Posts from the ‘Youth’ Category

Sibling Joviality…I do miss it…

 Southall, UK…1969…Jammin’

Siblings…you hear all sorts of stories about them.  Bad blood, disputed inheritances, jealousies…

It’s too bad.  They say you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family – obviously said by someone older who has had a bad experience.  I don’t think anyone who is 12 or younger has ever said that! Why is it that all the problems arise only when you are older?

Really, of all the people in the world, who are you the most similar to?  Brothers and sisters have all the ingredients to be more alike – nature-wise and nurture-wise: same parents, same house, same schools, same toys, same food, same clothes (unless you were lucky like me, and were the oldest).  When and why do we go astray?  Simply age, I guess.

And even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a close relationship with your siblings, do you ever really enjoy the same closeness, same joie de vivre, and energy as when you were kids?  I know that I enjoy my time with my brother – and would with my sister too (if we weren’t 7 time zones apart) – but when we were kids, oh boy were we inseparable!  And the memories we share – like all siblings, I guess – remind me of the craziness that kids can generate.

I mean, who among us hasn’t damaged a sibling? And I don’t mean figuratively – who has “felt like pummeling them” – I mean literally “almost did them in”.  In Grade Six, pushing my 10 year-old brother to school, on – not in – an abandoned grocery shopping cart, we hit one of those ubiquitous sidewalk bumps  (young Canadian street-hockey players know it well, the kind of bump that rudely jams the butt of your hockey stick into your diaphragm as you are running home dreamily,  leaving you out-of-wind, spasming and gasping uncontrollably on the ground!).  Bumpity-bump bump, and then there was nothing but a whirling Matrix-like slow motion somersault of me over the cart, the cart over my brother, and my brother becoming the human shock absorber.  Thankfully, as the back of his head made full thudding contact with the rough concrete sidewalk, he cushioned my fall!  There was no doubt he was concussed, maybe he even had a fractured skull.  But as he looked at me with dilated pupils, not quite hearing what I was saying, we both knew that there would be hell to pay if Mom and Dad found out.  So after a bit of pleading from me, he toughed it out, suffering through the full school day with the wound congealing under his hair. He definitely put up the good fight. The folks did eventually find out – perhaps the fact that my brother could not remember his name was a clue – but what fraternal loyalty!  Now, before anyone gets on my case (and it was 36 years ago), keep in mind that he was no saint either. Ask my sister about her two front teeth jettisoned forcibly by my brother.  In his best Six-Million-Dollar-Man impersonation, he flying-kicked her “loot bag” novelty bugle during one of her peace-making charges to end a brother v brother UFC match.  Never has the cry, “Ta-da-ta-dahhhh…here comes the cav-a-wee”  been transformed into the piercing shrieks of de-fanged six year-old girl so quickly!!

If you kids do not settle down, I am coming up there! GO… TO… SLEEP!  I was a kid – so you woudl think I would get it as a parent, and let it slide!  I remember the ludicrous sessions with my brother – we did share a bedroom for almost 8 years.  Not being sleepy, everything we said or did – and I mean everything – was “side-splittingly” funny.  We would almost pee ourselves laughing as we did impressions, made strange bodily noises, recited Bill Cosby’s comedy routines, sang goofy songs and told jokes until all hours of the night (okay, in hindsight, maybe it was only until 10pm)…there is nothing like the innocent, uncontrollable hushed giggling of kids as they work themselves into a ridiculous unable-to-breathe frenzy – unless you are a baby-sitter or a parent.  The Giggle Sessions still continue on the rare occasion, but now they seem to be beer or wine-induced! And they seem to be a lot more painful in the morning than I remember.

The Sibling Fights…ahh, epics.  Now with three of us, there were always alliances and allegiances and double-crosses: boys against girl, youngest against oldest, all against the middle (mathematically, I think that is  3!/(2!1!)  – Grade 13 Relations and Functions for those Ontarians that are old enough to remember, or care!  Just think of it as my attempt to do a Conjunction Function). Early childhood fights were all so simple…what show to watch on TV, whose toy it really was (and if – at the time of the transgression– the owner was really playing with it), who really broke the lamp, who cheated playing a Barrel Full o’ Monkeys, who was supposed to take out the garbage (that cost my brother his beloved replica Led Zeppelin Concert t-shirt), or who Mom or Dad loved more (c’mon… seriously… parents can’t love ALL their kids equally ALL the time – can they? ) The fights were epic…pushing and pulling, pinning and holding, kicking and punching, biting and pinching…all good cage match/roller derby stuff. But in the end,  it never mattered who started it, or why – as the eldest always gets the blame. “You should know better!”, “You are supposed to look after you little brother/sister!”, “Grow up!”, “What kind of example are you setting!”…the usual the refrains heard all over the World, and ironically at our house usually punctuated by a good parental smack or two to reinforce that violence was never the solution to conflict.  Aaahhhh…good times.

