Memory Upgrade

So sometimes your memory betrays you. Okay, most of the time your memory betrays you. Like for example, how you may remember an argument with an old friend that caused a riff between the two of you. When you finally have that heart to heart and discuss things you realize you remembered things all wrong. That friend didn’t actually say what you thought they said. Or you watched a movie as a kid and you remembered it a certain way for 25 years. When you go back and watch that same movie as an adult you realized the ending in your head was all wrong. Even how you remember a person. My grandma died over 6 years ago. I think I remember how her voice sounded, and her laugh. But I don’t have anything to go on anymore. No old home movies or answering machine messages saved. I’m going on those pieces still lodged in my brain. A couple phone conversations just a few weeks before she died, and a visit to her house just a month before she was gone.

It’s all I got, so I have to run with it. Try to keep it fresh and glowing, like stoking embers in a fire. Once it’s out it’s out. No more kindling to throw on the fire.

There’s no lesson here I’m trying to teach. There’s no moral to any of this. I’m just thinking a lot about memories and the importance of making them. My oldest was home this past week for spring break. I took the last part of the week off so I could spend time with her. My wife had to work all week and the younger ones were still in school(they aren’t off until the first week of April.) When the oldest comes home on extended weekends she’s often either sleeping, hanging out with her old school friends, or with her mom on some shopping excursion. I’m here at home making sure she’s getting her favorite meals while she’s here. I’m keeping the gears running at the homestead. I’m not ever going on adventures with her. So this time I wanted to be able to do something with her, so she knows I care and that I actually do like to spend time with her.

Wednesday was taking her to the dentist and the eye doctor, then being at home waiting for the heating and cooling guys to put in our new water heater. Thursday wasn’t much, but then Friday my daughter and I spent the day in Fort Wayne shopping for books and music, eating quite well, and just enjoying time together. We hit three spots for books and came out of it with a stack for each of us. I wanted to hit up Neat Neat Neat Records as well as I haven’t been there in over two years. Hasn’t changed much, and I’d hoped for that. For lunch we ate at Bravas Burgers. Probably the best burger and fries I’ve had in a very long time. We will go back for sure. After a coffee refueling we hit the road and made it home by 5pm. Saturday was just hanging out at home mostly, which is what we all needed I think.

Today, my wife and mom are currently driving the oldest back to school while I’m home with the younger ones. Making dinner and keeping the gears turning at the homestead.

I look back at my life, even just the last 6 years, and there are these moments that stick out in my head. They’re good moments: family vacations down south, trips to record shops, Christmas eves with board games and snack-y foods, a Colorado wedding, school carnivals, and band concerts around the holidays. They’re not grand gestures like trips to Disney World or anything like that. They’re just these little moments that define such significant times in my mind. More than a grand gesture can do, the trips to the bookstore, or a cabin in the woods, or the cinema on a Sunday afternoon are what stick in our memories. More memories we make the easier it is to remember them all.

Anyways, that’s what going on in my head. We made some memories this week, and I’m happy about that.

In Dreams

Dreams can be such humbling things. Even in the most bizarre, awkward ones there’s still some element of truth wrapped into the center of them if you dig hard enough. Strange places with vague similarities to ones from your waking life. Objects that have a visceral importance in a dream turn into something completely different once you wake up and start to think about it. “What the hell was that?” “What did that mean?” Familiar places and people are these bizarro versions of themselves in your dreams. Traits morph as you make your way through this dream world. Who you thought was one person turns into another. Meanings can change as well. It just depends on how your sleeping conscious is processing what your subconscious is trying out on it.

For the most part, my dreams tend to stay in the same sort of categories. There’s not a lot of variety when that old “R.E.M. Theater” is running. I’m usually at familiar places that morph into unfamiliar places. People I know are strange interpretations of themselves in my dreams. It’s never like I really know them, other than just I “know” who they’re supposed to be. I rarely have nightmares. If anything, my dreams take on a David Lynch-ian vibe(which I guess for some could be considered a nightmare.) Odd behavior from people in real life that aren’t odd at all, places I’m very familiar with that have very distinct differences in my dreams. Like a house I know in real life has rooms that don’t exist in my dreams. Oh, and bathrooms are always, always disgusting in my dreams. This must be a subconscious phobia of mine or something. I’ve had so many gross bathroom dreams.

