Friday, September 18, 2015

The Story of My Comb

My guess is that not a lot of people have stories to tell about their combs.  I have a story about mine, though, and it will tell you a lot about me and how I cling to the past and avoid change.  Here it is.


THE STORY OF MY COMB

In August 1966 Judy and I moved from Denton, Texas, where I'd finished work on my MA at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas), to Austin, where I was going to pursue my Ph.D. in English at The University of Texas at Austin.

Digression #1:  Did you know that the word "The" is part of the official title of The University of Texas at Austin?  Well, it is.

Digression #2: I've always liked the phrase "pursuing a Ph.D." because it gives the impression that the degree is elusive and has to be chased down and caught.  Some people catch it, and some don't.  I knew a few who didn't.

Digression #3:  Judy and I packed all our possessions into two cars, ours and her parents', which we'd borrowed for the occasion.  We moved from our apartment at 308 Normal Street in Denton to our new one at 104 East 32nd Street in Austin.  I liked both those addresses.  Here's why.  For six or seven years of my childhood, I lived in Mexia, Texas, at 308 East Hunt Street, after which we moved to 401 South McKinney.  The street numbers should explain everything.

Digression #4: I like digressions when I'm the one doing the digressions.  I try to avoid them in my books, but this kind of thing is different.

Back to the story of my comb.  I was a teaching assistant, and when the fall semester started, I was assigned to a bullpen office in Parlin Hall, the English building, with eight or ten other people who were pursuing their degrees.  It was an interesting environment, and I enjoyed it.  I still remember coming in the morning after LJB announced that he wouldn't seek another term.  One guy climbed up on his desk and addressed the others of us who were there.  He yelled, "We can't forgive him just because he's not running again.  He was a son of a bitch yesterday, and he's a son of a bitch now."  Anyway, after I'd spent two years in that office, a new wing of the building opened, and many of the full-time faculty members moved into offices in the new wing.  Those of us in the bullpen were than moved into the offices vacated by the full-time faculty.

Thus I found myself in an office formerly occupied by Dr. Joe Kruppa.  He'd been a member of the department for three or four years by that time.  He was young, had long hair, and was a flamboyant dresser. And he was already one of the most popular instructors in the Department of English.  He'd left his office entirely bare, except for one shelf in the tiny coat closet.  On that shelf was a comb.

Some people might have taken the comb to Dr. Kruppa's office and given it to him, but I don't do things like that.  I thought it would be kind of dumb, to tell the truth.  So I took it home.  Judy wasn't one to adopt someone else's comb, but I was.  It was much nicer than the one I'd been using.  Judy soaked it in hydrogen peroxide before she let me use it, though.

We moved into two other apartments in Austin during our stay there (711 W. 32nd and 1304 Mariposa, in case you were wondering), and we've lived in two houses since then.  A bit of time has passed.  Forty-seven years, in fact.  And I'm still using the same comb.  I have less hair to comb, but I still comb it.  The comb lost a tooth a year or two ago, but that didn't affect its performance.  It's been a good and faithful servant.  I've never considered getting another one.

And that's the story of my comb.  The end.

20 comments:

Deb said...

Great story--and it brings up an interesting discussion question: what is the oldest item that you use regularly? We have a sofa and recliner that we got in 1987; they're about to be replaced.i also have some mixing bowls and utensils from the late 1970s/early 1980s. Nothing like your comb and backstory though. And is Dr. Joe still alive and does he know the story of his comb?

Robert Lopresti said...

I don't know why i enjoyed that as much as i did.

Bill Crider said...

Deb, he was the dean of the College of Humanities when my daughter enrolled 20 years later, and he's now a professor emeritus in the Department of English. He doesn't know about the comb.

Bill Crider said...

Oh, and by the way, I'm still using plates and other things that Judy and I got when we married in 1965.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

Great story.

Jackie's response : "No wonder we had such a problem getting him to buy a new pair of shoes."

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

Exactly!

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

We're still using the silverware we got at our engagement party in 1969. I also have about 500 45's dating back to the 1950s, though I don't currently have any way to play them.

But the oldest thing is probably the jar I painted in first grade, ca. 1954, which my mother kept all those years. I brought it home after we cleaned out my parents' house after my father died.

Jeff

Bill Crider said...

You might be the winner, Jeff, though I still have my baseball cards from as far back as 1949. And my MAD magazines from whenever the 2nd issue came out. I missed the first issue, darn it.

Cap'n Bob said...

A guy with a crew cut is unlikely to wear out a comb and I have to say I'm with Judy. Using someone else's comb is Cootieville and I'd never do it. I do have some items that are old, though. A Fuller brush I got in 1970, the pants I wore to see Woodstock--the movie--the same year. My first fanzine from 1969.

Nothing from my youth.

Richard R. said...

That's a great vignette, Bill.

I have some things that were my mothers and I remember them in the house when I was a kid, such as a couple of vases, some kitchen spoons with Bakelite handles, a set of silver pickle forks. I don't use this stuff, except for the spoon sometimes, but it's here in the house.

Kent Morgan said...

If you only have one comb, we now know that combs are one item you don't collect. I think I have everyone beat. I use the maple dresser that I had in my room in northern Manitoba when I was growing up. It's full of clothes that I regularly wear and I put my wallet on it every night before I go to bed. I just don't look in the mirror that often.

Daniel Stumpf said...

I got my comb from Ed "Kookie" Byrnes. Unfortunately, it just sits in the bathroom gathering dust.

Bill Crider said...

Was it the one he lent to Connie Stevens?

Ed Gorman said...

You need to collect all these wonderful tales, Bill. Seriously.

Bill Crider said...

Thanks, Ed. What I need to do is write more of them down.

Anonymous said...

Jeff's got me beat, but the oldest object hereabouts is a blue plastic dish I made in 7th grade shop class (Monticello Jr High, Cleveland Height, OH). It has been used daily ever since. It's where I deposit my wallet, keys and change. It sits on a shelf in the kitchen right next to the alligator savings bank which you kindly gave me at a B'Con long ago, which dines frequently on my excess change.
Art Scott

Don Coffin said...

Personally, I like the idea of living on "Normal Street." (I lived for 7 years in Normal, Illinois.) So few of us live anywhere normal.

Don Coffin said...

The oldest thing I have that I personally purchased (rather than inherited) is my copy of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are a'Changin', which I purchased at the Shopper's Fair discount store in Indianapolis in the spring of 1964. I bought it in order to be able to finish reading the liner notes (poems) that began on the album cover and continued on an insert inside the shrink wrap. $2.69 plus tax.

George said...

I change my comb and my toothbrush every few months. Love your digressions!

Kevin R. Tipple said...

The is also part of THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT DALLAS.

I have no combs.

Kevin
(UTD class of 93)