Monday, September 27, 2021

Is That Kevin Bacon Six Degrees of Separation for Real? You Tell Me!

Over the weekend, I was thinking about the movie “Footloose,” and all the fun dancing in the movie. I wasn’t quite up to watching the entire movie though, as enduring the period of time between the “adults” fearing pop music and learning to tolerate it is something I just don’t have patience with, not even fast-forwarding through. So, what else to watch?

Of course, during my in-home entertainment programming I’d long ago grown tired of the usual fare on TV. I mean, when the day comes when I won’t even dial up the Hallmark Channel, you know I’m maxxed out on predictable plots, gentle, sweet and kind dialogue, and scenic vistas I have no hope of seeing at least for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, I went searching for something that would bring a smile and I found two delightful series not on my television but on my computer, streaming their little hearts out. I also discovered several movie titles that had never arrived in my Mayberry metroplex, many of them for the delightful price of FREE, thanks to Amazon Prime.

In my search I encountered an amazing film entitled, “The Last Word,” starring Shirley Maclaine, Amanda Seyfried, Thomas Sadoski, and Tom Everett Scott. It had been out four years without my ever hearing of it, but because I write formal life tributes and memoirs among other projects, I read the plot and just had to rent it ($3.99, very reasonable).

The quick synopsis is that Shirley Maclaine is an older businesswoman who is preparing for the time when she would pass away, having had a few doctors’ appointments and taking natural next steps. She reads regularly the obituaries in her local paper of those she knew through the community and work and begins to blow a gasket as she calls them many names, most important of all—inauthentic.

She takes it upon herself to visit the local paper, introduces herself to the obituary editor, a young woman played by Seyfried, and proceeds to inform her that she got it all wrong about the people she had memorialized, breaking down their faults point for point. Yet, she wants Seyfried to write her obit, now, so she has a chance to review and improve it. The dialogue is hysterical and Maclaine is her best self in the role.

Plot twist number one is when Seyfried interviews several people in town whom Maclaine has recommended would be helpful. Turns out their opinions of her were not as high as she’d expected. Not to ruin the delightful plot, just take my advice, if you’re bored and need a lift, rent or buy the movie, despite what you think the subject matter is. You’ll give lots of things in your life a closer look, and that’s important as well.

After I’d watched the movie, I’d discovered an Easter egg in there that related to The Buckinghams. I was intrigued and started digging around to see if I could discover how that happened. The proverbial “Easter egg” is a “hidden detail left in the film” to be discovered by sharp viewers to discover and be pleased. The Buckinghams’ egg was delightful to me.

Searching the IMDB listing for the movie, I stared and stared until I figured it out. Let’s just say that I discovered a direct connection between someone with a Bacon number of 2 to The Buckinghams, with a Bacon number of 5, or one of the Buckinghams with a Bacon number of 6.

Taking out one of my favorite note cards I started sketching until I found the path between The Buckinghams and Kevin Bacon. I posted it about it in another blog, and if you’d like to read it, click here.

But then I started thinking, surely there had to be other pathways to Kevin Bacon…maybe even with me. Traditionally, the ‘real’ Bacon game relies upon “movies” that Kevin has been in and films that the others in the degrees of separation are in. Having been in videos rather than feature films, I’d be out of luck, so I decided to relax the conditions a bit and let my mind wander. Sometimes this is good.

Didn’t take long to amend the drawing I’d constructed for The Buckinghams and craft one of my own. I don’t have the same connectivity to Kevin the way they do, but I still managed to come up with one. Okay, so it’s what you do when you have nothing in your Suddenlink TIVO queue saved up to watch except "JAG" and "Magnum, PI" reruns and you’re tired of crimefighting.

The drawing, for what it’s worth, follows here.

So, what is my Bacon number, exactly? Say I am Bacon number 6, who works for The Buckinghams (Bacon number 5), and they connect with “Sweet Charity,” the 1968 stage production in Kansas City, MO (Bacon number 4), who then is identified most often with Shirley Maclaine (Bacon number 3), who was in the film “The Last Word” with Amanda Seyfried (Bacon number 2), who was in the film “You Should Have Left” with Kevin Bacon (Bacon number 1). That works. Sort of. No, they’re not all films as the real parlor game uses, but let’s face it, we’re on the fringe of logic anyway and it’s just a game.

