St. Paddy and the Kid Zone.

It made me think about Kid Fun, back when I was a kid. The poster on the shop window is advertising the ShamRock-the-Rose-District party, scheduled for tomorrow, and – in addition to craft beers and live music – it mentions a Kid Zone.

That probably means a Bouncy-House and some face painting. I’ve not been to a Kid Zone in a while, admittedly, so there could well be video gaming and selfie-snapping as well.

When I was a kid, and owing to my sweet tooth, I was fascinated by the Cake Walk. A chance to win an entire, fresh-baked cake for the price of a ticket. A carnival ticket cheap enough that a cake-loving kid could afford to give it a shot.

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It was easy to recognize the event as a carnival favorite: It didn’t run continuously, so when folks began to sense it was nearing cake-walk-time, they would sidle up to the edge of the gaming circle. Then, when the call went out, all those lingerers would quickly step into an open space on the double-lined ring taped off on the ground. There were only so many numbered spots available and once the circle filled – well, the rest of the hopefuls were out of luck.

The Cake Walk was like a horizontal Wheel of Fortune without the tough questions to answer. The music started and the march began. When the person in front of you moved out of their numbered square, you took that small step forward. We’d march around for the length of that 45-rpm song playing on that little box of a record player.

When the music ended, the finger-crossing began, in hopes that the number to be drawn from the hat would match the digits under your feet. There was always a tension-delay – a pause before the winning number was enthusiastically called out. Time enough to shift your feet a couple of times to look down and verify that – for certain – the number you were standing on was still the same number.

Number Five! And there would be a squeal of delight from that spot on the circle, while everyone else kept their groans to a polite minimum before disappointedly slinking away to another rambunctious activity.

Like the fishing thing. It’s been too long, but I’m sure it had some catchy name. There were fishing poles handed out from the volunteers to the participants, sturdy poles with long heavy twine dangling from the business end. Instead of an actual hook – a clothes pin.

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I’ve admitted to most of you that I was probably the most naïve kid west of the Mississippi, but I even embarrassed myself for that brief instant before I realized there were people standing behind the hanging bed sheets who were clipping prizes to the dangling clothespins.

(I don’t know what I thought: I mean, the fishing pole implied ‘fishing’ and some degree of skill, experience, knowledge… No. You slung the line over the sheet and someone clipped on a prize. Woo.)

So, it was ‘grab bag’ on a stick. My prize?

A 45. Yellow and red label, Capitol Records. The Beatles. I Saw Her Standing There.
It was the beginning of my fan-hood, the predicator to my visits to that storm-cellar of a record department at Hunt’s Department Store, a retail area about twice the size of my bedroom closet.

Being naïve, I later bought with empty-pop-bottle-earned cash, a record – also by the Beatles – on a straight black label. The song was called “My Bonnie,” as in, My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea.

I thought the record was doing most of the lying, since even I could recognize the singing as rock-and-roll short-shrift. I examined the label more closely. Sure enough, The Beatles. And in little, tiny print just below that: “with Tony Sheridan.” In fact, this was a Tony Sheridan record with the early-day Beatles as his studio backing band. The label should have read TONY SHERIDAN (with musicians who became the Beatles).

Beatles or not, it maintained a place in my stack of records for years and years – if only to remind a take-it-at-face-value guy that sometimes it pays to read the fine print.

Going to the Dogs. And other such sayings…

Knock on wood. Why? How come we need to do that?

I was updating our online menu page (bumped up the priorities list to the point it finally got completed!) and saw a previous blog headline, in which I implored myself to “knock on wood.” It seemed appropriate at the time.

While moving some books around this afternoon, I came across a little volume entitled “Heavens to Betsy!” (which is a whole ‘nother story…) and I looked in the index. Sure enough, “knock on wood’ is listed among the “400 Colorful Words – and Their Origins” in the book.

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Apparently, I’m not the only one curious about the origin of the superstition, but – according to the author – the exact beginning of the phrase has been lost to time. He quotes a similar book from 1946 in which the writer attributes it to an old game called “Touching Wood” or “Wood Tag.”

