The Wrong People in the Wrong Car

You would have been amazed at the spectacle. The man was floating down the road in what looked to be a kind of meditative state. I had no idea that anyone as – I would like to say big boned, but I’d be lying – overweight as he could manage to focus on levitation and momentum. When I looked a little closer I realized that he wasn’t really floating. He was more of a faker than a fakir. This particular example of American excess was actually riding a scooter. A 350 pound man on a scooter is almost as impressive as a 350 pound man levitating.

Why is it that cars and people don’t seems to match? I will start with me. You would think someone as cool as me would be driving something amazing like a royal blue Tesla Roadster or a cherry red 1963 Corvette Sting Ray or even a Vette. Now, to be fair, right out of high school I was driving a Vette and I looked as cool as an eighteen-year-old can look in that car. Sadly, it was not a Corvette but a Chevette. Now, I drive a 2003 gray Malibu. It is a reliable, down to earth, safe car that makes me look like the married, stereotypical, balding, middle-aged man that I am.

Even worse, (or so I tell myself) are the massive cars that look like aircraft carriers on wheels that are driven by the tiniest, little, blue-haired ladies. When you see one of those boats pulling slooooowly into a parking spot at FoodMart, you know who will be getting out of there. It’s a good thing they have the really tall gray hair because I the other day I almost called the cops. I was certain there was a fourth grader getting out of the Lincoln Intercontinental Mark XXVII Land Beast at Long John Silver’s. I really should have known better because it was a school day and senior citizens specials were listed on the sign. In my defense, she was looking through the steering wheel while driving.

Another thing that gets on my nerves was a car I saw parked in a handicapped parking place. It is not that it is parked there illegally. Quite the contrary. It had a handicapped tag and everything to keep it perfectly legal. It was the car parked there that bothers me. It was a brand spankin’ new, orange Dodge Charger. Living in Knoxville, Tennessee, you get used to seeing all kinds of orange on all kinds of things due to this little school we have here called the University of Tennessee. The real issue I have is the car and the tag. If you have a hard time walking, can you still control the muscle behind that car? Or should I be hiding behind one of those four foot pillars they have to keep people from driving through the front door at Walmart? And if the tag is for a heart condition… <<shudder>>.

Ok, now that I have gotten that out of my system I can focus on the really important things in life like how to get a Tesla Roadster or a ’68 Mustang or Dodge Viper or any car that disguises my dorkiness.

It’s All Fun and Games Until…

I don’t ever remember my mother telling me I was going to put my eye out while doing something stupid. It wasn’t that I was exceptionally brilliant, my mom and dad just wanted me to learn things that would stick with me. Plus, I grew up in the barbaric age when we had real BB guns that were not considered lethal weapons, chemistry sets that could cause minor explosions, and this really vicious game called Hawaiian Punch based on the old fruit drink commercials. Allow me to elaborate for those of you who have grown up in these safer, more sophisticated and enlightened times. (By the way, safer, sophisticated and enlightened is really boring!)

My parents bought me a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. It was great! It could hold a million BBs. It had this really cool “one-pump and ready” action. It had no power whatsoever. The mighty armor of an empty aluminum beer can could stop the speeding BB in its tracks. It usually made a really good dent in the can though. To be fair, if you held your mouth just right, aimed at the exact spot you had already hit seven times, and had a really good tailwind, you might actually penetrate the side of the empty can. When you pulled the trigger, you could see the BB in flight. (I really wish I was making that part up.) It didn’t even hurt when you got shot with it according to my brother who thought it was a mosquito bite. Someday I really should tell him it was a BB. There was something that the Daisy Red Ryder could do that astonished my parents, the neighbor across the alley, and yours truly. Did you know, if you miss a shot that goes over the fence, one little BB from an underpowered Red Ryder can destroy a sliding glass door? Who knew? But I didn’t put out an eye.

