Competition wasn’t a problem for me as a kid. It was the success I had a problem with.
No bother. I embraced a life of green and white third- and fourth-place ribbons on field day as part of my DNA. (I can’t remember which was for third, which for fourth.) I toiled on the second level of Donkey Kong and Pac-Man, even.
I made the Detroit Lions look like the dynasty to end all dynasties.
Imagine if I’d been able to compete in something squarely in my wheelhouse. Alas, there existed no competition that involved eating tacos (that I knew of) or throwing a plastic football on the roof of my grandma’s house and catching it at least 20% of the time.
I did win a writing scholarship for college, though.
It came from Doritos. Yeah. It was an essay about snacks. The more things change, the more they stay the same. That $500 nearly paid for a full semester way back then. Let’s get to the kids’ questions before I tell you where I was the day of the Louisiana Purchase.
1. Were you ever in a spelling bee?
No, but I feel as if I’d have been right up there with the champs.
We didn’t have spelling bees at my school. We considered them old-fashioned. This was before ESPN began covering them. ESPN also exposed me to Australian Rules Football, cheerleading competitions, and Major League Eating. (Check out the logo!)
It doesn’t matter. Joey Chestnut recently broke the taco-eating record with 126 in 8 minutes. It’d take me at least 17 minutes, for sure.
Hell, I should give up the dream of the spelling bee, too. I had to scroll in this list of winning words from winning spellers all the way back to 1993. The word was kamikaze, which, incidentally, I misspelled just now. (Thanks spell check.)
Also, kamikaze describes my tactics in taco-eating.
2. Which Star Wars movie is Han Solo’s first?
In a universe in which the first movie is actually the fourth – who the hell knows?
The Star Wars Wiki page cites a yet-untitled Han Solo film in the works. It’ll pick up the life of the smug smuggler turned rebel hero in his 20s, and how he came to become sidekicks with 7-foot-6 Chewbacca. (I wish he’d report to Wookie camp for the Denver Nuggets.)
Filming began in January 2017, and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of The Force Awakens, wrote it. Alden Ehrenreich, who got to be in a movie with Cate Blanchett once, will play Han Solo. Lando Calrissian will also be in this one. I’m ready.
3. Why do you have to be a certain height to go on carnival rides?
Don’t’ feel bad, kid. There are restrictions for being a stormtrooper, too.
Also, some rides are age restricted. The thought being that some ages aren’t capable of managing the emotional stress of a ride. I’ll tell you, there are people my age who would struggle with It’s a Small World After All, but that’s neither here nor there.
If you’re under the limit, maybe your noggin won’t reach a head cushion. If you’re under tall, maybe the restraint bar won’t cross your chest, but your face. If you are below the line, you might get tossed out of the moving machine.
These carnival rides look like they’re assembled in a speed race, anyway. What’s the rush? It’s bad enough a kid ages out of the kids’ price at pizza buffets. My girls are all tall enough for all rides, and old enough to get charged like grown-ups. At buffets, that is.
4. What is an apricot?
I hate to generalize, but apricots seem like fruit with aspirations of becoming peaches.
Both come from the genus Prunus Subgenus, along with the plum. They also share common names with crayons you’d find only in the 64-count box (you know, the one with the crayon sharpener out back.) [It’s true.]
Besides being stuffed with antioxidants and just beginning their prime season this month, the apricot also has a few skeletons – er, pits – in its closet.
There exists an Apricot Hex, among Marines. It began in the Vietnam War when a battalion on patrol north of Cua Viet came under fire – just as a marine ate his C-ration of apricots. In Turkey, an American Amphibious Assault Vehicle blew an engine years later.
The machine showed no outward sign of problems – until they found an apricot seed at the bottom of the disassembled motor.
Other tales trace the apricot effect to World War II, where Japanese airmen shot down a platoon of AAVs, killing everyone aboard. They were hauling apricots on those vessels. Word is, apricots are no longer included in military MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat.)
They’re really the pits.
5. Can you solve a Rubik’s cube?
I came from the era that saw the first incarnation of the cubical shifting puzzle, and I didn’t resort to the sort of trickery my contemporaries did – peeling the colored stickers off to reassemble it with six sold-colored sides. (Besides, the stickers didn’t always stick back.)
I was dignified. I took the damned thing apart with a screwdriver.
See, back then, we had cheats for Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, but they were far too complex for me to memorize. If a Rubik’s cube cheat existed, it wasn’t in my universe. Instead, I took small victories each time I could solve one side at a time.
This cat at work, though. He’s Otis Skipper, and besides having a rad name, he can solve a Rubik’s cube – upside down. Submerged in water. Check it: