Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going Out To Cali

A long time ago, back in the early 80’s, I was a grade school boy without much to worry about. I played around the neighborhood, I ate what mom cooked, I watched a little TV (always cartoons on Saturday morning), and dreamed of far off places. One place I thought I’d never go was Disneyland. It just seemed too fantastic, a true fairy tale kind of place. One day, dad and mom sat my brother Jeff and me down and told us that we would be driving to California the upcoming summer. All in all, it was going to be a two week ordeal. We would stop to see friends in Arizona, stop at the Grand Canyon, stop to see my Aunt and Uncle in Irvine and go to Disneyland. Wait, what? Disneyland? That’s not possible. Is it? Holy mackerel, I’m going to Disneyland...and I hadn't even won the Super Bowl.
The day to leave came and we loaded up our suitcases and packed a cooler full of food. Also in the mix were some things to keep me entertained like coloring books and those crappy early baseball and football video games. They were the ones with a blinking dot for the guy with the ball and other dots that were the defensive players. Real high-tech! We set off for the west coast and I had a gleam of hope in my eye that Mickey was waiting for me to show up. We traveled for what seemed like three weeks and finally reached Phoenix. We would stop at roadside picnic areas for meals out of the cooler, sandwiches and chips mostly.We stopped in Phoenix to see Kathy, one of my parents' friends and her two sons, Johnnie and Shane. They had lived near us for years and all of us boys kind of grew up together for a while. We stopped at their house. It was in a kind of community that I had never seen before. All the houses were the same, white stucco with a terra cotta tiled roof. There were dozens of houses with a community center and swimming pool that all the residents could use if they needed. Growing up in small town America, we didn't have a pool. There was an indoor pool about a half hour away at the YMCA, but we only went occasionally during the summer as part of the school's Reading Is Fundamental program. If you participated and read a certain number of books, you were rewarded with a swim day. I always read about twice as many books that were needed so I was certain that I could go. Later they had a weekly bus that would go to the outdoor pool. I made that trip as often as I could. Anyway, back to the Arizona pool. We showed up and they told us they had a pool we could go swim in. Johnnie and Shane swam all the time, so they didn't really want to go. I didn't want to be an ungrateful guest, but I wasn't courteous enough to not run to the bathroom and put on my swimming trunks when I heard there was a pool I could walk to and swim in. I played in the water like it was the only water for miles and miles. Looking back, that probably wasn't too far from the truth. We had a good time talking to everyone. We had a nice dinner and spent the night. We got up the following morning and made the trek up to the canyon. I was burnt and a little uncomfortable. A little pale Irish boy in a pool in Arizona is just asking for third degree burns. It wasn't that bad, but we had todig out some lotion so I would quit telling everyone I was miserable. Coated in a layer of sunburn soother, we made our way to the giant hole in the earth north of PhoenixWhen we got to the Grand Canyon, it was better than I had anticipated. I like nature and the outdoors as long as I wasn't in them for very long. Looking out over the expanse of the canyon, I was mesmerized. The only word I could say was “massive”. I stared and stared until my eyes dried out from the desert wind and sun. All the things I had learned about in school about layers of earth and rivers washing away stone was all here in front of me. Miles and miles of science class. I was always a quiet kid, but my parents may have been worried I was either bored or the trip had made me dumb. It was neither of those things. I was just in awe of nature. We shuffled around the tourist areas of the canyon. I heard that there was a path to the bottom of the canyon where you could walk or ride a burro to a small outpost on the canyon floor. I thought riding a donkey would be a pretty sweet way to spend the afternoon so I suggested it. Both mom and dad laughed and said “No way”. Being an adult and parent now, I can see their wisdom in turning down the rare “opportunity” to ride a beast of burden for a couple of hours downhill...then back up again. The day's excursion to the Grand Canyon ended without incident. Although my brother, Jeff, did lose his footing near the rim of the canyon and turned white as a ghost for a few hours. We got some fresh drinks at a convenience store and headed back to the main highway. Jeff drank his before we made it out of the parking lot. Then he spent the next ten minutes burping in my face. Disneyland, where are you? We were one step closer to Big D, and I don’t mean Dallas.