Some recurring dreams of mine are the aforementioned “dirty bathroom” dream. I usually have to go to the bathroom really bad in the dream and come across this dungeon-like restroom where I can’t find a toilet that isn’t overflowing with waste or isn’t wet. These restrooms take on more of a maze-like form the further I go in looking for just one clean bathroom stall. The further on I go I start to feel like I’m in some underground cavern; walls and floors are dirt and the air gets dank. All I need to do is go to the bathroom. Why must the restroom turn into some medievil catacomb?

Another recurring dream is the familiar place that has an unfamiliarity to it. One that sticks out in my mind is a dream where I went to my parents house to visit and in the front of the house there were these concrete pillars on either side of the garage. My parents live in a 1,000 square foot ranch-style brick house. The same house I grew up in for nearly all my adolescent life. No pillars. Then when I went inside the house there was a hallway that led off in-between the living room and kitchen that had been closed off for years in the dream(never there in real life.) My mom and dad had removed the drywall blocking the entrance and I walked into this long lost walk way and found boxes of old toys and baby blankets that were mine. Some of the items were things I did remember from my childhood(like a plastic scarecrow toy that had targets on it you shot at with rubber darts, and a blanket I’d had as a real little guy that I’d thrown up on when I was sick once and it had become a lost cause as a result.)

Novelty old timey pic of my Grandpa Gaut and his wife Gloria

Of course, I’d had a few dreams where I was with someone I’d loved that had died. Really, I’d only had like two of those dreams. Both were sad and one was disturbing. The first one was shortly after my grandpa Hubner died when I was 12 years old. He’d been sick for some time with heart problems(as a result of docs putting him on meds he shouldn’t have been on.) He was a stubborn man and did things he shouldn’t have done around the house. One of those things was go up on the roof of their two-story house to clean the gutters. At 76 years old he’d gone on their roof and had fallen off. This was the beginning of the end. A chain reaction of  problems that he never recovered from. He passed away in November of 1986 in a hospital bed at Elkhart General Hospital. I loved my Grandpa and Grandma Hubner, but there was a bit of distance between me and them as they’d had cats my whole life, and I’m deathly allergic to cats. This meant that I could only visit on nice days when sitting on the porch was feasible, or they would visit us. My grandpa died and I never really got to know him. I never got to ask those questions about his childhood and what he did as a young man before he married my grandma. I was only 12 when he died, so those things didn’t seem important to me yet. Years went on and I found out from my dad that EA Hubner was a feather weight boxing champ in Chicago back in the 30s(where he met my grandma whose family was from Metropolis, Ill.) He was born in Laporte, IN. There might be some Hubners still left there, though my dad says if there are they’re not worth looking up. Anyways, the dream. In the dream I came out into the living room and the Nightly News was on  the television. My grandpa Hubner was sitting in the brown chair we had in our living room. He looked normal except for that his throat looked as if it was decomposing. You could see through it. He looked at me and smiled, and I sat on the floor by him as he patted my head.

The other dream was about my childhood dog, a miniature schnauzer named Klaus. We’d had Klaus since I’d been in the 3rd grade. 1982. In 1993 he started having these fits. We took him to the vet and they said he had an enlarged heart. He had maybe a year to live. The vet said to just try and keep him comfortable. So that next year he would occasionally have these seizures. He’d come to and be okay afterwards. In November of 1994 he had one and we thought he had died. My mom called my dad home from work(I was working 2nd shift and still at home at the time.) By the time my dad got home Klaus had seemed to perk up a bit from what we thought was his death knell. Still, my parents decided it was time. They didn’t want to see him go through one more of those fits, so they had Klaus put to sleep. I cried like a fool for that dog. About a week after Klaus was gone I had a dream I’d walked out of my bedroom and into the living room and saw Klaus, in that same brown chair, just laying there with his little nub of a tail wagging furiously as he saw me walk out from the hallway. I walked over to him and pet him one last time before the alarm clock woke me and told me to go to work.

