Monday, August 20, 2012

The single shutting and reopening of one's eye

Sometimes it meant camping out.  I know some of the names changed from time to time, but for some reason thinking back on it now, I can only remember the four of us -- Me, Allan, Hollywood, and Mouse.  That was the core group.

Gazing up at the stars, talking about girls you'd dated and ones you almost had, singing any song that came to mind until eventually one of the other guys told you to shut up or threw something at you -- usually the latter, knowing you didn't have to go home until morning.  It felt like freedom.

And there was always a fire -- a big one.  As we gathered every stick and pine needle within a fifty yard radius, it was usually more bonfire than campfire.  I would say I was surprised no one ever called the fire department on us, but for that one time someone did.

Even so, once the fire died down, it seems like we always wound up chilled to the bone or soaking wet.  Sometimes both.  It probably didn't rain as much as I seem to remember it did, but those are the nights that stand out.  I can still vividly see Mouse, who weighed all of 120 pounds soaking wet, sitting there shivering, telling us how he was never doing this again.  But he always did.

I remember one night Hollywood and I rode Allan's tandem bike into town about 1 AM to go to the Walmart, for no reason whatsoever other than it was something to do.  It was about four miles one way, and long before we had a 24-hour Walmart, so we pooled our change and bought a couple of Mountain Dews from the vending machine out front, then rode back.

It feels like there should be more to this story, like we got pulled over by the police or ran into a mailbox or were shot at on our way back or something, but there isn't.  Just me, riding a bicycle-built-for-two, with another guy, at 1 o'clock in the morning.  That is all.

Sometimes it meant tapping on my future (now ex-) roommate's bedroom window late at night -- the universal signal that a game of spades was about to commence.  He'd let us in through the carport door and we'd play for an hour or two.  One night we were a person short, so he went and got his sister to play.  His sister was one of the great crushes of my adolescence.  I spent a good solid four years, I'd say, finding any excuse I could to hang out with her.  So from then on, I always tried to make sure we were a person short.

Sometimes it meant sneaking into the basement door of the Baptist church and playing ping-pong, or cards.  Axl and his parents attended there so he knew where they hid the key.  He said no one would mind, and who were we to argue.  We ended up holding our fantasy baseball draft that year in the classroom for the 5 & 6-year-olds, amidst some Noah's ark memorabilia which I may or may not have played with a little.

Sometimes it meant picking a road we'd never been down and seeing where it led.  Pick A Road, we called it.  The name has a certain understated stupidity to it, don't you think?

Flying through the countryside with the top off my old Jeep sated a bit of wanderlust, I suppose.  As we lamented the lack of anything better to do, all the while pondering life and wishing we had one.

And the radio.  There was always the radio, or some worn out cassette.  Turned up wide.  Letting the songs affect me too much.

I still remember a couple of those roads, and any time I pass by I can feel a smile start to begin.

Such were my late teens and early twenties: One long continuous quest for something to do, some place to be, never wanting the night to end.  There seemed to be time to burn.  So burn it we did.

When I think back on those times now, they're not some faded, distant memory.  Rather, they're clear.  Vivid.  Almost close enough to touch.  Like if I could somehow turn back one single page, there they would be, as real as the day I lived them.  But when I reach out to grasp them I unclench my fists to find my hands still empty.  And it blows my mind to think, and it just does not seem possible, that twenty years have passed.... just... like... that.

I suppose that's how the brain's files work.  Twenty years ago can seem as close as twenty minutes ago.

And just as far away.

"And the sound the king of spades made / In the spokes of my old Schwinn / I was racing Richie Culver / For a Grape Nehi / Yeah, lately I've been thinking / 'Bout Route 5, Box 109..."


  1. This is, in a word, wonderful.

    Don't blink today, though, or the next 20 years may pass without you realizing it, too. Hopefully not in a quest to "find something to do" such as the last 20, but with other wonderful moments and memories to keep you writing into your 60s. Maybe a book by then, huh?

  2. What a beautiful post, poignant and bittersweet, just like memories. And believe me, the older you get, the faster the time seems to pass...

  3. Good morning, was surprised to see you again. Yes, Abe and I both still blog, but not quite as often as we use to. At our age, and with some health problems coming and going, we don't always get to work on the blogs like we would like to, plus we discovered Facebook. LOL

    With Facebook, I can keep up with our five kids and some of the grandchildren.

    Abe will be 78 in Oct. and I will be 76, we try to keep up. But sometimes it's hard. Abe has to use oxygen all the time now because of his breathing problems.

    Hope things have been going well for you and your family. More later and I promise, I will get back and read your blog, sooner or later.

  4. Nice writing and great memories! This past week as I was backpacking in the Porcupine Mts (and sorry, there will be no pictures of porcupines as the only ones I saw were flat on the road and I wondered if their quills could go through a tire) I did a lot of thinking about the past...

  5. TC - Thanks, TC. If not a book, at least my own syndicated column. I mean, come on, is that too much to ask? Of course, it'd have to be a weekly column, as I seem to struggle with blogging any more often than that :)

    Sherri B - Thank you. And I believe it. I definitely believe it.

    Patty - Ah, yes. I think many bloggers have gone the way of Facebook.

    Thanks for the update. It's very good to hear from you.

    Sage - Thanks, Sage. Don't you hate those misnomers? One of the golf courses I play at has "deer" in its name. I've probably played there fifty times. And in all those times, I've seen one deer.

  6. Very beautiful as stated.
    I think this is a time of year we remember our youth and sometimes try to relive it or at least talk about it

    Summer's fast going and school's starting and whether our memories involve school or not late summer early fall bring it out--the reminisces that is

  7. Like if I could somehow turn back one single page, there they would be, as real as the day I lived them. But when I reach out to grasp them I unclench my fists to find my hands still empty. - I love this. It completely captures memory for me. Great post - really vivid writing. I almost remember all that too now!

  8. I really like you and that you're doing blogging that isn't boringass nothingness. Thank you for actually thinking and writing and making your readers want to do the same.

  9. Pia - I think you're exactly right. There's something about the autumn, and the change in the air.

    J Adamthwaite - Thank you so much!

    Jocelyn - blogging that isn't boringass nothingness

    Could I use that as my tagline? :)

    In all seriousness, I really appreciate the kind words. Thank you!

  10. I love this:

    Just me, riding a bicycle-built-for-two, with another guy, at 1 o'clock in the morning.

    And this:
    Pick A Road, we called it. The name has a certain understated stupidity to it, don't you think?