I can't remember sleeping arrangements along the way for this trip other than the night in Phoenix and a couple of nights at my Uncle Bill and Aunt Valentina's condo in Irvine. We had to utilize a hotel or two because it was a two week vacation, but I can't bring those memories to light. What I do remember is showing up to my aunt and uncle's place. It was a very posh condo that was adjacent to a very large park. I remember it being pink and sparkly, kind of swank like a 1970's party. Something fit for the mimosa and martini crowd. We got settled in and Jeff and I decided to explore the park. It was manicured green for what seemed like miles. There were basketball courts, a baseball diamond, tennis courts, a playground and what looked like a par five fairway on a golf course. My Uncle Bill thought so as well. He asked us if we wanted to watch him whack some golf balls around. That sounded like a good way to kill some time, so we followed him carrying about 20 old golf balls and my tall, lanky uncle shouldered his three wood. We would drop a ball and he would smack it down the middle of the grassy expanse. After about ten such projectiles, a guy in a golf cart wheeled around. It was the park police! We were busted. He told us that hitting golf balls in a public park was not allowed and honestly kind of dangerous. Uncle Bill explained that we had just driven in from Oklahoma and he was showing us a good time. He told the man that the park did, in fact, look like a golf course. The ranger agreed, but stuck to the "No Driving" policy. We went back inside content that we had broken a stupid law and got away with it.As the days went by, we spent time in San Francisco and a few other towns and cities up and down the California coast. San Francisco was absolutely amazing. Strangely enough, it looked exactly like it did on TV and in books! We hit the high points that tourists do. We found the twisting Lombard Street, but it was closed for repaving. We couldn't even walk down it. That was a bit of a letdown. We hopped onto a moving cable car and rode down to Fisherman's Wharf. Man, was it ever fishy there. You could not escape the smell. I wasn't having the best of times until I saw it. A man had just been out deep sea fishing and hauled in the biggest fish I had ever seen in person. It was certainly longer than I was tall. It was the typical scene of him standing beside it getting his picture taken while it hung heavy on a hook. Okay, so this place was cool after all. Speaking of cool, a side note to San Francisco is that we were there in the summer time. You might think summer...California...wear some shorts and a tank top like I did. Middle of the day, it was 57 degrees and I'm in shorty shorts and a Pacific Ocean sleeveless shirt. Not ideal gear to get on a boat going toward Alcatraz, but that's exactly what I did. We made the short freezing trek over to The Rock and disembarked. We did the tour, got locked in a cell, and browsed the gift shop. I hadn't done any prior research on Alcatraz so I probably missed some of the meaning behind the place. It was still pretty cool to be in a place that had a movie made about it.The topic “Movies” brings me to our next stop; Universal Studios Theme Park. Now, at the time, Disneyland was my Holy Grail. It was the place that I was concentrating on. In retrospect, however, I had a much better time at Universal. The Psycho house, Jekyll & Hyde, The A-Team Van, Battlestar Galactica, Jaws, King Kong, The Ten Commandments, and giant movie props. I was also highly entertained by employees who were dressed up in costumes. It seemed a bit silly, but it made me smile when I saw one of them. My memories of this place are clearer and still locked in my head. As I said before though, my focus was the next day's activities at the Magic Kingdom.Finally, the day came. DISNEYLAND!!! Our Buick Skylark pulled into the massive parking lot and we park about 155 miles from the front entrance and walked. We queued up and got tickets. We stepped inside the park and I spaced out. This was the biggest, coolest place in the world and I was here. Honestly, most of the day was a blur of good times. A Disney fishing hat, rides, shows, Small World, and Elton John. Did you say Elton John? Why, yes I did! In the early 80's, I didn't know about music as extensively as I do now, but who I did know was Elton John. He was on The Muppet Show once. Of course I knew who he was and he was twenty feet in front of me waiting to ride a ride! He had an entourage of merry men with him. I didn't know anything about gay people at the time. They just seemed like they were as happy as I was to be at Disneyland. Who could blame them? He had on a white ball cap, white pants, and pink sunglasses. If it wasn't him, his impersonator was outstanding. After hitting every ride, every store, every show, and probably every snack stand in the place, we dragged our spent carcasses back out to the car. The event had happened. The happiest place on earth had been conquered. We returned back to Oklahoma fairly quickly. I don't remember driving back at all. I was still mesmerized from the feelings that no other place could have delivered. Mickey didn't know I had been there, but I didn't care. I saw him thirty times that day and that's really all that matters. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Drummond At Night