Last night I had two dreams, and in each one was there was my mom’s mom and dad who both have passed away in the last 5 years. The dreams weren’t necessarily sad, or weird even. My grandma Ruth was at a house with my aunt and uncles laughing in the living room(like she often did.) I saw her from a distance and waved and she waved back.  I sat at the kitchen table eating chocolate chip Teddy Grahams and Nutter Butter cookies(why those I have no idea.) In the other dream I was at my grandpa Gaut’s old farmhouse in Wyatt, In visiting him on some nondescript holiday. In the dream he looked younger and happier. He too was laughing at something. I was in the kitchen with him looking at him like I often did as a little kid, with both wonder and mild trepidation. I spent more time with him when I was under the age of 7 then I did any other time in my life. When he’d had a stroke in 2001 him and my step grandmother decided moving to Florida was the best thing for his health, so sometime in the early 2000s they sold their farm and bought a plot down in Florida and put up a modular home. I talked to him more through emails back and forth from 2005 until he died in 2012 than I had in the last 20 years prior. I learned a lot about him(he liked whiskey and fighting, and he once took a train from South Bend to Chicago with his buddies at 14 years old to see a burlesque show. They got booted out of the show, so they went to the Chicago Theater and saw some up and coming kid from Hoboken, New Jersey sing named Frank Sinatra.) Seeing him young and laughing in that dream was a nice surprise.

I don’t know why we dream what we dream. I think dreams are a mix of both wishes and regrets. Longstanding longings. Unfinished business that somehow tries to work itself out while we try to get a cool 6 hours in before the alarm goes off and another day passes, pushing us further away from events both triumphant and tragic. But regardless of how far away we may get from those moments, they’re still very much there in our subconscious. Good and bad. Last night it was good. I got to see two amazing people that I haven’t seen in a very long time. They were happy and laughing, a way I’d always like to remember them.

And no dirty bathrooms.

“I love you, I’ll always love you.”

 

Sometimes I tend to get caught up in my own little whirlwind of everyday chatter. Get up, make the coffee, pack the lunch, wake the family, drive to work. Then it’s do the work, make the money, pretend you get along with everybody, get through the day. After that it’s sweat at the gym, pick up my son at school, get home and make dinner, pick up the house, clean up dinner, shower, and melt into my chair till it’s time to go to bed.

Sleep.

Repeat.

It’s a routine. Routines are good. At least they are for me. But occasionally I peek outside of the routine. There’s a detour from the norm and that’s when I can look back on things and see all those oddities that I tend to lose sight of. The moments that deviate and make the day brighter. Hitting the comic book store before heading home with my son. Picking up my 12 year old after school and grabbing a chocolate chip frappuccino and a pastry and just sitting and enjoying them with her before we head out to the regular day. The wife and I grabbing some frozen custard at 9pm before we have to pick up our oldest after marching band. These aren’t huge moments. They’re 15 minutes here, or 30 minutes there. But I’m coming to realize the little moments add up.

Maybe it’s just how my wife and I have raised our children, but they’re just as appreciative of a stop at the video store or a $12 Lego set than they are of a trip to Fort Wayne(big city for us, folks) and $300 worth of clothes shopping. They still talk about going and getting frozen yogurt on a Saturday afternoon, then watching some ridiculous horror movie from two years ago as if it was the greatest thing ever. I can’t ask for anything more(well, maybe cleaning up after themselves in the bathroom) when it comes to those little moments.

familyMy son still, at 10 years old, every night gives me a hug and a kiss before bed and says “Goodnight daddy. I love you, I’ll always love you.” Every night. I know at some point this routine will stop. I know at some point I’ll be hard pressed to remember such a small detail, but for the moment I will continue to appreciate that small detail. I can remember doing the same thing with my dad when I was his age(or maybe younger.) I got older and the hugs and the “I love you” sort of faded from my dad and I’s routine. We knew that we loved each other. Then just a couple years ago out of the blue I started hugging my dad and telling him I loved him whenever he was leaving our house or I was leaving his. Just like that. I didn’t want him to ever have a doubt about how I felt about him. I’ve always done this with my mom. From day one. I guess I figured why should it be any different for my dad?

