My Life

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

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.

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 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.

47 replies »

  1. My 2nd grade year was good. I was in a combo 2nd-3rd class, with the 2nd grade leaving a couple hours earlier. I was academically ahead of my peers, so I was invited to stay with the 3rd grade kids and learn more. Heaven to a kid like me.
    I’m guessing Mother was pleased to have me gone longer, and to use my intelligence as a tool for bragging to her friends. I’m not *sure* since I was never given feedback.

    My athletic ability mirrors yours. My high school coaches weren’t happy. They just saw a 6′ tall girl, and wanted me to play basketball or volleyball. The only sport I was actually interested in, Field Hockey, I was barred from playing cuz I was a little to rough with the stick.

    Soccer balls were attracted to my face, causing nose bleeds, or my gut, causing the wind to be knocked out of me.🤷🏼‍♀️

    Poor Bootsie😢 I’m traumatized just reading about it.
    If there were references, they flew over my head, which really makes me sad, cuz I usually get your references ☹

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, I would have loved that “combo class” concept in elementary school. Our school system didn’t really do anything fancy for the good students until junior high (we called it “middle school”) and then I took advantage of every advanced class I could find. I also understand the lack of parental feedback. They had little clue about what I did or did not accomplish.

      My athletic ability eventually blossomed, to an extent. I was never a “jock”, because that entailed playing in the established trifecta of football, basketball and baseball that were the hallmarks of Oklahoma high-school “success”. But I was on the swim team for a while, and I played 8 seasons of soccer, although that was outside of the school system because the school board yokels couldn’t grasp the concept of such a sport.

      I didn’t mean to traumatize with the Bootsie story. I just meant to scribble in little bits of my childhood, which was not the best.

      The reference was a bit of wordplay with the novel “A Separate Peace”, the title of a John Knowles novel. I can honestly say that reading books and dreaming of hope is the only reason I got out of the childhood with my sanity relatively intact.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I got the obscure reference. It’s one of my favourite books (and I enjoyed the movie version as well, not something that happens often).
    And, I found socialising a very trying thing in my young life. I was totally confused by all the rules that my classmates easily understood and exercised. An explanation came later in the form of Myers-Briggs – I’m a total introvert. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like people. It just means that I find crowds tiring, I don’t like chatting on the phone, and I need to mull things over. The rules governing a flock of age-mates were sort of too much for me. I certainly never was part of the most-popular crowd. 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • I loved the book as well, although I haven’t read it in many decades. There are many beloved books from my youth that I haven’t attempted since. I think it’s because I don’t want to form a new impression of those books, choosing instead to remember how they made me feel at the time. As I mentioned to Angie in the comment above, books essentially kept me sane in my formative years, and I don’t want to mess with what could prove to be a house of cards.

      I’m a total introvert as well, with the same inclinations that you mention. Social navigation was very difficult for me in my younger years, complicated by a trying home life. But I’ve always had drive, an underlying something coming from somewhere (maybe those books?) and I learned to counter my natural instincts. By the time of my high school years, I was popular, despite the odds and my oddity. Junior Class President, Student Council President and Boy of the Year my senior year. I’m not trying to gloat. I’m just highlighting the fact that even awkward, painfully-shy, gap-toothed kids can find a path if they try hard enough. (And read books!) 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      • We have had parallel experiences, Brian. By the time I was in high school, I had migrated to the outskirts of popularity, mostly because I was good at basketball, and in my hs, for some reason, major sport + good grades = notice. I still like b-ball and watch every Raptors game. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. My love for drawing also blossomed In the first grade when I discovered that you could draw things on a piece of paper and you don’t need anyone’s approval. I’m glad that there was no a Like button at the bottom of the papers.

    Liked by 4 people

    • First, it’s good to hear from you again! Second, yes, I was lucky in that I learned early on what appealed to me and what didn’t. I was always measurably weird and different, but having an outlet, be it writing or drawing or watching old movies in the middle of the night, allowed me to appreciate what was important…

      Liked by 2 people

    • For some reason, the first 25 or so years of my life are still crystal-clear in my mind. The thirty-odd years after that? Not so much. I’m thinking my brain just got full, and the newer memories bounce off and fade rather quickly because the storage facility is full… 😉

      Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t know who was thinking what about the hospital color choice. It was Oklahoma, which, especially at that time, was all about drab grays and browns to reflect the insufferable nothingness of living in the state.