I found out at an early age that sleep and I didn't really get along very well. I would sometimes lay in bed trying to go to sleep only to have invading thoughts like schoolwork, baseball, girls, or Ozzy lyrics. Sometimes I would get up and watch TV, but there usually wasn't too many interesting things to watch. In Drummond, we didn't have cable so we got NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS and a couple of UHF stations. So one option was TV, another was listening to music. This was often counterproductive since I loved music so much. I would just listen and listen and listen until the sun came up. Strike that for trying to sleep. One thing that I found that worked very well in calling the sandman was walking. The first couple of times I ventured outside after everyone had gone to bed, I was nervous. I would quickly walk around two blocks and come straight back home, come inside, lock the door and peek out the window to see if anyone was coming to tell mom and dad that they saw me galavanting around town. That never happened, so I got braver. Late at night  I would walk down to the park which was about three blocks for me, hang out on one of the swings for a few minutes and start to head back. The second time I walked to the park, I hung out like usual and started heading back home. A panic attack hit me! Oh crap! What if mom or dad wakes up, turns off the living room lamp and locks the door while I'm out here. I'll have to sleep outside all night! I made it home and no one had locked the door, but I knew I couldn't risk that in the future. All the outings from then on were documented with a note taped to the inside of the front door. "I couldn't sleep so I went for a walk. Please do not turn off the light or lock the door." Panic attack averted. As I became more familiar with Drummond at night, I walked everywhere. The park was in the center of town, so if I needed to get a drink of water, I only needed to walk a few blocks to get one. No worries. Every so often, I would meet someone who was walking around too. My buddy Doug and I wandered all over town more than a few times. We even found a ladder behind the Co-op where we could climb on top of the feed building and watch downtown from a secret perch. It was awesome. One day I told my friend John about walking around town at night. He said that he and his brothers did that once in a while. I asked if they wanted to meet up and roam around for a while. He said he was up for it. So that Friday night, I put the note on the door and headed out. I was walking past the trees near the back of the park when I heard "PSSST". I stopped dead in my tracks to listen. "PSSSST"! There it was again! Where the heck was it coming from? Suddenly, John and his little brother popped out of the bushes and waved me into the shadows of the park. For me, wandering around town was brazenly strolling down the middle of the road. For John and his brothers, it was a covert operation. I had the best time that night because I wasn't just wandering from street light to street light. I was dodging light altogether. I was a freakin' ninja jumping from shadow to shadow in an attempt to do absolutely nothing without anyone seeing me do it. I eventually went back to just walking down the middle of the road, but I now knew all the spots to hide if I needed to duck out of sight. Being grown up now, I still have a lack of sleep that hangs around. Whenever it does, I get nostalgic about Drummond at night.

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

I Wanna Rock!