What is really the path I thought of, separate of going left on the chart, is to actually look at the fact that we all know my #1 favorite series is (say it with me) “NCIS” (the original, no duplications please). Then, my #2 favorite series was “The West Wing” so let’s call Me (DLW, Bacon number 6), and “The West Wing” (Bacon number 5), and it was of course written by Aaron Sorkin (Bacon number 4) for at least the first four years. Sorkin also created the show, “The Newsroom” (HBO) which launched the national career of Thomas Sadoski (Bacon number 3), actor and Tony nominee, who hails from College Station, Texas.

Now, Sadoski was both in the film “The Last Word” and is married to Amanda Seyfried (Bacon number 2), who in 2020 starred in “You Should Have Left,” with….Number 1 himself, Kevin Bacon. Mission accomplished.

But there were even more paths to Kevin that would not have taken as long. First, if memory serves, as a young man, Thomas studied with and was a part of M.A. Sterling’s Brazos Valley Troupe. Boom. DLW to MAS to TS to AS to KB in just 5 connections.

Or, let’s try this. As a maturing young adult Thomas acted (stole the stage) in Theatre Company productions where he was known to at least 5 people who I can click on my Facebook page as my pals. Boom. So DLW to any Theatre Company person to TS to AS to Kevin Bacon and that’s just 4 connections. I am certain this is not how the game was meant to be played but don’t stop me when I’m on a sleep-deprived roll, right?

Now to the point of my mission wondering about Kevin Bacon…what was I thinking about him for and how was I trying to figure out ways to reach out to him? Oh yes, I remember it now…I just wanted to ask him if he wouldn’t develop and produce the new feature film “Footloose for Seniors—How to Enjoy Your Old Age at Shady Pines.” I think it would be a winner.

After all, Diane Keaton had a hit in “Poms,” and Ann-Margret and Ellyn Burstyn had a hit with “Queen Bees.” Both were set in sunny, scenic, senior vistas. Well, I’m just thinking a remake of “Footloose--Silver Sneakers” would make a fortune for Kevin, and keep the rest of us limber in our golden years, whenever they might arrive. That’s the trick to staying young, you know…just keep dancing!

Dare you to try and get this song out of your head today! Maybe it’s not such a bad thing. If it makes you smile, just go for it! Cut Footloose, and oh, message to Kevin, “Call me. I'm here all week!”

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Ants Can Smell or Why You Should Never Order Cookies at 3am

To those who know me well, I’ve been keeping what I term “batcave hours,” for several of my writing projects requiring time blocks of uninterrupted concentration. A daily powernap can rejuvenate me, but then I might be wide awake at 2am, even if I’m done for the day. So, when I’m not sleepy, I work some more.

Yesterday, I’d picked up my mail but didn’t read it until midnight. I’d received a lovely card from Tiff’s Treats, reminding me of the joy of warm cookies and the number of ways they could make my life happier. I believed every word on the card. Dear friends had surprised me on my birthday with a Tiff’s extravaganza and there was joy.

Went to Tiff’s Treats website to explore my potential happiness. The first online foray with ordering, I’d chosen three separate small six-packs of cookies to be boxed individually, as I’d planned on dropping off two as gifts today, and of course, I needed some warm cookie joy myself.

But the online ordering system had a glitch and I had to start over. By the 3am time it was now, I must have not seen that I had signed up for an Elite Membership and free delivery for a year with various bonus attributes but the part about the three boxes had not been re-entered.

Stayed up a little longer doing research and then signed off. Some six hours later, the doorbell rang at 11am promptly as planned, and I was delighted to bring the box inside and begin my individual gift prep. But there was just one box.

I e-mailed the store, as they had sent me multiple (4!) text messages and e-mails, each confirming receipt of my order and forthcoming delivery and should I need to reach out to them, here was how. I explained there were not three individual boxes and in checking their records there was nothing on the Special Instructions section. Sleepyhead here had forgotten to re-enter the instructions, but welcome, welcome to me now that I was going to be Elite for the next year.

Elitely, I offered to come get the boxes and they said they’d alert the store. I should not have bothered. I made myself a cup of hot tea, settled in with two cookies, and started to read “The Eagle” online and…when I awoke an hour later, at my desk, in my chair, it was clear that ants can smell. I’d made my way over to the kitchen counter, just in time to see two tiny ants cross over the top of the huge Tiff’s Treats box. My heart sank.

