Monday, January 10, 2011

Simple stories of youth

Age 6. My sister got a tape recorder for her birthday. I think it was about her 14th birthday but it could be a year either way. She also had a tabletop organ that was pretty primitive for a key instrument. It had one key chords on the left hand and one or two sets of keys. I learned some simple songs, mostly kid christmas songs and that Frere Jaques song. I believe I even took it to school for music class in the fifth grade and played it along with the songs I knew. A one finger concerto. In my twenties I had the wonderful experience of being the lead singer of a rock band. Feeling rather empty on stage I purchased a professional keyboard and managed to learn just enough to not look stupid on stage. I played simple parts to fill the background when the guys who could really play did their thing. It was fun and really challenging for me. My sister also had an acoustic guitar. Nobody ever showed me how to play and I never worked out what my left hand was supposed to do. I would lay my fingers on the strings just like on tv but no good sound ever came out. I didn't know you had to push the strings down and it never occurred to me to even try. HA. I have tried to play the guitar on several occasions in my life. I love soulful sad electric blues guitar and have wanted to learn to play but there's just nothing natural about it for me. It's all mechanical and not as fun as I want it to be. Yes I did learn to push on the strings. I think my only musical instrument I ever received was a kiddie drum set. I remember it lasted maybe only minutes before I put holes in all the drum heads. End of drums but at least someone tried. I think it may have been a birthday present because I kinda remember it not being christmas outside the window when I played with it. I used to steal my sister's tape recorder when nobody was home and record myself singing. I have very vague memories of embarrassment of my sister and mom finding out and making fun of me about it. I didn't actually realize the song would still be on the tape when I was done singing. Out of sight, out of mind. I always sang the same song the same way. Over and over and over. “Gimme the loooovve. All I can taaake. Gimme the love all I can take. “ Three lines. Very Eric Clapton. I will admit that the last line had some different delay timing in it. Cmon. I wasnt completely without musical talent. The song was never loud though...I would never sing it loud. I kept it somewhere above a whisper. At that time in my life, the words themselves had plenty of volume for anyone willing to listen. Lalalala lalalala lalalalalalalah.

Chef boyardee raviolis, chef boyardee spaghetti, french toast, cereal, eggs, peanut butter, ice cream. I could cook. Chef Jeff. Or as I was called, Booger Chef and Jeff, due to an ill fated fast food chain called Burger Chef who had a commercial featuring Burger Chef and Jeff. Ah kids.

I had many small metal toy cars. Not Hot Wheels. They were too expensive. Actually I did get one Hot Wheels set that came with an oval track and two cars that ran on batteries. The cars didn't last that long and I lost interest in them since I couldn't keep replacing them. I did use the track that came with the set though. I loved the little cheap metal cars that came in packs of 8 or 10. They weren't close to the quality of Hot Wheels. These were just stamped out of cheap metal with solid axles and plastic wheels. I used to race them around and around the kitchen counter in pretend races. The centers of the corners was always a size D battery taped to the counter. I also used to drag race them down some of those Hot Wheels tracks that I would hook together in a straight line down the length of the kitchen. I even had a little push button starter thingy that made sure both cars left the start line at exactly the same time. I would do tournaments to see which car was going to be the fastest that day. I would tape the start line high on the wall on a convertible table/chair that my Great Uncle Clarence had made and that my mother had hand painted with I believe was a self portrait. Every day I would alter the race course a little to change the physics of the track to see if it affected the outcome of the races. Always manipulating my environment and testing the laws of physics. No wonder I'm an engineer now. I took the time to paint all my cheap cars once with model paint. I also painted the top of my wooden dresser at the same time. It stayed that way till i left for college and beyond. I had bunk beds and a matching three drawer dresser. I remember going to the small furniture store in Claremore and picking it out myself when I was really young. I had the same bed and mattresses till i left for college. The bunk bed has drawers under it. Clothes in the dresser. Toys n legos n comic books in the bunk bed drawers. I always slept on the bottom bunk. I can only think of four or five people who ever slept over. At the same time I didn't like being in other houses for sleepovers either. I wanted the control of my own space and sleeping over didn't give me that. Control probably sums up a huge part of who I am and who I learned to be. It's a common story among young people. Never feeling in control of anything. It also explains a lot of my time alone in the woods. It was my own universe and I could control it any way I pleased. I have a stepdaughter Heather who struggles with the same issues of control. It's maddening to be the plastic airplane in the stream and not the person with the stick. My closest friend in proximity, Bruce, was the only person to ever spend any real time at my house when I was really young. I remember lots of chaos in his house too so I don't think he liked being home either. So, we would we would spend the majority of our days in the woods away from our homes.

I loved to play monopoly. By myself.

I ate at the school cafeteria almost every day for 12.5 years.

I read comics but not the normal young boy comics. I liked Richie Rich and some of the offshoots. I had a lot of them. Never threw them out. Read and reread them often. I had short stints with Mad and Cracked and the occasional marvel or DC superhero but I never really liked them that much. I read a lot of books about bigfoot and gargoyles and other creatures that inhabited that fuzzy space between real and make believe. They just seemed interesting. Never any vampires tho. Wasn’t interested. Godzilla was really cool. I watched the original SNL by accident. I watched the moon landings and every Olympics.

Speaking of, during the 1972 Olympics a bunch of GUERRILLAS stormed the dorms at the games and killed some people. I was absolutely freaking amazed at how anyone would allow GORILLAS to run free at the olympics. And whey didn't they just hunt them down and kill them? My dad let me use a 410 gauge single shot shotgun for rabbit hunting and I was sure I could have tracked them down and taken them out easy enough. I remember my parents were out partying and I was home alone. Yes, I was home alone a lot at that age but in fairness my grandparents lived like 20 yards away and kept a close eye on me. It don't make it right or wrong or good or bad. Its just how it was. I was still awake when they got home and I was animated telling them the story of how gorillas had attacked the olympics and killed a bunch of people. But not Olga Korbut. She was dreamy. In the end they giggled at me and explained the difference between guerrillas and gorillas and it made much more sense to me.

Super Sugar Crisp. Sugar Frosted Flakes. Sugar Frosted Mini Wheats. Breakfasts of champions.

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