My Life

Sunday in the Park with Brian: Therapy Session #29 (The “Irresponsible and Possibly Narcissistic” Version)

Hi.

My last post involved me casting 21 “reveal something about yourself” questions into the ether and waiting to see how folks would respond to such an intrusive action on my part. To be fair, I haven’t quite processed all the responses, because life happens and good intentions pale in comparison to reality. But I did manage to catch one of the comments, only because I was bored at Ojeda’s Mexican Restaurant whilst impatiently waiting for my “Tampico” platter to arrive, dripping with grease and sin. I was diddling with my phone when a comment from the lovely Melanie popped in, politely asking where the hell MY answers were to the proffered questions.

I should probably get around to providing those answers at some point. But I should also get around to trimming the tree branches that are dangerously close to the main power line leading into my domicile. Said branches are thick and menacing, and the right amount of exuberant wind coming from just the right angle could sever said line and cause my house to explode just as we are settling down for the next guilty-pleasure installment of “Big Brother”. I live on the edge, at least in my own mind.

Still, I should at least appear to be responsible in some manner, so as a compromise I will now offer 21 thoroughly random tidbits concerning yours truly in my younger days. (This is where the “narcissistic” aspect of the blog post title comes into play, shining brightly. As well as the “irresponsible” part.) I realize I could have just answered the original 21 questions but, as noted, I haven’t read the responses and I don’t want to inadvertently plagiarize someone. (I plagiarize myself enough as it is.) In any case, here we go…

1. I was born in 1965 at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Said hospital, at least at that time, was painted pink. Harbinger or coincidence? You decide.

2. In kindergarten, I was once forced to lie on a cot in the “isolation room” because I protested the curriculum objectives of said institution, proclaiming one of our primitive assignments as “stupid”. This would not be the first time I found things unsatisfactory in my scholastic career.

3. In the first grade, my love for writing blossomed when I discovered that you could subvert things a bit by simply writing on a piece of paper. We had been instructed to weakly cobble together enough words to constitute a semi-coherent short paragraph, some mess concerning a frolicsome dog. I turned in a multi-page dissertation on how the canine was misunderstood by society, or some such. The teacher was impressed, especially with my creative use of adjectives.

My classmates had no idea what the hell an adjective might be, but they knew I must be taken down immediately, lest I reached a bridge too far and the rest of them would be forced to cross it. I was shunned in the lunchroom and on the playground. This would not be the first time I found things challenging in my social career.

4. Perhaps I composed the canine missive because the first pet I remember being part of the family was quickly no longer a part of it. His name was Bootsie and, if memory serves, he somehow arrived at our domicile via the ministrations of my maternal grandparents. I thought he was swell. My father did not. Bootsie was a bit of a barker, and I still remember the day I watched my father open the backyard gate and force Bootsie out, left to his own devices and never to be seen again. My dad was a bit of a dick.

5. We moved from the gleaming metropolis of Tulsa to the then backwater enclave of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma right after my first ignoble year in the public-school system. I was plunked into a new learning environment where I had to prove myself once again. This went swimmingly well for roughly two hours, after which I stupidly pointed out that one of my classmates was pronouncing the word “island” as “iss-land” and not “eye-land”.

Debate ensued, during which the teacher, Mrs. Reed, 104 years old if she was a day, gave me a complicated look encapsulated as such: “I feel your pain, but these are country folk, and I have long since given up any hope of guiding them toward the light or enlightenment. Things are different when you have gravel roads instead of asphalt roads, and the town still celebrates an archaic tradition known as Rooster Day, wherein they close down the two blocks of Main Street in order to worship livestock. This is not your time. Just relax and breathe.”

I didn’t relax, because I never have, but I did breathe. At least until the day that I stupidly knocked my lunchbox off my desk, probably in a frenzy of self-imposed scholarly pursuit. This malfeasance resulted in the shattering of the glass thermos contained within. (The plastic thermoses didn’t debut until a few years later.) My classmates laughed at my ineptitude, even if they couldn’t pronounce the word correctly. My mother did not appreciate the sudden need to buy a new thermos. Topping it all off was the fact that my lunchbox and the now-defunct thermos had been carefully selected by me to show my appreciation for a TV show at the time known as “Lidsville”. My tribute was now desecrated, left in tiny pieces of misunderstanding.

