Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloweenies


"Three little ghostesses,
Sitting on postesses,
Eating buttered toastesses,
Greasing their fistesses,
Up to their wristesses.
Oh, what beastesses to make such feastesses!"
(Three Little Ghostesses, Peggy Blakeley, 1977)


              Growing up in a family with 5 children made for great holidays. Halloween was especially packed with vibrant enthusiasm. Some of my fondest memories find root in anything spooky or involving October 31st. It has always been a day of great joy for me. These are the times when my family embraced an atmosphere of haunting, horror and hospitality. Such seduction and being devilish makes for grand heirlooms in the vault of my memory. As I grew up, little changed. If anything, aging has brought out more regard for this celebration. In spite of its origin and history, All Hallow's Eve has always been a night of fun and frolic and adventure for me.
            While my father would usually take the younger kids out on the town, pillowcases in hand, my mother often dressed up to give out candy at the door. She wore sparkly things or over the top outfits. When some of us changed from younger to older, she would don witches' apparel, all black and dangly and made up for the season. Her already long, curly brown locks would mingle with the mess of hag hair she secured with bobby pins, hairspray and spider webs.
            In the early 1990s, Mom volunteered to read Halloween stories at the public school that her granddaughter Jessica attended. Jessica had lived with my parents for a few years and inspired my mother to get involved. Looking back can be difficult, knowing what was to come from this relationship but, nevertheless, back then it was purer, uncorrupted and brought most of us fond memories. Jessica was in grade 3 when her grandmother put on that old witches' outfit and headed down to Colborne Street Public School to participate in the reading program. The black dress she wore was accented by a long string of fake white pearls, a skull pendant and black eye mask, like the one Robin wears in the Batman comics.  I remember the bliss she expressed over such antics. They brought her much gratification through being positive in her offspring's lives rather than negative like her childhood often was.
            After her performance, Mom and my sister Tracey headed homeward down Metcalfe Street, a main thoroughfare for Strathroy traffic flow. Just before the turn onto York Street, Ross Calcutt, a long-time friend of the family, manoeuvred into the entrance of his home, signalling to my sister in the car behind him. Tracey slowed down, then braked appropriately, halted by the slow-turning car ahead. The car from behind hit sis's vehicle straight on, the jolt leaving her and Mom with whiplash and a Halloween story to last for ages. I can still hear my Mom laughing in spite of her aching neck.
            My Mother always carried on, no matter. She was ferocious despite her health or circumstance. The chuckle she got every time she shared the tale of the Halloweenie who rear-ended her ride home filled a room with more glow than any Jack-O-Lantern. "It's a good thing I wasn't on my broom," she would say. The look on his face when she got out of the car was priceless, Mom told me so.

"Why don't witches ever have babies?"
(Warlocks have hollow weenies)


            When Jessica became old enough for trick or treat, I tried as hard as I could to get home and join her on her Halloween travels. From princess to zombie, every costume for every year stands as a little capsule, catching the moment in time. Each mental picture, from each Halloween, but a reminder of the way things should have been. I can see her growing and changing, yet I cannot see what went wrong. I used to call her "golfball", a remnant from the day I met that tiny newborn baby for the first time, now I just see her as some facade, a mask worn beyond the day of masks. I guess, one day, she decided to just roll away. From what I can recall of her, that would not have been a problem.
            I do not think of her often, yet as Halloween approaches, I cannot help but be possessed with visions. My mind is stimulated and reminisces all on its own. It is no wonder, since one of my strongest associations with Halloween are the trips made to walk alongside her, trying to be part of her life and her journey. When I think of her innocence and the way she seemed, it does little to clarify the actions she took so many years later. Actions which, in my opinion, were huge factors leading to my mother's decline in health and eventual death.
            It's almost metaphoric, her climb into an unknown. As if, by shedding each costume, she took off more and more of who we thought she was until all that was left was a stranger in our midst. Her deliberate and continuing self-banishment is forever a testimony to the quality of her person and her character. Like the name she was given at birth, it is all now faded, abandoned with most of the memories of this little girl that once was and is no more. She has left no empty space or void in our lives, rather she has merely spared us the complication of having to deal with an enemy dwelling in our camp. I guess the trick is on her.
            My sister Tracey's son also brought Halloween home for me. Wandering about the neighbourhood with him all those years always gave me such pleasure. Where Jessica's youth began to fade, Matthew's youth began to flourish. I knew early on that having my own children was out of the question, so spending time with Matt on Halloween was another conscious attempt to secure a relationship with the kids brought into my life. I did not just want to be some gay uncle, tossed about in the big city, who sent a card for Christmas with the wrong name on it. I wanted to be a part of his life.      
            No matter where I was, who I was with or what needed to be done, I managed to get home every time. Nothing was as important to me as being there, even if only in the background. I knew Matt would also change in snapshots. He was once a silly pirate or mauled businessman and now stands on the edge of adulthood, 18 years having just come from around the corner. Each Halloween costume he wore, then traded in for the next year's, and the next year's, until we come to the cusp of his childhood and his venture into growing up. An event as frightening as any goblin or ghoul.
            It has always been a pleasure for me to watch my siblings' children move into the future. I suppose I was lucky that, in spite of my lack of affinity towards children of my own, I was able to bond so well with my nieces and nephews. Some who have gone, some who did remain and even a few who have returned to us. For those others, like my niece Jessica, or even my brother Phillip's son Nathan, it is apparent that the time we spent with them in the past was nothing but a waste of that time. A huge waste of time. While that may be simple for me to say given they are not my children, it is easier said than done for family members. They will never have closure with these long lost remnants of a time gone by.
            When we are children, adults tell us not to believe in such things as demons, boogiemen and monsters, but life eventually reveals to us that these things truly exist. They may not come with the stereotypical costumes, adorned to appease and create fear, but they exist nonetheless. Unfortunately, such things are not so clear cut or visible, like the decorations that Halloween summons.
            I suppose, in some way, it is sad what time, and our choices, can do to other people. When we act with self-interest only, we become the very monsters we run from as children. While reconciliation and forgiveness are always possible, I tend not to negotiate with terrorists or Halloweenies.