What’s all the point of this? I guess it’s that occasionally it’s good to peek out from that heavy everyday curtain. It’s good to open the clock face and see the gears turning. The gears that turn our lives are the small, seemingly insignificant moments that we take for granted. Like the chocolaty coffee drink with your daughter, or picking up Ultimate Spiderman No. 6 before heading home after school. Enjoying some maki rolls quietly at the kitchen table with your wife, or picking up a pizza with your oldest out of the blue and talking about what horror movie you’re going to stream that night.

And most importantly, that nightly routine of “Goodnight Daddy. I love you, I’ll always love you”, for however long it lasts. And if you’re lucky, maybe it’ll come back someday.

Sorry, minor detour. Back to music tomorrow. Promise.

The Management

Toyz n the Hood

DSC03802We’ve arrived here at the Hubner home at the annual “get rid of  some s**t in the basement” extravaganza. This is the time of the year where I become extremely anal retentive and see a growing, massive mess in the laundry/toy room downstairs and feel the need to “do something about it”. It’s been, well, about a year since we last attempted this futile attempt at cleaning that which cannot be cleaned. This time is gonna be different. This time I’ve got folks on board. Folks that matter. It’s not just me freaking out and yelling things like “Hey! When was the last time you played with this crap?!?!”, and  “C’mon! You haven’t had this playset in two years! Why do you still have the game pieces?!?!”, and my favorite “Who plays with headless Barbies?!?!” No, this year everyone in the house is ready to get things organized. We’re tired of stepping over piles of unloved and forgotten dolls, action figures, playing cards, game pieces, and just about anything you can think of.

Part of this “toy cleansing” was finding all my old toys the kids have gotten outDSC03801 and played with over the years but never put back. I want to put them back with the rest of my childhood in the dark corner of the basement where no one dares enter…except for me. Hey, was that a smirk dear reader? Are you judging me because I’ve saved my toys from when I was a wee lad having X-Wing and Tie Fighter battles in my front yard? How dare you! Just because I was a bit of a late bloomer, playing with my Star Wars, Transformers, and GI Joe toys till I was 12 and in the 6th grade doesn’t make me a freak or something.

DSC03800Okay, we got off on the wrong foot. Let me explain the situation. Ever since my 7th birhday when I received my very first Star Wars action figure(it was Luke Skywalker in Bespin Fatigues) I was hooked. I collected the toys like other kids collected comics, or Garbage Pail Kids trading cards. Every birthday and Christmas up to the fourth grade it was Star Wars. I kept meticulous care of these toys, too. They remained in their original boxes in my closet. Every time I played with them they were put away when I was done saving Leia from Imperial forces. I had a spot for the action figures’ weapons, so they were never lost. Then when I was 10 I really got into GI Joe and Transformers. The Star Wars films were over, and with them new Kenner schwag, so it was time to move onto to something new to collect. So of course it was state-of-the-art military weaponry and ultra patriotism. Hell, just listen to the lyrics of the GI Joe theme song that played at the beginning of the cartoon “He’ll fight for freedom, wherever there’s trouble, GI Joe is there, GI Joe!!!” Go, Joe! Oops, sorry. Anyways, just because Star Wars was so 1983, it didn’t mean I was going to discard the toys like yesterday’s news. No, they stayed in my closet safe and sound, and there for me to get out and reminisce with whenever I felt the need. Once I got into GI Joe I was also getting into metal music. I was ten years old and staging epic battles on my bunk bed between GI Joe forces and Cobra forces while using WASP, Twisted Sister, Ratt, and Van Halen as a soundtrack. It just felt right. “Flint! Look out for Destro!”, I would say as WASP’s “I Wanna Be Somebody” or Ratt’s “Wanted Man” blared from my GE boom box(the weirdness I exuded isn’t lost on me, dear reader.) Well, by the time 6th grade was ending, so were my days as a toy lover. It’s not that I really wanted to quit playing with my toys, but I felt like it was time. So one afternoon I put away my GI Joe Check Point and never looked back. Within two months my mom and dad bought me an acoustic guitar and I started taking lessons. My new obsession began.

