don't really tend to compose those lists of 100 or whatever things about myself, but if I did, one of the items on it would be my childhood fascination with Evel Knievel. I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. But for those of you who were unfortunate enough to miss some or all of the 1970s, EK is arguably the first in a long string of late twentieth-century extreme sports figures.
My memory is mostly a blur of U.S. flags fashioned into clothes (like the cape featured at right), but the blur is at least partly attributable to the fact that EK tended to be in motion. Like flying through the air, stuffed in a rocket or barely hanging on to his motorcycle handlebars kind of motion.
I'm pretty sure that I owned some sort of Evel Knievel action figure or else had a friend who did, because I have tactile memories of making him sail across legos and such, only to crash and lose his helmet, limbs akimbo.
Evel's last years weren't so hot. For one thing, there's the lawsuit he humorlessly filed against Kanye West for this:
In any event, Evel died yesterday, and so it seems more than appropriate to resurrect my "old school" tag in his honor.
is a hip term in marketing and business these days. It refers to how and how quickly a new idea
or product is accepted by the market. Or
maybe the term was hip but is no
longer. That I don’t know is my
point. Because when it comes to most new
ideas and products, I fall into (at best) the category of the early majority or
(at worst) the late majority—those deliberate, skeptical, traditional sorts of
consumers who lag well behind the “innovators” and “early adopters”
much-beloved and sought after by marketers and cool-hunters. These innovators and early adopters are the
trendsetters, the venturesome people who listened to R.E.M. while they were
still on IRS; the people who were willing to use cell phones when they were
still the size of a loaf of bread; the first twenty-something hipster who covered
his greasy, disheveled hair with a greasy, disheveled trucker’s hat. But unless and until an idea or product makes
its way into the New York Times Arts and Leisure or Style sections, I haven’t
heard of it; and, of course, once that idea or product has made its way to the New York Times, it is, by definition, no
longer new. And if I were then to adopt those ideas or products I breathlessly
read about, I would look like that hopelessly unhip boy in middle school who
showed up one day wearing a calculator wristwatch long after they ceased to be
cool. “Oh yeah,” someone would taunt
him, “my mom has one like that.”
And so it
goes with this new trend I have heard a lot about recently called a “web log”—or
“blog,” for short. Intrigued, I did a Google search—if you haven’t heard of
Google, it is a “search engine” available on the “Internet”—only to discover
that, like sports coats with blue jeans, I’m about fifteen years behind the
times. But it turns out that my spouse
has a “web log” called blogos and has had one (not surprisingly, early adopter
that she is) for some time. So if I have
something to “blog”—which is the verb as well as the noun form—then I can use
hers, especially if, desperate for a comment on Labor Day, she invites me to
are my thoughts on Labor Day. Since I am both resolutely irreligious and a
card-carrying member of The Hate America Left (est. 2001), Labor Day is the
only real holiday (except for Martin Luther King Day) that I can celebrate of my
own accord and not just because some part of my family or country considers it
a “tradition” and so I go along with it just in order to not cause
trouble. (I’m thinking of you two, in particular, Christmas and Thanksgiving.) I happily celebrate Labor Day, though, because in addition to being a labor scholar, I grew up in a union part of the country (Northeastern Ohio), in a union family, full of union dogs and cats, union furniture, union everything. So a Labor Day seems right and just, and I give myself over to the holiday, blasting Woody Guthrie songs and searing hamburgers with a United Steel Workers logo.
problem, however, is that unlike people from every other nation in the world, Americans
have to choose between two possible Labor Days. Is Labor Day the first Monday of September? Or is it the 1st of May? The official holiday falls, of course, tomorrow, and dates back to a
Knights of Labor parade in New York
in the early 1880s. But the rest of the
world celebrates May 1st (May Day) in order to commemorate the movement for the eight-hour
work day in Chicago in 1886 and the just or unjust—it depends on whom you ask,
though the consensus seems to be unjust—execution of the Chicago anarchists and
labor activists who were blamed for a bomb that went off at a rally in
Haymarket Square and killed eight policemen.
