Journal Entry 12.13.2016 – Memories of Christmas lights

It is 5:55 AM.  I woke up around 4:30, drank a shot of wheatgrass, put away dry dishes and washed the dirty ones, made coffee, meditated, added to a post about my Grandpa and wished my childhood friend Ryan a happy 40th birthday.  Still left to do are:  write this post, study Japanese, put Sega and Nintendo emulators and roms on USB for another parent at school, take son to school, run reports, contact some corporate customers, clean the fishtanks and most likely go to the post office to mail a bunch of stuff the wife wants me to mail.

But first things first which is this post and I have approximately twenty minutes to write it before the household wakes up.

This year we finally got around to putting up Christmas lights outside.  The reason we haven’t done it in the past is that the top of the house is very high up and falling off a ladder would equal instant death.  I had it in my head that Christmas lights must go on top of the house and since I don’t want to die just never did it instead settling for candles in the window.  But this year however my son asked why we didn’t put lights up outside so it had to be done.

Instead of putting lights up on the top of the house we put red ones around the two pillars at the front door as well as a string over the garage doors.  It looks pretty good and I’m glad we did it.  I also attached clear hooks to the house that can stay there and hold the lights year after year.

As with most holidays I remember my childhood neighborhood Golfview Woods as being a place where the majority of people decorated their homes for the holidays.  Here in Pacifica, some do a very good job at decorating but most do not.

In addition to the outside lights we’ve also got a few strings up inside as well which do a good job of adding to the holiday ambiance.  We just leave them on all night and it is nice to walk into a festively lit room so early in the morning when everything else is dark and there isn’t a sound to be heard.

As I appreciated the lights this morning I was reminded about another set of Christmas lights that were special to me.  When I was in high school I used to lay in my bed which was high up as it was the top portion of a bunk bed with no lower bed but instead my “Sega cove.”  So I had a good view of the outside, my neighbors yards and even the houses across the street.  One house -2170 Bigby Hollow St.- used to always put up one string of lights across the roof over the garage.  I used to stare at those lights and just think until I fell asleep.  The house belonged to my acquaintance Jason Hanna who I hung around with from 8th grade to about freshman year after which his family moved away in 1993.

The two things I remember the most about Jason was that he didn’t hold up his end of the very heavy sewer grate we had lifted in order to retrieve something which had fallen in.  I ended up smashing two fingers one of which opened up and ‘finger fat?’ actually came out a little. I had to push it back in, run home, rinse, and bandage it myself.  Good thing I did or the end of my left middle finger would just be skin and bone with no cushion.  My left middle finger had a huge blood blister and scars on both of these fingers remain to this day.  The second memory is that my Swiss Army knife suddenly disappeared after one of his visits.

During high school there is a lot going on and thus a lot to think about:  intense feelings, puberty, sports, academic anxiety, social aspects, girlfriends (or lack of) and so on.  The winter is also an intense time as the weather is very cold, there is sometimes snow, it gets dark very early and can be very depressing.

The major factor however was sports; I was on the wresting team and wresting practice day in and day out really beats you up.  I would come home and literally have to crawl up the stairs since I was extremely sore and completely exhausted.  Lying there in my bed, in the dark when all is quiet and it is frigid outside I would stare at those Christmas lights and wish I could just stay like that forever.  I wish I wouldn’t have to repeat the day of school and sports I had just had four more times that week, then have an all day wrestling meet on Saturday and then continue this routine for the next three months.

But my alarm would go off, I get dressed in the same uniform, have a very quick breakfast, and go out into the frigid cold.  I’d arrive at school and it would still be dark, walk into doorway and smell that distinct “school smell” which would change depending on where you were in the building.  Near the basketball court it smelled like basketball court polish, wax or whatever they put on that floor to make it shiny.  Next to that was the guys locker room which smelled all sorts of nasty as high school guys stink and often do not wash their sports clothing and gear.  It smelled like the worst body odor you can imagine.  The weight room smelled like what I had thought was wintergreen Kodiak tobacco but learned it was Bengay cream.  I never learned exactly why those other guys decided they needed to slather themselves with Bengay everytime they went to workout.  I worked out, was beaten up from wresting but didn’t slather myself with that stuff.

Anyway, I’d put my stuff away in my locker, go to first ‘mod,” and I still don’t know what that stands for – module?  Then seven ‘mods’ later at 3:00 PM It would be time for wresting.  I’d envy all the other kids who were laughing and joking outside, getting in their cars to either go home or go have some fun somewhere when I’d be stuck for the next three hours going through a very hard and exhausting wrestling practice.  As 6:00 PM arrived I’d peer through the windows fogged up with sweat on one side and extreme cold on the other.  There might be snow or freezing rain or no precipitation at all but it would always be cold and very dark.

