Note: This one has been yanked from the archives, so please excuse the cryptic references that don’t quite make sense in the chronology of things. That aside, I think my meanderings still hold up as A Separate Piece (kudos to anyone who gets that obscure reference, as I often fail with such attempts). Enjoy.
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 feign the impression of being 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, whilst reading aloud a passage during one of those “everybody gets a paragraph” story perusals, 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 of his crapfest ways. 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?
Previously published, slight changes made. And yes, there’s a tinge of melancholy to this post that I didn’t intend when I initially sat down to scribble this bit, years ago. But, for me, that’s the biggest joy of writing. I start with an idea, an often admittedly-vague goalpost, and then I just see what happens. You swing the bat and you follow the ball.
Categories: My Life