Odds and Ends...

Norman Rockwell Shopping

NICKEL candy bars and dime phone calls are mostly long since obsolete. So it's not surprising that Woolworth, the five-and-dime store, is joining them in that 51st American state, Nostalgialand. Apparently the old shopping list that included an inexpensive saucepan, a parakeet, a smock, and two little geraniums has gone out of style. Upscale versions of such items are purchased at separate specialty stores.

Americans often enshrine institutions that they no longer patronize in a picturesque back corner of their memories - designed after Norman Rockwell. Woolworth interiors are made to order for that purpose. Even their fragrance, compounded of oiled sawdust, Camay soap, and starched kids' clothing, belongs in the nostalgia hall of fame. Many people will miss their Woolworth - all the way to Wal-Mart and Home Depot.

Ending a Trojan War

IF Dayton worked, why not Troutbeck, N.Y.? Dayton, Ohio, remember, was the site of the Bosnian peace talks - often maligned but still providing the framework for keeping war and genocide at bay.

Recently, in rural Troutbeck a United Nations mediator made a new try at ending another bitter ethnic quarrel, also involving Muslim and eastern Orthodox factions: the deeply embedded struggle over divided Cyprus.

Outsiders have long reasoned that the best solution for the Greek and Turkish communities that occupy the island nation 40 miles south of Turkey would be a federation of two cantons. That would mean that Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots could govern their respective communities on local matters. But they would tear down the barbed wire that separates them and create joint governance over foreign, defense, and trade policies.

Outsiders who know that Greek Cypriot President Glafkos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash went to school together also reason that the old classmates surely can broker such a federation deal.

Good theory. But no evidence to date that it's valid. Which indicates that this is not the time for the European Union to rush the Greek Cypriot government into membership. Better to use that very valuable trading card as a reward to be made to the Clerides government after a new round of talks in Nicosia, Cyprus's capital, approves concrete steps toward a new form of government. Cyprus should enter the united Europe with both its ethnic communities represented.

Human Zebras

PEERING out from under a red-and-blue striped beach umbrella at a sun-drenched world full of striped swim suits, an orange-and- purple striped float, and a green-and-white striped awning shading a hot dog stand, one is inclined to believe that the curators of a new Paris art exhibit have hit on an elemental theme:

The social significance of the stripe.

Don't laugh.

A show at Paris's turbocharger-shaped Pompidou Center examines the history of going to the beach in the summer - and its trademark stripes.

Summer beachgoing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Elegant Parisians and the royal court were more apt to repair to Loire chateaux in earlier centuries. They felt they were likely to encounter riffraff and stray animals at the seashore.

But then came the heyday of Nice, Biarritz, Deauville, St. Malo, and La Baule. Parasols bloomed - as did low-slung beach chairs, changing tents, Impressionists' easels, and sand castles. Debussy wrote La Mer. Paris was abandoned to foreigners in August.

And stripes were the motif. The gent with the straw hat wore a very broad-striped blazer. His spouse's summer dress was a narrower version of the awnings on their rented cottage. Cotton tennis sweaters were striped horizontally and vertically. Vendors shaded themselves and their customers with gaily banded canvas. It appeared that the entire scene along the strand was made dazzling to entice Matisse to jab into the most vibrant pigments on his palette, to inspire generations of couturiers to jazz up the cool blue, white, and green of the shore with the gaudiest hues available.

How fitting: to make a splash at the beach in every way! It's humanity's annual chance to imitate zebras - in technicolor.

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