In the 1970’s, adult society was hung over from the 60’s. Kid society was wild and free, especially in summer. We didn’t go back to school until after Labor Day back then. We claimed every bit of August for ourselves, scraping together change from under the sofa cushions and running into the street at the first sound of the ice cream truck. We spit watermelon seeds, ran through the sprinkler, stayed out after dark catching fireflies, playing hide and seek, most of the time barefoot. We didn’t know what the future held and we really, really didn’t care.
There was violence in the world back then, and yet, the only reason I was ever scared to go to school was because we might have a social studies pop quiz. Our entertainment icons were poised to self-destruct, but knowing every detail of their demise wasn’t necessary to make an impression on us about the dangers of substance abuse. I remember exactly where I was when I heard Elvis died. Paige Chandler was daring me to jump the drainage ditch that ran between her house and our school. Her sister came over to us crying and said, “Elvis is dead.” That was the end of it. For me anyway.
Paige had two older sisters. So, she was worldly-wise, but I’m not sure she understood that drug addiction was a side effect of being famous. Paige’s mother didn’t like me. I didn’t know why at the time, but now I know it was because she thought I had no class. After all, I liked to see if I could jump ditches.
Oh, and spit watermelon seeds.
In the 70’s, we went wherever we pleased, on foot, on bicycles and sometimes, if we were lucky, piled into a car without seat belts, hauling ass with the windows down. Freedom! My brothers hung out of the window pumping their arms at truckers to get them to blow their air horn. Oh, the simple things. Friday nights at Fun Spot Roller Rink were my reward for not missing the school bus, reciting the pledge of allegiance, and sometimes for going an entire week without getting paddled. I deserved a reward after a week of diagramming sentences and long division. I skated until I had blisters on both feet.
I got my money’s worth.
My friend, Paige, always had someone to take her for a spin for the couples only skate. It was the only time I sat down. After two slow songs, I was rested and off to the races. I was hell on wheels to the tunes of would be classic rock legends crooning about love and freedom.
Next was the decade of big hair and big dreams, a.k.a.the 1980’s. Michael Jackson thrilled us. Whitney Houston gave us the greatest love of all. I never once thought their lives would end tragically or that their deaths would be twisted into a pop culture side-show. By the end of the 80’s, nothing even closely resembled the imaginary world I’d known as a kid. The 1990’s, a.k.a. the lost years, have been redacted. I’m still here and that’s pretty much all I have to say about that decade.
We are the adults, hung over from the mother of all reality checks, the veil of our naiveté lifted shredded. Should we ask ourselves if it’s enough to just try to see our good intentions through to the bitter end? Should we ask ourselves why the end is bitter? Should we try to keep ourselves safe from self-deception or accept apathy as the word of the day? Should we reach to exceed our great expectations or be satisfied with a venti, sugar-free, nonfat, no-whip something or other with a double shot and sprinkles?
What should we tell those who desire fame? If we don’t notice you, be really good at something? Be really bad at something? Make something, be a rain maker or a widow maker? Make your case with far-flung animal dung? Call people chicken shit when they don’t want to argue with you? Pick a fight, then tell them their opinion is horse shit? Make up bull shit just because you can? Go ape shit on national television, make people think you’ve gone bat shit crazy? Where does the shit stop? Has all conventional wisdom become cliché? Has a deluge of disillusionment rushed to fill the void? I need to believe, not in an after life, but in a full measure of life in this life. I won’t stop believing.
I just won’t.