Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hamsters, Part 1

Every school day when the bell rang at three (if I didn't have to stay after) I left my class room and waked long ramped corridors toward the school's shiny red front doors. Tower Street Elementary School was a (then) intact early 50's compound of duplex classroom pods under gable roofs with up angled eaves (like sister Bertrill's hat on the flying nun) connected to each other by glass walled corridors. The passageways' terazzo floors rose and fell with the topography of the site as they connected the various modules attatched to them, all trailing out behind the core of entry hall, administrative offices, and the lofty laminated beam barn housing the cafeteria, multi purpose gym/ auditorium and curtained stage between them. Sometimes I imagined it was a space station like in "Silent Running" or city in the future, the glass corridor tunnels suggesting the maze in "Logan's Run", both of which we'd watched on Saturday afternoons on Channel 9.

The street of my regular route home had been widened sometime in the fifties or sixties. In several places houses behind reduced front yards were faced with high fieldstone bluffs and concrete steps leading through narrow fijords up to now elevated front yards which had once sloped down to the granite curbstones. The small boulders were the same rocks stacked into dry walls delineating the narrow lots of outlying houses like ours, and forming irregular grids tracing the boundaries of long disused farmers fields, now thickly returned to woods. Against the mortared stones at the foot of one of the staircases was a note written on lined note book paper in a woman's palmer method hand:

HAMSTER with HABITRAIL CAGE , food and extra cedar chips! *FREE*.

Habitrail was a then heavily advertised German made component system, of which hamster environments could be constructed, The jingle's vocal rose and fell through a musical mantra repeating the product's name and featured images of delighted pale skinned children in perfectly coordinated outfits and unisex hairdos marveling estatically as excited hamsters scurried adorably through tubes and mazes and pods in the never ending daily adventure of their translucent multi colored environment; as exotic as a futuristic rodent world discovered by the Moonbase Alpha crew as they hurtled through the galaxy on Space 1999. The voice over stressed the fun AND educational benefits of hamster husbandry. I sang the jingle to myself as I took the stairs two at a time,

"Habitrail, Habitrail, Habitrail, Habitrail, Haa-uh-uh-bitrai-ail!"
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