I’d get home around 6:30 or so and after dinner, a shower and an attempt at homework it would finally be time for bed.  So I’d lay there for a few minutes, enjoying the only free time of the day and stare at those Christmas lights and wish I could just lay there in my warm bed forever.  I’d think about girls, school, friendships, enemies, life, the past, the future, Christmas break and how many more days I’d have to go through this routine.  Being as exhausted I was I’d quickly be asleep, the alarm would go off and the punishing routine would repeat once again.

I’ve always appreciated those Christmas lights that I could see from my top bunk back in 1994, 1995.

Growing up in Golfview Woods – My Memoir

They say that old houses have memories and a distinct atmosphere created by the various inhabitants and what has occurred inside its walls over the decades.  Time passes, children grow and families move away; yet each one leaves something behind which add to the character of the house.  It could be something material such as a treasure hidden away in an air vent, or perhaps marks on the wall that measure a child’s height.  I also believe that the actions, words spoken and feelings that took place inside the house also add a certain energy that although cannot be seen, still linger in some way even after many years have passed.

I like to think it is the same with entire neighborhoods.  People often say “if these walls could talk,” referring to all that a wall must have seen over the years.  Therefore, I do not believe I’m alone in thinking that certain places have memories and perhaps everything that has taken place is recorded in some sort of universal mind.

I grew up in a place called Golfview Woods which is a subdivision and having only two ways in and thus two ways out, resembles a labyrinth.  If you didn’t know the neighborhood there was a very good chance you’d get lost and have to ask for directions in order to get out.

My first memory of the neighborhood was the sign that greeted us to our future neighborhood, it was dark wood with yellow lettering that simply said ‘Golfview Woods.’  We then visited the model house at 3962 Cypress Creek in 1986.  We were greeted by a middle aged guy with brown hair and mustache who wore a brown suit and a big smile.  I remember the smell of that house, it was that of new carpet and fresh paint.  There were other families there walking through the rooms, getting excited about possibly building a new house, in a new neighborhood!  Golfview Woods was only half developed at that time and our house would be in the middle of the neighborhood at Bigby Hollow Ct.  I remember seeing so many houses being built, the smell of wood and mud, and scrap piles in front of each new house from which we would later pilfer to make skateboard and bike ramps.

My parents decided to buy and I remember being so excited to visit our house when it was under construction.  It was ok to walk in when it when only the framing, floors and roof had been built.  I walked up to my room and looking in the bathroom found a female construction worker sitting in the empty bathtub eating her lunch.  I thought that was very odd.

Moving day was a momentous occasion.  We were leaving the only home I had ever known for not only a new house, but a new life!  Golfview Woods was a neighborhood where many of my classmates already lived and I was equally as excited to get out and go play with them as I was to have a new room.  I honestly don’t remember much about moving day, but I do remember setting out to try to find my friends.  My sister and I got on our bikes and set out into the absolute maze of streets.  The first person I tried to find was Jason C and by some great stroke of luck we ended up very near his house when I asked directions of a kid just a few years younger.

“Do you know Jason C?”
“Yes” he replied.
“Do you know where his house is?”
“Yes, just turn left there and it is the one with the big rock out front.”

I couldn’t believe that in a neighborhood as big as this I actually ended up finding where my friends house was.  Unfortunately I do not remember going up to his door or what happened later on that day.

It was great living in a neighborhood with many classmates.  Back in Grandview there weren’t many kids to play with that lived within walking distance.  Grandview was also your old style neighborhood situated on a grid with businesses close by or even next to housing.  It wasn’t exactly dangerous, but not exactly safe either for young kids to walk around by themselves.  Golfview Woods however, was an isolated neighborhood with only housing and the traffic was of people going to and returning from their homes.  It was middle class but a middle class comprised of people that could afford newer, if not completely new homes so crime that is usually associated with poverty was nonexistent.

Therefore, I was allowed to hop on my bike and just take off pretty much whenever I wanted.  There was a lot to explore and one of the most fascinating places was dirt biking trails that lay just beyond the undeveloped plots, over a creek, through the woods and next to train tracks.  It took a lot of courage to go there for a kid of ten because there was an element of danger.  It was secluded and the only adults that ventured back there were transients -bums as we called them – who walked the train tracks.  There was a story of a kidnapping spread by some of my friends which got its facts entirely from their imaginations but I thought was real.  There was the supposed finger that lay cut off from a hand which one could see in the creek near the train tunnel.

