Thursday, October 10, 2013

A fine fall festival of squirbs

You remember squirbs, don't you? For the uniformed and disinterested alike, a squirb is a cross between a squib and a blurb. Or at least, that's what my chief advisor, editor and spousal unit says. Who am I to argue?
Despite a couple of not-unwelcome rainy days and a brief spate of coolish daytimes, it has, for the most part, been the nicest kind of fall weather. In fact, the conditions around here while we've been in attendance the last couple of go-arounds (May/June and September/October) have been so picture-perfect that she now refers to Galva as the San Diego of the midwest.  Minus the Pacific Ocean, I guess.
Those who have any knowledge regarding my track record with contests, lotteries, games and other competitions know that I hardly ever win anything, especially when there's a modicum of luck involved. So I was somewhat startled when a bulky little package with the name of a well-known book publisher landed in my mailbox a few weeks ago.
"Hmmm," I thought hopefully, "Maybe my literary agent hit paydirt and forgot to tell me."
Now, I know as well as anyone that the only thing my agent ever forgot is my phone number, but I still opened the package with a touch of excitement, wondering if the contents might include a book contract, along with a box of chocolate chip cookies to seal the deal.
Dream on, pencil-boy.
But what I received was almost as nice as a hefty offer and a bid on the movie rights to my next opus.
It was a book.
I had forgotten that I had applied to receive an advance reading copy of the latest work by Bill Bryson, a fave author who has written cool, funny non-fiction classics like "A Short History of Nearly Everything," "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" and  "A Walk in the Woods," which tells the story of his attempts to conquer the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail, despite being almost as out-of-shape as the rest of us. I received his latest, called "One Summer: America 1927,"  which tells the story of an altogether amazing year in American history. I mean, who knew that Charles Lindbergh would become the first person to solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a plane in the same summer that Babe Ruth slugged sixty homers. Those are but two of the interesting things that happened in a summer that also included fascinating contributions by such famous, not-so-famous and infamous folks as Herbert Hoover, "Shipwreck" Kelly and Al Capone.
Not only is it a good read for those of us who consume books like Oreo cookies, but I even think it's one of those rare books that would appeal to those who generally don't read much at all. Give it a spin.
I got something that was almost kind of depressing in the mail the other day.
It was a phonebook.
Folks who read my column and actually remember a little bit of what I have to say once in awhile might remember that we cut the cord, so to speak, and discontinued our cable TV, internet and landline phone service awhile back. So far, it's worked out fine, as a set of digital rabbit ears, a portable internet hotspot and our cell phones have pretty much filled whatever void that might have occurred when we shed this trio of pricy conveniences.
I had no idea how far ahead the phone book folks work, so I was curious to see if my name was still listed. After all, there have been Sloans in Galva ever since my great-grandparents moved here in 1879, so I'm assuming the Galva book has always included a Sloan, tucked right in front of the massive entry for the Smith clan.
But not any more.
I confess, it was almost kind of Orwellian, as I suddenly felt I had become an "unperson" like the poor souls who were erased from history by their totalitarian leaders  in the classic George Orwell novel, "1984."
But then, a sweet sense of freedom flowed over me with the realization that while my friends and neighbors could no longer find me in the phone book, an entire legion of pests, pollsters and screen door salesmen would find me to be MIA as well.
One more thing.
The aforementioned switch to digital rabbit ears has revealed a brave new world of free TV just floating around and waiting for me to pluck it out of the stratosphere.   The result is a kind of an underground network made up of mostly cheap guys like me, with an entire roster of channels unavailable to you cable-and-dish folks.  Those of you who wonder whatever became of those old black & White classics like Lassie, Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, and Gunsmoke need worry no more. Heck, they've even got one of those cops-and-lawyers shows we all love.
It's called Perry Mason.
P.S. Della Street still looks great.

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