"If these old walls,
If these old walls could speak
Of things that they remember well,
Stories and faces dearly held,
A couple in love
Livin’ week to week,
Rooms full of laughter,
If these walls could speak."
(If These Walls Could Speak, Amy Grant, 1988)

           
            When my Mom died in April of 2010, I thought the house where she passed away would be haunted by the sorrow of the event. I assumed that the heavy weight of grief and adjustment would linger and corrupt anything positive that might come from the years after her living. Even though it stands as a constant reminder, I was wrong.
            The family home isn't large or distinguished, not like the half-million dollar castles that appeared across the street over the years. A humble bungalow stood for more than 20 years before my sister built an addition on back and moved her life into theirs. The expansive lot is a forest of pine, and spruce and maple. Lush gardens and koi ponds lavish the front and rear areas, all mingling together as if some planned jungle had sprouted from an almost concrete one. Located on the north end of Strathroy, what was once a secluded place of rest on the edge of town has been swallowed by development and progress. The stars shine a little less bright among the city lights.
            The years my family spent in this house may not seem magical on first inspection, but they are a wonderful treasure to behold. That is what makes it our home. So many memories and so much love cradled in four walls made with hope and hard work. I cannot imagine it no longer a part of my life, but I am sure nothing can keep me from the impact this place has had on my living. It may not always rest in the hands of those dear to me but, no matter, it will always represent the very best part of my days in the sun.
            On Halloween, my parents always dressed up the house. It wasn't until the suburbs arrived and stole all the children that they rested on their laurels and stuck with just giving out candy. Cemeteries, ghosts and witchcraft used to fill the front yard for all to see. My youngest brother Christopher, on occasion, would hide under the wheelchair ramp made just for him, and wearing some ghoulish outfit, would appear from below to frighten kids of all ages. There was candy and music and things that go bump in the night. All of it as much the makeup of this house as any paint, shingle or door may be.
            We did not worship evil or celebrate some pagan feast, we simply took the time and partook of each other. Clich├ęs aside, anything that pulls people together in love and spirit is a good thing, despite what fundamentalist Christians or anyone else may have to say about it. It's scary how people always manage to find what they are looking for.
            Although every year at Halloween was always a little bit different, the essence of a family, brought together in fun, shone about the dwelling. You could almost feel the joy. You could always hear the laughter. I don’t think I would be the person I am without these memories, even if they are wrapped up in a calendar date. They comfort me, always.  It doesn't matter whether, in reality, I can physically journey home, home is in my mind and in my heart.
            Whether I ever enjoy another Halloween at our family home is up to fate, destiny and perhaps some luck.  Tomorrow can bring change when you least expect it. People say you can't go home again, they're just dead wrong. You may not be able to actually touch the place, but it will always be with you. If people tell you differently, they're just being Halloweenies. See, that's the thing about having a home. The walls don't only speak, they scream.




Sources




Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Snail's Pace

“Time sometimes flies like a bird, sometimes crawls like a snail; but a man is happiest when he does not even notice whether it passes swiftly or slowly.”
(Ivan Turgenev, Russian writer)


            It stuck there. I wasn't sure it was even alive, as it had no sense of motion to its shell or the visible slug beneath it. It was just a plain garden snail, but it had captured my attention. As it pondered whatever a snail ponders, I focused on it. I was more than prepared to stay with my new interest for a while, or an hour, whichever came first. I called it Sydney, a gender-neutral name like my own. 
            I have never had a problem with snails or slugs or creepy crawlies. I do not enjoy the spider, but that's anther story for another time. I have tried escargot, but the texture resembles squid and octopus, which I despise. My mother had a collection of snail characters scattered throughout her gardens and inside, placed carefully amongst her cacti. I had previously never given a snail much notice, but the exercise demanded it.
            I was instructed to follow a simple task. I was to find a snail, any size would do, and follow it for approximately 1 hour of its life. I could not touch the snail, blow on the snail or coerce the snail in any way. It was to move about on its own, with no interference from me. I could observe it, but I could not disturb its natural path or direction. Should the snail fall or journey into an unsafe area, I was to let it be.
            There are many questions which enter the mind when observing such a creature. Does it think? Does it feel? Does it believe in God? Does it know I was watching it so closely that its shell became familiar by stripes and its visible texture? I thought to myself how boring, how mundane its life must be. It was important for me to try and put myself in the place of my new friend, whether Sydney was willing to embrace this possession or not.  I must become one with the snail.
            When it had become accustomed to my face, it slowly began to move at a snail's pace. It slurped along the wall passing over an ivy branch, as if crossing over railway tracks, then stopped, checked that the way was clear, and carried on its way. It travelled, quicker than I imagined it could, and finally came to the place where the wall ended and another began. It climbed on the joint, stopped for a moment, then began to cascade down the wall heading for the garden below it.
            Time somehow disappeared, chased away with the casual sauntering of this Gastropoda. I was lost in the ease with which it moved silently along the wall. Its muscular foot powered its motion with succeeding waves of contractions, flowing like ripples of alien flesh. It left a trail of mucus so fine it could barely be seen by the naked eye.  I watched as layer after layer skimmed over the edge, hugging it from each side. It was graceful in its precision. It moved as if it was the only being, the only one, in this entire universe. Space and time seemed so irrelevant and its surroundings so unseen. For all I know it may have been watching me watch it, but my sensibilities told me different.
            I would argue, there is a grace to such a life. There is a beauty in the simplicity of such an organism. No worries, no cares, just the task of surviving in its world. What it must be like to thrive with only one impulse, pure survival. The need to find food, water and even shelter an instinct, not a chore of adulthood. To have no concern and to concern none, this is its life. How wondrous yet lonely, a little brown spot wiggling down the wall in a quest for sustenance and merely someplace else.
            The drain pipe did nothing but to slow down Sydney, as it realigned its direction and headed down the spout. When it had almost reached the ground, the slug slid onto the leaves of a hydrangea, leaving cold aluminum to the place up above. It moved from leaf to limb, ever diligent, and found itself dense in the bush. I watched, as I sat in the freshly cut grass at the side of the house. It looked like one of those cartoon snails my Mom placed throughout her pleasure. Her gardens around the home always bristling with fun and vigour, fairies and stones and plants reaching to the sky, with birds and bugs to follow. With no notion of the passing moments, my mollusc and I sat sternly in the same spot. I wasn't sure if it was resting from its long journey, eating my Mom's flowers or trying to piss me off; regardless, I waited unaware that our hour together had ended. There it sat, content to be content, a little vagabond with a tiny built-in home.
            I spent more than an hour that July afternoon chasing life in slow motion. I said goodbye to the drifter, just trying to find its way, and went back to a life of trying to find my way. I went inside, punched in to the clock of my reality and carried on. When I was asked what I had learned from the experience, I concluded that "life is like a snail's pace."
"Explain what you mean," I was questioned.
"Time is only an illusion," I replied. "It does not exist."
"And what else?" asked my mentor.
"If you don't like being watched," I smirked, "don't sit out on a wall."




