Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Dumb Things You Do As a Child

I had a dream the other night that was more of a flashback really.

These kids were harassing my cousin Jake and me. Merciless harassing all day long. We went to one of Jake's sitters house. She was this cool 15 year old that dressed like Madonna meets LL Cool J. She told us to ride by and tell them, "We'll meet you at the crossroads."

Had no idea what it meant. In my dumb kid brain I thought it meant meet us at the train tracks to fight. Don't know why, I guess because the street crossed the train tracks and I knew people always said the other side of the tracks was the bad part of town. Still don't know how that was a threat. But Jake and I rode our bikes over to where these dumb kids were and told them we'd meet them at the crossroads.

This memory is one of those dumb things that sticks with you the rest of your life. Just embarrassing, stupid stuff you do or say as a kid. I have several of these memories.

I had an uncle that was a jerk sometimes.

I remember watching a PBS documentary, was probably 8 at the time, and they were explaining people with dark skin.

My uncle picked me up and I told him that black people and middle eastern people have dark skin because they are closer to the equator.

He laughed at me mercilessly. Made fun of me the entire car ride. I remember feeling really dumb.

It was only later that I realized I might have actually had more information than my uncle, just not all the information. I realized the documentary was probably discussing a theory of evolution where people's skin got darker over thousands of years to protect them from the harsh sun.

This same uncle, as he drove away from grandma Dobyns' house one Christmas Eve, left me with this wisdom, "Go find some yellow snow, it tastes like a snow cone." He laughed and drove away as I spent the next hour looking for yellow snow.

Luckily I did not find any.

Then there was this time when I was at Reach. We did a brain exercise where we had to describe an orange in the greatest detail we could. We had to describe how the skin felt, how the rind tasted, etc. I just remember being really hungry and not having a lunch with me that day.

Something about being an Elementary School kid at the High-school made me embarrassed to bring lunches. I would scrap together $.75 so I could buy a giant dill pickle. That's what I ate for lunch one day a week for that entire year.

Well while describing this orange, we also got to eat the orange. I was so hungry that I pulled the "What's that?" and pointed off to the side.

Not only did I pull this move, but I pulled it on a good friend of mine Paul. He looked right and I grabbed one of his nicely peeled slices of orange and ate it.

He caught me, turned me into the teacher (rightfully so), and I actually still had a slice left that I didn't see, so I had to give him that.

For some reason, that one has really stuck in my mind. It's something Paul probably hasn't thought about in 20 years, but it's going to be one of those things I probably mutter about on my deathbed when my brain isn't fully working.

Memories are weird man.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Having Physical Books in Your Hand

I held out for a while.

Being a literature major, I felt it was my duty to fight the good fight to keep physical books on a shelf.

It was some sort of symbol of how well read I was. Guests to my house could look at my hard bound collected works of Hemmingway and think, "Wow, this guy has some culture." Of course, this all relied on them not noticing how many versions of each Harry Potter and Resident Evil book also sat on these shelves.

And then Sal and I moved 4 times within 3 years and I got tired of carrying boxes labeled "Books."

I donated most of our books to Good Will, purchasing the much cheaper Kindle versions from Amazon. And our three overflowing bookshelves were re-purposed for the record player, Sal's nail stuff, and DVDs/Videogames.

What got me thinking of this was the bookmobile passing us on the highway recently. I thought about the joy a lot of kids are going to miss out on.

Climbing onto those brown and tan caravans that never felt stable enough to have 30 hyperactive kids running around them, was a treat.

For a voracious reader like myself, the Bookmobile meant I was going to bring home 3 new books. For the kids who hated reading, it meant they were free from class for an hour.

There was something about the musty smell of the bookmobile that forced a smile like the Joker's laughing gas. My strategy was typically to get one novel (usually a Star Wars book), one drawing book, and one military gear book. (Also used for drawing cool looking military guys)

There was also my personal favorite. The monthly Scholastic order. Every month, the teacher would pass out a small catalog with all of Scholastic's new books and toys. The class would spend Friday afternoon pouring over what books they wanted, running home to get an envelope and fill it with whatever loose change they had available.

I bought every drawing, joke, Star Wars, and Goosebumps book available.

And finally, like a religious holiday, there was the twice a year Scholastic Festival where Scholastic would set up a mobile store in the hallways of the school and each class would get an hour to flip through all of the books.

