The door flies open. Smoke starts to fill my bedroom. It forms into a miniature cloud. Out of the cloud a witch appears. Basically the Wicked Witch of the West. Run-of-the-mill witch. She’s holding a broom. She’s cackling. She’s saying something I can’t quite understand.
I wake up. It was just a bad dream. I’ve had worse. I find a comic book from under my bed, turn on a lamp and read a bit before falling back to sleep.
A couple of days later, I’m in my bed, reading a book. From downstairs I hear my mom yell, “Dinner!” I turn back to my book. Let me finish this page, then I’ll head down to eat. A timer starts in my head. “10 … 9 …. 8” I toss the book to the ground, get out of bed and run down the stairs.
A few days later, similar situation. I’m sitting in my room, playing a video game and from downstairs I hear my brother yell, “Dinner!” I turn my attention back to the game. I’ll play for another minute, hit pause, then go eat some delicious tacos. “10 … 9 …. 8 … 7” I drop the controller, get up and run down the stairs.
“That was the countdown to the witch returning,” I think to myself. “Yep, that makes sense,” my brain confirms.
This goes on for several years. Not always, but often enough.
One day, when I was either 18 or 19 years old, I’m sitting in my room, reading a book. “Dinner!” someone yells. I keep reading. “10 … 9 …. 8 …. 7 …” I let the countdown continue. “… 3 … 2 …” I actually get nervous for a second, “1 … 0.”
I get up and run downstairs. There’s a rack of ribs on the dining room table.
Throwback Thursday. When we as a people reflect. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” said George Santayana, according to my Google search of “those who don’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” So close.
Today, I throwback to some of my past athletic, uh, “achievements.” What lessons can be learned from revisiting them? None! Please like/share.
I no longer play sports. The only athletic competition I take part in currently is when I go for a jog and try as hard as possible to catch up with/pass the random person running ahead of me who has no idea that he/she is involved in a race. When it comes to this, I am a champion.
But that has not always been the case.
Basketball: I loved basketball as a kid. It was by far my favorite sport. One-on-one, two-on-two, “Utah,” 5-3-1, HORSE, Knock-out. Played them all. But once I got to high school, I for some reason completely lost interest in hoops. I didn’t play on my high school team freshman year, and had no plans of playing Junior Varsity sophomore year. Then the JV coach, who also coached JV baseball, told me I had to play to stay in shape for baseball season. Nonsense.
I played, but I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic (or good). While some people push for more playing time, I was more than content to see action in the final 30 seconds before half time or at the end of a game that was out of reach. Do a little bit of running, maybe grab a rebound. But if you get into a game, you of course want to score, at least once.
One game, I thought my moment had come. A kid on our team, Vinny, stole a pass. He tossed me the ball. I had a clear line to the hoop. No one was within 20 feet. I dribbled a few times, made my leap, and completed a picture-perfect layup. TWO POINTS IS TWO POINTS. Or so I thought. A kid on the other team had other ideas. Somehow (or maybe because I wasn’t very fast), he had caught up with me. As I released the ball, he unleashed a picture-perfect block. He hit the ball so hard that it pushed open a previously closed door behind the hoop and exited the gymnasium. ZERO POINTS IS ZERO POINTS.
Soccer: The first organized sport I played was soccer (AYSO 4 life). I was a goalie. I enjoyed playing goalie, especially in high school. I was either standing around doing nothing, singing Def Leppard songs to myself when the ball was on the other side of the field, or it was “Oh God, here they come.”
One day I did not enjoy playing goalie in high school was our playoff game junior year. It was so cold. So very cold. We were losing most of the game — I don’t remember by how much, I don’t remember how the other team scored. All I remember is the cold. And one other thing.
I took my duties as a goalie seriously, as you can tell from the previously mentioned singing of Def Leppard songs to myself during games, and one of the major duties of a goalie is to keep your eye on the ball.
A kid from the other team unleashed a shot in the general direction of the goal, and I was tracking it. I sprinted, my arms outstretched, trying to stop the ball from going into the corner of the net. It did not go into the corner of the net. In fact, it came no where close, sailing wide left. I realized this when my face connected with the goal post and I stumbled backward, falling to the ground. Pour Some Sugar On Me, I am cold and in pain.
Currently, my job involves me working on a computer, from home. My commute is usually the bedroom, or living room, or kitchen to my “office.” But during the Summer of Starvation in 2004, I worked at a beer distributor in Scranton, Pa. Now, this wasn’t the type of beer distributor where you go pick up a keg or a 12-pack for a weekend party. This was a giant warehouse that supplied beer for bars, restaurants and pizzerias throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania. Actual manual labor.
I got the job through my friend Jason*, who worked in the office at this place. Right before interviewing with the boss of the company, I realized that on the portion of the application where it said, “Have you ever been arrested before?” I had checked the “Yes” box. Because I’m a dope, I had read that section as saying, “Check yes if you have never been arrested before.” I scratched out the “Yes” box and checked “No,” hoping he would somehow not notice this or ignore it. He noticed it. So I did the honorable thing and lied.
“Wait, have you been arrested before?”
“Why did you originally check the ‘Yes’ box, then?”
“I didn’t. I had left the application out, and one of my roommates did because they thought it’d be funny.”
“Why would someone do that?”
“Uhhhh … some people crazy?”
