Childhood = 100 Years Ago

Westward Ho – Part 2: General Custard

<— Part 1 —-<

Instead of driving west into Utah, then up to Idaho, we drove north to Montana in a spontaneous change of plans wholly inspired by a coloring book, Bucky Thompson and the Redskins. As my dad now saw it, we were somehow bound to honor the unspecified deeds of a few or maybe several unnamed individuals of vague and generalized historical significance. When asked where we were driving or to whom we were supposed to feel indebted, my dad would only answer with, “You’ll see,” and a smile that anticipated what was no doubt going to be a big payoff.

Minutes turned into hours and hours turned into…well, more hours. Entertainment was desirable and necessary, but seemed perpetually elusive, like the face of an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon. 20 Questions, Slug Bug and a game of I Spy that ended with my sister, Michele, hitting me (she got mad because the only things I would ‘spy’ were things inside the car. “Stop picking ‘headrest’. Idiot.”) Eventually, we took to humming the theme songs of television shows.

On some highways, even starting a game of Slug Bug can take several hours

On some highways, even starting a game of Slug Bug can take several hours

By the time my dad and I started in on what my sister termed to be the ‘kajillionth stupid’ rendition in a row of the Bonanza theme, my dad suddenly announced, “Here we are!”

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Westward Ho – Part 1: Crappy Souveniers

PREFACE: Much of my childhood was spent on the road, but not in a Beatified, romantic sort of way. Instead, it was simply that we were forced to. Whether transferred, offered a better job or just simply fired, my dad’s job(s) kept the family moving from town to town and state to state, the only constant in our lives being each other and boxes marked Bekins.

When I was in the third grade, my sister and I attended three different schools in three different states thanks to three different moves. The following takes place during move #3 from Colorado to Washington.

***

It seemed as though my dad had become delusional, that he believed he could enact an honest to goodness miracle. How? By attempting to make a 1400-mile drive less oppressive and monotonous–daresay fun–to a 9-year old boy and 14-year old girl.

“Honey, look! We can fit my clubs, your dresses, the dog and still have plenty of room for the children’s many, many tears!”

The suggestion was that my sister, Michele, and I begin collecting knickknacks from any points of interest we passed. We were assured that not only would we “get a kick out of” doing so, but that we would probably end up thanking my dad for helping us begin what could very well become a lifelong hobby. (SPOILER: We never had to thank him.)

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This Birthday Memory Brought To You By Coors

For my 11th birthday, I hosted a sleepover for eight of my friends at our home in Tacoma, WA.

In case any of you don’t know, sleepovers are different than slumber parties. Like, inherently different. Sleepovers were for boys and, therefore, awesome. Slumber parties were for stupid ol’ girls and, therefore, stupid. Slumber parties, I assumed, had tea and sandwiches, had stuffed animals included on the guest list, incessant talks about ponies and ended at 9:00 when everyone went to sleep and dreamt of stupid girl stuff like princes and weddings and rainbows. Sleepovers revolved around junk food, a slasher movie on Showtime and staying up as late as possible.

With sleeping bags strewn about the living room, my friends and I laughed, burped and whispered “dirty words” well into the night, fueled by cheap pizza and gallons of brand name sugar water (the brand name being ‘Soda’.) My sister opted to spend that night at a friend’s house, my dad had been out since 7, so the only person in danger of being kept up was my mother. Either a heavy sleeper or the definition of lenient, my mother never complained or asked us to quiet down.

Around 1:30 or so, my friend Tim was entertaining us with a secondhand Cheech and Chong routine he had heard from his brother-in-law. The bit had something to do with bodily functions, which was the height of comedy at 11, so we laughed like hyenas on nitrous oxide.

“Bodily functions! hahahahaha! Bathroom reference! hahahahaha!”

