What I learned from Water Balloons – Part 3 – The Clubhouse

Parts 1 and 2 were written several years ago, and a friend of mine read them recently and wanted to know the rest of the story, so I’m bringing the first 2 back and adding part 3 of what appears to be a never ending story.

The Clubhouse – Design and Acquisition

Having avoided both Mr. Barlow and the cannibal pygmies to successfully reach the clubhouse we were ready to begin planning the ambush. Well almost. First we had to make sure the clubhouse stayed standing.

The idea to even HAVE a clubhouse came from our addiction to “The Little Rascals“. Spanky and Alfalfa had a clubhouse and they were younger than us! We just assumed they built theirs, and if they could then so could we. Once we decided that all we needed were tools and materials. Dad had a garage full of tools, most of which we were forbidden to touch. But where were we going to find wood for the walls, roof and door? What about a window? What about lights, heat for the winter, something to build a floor with to keep us out of the dirt and mud? Fortunately for us there was junk day.

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Junk day happened 4 times a year. On junk day you could drag anything you wanted to get rid of out to the curb and the town would pick it up and haul it off to the dump. Obviously junk day was some adult’s idea, because for kids junk day was almost like Christmas! As everyone dragged their stuff out we would explore the neighborhood looking for new treasure. We all did it, but brother Mikie was a master scrounger – he could find all the valuable stuff like he had a catalog in his head. One junk day he brought home a trumpet. None of us could play it, but we had one. Another time he found an entire set of encyclopedia, except for “S”. You’ve got to remember before there was Google there was the encyclopedia – the source of all knowledge and homework answers. No more hiking to the library for the Ward boys after that – as long as we weren’t writing about Saturn or South Dakota or Silver. Anyway…

The next junk day we hit the streets. Our neighborhood was really one big circle surrounding a health clinic and a vacant lot where we played. So we divided up into quadrants and set out on our bikes. If anyone found anything we could use they’d holler as loud as they could and whoever was in the next quadrant would run over to help guard the find until we all got there for the evaluation. We learned to call each other from 3 or 4 blocks away from our mothers. Whenever ma wanted us home she’d open the front door and scream “Charles and Michael Ward get home this instant!”. Ma would scream once and we’d damn well better get home fast. We tried saying we didn’t hear her ONCE. We were over in Jimmy’s yard, about 6 houses down. Ma didn’t argue with us, she just walked over, picked up the phone and called Jimmy’s mother. But she didn’t ask if Mrs. Vincent had heard her like we thought she would. Mrs. Vincent was in the house and maybe, possibly didn’t. But Ma was more clever, she asked Mrs. Vincent to ask Jimmy if HE had heard her. Jimmy had already learned he couldn’t lie to his mother so we were doomed. Ma calmly hung up the phone, looked at us and said “well I guess if you can’t hear me calling you to come home you’ll just have to stay home from now on.” Just like that we were grounded for a week. Junk day…

After an hour of scrounging we heard brother Mikie calling us. He had hit the motherlode! Somebody down the street had been flooring their attic and had a stack of plywood left over and were THROWING IT AWAY. Two full 4×8 sheets and half of another. Almost the whole clubhouse in 1 pile. But we had to get it all home before somebody else tried to claim it. A 4×8 sheet of plywood is big, bulky, and especially heavy for a bunch of 8 and 9 year olds to try and carry home. First we thought we’d tie it to our bikes and drag it home, but 1) there was no holes for a rope, 2) we didn’t have any rope and 3) even if we did no one was brave enough to get their dad’s drill to make the hole so that was out. We asked Jimmy if he’d ask his dad to help us with his truck but Jimmy had just punched his little brother in the head the day before and wasn’t asking his father for anything. So we resigned ourselves to carrying it home.

Even though our neighborhood was a big circle the house that was throwing away the wood was all the way on the opposite side of that circle from our house, a good 4 or 5 blocks in a regular neighborhood. It took 4 of us to carry 1 sheet and there were 6 of us that day, so we could leave two guards and that should be good to deal with any other kids who tried to take it. If an adult showed up we were screwed, but they weren’t due home from work for another hour or so. We set out down the middle of the street because the sidewalk wasn’t wide enough and so we wouldn’t accidentally slam the wood into someone’s car. The problem was every time a car came down the street we had to get out of the way, standing the sheet up sideways and sliding it between parked cars until the traffic was gone. It took us ½ an hour to get that first sheet into our back yard, and we were exhausted. The two guards were calling us to hurry up because they had to get home before their fathers. We dropped off the first sheet and trudged back for the second.

