Let them eat Cake!

image It’s June in Alabama–about 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. It’s already pretty hot. School is out for the summer and my mom has told me to get out of the house and not come back till lunch, which will probably be something disgusting like tomatoes and rice, with hot dogs cut up inside. Ugh! Liver is worse though, so I won’t complain.

I turned eight this year. Our neighborhood is big, but it’s quiet. Plus, I know every nook and cranny of every street and drainage ditch within a square mile, so nobody really worries about me being outside on my own. I’m riding my reconditioned BMX knock-off bike with the yellow knobby tires around the neighborhood in hopes that one of my friends, or even one of the kids that I don’t really consider my friend, will notice me and come out and play.

Dangling from my right handlebar is my portable transistor radio. The sound is crap, but it’s small and it’ll run forever on a 9V battery. I have the “American Top 40” on with Casey Casem, and Kim Carnes is scratching out “Betty Davis Eyes,” which is number two on the charts right now. Truth be told, I kinda have the hots for Kim, even though I don’t know what she looks like. Later, I’d also have a crush on Kathleen Turner, which probably means that I have a thing for women who smoke, but I don’t really think like that yet. Course…my best friend’s sister is pretty hot and she doesn’t smoke. Her name is Shea. She smells really good. My mom won’t let me go in their house when I’m playing with her brother Chad, but I do anyway and just don’t tell her. Sometimes I get to see Shea and she says Hi to me. I don’t really know what to say around her though. She makes me nervous. Yet another recurring theme throughout my life.

It’s quiet around the house these days. My brother is gone. He’s done some pretty terrible things and though I’m not completely clear on either his motives, or where he’s gone as a result, I know it’s not good. Mom and dad won’t talk about it and if anyone else brings it up, any future conversation is quickly squelched with an almost insignificant shake of the head. They don’t think I notice, but I do. Mom especially thinks I don’t notice a lot of things. For instance, I know money is really tight right now. A month ago, for my birthday, all I got was a baseball bat and a coloring book. A COLORING book. How old do I look? But, I know money is tight with dad having to work contract jobs so I didn’t say anything. I pretended like it was a great birthday. But it wasn’t. It sucked.

I kind of miss Robert–or Bobby as some in the family call him. He likes “Robert” so that’s what I call him. He’s an OK brother I guess. I mean, he’s kinda mean to me and stuff, but he’s also pretty cool. Like, when we play boxing with the yellow and orange inflatable gloves, he lets me really wail on him. He always beats me at games though and I think he cheats but I can never prove it. I also think he steals all my Halloween candy no matter how well I hide it. This year, I pulled the top off my drum and hid the candy in there, but it’s still disappearing–just like my wallet and all my money. I really gotta get better at not losing things.

But even if he were here, he’d probably be off doing something else, so I’d probably still be riding my bike around. Today is his birthday. I wonder if he’ll get any presents wherever he is? I doubt it. Do you get presents at those camps for bad teenagers? Maybe he’ll get some ice cream or something.

What? “Endless Love” is number one? That’s such a crap-song! Mom likes it, but I don’t get it.

Hey look! There’s Michael and Steven. They aren’t my favorite kids to play with. One time, one of them pooped in his pants and then reached in and threw some at me. He missed. But they do have some really cool Star Wars toys. I guess they’ll do. Later!

Oh, Happy Birthday Robert–wherever you are.

Memories of a Gen-Xer

custom van Every generation blames the one before…no wait…that’s a song.

Let’s try again:

About every 20 years, another generation is born. Or at least, that’s been the schedule up until couples decided they were making too much money and having too much fun by themselves to have kids. I guess now, a lot of people are waiting 30-35 years, so maybe the generation schedule is widening.

Anyway, what with my decrepitude rearing its ugly head again, I’ve been thinking more about getting old. But not in a morose kinda way, but more in a kinda, “How things have changed” kinda way. A few days ago, some of my more enlightened readers and I discussed a bit how parenting has changed and while there is fodder there for at least a week’s worth of blogs, I’m gonna give it a break for a bit.