looms large in this part of the country (for me and others, at least) because
of our proximity to Chicago, but also because you cannot walk around the
University of Illinois quadrangle without passing Altgeld Hall, named after
John Peter Altgeld, the governor of Illinois from 1893 to 1897 who fairly
ruined his political career by pardoning the remaining three Haymarket
martyrs. But there are other reasons to prefer May Day to Labor Day, not least of which is that compared to May Day, Labor
Day seems rather quaint. On Labor Day,
workers paraded. Whereas on May Day, workers marched! They demanded!! They fought!!! They rallied!!!! Moreover, May Day is an international holiday, celebrated everywhere,
unlike Labor Day, which is only celebrated in the U.S., a fact which just seems to confirm the view of Americans as in a
perpetual state of provincial ignorance regarding the rest of the world. And unlike most of our other contributions to
the world over the last half-decade—leave alone the last century—May Day is one of the
few exports we do not have to hope the rest of the world quickly forgets about. Finally, we might prefer May Day because the
right people hated it: one of the reasons we have Labor Day (that is, the first Monday of September) as our “Labor” Day
is because politicos at the time—notably then-president Grover Cleveland—feared enshrining a day about which there remained so much controversy.
said, though, Labor Day is what we have, and most likely what we will have, so
I make the best of it. So let me leave
you with a poem, since that is what I do. The poem is called “Freedom,” by Martha Stevenson, a garment worker in Manhattan in the 1930s. Stevenson published the poem in the March 1,
1935 edition of Justice, the
newspaper of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. As far as I have been able to tell, it is the
only poem she ever published. But it is
an apt poem for today’s holiday.
for me in the shop today, So out
into the street I run, Out from
darkness into the sun, Like a
child at school released for a day, Free as
the winds that blow over the sea, Gay as a
peasant’s dancing tune, My whole
being astir With my
unexpected liberty. A day for
myself to come and go And do as
I will; bask in sunlight, Walk the
wooded trails, think the thoughts Welling
up in me, be alive As I can
never be when chained To my
machine inside four ugly walls.
feel my pocket And count
the little money that is there, And a
fear grips me— A fear
that lingers and grows. What of
the morrow? Will I be
free again? Oh call
it not freedom To be out
upon the streets Without
bread. And I
hope and I pray for work On the
coming day. I pray, oh sin, To be a
slave once more.
And as I
gnaws at my heart, Consuming
my joy. This
shadow is over my head Like a
fog When it
holds down the dense black smoke And
darkens and chokes all that breathes, It makes
the sun to shine less brightly. And soon
I wonder— Is this a
holiday at all, Or would
I not rather be chained To my
machine. And then
my spirit rallies To pour
down a thousand curses Upon the
poverty that crushes The joy I
felt at being free, That
robbed me of my holiday And cast
a black storm cloud Over the
Blogos is pleased to introduce a new series entitled "old school." The series will feature nostalgic entries about products, practices, people, and performances--but mostly products--that some may not think can 'hang' with this high-falutin, high-tech, high-tube days. But some would be wrong.
The series will in no way be regular; entries only appear when I rediscover something that has, in my estimation, been overlooked.
Admittedly, my earlier entry on rabbit ears
probably should have sparked the series, but blogos is a little slow on the uptake. And so the inaugural entry will be on--roll of drum,
wait for it, more roll of drum, oh shit you already looked at the picture--Krazy Glue.
Yesterday the glasses I bought five years ago in Paris snapped in two right between the lenses on the nose bridge thingie. Now, one might think that 5 years is a long time; I am probably due a new pair of glasses. But I do love these glasses, and they still seem to be relatively fashionable (Paris probably gave me at least 3 years' worth of fashion lead time, yes?), and the prescription still works. So after fumbling with scotch tape, a binder clip, cursing our lame office supplies, and calling John T, who told us that his krazy glue had glued itself shut, we braved the heat and headed to Walgreen's.
Admittedly, we didn't go entirely old school, since we bought the new clear Krazy Glue gel, but everything else is still the same. We followed the instructions--"protect work area," "join the parts and press for 30 seconds; allow to set for a few minutes"--and voila, my french glasses are whole. Krazy.
According to krazyglue.com, Krazy glue was invented in 1973. Most of you probably remember the construction worker dangling from a steel beam to which his hardhat was krazyglued. I spent much of my youth wondering why he didn't just leave the hat and fall to the nearest scaffold: was the hat also glued to his head? Also Krazy.
Recently my sister told me that friends of theirs on a camping trip used Krazy Glue on their kid who had sliced open some part of his body when he fell on slippery rocks. Which is to say: they glued together the broken skin so they wouldn't have to return to civilization to have him properly sewn. Extrordinarily Krazy. In fact, please don't do that. And if you do accidentally glue body parts together, krazyglue.com has a special button that yields this advice: finger nail polish remover.