Photo






Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Heavy Metal


 “Laughter is the tonic, the relief, the surcease for pain.”
(Charlie Chaplin, actor)


            After that 400 pound steam radiator fell down the stairs of my home and unto my left leg and foot, I spent over three months in hospital. I would not have imagined that such pain could be overshadowed during my recuperation. I entered through emergency on January 28th, 1978, and remained stranded in the first bed of room 312 for what seemed to me like a lifetime. While Strathroy General Hospital was not a huge facility, it housed my tattered limb and comforted me through nights left all alone.
            The steam radiator landed on my left foot and proceeded to crush most of the bones, including those from my lower leg. It embedded itself just below my toes and destroyed any hope of me being a great sports star or mountain climber. My foot swelled purple, larger than a football, and you could see, with little struggle, the severe damage to the spot were that heavy metal first made contact with me. In a matter of under a minute, that 11-year-old boy went from sprinter and swimmer to nothing but damaged goods.
            Once the swelling went down and my medical team was able to determine the extent of the damage, they debrided the affected flesh from my limb, leaving a large, gaping hole the size of a medium apple. For weeks, the wound was left exposed to the air, slowly filling with new form. I had a ringside seat, watching and studying both the look of the bones inside my foot and the goo that eventually covered them over with time. For almost two months I was stuck in that bed, my foot elevated for better healing and recovery.
            I am unsure of how other children might have reacted to such carnage and pain, but I quickly adapted. After two weeks, the man from the bed beside me was finally discharged. I could have handled almost anything after what had happened, but the sight of his hairy fat ass every morning and the incessant popping of giant puss filled zits from his shoulders was almost more than I could bear.
            Todd Martin was two years older than me and a year apart from me at school. I didn't know him from Adam, but we quickly became friends. His room was on the other side of the nurses' station and he would, on occasion, bring visiting friends over to my room as a much needed distraction. Todd had reoccurring appendicitis, and for some reason the nurses would not move him in the same room as me. I fretted to myself that any roommate I might get would be old, gross or even really, really ugly.
            When Herbie VanGinneken was rolled into 312 on a stretcher, his leg was already pinned and held into place by a portable sling. After he was settled in, the nurse pulled back his curtain and left us to ourselves. Herbie's left leg had been crushed between a parked car and moving truck. He had several pins strategically placed near his knee for optimal suspension.  He was my age, in my grade, but he attended Our Lady Immaculate, the Catholic public school located feet from the back door where my family lived.
            We three boys took no prisoners during the next weeks of our incarceration. We seized a bad situation for all of us and turned it into a warped mesh of practical jokes and water fights. Our most infamous weapon against boredom was the snot ball. Each would take a small piece of Kleenex and wet it in a puddle of gob. Forming a ball, each of us placed the wad up a nostril, revealing mucus ammo as we withdrew. Placing the snot ball in a straw, usually supplied with lunch, we would eject the glob at each other, blowing hard or slow depending on the intended trajectory and distance of the victim. When we tired of each other, we would fill the ceiling with little bits of ourselves, sometimes green or even bloody if we rammed things too far inside. In 1986, while visiting my mother after surgery, I wandered down to room 312, and lo and behold our markings still remained fashioned to the white corkboard above the patients and beds. Although the colour and texture had faded, for the most part, all were accounted for. It is a shame the room was redone in 2004 during hospital restoration. I wanted to see how long snot lived, but I had to settle for just long enough.  
            Circumstance can bring people together who may have never met any other way. Usually, once the circumstance is gone, these others fade back into their lives, often never to be heard from again. Although Todd, Herbie and I all parted in good favour, only courtesy remained. In high school, I saw both on occasion. I even worked with Todd on theatrical events, but we never clicked like we once had. Herbie was nothing but a passing hello, a remnant of a time long gone. It wasn't that we didn't like each other, rather, with the mutual circumstances gone, not much else remained. Regardless of any reason, I will always be grateful that they came into my life when they did. I don’t think I could have gotten through my challenges without the laughter they both brought me.
            Of course, I always had my Demerol. I was exposed early to dragons for chase and Lucy in the sky with diamonds.  At almost 12 years old, when the time came for my needle I came a-running (so to speak).  I, in no way, pretended to need the shot. For months, the constant throbbing and considerable pain from my appendage called for pharmaceutical intervention. When it came time for physiotherapy, and I lowered my leg for the first time in months, I discovered the meaning of  anguish and the nature of addiction.
            When a 400+ pound radiator falls from 20 stairs up onto your leg, it hurts. I had no idea that the healing would be worse. I cannot find a more painful experience from my life. The natural infliction of a million needle pricks and the incredible rush of pain that accompanied a rush of blood to my foot, would sanitize me to most forms of pain. Since this event, I have had an instinctual ability to block out most pain. There are, of course, times when pain is in such excess that I cringe in torment, but they pass quickly and I stand looking for the area affected, unaware of its location.
             The four weeks before my release were rather unpleasant times for me. On top of daily physiotherapy, I had to be weaned off painkillers. I have never been sure what was harder, learning to walk again or learning to cope again. Personally, I don’t think it was fair that I was given drugs for pain, then pained from the drugs. I realize now that this ripple in the pool then was responsible for later battles with prescription pain medication.
Something that can save your life can also take your life, literally or not.
            I healed up very well, considering the extent of damage to my leg and foot. Once the debrided area had filled with new meat, a skin graft was removed from my right buttocks and placed on the healing area. To this day the scar remains. While it, like all things with time, has faded and grown accustomed to its place, it acts as a beacon for those times I would surrender to chaos. It is constant in its demonstration that I can get through anything if I just keep going and laugh despite the tears.
            I returned to grade seven and passed the year despite my attendance. Although I was glad to get back to real life, the worst part was yet to come. The Orthopedic shoes I was coerced to wear, in my mind, were my true punishment. Brown leather with thick black soles, these testaments to my condition did nothing but haunt me. I hated those butt ugly shoes. Every chance I got, I would discard them to a distance, only to be chastised by a teacher or a parent and forced to put them back on. For a year I battled against these vile creations. I had been warned that I would suffer consequence for not allowing the shoes to do their job, but the promise of flat feet had little effect on a 12-year-old and held nothing but an empty threat.
             All these years later, despite the scars, you would never know my leg had once been mashed. I played sport successfully, gained full use of my leg and foot and was a great surprise to the doctors and specialists who said I would never walk properly or use my foot normally. Regardless of the piece of my ass riding on the top of my foot, all that remains from this accident are my flat feet, ironically enough.
            I used to have this weird fetish involving the scar on my foot. When it was time appropriate, I would slip off my sock and shoe and direct any assailant to "kiss my ass." For years, I wanted to get a tattoo with the same expletive on my graft, but did not follow through when I became an adult. Still, if I lay out in the sun long enough, exposing my right butt cheek to high UV rays, the skin will burn red leaving a 4x6 inch white patch. Another scar from a time which built me strong.
            If life is pain, than the greater is more the evidence of me. The sharper edge cuts deeper than the dull. Such fury and torture thrown on someone so young cannot help but shape their ideas about life and about God. Religion tells us that what happens to us is a direct result of our interaction, or lack thereof, with the Divine. I used to have nightmares where Jesus would lift that heavy metal at the top of the stairs and toss it upon me, mocking me as I cried out in the night.
            In the solitude of my hospital bed, nothing came to save me, but when confronted with more pain, I laughed my way through. Just like those three months in hospital, I still use the laughter to battle my hurt. Whether crippled by grief or crippled by an act of God, glee has become a tool for me to rise above, to survive. The extent to which I feel punished from above fades in the joy of each moment and the gift within it. Everybody hurts sometimes and I am no exception, but laughter is always the best medicine and that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Candyman

