Sunday, August 5, 2018

Shine it, kick back for awhile

There are certain phrases which, once read, never leave you. A bunch of Shakespeare is like that. Robert Frost. Cheech & Chong. Our brains, which could occupy themselves with stopping you from leaving your eyeglasses in the fridge, instead offer up random lines, like "Dave's not here, man" and "that has made all the difference" and "Shine it, kick back for awhile."

Oh, you don't know that last one? That is because it exists in only one place on Earth. It was written when I handed my 8th grade yearbook to a classmate I thought was cool. He was not bright, a bit of a delinquent, and enviously carefree. I was handing around my yearbook, and I handed it to Jim. 

The standard 8th grade yearbook quote in 1975 (repeated in mine a good dozen times) was "Stay as cool as you are. Have a bitchin summer." 

Side note: It is sad to me that "bitchin" has vanished as completely as Farrah hair. Some words, like "Righteous" are still said ironically these days, but "bitchin" is gone. "Bitchin" was to "cool" as the Stones were to the Beatles. A perfectly valid alternative. To tell someone the concert you went to was "cool" would have been maddeningly vague. But say it was "bitchin"? Well, everybody killed themselves because they were not at that concert. 

I miss bitchin. 

Anyway, Jim handed me back my yearbook, where he had written, "Shine it, kick back for awhile." This was apparently in answer to the implied question, "So what are you going to do, Jim, now that high school looms and it is time, maybe, to get serious about a few things?"

Jim made clear his plan: he was going to shine it, and then, assuming there was time, kick back for awhile. 

"Shine it" in the 1970s, or to "shine something on" was to ignore it, pay the worrisome thing no mind. To "shine someone on" was what we would now call to blow them off. 

Some examples:

"Mrs. Sowin asked me if I finished my English homework, but I shined her on."

"This guy has been on me to pay him back all week. Watch me shine him on."

"Dude, I waited outside 'The Towering Inferno' for, like, an hour. Why did you shine me on?"

It is not like I just got out my yearbook recently, either. This is just a sentence which has been rising up in my mind every few months since the day I first read it. There is a perfection in it, in that it captures Jim in his essence. 

Normally you would write something about the person whose yearbook it is. 

"Had a good time pretending to do the experiments in Chem this year, George. Stay bitchin."

"You are very quiet, George, and I like that. It's not a criticism. See you in German in the fall."

"Jorgé, you are a fast runner but I am faster because you never even see me. Later days."

"Later" was a common alternative to "goodbye." I miss it too.
I do not know what happened to Jim. I don't remember him from high school, but there he is in the yearbook senior year. I expect he did like a lot of guys who, finally freed from studies, excelled in the thing they were interested in, fixing cars, building furniture, flipping houses. 

It is only now, more than 40 years later, that I realize I may have misread the meaning of Jim's yearbook scribble entirely. Perhaps he was not telling me of his own intentions. Maybe he had marked me as the bookish dork I was and tried to intervene in as gentle a way as he could muster. 

"Shine it, kick back for awhile."

Maybe he meant it as advice.

In which case, from what I recall of the summer of '75, it was bitchin. Thanks, dude.