I wasn't very old, maybe seven years old, when I discovered music other than what Disney, the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family had to offer. When my parents were a little younger, they belonged to a record club that sent them the album of the month and whatever else they wanted to order. They had what I thought were tons of records. In reality there were maybe forty or fifty records, but to my young brain, there were thousands of listening possibilities. I would go into their bedroom where the records and record player were and sift through the big 12" sleeves. The colors were bright and the artwork was beautiful. There was a little bit of everything there; Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Herb Alpert and Hugo Montenegro, and Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. There was also a lot of gospel like George Beverly Shea. What got me most was the compilations like Freedom Rock. Hey man, is that FREEDOM ROCK? A couple of compilations that I remember were each a two record set. Four sides of amazing rock music like I had never heard before or since. Don't get me wrong. I keep up with music like a junkie looking for a fix. But there is something to be said for music from the late 50's, all of the 60's and early 70's. One album that I still own and listen to is called Get It Together. Some of the musicians and groups on it include Cream, Iron Butterfly, The Who, Vanilla Fudge, and The Kinks. I could go on mentioning The Monkees, but I'll stop there...two albums worth of music! When I first found these records, I wasn't sure what to make of them. I had seen The Monkees on TV, but I didn't think they were real musicians, but there they were. I put the record on, sat down with some blank paper and drew pictures while I listened to this new and amazing music. After I had listened to these albums 30 or 40 times, I wouldn't sit and draw. I would get up and dance and move and sing every word at the top of my lungs. I'm sure it was a hilarious sight to see an eight year old Jonathan dancing like a dork and singing "American Woman. Stay away from me-eeeee" to no one in particular. I grew up with that music and it helped open my eyes to new music and new experiences without denying the music from my past. It taught me that I could still listen to The Brady Bunch kids doing covers of Chicago songs and still fully appreciate Somebody To Love by Jefferson Airplane. My eyes continue to stay open looking for the band of the month or the restaurant I've never tried. Another bit of old music that has been a constant reminder of the need to "Live Now" is George Clinton's line in a Funkadelic song: Free your mind and your ass will follow. My ass has been following my open mind since I heard these early records in my parents bedroom a lot of years ago. I thank my folks for having the records and I thank my brain for getting past the idea of staying the course and playing it safe in everything. Thanks brain. You're welcome, dork dancer.

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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Richard Pryor Is The Devil...Or Maybe A God

From an early age, I loved to laugh. I could find a ton of things to laugh at like TV, friends, school, church, and even the grocery store. To me, laughing was the closest thing to sheer happiness I could imagine. Everyday I would come across something that was entertaining enough to bring me to a chuckle, but it was all things in and around my own little world. Drummond had some good laughing potential, but it wasn't until I discovered stand up comedy that my world opened up and laughter became something beyond me. There were people that got paid to think up jokes and funny stories for the sole purpose of making everyone laugh. Being friends with a lot of people in town, I had been inside a bunch of people's houses. In all of the houses I'd been to, no one had ever told me that there were records and tapes of stand up comedians. That was until I went over to James Hicks's house one afternoon. We had both been just hanging around town and bumped into each other. He invited me to his house for something to drink and maybe check out some of his records. In my house, we had lots of records and I was always looking for some new music. I happily agreed and we left for his house. I went into his bedroom while he got us a couple of glasses of ice water. I had already started looking through some of the records he had. James handed me the water and said, "I've got something really cool. Have you ever heard Bill Cosby?" I said, "The Fat Albert guy? I didn't know he made music." James laughed and told me I was a ding dong and, of course, it wasn't music, it was a comedy record. Comedy record? I was intrigued. "Put it on!", I told him. He lifted the plastic cover to the player, slid the black circle out of its sleeve, and started me on a journey of comedic discovery. It was Bill's album Wonderfulness and had a picture of him in a home made go kart on it. I laughed hard at what Bill was saying. I was amazed that there were funny things outside my realm of influence. Sure, seeing some guy at the park get hit in the grapes with a baseball was pretty funny, but what I was hearing were well thought out stories that were highly entertaining. After I downed my water and listened to the first side of the record, I headed home since it was getting late and I was hungry. I didn't forget that record though.
Within a few months, I had researched people who did stand up similar to Cosby. Since my only resource was the Enid library, my selections were pretty limited. I did find some great albums by Mort Sahl, Bob Newhart, and Lenny Bruce. I later found out that Lenny Bruce was supposed to have been taken out of circulation at the library since someone had complained about its content. I was lucky enough to have gotten to listen to it first though. Comedy was one of my newest favorite things and I couldn't get enough.
My brother, Jeff, is almost seven years older than I am and he had more access to things than I did. One thing that I found out that he possessed was a cassette tape by Richard Pryor. It was my habit to go into Jeff's room when he wasn't home and find new records and tapes. That's how I discovered The Clash, Quiet Riot, and Def Leppard. One of the greatest finds, however, was that Richard Pryor tape. It was his Here and Now album. I went into my room, popped the tape in, and pushed play. It started with a man's introduction: Ladies and gentlemen...Richard Pryor. The crowd went nuts and I got excited. He spoke a little bit and then said the word "M-----f-----" and I dove for the stereo to turn it off. I wasn't sure if I should listen to this thing or not. Decisions, decisions. I grabbed my boombox, stuck the tape in my pocket, and headed for the park. I wasn't about to listen to this in the house, but the park seemed okay. I played the entire tape when I got to the park. I didn't understand some things at the time, but what I did understand, I laughed at. I laughed very hard. It did have a lot of cussing in it, but that wasn't what I was laughing at. I had heard those words hundreds of times. What I was enjoying was how well Richard told a story. His vocal inflections, imitations, and characters were like no other stories I'd ever heard before, and I really haven't since then. I would eventually know that album word for word I listened to it so much. Kinda sad, but that's me in a nutshell. Bill Cosby was like a gateway comedian for me. His great humor lead me into a never ending supply of funny people. I have since become an avid stand up comedy follower. Even though everyday life hands you some great and funny stories, hearing comedian's stories that have nothing to do with everyday life is always refreshing to me. Thanks to James for showing me Bill Cosby and thanks to my brother Jeff for never locking his door.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tower of Flames