I remember sniffing new books at my desk, taking in that boxed book smell, rubbing my hands in anticipation for when I would be home and ready to tear through it.

Basically, I'm a nerd, but it was a good thing. I don't know if any of these still exist for kids, but it was so important to my childhood and my love of reading, that I hope they have something.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween Candy

I'm realizing now how much of an idiot I was when it came to Halloween candy. This comes mostly from friends of mine discussing how much of their children's candy they are going to end up stealing / eating.

So, I went about my candy much like I do a meal. I usually taste everything on my plate to get a baseline of how much I'm enjoying everything. Then, I eat things in order of what I liked the least to the most.

Sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. I usually eat my salad first (unless it's the famous Heartbreak Salad) and whatever the main meat dish is last. I might nibble on bread if there's any left after the meal, but generally those are the only rules.

So the same went with Halloween Candy. The post trick-or-treat sorting was usually one hell of a project. Generally I would wander the neighborhood for 4 hours with a pillow case and I would come back with that thing 2/3rds full. I took Halloween very seriously.

So that night, after wandering for hours, I would come home and dump the pillow case on the floor.

I would first find all the Almond Joys, Mounds, 100 Grand, anything with coconut in it, Heath bars, black licorice, wax lips, and Good and Plentys and throw that crap in the trash immediately. I can't believe people had me hauling pounds of that dumpster garbarge around for hours.

Then, I would pull all KitKat's, Smarties, Crunch Bars, and Tootsie Rolls out. These were things I would eat if I needed to, but generally wasn't big on. The nice thing about these candies is there's high trade value for them. I could turn two KitKats and a Smartie into a Baby Ruth and Snickers.

Then I would separate the candy I liked into two different piles.

You had the fruity stuff like Starburst, Skittles, Life Savers, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, Licorice, Warheads and put that in one pile.

Then the candy bars I loved went into another pile. Snickers, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, Three Mustkateers were my most loved candies. I felt like Smeagol in Lord of the Rings. "Yes, my precious-es, I will eat you in April when I've finished all my other candy."

Here's the problems with my system.

  1. There was a lot of candy sniped by my two brothers and probably my parents. When you're dealing with that quantity, it's really easy to make a few candy bars disappear. 
  2. Candy that did survive until December, again took a back seat to the PEZ and Crown Candy chocolate I usually got in my stocking, pushing out it's scheduled eating another several weeks.
  3. Usually mid-December there would be a purge where most Halloween candy left was dumped.
  4. And if candy made it to February somehow, usually it was a stale, melted, former shadow of itself.
I think back to how many delicious candy bars I missed out on because I'm such a strange kid. It makes me a little sad. But then again, I'm an adult with an adult wage, and I can buy a full sized Butterfinger if I want to.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Movie Theme Night

Sal and I are preparing for a rare weekend where we have nothing planned. This usually means a couple bottles of red wine, cooking a labor intensive but well worth it meal, and renting movies on Amazon.

Sometimes we'll think of a theme for our movie binge weekends. It was when discussing our next theme and shooting down some of Sal's ideas that I realized I have very specific buckets I put movies into.

We started a rock marathon a few weeks back and had a solid list of about 12 films. We managed to only get through two of the films on the list. Sal wanted to add Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and my immediate reaction was, "That doesn't fit with the rock theme."

This movie is literally about two people trying to track down their favorite bands secret show, but somehow in my brain I didn't think of it like that.

Instead, I sort of put it in my... Zach Braff's People Coming to Terms with Change Indie Movie list.

Other films in this bucket are Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Garden State, Wish I Was Here, and Away We Go.

And then I've got stuff like The Totally Rad 90s bucket. This includes Singles, Empire Records, and Reality Bites.

And then The Totally Excellent Late 90s Teen movie like Can't Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, She's All That, and American Pie.

And then there's also The Totally Groovy Nostalgia Flick from the 90s about the 70s. This very specific bucket has Detroit Rock City and Dazed and Confused.

Then there are buckets based off of directors that keep a similar style or writing. Judd Apatow (This is 40, Knocked Up, Superbad), Wes Anderson (Royal Tenenbaums, Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore), John Hughes (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink), Kevin Smith (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Mallrats), and Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind, Science of Sleep).

When I think of rock movies like above, I think about Almost Famous, High Fidelity. Walk the Line.

Basically what I'm saying is, if you want to have a themed movie marathon with me, I probably have very specific movies that I group together. I'm probably more difficult than it's worth arguing with.