And then there was my parents’ favourite strategy to keep me out of trouble when I was a teen – forcing me to take my little brother with me…I assume he was just as thrilled…but boy did he get an education!  I suppose it was the guilt of almost fracturing his skull that motivated me not to ditch him.

But when you grow up, you naturally drift apart.  Different towns, different careers, marriages, kids…the bonds flex and elongate – but, if you are lucky, and  nurture them, they will stay elastic.  Sometimes close, sometimes far…but alwas there.  And sometimes when they are stretched and thin,  I think back to the fun crazy times I shared with my little brother and sister – with a happy smile. And though the relationships have changed  – no more a question of oldest or youngest, biggest or strongest, smartest or funniest, girls versus boys…you realise it is more about knowing you share the same roots and same DNA.   And no matter what,sooner or later, you will get together and giggle uncontrollably again. When next my Sis’ and Bro’ meet to jaw about the old days, I’ll bring the beer (I am the oldest, after all…)

Think of your siblings and give’em a hug, eh? Not everyone is so lucky.

Later,

ASF

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Borrowed from the oatmeal.com :)

What we should have learned in our senior year of high school

Cool kid shoes…and other stuff I really wanted (but not enough to loot)

I read an article in 18 February’s edition of The Guardian (UK) called Footlocker: the brand that spells trouble all about how the Footlocker stores – all over the world – are an “automatic looter-magnet” during any kind of civil disobedience.  Hockey riots, race riots, police brutality riot…no matter what the cause, the author contends that the allure of the Swoosh, or the Trefoil are too much for the young masses to resist – legally or not.

The article was a mindless read, a little too full of innuendo about race and poverty and other social issues to be taken too seriously…and I must admit that the part of me that wants to wear a tinfoil cap to prevent the government from listening to my thoughts, thinks the article might have been a fantastic bit of Footlocker covert public relations – a free 3 page advert in the lifestyle supplement of a major Saturday paper.

But to quote the article and I believe you can replace the word trainer (for the North American crowd, we’re talking sneakers) with any other consumer good and it would still ring true…

  • “Trainers have become a very aspirational product. We all remember being bullied for wearing the wrong trainers at school. It’s inconceivable for some people not to take part in the trainer game.”

And like always, that statement took me on a tangent.  And as I am mathematically inclined, I like my tangents – this one about all those things that were so cool, that I had to – just had to – get my hands on them.  Maybe it was because I thought I would be part of the gang and the other kids would not make fun of me, or maybe because they were just fun.  But as I grew up in a “frugal-through-necessity” household, there was not a lot of money to spend on some of these “luxuries”.  Many an evening I lay in a pre-sleep daze, fantasizing about the how I, and Life, would be so much cooler if I had the gear and the fashions.

And just what were those things…well, let’s see if I can recall a few…

Shoes.  Shoes have always been a “cool factor” issue – I believe they always were and always will be (though I am positive they are never “looting-worthy”).  But my parents were practical…kids’ feet grow so quickly that expensive footwear was a silly expenditure.  Whatever was on sale, and cheap, were the shoes of choice: Sonic and Northstars were the way ahead. But, when I got to the age where the choice of shoes would be the difference between going to school happy or sulking in my room like a teenage hermit, my parents eventually gave in and I got the brand names I was looking for.  Unfortunately, the compromises was that the shoes came in the “clearance-bin” colours no one else wanted…

And in the same vein…

MoonBoots.  At our house in 1970s Toronto, the boot of choice was Honest Ed’s nylon snowmobile boots with the felt liners.  Throughout Grades 1 to 8, the snowmobile boot was a constant. I remember how the felt liner would soak up all the moisture – both from the slush and from my feet (I know…yuck!).  In order to stay dry in the soaking liners, we would wrap our feet in plastic bags to keep them dry.  Every night the felt liners would be placed upside down on the central heating register…and every morning they were still wet because my brother or sister had knocked them down, or had moved mine to dry theirs. Bummer. The MoonBoot was different…light, airy, colourful and stylin’.  It was the CoolBoot!! Everyone wanted them.  As I got older the styles changed – construction boots, Kodiaks, Sorels, Mukluks – but the MoonBoot still reigns as the most sought after by my generation of kids…

Levis Jeans – orange labels.  I did not own my first pair of Levis until I was 13 years old.  Up to that point it was always a pair of Sears’ clearance outlet pants …checkered, twill, striped, corduroy…what young hipster today would call “vintage”, but back then they were just “nerd-wear”.  Arthur Fonzarelli would never wear a pair of husky-fit Toughskins…I was doomed to be Potsie forever.  My first pair of Levis were factory seconds from a store called Booboos. Yes, they were Levis, but sadly there was no orange label…Levis had cut the label off them because they were imperfect.  But showing some materialistic ingenuity, I was able to buy a pirated orange tab from a friend who was throwing out an old ripped pair of jeans – so after a bit of sewing, I had my very own pair of cool jeans. Even through the disco period and designer jeans – the ones with that silly white pocket stitching – my love affair with Levis continued…and still does.

Intellivision.  For us, toys were a luxury item.  Not that we didn’t have toys – but I doubt very much that what we played with would be safety approved by today’s standards. We played with cars or trains or planes, cut from sheet metal, painted with Chinese-made lead paint, and with lots of sharp edges – and they were fun for a couple of hours until a wheel, or a wing, or another crucial piece fell off.  Now I had some toys that were winners in the mix, like the time I won the electronic video game Pong as a newspaper boy (along with a Freddy Fender album…Wasted Day and Wasted Nights…yeeehaw!)  But what I craved was Mattel Intellivision. I finally got one in Grade 10…and spent a whack-load of time mastering Tank Combat or Dungeons and Dragons… (click on this link – A Review of Intellivision Games for a reminder of fun times)

The Walkman.  Like all kids, music played a big part of my youth.  First there was the AM radio – belting tunes from 1050 CHUM. Then there was the cassette player…the plug in mic held to the radio so I could record the New Year’s Day Top 100 list. Next, came the radio with the built-in mic and cassette player – which eventually became the “Ghetto Blaster”.  Now the Ghetto Blaster was portable – if you were a weightlifter and had access to 12 fresh D Cell Batteries every 2 hours – but much too expensive for the younger set.  Everything changed, however, when Sony invented the Walkman… the grandfather of the iPod and the MP3 player. The Walkman changed the way we listened to music… a rockin’ 45 minutes of musical bliss, but then you had to flip the cassette over!  I wanted one so badly, and lo and behold, I got my very own Sony Walkman Cassette Player from my parents when I graduated university.  Thanks Mom and Dad…

Street Hockey Net.  Now because I am Canadian, when I was a kid there was only one real game to be played after school…street hockey.  Always at the intersection closest to our house, we played our own versions of the Stanley Cup from the time we got home, continuing under the streetlights until our mothers called us in for dinner. When we were young, piles of snow were adequate for goal posts…and the goalie guarded the scraped goal with his regular hockey stick and a baseball glove.  But as we started getting older – and more discerning – we needed the gear.  The goalie needed a proper stick …even if it was just a plastic blade!  But the piece of kit that put you on the A-list within the gang was the street hockey net.  Each game started with the intricate hockey net ritual…carrying the net to the game over your shoulder, unfolding the net, ensuring that all large holes were repaired with spare shoe lace – and then it was “game on”.  The hockey net was a status symbol…at least until your gang had three or more nets to choose from…

Anything from the Sears Christmas Wish Book…no explanation required.

It is funny that at one time these things were so important to me.  I would like to say that I am all grown up and that I have given up on worrying about “things”…but as I look around the house, I note that my toys have just gotten a little more advanced (and pricey), and since I buy my own clothes, I can buy whatever I want!  And as for my kids, I suppose I am a little indulgent…maybe I should make them wear fluorescent orange shoes to school. Oh wait, they are in fashion again… never mind.

Later,

ASF

Listen Up, 17 year old Me…

When I was 17, I was cocky.  In retrospect, more cocky than I had a right to be. To be honest, I was only reasonably sporty, adequately – but not overly – academic, and I don’t remember being openly mocked by the ladies (after all, I did slow dance the entire way through Stairway to Heaven with a brave attempt at stealing second ). I was Lead Jester in My Own Little World.  I thought I knew it all.  Looking back, how wrong was I?  As I matured, there were many painful experiences that taught me all I know today, which in the Grand Scheme of Things, is sweet f*ck-all.  At the risk of being guilty of using an old cliché, I wish I could go back and relive my youth with what I know now.  I know – impossible.  Second best, I would write a letter to myself (reminding myself that e-mail and IMs did not exist in 1981) and offer a few nuggets of hard-won wisdom. What exactly would they be? Read on my fellow dreamer…

Enjoy your hair.  Now unless you are Dee Snider from Twisted Sister, your hair will inevitably disappear.  It will not quite leave you – sadly, it will only migrate.  As if the conditions are too hard on your head, your hair will climb down the mountain to the lower southern slopes and

The Noize, noize, noize…..

outcroppings.  I would tell Young Me to relish his orderly eyebrows, hairless ears and attractive back.  And, to enjoy his trimmer-free years…eventually his partner will tell him to  put things up his nose as a matter of personal grooming.

