Monday, February 9, 2015

Cleansing the palate

I stopped by the drugstore to pick up a bottle of Listerine, original recipe.

When I was a little girl, Listerine only came in one flavor, and in a glass bottle wrapped in brown paper. The manufacturer indicating, either as a warning or promise, one layer of glass alone might not contain the toxic fumes.

Today there are dozens of variations on the Draino/Pinesol-flavor theme. Minty? Really?

I'm rather with my parents on this one. I don't believe germs die unless they, and I-- by unwilling association, are having an unpleasant, painful experience.

Growing up, me and my friends were skinned knees and elbows just waiting to happen. Walking scabs, really. And while their parents treated the boo-boos with Bactine and other supposedly painless preparations, in our house we got Mercurochrome, which is basically iodine mixed with glass shards.

We didn't get the Ouch-less band aids either, but these weird kind of industrial type cloth things with superglue on the back end. Only now, in retrospect, I realize these were patches made to re-attach severed digits. Dad must have pilfered the contents of one of his factories to supply our personal First Aid Kit.

Because Dad was not above helping himself to freebies. He took business trips every month. We drank juice from Hilton tumblers, and could always grab a United Airlines pillow for a road trip. A businessman who traveled extensively, I'm sure he considered these as perks, akin to frequent flyer miles.

I had a friend who would take his grandmother out for a monthly dinner, and she'd clear anything not nailed down on the table. Put it in her purse. Salt and pepper shakers, condiment jars. "They expect you to take it, honey," she told us. Well, she was 80, and I've always respected my elders.

I had a brief life in crime. Shoplifting. Nothing big -- make-up, mainly; perfume, sunglasses. My biggest score was a Danish commemorative plate. $35 dollars. I gave it to my parents for their anniversary, and inherited the plate when my father died. It hangs at the entryway to my kitchen, today. And brings back more than a single memory.

Then, as abruptly as my life in crime started, it ended. When I turned 16. Not a conscious choice.

Remember? When all you ever craved at breakfast was Cap'n Crunch? The caramel goodness soaked in milk and snap. And then one day you woke up and realized you'd never crave it again.

Like that. Not a choice, at all.

A mystery. As most of life's enthusiasms. Here today, gone tomorrow.

28 comments:

  1. I shop lifted a doll's size petticoat...my mom wouldn't buy me the petticoat for me that had the matching doll sized one...so...I five fingered it... I think I was about 6. I felt so guilty after that...but still got it out and played with it...but I'd hide when I did. Funny thing...I still have it!!!

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  2. My mother has been known to lift the occasional glass or toothpick holder from a restaurant. It got to be the family joke - my children were teen-agers when they kidded about their grandmother's exploits, which I didn't think they'd paid much attention to. It's fun to have a bit of illicit family folklore to laugh about.

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  3. I know this feeling. I used to collect books, comic books, and Revell models. Then one day -- maybe after making too many moves with the lot -- I didn't see the point. Sold the lot, or gave it away, except for a few items of sentimental value. Don't want to collect anything anymore. If it's a book, I'll read it. If I'm done with it, it goes. It happens with a snap.

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  4. And Mercurochrome was red making it all the more macabre. Thanks, I never knew the spelling. It makes me wince at its etymological implications.

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  5. My life of overt crime (by commission) ended, I hope, when I had been a very good boy for a few years, espousing a code of love and tolerance and service to anyone who would listen. Then one day I met my goodie two shoes (whatever that means) match in the form of a frayed, used copy of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I compulsively stuck it in my armpit under my jacket and headed for the door. It sat unread on my desk for many months mocking my erudite narcissism. I meditated on returning it but thought that would be too risky. Thought about throwing it away but felt I didn't deserve such an easy solution. Eventually it disappeared along with the urge to steal.

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  6. I hadn't thought of the spelling, Patrizzi. Yikes. Was it the same thing as iodine? Wasn't iodine red? Or is my memory off the clock?