My classmates Jason C and Tony C introduced me to those biking trails.  They had the coolest bikes which were black and white with white rim covers while mine was an ordinary Huffy.  The bike trails had enormous jumps and even a curved path on the side of the hill which it seemed you’d almost have to be parallel to the ground at one point to successfully navigate.  I remember I did it but had built up so much speed that when I tried to turn and go up the hill I fell off my bike, into the bushes and into a groundhog hole, then my bike fell on me and the handlebar hit me in the head. There I was, in a bush, in a hole, with a bike on top of me.

I don’t remember being scared of the jumps as much as I was running into an adult.  Seeing an adult back there made your heart stop because we were sure they were going to kidnap us.  I’ve never peddled so fast in my life as I did escaping from a bum who got too close.

Returning to that severed finger in the creek, I only remember hearing of it and trying to see it but when I peered into the creek saw nothing that resembled a finger.  Supposedly it was cut off from a sleeping bum by a passing train who carelessly had one finger over the tracks during a very deep sleep.  That sounds improbable to me now that I’m an adult to be honest.  I did send a friend – Michael M – back to take a look while I waited on my bike.  The next thing I knew he was running back with an absolutely terrified look on his face.  He told me he had seen a naked bum bathing in the creek.  Knowing that bums were known kidnappers and the construction workers all around us were also sketchy we high tailed it back to the developed part of the neighborhood.

Once fear of kidnappers had subsided it was a lot of fun to venture back into the lower, undeveloped part of Golfview Woods and go into the houses that were still under construction.  We weren’t supposed to go into those places and so again, there was an element of danger, but the lure of exploring and the thrill of walking through an incomplete house were too much to resist.  Sometimes the house would be almost complete and the door would be unlocked.  We never damaged anything and were usually too scared to linger for long but we wanted to see what it looked like and compare it with our own homes.

waterfalls-12

The furthest we ever explored would be beyond the undeveloped area, past the train tracks, next to a farm, past another set of train tracks and then finally our destination which was a waterfall.  The creek emptied into a rock quarry and so it most likely wasn’t a natural waterfall but was exciting just the same.  We even went swimming once or twice in the pool it created and before it was polluted.  We did have to keep a watch out for “the truck” which was a quarry worker who would try to catch us.  We would have a lookout and if we saw the truck then we would scramble back up the hill, into the woods and keep running until we were sure we were safe.  Therefore, swimming was rather dangerous because we wouldn’t have much time to put our clothes back on if the truck started to come our way.  Just like the imaginary kid kidnapped from the biking trails, if the guy in the truck caught you, you’d most likely never be heard from again.

That wasn’t the only danger however because there were actual leaches in the creek and you sure didn’t want to have one of those attach to you.  Furthermore, you had to be sure not to cut through the farm because the farmer actually shot his shotgun at one of my friends and it came so close it felled a nearby tree branch.  That’s how my friend told the story anyway and I believed it.  And as usual you had to watch out for the kidnapper bums, we saw one once or twice and I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared or tired while running away, especially after one of my friends yelled “RUN!”  When they said that you ran as fast as you could and didn’t look back.  We were, in our childhood minds, running for our very lives because who knows what would happen if one of these transients caught us.

Another place were the adjacent Raymond Memorial and Wilson Road Golf Courses that are adjacent to Golfview Woods and next to each other.  We would sneak out there in broad daylight with the destination being a small woods right in the middle of the course.  We’d have to cut through somebody’s yard, and walk on the boundary of the neighborhood and course until we had a short, direct shot to the woods of about 150 yards.  This time the danger was the ranger who would chase you in his golf cart.  We also had to watch out for flying golf balls because you surely do not want to get hit with one of those.

If you made it to the small woods then there was absolute treasure everywhere in the form of golf balls.  I had not yet learned to golf but these were absolute treasures just the same.  I remember a successful trip to that woods with Brendan B, Jason C and Tony C. where you’d have to call out the golf ball as soon as you saw it in order to rightfully claim it.  A day filled with such adventure, treasure and friends sure was fun.  As an adult I’ve traveled in many foreign countries and also had adventures but I don’t think they will ever compare to adventures had as a young kid, on a summer day with friends in Golfview Woods.

Another memory I have of the neighborhood being developed is when Bigby Hollow Street and Cypress Creek had not yet been connected.  At what would later be the juncture, there was a large sized depression that had filled with rain water and a large pile of stones in front of it.  We would climb up those rocks and throw small pebbles into the water.  One day a girl a year or two younger than I came up and told us not to throw any more rocks into the water because it was going to become a pond for the kids.  I didn’t believe her, kept throwing the stones and it made her mad.  As it turns out I was right, they never made a pond for the kids.

