Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reminiscing at the speed of life

Over the years, my earthly father has passed along to me morsels of wisdom and knowledge that only come with life experiences. Things such as the best place to be in a tornado warning is driving around in a car, never take a shower if it's thundering outside, and of course, if you're fishing from the bank and a snake swims by, the fishing trip is over five minutes ago. You can't put a price on that.

A few weeks ago, he who reared me passed along something a bit more tangible but just as priceless. He had come across some old home videos of yours truly and decided to have them put onto DVD.

Now when I say home videos, I'm not talking videocassette. Oh no, it was a bit more primitive than that. As in, when we watched them back, we watched them on this film-projector-like thing. It had a bulb. I clearly remember there was a bulb involved somewhere in the process. Also, I don't think there was any volume. It was kinda like starring in my own Zapruder video.

We hadn't watched these back since I was little. I guess the bulb went out twenty-five or thirty years ago and we just never replaced it, or more likely, they stopped manufacturing it. So I was anxious to see what was on there.

The opening scene has a young Bone, circa six months, in a swing eating some unrecognizable food. Later, there is footage of me rolling over and then what I assume to be some of my first steps, both of which I still consider to be among my top ten accomplishments. I mean, really, what else?

Then a few scenes in, there is my mom. So slender and so strikingly young. And at once, my whole demeanor changed. Inundated by waves of thoughts and emotions coming so fast I can't begin to sort through them. Her hair, long and straight, she's holding me up to pick mulberry leaves. I teared up and I'm not even sure why. Just... she was so young. And where did all those years go?

A couple of scenes later, my dad makes his only appearance. With his seventies hair and butterfly collar shirt, he's lying in the floor beside me mouthing "look at the camera." His mannerisms too much like mine.

The videos basically document my first four years -- birthday parties, a couple of Christmases. There are at least four guitars, both real and toy, placed in front of me on different occasions. Dad has apparently been trying to get me to play the guitar from day one on, until and including the present, as evidenced by the guitar permanently on loan from him mostly collecting dust in my bedroom. The most I ever do is pluck a few times at one, then or now.

Naturally, I had to show the DVD to Mom. She watched with near disbelief as she let two-year-old me hold and lick icing off a big butcher knife, my hand grasping the blade of the knife instead of the handle. And again as I was learning to walk along a sidewalk, mere feet from a street with cars passing by. Later, there's footage of me at probably 3 or 4 playing in the snow, a coat on but no gloves. All that, and I turned out OK!

It is an odd thing to be watching oneself, and you know it is you, but it seems like you're watching somebody else. But that is how it felt.

Still, the DVD is priceless, because if I had ever thought of those home videos, I would have been quite certain that I would never have seen them again.

No further footage exists to prove that I ever walked this Earth. After the Zapruder camera, I'm fairly certain no one in my immediate family owned a video camera until my sister bought one when Nephew Bone came along. So no first swimming lesson, when I cried and never went back. And absolutely no proof I was ever terrified of grasshoppers, as my family alleges.

Along with the feeling that I was watching somebody else, there was a constant and overwhelming sense of the incredible speed at which time and life pass. There was today and thirty-six years ago separated by just a few feet. And yet, such an untraversable distance.

Where did all those years go? And not just the years, but the months and the weeks, the mornings and the evenings, the doctor's appointments and little league games, the school days and the workdays, the summers and the autumns. Is there nothing left to keep, to hold on to, to show to someone that "This was me. This was my life. This was what I did?"

I suppose there are but scattered pictures. And memories, like invisible pages pressed tightly together in some book that looks surely too small to hold all of our days, all that we were and all that we've done. And maybe if we are lucky some day some wind blows open the book to a memory we thought we had long since forgotten.

Though I was supposed to be the centerpiece of these home videos, as I watched them back I found myself focusing more on my parents. They both turn sixty this year -- Mom in October and Dad just last week. I tried to imagine how they must have been back then, not having a whole lot. I thought about how they must have struggled sometimes to get by, and how in the world they knew how to start raising a child when they were fourteen years younger than I am now.

I wonder if they ever look at me today and think back to a little boy with blonde hair and a cheesy grin playing in the snow with no gloves on and ask themselves the same question: Where did all those years go?

"Though it's clear as day in my mind, the picture of a simpler time. Wish change would just leave well enough alone. Those days are gone now, when daddy was a strong man, and momma was a blonde..."

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A tough trimester, killer bees, and the bachelorhood loses one of its own

It's been a banner week in the life of Bone. A banner ten days, actually.

The second trimester, if you will, of July had a quite inauspicious beginning when I discovered I had left a virtually full pack of gum in the pocket of my shorts. That would have been fine, except that at the time of this discovery, said shorts had already gone through the washing machine and had been in the dryer for about forty minutes.

So there I was at 11:30 on a Friday night, on my knees using an SOS pad to try and scrub copious amounts of melted gum from the inside wall of my dryer. Fortunately, I was able to get most of it off, but my fingers smelled like Stride Spearmint for two days, which turned out to be sort of a pleasant surprise whenever I'd accidentally catch a whiff of them. It's quite the bachelor's paradise I have created here, don't you think? A veritable Eden of singledom.