Returning to the pile we knew we had to hurry up or we’d all be in trouble. Not wanting to dodge traffic and too tired to go through that again we decided to cut through the vacant lot behind the health center. Everything went great til we got to the fences of the houses across the street from our house. We had two choices we could try our friend Klaus’ yard. But his father and mother were first generation Germans and when they yelled at us we couldn’t understand what the hell they were saying and we were afraid of what we were being threatened with. So we chose the Pocaczeski’s yard. The Pocaczeski’s were great people, too old to be on the parent’s network they still let us cut through their yard, didn’t take our baseballs when they flew into their yard, they didn’t even make us pay when we broke their picture window! So we were legally safe but logistically challenged – they had a 6 ft stockade fence around their yard because they had a pool. We were a little more than 4 feet tall so you can see the problem I think.

We had just seen a war movie where the GIs made a human ladder to get over some barbed wire fence so we figured we could do that. I stood against the fence and brother Mikie climbed up and stood on my shoulders. That left Jimmy and Klaus to lift the sheet up to brother Mikie and him to shove it over the fence. On the first try Mikie fell off before the guys got the plywood off the ground. On the second try it was actually in his hands, but when he said “I got it” the other guys let go, the board was too heavy and we both went down with the plywood landing on top of both of us. We were running out of time. On the third try we actually got the wood up to the top of the fence and when Mikie shoved it up it knocked him down. This time the board landed edge first on my stomach and knocked the wind out of me. We were going to try one more time, then take the wood back down to the cut through to the street. We’d still have 2 blocks to go but we’d probably avoid a trip to the Emergency Room. Somehow we got it over the fence, we jumped over the fence and hauled it to the yard. Once more piece to go.

We got back to the pile and found our two guards fighting with 2 other neighborhood kids. These were kids we sometimes hung out with, but we could beat the living shit out of them one day and play baseball with them the next. So they weren’t close friends. Mikie and I had pummeled them the week before so they stopped when we showed up and started throwing rocks at us. Rock fights were like original sin in our neighborhood, strictly forbidden by all parents, even the ones not on the network. Rock fights frequently required real medical attention, usually some stitches, once in a while some dental work which parents really hated though it didn’t really bother us too much. We never got closer than 25 feet to throw the rocks, We hated each other in the moment, we knew we were going to get hurt a little bit, but we weren’t savages. We didn’t want anyone to actually have to STAY at the hospital. And none of us wanted the parents finding out, we’d be grounded for a month plus whatever violence our parents deemed appropriate. Usually inversely proportional to the amount of real injury incurred. So it was easy to stop a rock fight if you wanted to, someone just had to start hollering “ROCK FIGHT, ROCK FIGHT” until a parent came out to catch whoever was throwing rocks. Usually the fight ended before the first ROCK got out of whoever’s mouth. That was the case here, and since we only had half a sheet left we got it to the yard with no more hassle. We had our walls, now we needed a roof.

Our dad was always doing “home improvement” projects and one of his early ones was installing a set of sliding shower doors on the bathtub. Which was cool because before that we had semi-transparent shower curtains and ma had a habit of walking into the bathroom while we were showering or bathing to make sure we were washing properly. That’s ok when you’re 4 or 5, but when you’re almost grown up at 8 or 9 you don’t want your mom in the bathroom while you’re naked. Dad wanted privacy when he took his bath after work. He worked two jobs and that was how he relaxed when he got home. But we only had the one bathroom and the man could soak in the tub for a couple of hours. So it was either go out and pee in the yard which was our choice, but Ma thought that was disgusting and made us go into the bathroom and interrupt Dad’s bath. He didn’t like it, we didn’t like it, but that didn’t really matter to Ma. So dad put up the shower doors – corrugated orange plastic sliding doors. Even we knew they looked ridiculous but that’s what he bought, and once he paid for them they were going up.