Over the years the toys remained in the top of my closet. I would occasionallyDSC03798 pull out a box, eye it, get a little melancholy thinking about how simple life was before middle school, puberty, girls, and cliques. Then I’d pick up my guitar and read the guitar tabs for Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” and I’d suddenly arrive back to being an awkward teen. As I got older friends would come over and we’d occasionally get the boxes down and laugh and guffaw at these toys. Like it was a novelty. But I knew deep down they envied my toys. They secretly wanted to play with the Scout Walker, Y-Wing Fighter, and the GI Joe Hovercraft. Even after I’d graduated high school and started working full-time the thought never crossed my mind to get rid of these nuggets of an 80s childhood.

Well, when my wife and I finally built our own home I’d decided to bring the old toys to my new home. They’d been moved to a storage room in my parent’s basement, safely stored for that one day when I’d want to do something with them, or when I would get drunk and want to play with them. I remember the moment I got some of my Star Wars toys out for one of my kids to see for the first time. My oldest daughter was only 18 months old and she was sick with a high fever. I ran downstairs and brought up the C-3PO action figure carrying case and her and I played with the Lando, Han, Leia, and Darth Vader. It was fun, and it made her feel better. As more kids arrived, more toys would make their way out. But they’d never find their way back into their safe homes in old boxes and weathered cardboard. So this year’s cleaning I was going to find all the random toys and save them from their descent into obscurity and put them back where they rightly belong.

DSC03803
Not me, but I was just as thrilled as that weird kid.

Currently I have a music studio filled with vintage 80s Kenner and Hasbro toys. Some are in great shape, some not so much. The more I think about why I kept these toys, the more I understand. It’s the emotional investment just as much as my parent’s monetary investment. It’s all the memories I created. The battles in the front yard, or the hair metal soundtracked battles in my bedroom. It was the imagination I honed and sharpened like some sort of weapon. I wasn’t thinking as a 16 year old “Hey, these will be worth some money someday.” It was more like throwing those toys out would be like throwing out family photos of loved ones that are long gone. Those toys took me back to being a kid and loving life(I love life now, too. Just needed to clarify.) Playing with my grandpa on the living room floor. My dad and I spending a Christmas morning putting decals on an F-15 jet. Or my brother actually taking some time out of his busy schedule of being an awkward teenager and playing with his little bro.

Now, I think those memories and imaginative spirit have been embedded into these toys as my son and a couple of his friends are playing with them as I type. They don’t know the stories of these toys, but that’s okay. They’re making new stories for them.

It’s sad, but nowadays a 12 year old kid playing with toys is probably seen as pretty uncool, bordering on mildly autistic. I think it’s ridiculous, personally. Kids grow up way too fast as it is. Let your kids be kids for as long as they can. Let them soundtrack some battles to some hair metal. Or Lady Gaga. Whatever works for them. And when your son or daughter says they want to hold onto to their toys, let ’em. Take that as a compliment. You helped them make some damn great memories.

Memories with some really cool decals.

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Head

photo (5)So, back in the day when Times Square was still a sewer and littered with junkies and prostitutes and X-rated theaters lined the street there used to be this place you could visit called a head shop. Now, this wasn’t something just Times Square had. No, I was merely using that as an example of a simpler time when things weren’t so PC, and you didn’t have to tip toe around those things you wanted. No, there were head shops in my neck of the woods. Some were record stores, and some were also magazine stands.

Wait. Who here doesn’t know what a head shop is? You.  Do you know? Well tell me. What?! Get your mind out of the gutter, boy! No, a head shop was a place you went to buy smoking products. Papers, pipes, bongs, and sometimes they’d sell sex toys and other oddities. I can remember a head shop that was up in South Bend right behind Witmer-McNeese Music Store where my cousin and I used to go and drool over guitars we couldn’t afford. We went into the head shop once just to see what it was like. Sorta what I imagined;  creepy looking dudes buying pipes, rolling paper, bongs, and something called a “double dong” for their “old ladies”. My 18 year old mind was already confused and in need of some guidance. That place didn’t help. But what it did do was make me aware of a counterculture I wasn’t familiar with.

MagiMI1977_ed
Magi, mid-70s. My uncle John on the far left

Sure, I was surrounded by the counterculture my whole life. I just didn’t realize it. “Hey, why’s dad and uncle Donnie going out into the garage? Why does it smell funny out there?” I can distinctly remember my dad rolling his own “cigarette” at the kitchen table. Maybe it was a cigarette. He was in the service(Army Reserves), he was a marksman, raced cars, dug  Jan and Dean. Maybe he just liked his smokes fresh. We also had quite a few Cheech and Chong and Richard Pryor albums, my parents owned matching ‘Strohs’ t-shirts, and he always had a muscle car. Well, I guess I’ll never really know. Point is, my mom’s brothers were younger and liked to party. It was the early 70s and it was the culture. My uncle John was in a band called Magi. It was the early to mid 70s and they were very much influenced by Aerosmith. I’ve still got a copy of their album they cut at Uncle Dirty’s Studio in Kalamazoo, Michigan in the mid-70s. It’s pretty damn good, for the times. They had the double guitar thing down pat. My uncle was the lead singer. Long flowing hair, handlebar mustache, leather jacket. He was the shit, brotha. And he had a hell of a voice. He would always come over to party at my parent’s house. We had a pool table in the basement, some beanbag ashtrays, and a great console stereo where plenty of Led Zeppelin, Queen, The Doors, and Deep Purple spun. Oh, and Aerosmith.

Point I’m trying to make is that I was in the middle of the counterculture and never realized it. I grew up with a mom and dad that loved each other. Dad worked a full-time job and mom stayed home to take care of everything. Where’s the counterculture in that? Well, they were my parents. They’re supposed to protect me from all that. You know, the beer gatherings in the basement. The cookouts where there was hardly and empty can of (take your pick). Drunk idiots on the back porch smoking. Thing is I saw a lot more than they thought I did. And I’m perfectly fine.

Oh yeah, head shops. Well there was one head shop in particular that I loved dearly. My wife and I would head to Merriville, Indiana once in a while for their giant mall and their Giordano’s Pizza(best stuffed pizza..anywhere). One stop we always made was Hegewisch Records just on the outskirst of Merriville. It was a little record shop/head shop where a guy could find Procol Harum imports, Husker Du, Boomtown Rats, and Megadeth 45s. Plus, if you had the need for some “tobacco products” they had you covered. I never did, but that’s beside the point. From a distance this place looked like a carpet outlet store, but once you got in you knew what it was. Kinda dark and dank with concert posters lining the walls(except for where they had a wall of nothing but cassettes). I’d gotten into a Procol Harum phase in the early 90s for some reason. Greatest Hits wouldn’t do. I needed original albums. These were hard to come by at that point. Well, Hegewisch had me covered. I remember buying my copy of OK Computer there on CD as well. There were countless other albums I bought in that little stinky record shop. Hegewisch closed many years ago. Supposedly there was another one in Michigan City, but I never went to check. We went to Merriville sometime in 1999 and we stopped at that brown building only to find a hand-written sign that said “Sorry Closed Forever. Check Out Our Michigan City Location. Thanks For Everything.” No, thank you.

Nowadays, head shops do still exist. They’re referred to as “Smoking Establishments” selling “tobacco products”. Bongs are “water pipes”. “Double dongs” are, well, still double dongs. And I’m sure “rolling papers” are still rolling papers. The seediness and dank musty smell is gone; replaced by incense, piercings, and skateboard accessories. That creepy guy scouring the porn rags is replaced by a 20 year old tattooed skater looking at Vans t-shirts. Or a 40 year old father of three searching for some vinyl.

That’s creepy enough I guess.

Random Thoughts: Part One by J. Hubner

thoughts... randomly being though.
thoughts… randomly being thought.