"Sickly sweet, his poison seeks
For the young ones who don't understand
The danger in his hands
With a jaundiced wink see his cunning slink
Oh trust in me my pretty one
Come walk with me my helpless one
Candyman"
(Candyman, Siouxsie and the Banshees, 1986)



             In early fall of 1973, I was just starting grade three. Every weekday, I would walk to school with my sister, and often my brothers or mother, then after school I would return home by the same route and with the same company. The streets of North York were mostly safe in those days. As a suburb of Toronto, one could have easily assumed that areas outside of the city core would experience the rise in criminal activity that comes with urban sprawl and population density. I never knew about such things, and from the safety of my neighbourhood, no one would assume such things were relevant to our area. Any crime was few and far between.
            Roywood Drive is still a quiet street. The humble houses along its path allow one to transport themselves back in time without having to think or move. With the exception of some landscape changes and maintenance, the lane looks exactly as it did when I was a boy. Roywood drops westward from Fenside Drive, then curls south until it merges with Lynedock Crescent, which follows around eastward back to Fenside Drive. We lived at the west end of the street, right where it begins to turn back towards itself. It took less than 15 minutes to walk east on Roywood until it hit Fenside. Fenside Public School greeted you as you turned the corner.
            Miss Zizler was a wonderful teacher. She was beautiful and patient and she treated her students like people, not just statistics pushed through a turnstile.  On the last Friday of each month, each child would bring in a treat for the class. Sometimes kids brought fruit or candy. Sometimes potato chips or cookies found their way into our little party. When this day would arrive, room 204 turned into a scene from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory". As he feasted like a starving dog, I never had the nerve to tell Shaun Savoy that he looked like an umpa lumpa, but I thought it just the same.
            The end of September, into fall, has always been my favourite time of year and I still count down to shorter days and milder temperatures. My Mom had made a lovely chocolate cake with icing for my class and helped me carry it to school this Friday, the 29th of September. Although the summer heat had mostly faded, the icing slightly melted under piles of plastic wrap. The rest of the year would find only Twinkies or other purchased goods flowing forth from my Mom's kitchen, but this being the first gathering of treats with Miss Zizler, was a cause for my celebration.
             My Mom most certainly could cook. The chocolate cake she made was single-layered, but it was smothered in rich, dark icing. She took such care when making anything for me or my siblings to take to school or share with friends. She helped us with our homework and related projects. She allowed us to cut up her National Geographic magazines for use in this presentation or that class project. In spite of her other talents, it was her baking which stood out in the minds of neighbours and kids throughout the vicinity. Both my parents gave their all to our family, but my Mom fed the flocks.
            I stayed late this day, after a good filling up on sweets. I think I could have ran home like the Flash, all that sugar pumping through me like electricity. I helped clean up the garbage and droppings that 28 children could easily have seen to themselves. As she attempted to hand me the few pieces remaining of the cake, I told Miss Zizler that my Mom wanted her to have them. She instructed me to thank my mother and inform her that the chocolate treat was simply delicious. I grabbed my stuff and headed out from the school, content with both the approval of my classmates and the sincerity of my teacher.
            I left through a back entrance, walked down Fenside Drive to Roywood Drive and set out for home. It was a sunny day, scattered with white puffs of cotton clouds, and I didn't have a care in the world. The normal homebound cascade of children and parents was no longer an issue; the street was merely dotted by a few stragglers heading home late like myself.
            As I walked towards Marbury Crescent, travelling on the north side of the street. a car approached and slowed in the middle of the empty road. It was long and silver with four doors, and held one passenger. His automobile reared over to the curb and he reached into the passenger area to open the side door. He looked at me then, ironically, held up a handful of lifesaver rolls and asked, "Wanna go for a ride?" I stopped and looked at him, his grey hair revealing any age he had achieved. He asked again, "Wanna go for a ride?" I looked at the candy but I didn't say a word.
            Marbury Crescent wraps itself from one part of Fenside Drive to another. The literal crescent is much painted with middle class houses and quaint gardens. My friend Jim Martin lived at the bend where Marbury turns back towards Roywood. Three houses in on Marbury, where the two streets first meet, lived my good friend Colin Leech. Colin's family home had a large backyard with huge trees bordering a pine fence with a  small gate. It made for easy access to the other side of Marbury, where it joins Roywood once again.
            I stood frozen until suddenly it hit me. I'm not sure if it was all that sugar or pure fear, but I ran away so fast that I thought I might leave a trail of fire behind me. I didn't scream, I didn't call for help, I just ran, straight to Colin's house just around the corner. When his mother answered the door, it was all I could do not to drop and start crying, but I hurried in asking to cut through the property using the gate in the rear. She never asked why or inquired whatsoever, but she granted me passage and I sped like the devil through that gate, onto the street and straight for home.
            After the police left, my Mom sat me down and hugged me tightly. My parents may have been from the country but they warned each of us kids regarding strangers and luring. It was instinct for me to run once I put things together. I didn't have to think, I simply reacted. I don't know what might have happened if I had been gullible enough to fall prey to this seduction, but I can only imagine so in my nightmares. I was saved, not by fortune but by conditioning.
            I have no idea what happened to that man. I don't know if the police caught him as a result of my event or if he continued his ways and ended up catching a child, successfully seduced by the treats he dangled in temptation. For all I know, he may well have watched me on other days. While some may call it childhood paranoia, until the day we moved from the city I watched for him over my shoulder.
            Realizing there are evil things in this world, and that not all of them appear like the monsters from my comic books, chipped yet another piece of my innocence away. While I recognize everyone is exposed to the ways of this world, at some point anyway, I wish I had been allowed a little more time unaware. I know God's plan is unavailable to mortal man, I just wish it didn't involve me so much and, most certainly, didn't involve my childhood.
            If I could relay, somehow, a message to that man in that car, I would not curse him or lose my fury upon him. I really don’t care enough to even imagine such things. I would simply inform him that his vital mistake was in using candy to catch a child filled with goodies and that maybe, just maybe, his actions, no matter how sinister, served as productive negativity throughout my life thus far. While the days of looking over my shoulder for the candyman are all but a memory, the evil that men do is a constant reminder that therefore but by the grace of God go I.
           




