Learn how to sign your name! Seriously! Sometime near the end of 2nd grade, I signed my first work of art using an ancient form of chirography called “cursive.” It depicts a rather short Native American boy named ‘Hiawatha,’ as described by a rather tall white man named Longfellow (see what I did there?). Since all of my previous artworks were signed in print, rather than cursive, this makes my ‘Hiawatha’ picture extremely valuable (it’s now a closely-guarded artifact at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.).
Signatures were a valued security device back before fingerprint scanners were invented. But even more importantly, being able to sign my name meant I could acquire a library card at the public library.
And having a library card meant that, for the first time in my life, I was allowed to leave our neighborhood alone (i.e. without a security device called an “adult”), and cross one of the two biggest and busiest streets in the city, Rosecrans (curiously, there’s no crossroad called Guildenstern–see what I did there?). Why did that matter? Because the library was located in the “Fabulous La Mirada Shopping Center,” the virtual center of my little suburban universe!
My world instantly got bigger! Now I could not only check out books, but I could visit:
- Thrifty Drugs, where I would use my hard-earned allowance to buy a “hand-packed” scoop of Rocky Road, ride the coin-operated rocking horse, and eventually make goofy recordings in the “Make Your Own 45!” booth with my buddy Jeff!
- J.J. Newberry’s, where I’d bought my “first girlfriend” her going-steady ring!
- La Mirada Music, where I would eventually buy my first 45s, classics like “The Monster Mash,” and anything by the Beatles.
- Hiram’s Supermarket, via which my other BFF Rory and I would enter forbidden realms!
- Burgermaster, where I would try my first awful pre-fab pizza, sell my first hand-painted Open/Closed sign, a picture of a ghoul both in and out of his coffin (which for some reason they never used).
- And the fabric store where I would pick-up the Singer Sewing Machine-sponsored music contest form that led to my band’s first (and only) national primetime television special!
In other words, so many milestones were passed, simply because I learned…
How to sign my name!