When I was growing up, I had a great friend named Seth. We hit it off the first time we met on the tennis/basketball court by the school. His brother G.R. and my brother Jeff knew each other, so eventually we were going to meet. What ensued after that first encounter was years of good times, helping each other, and general kid type mayhem. Seth’s dad Gary was the postmaster for Drummond and an avid horseshoe pitcher. Seth was into it as well, so I decided to give it a try. I thought it was both a weird and fun hobby. There were times we would get up at 5:00 am to make it to a tournament by 8:00. The first few I didn’t much care for, but then I started winning a few. I’d caught the horseshoe pitching bug thanks to the Maixners. I still have a couple of the trophies to this day.

Not everything that Seth and I did was as productive as winning tournaments and playing basketball. I hate to admit it, but there was a little destruction here and there as well. The fact that neither of us wound up in the hospital because of some of the stupid stuff we did is a mild miracle. Since we lived in a very safe town, we were free to roam all over creation as long as we told our parents where we were going and when we’d be back. This opened up our days to explore Drummond and the surrounding area. It also opened up our days to find out what the effects of fire were on various things. Bear in mind that we never caused a structure fire, a grass fire, or any permanent noticeable damage to the world around us…but we were little pyros for about a week.

Our first venture into the effects of fire was of a legal nature: fireworks! I never got to buy my own fireworks, so I relied on friends that would give me a Black Cat or two. Seth and I had some Black Cats and Jumping Jacks that were left over from the 4th of July. We decided to light them and toss them around his yard. That was fun for about twenty minutes. Then we got the brilliant idea to put one under a paper cup. BAM! The paper cup was torn to shreds. It was like angels were singing from the heavens. Small amounts of gun powder could cause some mild destruction. This was the most awesome revelation for two boys. We soon began setting up more intricate things to blow up. We also discovered that if you cut small firecrackers open, you could empty the powder into a larger tube and make bigger bangs. We never achieved the big boom we had hoped for since we didn’t have an endless supply of Black Cats. We did, however, manage a bang so loud that the neighbors thought we had a .22 or something similar. Eventually the firecrackers ran out and we were left with the prospect of waiting nine or ten more months for the 4th of July to come back around. We started digging through his family’s tool shed looking for stuff to get into. That’s when we found the gas can. We knew that gasoline was flammable and the potential of danger, burns, and fun was close at hand, but what to do? Our first and only experiment with gasoline started with a red spray paint can lid. We thought we should stay in the garage for the experiment, since the wind might be a negative variable in our quest for fire. First, we sprayed a bunch of paint into the cap. That looked pretty good. Next, we poured a little lighter fluid in because we weren’t 100% sure the gasoline would light. Finally, we topped off the can’s cap with gasoline. It was an interesting viscous looking blend. We stood and stared at it for a couple of minutes wondering what level of danger we were about to engage in. Seth went in the house and got a small box of matches. We couldn’t decide who would be the one to light it and who would be there to put out the flames if need be. I took a deep breath and volunteered for the lighting duties. I lit the first match and chickened out. I got down on one knee next to the cylinder of death and struck another match. As I leaned in to put the match to the gasoline, I paused. I looked at Seth and asked, “Does gasoline light right away or does it take a minute to get going?” He thought for a few seconds as the match burned closer to my fingers. “I’m pretty sure it takes a minute to get going,” was his eventual reply. With half the match in cinders, I reached down