high weir

October 31, 2008

Car Tipping

Filed under: Uncategorized — jstreed1476 @ 1:32 am

My first real job was as a stockboy at the Coralville K-Mart. The best thing about it–apart from getting paid in cash (no kidding)–was the chance to befriend the oddballs working there.

Danny wore a necktie shaped like a fish at least once a week. He was in his mid-thirties, at least. We called him Danny Fishtie.

Claudia the assistant manager remains the only 55-year-old female figure-eight-track driver I’ve ever known.

Mr DeHart the manager answered bargain hunters with offers of a higher price.

I especially liked getting on Scott’s good side. He was a chain-smoking mulletted guy who patroled the farthest reaches of the West High parking lot with a tribe of scary metalhead roughs. I was terrified the first day I saw him in the stockroom because I was sure he’d spot me as the kid he threatened to beat up the year before in the Old Capital Mall’s Aladdin’s Castle. (I accidentally budged ahead of him en route to Spy Hunter.) But he didn’t recognize me. And he was actually a pretty nice guy.

Once he gave me a ride home in his terrifying Dodge Dart. No seatbelts, missing window, trunk held shut with a clothes hanger threaded through what looked like a bullet hole. Beer cans rolling around. We roared down quiet Coralville streets at about 75 miles per hour. It was way more frightening than any taxi ride I’ve ever endured.

At one point, he offered to sell me the Dart for a hundred bucks. I really, really wanted to buy it. For a week, some buddies and I cooked up plans like chopping off the roof to make it a convertible. We also thought it would be fun to have for the sole purpose of wrecking it. Not far from my grandparents’ house, in a trench worn deep by rain, a half dozen cars were piled every which way. Passing hunters peppered them with shotgun blasts. At the time, that seemed like a fitting end to the Dart.

But it never went further than lunchtable planning. I knew my parents would veto the purchase, and the last thing I wanted was to wind up asking Scott to take his car back. (If that had come to pass, I’d’ve let the money thing drop, as demanding it back would’ve been out of the question.)

I thought of all this when I read this highly entertaining account of a guy and his friends tipping a car that he didn’t have any use for. 

I eventually told Scott about the Aladdin’s Castle incident. He laughed and claimed that he didn’t remember it at all. “I was probably drunk,” he said.


October 29, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — jstreed1476 @ 6:40 pm

Today I ran across a review by Alberto Manguel, one of my favorite contemporary writers, of book about Borges, one of my favorite writers ever. Manguel’s elegantly written review was favorable and I can imagine enjoying the book. But honestly, I don’t plan to track it down.

I’m less and less motivated to read critical work these days. Time, so slippery in Borges, is not in great supply in my household. Very little remains at the end of an ordinary day. Better by far to dive into fictions and poems themselves, no?

Books I’ve finished lately:

The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin

Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brian

A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul

I’m currently reading The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux. It’s fantastic so far.

* Sustained silent reading–the optimistic name given by schools to periodic, building-wide fits of inactivity. Scheduled sessile repose?

October 23, 2008

_____ as a BUTTON!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jstreed1476 @ 4:25 pm

Foods of the Eighties

Filed under: Uncategorized — jstreed1476 @ 4:21 pm

Kottke linked this (not terribly good) list of foods from the Eighties. Here are my additions:

Pepsi Free – got a bump from Back to the Future but didn’t survive the decade, I think

Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal – My brother was addicted to this. To me, it was another sign that our parents indulged him.

Choco Bliss – A Hostess-brand (I think) snack cake. Chocolate-frosted chocolate cake with chocolate whipped cream filling inside. I’d eat three in row!

New York Seltzer – Super-sweetened soda sold in tiny little bottles. Peach flavor was great.

Cherry 7up – I can’t think of it without remembering the commercial with a meet-cute between two very acid-washed-jeans-jacket teens.

Quiche – maybe it was big in the 70s, too, but I remember its invasion of every holiday gathering from about ’82-’87. Easter, especially.

Budget Gourmet microwave meals – My dad and I would eat one of these (Swedish meatballs, usually) as a “light supper” before heading to the Rec for pickup basketball. Tiny, loaded with salt, easy to overcook, and just barely good enough.

Skor candy bars – Loved the Viking-themed commercials.

That’s off the top of my head. But a lot of my other food memories from that decade (and I think about food plenty) are less branded, more local or home-cooked.

Stir-fry – one of my Dad’s coworkers was from Thailand, and she showed my mom how to make honest-to-goodness egg rolls (never had their equal since), stir-fried anything, delicious sea-weed and tofu soup (no kidding!), and first-rate rice.

Coffee and ice-cream from Iowa City’s long-gone Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company – where I learned to pretend to read literature and act like an English major.

Soups and sandwiches from Iowa-City’s long-gone Bushnell’s Turtle deli – I’m pathetically nostalgic about my one-time hometown.

Seafood chowder – most Christmases, my mom mad a terrific chowder full of shrimp, crab, whitefish, potatoes, carrots, and so one. Campbell’s cheese soup was its base, oddly enough.

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