I find it funny nowadays when parents get frustrated with kids staring at screens and want them to just “go play outside.”  I was once a kid myself and I know full well that if adults knew half of the things kids do when told to “go play outside” they wouldn’t want them playing outside half as much!  And back in those days our activities were relatively, mostly, harmless.

Moving to a new neighborhood means I had to be bussed to school when I could easily walk when we lived in Grandview.  As our part of the neighborhood wasn’t fully developed yet the school bus stop was a two minute drive to the middle part of the neighborhood or a five minute walk, and we had to walk most days.  We would go out the door and then walk through our and neighbors backyards.  In the morning the grass was always wet with dew and you had to be careful not to drag your feet or your feet could get a little moist.

1986_world_series

If I remember correctly the stop was on Quail Hollow right about where Meadow Hills Court is.  It was right in front of the Harvey’s house.  Now I remember little to nothing about the Harvey family but I do remember betting the son Paul, who was a few years older than me, $5 that my team the New York Mets would beat his team the Red Sox in the World Series.  I won but Paul never paid and I’ve never forgotten. Using the inflation calculator Paul now owes me $10.98 and one day I will find him and collect.

It was a strange experience taking the bus to school for those first few weeks especially since our old house on Meadow Road was just a few blocks from the school.  Instead of just walking home you’d have to get on a big yellow bus for a forty minute drive back to the new house and new life.  I missed my old house and it felt odd to think that it wasn’t ours anymore and we could never set foot back inside of it.  That feeling still resides with me, buried deep in my subconscious that on arises on rare occasions in dreams.  In the dream the house is ours again but it is dark and nobody has gone inside for a very long time.  I’m glad it is our house but it is lonely inside and I feel as though it belongs to another time and I really shouldn’t be there.

In the early years around 1990 or so I got my first job delivering papers to a certain part of the neighborhood.  It wasn’t a big job like delivering the morning Dispatch, Suburban News Publications was delivered only on Wednesdays during the day.  I’d return home from school to see a huge stack of papers on the driveway which I’d have to bag and stick into a wagon.  There was no way I could actually carry all of those papers to be delivered over a few miles a few blocks away.  So I put them in my wagon, put on my headphones and was on my way.  I really didn’t like that job at all but I had to have a job and that was it.  The worst was when it rained, but luckily my Mom would sometimes offer to drive me.

One of the worst days of my childhood also involved these papers.  It was a dark, gloomy, rainy day and my mom picked me up from school.  She had the papers in the back of the station wagon and I was to bag them while we drove to the orthodontist.  I had my braces tightened there and then had to go deliver papers in the rain.

In the beginning the papers were free but later on the management decided they wanted us to go ‘collect.”  It cost $1 but the difficult part was that people didn’t have to pay if they didn’t want to.  That is a difficult thing to explain for a kid of twelve to about 300 houses.

“Hello Sir, you owe me a dollar for a paper you may or may not want but appears anyway on your driveway every Wednesday.  However, you do not have to pay the dollar and the paper will still appear on schedule, every Wednesday.”

I hated collecting but the only thing I really remember about it was how hard it was for some people to scrounge up a dollar.  One guy took about fifteen minutes as he went through his house looking for loose change.  I felt bad for the guy and wanted to let him know that he really wasn’t obligated to pay but I didn’t have the courage to interrupt as he had already spent more than a few minutes on trying to find a dollar for SNP publications.

Part II

Time moved on and I began to miss the old house less and less to the point where I never really thought about anymore.  I liked Golfview Woods better than Grandview because so many of my classmates lived there and it was very easy to just walk, bike or skate over to their house within the safety of a confined neighborhood.  The center of activity was Tall Timbers court because no fewer than seven or eight families that all attended my elementary school lived on that court.

Some of my best memories are on a warm summer night hanging right in the middle of it, playing basketball, skateboarding or just talking.  Some of the older kids in the neighborhood had built a skateboard ‘launch’ ramp that we stored in Tony’s garage.  That was my favorite activity and we must have gone off that thing hundreds of times trying to land our skateboards and stay on.  I remember the very first time I did land and it was due to the advice of Tony’s neighbor Mr. Hanley.  He told me that I just had to stay on it and not get nervous and abort.  So I followed his advice and couldn’t believe it when I landed it and stayed on for the first time.

