27 May 2013

Happy - You Don't Know Shit From Shinola - Memorial Day

Always a problem... shit from Shinola (shine-oh-la)

I heard it growing up but,  being an Army Brat,  I was exposed to a lotta confusing military metaphors.  A favorite of the Old Man's was, "He couldn't pour piss out of a shoe." When I joined the Army, a less elegant but still charming version was heard in Basic Training, "He couldn't pour piss out of a boot with a direction arrow on the heel."  As a kid, I wondered why anyone would pour piss out of a shoe much less,  how the piss got in the shoe to begin with. As a recruit, it quickly became obvious that, "piss out of a shoe (or boot)" was all about incompetence --Of which there was a great deal in Basic Training on behalf of myself, my fellow recruits and the US Army.

These logophile nuggets increased through training.  Drill Sergeant Hunt was fond of, "If your brains were gasoline there wouldn't be enough to power a piss ant motorcycle half way 'round a fucking dime." Or, "If your brains were cotton there wouldn't be enough for a piss ant tampax."  Obviously Hunt had something for piss ants.  My favorite was, "You people move like old people fuck."  Not sure why other than I'm very visual and any sexual fantasy in Basic Training was welcome.   

Infantry school introduced me to, "He couldn't piss up a rope."  Again, a perplexing statement when taken out of  Army context but eloquent in describing raging incompetence with so few words. By Jump School, things got strange with the 'Black Hat' from South Texas who called everybody, "Stevie Wonder." If he caught you chewing gum, he took it out of your mouth and put in his adding, "You chewed all the flavor outta this gum, Stevie Wonder. Why would you do that to me?"

Using expressions like these, once assigned to a unit, were frowned upon. They had become tired and over used -- Much like double monks.  Barrack's poets would take the stage and while the target was the same incompetence...be it the Army or a man other (than yourself), personal style ruled -- I'll never forget the bookish and frequently busted 30-something Spec 5 from Los Angeles who called the XVIII Airborne Corps G-3 Sergeant Major, "An unmitigated asshole." At 19, I had no idea what 'unmitigated' meant but there was beauty in the meter of it that I still find attractive today.

I drove for a colonel, later a general, who left a briefing, climbed into my jeep, turned to me and said, "Tinseth, I'm so confused I don't know whether to scratch my watch or wind my ass." I dunno...I think the Spec 5 has it over the colonel. 

When I asked my Old Man what Shinola was, he explained it was boot polish and the origin of the phrase went as far back as WWII.  I didn't say anything but all I could think of was, why did black boot polish look like shit?  Was everyone eating black beans and rice?  What it took years for me to figure out (piss ant brains) was that the Army of WWII wore brown boots and Shinola made a brown polish. So... now you know, Stevie Wonder.


ann said...

Good story. Your military background has you always trying to fit in (as we all do, well, most of us), but the fact that you tell these stories sets you apart ultimately. And in a good way. You're a born observer.

Blake said...

If we are talking our all time favorites, I have to go with "Two monkeys f'ing a football".

ceec said...

There's a new company out of Detroit named SHinola. Their marketing people have gone into high gear recently and they've been getting lots of pound menswear internet press. Every time I read a press release or bloggy post about them I add "you don't know shit from..." to the company name.

example : http://www.selectism.com/2013/07/22/shinola-tribeca-nyc-store-a-sneak-peak-inside/