      But yes, the potholes make us who we are. If the road is always smooth, you never learn a damn thing…

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Alas, Brian, I never made it past # 4 – the story of Bootsie and your dad.
    I was so horrified by that behavior my eyes teared (not sure if from anger or sadness), making it impossible to go further.
    Perhaps I shall return and start with #5.
    Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

    Liked by 3 people

    • I completely understand the reaction to #4. I know it was a harsh read, but it was honest and it still lingers, one of my first memories of how cruel humans can be, made more profound by the realization that someone who should love me could hurt me so, with uncaring ease. It’s further proof that lineage is happenstance; family is chosen. I sometimes share the messy here at Bonnywood in the hopes of pulling close others who have suffered the slings and arrows, because one of the ways to soften the sting is to share with others who have been stung…

      Your last line is perfectly apt. And so are you.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I’m impressed by how much of your childhood you remember, Brian. I have few childhood memories and when one does surface, it generally offers only cringing bewilderment. There is great comfort in reading your recollections and recognizing that very few of us escape childhood without some warping. And then we find our similarly bent tribe as resilient and determined adults. If only we’d known in second grade….

    Liked by 5 people

    • If only we had known. But then again, would we be the same people we are now without the messiness? Some people float along with nary a care, and others stumble repeatedly. I would much rather have the broken people in my life than those who never caught a whiff of lonely existence on the periphery. Mutual triage is easier when you recognize the wounds and know some of the remedies. So yes, we are a tribe, and I’m happy to be card-carrying member…

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I have very hazy memories of second grade, as it was part of the sojourn to foster hell. One memory that has stuck is the fact that a very short boy, looking vastly inbred (he probably WAS), told me I was too big and too pale. Girls had to wear dresses to school in those long-forgotten days and my evil foster mother threw out everything my own mother had sent because “pastels make you washed out and you’re ugly enough”. I spent the remainder of my time in foster hell in black and navy and occasionally a shit brown colored clothing. These were hallmark (not the cheesy romance TV thing either) moments as perhaps that’s where I got the bad self-image and permanently damaged self-esteem issues that have plagued me since. The rest of the school days are blurred and I don’t recall them. I sucked at sports from day one, never did see any sense in hitting things with sticks (unless it was inbred short boys), or chasing a damned ball around a field. I was inevitably chosen last because somehow athletic children KNOW who the non-athletic ones are. I loathed P.E. for the rest of my school years and took to ‘dance class’ as soon as the option was made available. One had to run and jump, but at least it LOOKED arty.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, how well I know this song. (But you knew I knew the lyrics, right?) There were so many people in our lives with poor intentions and a complete lack of concern, it’s a wonder that we aren’t both serial killers. In our school system, girls had to wear dresses in high school whilst I was still in elementary school, so there’s some degree of overlap with our experiences. By the time I made it to junior high, most of the dress-code restrictions had been lifted, but there was still this completely-ridiculous concept that it was entirely the female’s fault if a male got horny over her couture, however moderate or immoderate. I haven’t been there in a while, but I trust such primitive thinking is still the coda.

      I loathed P.E. as well. That mess was all about making the non-athletic feel further demonized by the athletic, personified by that wretched concept of “dodgeball” wherein the awkward were pummeled by sadistic jocks. Our coach forced us to go through that ritual practically every other day.