Photo


http://maintenance.ioffer.com/c/Candy-Nuts-1003535?keyword=vintage+magazine

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Searching for Mogwai


 (Murray) "Gremlins...You got - you gotta watch out for them foreigners cuz they plant gremlins in their machinery. It's the same gremlins that brought down our planes in the big one."
(Kate) [laughing] "The big one..."
(Murray) "That's right! World War Two. Good old WWII." [Murray tries to start his car] "Y'know they're still shippin' them over here. They put 'em in cars, they put 'em in yer TV. They put 'em in stereos and those little radios you stick in your ears. They even put 'em in watches, they have teeny gremlins for our watches!" (Gremlins, 1984)


             I used to attempt to block out the strange things which have taunted me throughout my life. I did not want to believe. From quiet voices, to overwhelming energies I could not ignore, I have always explained such things away. Science must hold the answers, I presumed. This has done little to silence whatever it is that follows me.
            Since my Mom's death in late April of 2010, I have not experienced any more or any less of this activity. They say such things can manifest when one is grieving, but this does little to resolve why such strange phenomena have always been a part of my life. Lately, I've stopped trying to rationalize such things away and have accepted that science, for all its explanation, cannot explain away everything.
            Stranger yet, the moment I started to look at the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of my life objectively, they stopped occurring altogether. Occasionally, as I drift off to sleep, I will look out of the bedroom and down the hall and see glimpses of shadows which move on their own. I realize this is primarily my imagination. I had almost given up on whatever odd forces seem to come and go on my journey. I had almost given up trying to believe, until this past summer.

July 28th 2011

            I got up at 6:30 AM, with my alarm clock, and scurried about completing my initial tasks for the day. I watered the plants and soaked the dishes. I checked my email, looked at my afternoon itinerary and jumped in the shower. I drank my regular two cups of coffee, then readied myself and headed out, final destination the grocery store. I used to shop on Saturday mornings, but home office allows the freedom for change when change is needed.  I am not antisocial, but I cannot handle endless lines at the check-out or hundreds of people fighting over cheese curds, so I switched to an alternate, lighter morning so as not to provoke my desire to go postal among my fellow grocery shoppers.
            I parked when I got home, unloaded the groceries and returned upstairs with lots of time before I had to sit down and apply myself to working. The apartment was quiet and the cats curious as I stowed away the weekly rations and treats I had just purchased. I microwaved a third cup of java and settled in at the desk, ready to work.
            Having just survived over a week of stifling temperatures and humidity, the backdrop of dark clouds, welcomed by the window above the computer, continued to bring relief from the scorching rays that tend to burn and melt me throughout the summer months. I prefer snow and winter to a summer hot and sticky. There was no storm in the sky, no lightning or thunder or wind to act as a warning. The sky was grey but the streets had already dried from the rain of the night before. I had the air conditioner set to low and it hummed beside me on the floor.

11:09 AM

            There are three television sets in this apartment. One in each bedroom and a large flat screen in the living area. When the television set behind me turned on by itself, I explained it away. Maybe the stereo remote pressed against the TV control, turning it on with a display of the rules of gravity. Maybe some surge of electricity had caused just this television set to turn on by itself. The volume was reasonable and the channel set to an all-news Canadian station. I turned it off, using the manual button rather than by remote, and sat back down at the computer to complete the tasks at hand.
            Strange little things like this happen all the time to me. I really thought nothing of it and went on with my day. The other TVs did not turn on, the computer remained functional and the air conditioning unit continued to run optimally, despite any fluctuation that may have occurred in the flow of electricity. Some things just are, a glitch in the technology or a random occurrence that does not  require greater insight. I carried on as if nothing had happened at all.

11:51 AM

            I got up from the desk and opened the bedroom door. The air unit was running quietly under the window, so I pulled the door closed quickly behind me. As I walked down the hall towards the kitchen, an explosion of sound blared from the room I had just left. I must admit I was startled at the loud noise and turned back to discover what was going on.
            I walked in the room and tucked the door into its appropriate place. The TV, the same one, was back on again with no visible indication of how. The remote was where I had left it. The computer and portable air conditioner were optimal. There was no indication whatsoever as to why this had happened yet again. I reached for the remote and went to turn down the roaring volume.
            Previously the television was set to channel 24, but now it was on AMC, channel 55 on the basic cable received in the bedrooms. The volume was originally at a quiet level when the set turned on the first time. Now, the volume was turned up to its highest setting, booming at peak mass.
            I stood in disbelief, shaking my head at this unexplained occurrence. I tried to shrug it off, but found myself looking around the room for a clue as to what the hell was going on. I got spooked while I stood lowering the volume. I left the channel where it should have been, turned off the TV, then gladly left the room.

12:44 PM

            The TV came back on again. I was sitting at the desk writing and it suddenly thrust itself into the room once more. The channel and volume were the same, the remote in its place and nothing noticeable or out of sorts. I reached for the remote, turned off the set and returned to my work. By this time, I knew that something was definitely wrong with the TV. I joked to myself, "Great, there's a ghost in my machine."

1:20 PM

            I was vacuuming the main bedroom, the tool set at high. I love my cats, but I have to vacuum almost every day in this room. It's ridiculous how much pet hair can accumulate in less than 24 hours. I don't vacuum on the weekends, and come Monday morning, it's like there are gremlins growing from the rugs around the apartment. Little furry creatures all about. Maybe they did it!!
            I had resolved myself to the need for a new TV when it came back on again. The channel and volume had not changed and all the electronics in the room continued to work uninterrupted by surges or strikes from an outside source. No longer curious, I quickly turned it off and went about my business. I finished my hair patrol, put the vacuum into the living room and sat down, returning to my work.

1:32 PM
           
            The television set came on again. I knew if this happened that I would eventually need to pull out the entertainment centre and unplug the set. Rationalizing my laziness, I left everything plugged in. I had placed the remote on the printer table beside me and I used it to turn off this now annoying feature of my day. I finished any business I had to do on the computer and ventured out to the living room, searching for Mogwai.

3:11 PM

            I was standing in the shower, taking a rather cold trip behind the curtain. The day had brought strange things, but it had also brought much humidity. I could have easily grabbed a towel and dropped 17 floors to the sub-basement for a swim, but it was easier this way and there were no guarantees that the pool below would be empty. I prefer to swim after everyone is gone from the pool area. This gives me room to do laps and lets the chlorine dissolve any urine left by previous users. People can be so gross.
            I was in the shower rinsing off under pulsing beads when the noise returned. I was more than a little perturbed that its volume also returned at a spiked level. I turned off the shower, dried off quickly and left the bathroom to turn off the TV. When I got in the hallway, just opening the main bedroom door, I realized that the issue had jumped.
            The smaller bedroom is more like a library than a place to sleep. There is a bed, clock and all the amenities for a good night's rest, but the television set, stereo and hundreds of books define the room in terms of entertainment versus practicality. This smaller TV was once my parents'. When they bought a new, more modern model, the 1980s model, for all its 19-inch screen, became the replacement for a television I had bought as a teenager, now lost to wear. Always an extra, my folks' old television  continues to work to this day.
            Now this receiver had also turned on by itself. Like the other set which had taunted me all day, the channel was set to AMC and the volume cranked to maximum. I turned it off so quickly that I hurt my finger on the power button. I got dressed, put my shoes on, grabbed my keys and left.

August 1st 2011
3:23 AM

            There had been no further disruptions and all television sets and electronics in the apartment seemed to be working just fine the past few days. When the television turned on this time, without thinking I jumped from bed and turned it off. I was groggy and confused, so I dropped back into bed and fell into sleep once again. Not 5 minutes had passed when the set jolted me awake once again. I got out of bed, turned the damn thing off  and managed to make my way back under the sheets into slumber.
           
3:32 AM

            I sat up in bed as the volume from the TV smacked me hard into consciousness. A flash of pure white from the set almost blinded me. I then sat there watching the channels turn, one after another, phasing in succession down the dial. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, and without realizing it, I hunted for an explanation in my head. The static and audio feed had crackled like an incoming transmission, then seemed to stop, searching for a signal. Changing channels garbled together like on a CB radio, randomly hunting for home. Each sound flipped all about with the quicksilver motion of an unseen hand. I reached for the remote control off my nightstand and managed to shut the intruder off. I fell back to sleep, undisturbed for the rest of the night.

"Goddamn foreign TV. I told ya we should've got a Zenith." (Gremlins, 1984)

            I'm not much for guessing games. I want answers, and if you cannot offer any to me then you are doing nothing but wasting my time. There may well be an explanation for these events or it may be, as I have been advised by friends and family members, some form of communication from the other side, an expression through energy rather than bad equipment. I can almost hear Tangina Barrows, from the film Poltergeist, yelling at me to "Stay away from the light!"
            I'm not sure what I am supposed to do, given this situation. I could unplug or discard the TV sets in both bedrooms, or I could just get used to these odd interferences that have no real rhyme or reason. It would be a hell of a lot easier for me and my stress level if whatever entity, gremlin or not, would just leave a message in blood on the bathroom mirror or appear in the darkness to convey some divine request. Either way, I am convinced that this is no mere dysfunction by electronics in my home. I am aware that many people have such strange occurrences all the time and I myself have been plagued, on occasion, by the unexplained. This does little to ease my troubled mind. This does little to explicate anything.
            No matter how old you get, how much time passes in relation to other events or how much you have already learned of life, we are always exposed to things we cannot explain. I used to believe that when I grew up all the answers would come to me, whether by the Hand of God or through science and logical processes. I was wrong. Just as there are no answers to almost everything regarding metaphysics and religious thought, so too are there no real revelations to be found in strange phenomena or paranormal activity.  

5:07 PM

            I sat on the bed watching, urging the TV to come on. I sat waiting like one would at the doctor's office, never sure if someone was even there. I watched the clock count minute after minute as I sweated in the humidity of early August in Ontario. I usually turn up the radio or play on my phone while I bask in a moment of nothingness, but today the idea of technology was not my friend. I rarely get the creeps when unexplained things happen but this transgression seemed malicious or at least highly personal. I still have no idea what happened and no one can convince me of an explanation. It just seems so clear to me that there can be no other explanation. It must have been a gremlin.




Sources





Photo

http://www.free-wallpaper-download.com/movie/gremlins/slides/gremlinsII4.htm

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Slime and Punishment


"You will be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and an object of horror to the nations around you when I inflict punishment on you in anger and in wrath and with stinging rebuke. I the Lord have spoken." (Ezekiel 5:15, NIV)


            Just into the cornfield stood a mound of mess and malice. The garbage dump stunk to high heaven and the insects thrived in its torrid flesh. It was the most disgusting thing I had ever seen and I heeded all warnings to stay clear of it, well, almost. Swarms of flies acted like a harbinger for that smell and the sunlight turned the mass of yuck into a festering swamp of everything nasty this side of hell.
            As my Grandpa Pascuzzo used to say, "Stay away or you'll turn into a toad!" Ironic, since they crawled and jumped and squirmed from the mound each evening, as the sun retired from a day of baking the ruins. Each afternoon, he would come out of that old grey outhouse with his bucket, which he would promptly place on the back step, then he would go inside to retrieve more rot. My grandfather was a pioneer in green, daily turning the refuse of living into healthy fields of corn and tomatoes the very next year.
            Some things stay in your mind forever, always there to look back on with a sense of joy but, most often, they become a constant reminder of how bad things can get. I didn't know of such things at 7 years of age. In late July of 1972, my folks took me and my siblings from Toronto to Strathroy for our yearly exodus from the city. We would take swimming lessons, play in the tobacco fields across the street and sink roots into the land where we all would one day live.
            Before my parents built their home here, it was farmland. My grandparents had a small house and large section on the corner, across from John Calvin Christian School. Both structures are long gone but for memories and a few relics from the properties. In 1979, this land was divided into four lots, one each for her parents and my mom and her  two brothers. We got the cornfield and the corner which touched the spot where that muck fest used to churn.
            For two weeks every summer, we joined the population of this Ontario town, less than 100 miles from the American border and not quite 300 miles from the city where I was born. My grandparents may have had their unique qualities, but I remember those visits with a fondness. They defined this town for me when we relocated here on August 31st, 1976. As Toronto is the city in which I was born, Strathroy is the town were I grew up. It has always been a part of my life.
             Summer 1972 was like any other summer. It was hot and we'd sweat. It was wet and we took to cover. Southern Ontario may not be known for its heat, but it comes nonetheless, in waves of bleak and humid. Sometimes the air and smog become so dense you can watch it linger. July and August were dry and cool that year, which did nothing to infringe on the cesspool growing in my grandfather's field. 
            Each morning my grandma Norah would bundle up us kids and take the whole lot down to the Strathroy Lions Pool for instruction. My brothers, my sister and even my Mom learnt to swim here. The painted yellow cement foundation was the morning alert to our destination; my grandmother walking the kilometre into town with all of us. I successfully raced for the town's swim team when I was 16 and 17, my only obstacle was defeat to the hands and feet of Jamie Mascola. I just couldn't beat him.
            My grandma made sure things were the same almost every day. We would finish up the morning ritual, walk all the way back to York Street and have lunch before our afternoon glory. We ran freely for hours every day. Playing in the fields, tracking into the stream which still lies just beyond the newest subdivision. For a boy born and raised in the concrete jungle, I took to nature like a monkey to a tree. I would meet up with Randy Wells and his brother Billy and we would hike up the 10th Concession, just past the tobacco kilns, then fish for mudpuppies and crawfish until we thought of something else to do. As dinner hour approached, each one of us remembered the cardinal rule of afternoon play; make sure you're back in time for supper or else.
            My grandmother was not the world's best chef but she fed us well, seeing to any need we might have. Before dark, my grandpa Joe would sit on the back lawn near the concrete robot he built the summer before. He would chew his tobacco like a huge wad of gum then spit it into the grasses just beyond the lawn. As dark approached, we were not allowed to leave the property, but we could run freely anywhere on the grounds. We would play hide and go seek among the tall pine trees and use toads as birdies, whooshing each one with a badminton racket into the tobacco plants just across the way. These were friendly days, most of the time, without parents or school or learning.
            The first thing they should teach a child is to look where they are going. I had yet to learn how to apply this knowledge. As the ball bounced, I sped up, but it was already inevitable. I saw the pile just before I hit it, but my attempt to avoid contact propelled me deeper into the mass of wet and goo. Bugs and shit and every creature of the night you can imagine covered me in some sick ritual bath. I screamed bloody murder and jumped from the mound, pushing and grabbing and trying to rid myself of this vile potion.
            I gagged over and over again, hoping to expunge a flavour no mere words could describe. It was everywhere, all over me, in me, and the more I tried to rub it off, the more it smeared into my hair and clothing. So much slime and so many spiders. I could barely breathe. As the family surrounded me, from a distance, my grandfather rescued me briefly with a bucket full of water. I got rushed into the house and quickly into the tub. My shame, as grandma washed me, was lessened by the sack of spider eggs that broke open in my underwear.
            Some tales end and some go on forever. Some have lessons and some just entertain. This tale does not complete itself with a good scrubbing or the washing of my clothes. There is no happy ending to which one day we could all laugh and relay my misery. The summer of my fall soon turned into weeks, then into months, and for over a year I met the consequence of swimming in that pile of crap.
            Almost immediately they started. On my hands, on my feet, up my nose, everywhere, they ridiculed my attempts to wash them away. The cold sores broke out the very next day, but the warts appeared slowly, methodically, until they covered me from head to toe. Hundreds of verrucas mingled about me, some quite small and others rather large. I remember feeling like a leper, transformed like some mutation. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying and that fact lingers, haunting me to this day.
            The rest of my visit was met with doctor appointments, homemade remedies and alienation from my siblings and local friends. The night before my parents returned to pick us up, my grandmother decided to inform me of why this event had occurred. I half expected a talk on trials and tribulations and building strength in light of struggle, like Job. As she held out her Bible on her lap, turning to the Psalms, she informed me that my predicament was simply God's way of punishing me.
            When we returned to Toronto, and throughout the entire process of burning hundreds of warts from my body, each pustule sounded condemnation from Jesus. I could never remember what I did to deserve this fate, nor did I care to know. I even prayed in spite of my newly revealed judgment from God. I used to think how odd it was that the Lord could spend so much time plotting my penalty, but He never took the time to pardon my unknown error.
            The nightmares eventually went away. The sores and rashes faded like the creams applied upon them. The warts would eventually cease to exist, leaving only the scars from the dozens of visits made to the doctor's office. In high school, usually during class, I would use these scars in a morbid game of connect the dots. My markings were so abundant that I would always run out of time, never finishing the puzzle.
            For almost 40 years I have tried to block these memories, with little result or resolution. Still, all scars fade, and for the most part, mine have as well. Little white dots are all that linger from years of wear and tear. While I understand why it happened, and I comprehend the results, I have never understood the reason my grandmother believed I needed Divine punishment.  I never asked.
            Shortly after my healing I returned to childhood. I remember reading in an issue of Dr. Strange, a Marvel Comics classic, of a reference to the idea of cause and effect. While the extent of such grand posturing was way over my young brain, I did ask my Dad what it meant, this cause and effect.
"Boy," he said sternly, "Stuff just happens!"






