CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Collecting Words Instead of Coupons or Stamps

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WIMPY1By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

Many Nisei kids pre-war were coin collectors. Postage stamps, too, which we later discovered meant we were philatelists. Youngsters in Poston bottled scorpions or collected rocks and ironwood. Looking back further, you will recall Issei never threw anything away: paper bags, material remnants, gunny sacks, crooked nails, chicken gizzards.

How about today? Do you save spare buttons? Rubber bands, paper clips, shoelaces, ziplock bags for reuse? Loose change? Coupons, of course.

I had a junior high school social studies teacher who held a weekly current events session. Students were called upon to give oral reports on Riverside Daily Press news articles. I was caught short one Friday, only because a smitten 4’11” Jappo had gallantly given his to an unprepared Marian Haas. She was not a very good student but was a very good-looking ninth-grader.

That’s when I learned quick thinking can turn a dunce cap into a crown. I blurted out some nonsense about the price of a dozen large AA eggs, candled, being at an all-time high. You see, one of my home duties was to check the price of eggs listed every day in the evening newspaper. My mom would then sell a dozen eggs a penny cheaper the next day to anyone who drove to our chicken ranch for fresh eggs. That quirky report gained an “A” grade, but more importantly, class (and Haas’) admiration.

For whatever reason, I always read the entire newspaper; world and local news, society, comics, sports. In those (ancient) days, page editors were faced with empty spaces when stories came up short. This necessitated the insertion of fillers, bits of unrelated information to fill up the empty spaces; items like the tallest building in the world, population of Timbuktu, length of the Great Wall of China, how to ride a one-hump camel.

I could rattle off details about “Major Bowes Amateur Hour” winners and how New York Giants right-fielder Mel Ott hit with his foot in the bucket. This versatility not only pleased Miss Brooks, the teacher (and vice principal), but classmates as well, because my off-beat stuff was never a threat to duplicate their well-prepared reports.

That’s when I started saving words, I guess you could say.

Segue to USC Journalism School, circa era of bad football teams and coaches, similar to what it’s like there today.

Famous quotations well known, apt or anonymous, were popular lead-ins and ideal for smooth writing transitions. Whenever I read or heard anything that seemed worthy of reference, I would save and file away [“How much do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”] Well, just like with my vast collection of Big Band 78 records, my compilation of quotes and commentary became as outdated as margarine.

Bookshelves now overflow with famous quotations, ana, maxims and adages to fit all occasions.  If that isn’t bad enough, there is this Google thing that tells you everything about anything, even if misspelled. But a glutton for punishment, CR2S can’t shake the habit of jotting down words that intrigue and resonate.

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“Time, the devourer of all things.”

There’s the root cause of this whole tirade, the observation made by a Roman dude named Ovid, first uttered B.C. Why are those six words written on the pad next to my bed? Why did I take the time to jot them down? When? The pad is only 3½ ”x 3½ ” so there isn’t much space to write on. Besides the devourer comment, I can make out the latest clockings of “O-bah-keh-sama” visitations and two disparate words, “jingoism” and “Btfspik.”

I’m sure jingoism was written to remind me that I should use the word every once in awhile instead of Jappo, since some seem to resent my using that made-up CR2S word.

As far as Btfspik is concerned, it’s the surname of a long-ago Al Capp character, a sad sack named Joe who constantly had a black rain cloud over his head no matter where he went. I’ve always used him as a bad-luck metaphor, but never knew how to correctly spell his last name.

The rest of the notations are messed up by a splotch of toffee candy that was carelessly left on the pad, thus is unreadable; therefore uncommentable.

So there you go, folks, another sticky CR2S for the archives.

I don’t tell jokes, attend many social events, watch much television, go to movies or Las Vegas anymore, so column topics are hard to come by. Kinda like being “a stick in the mud,” as they used to say. [Which begs an explanation. Like “cutting in,” which defines a daring move made when you wanted to dance with someone who was already dancing with someone else!]

Okay, I’ll go quietly. But remember,  CR2S has enlisted to help prolong the life of Rafu Shimpo. Which means forgoing monetary worth, but who cares? To those who enjoy this weekly journey to nowhere, my thanks and gratitude. And to the few who don’t:

Btfspik! [And you’re doomed to go to the next SC football game with Kobe Bryant!]

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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