Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Cereal Box Series

It happens just about everytime I come back from vacation: I have newspaper overstimulation. It comes as a result of reading volumes and volumes of newspapers, delighting in the endless supply of hours a vacation brings. I easily read over 200 newspapers these last several weeks and loved every second of it and every single article.

We were all newspaper junkies back on 10th and Penn, where I grew up. There was a distinct hierachy that was strictly observed: first my father read the paper, then my mother, then each child in turn, according to the age. Since I was next to the youngest, I always had to eat breakfast and wait for my turn. So I turned to reading the cereal boxes with great diligence and discipline and came to appreciate them as treasure houses of random information as I waited for my two older brothers, surely the slowest readers in the history of civilization, to hand over the Spokesman-Review.

As a grade school child, besides being quite conversant on the nutritional attributes of oats, I became aware of a certain geographical entity by the name of "Puerto Rico" as a result of studiously examining the entry forms that are inherent to every cereal box. I was sufficiently curious about this Puerto Rico, knowing full well that it was not among the 50 US states, that I looked it up one time when I got to school. So then I knew exactly where it was but was still puzzled as to why most offers were void in Puerto Rico. Didn't matter though. It was all part of my morning routine and my morning kick start to the thinking day. I learned, by myself, in the early mornings at 10th and Penn that you don't have to have all the answers to everything. You just have to think about what any of it, or some it, might mean on a regular basis. So it was quite a surprise, along about the 5th grade or so, to have Puerto Rico come up as a tie breaker in a Social Studies compeition. What's tricky enough about Puerto Rico soas to separate the men from the boys? Curiously, I was the only one to correctly respond to the Puerto Rico challenge which made me the undisputed Social Studies champion of the 5th grade at Central School. The things that you don't really know but find out when you read the cereal boxes.

The next time Puerto Rico came up was in the 7th grade spelling bee at the South Junior High. It was down to the wire and all 3 of us had failed the same word, twice. Then came the tie breaker: guess. yup. Puerto Rico. What is tricky about that? I couldn't spell 'cafeteria' but I could spell 'Puerto Rico': has every vowel except A. I won the 7th grade spelling bee based on my initmate relationship with the Hispanic arrangement of vowels of a certain port, lying in the Carribean Sea. Life is so wonderful and so random sometimes! Cereal boxes. There's a lot there than can escape your eye and your ear, except when you're frantically searching deep in the data base for that one key thing that critically matters.

The other thing that comes up this morning is the thought that substantive conversations come in detailing ideas, things and people, in that order. I don't believe I buy that fully. I learn so much from the people I meet along the way. Mostly not at the time, either. It takes me awhile to fully appreciate and extrapolate the lessons of a particular person and their journey. So in 2007, I will introduce my new blog feature, The Cereal Box Series, lessons that came from people along the way. And after fully considering it, I don't believe I will offer apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer, either. Can't say why fully but I know it will come to me along the way.

The 'Kan EWA


toadman said...

Well, you've never really met me, so I ain't teachin' you nuthin.. ya hear?

What did you bring me from the mother country anyway, eh? What? NOTHING!?! Grrrr...

I'm cuttin you out of the will.


Welcome back.

jb3ll3 said...

I brought you something. I never forget. and I will do a piece on you soon enough. It will be subtitled

On Being Happy

There. see? I'm paying attention.

Shelleigh said...

I can't wait for this!

treespotter said...

i used to clip them things.

do i get my present?

treespotter said...

cereal boxes i mean.
i was born a geek.

the psycho therapist said...

I do hereby promise to come back and read all of your tales, in full, by the end of this coming weekend.

Looks yummers from I've glaneced over so far.


/waving, blowing Tree a kiss and promising to do the same at his house



toadman said...

Jbelle, you weren't supposed to get me anything! Sheesh.. now I have to put you back in the will (if there's anything left, which is doubtful). Oh, and I forbid you to write anything about me. I'll step up the paparazzi patrols of you do. I'm not happy enough for the title you've suggested anyway.

You have been warned.

BTW - you know anyone who would sell me a used minivan?

green libertarian said...

I too grew up in a newspaper reading family. When I was a kid in Minnesota, we got the local paper (daily, of a town of 14,000), the Duluth News Tribune (60,000), and on Sundays, we also got the one of the Minneapolis papers. I started reading them all when I was about in 5th grade.

Then we moved to Cali, and we got the local, uuber conservative Orange County Register (a Freedom! Newspaper), the moderate to liberal LA Times, and we'd get the old hometown paper, in the mail, 5-6 days later. Read 'em all. I actually got to the point where I could recognize the article writers without even looking at the by-lines. We also got Time and Newsweek, National Geo, and Readers's Digest, of course. I think Mom got Ladies's Home Journal.

Toadman, I gave you that computer book, I EXPECT I'm still in the will, dammit, and no, I don't want that book willed to me.

the psycho therapist said...

How utterly intuively creative. Love it!

But then, that's so you, you know?

I always pulled the Book Review section out of the Washington Post before anyone even knew the paper was there because I was the oldest child and no one fucked with me and I was so mighty they--

naw, no one got up as early as me, that's all, hee hee.

Interesting observational piece. Brought back many memories, most of them warm and wonderful. Except that time in 2nd grade when it was between me and one other kid in the speeling bee and I could *not* remember the "s" and "y" placement in the word which is my avocation: psychology.

There is wisdom and meaning everywhere, every damned where!!!!


the psycho therapist said...

Now if only I took the time to spell-check what I put up in other's comments sections.