Second grade sucked. Violently.

6. But second grade wasn’t done with me. Or maybe it was third grade. Somewhere in the hazy transition between the two, somebody in my family decided it was very important that I join a Little League Baseball team. It was possibly my dad, but I’m not sure, as he was in a transition as well, a bit of interruptus known as “divorce”. My mother was overly tolerant, but she had apparently had enough. Good on her, at least for that.

In any case, there I was on a practice field across the street from Charles N. Haskell Elementary, with the namesake Charles being the first governor of Oklahoma, not that this factoid will ever appear in any future conversation that you might have. It was quickly decided by the team coach that I was useless as a player and most likely would not survive doing anything sport-related. Therefore, my one sole mission was to stand beside the dismissive coach and feebly attempt to corral the baseballs thrown in my direction after the coach, standing at home plate, had batted balls toward the actually-relevant team members on the playing field, teaching them to catch and whatnot.

This arrangement worked out admirably at first. I didn’t have to run all that much and I didn’t get very dirty, two things worthy of aspiration. Then the fateful moment arrived, an otherwise uneventful day wherein we were rinsing and repeating. The pitcher on the mound, one of those naturally-endowed athletic types who would eventually go on to impregnate multiple cheerleaders in a careless manner, lobbed an easy ball towards Coach in all his testosterone glory at the plate.

The bat cracked.

Half a second later, one of my front teeth cracked as well.

That bastard coach had hit the ball directly into my mouth, knocking out a critical front tooth and leaving a gap that would be with me for quite some time. In one of the few overtly masculine moments in my formative years, I did not burst into tears. (I’m assuming that I went to a safe place in my mind, pretending that this mishap would somehow enhance my future career on Broadway.) All of the team members gathered around, admiring my stoic stance and the amazing amount of blood gushing from my violated maw.

Coach: “Shake it off, buddy.”

Me: “Yeth, thir.”

And thusly we carried on with practice. The coach swung, I bled. When Mom picked me up later, I simply handed her my dusty tooth and climbed into the backseat of the car, resigned to my fate as Gap Boy for the near future and hoping that I would get something soft for dinner. This did not happen.

 

To be continued?

 

28 replies »

  1. Dang. Um. Dang. Now, lest this enforced trot down Memory Lane has been painful, and not just because some sadistic coach didn’t practice ‘safe baseball’ (hell that wasn’t invented until recently I don’t believe when the ogres of the Politically correct and sanitation department ((PC&SD))), and knocked out your important tooth. You’d have had a whopper of a lawsuit in these days (courtesy of said PC&SD)…physical violence, but more importantly a ‘toxic play environment’….oh the humanity! I sincerely apologize for crassly asking you to provide your answers and thereby (perhaps) cattle prodding you on to that trot into places you’ve probably kept buried and for good reason. And here I was thinking my own tender years were ugly. A story in that for sometime when I’ve had enough anti-depressives perhaps. Take care Brian. The loss of your tooth didn’t affect your manly visage…no sir. Not a whit. But it does explain WHY, like me, you rarely smile with your mouth open and teeth bared. I could have stopped at ‘rarely smiled’ couldn’t I? Ah well. Fiddle dee dee … I was never one to spare the words.. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, you didn’t force me into anything. I actually started this one with the intention of a perky little romp, but apparently I had a different set of stories that needed telling. And really, this is how I usually come up with the pieces that I find most satisfying, letting the tale tug me along instead of forcing an agenda.