Sources






Photo


http://etiquettebag.com/view/15268/Effective_Punishment

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Bottom of the Sea

"Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys.  If he counted them up as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it." (Fyodor Dostoevsky, Russian writer)



            I ran on to the subway car as if chased by some monster. My brothers, just behind me, less energized at the thought of this ride. Although I had lived in Toronto my entire 10 years, I had never experienced the subway. I jumped on the seat and kicked my legs beneath me, they dangled and banged on the board near my feet. The glass and doors closed behind us and the cabin slowly started to move. I was thrilled.
            A more direct route would have been to jump on the Woodbine bus, but I wanted this more than anything that summer. My world was full of superheroes and comic books, all centering on New York City. The kind of metro featured in the lives of Spider-man, the Fantastic Four and other American icons was something I needed to see for myself. I begged for them to take me on the subway, to take me downtown so I could see. They agreed that it would shut me up, so off we went. I am still surprised my mother let me go.
            Toronto was a different place in 1975.  It was safer and cleaner. Mom was right, it was okay for me to venture out with my brothers, one 13, the other 14. Children had greater freedom when I was growing up, things were much more innocent. The city was a playground to explore, not some fucked up maze of trying to get home alive. These were the days before the iPad, before video games and computers. Kids were still kids at 13 or 14, and you had better made sure to get home when the street lights came on.
            In 1975, the CN Tower had not yet been completed, nor Skydome built, and you could still see the waters of Lake Ontario, not just condominiums, rising together like some hive from hell. The Eaton Centre still had an Eaton's and Yonge Street was still the destination of choice on a Saturday night. You could still buy candy for a penny and comic books were a quarter. The day went on forever and the night was a time of wonder. A heat wave was just another reason for swimming and fireflies were meant for catching. Time would go by so slowly and summer became an endless escape. All was well with my world.
            The Yonge Street line extension had just been completed and allowed pilgrims from the outskirts of Canada's largest city to venture into the heart of the Big Smoke. We had walked from home on this hot sun-filled day, to travel from Don Mills, across to Sheppard Ave, and then by subway to Union Station. Toronto was still expanding and you could feel the pangs of a flourishing urban sprawl. Walking down into the tunnels, I felt like the Batman, stalking the Joker or some vampire, so using the caverns of an underground world. Nothing could have invaded my pleasure.
            From Union Station, we grabbed an eastbound streetcar at Lakeshore Boulevard and got off when it crossed Woodbine Avenue, close to the Beaches. You could see the massive layering of concrete from quite a distance on the trolley, and the 5-story diving platforms and viewing stands rose to attention in the blistering glare of an August afternoon. The idea of UV warnings and smog alerts had yet to infect the consciousness of our summertime and the threat of lurking strangers was only a bad dream, lost to time. We had come so far to stand before this cement monolith, shaped with a brutal outward appearance. The first thing I thought was how much this human construction looked like something from Ape City, a popular destination for space travellers and a highlight on a tour of the Planet of the Apes. I couldn't wait to get inside.
            Donald Dean (D.D.) Summerville-Woodbine Beach Pool was designed and built  in the early 1960s. In 1963, then Mayor of Toronto Summerville suffered a fatal heart attack during a charity hockey event, only a short time after taking office. The pool was dedicated in his name and became an architectural landmark for the Beaches, a long-standing neighbourhood developed on the east side of what had been Old Toronto.
The shoreline is a single uninterrupted blanket of sand, with a wooden boardwalk running parallel, built in 1932. The pool sits close to the shore and the beach acts like a backdrop of sun and sky and water. The area known as "The Beaches" still stands as one of Toronto's more prestigious communities and plays host to many attractions throughout the year. One of the main attractions is the public swimming compound.
            The complex itself contains a 50-metre Olympic-sized lap pool and 25-metre training pool for less experienced swimmers. The diving area features both 5 and 10-metre diving platforms. Aged cement, barren and quite void, abounds. The trio of pools interlock in manmade stone, and each one becomes deeper with the experience of the swimmer. The Olympic diving boards looked quite alien to me as we waited in line.
            There were kids everywhere. The 2000 person capacity had already been reached, so we waited in the sunshine watching Lake Ontario and many people pass us by. I can imagine all the sun seekers as they walked about, hand in hand, basking in the glory of a good day and a pleasant place. I cannot, however, recall any faces from that day in the sun. I can hear the joy of children playing and smell the air so sweet with August. I can see gulls dancing in and out of the body of blue and boats on the horizon, too far to make out clearly. It was a perfect summer day.
            Once we got into the place, the fun really began. We changed in an outdoor area and took to the concrete surrounding the pools. I had been taking swimming lessons every summer since I was 5 years old, so the sheer size of the Olympic pool did nothing  but beckon me even more. We played and splashed and relaxed for what seemed the entire afternoon. When my brothers told me that they were going to the diving pool, I had to have me some. I took the little test they do to confirm how well one can swim and passed with flying colours. We all headed over to face our destinies and challenge our fear.
            The bottom of the diving pool reached down into dark and the platform boards reached high into heaven. My brother Phillip had introduced me to the deep end one summer many years before, pushing me into an area uncharted even for my local pool. Since then, water held no power over me. I had conquered it once and could do so again. I was Aquaman, King of the Ocean, and this was but an ancient loch, deep but of no concern. In spite of our bravado, we three passed on climbing, let alone diving. Instead, we decided to test the deep.
            The water hit me hard and cold, and my swan dive became a shock to the system. I dug deep into the water, reaching farther and farther with all my  might. The water kept getting colder and colder and I found no end in sight. Quickly, not enough to panic, I flipped in the pool like a dolphin and kicked hard toward the light. The air rushed into me, and for a moment I felt as if life was just beginning. It was sweet and funny and thrilling and I loved every single moment of it.
            The journey home that day is not important, although it lingers like a cobweb with the rest of the things that once were. Just before we left for the way home, we all laid out on the hot slabs around the pool and bathed in the last moments of our getaway. I remember looking about me. I remember feeling the sun. I remember recognizing that this was a good day.
            This would be one of the last times that my brothers and I spent together in this manner. They were already teenagers and had little use for a fledgling pubescent. I can't recall another time since when it was like this. This day was no extraordinary outing, no monumental occurrence or event. It holds nothing, but was it was and what it remains in my memory. It was just an ordinary day, but we seized it.
            35 plus years later, and I can still hear the seagulls and still feel the warm breeze flowing off the lake. What a grand day! If only all my memories were this pure, this succinct. If only all the days of my life were this rewarding. Sometimes when I feel low and sad and I need something to pick me up, I picture myself standing, edging that voyage to the bottom of the sea. Sometimes I forget that these moments are what childhood should be. Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to have had the childhood I did. Sometimes, but not often. Most times, I realize that times like these are what life is all about and, more often than not, what my life has been filled with.



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