When it got dark everyone would slowly drift back into their homes and I too had to return before it got too late.  The fastest way to return would be to cut through the yards, then skate down Quail Hollow and then Silverado.  The first yard or two belonged to people I knew on Tall Timbers but I still had to cross one or two more and ran the risk of getting yelled at so I had to hurry.  I’d make it to the street of Quail Hollow, get on my board and it was pretty much straight downhill the rest of the way.  There are very rare moments in life when an ordinary activity suddenly becomes magical and the joy of being alive wells up inside creating a memory that becomes an absolute jewel.  For me, one of these memories is skateboarding back home on a warm summer night when it is dark after playing most of the afternoon and evening in Tall Timbers Court.  There were no other sounds but the rumble of my wheels against the asphalt, everyone had gone indoors and so there was a sense of solitude and peace as the warm breeze blew across my face.

Summer nights as a young kid are a time I think that most adults would like to experience again.  It is a time when one can truly be carefree and for me at least the calendar was wide open.  Our babysitters were Gail, Terra and Jeanna who all attended the same school but in the higher grades.  Some would play with us more than others and some would prefer to talk with their boyfriends on the phone or watch MTV.  I remember eavesdropping on one of Gail’s telephone conversations.  She was sitting in my Dad’s office and saw a picture of what appeared to be him with his arm on the shoulders of Ronald Raegan and a beer in the other hand.  Gail couldn’t believe what she was seeing and explained the picture to her boyfriend.  I thought this was hilarious because I knew full well that was just a life-sized cardboard cutout of the President.  I remember Gail making us macaroni and cheese and being impressed that someone other than a fully grown adult could cook.

Jeanna liked watching MTV, especially the Def Leopard video Pour Some Sugar On Me.  She would get extremely mad if I turned the volume down or the TV completely off during the song and she would chase me to grab the remote while I laughed.  She didn’t think it was very funny.

In the summer one of the main activities was playing basketball until it got dark.  I was lucky enough to have a basketball court in the back yard where I’d spend hours trying to be like Mike.  I also had some friends that went to Hillard and I’d meet up with them to play sometimes.  J.R. actually played on the Hillard basketball team which was a division one school and so he was really good.  Then there was *forgot name* who was a big bully.  He just pushed his way around the basketball court and often yelled at people.  He ended up going into the army.  Scott also had a basketball hoop and he lived just down the street from me.  In addition to basketball we’d also play football on his side lawn or poker games with this Dad.  I no longer know how to play poker but during one summer in the late ’80s I was a master at many poker games, all of which I’ve long forgotten.

Part III – Pranksters

It wasn’t only during the day that we had our fun.  In the summer many of us were allowed to stay out late, or even later if you spent the night at a friends house who had more lenient parents.  It was at night that we did get up to many shenanigans that were full of fun, excitement, fear and a certain energy only felt on warm summer nights when you’re a kid.

I mentioned the golf course and we would sometimes go out there.  You had to be careful because there was a night waterman who drove around on an electric golf cart that was absolutely silent.  You really didn’t want to get caught by him.  I personally was always very nervous to go out there at night and was merely an observer to what they were doing.  When you’re a kid, sometimes you have no choice but to follow the group or you could suddenly find yourself without any friends. They never vandalized but one did poop in the hole once which I’m sure gave morning golfers quite a surprise.  Another, less terrible activity was trying to catch frogs with a net in one of the two ponds by shining a flashlight in their eyes which stunned them.

Sometimes a few guys had firecrackers, usually black cats or sometimes even M80s.  They set those suckers off and it wasn’t long before a police helicopter would come and shine his light down on us.  When we saw that helicopter approach we would high tail it back into the neighborhood and watch from a friends porch as the spot light scoured the golf course.  My friends Mom knew it was there for us but she was a “cool” Mom, never ratted us out and knew that we hadn’t done anything terrible.  Running through a golf course at night from a police helicopter is a pretty intense feeling.  Now you know why I was pretty nervous when the other guys wanted to go out onto the golf course at night!

I’d say the worst nighttime activity that was ever done was something called ‘Golfview Golfing.’  This was something I really didn’t participate in because it could cause damage and you could get in huge trouble.  Golfview Golfing was teeing off right there in the neighborhood in the middle of the night.  Someone would hit the ball right off of someone’s lawn then you’d listen for the sound which could be the ball simply hitting the street or making a loud ‘bang’ as it hit a house.  If it hit a house everyone would quickly run back to the designated meeting point – again someone’s house on Tall Timbers Court.  What a shock that would have caused the inhabitants of the house to hear a loud bang in the middle of the night caused by a golf ball hitting your house.  I never participated in Golfview Golfing.