Now let’s look back at those thrilling days of yesteryear when chemistry sets were considered an educational instrument and not a terrorist toolkit. It came with a little glass jar that was to be filled with rubbing alcohol, and a cloth wick that was meant to be lit. My dad even gave me one of his Bic cigarette lighters from the days when cigarettes were socially acceptable. (Does anyone else remember when your parents would send you into the store to buy their cigarettes while they stayed out in the car smoking?) I would light that burner up and dissolve all kinds of chemicals from my kit, following the directions in precise detail, to make a gelatinous substance that could be placed around an ant hill and lit. It was Napalm, Jr. And it was perfectly legal to play with it. Now, if the neighbors saw a kid cooking with chemicals in the garage, the ATF, DEA and Homeland Security would be onsite within ten minutes. I’m pretty sure I had everything needed to make meth if I had known what it was back then. It wouldn’t work today anyway. The chemistry set didn’t have batteries so the kid would have no clue how it worked.

Then there was the most violent of all clay-based board games – The Hawaiian Punch Game. There was an old cartoon commercial that we saw every Saturday morning about Hawaiian Punch – fruity drink that contained 5% real fruit juice. At the time, that was a big selling point. We never asked what was in the other 95%. Most likely sugar. But the cartoon had these two characters. One would ask, “How’d ya like a nice Hawaiian Punch?” The other one would say, “Sure!” Then the first one would punch him and send the second guy flying. (I think that would get a TV-MA rating these days.) The game was simple. You had these clay characters that looked like the cartoons from the commercial that were made in a mold. As you moved these little guys around a board, to goal was to try and avoid a punch spot. If you landed on a punch spot and someone else got a punch on their spin, there was this big hand that they could use to squash you opponent like a bug. As long as your blob of clay still fit in the square when it landed on a measuring space, you were still in the game. It ended when the last person was out thanks to being pummeled by their friends and siblings – not unlike real life with my brother. For the record, you cannot win the game by preparing your character a week early, and then baking it in the West Texas sun. When someone smashes it, it shatters.

So you can see that things are much different today. We do not condone those kinds of violence in our society. However, there is something to be said for the skills we learned as kids. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to play Call of Duty where I will shoot the bad guys, make a couple bombs, and stab people who get too close.

The Dance

I was sitting on the balcony this morning while on vacation in Myrtle Beach, SC, looking through some of my old thoughts. I came across this essay I wrote two years ago. I hardly recognize the words because so much has changes since 2015. I thought I’d share where my mind was in the time before I met the love of my life.

Do you ever have those moods where you are just no fun to be around? That is the kind of mood I am in as I write this. I’m a writer. We tend to take these dark moods and turn them into something really creative. Right now, this is a close to creative as I can get. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go nuts and try to topple the secret world government using five paperclips, a box of Earl Grey tea, two sperm whales, a roll of duct tape and a Siamese cat that thinks it is the reincarnation of Hitler and Miss Schropenburger – my ninth grade geometry teacher. (Trust me. She could have given Adolph some competition. I think she dated him at one point.) That plan won’t work. It requires six paperclips.

Speaking of world domination, a friend once sent my son a book called How to Rule the World: A Handbook for the Aspiring Dictator by Andre de Guillaume. As soon as that book entered my home, it disappeared. I suspect my friend of writing on the inside cover: “Do not let this book fall into the wrong hands. By wrong hands, I mean your dad.” I am hurt. Not that he would think I would be bent on world domination – that’s quite plausible. The thing that offended me was he thought I needed a book. I just need one more paperclip!

So in this foul mood (I felt like a penguin for some reason) I put my playlist on random and eventually came across a song that moved me. It was “The Dance” by Garth Brooks. I started listening to the words:

And I’m glad, glad I didn’t know

The way it all would end, the way it all would go.

My life is better left to chance.

I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.

My life has been a strange dance. Some days I feel like I am doing the samba across the floor with everyone watching and laughing with me. Other days it is a tango with all the passion and sexual tension that comes with it. Other days it’s a cha-cha. I’m not sure what cha-cha days are like. I just like writing cha-cha.

Then there are the days I dance by myself in rain. Today is sunny, but I want it to rain. There is nothing like going out in a summer shower and letting it wash all your bad mood away. It’s beyond compare. Standing there. Walking. Dancing. The rain coming down carries all the negative thoughts down to the ground and you wave goodbye as they float away. Or maybe I’m just not smart enough to come in out of the rain. Either way, it sounds like something I need.

The next song was “The Thunder Rolls” also by Garth. Maybe I’ll just take a shower instead.