One Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, when I was much smaller and less inclined to pay bills and taxes, I would crawl into a pampas grass clump armed only with a blanket and a can of bug spray that I had stolen from the garage.

The blanket was my hobo’s bundle and it contained everything that a child would need in order to survive in the Wilds. There was always a book but the bundle was usually deficient of water and food. The only truly functional item was the blanket itself, which transformed into That Which Stops Fronds From Cutting at a moment’s notice.

My lack of foresight can only be attributed to the simple fact that I had never met a real hobo, ergo my self-preservation was limited by the proximity of my house to the pampas grass. Regardless, I would sit inside my impenetrable fortress and do what I loved to do most: read.

For those who are not in the know, pampas grass is an ornamentally bushy thing, with sharp grass blades that can cut deeply. My choice retreat was the neighbor’s backyard, where a healthy cluster of them was planted to screen the arroyo behind the house. The neighbor’s wooden fence lacked boards and so my fort had a ready entrance hole. It also had earwigs, spiders, small lizards and the constant smell of soggy bark.

I merrily sat between those clusters, with the plumes high above screening the sunlight and dappling the pages of whatever book I was reading. The wind would play up and whistle through the blades, the grass would sway and I would think of the ocean, or the sound of rushing air over a dragon’s back.

I could pretend to be Tom Sawyer and the arroyo would, with its healthy trickle of water, become the mighty Mississippi. I’d teach my mother not to make me do chores (I’d say to myself) by hiding in my pampas grass fort. They’d have to walk that arroyo and throw bread into the stream in hopes of finding my body. I’d also rescue Becky and find the treasure.

I really was a very sullen and warped little child. I was also very much a boy child. It was a pity that I was wearing a B-cup by third grade. It shattered my conception of myself. It shattered everyone else’s conception too, as I was the only girl on the block who could run with the boys and match them. By the third grade, I had been regulated to Girl Status. It didn’t matter than I could pin Brian the Fat Fifth Grader, or that I could shoot a BB gun with ease. It also didn’t matter that I had every Matchbox car make and model.
All of that vanished in the hot summer heat of 1979. My friends and I snuck into Rancho Park, stripped off our shirts (per our custom) and jumped into the lake. It was Danny that pointed out that I had “mom things”, and a quick pants check revealed that my penis surely must have fallen off due to Cooties, because that’s obviously what Cooties do to a fellow.

I tried a variety of girl-oriented Books that summer and found them pedestrian. My hopes of being a Real Girl were dashed upon the desecrated shores of melted Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Holly Hobbie cling stickers.

Holly Hobbie. Does anyone remember her? She was recently revamped. Instead of the sweet little prairie darling in search of chubby-faced birds and saccharine-sweet kitties, she’s become something akin a Bratz doll.

She has a long way to go before living up to the Streetwalker Bratz™ street cred, however.

I digress.

Reading is a pastime that has accompanied me into adulthood. I spent most of last summer filtering through the Stephen King section of our local library. I don’t know what I’ll pursue this summer. I’m still finishing out Better Half’s giant lizard-centaur books (and still on page 22. HA!) I’m also revisiting some old Friends whom lay dusty on my shelf during the winter.

Has anyone noticed this growing trend of eliminating paper in favor of a handheld plastic device with a patented scroll feature and a memory that attempts to rival a Cray?

New! For Father’s Day! The latest generation. Kindle DX releases this Wednesday, 6/17! Just over 1/3 of an inch, it is as thin as
most magazines, holds up to 3,500 books, periodicals, and documents. Display
auto-rotates from portrait to landscape as you turn the device so you can view
full-width Web pages. 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle
, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, no annual contracts. Warning: this product is not a floatation device.

I don’t suppose it emits little scented puffs to remind us of weathered pages caressed with a schmere of atomic tangerine-colored stain from our nocturnal cheese doodle snacking session? We won’t find the remains of a crumbled leaf nestled between the pages. We can’t even turn the page and find a small fingernail impression left by our long-gone Great Uncle Luciano as he crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a packed sardine can, nor see the damaged book spine that’s shaped exactly like the back of Uncle Tony’s head.

I won’t be purchasing one any time soon. It’s too bulky to stuff into a hobo bundle and I’m certain that the bug spray would kill the circuitry.