Opened the box and discovered an art farm inside, snacking away on level one of the snickerdoodles…others had made their way down to the M&M level (both were gift intentions)…and I quickly closed the box. They were happy with what was about to be their final meal.

Grabbed a grocery sack, threw the box in, tied it tightly off at the top, and out to the trash can I went. Sigh. Total waste of effort for two warm cookies. Actually thought my troubles were over. Nope.

Seems like the aroma of the warm cookies had remained long after they had been removed from the kitchen, and since ants can smell…they ventured in to search for themselves what fortunes lay ahead of them. I should have known better. Truly.

Tonight, I’d just finished a blog post on my disapproval of the Emmy Awards broadcast and was just about to settle in to write on an entirely different topic when I noticed a light brown shadow in the living room floor under my chair at my second desktop (the dining table). I swear it looked like a perfect square dance circle, about 10 inches in diameter. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was…ants. Sugar ants, pharaoh ants, crazy ants…call them what you will, there they were.

The more I stared the more they panned out in the circle, now about 15 inches in diameter. It reminded me of the June Taylor Dancers on the old Jackie Gleason Show in their symmetry!

Jumping to action, I grabbed the closest agent of death I could find…Glade…a can of Glade, linen scent. And I sprayed the you-know-what out of them. Not that it solved my problem, but it gave me time to stomp on their woozy little selves, having made themselves so at home on my carpet.

I did my fire-and-rain dance true to my Cherokee heritage to obliterate the nasty invaders with the bottoms of my shoes. Then, I grabbed the unused but at-the-ready vacuum cleaner to now whoosh them away in a trapped thick paper bag. Vrooooooooom. Had them up and gone before they knew what had happened to them.

And then I vacuumed some more of the living room that had caused me to roll out the vacuum and place it where I could find it readily when the spirit moved me to vacuum. Replaced the bag, wrapped and sealed the old one, tied it up in a plastic trash bag, inside another trash bag and took it outside to the garbage can. I’m thorough, if not inattentive to what problems with missing weatherstripping at the front door can do. That's on my to-do list to address this week.

The clean linen scent remains, even though the cookies and their happy memory are long gone. I apologize to the two sweet senior friends who had no idea they were going to be surprised today. Just glad I had not reached out to them about it. The surprise was on me.

Now that I’ve vacuumed the entire living room and nearby paths and replaced the old bag with a new one, I feel fairly accomplished over here. This calls for a cookie! Oh wait. Nevermind. Just remember, ants can smell!

Banal 2021 EMMY Awards Show Makes Us Long for the Grand ol' Days of the Big Three Networks

Truly, I gave it a fair shot. For the first year in at least the past five years, I tuned into The EMMY Awards broadcast on CBS on Sunday, September 19, the 73rd consecutive program that honors television’s best and brightest from the preceding year. I lasted exactly 36 minutes before hitting the mute button. Checked back in for the In Memoriam segment, which went well, the best part of the show.

I’d stopped watching what was once my favorite show of all time years ago, due to full boredom and pangs of regret at the (then) state of primetime programming. This year’s show open did manage to eclipse the level of stupidity that has now become its classic benchmark. Virtually everything nominated originated from Hulu, Netflix, Showtime, Peacock, or HBO Max alternate networks.

Ordinarily, Cedric the Entertainer is fine to watch, on Monday night’s laugh-tracked “The Neighborhood,” but he isn’t strong enough to carry the EMMYs. I gave my full attention to the program, but the only broadcast network mentioned was CBS among the nominees.

That and right before every station break, the voice, “Coming up next (a plea for you not to change the channel), so-and-so B-TV star whose name you don’t know,” followed by offstage emcee MC Lyte, saying “This is CBS!” No, it’s not the CBS I used to know and love. Not by a long shot.

Hoping to improve my attitude, I went retro and started YouTube-ing the days when I most adored TV shows, the best of comedy-variety-procedural-dramas across the board.

