Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Hula Hoop Hullabaloo

I halted before an after-Christmas-sale toy display. What to my wondering eyes should appear, but a rattling, green-and-purple-striped Hula Hoop®.

Shades of the 1950s. I looked down. Was I was wearing anklets and Mary Janes?

As a four-year-old, I marveled as my friend Kathy bobbed and wiggled. Her hoop never touched the ground. Though my few borrowed sessions consisted of rattle-rattle-clunks, I wished the Hula Hoop® and I could be best friends forever (BFF).

But my mother doomed my dream. She said I could not steal it. So, I begged for a birthday hoop.

She informed me: a) $1.98 was a lot of money; and b) they were impossible to find. Wham-O sold 100 million hoops in 1958, with demand outracing supply. No hoop for me.

She lied. On my birthday, I received a green Hula Hoop®! When Dad sent it rolling toward a busy street, I shrieked. Had I found my BFF, only to lose her? To my utter amazement, Hoop rolled back to him. Birthday magic was complete.

My favorite toy accompanied our family on a mission trip to Mexico. Happily, the street children also spoke Hula Hoop®. Unknown to me, my neighbor Maria bragged about my superiority. This gringa, she proclaimed, could keep the hoop going 12 hours straight.

Another pigtailed girl faced me, a gleam of challenge in her dark eyes.

My BFF turned traitor. Rattle-rattle-clunk. Rattle-rattle-clunk. I failed my country.

I didn’t leave the mission compound for awhile. Maria joined a temporary witness protection program. During retirement, though, I couldn’t remain apart from Hula Hoop®. Our glory days were past. But we would stick together, come rattle-rattle or clunk.

Before long, our family planned a return to the States. My parents insisted we did not have room in the car for Hoop and my new baby brother.

Why not leave Brother and take Hoop with us? But no one asked my opinion, so I sadly tucked my BFF behind a dresser so no one else could play with her.

Fast-forward several decades. My sister insisted on introducing me to her new exercise equipment. Sessions with it had strengthened her core, she said.

A Hula Hoop®.

These days, I cannot even find my core. As I watched her bob and wiggle, I wondered: could an old friend aid in my search?

The New Year and my surprise Hula Hoop® encounter had reawakened both core conscience and childlike longings. I brought the hoop home.

Our sessions have largely consisted of rattle-clunks. My core remains AWOL. But I harbor no qualms about exposing my flab to Hula Hoop®.

After all, what are BFFs for?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What was your favorite childhood toy?

Star Wars Oldie, er, Veteran

My husband and I wait in line to see The Rise of Skywalker.

Annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled, few fellow moviegoers viewed the original film. I am seized with the urge to proclaim — complete with drumroll and spotlight — “I’ve seen every Star Wars movie since 1977.”

Hubby indicates where his sock hat will go if I do.

Spoilsport.

Ignoring him, I recall that first, magical night. A medical student then, Hubby orchestrated a rare evening off. We scraped together five dollars for tickets. Annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled, we stood in a long line.

That money could have bought more groceries. This had better be worth it.

“Daaa, da, da-da-da daaa, da. …”

The music captured me. When “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. …” crawled up the screen, I followed the words into dark, velvety space.

I was there.

Breathless.

By movie’s end, this Trekkie admitted Luke Skywalker and Han Solo could compete with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Besides, Princess Leia defied an evil empire with battle savvy — keeping her clothes on, which I appreciated, even back in 1977.

Though I never would twist my long hair into weird side buns.

Hubby interrupts my reverie with ticket choices that didn’t exist 40 years ago. “3-D? Or IMAX?”

I’m cheap. Besides, running screaming from storm troopers doesn’t sound fun. 

As for IMAX — “If I collapse with a heart attack,” I say, “you can explain to the ER why four-story-high space slugs were a great idea.”

“Maybe D-BOX seats?”

Supposedly, full-motion chairs also would immerse us in the action.

“Not after that brunch,” I say.

Hubby agrees.

Finally purchasing plain old (senior) tickets, we find our theater, mostly inhabited by other moldy oldies and cheapskates.

Pre-movie blather runs on forever. This had better be worth it.   

“Daaa, da, da-da-da daaa, da. …”

Huge words crawl into dark, velvet space.

I am there.

Breathless.

New characters, plot twists, and weird, intergalactic creatures. Past characters we greet as longtime friends, old glitches, and familiar, weird intergalactic creatures.

All entangled in a horrible, wonderful battle of good versus evil. Despite radical cultural shifts the past four decades, those values remain.

I do like Princess Leia’s new hairdo.