In regards to unsuspecting participant shenanigans, there were a few.  One was to take a universal remote – they had just been invented – sneak up to a neighbors window and start changing the channels as they watched TV in the living room.  There are only a few variations in the type of houses one could buy in Golfview Woods so we knew the layout of all of them.  This means we knew were the living rooms were and most people watched TV in the late evening.  It would be so hard to contain the laughter at seeing an unsuspecting neighbor become very frustrated when he couldn’t figure out why it TV channel kept suddenly changing.

Another, and one that is a staple of childhood is hitting cars with snowballs.  We knew the neighborhood so well that it was almost impossible to catch us as we’d zig zag through the houses and through backyards.  There was however an occasion when one of us got caught.  We had hit a car belonging to someone we called “The Ghetto Boy,” who we believed must have been in the army as he was really muscular and looked quite mean.  We hit his car and then took off to another location to continue the fun.  Well, he drove around looking for us and we didn’t realize it was him again until we’d hit his car.  Well he got out of that car as fast as lightning and chased us.  Unfortunately Tony didn’t think to run until it was too late and The Ghetto Boy tackled him, put him in his car and drove to Tony’s house.  It was dark and Brendan and I were hiding under a pine tree.  Once we saw the car leave we rendezvoused at another ‘safe house,’ and gave Tony a call a few hours later.  He was in trouble.

popple

In the summer we also had another trick we played on unsuspecting motorists.  I’ve forgotten the name but I’ll write it once it comes to me.  The idea was to take fishing line and tie it to some stuffed animal like a bright orange Popple.  You’d then place it on the opposite side of the street and when a car came you’d slowly drag it across the street causing the car to stop as they thought some exotic animal must be crossing the road.  Only once or twice did a driver get out and examine the animal, most simply waited for it to pass.  If the driver got out and took our Popple, the bravest among us would go and ask the driver for it back.

One of the most daring pranks occurred senior year when we were staying out all night.  The next day was trash day so everyone had put their trashcans on the curb.  Well, we decided around 1:00 AM that it would be a great prank to go put those trash cans in the middle of the street.  This meant that the first person who got up in the morning to go to work would have to either move the cans or zig zag their way out of the neighborhood.  We got pretty far and did more than a couple of streets before becoming tired.

golfview-sign

Finally, there is the most famous and legendary prank that lives on in the memories of the longtime residents of Golfview Woods.  The Golfview Woods sign in the front of the neighborhood used to be a black silhouette of a golfer in his backswing.  Well, someone that isn’t me but who I knew very well, we’ll call him Michael, attached to this silhouette a very large boner which was quite obvious but fit in so well with the color scheme and design that there was only a 50-50 chance people passing by would see it.  The amazing thing is that it lasted for about a month before someone took it off.

The amazing thing about this prank is that thousands of cars would be coming and going on a weekly basis passing by this sign and it lasted for so long!  I cannot imagine how much laughter as well as revulsion that prank caused, yet nobody bothered to stop and take it off for a very long while.

When I was back this past year I went to take a picture of the sign as the neighborhood committee would soon be replacing it as it was very old and falling apart.  I actually met the owner of the very first house next to that sign and she remembers when the golfer had “three legs.”  She asked if I had done it and I answered truthfully that no, I hadn’t but I know who did.  I don’t know where Michael is these days, nor any of his siblings really.  His older brother was in my class and he’s completely off the grid, literally and internet-wise.

Part IV – Epilogue

As with all children and their childhoods, the days of roaming around the neighborhood came to an end when everyone started to get their driver’s licenses.  Suddenly we were no longer confined to the same familiar streets and had other, more exciting places to explore such as the dollar movies – Cinemark at Carriage Place up on Bethel Road.  Back in 1995 this used to be a hangout for young kids to cruise by, group up and just hang out.  There were strange, unfamiliar kids there from far away schools, lots of girls and sometimes even a few fights.  But the experience of the dollar movies is another post all together that I hope to write soon so will leave off here.

As soon as we had our driver’s licenses, the roaming around the neighborhood suddenly and abruptly ceased.

Now, twenty years later I like to pay a visit when I’m in Columbus, Ohio just to walk down its quaint streets and remember my childhood.  Long forgotten memories suddenly return and I feel as it is not only I who remembers the neighborhood but the neighborhood also remembers me.  I remember those warm summer nights out with friends and knowing there was no school the next day filled us all with absolute euphoria.  I remember being excited simply passing by some pretty girls house who I’d never have the courage to ask out.  Perhaps the most memories come flooding back at my most sacred place of all, Wilson Road Golf Course.  I’ll be the very first one on the course during a weekday, catch the sunrise and actually feel as though the past still exists, separated only by a very thin veil.