Then on Monday of last week, I was taking out the trash when at once I found myself in the midst of a swarm of ginormous killer bees. The largest bees I have ever seen. There must have been twenty or thirty of them. I never even made it to the dumpster, instead turning tail and running the other way, trash bag still in hand. It was one of the most harrowing experiences of my mostly sheltered life.

As I sprinted, all I could see was Brian Williams on NBC Nightly News doing the lead story: "Killer bees have returned to the United States." Run, Bone, run! I don't want to be a statistic! I narrowly -- and I thought somewhat miraculously -- escaped without a single sting.

As luck would have it, there was a lady nearby who kindly informed me that I had just been "attacked" by a swarm of June bugs.

Oh... um... do they sting, too?

The week progressed, as weeks are wont to do. On Friday, tidings arrived by way of the text message that Wolfgang had gotten engaged. Yes, you heard it here first (unless you happen to be one of his Facebook friends): Wolfgang is getting married!

The engagement consummates a whirlwind five-month courtship, which is like light-speed to me. I prefer to plod along at a snail's pace, slow and steady. No one's in any hurry. Nobody's going anywhere. Let's not make any sudden movements. I'm like the tortoise in The Tortoise & The Hare, and I think we all know how that turns out.

More importantly, this is the end of the three amigos as we know them, and I feel... a bit odd. It's going to be strange with only one Darryl around. Do Remaining Darryl and I try and find a replacement Darryl, or move on just us two, Bosom Buddies-style? Neither of the Darryls ever got married on Newhart, so it's really hard to know for sure what to do. There is no guidebook.

I guess this is what comes from basing too much of my life on a TV show. I feel disillusioned.

And I always thought the second trimester was supposed to be the easiest.

"I got ketchup on my blue jeans, I just burned my hand. Lord, it's hard to be a bachelor man..."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Into a cup, in the middle of the day

It's the continuing saga of the struggle of one blog to survive. I think I'm ready to proclaim next month Blogust. I just hope we make it that long. In other news completely unrelated to my lack of blogging, my current FreeCell record is 353-28, while my most consecutive games won is 44.

In attempting to recreate the 4th of July this year, I severely misunderestimated the difficulty in finding fifty-six people to wear powdered wigs. Actually, you could have ended that last sentence after "people" and it would have been just as true. So instead, we decided to try and recreate last year's 4th of July celebration: canoe ride, small-town fireworks display, etc.

Well, that went about as well as a Kanye West awards show improvisation. I think I may have been a bit overconfident in my canoe skills after last year's five-hour virtuoso performance, because we hadn't been on the water fifteen minutes this year when we tipped over.

Fortunately, we were able to salvage two left flip-flops, two now-completely-soaked-and-therefore-useless towels, my Gilligan hat (it refuses to die!), both paddles, and most importantly, the cooler. Because honestly, the main thing getting me out on that river was the promise of a sandwich, a snack and a Sun Drop.

Turning the canoe back over was a bit of a challenge and took me four or five tries. But I refused to give up, because all I kept thinking is how embarrassing it would have been to have to call the canoe guy to come and get us. That would be quite emasculating. And if there's one thing I am, it's masculating.

Anyway, I can officially cross "tipping a canoe" off my bucket list, although it wasn't actually on my bucket list. I guess I can go back and add it... posthumously. I don't think that's the right word.

It had started to rain the last hour or so of the canoe trip and it continued to rain until sometime the next day, forcing them to postpone the fireworks show. So we went home and watched the fireworks on PBS with Reba McEntire and some actor I didn't know who looked a little bit like a taller, more serious Rob Schneider.

I entertained myself by reading the hometown gazette. The sheriff's report (blotter?) was particularly interesting. It included, among other things:

"There were twelve deer/vehicle incidents reported in the past week."

"Mrs. Carolyn New called to report that a turkey flew into her windshield on Highway 80 Tuesday evening. She wasn't injured but her windshield will have to be replaced."

"Someone reported several cows out off of Highway 11 Thursday evening."

The next day when we came up on a horse which had apparently become detached from an Amish buggy, I said that we should call the sheriff to report it. But I was outvoted, 1 to 1.

There was one final highlight to my Independence Day weekend. A personal milestone, if you will. For the first time in nearly four years, I peed into a bottle, in the car. Apparently I feel compelled to document each time this happens, as I wrote about it the last time, too.

I'm going to pretend that twice in the past four years makes me a bit of an expert on the topic of in-vehicle evacuation, at least among this focus group. So I would like to close today with a few tips I think you will find quite helpful:

First, you want to make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer. And a good-sized container, large enough to handle the, um, output. I don't have to tell you that it is both nearly impossible and excruciatingly painful to try and cut off the faucet midstream.

You might also want to move to the backseat, or make the other person or persons in the vehicle promise not to look, lest you suffer stage fright and be unable to perform. Been there, was unable to do that.

Next, you want to make sure that the outlet is entirely above the receptacle, and that the receptacle is as close to straight up as possible. This might require some awkward body positioning, but will ensure that you are able to use the full capacity of the receptacle, and it should also make aiming easier. Trust me.

And finally, what if you're not a male? Well, I imagine that could be a tad more difficult.

"And when that summer sun starts to beatin' down and you don't know what to do, grab your swimming trunks, ice up that old Igloo, and drive until the map turns blue..."