Finding Dog Boy

Image

Yesterday while pounding a “FOR SALE” sign into the front yard of Papa’s house, the last on a dead end street, a man ambled toward me from next door. I had not met any of Papa’s neighbors; he was very jealous of our time together and would not abide my chatting over the fence with anyone. Now that Papa is in a long-term care facility, I had been expecting curious contact by one of them as they had no doubt noticed the lack of his boisterous presence. I met the man, a very pleasant fellow about my age, and we discussed the news about Papa’s hip fracture and subsequent decline in health. He told how when Papa first moved in about ten years prior, he had a habit of wearing Speedo shorts and nothing else around the yard. This in itself was a somewhat painful visualization, given Papa’s skin-on-bones physique, but he told me that whenever Papa bent over, his man-parts would make a grand entrance. I tried gouging my eyes out, but the neighbor stopped me from going through with it.

Finally he asked me my name and I told him, and he stared hard at me a moment and then asked me where I went to middle school. When I said it had been in Muscle Shoals in the late sixties and early seventies, the man excitedly told me where I had lived, who my neighbors and friends were, and where he lived, too, then exclaimed “I’m Mike.”

For a few seconds it didn’t register, but then memories flooded me like a thunderclap. “Mickey!” I yelled in glee, then gave him an unsolicited bear hug and bit of joyful pounding on the back. Mickey had been one of my very best friends in the seventh and eighth grade. We only lived a block apart and practically lived at each others’ houses. Good ole Mickey!  My God, it had been forty three years since we had seen each other! We started chattering away, not bothering to tell each other what we had been doing all those years, because we were suddenly swept up in our past.  Mickey!

At twelve years old, our lives revolved around bicycles with extended forks, banana seats and tassels on the handlebars, and we knew every square inch of our neighborhood. We played golf in our back yards, pretending to be Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicholas. We spent hundreds of hours hanging out at Deer Park, an abandoned theme park about three blocks away, our imaginations turning the overgrown place into a wonderland of fun.  As we reminisced, a memory from our times together came up and smacked me in the head. “Do you remember that we used to wear superhero outfits and run around the neighborhood with a mission to help animals in need?” At that moment I was no longer fifty four years old, for I was sailing around the neighborhood on my chopped out bike, my cape flapping majestically as Mickey rode bravely beside me in his own costume.

“Yes!” Mickey exclaimed, and I could tell by the look in his eyes that he had migrated back to those days, too. “We used to climb up on boulders at Deer Park and jump off, hoping we would fly.”

Memories long buried flew to the surface. “I sent a letter to the President back then…it was Nixon, for crying out loud…asking him to give us jet packs so we could be proper super heroes! He sent a letter back with a photo of his dog Checkers and a note saying that even though he couldn’t fulfill our request, he admired our efforts and encouraged us to keep up the good work.  Man, I had forgotten all about that!”

We moved on to other tales of our exploits, and for almost an hour we carried on like a couple of school boys. Finally I had to leave, so we exchanged phone numbers and a few more laughs and hugs and promised to keep in touch.  I thought about Mickey all the way home and into the evening, still happily stunned at the wonderful synchronicity of our meeting.

Then as I prepared for bed I remembered our super hero names. I was Animal Man and he was Dog Boy. I laughed and laughed, and then chuckled myself to sleep.  Finally, after so many years, the dynamic duo had found each other. I dreamed of flying last night and had the second best time of my life.  Today I’m not so sure which one of us was Dog Boy, but that’s not important. I found a part of me that had been dreaming for far too long.

Advertisements

Smokin

Image

Three years and three days ago I quit smoking.  It wasn’t my idea at the time, but the old ticker decided it was going to call a strike on Saint Patrick’s Day, and believe me, it’s no fun choosing between a cigarette and an ambulance. Besides, I’m a Welsh Jew, and that doesn’t bode well on an Irish holiday. I remember being splayed out on the floor, feeling like a trio of hippos were sumo wrestling on my chest and wishing they had trimmed their toenails. I had my cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and in my condition I tried smoking the cell phone. Let me tell you, it’s hard as hell trying to keep a cell phone lit. Eventually I gave up and tried to dial 911 with the cigarette, but as you can imagine it takes a steady hand to punch all those numbers in without tobacco flying everywhere. When the cardiologist saw me in the Emergency Room with the news that I was having a massive heart attack, he told me the next time I smoked a cigarette it would kill me. To this day I marvel at how he knew I was a smoker. Must have been all that tobacco in my ear. As much as I want to prove him wrong, you won’t catch me having another one. At least not today. We recovering cigarette addicts have to take it one day at a time.

I’ve always said that in the distant future, historians will note that tobacco was the most addictive substance known to man in the 20th century. They will also note that Facebook put tobacco to shame in the 21st century.  Whoever can figure out how to roll Facebook up and smoke it, he or she would be the wealthiest person in the history of modern civilization.  Hey, that’s an idea. Look, if I can puff on a burning cell phone, smoking Facebook can’t be much more difficult. For now, though, cigarettes rule the roost when it comes to addiction. I read a story years ago about a rehab for heroin addicts in New York City that tried telling the residents they couldn’t smoke while in the program. The counselors’ bodies have yet to be found.

When I smoked I had my priorities set thusly: cigarettes and then everything else. I’m serious. The only thing I valued as much as smoking was breathing, and that was only because it was the mechanism that aided my habit. I built my entire life around cigarettes, and even had a set of rules designed to maximize my smoking experience. First and foremost, Rule Number One was this: Never, ever, under any circumstance run out of cigarettes. If I only had one cancer stick to my name I would guard it zealously until I was able to obtain more. I once went two weeks without smoking because I had one cigarette left. The other rules dealt with making choices about where and when I could and could not smoke. For example, it is almost impossible to smoke while sleeping. Note I said almost.  It is ok to smoke in church, as long as you don’t exhale. Smoking during a wedding is generally frowned upon, and makes it more difficult to recite the vows or kiss your bride.  Also, it is not a good idea to light a cigarette while on pure oxygen. If you don’t believe me try it yourself. It’s liable to make you want to give up oxygen.

I’m celebrating three years of being an ex-smoker. If I ever have the opportunity to get a new heart, I guarantee you I’ll smoke one three miles long. It better have a user-friendly keypad, too. 

Circular Reasoning

Image

Like a pedigree bloodhound bred to hunt, another far-out scientific study has been unearthed and exposed to the light of incredulous reason by this writer.  No, it is not research on the interspecies mating habits of whales and mollusks, nor is it a finding that proves a man who goes to bed with an itchy behind wakes up with a smelly finger.  This study was done in Germany, home of bratwurst and Volkswagens and Shamwows, and a pack of scientists there have determined that when people become lost, they really do go in circles.

Let’s pretend for a moment that this study was not a fabrication of some GPS manufacturer, and was conducted merely to prove a scientific point.  Great googly woogly, don’t these people have more important things to research, like why scientists tend to come up with the craziest things to research?  Personally, I think these wackos were bottle fed.  Nevertheless, an unsuspecting institution of higher learning chucked out major Euro dollars just so some scientist could take a hike.  I admit to being somewhat peeved about the scientific community’s waste of time and money, but I’m much more upset that I’m never around when they need volunteers.  I’d show those beer-drinking Germans how to walk a straight line.

Anyway, as these sorts of studies go, the head bean thought it would be nice to see if folks move in circles regardless of the terrain.  Ok, that would make sense.  I’m sure the research-granting board read the proposal and said, “Whew, I’m glad this study covers all kinds of environments.  We were worried it would take place in a casino like that last one that nearly broke us.  Here, give him a blank check.”  The research subjects were equipped with tracking devices, just so they couldn’t get lost (wait, I thought that was the point), and then dropped in unfamiliar territory like deserts, forests and Donald Trump’s mansion, and told to walk in a straight line.

The study learned that most of those who were lost in the desert quickly became buzzard meat.  The rest tended to weave left and right, but generally did move in a somewhat straight line.  This was supposedly because the test subjects used the arc of the sun to aid their travel.  Being somewhat skeptical, I tried this in a Wal-Mart parking lot.  When I started, the sun was just coming up, and I determined the best way to walk a straight line would be to go toward the sun.  This went well for half the day, but by the end of the day I ended up where I started.  Proved that one wrong, and am proud of it.

Another group was placed in a great body of water and told to row in a straight line.  The research’s finding was similar to those who were lost in the desert, so they naturally deduced the sun was the reason why.  Since I’d already proved that hypothesis wrong, and given the fact that I can’t swim and wouldn’t be caught dead in a boat with no sight of land, I decided this theory was bogus, too.

Now the group that caught my attention was the ones that were placed in the forest.  The study showed that without exception, these people did in fact walk in circles.  Ok, this is where I draw a line in the roots.  I can understand that Germany had to borrow a desert from the Egyptians and a large body of water from the Italians (as long as they returned them unscathed, mind you), but Germany is chock full of something called the Black Forest.  Raise your hand if you think you can make any sense of direction in something that’s all black.  This is a no-brainer.  To prove this, I took my youngest son down to the Bankhead National Forest, dropped him off at its western border, told him to walk a straight line and then waited for him at the Forest’s eastern border.  Being smarter than the average bear, I did let him have his cell phone, and called him from time to time to see if he sounded any closer. 

That was two weeks ago, about ten days after his cell phone battery went dead.  His mom believes he’s visiting relatives up north.  I don’t think he’s walking around in circles, though, because he’s a pretty level-headed guy.  Maybe he found an ancient Native American burial site and is waiting for me to hunt him down so we can share in the discovery.  He’s always thinking about his old man, too.  Good boy.  Hope he runs across a recharger in there so he can finally tell me where he is.