Still, how can “young Skywalker” have aged so? And Carrie Fisher looks like a … a matron. 

Um, so do I. Unlike Yoda, we can’t live 900 years.

Despite gray hair, Hubby and I anticipate additional chapters in our own stories. Exciting chapters.

As will the annoyingly skinny and unwrinkled.

Whether young or old, and regardless of Star Wars sequels, prequels or equals, let’s all grab the nearest Wookiee and fly high into new adventures!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite Star Wars movie?

What Happened to Two Decades?

Has it really been 20 years since Y2K? Hoarding batteries, bottled water and turkey jerky, we feared computers would crash worldwide, technological brains scrambled until capable only of playing nonstop games.  

That didn’t happen, enabling millions of relieved humans to continue that role.

Others choose self-improvement, including making New Year’s resolutions.

Opponents argue that such resolutions last as long as a snowflake chomped by a kindergartner. Do resolutions accomplish even less than computer games?

Several years ago, I formulated a brilliant solution; I make only resolutions I can keep. Below, I’ve listed My Astute Pledges for 2020:

  • I vow to put away my Christmas decorations before Easter.
  • Obeying my mother’s long-ago admonitions, I promise to wear my boots outside … when there’s no snow to ruin them.
  • I will make at least one snow angel this winter. But not before Hubby rents a hydraulic lift to hoist me back on my feet.
  • I vow to amaze my neighborhood with spectacular spins and leaps on my icy way to the mailbox. Also, as I back our car out of the driveway. (I expect all 10s, folks.)
  • I resolve to wear lots of fuzzy, checkered socks. January needs all the excitement it can get.
  • I promise to go camping with my husband. I will, however, ignore all conversations that begin with, “I’ll bet Iceland is beautiful in January.”
  • I will continue to let my kitchen range outwit me. Weeks after the time change, it finally allowed me to change the hour on its digital clock. However, it adjusts the minutes to please itself, just to show who’s boss.
  • I promise to wow servers at our favorite Mexican restaurants with my Spanish. Never mind that I’ve ordered enchiladas with pineapple-lizard salsa and included a short treatise on jaywalking laws. I know they appreciate hearing their native language.
  • I pledge never to need a box for uneaten pizza.
  • Regarding chocolate: I will double my intake this year. Are you aware that, averaging nine pounds per year, Americans are 20th in world consumption? Unthinkable that the Swiss, Austrians and 17 other countries should out-chocolate us. So, I’ll do my patriotic duty.
  • When we play board games with grandchildren, I aspire to always come in last. (Unfortunately, older grandkids now refuse to be my partner.)
  • I promise to deny my adolescent grandchildren will ever, ever drive.
  • Finally, I resolve to LOL and hahaha more in person this year than on Facebook.

You, too? Then regardless of scrambled brains, computer or human, turkey jerky or patriotic chocolate, 2020 is well on its way to being a Happy New Year. Let’s go for it!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What weird resolution will you make this year?

Big Bear

When our daughter was born, I splurged on a pink teddy bear whose music box played tinkling lullabies.

I placed it in her line of vision. “Honey, she’s singing to you.”

Baby appeared more interested in shiny doorknobs.

Even as she grew, she took little notice of the prissy teddy.

Several years later, her kindergarten class planned to celebrate Teddy Bear Day, bringing their little buddies to school.

When I suggested Callie take her prissy teddy, she rolled her eyes, but hauled the bear in her backpack.

After school, an odd sight met my eyes. An enormous teddy bear ambled toward me, underscored by thin, little legs.

“Big Bear wanted to come home with me,” Callie explained.

“But — it doesn’t belong to you.”

“Teacher said we could exchange bears for a week. Sarah took mine, and she let me take him.”

Big Bear made himself at home in Callie’s appliance-box house. He starred in made-up plays and musicals. At bedtime check, I did a double take.

Twins in Callie’s bed?

I often messed up carpools. Had I lost track of how many children I’d birthed?

No, Big Bear was bunking with her. Relief poured through me, relief that soon vanished as her tiny arm curled possessively around his large, furry body.

Soon, I had to say, “Honey, Big Bear has to go home.”

Callie stared at me with sad, dark eyes, but returned him.

Christmas was coming soon. Usually, the Santa at our house frowned on extravagant gifts. But when I encountered Big Bear’s cousin at Kmart, I brought him home.

Hiding him from Callie was like concealing a body from the FBI, but the wide-eyed grin that greeted him Christmas morning made Operation Big Bear worth it. In no time, he was singing in basement Broadway productions and snuggling with Callie at night. He smiled from her bed every day.

When she married, Big Bear moved with her to her new home.