Do you remember the fun of upcoming season promo spots on all the major networks before each fall began? Especially during the 70s and 80s, the combination of catchy jingles and snippets of your favorite TV stars brought excitement and anticipation, just as they were designed and produced to do. You’d survived eight weeks of summer reruns and a few replacement shows, and now you were ready for renewal, almost in time for back to school.

The campaigns for each of the three primary networks had a theme and primary jingle but they would film three or four individual spots with previews of new shows, happy memories of returning shows, and truly the best of what was yet to come. The jingles were infectious, upbeat, and gave you a sense of genuine excitement for the coming season.

If you’d like to travel back in time with me perhaps you’ll remember and smile at what you see in these memory time capsules about what used to be some of the best reasons to stay at home for a program because we didn’t have access to VCRs back in the best days of the earliest shows.

CBS Is Easy on the Eyes (1973)

CBS—"We’re Looking Good,” #1 (1979)

“You and Me and ABC” — The 1980 ABC Season

NBC’s “NB See Us” (1980)

The welcome-back TV jingles preceding fall season debuts were played so often, whether three-minute, :30, or :15 clips to remind you that fall was guaranteed to turn your world around, if you’d just tune in faithfully.

The local affiliates could cut in their own material to blend in with the national ad, as they did here in Chicago and other cities during the Fall 1983 “CBS We’ve Got The Touch” campaign, a personal favorite.

In 2020, CBS underwent a giant rebranding, mostly to sweep out the memories of the unpleasant reign of…whatever…of former head honcho, Les Moonves. The powers that be hired an ad agency and came up with a more overreaching identity for the network that included all the content it produced for other networks to distribute, some CBS had full or part ownership in and others where they were willing to take a partial risk.

Frankly, the general public doesn’t really care who owns whom, and today, there’s no reason to rush home for live programming (even TV ratings count live plus 3 consecutive days’ viewing in their ratings registry) thanks to various on demand and recorded media streams. But there’s also now less loyalty to a particular network and its family of shows that has impacted the more transient nature of viewing.

Enter then, a new CBS campaign for the 2021 Fall Season, “Feel This Fall,” and it lives up to my expectations. As Jason Lynch of “Adweek” noted, “decades ago, the broadcast networks used to assemble their biggest stars each summer to record elaborate jingle promos to tout their fall lineups. Some four decades later, here we are with CBS’s best offering:

This season, I’m only looking forward to the 19th season of “NCIS,” the debut season of “NCIS: Hawaii” and the return of “CSI: Las Vegas,” and “The Equalizer” as well as “Young Sheldon” and “Blue Bloods” as things I’ll try to watch without recording and I’ll be grateful for those CBS shows. The only other show I’m anticipating off “Big 3” programs is the second half of the first season of “Leverage: Redemption,” the brilliant reboot of “Leverage,” a superb creation by John Rogers and Chris Downey, originally starring Timothy Bottoms. The second half of the show reboot's first season is set to premiere on October 8 on IMDb TV.

Personally, this 2021 coming season is a far stretch from the 20–25 shows I used to wait for in the 1970s with delighted anticipation, but the 300 extra cable channels streaming, flowing, and going along still don’t make viewing fresh content any easier to find. Football and basketball will fill in the blanks nicely. And then this past July, the Hallmark Channel debuted all their upcoming Christmas movies to anticipate so, I’m doing just fine.

PBS is a longtime mainstay for so many viewers, but I’m definitely a record-and-watch-later candidate as I can’t guarantee I’ll be in front of the set at a fixed time these days, a gift from programming teams who now make Live + On Demand + Digital Streaming a real thing for the average household.

Yet, some of my friends do not have cable TV. They don’t have an alternative such as Roku, Amazon Fire, Google Chromecast, YouTube TV, that you can acquire to fight the statewide behemoth Suddenlink. Fortunately, fiber optics, and finally some competition, is in our local future.

There’s still time to search for something I missed the first go-round on the nostalgia channels as well as Amazon Prime Video and If there’s nothing new I want to see, fortunately, there are retro networks such as Antenna TV, GET TV, COZI TV, the Decades Channel, and others to take me back to Baby Boomer happy days.