      But I must say that you had at least a minimal leg up in that you were able to take dance classes. That NEVER would have happened in Broken Arrow at that time. Ever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought of dodgeball as I was writing that comment, but that was the single area where I wasn’t bullied. I had a wicked strong arm for a girl, and I know that many of the meaner kids got nailed by me hitting them with that big stupid ball as hard as I could throw. I could catch too, as it happened, and I’m better at making baskets (with basketballs, not weaving) than many in my peer group, even now. I just hated the whole sports mess, getting sweaty, having idiots scream at you if the shot wasn’t perfect, and running. I’ve never admired running, EVER, except for the time in the parking garage and that’s another, less wholesome story. Having a boy join ‘dance class’ was unheard of in Utah too and the poor male who tried to join up? Would have gotten beaten up daily behind the gym building after school by those allegedly macho dweebs who never heard of acceptance and couldn’t spell it if they did. Some horrors are shared, and maybe the sharing makes them a tad less nightmarish.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. Well thir, the reference went thailing over my head, thorry.
    We go to school, and we do learn- the curriculum is but a small part of those- in your case- bloody learnings.
    Back in my tender days, we were expected to play cricket. You stand, you take guard, protecting three sticks/stumps atop with three further sticks/bails that are about to be bowled at, and you stand there with a bat of trembling willow, with terror leaching into your scro- lower abdomen. And you stand. The ball, a leather-faced lump of corkwood is projected down at 4000 miles an hour and you must attempt to deflect the ball, protect your stumps/sticks and ENJOY it! Until you are bowled out, run out, adjudged out or (future reference) carried out. And you, supposedly, stoically stand. I couldn’t see the ball for the tears of fear in my eyes. I thrust the bat somewhere towards the incoming missile, my house of sticks went wicketing hither and thither, I was called ‘out’ and I left my stand and I never darkened that son of a bitch of a coaches pitch again
    And somehow Coach Lecter thought it all such sport.
    I decided cricket would be my spectator sport after an older kid got bean-balled and died.
    Wow, that one came up from the foggy miasma of childhood memories.
    Re footnote; And that is what happens when you start off writing a quick comment and it takes you down Memory Pain. Comedy, pathos, drama, the world is one screwed up stage. Go where the words take you, I guess.

    Liked by 3 people

    • This comment is a jewel.

      Partly because of the hilarity surrounding your youthful travails, whether intended or not, but mostly because you have managed to snag the corkwood before it hit the sticky wicket and you ran like hell with the surprising opportunity. This is what Bonnywood is all about. You take a little nugget of whatnot and you turn it into something else entirely, with zig-zagging maneuvers on Memory Pain. You are a gentleman and a non-athletic scholar for having embraced the spirit of what we do here.

      Side note: Sorry about the bean-balled dead kid. I obviously didn’t know him but I might have dated him, had he survived, so I do feel a small degree of loss. (Does this paragraph come across as callous? Probably. I have issues.)

      And I know all about Coach Lecter. He apparently had a side job at Northeast Elementary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma in the 70s. He’s the twit who took one glance at my last name and nicknamed me “Goose”, an appellation that stuck with me for several years, the bastard.

      I should have beaten him with a bat of trembling willow. But I didn’t.

      Blessed be, y’all.

      Cheers.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. As other comments reported, my memories of childhood are hazy at best. Seems like my clearest memories are of events that were either confusing at the time or else upsetting. So I totally get your Bootsie memory… that’s not something a loving person could ever forget.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t know why my childhood and young-adult memories are still so crisp for me. I can even recall the exact words of conversations in some cases. Perhaps it was some form of photographic memory. I really don’t know. Whatever it was, the functionality bit the dust later in my life. I still have an eye and ear for detail, but my retention is nothing like it was during those long ago years…

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I’ll take a stab this weekend as my iPad died yesterday and luckily for me my dear Craig took me to Best Buy and got me a new one thankfully but I would not be here right now. So I have not had a chance to read your catch-up Internet. Hope you’re well, I do miss seeing your fun funky response comments and I will come up with 21 most certainly not quite as interesting as the doors answers to your phone question

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please, take your time. Whilst I was prepping THIS one for a re-post, I took a gander at the original “21 Questions” post and found that several folks had responded in the years since I first posted that one, so it’s going to take me some time to catch up with THAT mess.

      Doing well, here. Hoping the same for you.