One recent weekend, Callie’s ferret-fast son and I were engaged in a pillow fight. Desperate for ammunition, I grabbed the nearest soft object.

Big Bear.

My opponent took gross advantage of my surprise and knocked me flat. Big Bear, ever the sympathizer, stayed by me.

Despite a missing eye, Big Bear had survived little-boy love and numerous pillow wars. Judging by his purple-stained face, someone must have fed him jelly doughnuts — which explained why he appeared as flabby as I. He’d lost padding, though, which I’d found. Not fair.

Still, Big Bear’s presence was strangely comforting. Did Callie — now a strong, loving woman — still sneak moments with him?

Kindergartner, teenager, mom or grandma. Sometimes, we all need a Big Bear hug.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you still cherish a childhood stuffed animal?

Christmas Classic Post: The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

This post first appeared on December 16, 2015.

My name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late — partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?

How Do You Like Them Apples?

“A is for apple.”

Today, little Apple lovers might expect a Macintosh laptop on an alphabet book’s first page. In 1959, however, technology never entered my mind. Instead, I eyed the luscious red fruit on my teacher’s desk. I focused on bites, not bytes.

I savored the school lunch’s apple crisp — until Joey Bump told me the topping consisted of fried ants.

Smart guy. He doubled his apple crisp intake.

Ants notwithstanding, I come from a long line of apple lovers. Every autumn Dad bought bushels of fragrant fruit at a nearby orchard. He peeled an apple with a surgeon’s precision, dangling the single long red curl, then sliced it into white circles whose dark seeds God had arranged in a flower pattern. A boy during the Depression, Dad scoured the woods for fruit — for anything — to nourish his scrawny frame. Forever, he would regard apples as a cause for celebration.

Whenever we visited my Louisiana grandparents, Dad bought Grandma bags of apples, fruit too expensive to frequent their black-eyed peas/turnip greens/corn bread diet. My four siblings and I waited for Grandma to share.

The apples vanished within seconds, never to reappear — while we were there, anyway.

Dad often surprised Grandma, driving all night from Indiana to visit. Once, he brought four-year-old Kenny, whom Grandma hadn’t seen for a year. Kenny and Dad dozed in his truck until they smelled bacon’s tantalizing fragrance. Dad’s resolve wavered. Did he dare rile his mother and risk losing a free breakfast?

Dad debated only a moment. Handing Kenny a bag of apples, he pulled my brother’s cap over his eyes and sent him to Grandma’s door. Hunkering down in the truck, Dad watched apple drama unfold.

At Kenny’s knock, Grandma appeared. “Child, what are you doing here at this hour?” She showed no sign of recognizing Kenny. “Where’s your mama? Your daddy?” She cast a wrathful eye at the truck.

When Kenny offered her the apples for a quarter, Grandma suffered pangs of conscience. How could she take advantage of this baby-child?

But the bargain apples proved too much.

Grandma retrieved a quarter from her old money sock.

As she handed it to Kenny, he tilted his head back. “Hi, Grandma!”

Dad strode to the porch, wearing a huge grin.

Grandma laughed and cried. When her voice returned, she said her 35-year-old son needed a good licking. How could such a bad apple turn out to be the only preacher in the family?

Grandma hugged Kenny, then welcomed him and his prodigal daddy, stuffing them with eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy.

But no apples. The bag already had found a new home — under her featherbed.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite apple dessert?

Popcorn and Me

Not many foods remain friends for life. Chocolate turned traitor during my teen years as I fought the Pimple Wars and later put on pounds. But popcorn has always been there for me.

My family owes its survival to popcorn. Mom faced two snack choices: a bale of hay or a dishpan-sized bowl of popcorn. While she threw handfuls of yellow seeds into a pan, we gathered close, quiet as if attending a theater performance — until the first pop pinged. Suddenly kernels exploded in a mad dance of joyful pop-pop-pops. A few sneaky ones fooled Mom and leaped out when she removed the lid — a punch line we enjoyed as if it had never happened before.

Fresh wonder filled me at seeing hundreds of fluffy white kernels, a miracle that rivaled the Feeding of the Five Thousand. If only candy bars multiplied like that!

As cornfields surrounded our house, I became convinced we were not utilizing a huge, free popcorn resource. My mother disagreed. But I filched an ear from a neighbor’s field and set it on fire anyway. Sadly, Mom was right — again.

Later we grew our own popcorn, including a “strawberry” variety. Hoeing the plants, I imagined the pink strawberry-sucker-flavored popcorn we would savor. At harvest, we shucked wine-colored kernels off little cones and waited breathlessly as Mom popped this amazing new treat. Only red hulls evidenced anything different about strawberry popcorn. After initial disappointment, though, we made a hit at school with our special red-and-white popcorn.