toward the cap. My hand was inches away from the flammable soup when a WHOOSH enveloped my hand. We had left it sitting long enough for the fumes to be hovering above the paint cap. I squealed like a girl and jumped back falling on my ass. I thought for sure that my hand was going to melt off if I looked at it. Seth was bouncing around like a golden gloves boxer, not sure if he needed to save me or put out the fire. I looked down at my hand and there was nothing wrong with it. I couldn’t believe it. I looked back at the spray paint can lid. It was a tiny tower of flames. We sat wide eyed for a few seconds as we watched it burn. Then the plastic lid started to melt, which caused the liquid to start pouring out the side, which caused a big puddle of spreading flames. We had the garden hose out and ready to extinguish any stray flames, but our little pyro tower fizzled out before we had the need to use it. The big fire experiment was over. I’m still not sure if it was a success or a failure, but it taught us not to play around with fire and gasoline anymore.

We cleaned up our area of destruction and went in the house to play some Defender on his Atari. As we played, I kept thinking I smelled something burning, so I was constantly getting up to see if the flames had reignited. Seth said he didn’t smell anything and I shouldn’t worry about it. Playing Atari and drinking Kool-Aid, an eventual bathroom break was inevitable. I stepped into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, and discovered that my eyebrows and nose hair had been singed. That’s why I could smell something burnt and Seth couldn’t. I rubbed my nose and eyebrows, used the facilities, washed my hands, and never mentioned the tower of flames to anyone…until today.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

More Watermelon Please

Summertime in Drummond had both good and bad aspects. There was the miserable Oklahoma plains heat, but there was also the ice cream case at Mac’s Grocery. Stand in front of that thing for a minute and life was good again. There was mind numbing boredom at times, but there was also riding bikes, chowing at church pot luck suppers, hanging out with friends, and smooching that girl you’ve had your eye on. While not everyone in town attended church or smooched girls, we all attended the end of summer Drummond Watermelon Feed, the town festival that took place just before school was to start back for the fall semester.

Some people may have watched the festivities from afar, some participated, and some worked the event. I was always a mere attendee. You could win more prizes that way! Out in the open air (and eventually under the pavilion), a giant bingo game was held all evening until the table full of prizes ran out. When I was in grade school and junior high, the cost of a bingo card was ten cents. For one thin dime you had the chance to win a football, a basket of fruit, a board game, or dozens of other great things. If bingo wasn’t your forte, there were sack races and horseshoe pitching, egg toss and water balloon fights. I’m not sure if the water balloon fights were a sanctioned event, but I know I got pelted a few times and always returned fire. At the center of all this hullabaloo was a giant trailer full of big juicy watermelons. As the name Watermelon Feed would suggest, you and your family could go down to the park, belly up to the melon table, and gorge yourself on free slabs of the delicious red fruit. There were a bevy of helpers wearing knife safe gloves lopping off edible sized pieces of watermelon. Most of the time I would stand there like a goober and watch for ten minutes before I snapped back to reality and grabbed a slice. After your face was well coated in juice, and your slice had been devoured, you would heave the rind up into a dump truck conveniently located near the table. I once stood by the truck for twenty minutes helping little old ladies chuck their rinds into the truck. Each time I thought I could escape, another smiling, blue-haired beauty would say “I saw you toss Myrna’s rind into the truck. Can you help me with mine?” Since my mom and pop raised me right, I smiled back and hucked another spent rind into the dump truck.