My earliest memory is sitting in a high chair that seemed to be located in a screened-in porch in a woods or forest.  I was being fed something with little cut-up mushrooms in it(green bean casserole?  prison food?) by an older woman.  I’m thinking it was my great-grandma, or one of my grandma’s sisters that looked a lot like my great-grandma.  The next earliest memory is me lying on the floor of my mom and dad’s living room floor and my dad was helping get my pajamas on.  I remember tilting my head towards the t.v. and seeing a commercial for the movie It’s Alive playing on their 27 inch Zenith console.  I also remember my dad laughing uncontrollably at said commercial.

It was Christmas, 1978.  I was 6 years old and I remember waking up early.  I crawled out of bed and quietly opened my bedroom door and peeked my head out into the hallway, very slowly.  As I turned my eyes towards the kitchen I saw Santa’s beard between the living room and kitchen.  In most movies and commercials when this happens the kids are filled with joy and happiness and run to Santa and want to hug him.  I was so astonished that I saw Santa because I was certain he didn’t exist.  Second of all, I was horrified beyond all belief.  I knew down to my bones that if he saw me he’d chop me up into little pieces, so I slowly closed my bedroom door and with a cold sweat beading down my 6 year old back I crawled slowly back into bed and proceeded to cover my head with my pillow hoping the bearded monster in red with the long beard wouldn’t find me and take me back to his lair and feed me to his flesh-eating elves.  As it turned out, what I saw was not Satan’s…err, I mean Santa’s beard, but the white fluffy stuff around the edge of my stocking.

When I was a kid I had a 9pm bedtime.  And like all kids, I was never tired enough to fall asleep at 9pm.  So I’d lay there hearing whatever R-rated movie my parents rented that I was forbidden to see, or I’d hear the furnace kick on for the 3rd time since my head touched the pillow.  Or, I would hear the phone ring and it’d be for my older brother who was usually in bed himself falling asleep to the soothing sounds of Dios Holy Diver blaring through his Walkman headphones.  I’d imagine that my bunk bed was a boat and I was setting sail for the North Pole to hunt the elusive creature known as “Santa”, or that I was the pilot from the show Tales of the Golden Monkey.  Eventually though, I would begin to fall asleep.  I’d fall asleep to the sound of my heart beating in my ear.  I’d imagine that the sound of my beating heart was the devil digging his way up from Hell with a pick axe.  And when I imagined Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, or The Prince of Darkness himself, I imagined him to look like Count Chocula.  I’m not sure why, but my impending damnation seemed a tad more pleasant that way.

Throughout my childhood I was friends with a kid that lived next door to us.  For privacy purposes, we’ll call him Bitey.

I had a crush on the same girl from nursery school clear up to the 4th grade.  Her name was Elizabeth Witzky.  For some reason I found her absolutely stunning, and exotic.  Not because she was from some far-off country -or county- but she had this rough-sounding voice.  She was like a 5 year old Kathleen Turner.  She had to have known I was head over heels in love with her.  The sweat on my forehead every time she was near, my insistence that she could play with my Wookie(the action figure, you sickos), and my feeble attempts at getting Charles Gigous to play the villain to my hero when I’d ask him to go over and bug her( I would swoop in to save the day and offer my Wookie to console her).  These pathetic displays of affection lasted for four years, from nursery school(it’s called daycare now…the “teachers” aren’t allowed to smoke anymore I guess) clear through the 4th grade when she moved away and broke my heart.  So began my obsession with Jodi Foster and Holden Caulfield…

In the fourth grade I wrote a three-act play called The Birthday Party.  It was inspired by my neighbor Bitey’s older sister.  She was a “name that rhymes with witch” as I so eloquently put it to her one day at the chain link fence that separated our backyards.  She was the antagonist of the story that did everything she could to ruin the protagonist’s birthday party(yep, I was the protagonist).  Anyways, the play was so well-received that my teacher submitted it into a Young Author’s Contest and it was chosen.  I was to go to one of the other elementary schools on a Saturday morning and read excerpts from my play to a group of adults and other kids that had stories chosen.  The morning that I was supposed to go I told my mom I didn’t want to go.  I didn’t want to read in front of other people.  She let me stay home and wallow in my shame with some cinnamon toast.  This would become a trend in my life…the backing out part, not the shame wallowing.

To be continued…