The job itself generally consisted of me helping load the trucks in the morning, then I’d be paired with one of the drivers to assist with deliveries. Some of the guys were nice, some were weirdos, one or two were jerks; aka, it was a job. One day, the guy in charge of the warehouse asked, “Brian, do you want to work with the guy who never shuts up or the guy who never speaks?” I immediately answered, “Quiet guy.” This was Bruce.
Bruce and I got along A-OK. Although once we were driving along and I was all, “Hey, Bruce, why does this truck have two brakes?” And he said, “Excuse me, what?” And I said, “I noticed there are two breaks. Is one, like, an air brake?” And he said, “Do you mean the clutch?” And I said, “Some people crazy,” then didn’t speak for the rest of the day.
Near the end of the summer, I was again working with Bruce and we were zooming through the shift. Despite the fact that it was particularly hot out and we had several large deliveries, we were like two hours ahead of schedule, and he said he’d take me to a good steakhouse nearby for lunch after we finished at the bar we were approaching. This was when things took a downturn.
We arrived at the parking lot to find a truck from another company was already there. This meant we had to wait until our COMPETITOR was done with his delivery before we could start ours. Professional courtesy. Then while pulling out after he was done, the guy got his truck stuck on a cable wire attached to the bar. There was no freeing him, and his truck was blocking the door to the fridge. So we waited. Then Bruce got sick of waiting, so we found another out-of-the-way entrance and brought our stuff inside. Then the owner of the bar told us there was something wrong with the order and we had brought in way too much stuff. This was when things went off the rails.
Because of our large delivery, we had one of the full-size trucks that day. This meant we had to use a ramp to get things on and off. Going down the ramp with a handtruck stacked with kegs or cases was easy enough. I was in (relatively) good shape during this point, and I had gravity on my side. Pushing a handtruck stacked with kegs or cases up the ramp? I was only in (relatively) good shape during this point, damnit, and gravity was now the enemy.
At first I tried walking the cases up the ramp one by one. But Bruce rightfully pointed out that this would take forever. So I loaded a bunch of stuff on the handtruck. I approached the ramp — which I now must point out was quite narrow — and started my ascent. About halfway up, I stopped. This was a bad idea. It was Wile E. Coyote running off a ledge and then finally looking down. I started to tip to the right. I did not stop tipping to the right. Eight cases of beer went crashing to the pavement.
It was not a soft landing. Immediately beer started shooting everywhere. I guess as a way of helping, the guy from the other company grabbed a couple of the exploding cans and started chugging. Waste not, want not. A can rolled away and stopped directly in front of Bruce. A moment passed. Then I heard a “psssssh” sound and saw one last stream of beer shoot into the air …
In college, I’m pretty sure during the Summer of Starvation, I had a dumb idea for a story involving cowboys washing up on a beach. I even shot a video of it with my brothers in Rockaway, although a park ranger quickly chased us away, and most of the footage didn’t record properly. Somehow the video ended up being the weird Iron Maiden-soundtracked thing at the bottom of this post. The other day, while at the laundromat, it popped back into my head. Below is the nonsense that resulted from me revisiting this idea.
“I told you seahorses were a bad idea.”
The Coug and Darius Rivera step out of the ocean and onto the shore. Through his binoculars, Lil’ Kev watches.
“Where do you reckon we are?” Rivera says.
“You know how I feel about you saying reckon.”
“Fine. Where does The Coug believe we are?”
“I reckon I have no idea.”
Lil’ Kev climbs down from his lifeguard chair, puts his whistle in his mouth and blows.
Coug places his right hand on his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun.
“Why is he making that sound? Can he not speak?”
“Want me to punch him in the face?” Rivera says.
Rivera walks toward the lifeguard chair.
Lil’ Kev removes the whistle from his mouth.
“Excuse me, sir. That is not appropriate swimwear.”
“You can speak?”
“Of course I can speak!”
“Then why the high-pitched noise?”
“It’s a whistle. It is how the lifeguard maintains order in a world gone mad.”
“The Coug doesn’t like it.”
Rivera rears back and punches Lil’ Kev in the face.
“Owwwwwww! Why did you do that?”
“Why did you blow the whistle?”
“Because of the boots, jeans, T-shirts. A hat! Not appropriate for swimming in our beautiful ocean.”
“We weren’t swimming. We were traveling. Riding.”
“Riding from where?”
Rivera helps Lil’ Kev off the ground.
“Sorry” Rivera says. “Coug’s orders.”
“I am a boy who is not calm with you.”
Lil’ Kev throws the whistle to the ground.
“I,” Kevin says, “am a boy who is not calm with you.”
“I heard that part.”
“Not calm with you.”
Lil’ Kev punches Rivera in the face. Rivera falls to the ground. Kev climbs to his lifeguard chair. He points his fingers to the sky. He leaps, his elbow connecting with Rivera’s solar plexus as he crashes to the ground.
The Coug approaches.
“I reckon you shouldn’t have done that,” he says.
“Go back to Texan.”
“You are not wearing the proper attire for this beach. Go back to Texan.”
“Do you even know where Texan is? Do you even know what Texan is?”
“And why is that?”
“Because I have a whistle. And because I am a boy who is not calm with you.”
“We were told we would meet you here,” The Coug says. “It was prophesized we would find ‘The Boy Who was Not Calm with Us.’”