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Archive for October, 2009

The other day I was looking for new games to put on my iPod touch, and I ran across a version of the classic sliding tiles puzzle.
number puzzle
Long before electronic games, there were toys like this plastic puzzle. After doing a little internet research, I found that this kind of puzzle was introduced in 1880. In the 1960s, it was available in a small plastic version that could keep small hands busy for as long as one’s attention span could handle it.

I haven’t seen one for decades, since my Grammee Maryon kept a couple in her kitchen drawer. Moving the little tiles engaged me, I loved listening to the gentle clicking of the tiles and trying to figure out how to line them up from 1 to 15.

plastic number tilesThis reminded me of the things we’d always do when we visited Grammee’s house.  My grandparents had built a  brick house in the 1940s on the corner of 9th South and 8th East in Salt Lake. They lived there for the rest of their lives. The house was a dark coffee brown brick bungalow in a mid-century style you see everywhere in central Salt Lake City. Placed on a small city lot, it was surrounded by a manicured lawn, flower beds, a vegetable garden, and Grampa’s workroom/garage.

Grampa often painted homes as a second job, and he kept his house immaculately painted and wallpapered. The inside was painted in the palest pink and blue, almost white with just a hint of color. I remember well the pink kitchen with a little breakfast nook, and its drawers and tip-out bins for flour and sugar. Grammee didn’t allow much play in there, but she let us run in and open the drawer that held her chewing gum, mints, rubber bands, pens and paper, and if we were lucky, a bag of circus peanuts.

circus peanutsThere was always a glass bowl in the drawer with peppermint Chiclets, and as long as we were well-behaved we could usually coax Grammee into letting us have one.

chiclets adAnd there were, of course, the number tile games and a couple of decks of playing cards. These were the insignificant little objects that I associated with this little house. My memories are tied in a Proustian way to simple objects, sounds, and smells.

We visited the grandparents fairly often, especially in the summer, and most years for the Fourth of July we’d drop by for a picnic lunch with cousins. Along with sandwiches and a potato or macaroni salad, Grammee always served cubes of Swiss cheese, black olives, baby sweet pickles, tiny cherry tomatoes and baby carrots from her garden, and punch or lemonade served in jewel-colored aluminum cups that went instantly cold when filled. The cups would break into a sweat in the warmth of the summer days. Funny how that particular feel of cold aluminum remains so immediate in my memory.

cherry tomatoesAnd to this day, when I touch tomato plants in a garden and smell that distinctive tart/bitter scent of their leaves, I’m back at Grammee’s garden, rooting around for ripe cherry tomatoes.

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vita brevis est

melting man - Berlin street art

One thousand figures melt in the sun, in a street art project by artist Nele Azevedo.

(The Unurth Street Art web site is fascinating… look around while you’re there)

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