But the popcorn my siblings and I really craved was Jiffy Pop®. On TV commercials, smiling kids watched it rise like a silver Space Age balloon. I was sure the Jetsons ate Jiffy Pop®. Mom, however, vetoed it as too expensive.

When I, too, became a mean mother, plain old popcorn remained my friend. My children gathered as kernels tumbled in the air popper. Like my mother, I poured sizzling butter over theirs. Mine? I ate handfuls that tasted like Styrofoam packing peanuts. But they filled me up and kept me from expanding as much as Jiffy Pop®.

Now, growing older, I still cling to popcorn. Even the Jetsons would envy my microwave method. However, the time saved is used to read popcorn cautionary commandments on every bag, probably more than accompanied the original atomic bomb: HANDLE CAREFULLY: VERY HOT OIL & BAG! THIS SIDE UP! THIS SIDE DOWN! PICK UP HERE! PICK UP FROM OTHER END! OPEN CAREFULLY! HOT! CAUTION! OR YOU WILL DIE VERY, VERY SLOWLY WITH RADIOACTIVE POPCORN UP YOUR NOSE.

Is that any way to talk to a friend?

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your favorite popcorn memories?

Pumpkins: Supersized, Scary, and Scrumptious

Years before “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” I recall visiting a farm market as a preschooler. Accustomed to our family’s economizing, my brother and I were ecstatic when Daddy hoisted a pumpkin almost as tall as I to his shoulder. We danced around him (endangering Daddy, the pumpkin and us) as he carried it to the farmer to pay.

Fast-forward a couple of decades. Our children repeated the scene as if they’d read the script. Fast-forward a couple more decades, and the grandchildren do the same pumpkin dance.

Some things don’t change, namely, everyone wants a BIG one.

Fortunately for parents, kids don’t know how big they can grow.

When Hubby and I moved last, we inherited a garden with a huge pumpkin we couldn’t budge. Little did we know that compared to the biggest pumpkin ever recorded, ours resembled wussy ones piled in a basket on the dining room table.

All together, now: “How big did it grow?”

According to Guinness World Records, Mathias Willemijns of Belgium grew the biggest pumpkin ever in 2016: 2,624.6 pounds — about as much as a 2019 Honda Fit.

Imagine turning a monster like that into a jack-o’-lantern. Imagine encountering it in your neighborhood at midnight.

Size isn’t the only scary factor in pumpkin carving. Some pumpkin-loving adults also sculpt artistic renditions of famous people like George Washington and Ben Franklin. Don’t you think these bodyless visages would appear creepy, too? Especially when lit by candles on a dark night?

Just sayin’.

Some carvers, unafraid of freaky faces, express what scares them most in pumpkin graffiti: “The WiFi is down.” “Windows 7.” And “Student Loans.”

Thankfully, more pumpkin aficionados demonstrate their creativity through cooking. Sorry, pumpkin-spice opponents, I love those recipes. Once, I even declared that I loved all things pumpkin.

Though still a devotee, I now make exceptions.

Unappreciative of their popularity, pumpkins are fighting back. They have conceived a brilliant solution: expanding to products that cause former fans to gag. These include pumpkin-spice pizza, hummus, garbanzo beans, and kale chips. Not content with turning human stomachs, they have pushed an additional innovation: pumpkin-spice fish bait.

Some pumpkins have grown openly aggressive in their revenge. According to the Pumpkin Nook website (http://www.pumpkinnook.com/commune/stories.htm), one Florida grower, Barbara Kincaid — and former friends who helped carry her 200-pounder — suffered a pumpkin explosion. Rotten inside, it swelled from built-up gases. Its detonation coated all with what Ms. Kincaid described as stinky “pumpkin puke.”

Ewww!

Given that danger, will I swear off jack-o’-lanterns? It’s doubful.

Spicy pumpkin bread and muffins? Lattes? Pie?

Sorry, pumpkins. That thought is too scary to contemplate.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you like all things pumpkin?

Commercials Then and Now

My husband and I view a television program for a grand total of 63 seconds before a carrot chorus line high-kicks across the screen. Then an older couple, whose idea of a good time has deteriorated to shivering in separate bathtubs, teeter on a cliff’s edge.

One ad (guess which one) strikes me as mildly funny. I chuckle.

“You’ve seen that a hundred times.” Hubby rolls his eyes.

“I have?” I prod my memory. Zero recall.