It was then that we heard my dad’s car pull into the driveway. At the first sign of an adult, standard sleepover protocol dictated everyone pretend to be asleep. And so, as what sounded like 200 keys rattled to unlock the front door and the first sounds of cowboy boots clomped on the entryway linoleum, none of us knew that our sleepover was to be front row to what happened next. Continue reading

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Room For Four More

It was my parents’ 17th anniversary, a night for outward ‘I-love-you’s and inward ‘what-was-I-thinking’s. These anniversary dinners out as a family were standard: eat something expensive, maybe have dessert, then my parents might dance to prerecorded entertainment or a sullen piano player.

Little could any of us have known that, that night we would all be dancing…

Dancing, that is, with a partner named Death!

Mmwwahahaha!!!

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When he’s not terrorizing my family, Death enjoys choreographing routines for the local cheerleading squad. This might be the year they go to the tri-state finals!

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My Name Is Mike and I’m a Felon

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If Oregon code 131.125 is taken into account, the statute of limitations on this particular crime has long since passed. This allows me to speak openly and in detail–without concern of incriminating myself or my accomplice–in a way that would stir up the Oregon DA to open its drawer of unsolved crimes, give the media reason to drag my name through the ringer and cause shame-by-association to my wife or friends.

My Future Friends. From L to R: Zip Gun Joe, Me, Coked Up Gabe and Racist Alan

The truth is that, at one point, I was a burglar. Not the cool, acceptable kind of burglar with a black hat, black mask and striped prison garb whose only joy stems from stealing Quarter Pounders, Big Macs and other food stamp-priced burgers devoid of nutrients. No, I was just a no-good, soulless, morally bankrupt house burglar whose life had been on its way to one of ruin and prison brawls—the kind of fate that would be a lot to handle for anyone.

But, it was even harder for me. I was only 4!

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To All Who Come To This Happy Place… Aaaarrrggh!

NOTE – While I am offline writing fiction and ignoring my blog, I’ve decided to post a few pieces that 99% of you have never read.

Originally published by Forces Of Geek

*****

Perhaps I’d been serenaded “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” once too often while still in the womb or maybe it was the steady diet of Donald Duck brand orange juice made with fruit concentrate that did it to me. Whatever the root cause, I was raised with an inherent love of all things Disney. To my sister and me, Disney cartoons and films were seen as the embodiment of all things good, they conveyed a world where things were safe, where good things happened to good people and where solutions to most of our problems were just a Sherman brothers song away. I believed that the Disney magic was real. Real, that is, until… that one day.

What happened that day, you ask?

A sobering reality that haunts me to this day–that’s what happened.

Let us journey, boys and girls, back to a not-so-magical land called… Anaheim.

LBOfT

“Oh look. Anaheim has people dress up as foliage. How quaint!”

That particular morning, my adorable self had woken up with an enthusiasm unmatched since Continue reading

Categories: Childhood = 100 Years Ago | Tags: , , , , | 30 Comments

Waste Of Ancient Wisdom

The place: Tacoma, WA

Aron Hakone’s dad was someone worth bragging about. He was a black belt in karate, was in really good shape, was really nice and, oh! was a black belt in karate. One day at school, Aron posted a sign-up list in our 4th grade class room. Mr. Hakone was offering karate lessons at his home, free of charge! I was one of the first to sign up, with visions of my throwing ninja stars with unprecedented accuracy and eventually landing a lucrative career in martial arts films running through my mind.

On the day the class started, I was ready a full hour before I was supposed to even leave for the Hakone house. I wore my gray sweatpants, a blank jersey with red, elbow-length sleeves, blue Adidas and the same pair of big-toe-sticking-out-of-a-hole socks I’d been wearing for three days straight. Since no one ever saw my feet, I rarely gave a second thought to their appearance or general lack of hygiene.

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“Turns out we read the report wrong, Dave. It was a sign-up sheet for martial arts, not martial law. We, uh, we should probably start cleaning up.”

