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Twelve months of Now and Then  (as if anyone cares)

It’s a tradition for the news media to review the past 12 months after the new year arrives. 


I’m submitting my own year-end review, based on Now and Then columns from January to December 2023.


•In January I asked, “Where’s a rocket scientist when you really need one?” It was about a great-grandparent’s efforts to install a child seat in his car.


“In order to secure the seat facing forward, you have to take the shoulder harness and reach it through a channel at the back of the seat and, while performing Houdini-like contortions, attempt to grab the metal end with the other hand and lock it into the seat belt thingy where it fastens.”


I concluded that “there should be a disclaimer on child seats advising that the installer should have flexible joints and a calm demeanor.”


February featured a column titled “I’ve got my eggs in high-yield CDs.” It was an imaginary lecture I gave my great-grandkids during the time when the price of eggs had tripled. 


I told them, “There was a time, not too long ago, when people used to eat chicken eggs. What? No, we only ate the insides and threw away the shells.”


•In March I was “tapping out an identity.” This column described my infatuation as a school boy with heel taps.


“Now when I walked down the hall at school, I could bask in the metallic clink of my heels hitting the hard floor. I could almost feel the jealous eyes and ears of those poor souls who were heel-tapless.”


April had a column about licorice. It was like eating rubber and tasted like blackstrap molasses. But it helped us boys imitate our baseball heroes.


“We could bite off a big piece, chew it until it was the consistency of paste, then push it up against the jaw. After a time, we would feel the need to spit. What came streaming out was the brownish-black color of chewing tobacco.


“It was then that we really felt akin to Mickey Mantle or Duke Snider. We could chew and spit with the best of them.”


•In May, I was “aiming to be the best.” That was about the time that my roofing boss, Sam Allen, taught me how to spit. “‘Let me show you how it’s done,” he said in his best professorial tone. “Just gather your spit at the back of your mouth, then bring it to the front with your tongue and blow.’” Somehow, I’m picturing Lauren Bacall.


June brought on “Memorial memories” of the days when my brothers and I rode the bus to Memorial Pool in Asheboro. 


“In those days there was electricity in the air at Memorial. The place was crowded with little kids fighting to stay afloat in the shallow end, bigger kids having water fights and diving off the big board, and teens lurking in the shadows checking out each other.


“The jukebox blared out the latest rock n' roll hits, entertaining several city blocks with the booming bass, yackety sax and wailing voices of instant celebs not much older than we were.”


•In July, “Geese in flight and dogs that bite” was about the biting dog and nothing about geese.


“Cookie’s bite is worse than her bark. She’s not big but her teeth are sharp. In fact, the wound on my leg, only 3 or 4 inches above my ankle, has festered into a deep red around the black center. I now call my neighbor’s dog Cookie Monster.”


August’s “Like a death in the family” was my eulogy to Klaussner Furniture closing after 60 years. It ended with the words of former company president JB Davis: “This absolutely, positively breaks my heart.”


•In September, I provided “A pop quiz for the elderly.” It included a lexicon of terms for seniors. For instance, “Geriatrics: a subspecialty of medicine that focuses on health care of the elderly. I used to think it referred to the acting ability of a boy in our neighborhood.”


October’s column was about the time six of us, all 60 and older, went to the beach. The gist of it was, “We planned our days, not on our time at the beach, visiting nature trails or looking for amusement parks. No, our days were based around eating at Cracker Barrel.”


•In November, I asked, “Does anybody really know what time it is?” It was about Daylight Savings Time, natch.


In this piece I include the ill health effects of DST, “and that’s not to mention the thousands of clocks broken when they’re thrown at the wall when the owners can’t figure out how to change the time.”


•In December, I resolved to not smoke during the coming year, which is a cinch since I’m not a smoker. “I’m buying into the school of thought that we should make resolutions we feel we have a better than 50 percent chance of fulfilling. Then we can feel good about ourselves.”


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.