So today, I’m offering my Top Five list of things that have changed since I was a child in the 70s and 80s. If you’d like to play along, feel free to offer up your top picks via a comment.

Here Goes! The TOP FIVE Things that Have Changed Since Gen-Xers were kids!

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5. Water used to cost .0000143 cents per gallon: Do you remember when you could turn on the Slip n’ Slide in the morning and the only thing that got you off the thing in the afternoon was either dinner, or someone sliding into an anthill, or catching a nipple on a hidden rock? These days, water is so scarce here in the Atlanta area that we can’t even wash our cars. I suspect that in certain demographics, this is causing quite a social uproar. I remember when the big thing was washing your car in the afternoon so you could go cruising for doughnuts chics later that night!

4. There are no quotable movies anymore!: Just this morning I heard part of “Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail” on my Sirius radio. It was the bit about burning witches, “…and so, if the witch weighs as much as a duck…then she must be made of wood!” It got me thinking about how movies today, while visually stunning, lack a certain wit that we all grew up with. I mean, how many different quotes can the average Gen-Xer offer from Star Wars, or CaddyShack or any of the National Lampoon series? Nowadays, the best kids can do is offer, “Lucky” (Napoleon Dynamite) or “Tattoo on the lower back? Might as well be a bullseye.” (Ok, that one is actually a GREAT movie, but it was really geared more towards us older folk rather than the kids)

3. Cars suck!: On more than one occasion, I’ve lamented the lack of customized vans today! Oh, do you remember those? We had a blue GMC something or other, with a beautiful airbrushed picture of an old sailboat out on the open sea painted on our van. It had a refrigerator, a huge raised bed in the back (it never occurred to me what that was probably used for when I was a kid), and the BEST! captain’s chairs you ever sat in. Oh, and the windows were tinted so dark, that even if they’d had seat belt laws back then, you could have flaunted them while parading around in your skivvies in the back while driving up I-10! Oh, the good old days!

2. Lack of open space: This is one of those things you hear quite frequently from Gen-X’ers; “When we were kids, mom used to kick us outta the house in the morning and we wouldn’t return till dinner time.” And this was when we were like six years old! Nowadays, if a six year old is seen walking around the neighborhood alone, you can count the minutes before Child Services is knocking on doors trying to figure out who to blame. The problem is not that the kids are out without their parents, its that they are out in plain sight! When we left the house, we disappeared man! We hit the woods, or the drainage tunnels, or the big fields with the massive water ditches. You could stand out on our deck and look out over the back of the neighborhood and all you’d see every now and then is a head pop up out of the sand, or a pine-cone bomb being lobbed towards the enemies’ fort!

And the #1 Change is:

1. Weekend activities expectations: Do you remember what you did on an “average” Saturday? I bet it was something like this:

  •  Get up before 8 a.m.
  •  Eat some cereal while watching some cartoons (but not too   many, “We have things to do young man!”)
  • Do chores for the next hour and a half
  • Eat lunch
  • Maybe go grocery shopping with mom, or get some new shoes. Or maybe dad had you hold the flashlight while he worked on the car, or in the attic or something
  • Free play time till dinner
  • Help mom cook dinner (well, I did this anyway)
  • Maybe watch a movie in front of the TV if dad is feeling magnanimous. A Disney special perhaps, or maybe “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” ( sponsored by: Mutual of Omaha, is people…you can count on, when the going’s rough…)
  • Do the dishes
  • Take a bath/ brush your teeth
  • Off to bed

Nowadays, by 7:30 a.m., my kids are asking, “What are we going to do today?”

What are we going to do? I want to say, “We’re going to catch up on all the daddy chores that we didn’t get done this week because we were too busy working in the day, and playing with you kids at night.” But what really happens is that we parents end up dragging our kids from one activity to the next in a vain attempt at wearing their little butts out so they’ll go to bed early, so that we parents can have a few minutes alone that doesn’t cost $15 p/hour in babysitting fees!

So this was probably waaaay too long of a post, but I hope you at least scanned for the good parts. And I’d love to hear your Top 5 or Top 10 changes. It’d be interesting to compare childhoods!