      How did we manage to survive life without Best Buy, back in the day? Oh, that’s right. The only ways to communicate were by hard-wired telephone or letter. Does anybody even write letters anymore? Hmm, I sense another blog post bubbling…

      Like

      • Handwriting and penmanship, once cafeteria tray table stakes in the local elementary school, no longer fund their way onto the class syllabus any longer. So elusive that letter writing fell out of favor with blockbuster video night (read: time for making out in the couch). Forced to teach my stepsons how to sign their names on their checks – I’m not shitting you – they fought me tooth and nail to just write it out in unintelligible rooster scratch.

        I reminded them they easily whipped out a letter or 12 each year excusing themselves from physical education by copying our signatures so if they wanted to retain rights Ron their heir apparent status they’d best get scribbling. Maybe I’m simply enabling an anachronism. However, The Letter, a lost art form as went the epistolary novel so too long gone as far as I know for all the fiction I read lately from the literary canon (the closest I come is David Sedaris’ “Glens Homophobic Newsletter”).

        Receiving postcards and letters written in ink and signed by hand with a proper openings and closings, perhaps even a Post Script only comes from weirdos like me who secret away to buy her Scooby Doo forever stamps to send thank you notes and the like. The mail gets to take the role of best supporting drug mule. I believe the last of the true letters was last seen slipping down through a rainy day runoff through the gutter of a New York City street corner. I believe it’s been said, somewhere on the lower east side. That’s coincidental, or not, of the very same day that usps officially filed for reorganization.

        Letters, not electronically composed and flung unto the nether reaches of the web, to far away penpals no longer a blip on the radar. “What the hell is a penal? That’s stupid.” Reminiscences of long three to four pagers to my friend in London rambling giggle-fests of how the class trampoline no longer hauls her slutty ass to fifth grade to give bjs in the boys room. Today she’d be a filthy bawdy spork-less vixen, too afraid to lift her skirts because who one’s certain if the gender matches her hand cuffs or if the collar’s even worn anymore. Life’s confusing enough. How dare we expect the new new new math to add up to a postcard from the edge of night for Christ’s sake.

        But that’s how I sew it up. I’m doing okay, life’s great ups and downs swell and recede with the abdominal fluid plaguing me still. But six years later I’m still here so I’d say – pretty darned well, letters be damned. I do wish the plague were over so I could get to a new scene soon. I’m becoming agoraphobic.

        And you, mon ami?
        Ilene

        Liked by 1 person

        • You delight me with such intensity that it’s almost unnerving. Almost.

          I noticed this comment pop in the other day (yes, I’m one of those people who gets alerts about everything, anal-retentive that I am) and I had to force myself to NOT peruse the comment immediately. Partner and I were out mucking about on errands (safely, of course) and I knew that your words would be much more enjoyed in a more tranquil setting rather than standing in line at PetSmart whilst excited dogs sniff each other’s butts around me. (Said setting was too reminiscent of junior-high phys ed classes. Long story.)

          And I’m glad I did wait, because your little treasure of correspondence proved quite satisfactory (as expected) and I am now all aglow that you took the time to cobble this together. You get me laughing like few people can. I instantly wanted to create a “spotlight” post out of this missive (which I often do with most of your comments), but I would imagine that some folks just won’t get our mutually-twisted take on things. So, once again, your delicious prose is only being consumed by me (and the handful of folks who actually read all the comments on my posts) and that pains me greatly. Nothing like abdominal-fluid pain, but still, not fun.

          In any case, this comment will join many of your others in my little file wherein I store The Things That Most Moved Me in the Threads of Bonnywood. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with that mess, but I suspect that 200 years from now an intergalactic archivist will discover said file, note the propensity and pleasure of your ponderings, and proceed to create a stunning anthology that will make you hugely famous on the Alpha Centauri Amazon books sales charts. Somebody will create a statue in your honor that is visually pleasing and does not get shit on by the birds flying over the tribute park wherein said statue stands stoically.

          Big hugs, chaste kiss, warm thoughts.

          B.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. There is something about the 1960s and the color pink. My grandparents had all pink fixtures in their bathroom. To this day I still believe it to be the best color for bathtubs, sinks, et al.

    Liked by 1 person

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