Thanks to all the nostalgia channels for keeping many of these programs alive for generations to come to see what it is that used to preoccupy our attention and conversation the next day at school and work. That was CBS. Here's to Fall 2021 bringing back the best in original programming for procedurals and comedies.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Travels Down Memory Lane vs. Diving Down the Rabbit Hole

My trip down memory lane began innocently enough. It was an afternoon of intense work at the computer, where you don’t want to stop what you’re doing for a full break, but instead “lunch” can be a snack from whatever is in the fridge. Peering into the fridge, I scored a yogurt, a pre-saved iced tea and a banana from the counter, so back to work at the computer I went.

If you know me well, you are laughing at me for two reasons, first because I don’t cook, and second because I call my ice box a “fridge,” that is when I’m not calling it an ice box. I rarely use the word refrigerator; mine is in good standing with AARP. Buddy’s Brazos Appliances really does sell quality products. Twenty-one years and holding—thank you Hotpoint. And from there…off I went, diving down a rabbit hole...or two.

Hotpoint…that brand has been around almost as long as my old Sears Kenmore “Commander” tank vacuum. More on that later. Remember the old Hotpoint TV commercials during the very earliest days of tv spots? Remember who was Happy Hotpoint?

Here’s Happy Hotpoint herself, the dancing elf of all appliances, Mary Tyler Moore, in her earliest role of national prominence. From there, her dancing skills would find uses throughout the rest of her acting career as Laura Petrie and Mary Richards.

Safely sliding down the rabbit hole, I remember a great snack I used to enjoy as a child, when I went to see my Great Aunt Emma.

Known for her ability to save, save, and save some more, she lived a superbly careful life without debt as an early widow who had no college education or prior work experience before marrying my Uncle Mitchell, a painter by trade. She used her skills as a seamstress to find a job at the St. Anthony Hotel (back then, they hand-repaired linens and uniforms, etc.) After we picked her up from work on Saturday, we’d go for brunch at Sea Island in San Antonio, a favorite place that was as good as it was affordable.

Then, we’d go to Kresge, over in North Star Mall, to stock up on a few items for the week that she’d select. As though it was 55 years ago all over again, there would be a Dak canned ham, at the time running for about $1.88. At home she already had the magic combo awaiting me for my evening snack as I watched TV and all the grownups talked and chatted in the kitchen.

Where was I going with this? Oh, the Dak canned ham. Ah yes. So, this fine product came to us from Denmark, and the vacuum sealed container could be breached using the small aluminum key that was affixed to the outside of the container. I felt very grown up at age eight, when Great Aunt Emma allowed me to be the key-bearer and open the ham. Adults have a wonderful habit of encouraging children and saying, “Good job!” to affirm the contribution of the youngsters as they make progress in household chores.

The menu was Uneeda Biscuits, Falfurrias Sweet Cream Butter, Homemade bread and butter pickles, and ice water. If you’ve never dined this high on the hog before, allow me to explain what you missed. Uneeda biscuits were an early offering of the National Biscuit Company, eventually Nabisco.

Uneeda biscuits had substance, thickness, proper taste, and just a tad of salt (although they sold the unsalted version as well). Their thickness is perfect because if you put a small amount of butter on a knife and apply it to a standard premium saltine cracker, the pressure will break it. Maybe that’s too much fuss over a cracker, but if you never had one…To this day I have not been able to find anything that comes close.

Falfurrias butter came from Falfurrias, Texas, and they're a Texas product since 1909, and it used to come in more spreadable tubs, but at least the butter sticks are still available today. They focused their marketing all over Texas, Louisiana, and into Oklahoma, and they have a tremendous market for their irresistable, tasty product.

The pickles were from a kitchen of a lady down the hall from my great aunt, as she lived in the apartment complex of rooms over the old Pep Boys garage downtown, with close proximity to take the bus to and from work. If her pickles ran out, Vlasic's bread-and-butter pickles would be great, or Del Monte sweet gherkins. Mmm. For those of you who enjoyed buying a dill pickle at the theatres to last you the entire movie, God bless you, but I am not in that group. At home, our popcorn was Jiffy Pop or made in our own 5-quart pan the hard way (not-so-jiffy). Premicrowaves, we all did just fine, I think.

The Dak ham purchase at Kresge’s in the Mall also started another rabbit trail…Kresge’s was the same as the Kress stores in various malls across San Antonio, if memory serves, and then ultimately S. S. Kresge founded K-Mart and after inventing the blue light special, off and running they went for many years. Then, a little business called Fed Mart opened in San Antonio and one even found its way to College Station.