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  7. Your Altadena NeighborFebruary 9, 2015 at 7:58 PM

    No, I won't come clean, you can't make me. James Bond, Aston Martin DB5. In the palm of my hand. That's all I'm going to say.

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  8. I was a dedicated knee scabber. You really don't see banged up kids anymore. I guess, you know, court costs and attorney fees being what they are. Not to mention a broken arm could put your mortgage in default.

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  9. Karin, you wrote a good article, as always!
    I remember that when I was a kid I used Mercurochrome too. My grandmother used to heal my scratch knee with a little of salt on a piece of cotton. She believed that it will disinfect...

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  10. Oh goody, love your stories of Mercurochrome, crime, and passion spent.

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    Replies
    1. I think we called it merthiolate.

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    2. Oh man, thank you. I just remembered: We called it Sting.

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  12. I skinned my knees and elbows seemingly a dozen times a week. My mother didn't go for that fancy Mercurochrome or Iodine stuff: it was isopropyl rubbing alcohol in her house. Talk about burn! But at least it wasn't red. And PJ is right about the lack of banged up kids: maybe it's because they're all too busy with their smartphones and video games? I split my head open a number of times, including the time a fat Italian boy pushed me off the slide because I wouldn't let him in front of me. Hey, I was 6 and fair was fair, right? Today I'd have spent days in the hospital with that concussion, and his parents would have been sued right out of the public housing project.

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  13. 4 kids- We were on the Oatmeal, Creme of Wheat, Cheerios, Kix, Fruit Loops, Sugar Pops depending which had the best 'gift' enclosed. Read something the other day about mouthwash. The ones that 'hurt' read Listerine aren't any better then the minty one.
    "I told you Dad!"

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  14. ps. Does that plate 'drive you crazy' with that memory? Would me. I'd have to smash it.

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    Replies
    1. No. Maybe it should, maybe I'm bad, but I love that plate.

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  15. Lots of skinned knees on my block. The only difference is they have fancier band-aids.

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  16. Oh, I chose cereal by the 'gift' inside, just like Birdman. Who the hell ever heard of a sugar high, anyway, and why would it be bad in the morning?

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  17. Today it isn't sugar so much as it's high fructose corn syrup. Eat an English or Australian candy bar. There's no comparison.

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  18. Skinned knees, we wore them proudly. Badges they were, of adventures, battles with trees and hills and each other.

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  19. Badges? I can show you my stinkin' badges! Frequent they were in my free-range youth, and now that I have achieved advanced adulthood, my skin has become fragile and I'm right back where I started from. No Merthiolate though. I suspect it has disappeared from the shelves.

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  20. I recall those stinging disinfectants, too. That glass bottle of Mecurochome with the glass applicator and that pinky-red stain. Then there was rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide. And my brother and I were always getting cut or scraped somehow.
    My only dip into the criminal life was when I impulsively stole 3 small chocolate Easter eggs at the dime store when I was 7 or 8. The store clerk gave me "the eye", but didn't say anything.

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  21. This is one of your best. I want to cut out and keep so many parts of it. Love the story of the grandmother who took half the restaurant home with her. It helps to have a capacious purse. I wish we'd had Bandaids that looked like strips of bacon when I was young. Kids are so lucky nowadays. As for shoplifting, it's gotten much harder now every store uses cameras. In a small newsagent in London recently, I absentmindedly put a chocolate bar in my purse by mistake. I realized pretty quickly and took it out, but the shopkeeper was already running toward me because he'd seen it on his screen. Embarrassing.

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    1. So glad Richard didn't have to post bail.

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    2. Snort! That made me laugh.

      J and I were at Walgreen's the other day looking for those little earbud pads. The electronics area has a siren in it and it was so loud we couldn't get near the products. The clerk said it was there to "alert them that someone needed assistance," but then when no one was around she said the stuff gets stolen a lot and they're trying to prevent shoplifting.

      Walgreen's doesn't carry the earbud pads, by the way.

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  22. I don't remember the day I stopped eating Cocoa Pops. Hopefully you haven't stirred up some memory I buried for a good reason, KB !!

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