Don Lively



Why, Lord, why?

I woke up questioning the Almighty as to why I wasn’t able to sleep when I went to bed exhausted, and, why did I wake up singing, “Brylcreem, a little dab’ll do ya”?

Yes, I really did.

You remember Brylcreem.

It was supposed to provide “maximum sheen and all-day hold”.

I call BS.

My only experiment with the gooey, slimy stuff was a monumental failure. Back in the day, having curly hair, if you wanted to appear the least bit cool, was very detrimental. The ones of us afflicted with curls, boys or girls, would try anything to straighten our locks. Girls would actually attempt to iron their hair on an ironing board. I’d get out of the shower and while my hair was still saturated, brush it as straight as possible, part it down the middle and then stretch a tight stocking cap over my head to wear the rest of the day, hoping that it would result in straightness to my tresses.


About 22 seconds after removing the cap my hair would magically thicken, tangle and curl right before my eyes.

So, one day I tried a little dab, well, actually I used half a tube, of Brylcreem. All it did was turn my thick, tangled curly hair into a greasy thick, tangled curly mess.

I finally gave up and, in just a few years, thanks to my black friends, the “natural” look became all the rage and I discovered my cool.

All these years later, I still know the Brylcreem jingle.

Some long-ago ad writer got it right.

Remember this one:

“I’d walk a mile for a Camel.”

I remember those cigarette commercials so well. They made smoking look so appealing, even to a young me who had not even reached my teen years. I couldn’t wait to smoke my first cigarette and, as fate would have it, my first smoke was indeed a Camel. My friend Wheatie had snuck a pack from one of his relatives and we were someplace well hidden from our Mamas. The Camels were filterless and looked so inviting. I lit up my first one and, as instructed by Wheatie, I took a deep drag, sucking down as much smoke as my lungs would hold. The taste didn’t hit me right away, it was slightly delayed, but when it did I somehow managed to sneeze, cough, belch, gag and cuss all at the same time.

It was by far the worst thing I had ever tasted and I wondered why anybody would walk a foot, let alone a mile, for such a nasty thing. Still, like most Southern boys of the era, I did pick up the habit for a few years before quitting for good.

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.”

Alka-Seltzer, of course.

The best part of that commercial was the miserable, indigestive man’s wife in the background saying, “You ate it, Ralph.”

Once, when I was a college student in south Georgia, my friend Tim and I went to the Wishbone and ordered a large cheese pizza, each. We were both still strapping farm-boys who required a lot of calories to get through the day. We each ate every crumb of our pizzas. Later, sitting in the dorm lobby with a huge dough ball forming in my stomach, I moaned, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”, to which a chorus of my non-sympathetic dormmates responded, “You ate it, Ralph!”

I think it was my tenth birthday when the folks gave me my first watch, a shiny Timex.

You remember.

“Timex. It takes a licking and keeps on ticking!”

I can still hear the distinctive voice of John Cameron Swayze in many Timex ads. The watch stood the test when it was slammed between the corpulent bellies of two sumo wrestlers. It suffered no damage when strapped to a ski of a downhill racer. It wasn’t even harmed when attached to an outboard motor and churned underwater.

My own Timex also proved to be tough, simply by surviving for a couple of years on my Southern, wild-as-a-buck kid wrist, traversing swamps, swinging across gullies on vines, etc.

Then one day, due to an unfortunate set of mishaps, I dropped the Timex through one of the holes in our two-holer outhouse. At that point, I didn’t care if it kept on ticking or not, I wasn’t inclined to dig it out to find out.

It might still be ticking for all I know.

Okay, y’all, that’s it for this week. It’s my bedtime.

“Oh, I’d love to be an Oscar- Mayer wiener!”

Oh no!

Why, Lord, why?

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