By 1974, College Station’s property was being seen as valuable so a California investor managed a good deal price on the property and built a bowling alley there and a strip center for various other businesses. Once it was confirmed that President George H. W. Bush (41) would be bringing a Presidential Library to town, the bowling alley had gone kaput, and was sitting there essentially vacant. Someone had the bright idea of using that property as a storage facility for the materials that could be transported from DC up here until the library was actually constructed, again if memory serves. Nice donation of vacant property, too.

Once the Library was up and running eventually the property was sold and now Republic Steakhouse and Primrose Path now occupy the space, featuring tapas, wine and cocktails. I felt like I was from Hooterville when I asked restaurant expert Mike Green what a tapas was…or were…and he kindly said, “tapas, you know, tapas, little items you get to eat along with drinking your wine and cocktails.” I said, “Oh, snacks. I get it, snacks.” Of course the word in Spanish means small plates…it’s sophisticated cuisine. I’ll have to confess that I’m new to tapas and I have yet to patronize the place, although I’m delighted to have many friends who rave about the ambiance. Another rabbit hole, oops.

Now, I got tremendous affirmation from my mother for my vacuuming skills, and frankly, I was worth every amount praise she could muster, because my dad was responsible for the purchase and delivery of the Kenmore “Commander” horizontal canister vacuum. There were two different hose attachments (for the couch and other chairs), a brush attachment (for the curtains), and then the major vacuum piece itself with the rollers for the floors.

The Kenmore Commander weighed about 40 lbs all told, and at the time, I weighed right at 60 lbs, give or take a few. I lugged that thing all through the house, wanting to contribute to housework because I knew Mom worked hard from 8 to 5 and I wanted to make her to-do list shrink as much as I could. I also got a little stepstool and did the dishes each night, and foreshadowing a future interest in chemistry, I started exploring mixing different sink cleansers in the effort to have the most sparkling sink in the city. No, I didn't have any gaseous or toxic accidents. Guess I really was born to be a chemist. Sort of.

I blush at my early aspirations for greatness, but you have to dream big when you’re a kid if you want to make something out of yourself in this lifetime. Morning breakfast was a good place to start. Butter Krust bread was a hit in my home, and the billboard on Broadway Ave. gave me a reason to smile.

A schoolmate of mine about five years ahead of me was the model young lady for the famous character they used for years. The adorable blonde in the gingham dress was my friend, and her inside was as beautiful as her outside is. She and all four of her siblings had the most exquisite mother who could easily make Princess Grace look dowdy. Fortunately, all the children resembled their mom.

Butter Krust also gave out plentiful amounts of new #2 specially coated, smooth pencils and brown paper bookcovers to all of us, and a bakery tour each year kept all of us happy.

San Antonio was also home to Lone Star Brewery and Pearl Brewery, and schoolchildren loved being able to take the tour of the brewery, not with the hops and the process in mind, but for the complimentary root beer at the end of the tour. Just like Brenham's little Blue Bell Creamery not 30 miles away from here.

Things we remember. In the 1960s, a fellow graduate of my school became CEO of the brewery. Today, Pearl Brewery has been refashioned into a destination center with fabulous restaurants and a fun venue, Jazz, TX, where you can hear the best in live jazz. Word to the wise: Look for the Steve Soares Trio at least once a month at Jazz, TX, as the leader is Doris, my high school classmate's, husband.

Back to breakfast. There was Carnation Instant Breakfast for those on the run, Eggo ("Let go my Eggo!") Waffles, and much later down the road, Kellogg's Pop Tarts. Tang also made a snappy breakfast drink. Malt-O-Meal was a solid breakfast on a cold morning, too.

Afternoon snacks could be milk with Nesquick powder stirred in. Strawberry was a go-to flavor for me.

Speaking of dairy delights, Knowlton Milk was still delivered to the house in the 60s and a dear relative of mine used to drive one of the trucks. The Knowlton Creamery was also down the street from our school.