From the day he put them up ma complained about those ugly doors. Every Sunday she’d scour the weekly ads looking for something on sale to replace those doors. She’d point them out to Dad and he’d say “I just paid for those doors I’m not spending more money on something that works just fine.” This went on for a couple of months, every single week. Every Sunday after church the Rickel’s ad would come out. Ma would cut out the frosted glass doors, and dad would roar we couldn’t afford it. You could set the clock by it. But we knew it couldn’t go on forever. One day ma was in cleaning the bathroom when we heard a crash. Me and brother Mikie ran in and found ma in the bathtub, leaning against the shower door. The cracked shower door. The cracked in half shower door. The now useless cracked in half shower door. Ma swears to this day she was cleaning the tub and slipped, but we went to Rickel’s after church that Sunday and Dad bought frosted glass shower doors. The plastic orange doors were moved out to the alley next to the garbage cans to wait on the next junk day. Fortunately for us ma only broke one door, the other was fine.

And so we had the roof for our clubhouse.

Next – Part 4 – Clubhouse Construction

What I learned from Water Balloons – Part 2

Parts 1 and 2 were written several years ago, and a friend of mine read them recently and wanted to know the rest of the story, so I’m bringing the first 2 back and adding part 3 of what appears to be a never ending story.

The Secret Clubhouse
Waking up the next morning we had a lot to do. It was a school day, so there was that, but we had to plan the ambush and fill up the water balloons. We bolted down our cereal, changed into our school clothes, grabbed our books, and started out the door – we were going to plan on the way to and before school. Leaving home early was no big deal, school was 3 blocks away and we walked unless it was raining. And we often went early to meet up with our friends and play stickball or dodgeball or kickball or catch or whatever before school actually started. Today though, we had to avoid our friends because they were the targets. We needed a secret place to plan – we’d use the clubhouse. We just had to get there.

We headed up the block towards school, waving goodbye to mom as we left. But instead of crossing the first street at the corner we detoured around behind the bushes of our friends’  house, heading back to the clubhouse in our yard. This was not without its own risks. To successfully reach our yard we had to cut through first our friend Bobby’s yard, then climb the Barlow’s fence, cut across their yard into no man’s land, then over the back of our fence and get around the clubhouse to the entrance.

Bobby’s parents were on the neighborhood’s parents network. This network was made up of the parents of all the kids in the neighborhood and all had each other’s permission to police, catch, and punish anyone else’s kid if they caught them breaking the rules. The rules were never really defined, but most were commonly understood. Of course rule number 1 was leaving the zone. Any parent catching any kid outside the zone was authorized, even required, to grab that kid and either pull them into their car to immediately return them home OR grab them by the arm and drag them home, lecturing the whole time on how dangerous leaving the zone was and how much trouble said kid was in for doing so. Catching more than one kid outside the zone required a call to each respective parent in the network who would handle the violation in their own way. Any kid caught by any group parent would as a matter of course as part of the punishment be required to publicly apologize, at the next parents gathering (neighborhood cookout, dinner, after supper gabfest, drinks, little league game, cub scout meeting, or god forbid – CHURCH) to that parent for putting them through the trouble of taking care of somebody else’s kid.

Other group rules were: no (real) fighting, teasing the girls, causing (intentionally or unintentionally) bodily injury, cursing, property damage, riding double on a bike, playing in school clothes, lying, or generally just annoying the grown ups. Allowable shared punishments included; just yelling at us, calling our parents to report our offense, ordering us home to report our offense to our parents (there would be a follow up phone call), soap (in the mouth for cursing), public humiliation (publicly apologizing to and having to play with the girls), spanking (clothed butts only, no weapons), and banishment. Banishment meant we couldn’t visit their property for some defined period of time. Banishment also originally included no contact with that parent’s kids, but since they usually didn’t know where we were that particular rule was unenforceable.

You can see how the parents network could make a water balloon fight difficult no? Not only did we have to dodge our parents, we had to dodge the entire network.

So sneaking through Bobby’s yard was a significant obstacle. But that early in the day it was pretty easy – Bobby had 4 sisters. This made the morning routine at his house general chaos,  trying to get 5 kids, 4 of them girls, dressed and ready for school, especially since there was only 1 bathroom. Bobby’s dad always left early, supposedly to beat the traffic on his way to work. I suspect it was really because he’d rather sit in the deli parking lot drinking coffee than put up with what was going on in his house in the morning. That meant we only had to avoid Bobby, because Bobby was on the target list. We could do that by crawling between his yard and the Barlow’s yard on the Barlow’s side of the hedge line. The only problem with that was – Mr. Barlow.

The Barlow’s weren’t part of the parents network, all their kids were way older than us, the youngest one off to college somewhere. Mr. Barlow was retired, from what I don’t remember, but he was our neighborhood’s Mr. Wilson – he hated little kids. He took our balls when they went in his yard, he walked out to yell at us for making too much noise playing in our own yard, he complained to our parents we were stealing apples from his tree (we were), he even called the cops when a baseball broke his kitchen window. And he threatened us with jail if he ever caught us on his property! So cutting through his yard to avoid Bobby was a huge risk – we had toured the jail with the cub scouts and NO WAY were we going there! You had to use the toilet in front of everybody, and it didn’t have a seat! You thought you could hold it, but there was no telling how long you’d be in there so eventually everybody was going to see you use the toilet (this is what scared me most about jail).

So we were counting on luck to get through the Barlow’s yard. Hoping that either Mr. Barlow was still sleeping, or that if anyone saw us it would be Mrs Barlow, we crawled the length of the hedge from the sidewalk to the back fence. We were so terrified we’d get caught we didn’t realize we were creating another clue for the post water balloon fight parental investigation. Now since becoming an adult I’ve visited that neighborhood, and the distance from the sidewalk to the Barlow’s fence can’t be more that 100 feet. That morning we crawled 10 miles, looking over our shoulders the entire way. Every sound, every flap of a window curtain I was positive Mr. Barlow was coming out. Every car that went down the street I was positive was a cop car, called by Mr. Barlow to haul us off to jail and the public toilet! Finally after hours of crawling we reached the back fence. Not slowing down we hopped the fence and buried ourselves in the bushes and trees of no man’s land. We waited to make sure no cops had followed us, and once we didn’t see any we knew we could always say there was no way we were in Barlow’s yard – we were cutting through no man’s land on the way to pick up Bobby for school. Better to be punished for going through no man’s land than hauled off to jail. We were nearly there, all we had to do was cross no man’s land, our back fence, and get into the clubhouse unseen.

No man’s land was a small, uncleared patch of land that somehow ended up outside everyone’s fence. It was bounded by the fence behind our yard, the back neighbor’s yard, the Barlow’s yard, and Bobby’s yard. No one would claim it. It was a jungle, with unpruned trees, overgrown bushes, covered in vines and shrubs, and was home to wasps nests, ant hills, black widow spiders, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, bats, quicksand, hobos, those strangers that tried to lure little kids into their cars with free candy, and cannibal pygmies. You’d get lockjaw if you got scratched in there, if you fell in the quicksand they’d never find your body, and you’d BETTER NOT come home with poison ivy!

No man’s land was 25 feet across at it’s widest, and maybe 25 feet deep. But I had seen the quicksand.

Lucky for us we’d been using no man’s land as a shortcut to Bobby’s even though it was on the parents network list of rules – stay OUT of no man’s land. There was a well worn path between his fence and ours, so we didn’t even need pigmy guides (you could negotiate safe passage with Bazooka). Wasting no time we ran down the path. hopped the fence into our yard, and crawled around the back side of the clubhouse to duck through the doorway to safety – WE HAD MADE IT.

Next – Part 3 – The clubhouse and the plan

What I learned from Water Balloons – Part 1

Parts 1 and 2 were written several years ago, and a friend of mine read them recently and wanted to know the rest of the story, so I’m bringing the first 2 back and adding part 3 of what appears to be a never ending story.

waterballoonpumpThis is a water balloon pump. Until a few days ago I had no idea such a thing existed. I had no  idea there was a need for such a thing. My first thought was “well, somebody figured out another way to make money from kids playing.” My second thought was “who the hell would spend money on that?” And my third thought was “damn that just takes most of the fun out of a water balloon fight!”  So I was going to write a post about how modern parents are ruining childhood for their kids. But there’s plenty of that kind of stuff out there in sociological and psychological studies of every generation since the baby boom.  But I think the real, often overlooked point about things like water balloon pumps is what they’ll prevent kids from learning.

Now you might wonder just what the hell can a kid learn from a water balloon fight that they wouldn’t learn from mommy’s or daddy’s ’speeches of wisdom’? You learn to plan, obtain funding, evaluate risks and make decisions, how to improvise, how things don’t always turn out the way you want them to, even how to do housework. Don’t believe me? Consider…

PLANNING

Water balloon fights are almost universally frowned upon by mom and dad, at least they were before water balloon pumps came along. I never did understand why, but I always knew I’d be in big trouble if mom found out I or my brother had been in one. So to stay out of trouble, water balloon fights took meticulous planning and risk evaluation. We had to figure out how to get the balloons, who our targets were, and where the ambush would take place. Once we had a location we had to figure out when our targets would be there, how we’d fill the balloons, how we’d transport the balloons, how we’d escape, and most important, how not get caught by mom and dad.