It is strange to think that the owners of of most of the houses in Golfview Woods are my age.  The owners I knew are now in their sixties and the majority have moved away.  Reading the neighborhood websites I also see that there are now more disturbing problems such as meth that has infested much of suburbia around the country and do to this there have been break ins.  Houses were never broken in to back in the 90s (there simply wasn’t a drug problem in Golfview) and I cannot recall seeing the police even once over ten years.  Now, I’ve seen a few bicycle patrols which seems very odd to me.  The neighborhood still looks and feels safe though.

Time marches on and Golfview Woods now has a new sign out front.  A new sign for a different neighborhood, with different owners creating new experiences.

Golfview Woods really was a great place to grow up.

 

 

Journal Entry – 10.19.2016

It is 5:14 AM.

This week I received a response to a message I sent many years ago to my very first internet friend.  Unlike most people I still have all my data from when I first started using computers back in 1992.  I also keep a treasure chest that I’ve had since I was a kid.

The treasure chest is just an old steam boat trunk whose origins or how it came to us, I have no idea.  One day it was there an my Mom said I could have it.  So I took it and inside placed all the important things I wanted to keep forever.  These items include:  my very first blanket, my favorite stuffed animal, first baseball glove, yearbooks, individual class pictures, fifth grade love letters, favorite GI Joe action figures, school newsletters, my kids club (TV) membership card and about 200 other treasures mostly from childhood, high school and college.

The fact that I’ve kept all of this stuff, both physical and all my data means I can easily look back into the past of my own life – this very blog is a prime example.  Being able to do so is absolutely priceless to me and I think I’m the only person I know who can do so.  I’ve found that my contemporaries have pretty much all forgotten the past: they’ve forgotten how they thought, how they felt and even the bonds of friendship they used to share with others.  They exist with nothing but faded, deteriorating memories of the past.  Many barely even live in the present, always occupying themselves with an endless amount of tasks, only thinking about tomorrow without fully existing today.

I do not forget the past.  It is as easy for me to tell you the name of the very first girl I had a crush on back in pre-school (Emily) as it is the name of someone I met yesterday.  At almost forty years old I’ve learned that this is quite unusual; so I’ve ceased to be disappointed when I reach out to someone I knew in the past and they do not respond.  At first I thought it might be that I thought much more of our friendship then they did which might be true in a few cases.  But more often than not I believe it is due to the fact adults forget.  They get busy (especially around this age) with children, with mid-life crises, advancing in careers and they get old and have faltering memories.

But this week I did receive a response to a message I had sent a few years ago to my very first internet friend.  I was looking through old photos, found hers and then saw she was on Facebook.  I shot her a note but since we weren’t connected I’m assuming it went to the “other” folder that nobody checks.  Just a few days ago she updated the messaging app and saw my message.

I tell you I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised! The only other person who could have surprised me more with a response is Mary.  Who is Mary you ask?  Mary is (was?) a friend of mine who I met in Vietnam.  I considered us very good friends but then I introduced her to one of my extremely handsome friends Ryan when he came to visit.  Well, sure enough they hit it off (with Ryan, no surprise there) and had a bit of a long distance relationship for a few years.  Well, unfortunately it didn’t work out as Ryan isn’t exactly Mr. Commitment.   And so now, Mary won’t respond to my e-mails.  So, life lesson:  do not introduce your friends that are girls to your handsome buddies because when it doesn’t work out you’ll lose the girl-friend.

Staying friends with girls as one gets older is tricky business anyway because adults get married and then any friendships with the opposite sex is looked upon with suspicion due to insecurity.  There is some good reason for this though as many adults are an absolute mess and should be kept separated and within strict boundaries.  However, if one’s spouse is secure then it isn’t much of an issue.  For me, I have many longtime friends that are girls and my wife has longtime friends that are guys.  Two of her guy friends have actually come to stay with us and we showed them around.  For me, this is the best relationship scenario – complete confidence and trust that it is not even an issue.  I’d say only 5% of couples my age have a relationship as solid as this.

Anyway, I’ve gone off on a tangent again.  My first internet buddy was Mai, but before she was Mai she was BCPommer and we met in an AOL chatroom.  My screen name was Europe007.

The experience of the AOL chatroom was absolutely exhilarating and something that the kids of today will never understand.  You could go into a chat room based on a variety of subjects and just start chatting with complete strangers!  This was the first time in history we could reach out and communicate with millions of others through a computer screen in the comfort of our own homes.