Our unique school that ran from grades 1-12 (later, K-12) was a series of old Victorian homes in San Antonio's historic district, where they had been remade into classrooms. Many of us had no idea what other school rooms looked like for years until it was time for driver's ed. We were in the middle of downtown San Antonio and so almost all of us were driven to school, and many took one of several school parents' station wagons to arrive for the day. Others would ride the city buses each day. One rarely thought at the time about the sacrifices our parents made back then to afford for us to obtain a special educational experience. I did, but I had plenty of time to think and reflect on "old days." Even back then, I enjoyed the concept of reminiscing.

One other special evening treat might be a scoop of ice cream from the Carnation Ice Cream Shop on San Pedro. They had more than 50 flavors, advertising that fact if only to irritate Baskin Robbins. There was a "Tower of the Americas" sundae, named in time for the Hemisfair '68 year-long San Antonio celebration. The sundae had 48 scoops of ice cream, syrups, whipped cream, and cherries. It was pricey back then even, probably about $20 or more, but if you could eat the whole thing, it was free to you. I only had one classmate who won their sundae that way and his metabolism caused him to gain zero pounds after that one episode, or ever, in his lifetime. Doubt he ate it a second time.

As I grew older, I recall the joy of discovering General Foods Instant Flavored Coffees—what a joy. Just fill your tea kettle with water and heat until it sings and then pour your cup and add two teaspoons of the powdered mix and presto, a delightful, tasty beverage to enjoy.

Now, what’s the perfect treat to go with?

Mom’s and my favorite tapas was 2 Stella D’oro cookies. Remember those? With the colors of the flag of Italy atop the packaging, each pack had 10 or 12 cookies and for $2.19 at Handy-Andy, you couldn’t beat them! I was Skyping with a dear friend the other day, lamenting that I couldn't find any of these "old-timey" cookies I used to love. She remembered them, when I said their name aloud! I brightened up. Someone remembered the same cookie I did! Then she countered with, "I never liked them." All I could do was laugh for three minutes. It wasn't a buzz-kill but her comedic time was perfect. Meanwhile...

I was delighted to see that Amazon could get them for me, especially since I have not seen them in any local grocery stores in at least 10 years. This time, they’re about $6.00 per package, but you can’t beat a walk down memory lane, so what the hey?

Speaking of grocery stores, I certainly do miss the trading stamps that a store would bonus for having grocery brand loyalty and frequency of shopping. Remember double stamp day? I don’t know where you grew up but we had TV stamps, the abbreviation for Top Value at Handy-Andy, then Texas Gold for HEB, and S&H Green Stamps for Piggly-Wiggly and selected Sinclair Shamrock gas stations (and you’d get a lovely Libbey glass and stamps with your gas that they pumped for you).

The duty of collecting stamps and pasting them in the various books and saving/organizing those books to keep an eye on the catalog to see what might be a future worthy prize to redeem was always fun. I won’t say that they exclusive items, but they certainly were not junk either.

Back to the road trip and the little Styrofoam ice chest for $1.99 or $.99 if there was a sale at the store, the reason you filled up your coolers with your own snacks was to avoid some of the temptations from the road. Take for example, Stuckey’s. Road trips with my grandmother and Aunt Sharon going from San Antonio to Houston or Galveston were not complete without Grandma reading each sign Stuckey’s had posted along the old highway every. darned. mile.

Not until I saw Billy Crystal and the actor who played his father in “Forget Paris” could I appreciate that sometimes people, when they are looking for something to say as a space filler, choose to read billboard or recite familiar jingles (“You asked for it, you got it, Toyota.”) and it’s quite charming, particularly when they’re no longer with you and you want to find something to recall to make you smile again.

Which reminds me…we took Grandma to Shakey’s Pizza Parlor when she and Aunt Sharon came to town, and they had two entertainers: Bob on the player piano and Curly on the banjo. Saturday nights would assure you a good affordable pizza, free refills on sodas and music courtesy and Bob and Curly.

Sometimes the patrons enjoyed singing and Bob and Curly would back them (not just anyone, you had to have some chops before they’d let you have the stage). And the music and singing along could get a little loud at times. One evening when we were on the way home, Grandma said, “Gosh I really enjoyed going to Shookey’s with you girls!” Aw, how sweet.

Today is another day, the 1st of September, and with a new month comes a clean slate. Maybe I’ll work a little harder at keeping a few tapas in the fridge. Or then again, Sonic has happy hour from 2-4 pm every day. Rabbit, rabbit!