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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Astonishment

In third grade, Howard B. Headland and I became friends because our names seemed to fit together. He invited me to his house one day. It was three streets behind mine in the swirling non-grid that the suburban planners laid out to prevent outsiders from cutting through. At first, there wasn’t much about the house different from mine. They had the same plastic, snap-together napkin holder we had. I’d seen the same two Scotties doorstop at the Roger’s house.
Then I walked into Howie’s room.
It was clean.
That was surprising enough, but sitting atop a line of low, immaculately dust-bunny free cabinets was his very own 13 inch black and white television.
 I had had a TV in my room a few times in my life – always when I was sick enough to stay home from school, which I tried to do at least 10 weeks a year with varied success.
But Howie wasn’t sick. This was HIS TV!
“You wanna a soda?” he asked nonchalantly.
“Your Mom lets you drink soda?”
“Sure,” he said with a shrug and opened the cabinet below his personal vacuum tube powered viewing screen. There in sparkling carton-packed splendor were orderly ranks of twelve once glass bottles of Pepsi-Cola. 
Each spiraled glass beauty rose to meet a pristine tin (maybe steel?) bottle cap. There wasn’t a hint of Hi C or Kool-Aid to be seen. Howie opened a drawer and pulled out his personal bottle opener and reached for two bottles of Pepsi. These were the same glorious bottles that on rare occasions made an appearance (with great fanfare) on a Sunday evening TV night between Lassie and the Wonderful World of Disney.
“Have the kids been that good?” my father would asked, surprised.
“Yes they have,” my mother would answer – also surprised. Into my sister’s and my hands would be pressed our 8 once Quick Draw McGraw juice glasses. 
 We sat in angelic stillness as Mom placed a stale cube of ice in each glass, making a clacking thud against the hard plastic that sounded like a festive tinkle to our rapt ears. With appropriate ceremony, a single bottle of the caramel-colored, sucrose-intensive, gaseous elixir was opened and split between us.
It was such a holy cap-crowned grail that Howie now handed me like it was nothing more than a mimeographed math worksheet passed through the rows at the direction of mean old Miss Lambash. “Take one, and pass the rest along.”

I watched in awe as Howie expertly applied the proper pressure to pop the cap on his bottle without spilling a precious drop. Deep within the bottle, the voices of a thousand bubbles chorused together a heavenly refrain from Fiddler on the Roof – “as if to say here lives a wealthy man!”
Had he shown me the S.S. Minnow reconstituted into a backyard tree fort, I could not have been more impressed.



Alright – some of you recognized that I was ripping off a style here (it’s my style to rip off other styles.) Here’s a clip by the master of the art form.