I'll show you my latest junk/antique/thrift find: it's a 1965 elementary school reader (revised from the 1957 edition) called Billy's Friends by Alta McIntire and Wilhelmina Hill, and it is just lovely. It appears to be for first or second grade children and it's written in that completely bald, almost hypnotic language that's been the hallmark of grade school readers for ages. These books usually have loads of simple statements about nouns, virtually devoid of any detail, atmosphere, or emotion, which makes it very difficult to make these books seem appealing to anyone. Of course, all these books have to be written that way because the kids are just learning how to read, for God's sake, so don't be expecting any finely crafted sentences and fancy stuff. The title of this post, for example, is one of the more complex sentences you can read in this book. Here's the cover, by the way:
Billy's Friends would be no exception in the bland world of school readers if it weren't for the fact that it's so strangely appealing and pleasing to behold. Is it because of all those friendly, full color illustrations on every page? Well, yeah, that has a lot to do with it. The illustrators (Dagmar Wilson and George Okamoto) keep serving up page after page of beautiful pictures full of innocently happy classrooms, birthday parties, town streets, living rooms, and front lawns in a nice flat-color style similar to that of my Little Golden Book brothers and sisters (Mary Blair/Alice & Martin Provenson/ J.P. Miller). Plus, the kickass "My Picture Dictionary" that is a part of each section is really the main appeal for me. This really is hilarious- it's just a page of random things, like this:
"Scraps". Really....that is just so brilliant. Scraps, people, pants, coffee, mailman, fish food, paper bag, dad, flowerpot, neighbors, eggs, it just goes on and on. Isn't that wonderful?! I love it!
Well...actually, I can just feel people reading this and rolling their eyes, muttering "Yeah, that's really fun, Amy". I dunno, I just like naming things. Maybe that's why I enjoy a good field guide so much.
I was reminded of that this morning when I saw a Cardile Brothers delivery truck in the lane next to me on my way to work. I recognized the company name and logo from all those little cartons of fresh mushrooms you see in the grocery store and this started a dumb train of thought that wound up grossing me out. I was listening to an audiobook at the time, but when I saw the truck and the logo, the reader's voice turned into a muffled background murmur and I started thinking about mushrooms.
According to the side of the truck, Cardile Brothers has a plant (or whatever you call a mushroom-growing and shipping operation) here in Atlanta. I found this mildly unsettling, because that means somewhere in my town there's a big, dark, quiet building filled with mushrooms creeping up out of compost by the millions like the brooms in "The Sorcerer's Apprentice"- huge lumpy carpets of them. Then I imagined what it would be like to find yourself inside that place by yourself, perhaps at night when everyone else has gone home. Hmmmm....feels very creepy. And then...what would it be like... if suddenly I tripped (or something pushed me!) and fell and landed in all those mushrooms. aaaaAAAAAAAAAAh!!! Oh, how horrid!! What would that feel like??!! The answer is: disgusting.
I guess I should tell you at this point that I have a love/hate relationship with mushrooms. I like them in that they're pretty fascinating in their oddness and in their stunning variety of forms; also, they make such a nice accent in a woodland setting, especially a Playmobil one. So in a purely scientific and aesthetic way, I like mushrooms. And yet they're a bit on the dark, mysterious, suspicious side. I don't trust them. Spores...gills...gross. And I don't like to eat them, because of their weird spongy texture when raw and their slippery, squishy texture when cooked. They don't taste good to me, either.
At work I nosed around for internet images of what a commercial mushroom crop looks like, and it turns out that my brain basically threw me a pretty accurate image (that photo up there is a photo I found of a crop of your basic white mushrooms. I don't know about you, but it looks yucky to me.
This is a little 1950's booklet I found somewhere a while back that is the alcoholic equivalent of those recipe pamphlets I've mentioned here before (see "Lip-Smacking Gorge-Rising Goodness"). This one's from the makers of Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and, as you can see, it's called "Here's How...and What to Serve". It has plenty of classic drink recipes in it, as well as general hints on throwing parties. Some of these hints are entertainingly outdated, such as the following:
"Bartending is Man's Work. The wise hostess will leave the drink department to the master. If she is single the prudent thing to do is ask some gentleman friend ahead of time to act as bartender."
What? Would it have been considered somehow unseemly for a woman to do the bartending? And are they saying every party has to have a designated Bartender? Hmmmm. Also, they're pretty damned adamant about one thing, and that thing is ashtrays. They feel very strongly about ashtrays:
"If you have the time and energy to do nothing else in pre-party planning BE SURE TO HAVE ENOUGH ASHTRAYS- good, deep, substantial ashtrays. Any 5 and 10 cent store has a fine collection of the heavy glass variety and they can be real life savers. Your rugs, chairs, and table tops will survive many a revelry if you sprinkle ashtrays about your home as you would rice at a wedding. In a word, you can't have too many! And, appoint yourself and a friend to act as official ashtray emptiers."
Damn! We're talking about some heavy fucking smokers if you "sprinkle" those old school bigass hubcap sized ashtrays around the house on every available surface and you still have to worry about emptying them periodically during the party??? Jesus Christ!
But one thing I found kind of interesting was a handy chart they have that tells you how many drinks to plan on serving at different kinds of parties for certain amounts of people:
Now, take a good look at the amount of booze we're talking about sloshing around, here. Take one of the smaller events they're talking about, like the four-person dinner. That's if me and Jeff had another couple over for dinner. Correct me if you think I'm getting it wrong, but....you plan on serving 2 cocktails per person before dinner ("8 cocktails"), then 2 glasses of wine per person with dinner ("8 glasses of wine"), then a round of one liqueur each with dessert ("4 liqueurs"), THEN 2 drinks an hour per person ("8 drinks an hour during evening") until everybody just passes out? And hey, look at the cocktail party for four people- "16 drinks an hour for the first hour, then 12 drinks an hour thereafter"?? That means that the first two hours of a party one person has EIGHT FUCKING DRINKS? And it doesn't even stop there- after you get those eight drinks in you, you ease up a little and have THREE MORE DRINKS AN HOUR... for several more hours? I'm just saying that if you follow that advice, you'll need to also plan on how many beds and sofas to have available for all the kneewalking drunk people who will undoubtedly crash and burn in a big way and have to pass out at your place overnight. Also, be prepared to confront the most ugly, vicious, life-threatening hangovers you ever saw in your life the following morning.
And when you look at the recommendations for having twenty people over, then we're getting into Old School 1920's/1930's Prohibition/Great Depression Free-For-All territory. Of course, I realize that the more people come over, the more alcohol you plan on serving- but still...160 drinks goin' down the first two hours of your party with more hardcore drinking to come? Dude.....