Barry Smith: Columns that could have been |

Barry Smith: Columns that could have been

In my “Columns To Write” computer folder is a file named “Nannie bought a pearl.” It was created in April, 2000.

To me, the words “Nannie bought a pearl” are full of meaning. My grandmother, aka “Nannie,” once bought a pearl from one of those touristy little seaside places where you get to point to the oyster in the tank and they take it out and pry it open for you and whaddayaknow, there’s a nice pearl inside. Would you like that in a ring or a necklace, ma’am? For some reason I thought this would make a funny story.

After two years of scrolling past the “Nannie bought a pearl” file, I don’t even see it anymore, making the chances of it ever becoming a funny story pretty slim. Also, it’s worth mentioning that there is NOTHING in the file itself – no notes, reflections, hastily jotted memories – nothing. I’m sure I was inspired at the time, but obviously not inspired enough to type more than 18 letters.

This “Nannie bought a pearl” file has lots of brothers and sisters – files of ideas that got started and have yet to get finished.

So, this week I”m going through all those files and letting go of the ones that I realize will never, for one reason or another, get written. But I’m letting go in my own special way – you guessed it! – by gathering them together in the form of a unique and entertaining column! You must be so happy.

FILE NAME: Before it was cool syndrome

DATE: 4/02

SYNOPSIS: You know how when you like something that you think is kinda hip and underground, say a movie or a band, and then for whatever reason it becomes cool to like it, so everyone does and then you don’t like it as much anymore and in fact go out of your way to let everyone know that you liked it FIRST – before it was cool. Most of us left that behind in high school, but I still experience it on a regular basis.

I thought I’d write a whimsical little piece on the Before It Was Cool Syndrome throughout history, like when humans still hunted wooly mammoths: “Dude, I was into FIRE months ago, now it’s totally trendy” or back in the time of Jesus (“I saw Jesus when he was playing small clubs. I think his whole Sermon On The Mount is a total sellout compared to his early stuff.”)

REASON IT’LL NEVER HAPPEN: Because I’d rather people not know that I am still thinking essentially the same thoughts I was thinking when I was in 10th grade.


FILE NAME: concentrated foods

DATE: 1/00

SYNOPSIS: A disjointed millennial concept that centered around the fact that in the old science fiction movies people ate pills instead of food, and that the time depicted in those movies is, basically, now. So, where’s the concentrated foods?

SAMPLE DEMONSTRATING WHY THIS WAS A GOOD ONE TO LET GO: I don’t know about you, but when I’m eating fish sticks, it takes almost a jar and a half of tartar sauce to satisfy me. If the fine men and women of Monsanto were to get on the job, they’d no doubt be able to come up with a highly concentrated super tartar sauce, 500 times tangier than regular tartar sauce, and with 50 percent more relish, and then I could probably make do with just three or four spoonfuls.


FILE NAME: anti prodigy kit

DATE: 7/99

SYNOPSIS: The down side of being the parent of a child prodigy is that they are a constant reminder of how drab and ordinary you are. So, if you notice signs of prodigism (sp?) in your kid, here are some ways to keep them from fully developing, thereby allowing you to continue to feel superior to children.

REASON IT”LL NEVER HAPPEN: Because, after three years, this is all I actually wrote: “Keep-Em-Dum r Toys and Games will stunt their development quicker than you can say ‘Special Ed.'”


FILE NAME: SPAM filter for life

DATE: 3/01

SYNOPSIS: SPAM, or annoying, unsolicited junk e-mail, is an increasing cybernuisance. There are programs that you can use that will filter the SPAM before it gets to you, keeping your e-mail in-box somewhat junk-free.

Wouldn’t it be cool to have such a filter for everyday, non-cyber life, so that if people came up to you and started talking crap it would just be filtered out and never actually reach your ears?

REASON IT’LL NEVER HAPPEN: Realized such a thing already existed: A Walkman with a volume control.


FILE NAME: Tony Hawk at skatepark

DATE: 7/02

SYNOPSIS: Tony Hawk, world renowned skateboarder, shows up at the Aspen skatepark with an entourage of top skating pros. I write about the commercial success of skating as related to the 1980s, when Tony Hawk once showed up at my front door asking if he could skate my backyard ramp.

As you can see, this file has only been around for about a week, but since it is essentially the same as the aborted Before It Was Cool Syndrome concept (above), I can gracefully put it to rest now without having to stare at it for years, as I am beginning to suspect that nobody cares that I liked something before it was cool. Phew.

SAMPLE DEMONSTRATING WHY THIS WAS A GOOD ONE TO LET GO: When I biked up to the skatepark last Friday, the first thing I noticed was the row of porta-potties that now stood where there is usually only one.

“Tony Hawk shows up and everyone shits themselves,” I thought, making a mental note for my column. Yeah, that’s a good line.

It wasn’t long before I realized that the toilets had not been brought in specially for Hawk’s demo, but were for a completely different event on a completely different day, held in a totally different place. So once again the facts spoil a great opening line.

(More on Thursday! Lucky you.)

[Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Monday and Thursday. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at]

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