STEP 1 – OBTAINING THE BALLOONS –  Unless we’d just had a birthday party we didn’t keep a balloon stash in the house. So SOMEBODY had to a) find some money and b) safely sneak to the 7/11 with said money and buy some balloons. Harder than it sounds. We could always scrounge up 25 cents (good for 50 balloons) from the couch, under the furniture, or possibly saved from last week’s allowance (yeah right!). But the easiest way to come up with a quarter was from the little change holder in dad’s car where he kept his toll money. So that’s what we usually did. This becomes important in the post water balloon fight parental investigation, so let’s hold off on this.

Sneaking to the 7/11 was a bigger deal –There was NOTHING in the 7/11 my mother would pay for – the groceries cost too much and Slurpees were bad for you. Bad people hung out there, they had pinball, and it was down the street from Benny’s bar. I had no idea what was wrong with Benny’s bar – dad went there sometimes. Maybe it was just the location. Benny’s and 7/11 were on or across two of the four forbidden barrier roads that made up the boundaries of our free play zone. Inside the zone we could go anywhere, do anything, with anyone as long as we stayed out of trouble or until we got caught. All of our friends lived inside the zone, there was a baseball field, a playground, and an empty lot, so this was kid heaven and there was really no reason to leave the zone… unless we wanted something from the 7/11.

NOTE 1: I suppose I should feel some guilt about what I’m about to write, but it was 45 years ago and I’ve apologized to my mother for far worse things since then.

The safest way to get to the 7/11 was to run an errand for mom, so we took a quick look in the fridge and kitchen cabinets to see what we might need. We almost always needed eggs for some reason so after covering our tracks by getting a glass of ice water from the refrigerator we’d go find mom and start something like this – “hey ma! i was just getting a drink of water out of the fridge and we’re runnin’ outa eggs. Want me to go get some from the egg farm?” This was actually pretty clever because the egg farm (an old house on a big lot where an old couple had chicken coops and sold eggs out of their basement – creepy!) was on one of the forbidden barrier roads a few blocks from the 7/11. So if we could get parental permission to be on that road then we could just slide on down and pick up the balloons and not get in trouble for crossing the barrier. Sometimes this even worked, usually when we really needed eggs.

NOTE 2: In memory of my little brother’s courage, documented below, the rest of this story will focus on just one water balloon fight. I miss you little brother!

Other times, when we didn’t need eggs and couldn’t come up with a plausible errand, required subterfuge. We could try the straight sneak, both of us riding our bikes up there. That never worked though, we were little kids and if one of us wasn’t running in or out of the house every ten minutes mom got suspicious and started looking for us. So we tried distraction – one of us would occupy mom for 15 minutes while the other one rode back and forth to the 7/11, praying there was nobody in line and none of our neighbors saw us outside the zone. Fake injuries worked for a while, til mom figured out the only time we complained about getting hurt was when we were trying to keep her from finding out what we were really doing OR we were really hurt and needed to go to the emergency room. We kept trying different tactics, but the bravest one I ever saw was when my little brother said “you go, I’ll take care of ma.” He wouldn’t tell me what he was going to do. so I stuck around to see what he came up with.

Mom was in the kitchen, starting to get supper ready. He went to our room, got his spelling book, walked back to the kitchen, sat down at the table, opened it up and started to cry! “Hey ma I can’t get these words right and we got a quiz tomorrow, please would you help me?” HOLY SHIT – he dove on a homework grenade!! Even my little kid brain realized what a heroic feat this was, that it was a one time deal, and if we got caught we were dead. So as mom (too stunned I think to recognize it for the ploy it was) sat down to help little brother with his spelling words I tore off to the 7/11. I think I set a record getting there and back knowing he had to be suffering. I was so flabbergasted by what he had done that I walked into the kitchen with the bag of balloons in my hand! His eyes nearly bugged out of his head when he saw them, and I shoved them in my pocket just before mom turned around to see what he was looking at. Before she could say a word to me little brother slammed his spelling book closed. jumped up said “Hey ma. thanks! i think I got it now. Hey, what you makin’ for supper?” Before she could answer we ran back outside to hide the balloons. Trailing behind us we heard “make sure you’re back in this house before your father gets home!”