By the end of the night, I was tired from running around, wet from water balloons, and sticky from watermelon juice. I would hang around until nearly everyone had gone home, save the die hard bingo players vying for that last big prize. I would often wonder if people in big cities had festivals too. I would later learn that, in fact, they did have festivals…giant festivals. Since I left Drummond, I have attended quite a few of the bigger festivals. Hopefully soon I’ll make the big trip to Rio so I can say I’ve attended the big one. But, you know what none of those giant festivals have? Free watermelon. Bam! Drummond wins again!

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Poor Charlie

When I was in the 1st Grade, or Grade One to you Canadians and Brits, I had a friend named Charlie. Charlie was a big kid by anyone's standards. Big as in tall and a little chubby. That didn't stop me from being fascinated by him and liking him a lot. But the one thing that Charlie had going against him was the fact that he had the worst luck of anyone I had known up to that point. It could have been luck, or circumstances, or bad decisions, but he always wound up with the worst case scenario.
The first malady that befell Charlie was what I refer to as The Paste Incident. First grade was a brilliant time for creativity. Our wonderful teacher Mrs. Singleton was one of the most patient, smart, and able teachers one could have on their staff. And yet, I could see the frustration in her face when she looked to the back of the room where Charlie and I sat and saw him take his paste wand out of the jar, examine it carefully, and lick off the entire contents of the little stick. I sat in wonder. I didn't know quite what to say other than "That taste good?" I remember he said that he wasn't sure. That was the end of our conversation because the usually even keeled Mrs. Singleton went a little crazy. It wasn't in a threatening or over the top way, but you could tell she was visibly shaken by this lumbering child gulping down a hefty dose of glue. As I sat staring at Charlie, I heard a contained shriek from the front of the class. Mrs. Singleton was up from her seat and headed our way. She asked Charlie why he had done that, to which his reply was "I don't know." She looked up at the ceiling for a split second and told him to go to the office and see if there was anything they could do to make sure he wasn't going to get sick from what he had just done. Poor Mrs. Singleton.
The Paste Incident was just a glimpse into what lie ahead for the rest of the year. Another creative venture for us was splatter painting. We weren't actually allowed to fling paint all over creation like miniature Jackson Pollacks. We were to get a few containers of paint on our desks and, with a regular drinking straw, suck up a small amount of paint and blow it onto our selected paper. You see what's coming, don't you? We were going about our business of creating masterpieces when I hear Charlie grunt in agony. I look in his direction and it looked as though he had just devoured a Smurf. He had bright blue paint completely covering his mouth and dripping down onto his paper and probably his shirt. Again Mrs. Singleton raised her eyes to the ceiling as if to say, "Dear Lord, what is my lesson here?"
And the hits just kept coming with Charlie. There was an Elmer's glue issue, a crayon in the ol' ear canal problem, and the "I'm pretty sick, but I'm going to play on the merry-go-round anyway" debacle. This was a time when the merry-go-round was right outside the door at the end of the school. We had just eaten lunch and Charlie told me he didn't feel very good. I said he should go tell the teacher and she might have some medicine for him. He said, "I think I'm okay to play for a little while." Famous last words. Charlie got on the spinning disc and began to turn green. In a rare insightful moment, I got the heck out of there, but I watched from a distance. Charlie went round and round five or six times and then barfed. He was facing the outside edge of the merry-go-round so his expulsion was not only traveling outward, it was following the trajectory of the merry-go-round as well. This is totally gross, but it looked like a barf sprinkler. As is the case with most kids, the sight, sound, and smell of this occurrence led to others losing their lunch as well. It had turned into a playground of the macabre and I wasn't going to have any part of it. I went inside and pretended that nothing happened.
After that, Charlie stayed around Drummond for a while, but his family eventually moved on. I'm assuming because of a job or something and not Charlie's playground fiasco. My brief time with Charlie led me to the conclusion that some people are born lucky, some people are regular people, and some are born unlucky. I hope Charlie outgrew the unlucky aspect of himself. He always had a way of entertaining me whether he knew it or not. That seems better than luck to me.

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