After being dropped off by my mom, I walked up to the front door where, taped to the knocker, a note read: CLASS IN BACKYARD GO THROUGH GATE LEFT SIDE OF GARAGE 

In the backyard, I found Aron, Clint and Wendell sitting on the grass. Aron had on a karate suit with a blue belt, Continue reading

Categories: Childhood = 100 Years Ago | Tags: , , , , | 62 Comments

The Girl With The Bowl Cut Hair

freshly-pressed-logo

The place: Mrs. Dell’s 6th grade classroom, Idlewild Elementary, Tacoma, WA.

***

As Valentine’s Day crept up on us like a pink disease, Mrs. Dell read aloud stories of love. Every one of the girls in class were attentive as Mrs. Dell read about love won, love lost, mythical love (both Greek and Roman). We boys, on the other hand, safeguarded our discomfort behind disgusted remarks and inappropriate kissy noises. When I wasn’t busy doing my part to mock the ridiculous concept of love, I kept a clandestine gaze on the chubby-cheeked smile of Kara Pennyday.

Since Day 1 of the fourth grade, I had carried a torch for Kara like an Olympic ceremonial participant on a hamster wheel. She may not have had the girliness of Molly Johnson or the burgeoning A-cup figure of Dotty Curtner, but I found Kara to be the most captivating girl in Idlewild. I was entranced by her bowl cut hair and her uncanny ability to be as well-versed in Star Wars characters as she was in members of boy bands. She was friendly and open-minded. Heck, she was even friendly with Sue Munsen.

It’s debatable whether or not a sixth grader is capable of experiencing actual love–it may be better classified as puppy love or as innocent infatuation. Whatever the correct term was, I was head over heels in it. And maybe the stories that Mrs. Dell read began to sink in because, despite everything my chicken hearted logic told me, I decided that I would try to let Kara know how I felt. The only problem was how to do it.

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Categories: Childhood = 100 Years Ago | Tags: , , , , | 218 Comments

Aaay! It’s Fonzie Day

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Growing up on that particular Oregon street was innocent, quiet and, if I’d known what a Beaver Cleaver even was, maybe even Cleaver-esque. Hillsboro was the sort of Nilla wafer-flavored suburb that angsty teens hated for its lack of anything interesting that ever happened, and the neighborhood cops loved to patrol for the exact same reason.

The self-centered, myopic life of a child is all about living in that particular moment, playing an endless number of games, using anything and everything as a toy and basically overworking one’s imagination like it were a Dickensian workhouse orphan. At 4 years old, life was simple, fairly straightforward and free of the obstacles that life would present in the following years (obstacles like telling time and learning to write a capital Q.) Each day was (if the system of mathematics I made up was correct) 132 hours long and a week was made up of, like, three months.

astronaut

“Oh yes, sir. That’s is absolutely right. Going into space was way easier than writing a capital Q in cursive. That’s just damn near impossible.”

I would wake up, have breakfast, play some games that I may or may not have made up and, more or less, go to bed feeling that I’d accomplished Continue reading

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Things That Go Bump In The Night – Part 2 – Physical Contact

<—- part 1 Field Trip

At lunch on Friday, Wendell and Clint insisted that Tim, Alan and I spend the night at Wendell’s. They ignored all of our questions about the evening except one, by far the most important question, one that would sway even the fiercest fence-sitter: yes, Wendell’s mom would be ordering pizza.

That night, we found Clint and Wendell in the garage busy at work with assorted tools and what looked to be leftover slats from a picket fence. As Wendell sawed down every other slat, Clint joined them to longer pieces with nails of varying length with equally varying accuracy.

“Yeah!” Alan yelled out, taking up one of the finished pieces. “Swords!”

Wendell grabbed the wooden sword, flipped it and handed it it back. “It’s a cross.”

“Happy birthday, Gary! I saw this place and remembered how much you liked wooden swords. Go ahead and pick one out!”

“Whatta we need crosses for?” Tim asked.

“For tonight,” Wendell answered, trying on the smile villains deliver when they’ve finally captured the hero. When villains did it, it was sinister and ominous, but Wendell looked like he was in need of a gallon of bicarbonate. “You’ll see.”

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Categories: Childhood = 100 Years Ago | Tags: , , , , | 34 Comments

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