We knew enough even then not to push our luck anymore that day. We hid the balloons in our clubhouse and stayed close to home, not wanting to risk dad getting there before we did. We cleared the table after supper, took out the garbage without being told, picked out our school clothes for the next day, and headed to bed right at our bedtime without a fight – on our absolute best behavior. In hindsight it’s obvious that mom and dad knew we were planning something big, just not what. And i recognize now their patience. They didn’t try a pre-emptive strike, guessing at what was up. They just waited, knowing they’d hear about it one way or another, soon. i also know now that the investigation began even before the water balloon fight began

Next… getting to the secret clubhouse

I wish

“Girl leave your boots by the bed we ain’t leaving this room.
Til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom.”

Never in my life could I write something like that. Wish I could.

 

like sands through the hour glass…

carcassettedeck_thumbI generally try to adhere to the philosophy of “Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional” as I make my way through the funhouse of life. I refuse to dwell on my actual age, or the oh so slow degradation of what my body parts will or won’t do, or what

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they’ll still do but now it hurts like a sonofabitch later on. I can play for hours on end with a real Slinky, or pass an afternoon with a set of buckyballs. I have a custom engraved military grade fidget spinner I own a working set of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. And I’d much rather spend a day playing pinball than learning the intricacies of “the cloud” (which by the way is how I make my living). So I’m occasionally blindsided by current events and progress. For example, I had no idea until recently that scientists can grow you a new bladder in the lab, using materials from pigs.  Or that they could make new blood vessels using cotton candy. That kind of stuff is interesting, but tends to roll off into the seemingly humongous store of useless information I carry around. But every once in a while a milepost event happens that makes me sit up and realize “shit! I really am getting old”.

It wasn’t when my sons turned 21, nor when I realized that if it ever came down to it they could kick my ass if they wanted to. It wasn’t when I received my AARP card. It wasn’t when my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary. It wasn’t when my first orthopedist, only a little older than I, suddenly died. You’d think the fact that I HAVE (or had) an orthopedist would be a clue. It wasn’t even the day I realized that I was setting my alarm clock 15 minutes earlier than I used to, basically because I do have  an orthopedist and it takes a while to get everything working right in the morning.  Nope, it was the death of the car cassette deck that did it

An article in the New York Times (from 2011) noted the passing of the factory installed car cassette deck. You are no longer able to buy, anywhere, from any dealer,  a new car with a cassette deck in it. I didn’t know you still could, but now you can’t anyway so I didn’t really miss anything there huh? BUT….

Was it that long ago that I took a job just so I could install one in my car?

The car cost 200 bucks, the cassette deck?

$300, but it was replacing an 8 track and worth every penny.

How many copies of “Born to Run” did I wear out because Bruce is the fucking Boss god damn it and I’ll play it every day if I want to!

How many mix tapes did I make to try and persuade the girl of the moment to help me with the clasps on her bra, or at least let me touch it…please?

A lot of people I know have never seen a car cassette deck, having grown up with CD players, mp3 players, and satellite radio. I haven’t seen one in over 15 years. Haven’t seen a cassette either, except at flea markets 5 for a dollar. As I read that Times article my knees creaked just a little bit more, my vision blurred just a little bit more, and I had to turn the volume on the mp3 player up just a little bit more. I thought about picking up some “Just for Men Gel” for my increasingly white beard and moustache. And I wondered if it might be getting time to have “that” conversation with my doctor, the one about the little blue pill. Though apparently that’s really my wife’s call.

Thankfully, before I called to make the appointment I realized that yeah, I used to have a cassette deck in my car, and that was a long time ago and yeah I’m getting old. But I still have my slinky, was reading that Times article on a tablet, was listening to The Gaslight Anthem, don’t own any neckties or slippers, and just the other day I knocked my son’s block off in Rock em Sock em Robots. Maybe they can take me, but they’ve got to sleep sometime (and sometimes they still sleep in my house.) If AARP wants to help me buy stuff cheaper and cut ahead in lines who am I to argue. I have a voice controlled mp3 player in my car, the stereo is worth twice what the car is, and when I feel really good I can still fire up my bike and piss off my neighbors rumbling down the road.

Now if you’ll please excuse me, I dropped my Buckyballs and I’ve got a Roadrunner cartoon marathon on tap for the evening.