French fries are not a vegetable.  This one hurts. At 17 you can eat what you want – full fat, deep-fried, batter-dipped and powder-sugared.  But I would warn Young Simple Fellow about exponential growth…that 1 kg becomes 2, then quickly 4 – and soon, to unimaginable horror, the scale will read a staggering 16 kgs over prime fighting weight. Next come the questions, “what is this jiggling motion in  my pectoral area, and why can’t I see my Mini-Me anymore?”  Nip it in the bud 17 year-old Me, cut any chance of the “moobs” and “gock” – use the gym regularly and lay off the Bubba’s Poutine, and (gulp) the pints.  (Key words, “lay-off” not “eliminate”…)

Everyone is insecure.  We all have self-doubt. Some of us just ignore it better; just, ask the guy wearing the gangsta-pants. Get over it.

Smoking is not cool. Took me many years and a few tries to learn this one; surprising for something so simple really. I would tell Me to just go take a peek at the smoking area at the nearest hospital.  The post-surgical junkie smoking outside, with an IV drip stand and open-backed gown, says it all.

Your parents do know Shit. Again, it took me a while to figure this one out – the Folks actually had a couple of good bits of advice.  The old chestnut is, “When I was 16, my parents knew nothing; when I was 23, I was surprised how much my parents had learned in 7 years.”  Pretty ageless, as your parents will tell you.  I would encourage Young Me to look at the Folks as a source of information instead of a source of irritation.   And while he’s at it, I’d ask him to be nice to old people, even if they smell like soup.

Challenge yourself regularly.   I’d tell Young Me that he will be surprised at just how resilient he is.  And that there is fun to be had doing things that he has never tried before.  To Take advantage of his invincibility, because when he gets older, the fear can set in. Just don’t write checks that your body can’t cash. Save that for when you are on the rugby pitch in your mid 40s…

Read something about lots instead of a lot about something.  There is so much to know about so many topics. True, it may be lucrative, or eventually help humanity, to know a lot about one thing. Ask Bill Gates. But just think back to your last conversations with an “expert”.  Bet it was numbing and boring, and that all you heard was “blah blah blah” as you searched for an escape route.  Being well read helps you become well spoken.  I would tell Him to learn how to small talk.  – it makes people comfortable and comfortable people are much more fun than uncomfortable people.

Nothing comes easy.  I’d tell Young Me that nothing comes easy – and anything worth having is worth working for.  Practice, effort and patience and the occasional sacrifice are the keys to achieving your goals. Trust me, nobody wins the lottery on their first go.

Everyone teaches you something.  By observing those around you, you will see that everyone is a role model; the key is to identify the positive ones from the negative ones. Sadly it is not as simple as the difference between Batman and Catwoman (sorry, more than a few teenage moments thinking about that one….)

Be a good listener.  Listening is a skill.  Steven Covey wrote, “Strive to understand before being understood.” Lots of people sound like idiots because they did not exercise the sound equivalent of “Reading the F*cking Question”.  On that note…

Forget the porn, this is what you’ll Google when you’re 40+…

Listen to your doctor.  When the doc says you should skip the last few games of the season, or you’ll develop arthritis in your 40s, do not say, “Tape it up doc, that is f*cking decades away.”  When you’re 45+, it hurts – a lot. Unless you’re playing for the Stanley Cup, let the dream go…and do all the physio.

Who cares what others think – do what you think is right. Young Me, this is a tough one – may be the toughest – but if mastered it can set you up for life. Doing the right thing is hard.  It means standing up to bullies and supporting the bullied; it means making informed choices when it comes to drink and drugs and sex.   While Charlton Heston carried down the so-called Absolutes Wrongs, I have found other than the acts that land you in jail, the morally right and wrongs can get woolly.  Often there is no identifiable right and wrong – only what is right or wrong for you.  If confused, refer back to the “talking to the Folks” thing – they have had more time to develop their moral compasses. Failing that, just ask yourself what Wally Beaver would do…

That’s a big list  – most likely fruitless at that. 17 year-old Me wouldn’t listen to middle-aged Me anyway.  But to end the advice, I would offer just one more nugget…

Jaegermeister does not taste any better on its return journey.

Seemed like a good idea at the time….

I am sure that there are many more out there that will come to me during one of my many afternoon naps. I will keep them to myself and save you the boredom.  But, if you have any you want to share, I would love to hear them…probably more than  17 year-old Me would! Later…

ASF