a trip down the stairs to my grandparent's basement was always an adventure. once our feet touched the cold linoleum tiles my grandfather would begin offering us every item in view. do you need a broken beach umbrella from 1969? how about a box of giant rubberbands? an old bottle of scotch originally received as a christmas present in 1977? when i would explain i lived in a small college then manhattan then brooklyn apartment he would yell, "You need a stretcha!" (stretcher) and would then proceed with the offerings. we were not allowed back upstairs until each member of my family agreed to take some object home.
when we were younger, we would always look through the basement bookshelf that held books that belonged to my mother or one of her two brothers. there were old mad magazines, textbooks, notebooks filled with homework assignments, nancy drew novels and hardy boys books that had lost their covers. once i brought home a copy of native son. another time i found how to be a nonconformist.
i rediscovered this book while going through my old books in new york. originally published in 1967 the book was written and illustrated by elissa jane karg. as a teenager, i loved comparing the advice she gave for being a non-conformist in the '60s with what i considered to be acts of non-conformity in the '90s. (the idea that following any rules is a form of conformity had not yet hit me.)
the illustrations are charming and definitely have a '60s vibe to them. the book was recently re-published and is available here.
now my grandparents live in a small condo in florida. there is no basement for storing old possessions. yet when we visit, i am still told i need a stretcha and am not allowed to leave empty-handed.