edgar fails to break through, he becomes a member of the team that just vanquished him.

Back then we were all such good sports. We always welcomed our newly captured teammate with handshakes and raspberries.

The wise and perceptive Red Rover combatant scans the battlefield, searches out, and attacks the weakest link. Of course Edgar, being a nine-year-old boy, does no such thing. He attacks the strongest point.

That would mean he tries to go through me, Headley, the crimson-handed god of Red Rover.

There I stood, handclasped with Patty on my right and Bobbie-Jeanne on my left. I impassively listened as their delicate bones crumbled beneath my tightening grip. Their return grip was irrelevant. Edgar’s only chance of getting through was by severing an arm. (Assuming Bobbie-Jeanne’s hand didn’t coagulate into such useless goo that it sifted through my mighty fingers.)

Ah memories. Modern schools have banned Red Rover. Fear not! Libertarians and fine bone surgeons lobby for its return.

Years later, Bobbie-Jeanne and I went on a date. She was strangely reluctant to hold my hand.