      As for the tooth thing, I was somewhat lucky in that the tooth was one of my primary teeth, so I just had to wait for the new one to make its debut. Sadly, and I believe we have chatted about this in a commentary conversation but I may be mixing memories, when my permanent teeth started coming in I actually had one section where two rows of teeth appeared. THAT’s when I really stopped smiling for cameras, at least until an orthodontist took care of all that mess…

      Like

      • You have shared the double row story … well some of it. I’m not sure why I never smiled open mouthed, but I tell people when they chide me about it that I have “70s dentition” by which I mean my parents were too poor for braces and other corrective teeth stuff, I loathed the dentist and, although I don’t recall specific incidents, I bet it was a bitch to get me to go to the dentist; it was the 70s and nobody in that era really cared about (save the Osmonds and they were oddballs) the biggest, whitest smile like they do now (for confirmation watch a film from the 70s. You’ll see what I mean). My smile is not beautiful. And come to think of it… as a kid I had damned little to smile about.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Damn! I HAVE got to read these comments over a few times before pressing that ‘send’ button with it’s horrid siren call…. should read ..”Ogres of PC&SD” EMERGED and ruined everything, because they never had a sensible thought in their entire lives and were tired of being laughed at..) Okay then.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I see…you didn’t answer the original questions you posed earlier for Us to answer. Oh well, I enjoyed hearing of some of your early years. Sorry about the tooth. Yours is a better story than mine, when I had some teeth knocked out…me being so clumsy and all. haha!
    Continue, please…:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your responses cause me to wonder once again: how is that some people experience childhoods where they are misunderstood and unable to trust the very adults in whose care they are entrusted to, and yet mature into loving and caring human beings, while others on the same path become embittered and emotionally stunted?
    I’m sorry for your tooth incident and greatly admire your stoic response to it, but must say that the story of Bootsie caused me greater heartache. Hopefully Bootsie found a home quickly, but I’m sure your recovery took longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I choose to believe that Bootsie found a more satisfactory home where everyone wanted him and kept the gates closed.

      I also choose to believe that you CAN choose what to do with what has been done to you. I had a very difficult childhood, but I learned a great deal from it. I just would have preferred a different type of classroom…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So many breakages … dreams of being able to hang out with an intelligent creature (Bootsie), your flask, your tooth. This must be continued. In the meantime, I will meditate on how a boy raised by a witless dick like your father (sorry, but I have to express this truthfully otherwise I will become festering and rancid as I age and risk wrinkles) has grown to be such a sensitive, delightful man as you. That said – it is a tragic truth that those that have scarred lives often make the greatest comics and writers. I rest my case. Whatever case it was …. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, no need to apologize for patriarchal appellations in my case, as I have used much stronger language. And I completely agree with your Tragic Truth. I would not be at the place I am now without all the errant stops along the way…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m not sure which part impresses me the most – that you remember these school age details so clearly, or that you stoically took a baseball to the mouth.

    … although I suspect poor Mrs Reed might have been only a frazzled 40-some year old 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Why IS it that coaches are so mean!!! In seventh grade, coach had to act as a sub. He came into class like a beast, raised a cricket bat, and claimed that there was no staying after school for bad behavior. Only the bat. He thought he was being clever and cute. I was terrorized because the guys didn’t act surprised. I should have told my dad, who would have straightened-out the jerk, but I was too frightened and in the 60’s, that sort of stuff went on all the time. What doesn’t break you…and so on, that was then, because today, I would be my dad. Good on you Brian, for toughing it out. And I’m addicted to your past. Thanks for feeding my weirdness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last line means the world to me, if you’ll allow me to be a bit dramatic. (It’s just in my blood.) The one thing I always strive for with every word I scribble is to make a connection with those of us who never felt comfortable following a dictated path or embracing the expected. The random circumstances we trip over demand that we find our own roads even if it can sometimes be so very hard to blaze a new trail…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I totally get it. My family never mocked but they did look at me as if I were the red-headed step child who somehow got misplaced with them. My brothers still look at me strangely (Republicans) but my sisters are always supportive. Right-brained people just do not fit into the square peg of small town Midwest life. I was lucky that I had a fey aunt. Locals thought she was odd but by the time she died, she ‘d been featured in major magazines and people came from around the world to meet, see her museum, and listen to her talk about history. It took time, but I’ve long since discarded the scorn of the petty and small-minded. Let them watch Fox TV.

    Liked by 1 person

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