“You never pay attention to commercials.” He makes this sound downright un-American.

I resent the slam on my patriotism. Plus, he’s dead wrong. I remember lots of commercials — except they belong to a different era.

Decades ago, Captain Kangaroo lauded Wonder Bread, which built strong bodies 12 ways. Captain K. always celebrated my birthday with a big cake. He reminded me to say my prayers. So, when the Captain told me to ask Mom to buy Wonder Bread, I did. But Mom said it was expensive. Gasp! How could she flout the wisdom of Captain Kangaroo?

She gave in, however, to lovable hucksters who taught thousands of children — including my husband and me — to spell “Nestlé” before they could spell their own names. Danny, a ventriloquist dummy, sang, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestlé’s makes the very best—” and Farfel the dog chimed in, “Choc’-late!” with a loud snap of his jaws. Good stuff.

Even black-and-white TV couldn’t diminish the Ali Baba richness of Kenner’s Sparkle Paints. Not only would Sparkle Paints pictures glitterize and glamorize my room, they would magically protect me from arithmetic, besides bringing about world peace.

I received Kenner’s Sparkle Paints as a gift! But my attempts — plops, glops, and slops of paint — resembled nothing on TV. Since Russian Premier Nikita Krushchev still banged his shoe on podiums and yelled during other commercials, Sparkle Paints didn’t accomplish world peace, either.

Although now a child cynic, I still enjoyed commercial jingles, including Speedy the Alka-Seltzer® mascot’s “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is.” And I, along with a gazillion other schoolchildren, wished we were Oscar Mayer wieners.

Medical commercials, however, caused me concern. I didn’t know what Preparation H® treated, but it had to be life-threatening because when I asked Dad, he didn’t want to talk about it.

Some commercials embarrassed me. I wished Mr. Whipple and his friends, who squeezed Charmin toilet paper in public, would disappear.

Nowadays, though, with Victoria’s Secret models joining the TV carrot chorus line and Vagisil/Viagra enthusiasts telling me much, much more than I want to know, I tend to veg, remembering only commercials of yesteryear.

Never thought I’d say this, but Mr. Whipple, I really miss you.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite commercial? Your un-favorite?

Still Truckin’ to Truck Stops

Some travelers find truck-stop culture so foreign that upon entering, they reach for their passports.

I, on the other hand, grew up regarding a nearby truck stop as a highlight of my week. Neither of my pastor-parents felt like feeding five children after Sunday morning services, so — during that pre-McDonald’s era — they took us there for lunch.

We older siblings sat at the counter on fabulous red stools that twirled if our parents weren’t watching.

Seated nearby with toddlers, Mom and Dad occasionally missed a few tricks. However, misbehavior resulted in banishment to the station wagon, so we children didn’t try many.

We also would forfeit exploring a tabletop jukebox. We hoped other diners would spend their nickels and play our favorites. Occasionally, we approached the big jukebox, awestruck as it plopped, played and removed 45 rpm records as if by magic.

Truck stops have changed. Iowa 80, touted as the largest in the world, includes not only stores and eight restaurants, but a laundromat, library, business center and movie theater. Individual showers and a “dogomat,” where Fido also can get a bath, are available too. The kicker: Iowa 80 also boasts its own chiropractor and dentist.

If my childhood truck stop had featured a dentist, I might have stayed in the station wagon.

I also might have clung to the back seat if my parents had visited South of the Border in, of all places, South Carolina. Not that I wouldn’t have celebrated yummy Mexican food, piñatas, and other Hispanic delights. However, that truck stop also features a lagoon full of snakes, alligators and crocodiles. After riding with five kids hundreds of miles, Mom and Dad might have found the urge to unload us a little too tempting.

I gladly would have unbuckled to visit one truck stop in West Virginia, featuring art exhibits and theater. I’d gladly go there now. A plate-sized tenderloin sandwich and Shakespeare? Doesn’t get any better than that.

For some truck stop enthusiasts, abundant merchandise trumps even tenderloins. Where else can you find leopard-skin Bible covers or pink Harley-Davidson, metal-studded dog collars? Enough crossbows and knives to fight off an orc army from The Lord of the Rings should it invade the truck stop?

No other establishment boasts plaques with an animated, skeletal Big Mouth Billy Bass belting “Bad to the Bone.”

Even the most ardent devotees, however, admit many truck stop stores feature items they’d rather not explain to children and grandchildren.

Days ago, I reached for lip balm, only to discover it was labeled “Free-range Chicken Poop,” touted as Grandpa’s intensely organic cure for chapped lips.

At truck stops like that, I reach for my passport.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite find at a truck stop?