I’m old enough that I remember playing outside games. And I seem to recall one in which we raced around wildly trying to get from point-A to point-B while whoever was “It” chased us. If you touched a tree or a porch railing – something made of wood – you were safe, and could dart away again when “It” went after someone else.

Remember, we didn’t have video games back then. We chased each other around. Get over it.

At any rate, the 1946 author seemed to think that whole thing dated clear back to the old, Old Days, when people believed that there were tree spirits that could keep people safe. (What? Tree Spirits aren’t Real?) He also suggests that it could have something to do with the original wooden Cross and taking an oath on a crucifix.

This is how work in the book shop tends to be put off – reading one tiny paragraph in a book leads to another, and the next thing you know, a half hour is gone.

I was trying to put the little “Heavens to Betsy” book down and spotted a phrase that made me immediately think of my dear grandmother, who exclaimed with exasperation, “For Crying in a Bucket!” when she was put out by something.

The book says Granny was doing a turn on “For Crying out Loud!” which is called a ‘minced oath,’ which many of us are guilty of professing on occasion – like saying “Shoot!” instead of that four-letter expletive that is the originating profanity. These days many things that never would have been said aloud are spoken with reckless abandon, including “For Christ’s Sake!” – which waaaay back when was lumped in with those other words and phrases never said publicly or in mixed company, for cryin’ out loud.

This I recognize from Charles Dickens novels in which even such phrases as “By G–!” are dashed instead of put forward uncensored, to avoid offending the dear reader, who might become so astonished as to grumble:

For Crying in a Bucket!

Cross your fingers, Knock on wood.

It’s got to be a sign of the impending Apocalypse! WHAT?

As an admitted Shadetree Mechanic, I have tackled projects from refrigerator thermostats to British sports car rod-bearing replacement. Some projects turn out better than others but almost all provide examples of my own version of Murphy’s Law.

For instance:

If it is connected with plastic, it will break.
A dropped small object will bounce to a point just out of reach.
It is always the ‘other’ type of screwdriver required.
The importance of leftover parts will only be discovered when reassembly is complete.
Custom fittings will not fit.

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I have enough of these to be called a manifesto, but you get the idea. That’s why I am currently astonished.

I bought a new car radio to replace the one my business partner had installed for me 17 years ago.

You need a CD player, he said. Cassettes are out. CDs are the thing of the future.

It’s a nice Sony, professionally installed, and I haven’t played a CD in over a decade. So my project for tomorrow is to install a replacement to stream music from my phone. (Am I on the cutting edge, or what?)

I Googled YouTube for hints on how to get that old one out. This is now my favorite all-time ‘how-to’ video:

(It gets better and better as it goes along. Spoiler: he says ‘thin.’ I thought his advice stated the tools must be made of ‘tin,’ and that he was failing to follow his own instructions.)

After watching him struggle with it (assuming there were numerous outtakes that didn’t make the internet), I was prepared to head off to Best Buy to find the correct radio removal tool. But I had a few extra minutes, and…

The face plate popped right off, of course, but the thin plastic border piece that I knew was going to break… didn’t. Instead of jamming steak knives into my car dash, I wiggled a couple of exposed prongs… and the radio slid right out. The big plastic dash board facing – installed 17 years ago – for the smaller sized Sony radio… of course it was going to crack and break under my prying screwdriver.

It didn’t.

The wires were long enough that I could pull the entire radio free and reach the harness. Which unplugged with the least effort imaginable. The antenna wire already had the correct end piece for the new radio. My aftermarket harness adapter (purchased separately) actually fit and the wire colors matched correctly.

I’m admitting to you right here – that at each stage – I said aloud: UNBELIEVABLE! Or INCREDIBLE! Or some similar form of spoken astonishment.

The radio and all parts of the fascia were out and sitting on the passenger seat in less than four minutes. I usually spend that length of time looking for my needle-nose or trying to prop up the flashlight so I can see the plastic I’m about to break.

So rare when paid-forward Karma comes back all at once. So rare, in fact, that I’m worried about how tomorrow’s installation will go.

Extremely worried.

But at least I’ve got YouTube to turn to…