First, you had to sign on to AOL and to do so nobody could be using the telephone line.  If the phone was free you’d ‘dial-up’ and hear the most awful modem sounds while it connected.  Next was the famous “You’ve got mail,” which informed you if you had e-mail or not.  Back then getting e-mail was wonderful – my how things have changed.  After checking e-mail I’d usually go into a chat room and one day I met BCPommer.

In the chat rooms you had no idea who you were talking to, the actual conversation was all you had to go on.  Also unlike today these were strangers from all over the USA!  Now days we’ve walled ourselves in to only people we know in real life which is an absolute shame.  How limiting it is!  And there is no such thing as a chat room in Facebook.  You only have messenger and within messenger people these days only know how to have very brief, four or five line conversations!  The method of communicating these days is with pictures and one or two lines in a comment.  No more interesting discussions and a much weaker connection with people.  The level of interaction is severely degraded through this type of communication.

But with BCPommer (Mai) we had a lot to talk about and later on learned that we were also the same age.  After AOL (around 1999 or so) we did keep in touch with e-mails.  This is another form of communication that only survives at work and with spam.  I cannot tell you the last time I received a very long catch up e-mail from someone.  Without exaggerating it must be at least 10 years or so – roughly when MySpace, Facebook started to gain traction.

Mai and I kept in touch until 2004 – I can tell exactly because I keep all my data, even e-mails and here is the e-mail! 🙂  And now a brief message here in the year 2016.  My how quickly time goes.

However, it is highly unlikely there will be any other messages and this story will end.

Sometimes I wish I had a pen-pal but I think it isn’t something people do anymore.  I have a need to write and express but in this age of very short attention spans at all out ADD this blog is my only outlet.  Perhaps AI will one day step in for what used to be the rare, deep, human connection.

I’m reminded of conversations in high school, usually one on one when you could have a deep conversation with a friend.  So much was happening in life, the future so uncertain and it was good to just be able to talk about it all.  In high school the best discussions I had were with John Clifton over coffee at Stauf’s.

As adults however, you don’t get to have these discussions anymore unless perhaps after many beers or glasses of wine.  Adults hide their true thoughts and emotions, mostly out of fear and insecurity.  It is rare for adults to truly open up because being an adult means being strong, having it all together and never showing a weak side.

That is what is really great about having an anonymous pen-pal, you can really open up, uninhibited and have an actual response, interaction which is absolutely necessary for human beings and not be afraid of what others may think, say or how they will judge.  Our current social networks do not allow for this.  Thus my thought that perhaps in the near future AI will become our best friends, the only one that truly understands us on the deepest level.

Perhaps I just stumbled upon a new business opportunity?  Sort of a matchmaker network for anonymous pen-pals!  Or AI, not as your ‘assistant’ but best confidant!

Anyway, the household has woken up and so this post must come to an abrupt end.

 

Dream – Meadow Road

meadowrd

I have a reoccurring dream that comes once every year or so.  In the dream I return to my childhood home on Meadow Road.  It is a place I own and I have the keys in my pocket.  Going inside it is I know that nobody has been inside in a very long time.  In this shadowy dream world the house is dark and uninviting.  The dream tells me this is my second home which I rarely frequent and am the only one in my family who does.  I always end upstairs in my old bedroom which is also dark and it never occurs to me to turn on the lights.

I always thought this dream was strange and wondered why it occurred.  I stumbled upon its source while my Mom was in town and was asking her to confirm a few very old memories of when I was very young.

Through the conversation I stumbled upon the memory of my first few times taking the bus to school and how I felt.  Up until the fourth grade I had lived on Meadow Road and would walk to school.  Then we moved to Golfview Woods and I suddenly lived in the same neighborhood as a good portion of my classmates and had to take the bus.  I now remembered arriving at school and the strange conflicting emotions it brought.

One emotion was of newness and excitement.  The other and equally strong emotion was of deep sadness as I realized my old house, just a few blocks away was no longer mine and I could not return there.  After school ended I would not be walking home anymore and would have to return to this strange bus with it smells of faux leather, exhaust and young body odor.  It would take me forty minutes to arrive at our new house, a place that was very exciting but not yet a home.

We had abandoned our old house, left it in the cold.  It was the only home I had ever known and our betrayal never hit me harder as it did when I stepped off that bus in the chilly early morning of the fourth grade.  Did the house wait for us to return and grow sad when it remained empty day after day?  Did the memories within its walls, bright and cheerful and continually created, slowly turn a dull and sad color as an old photograph that sits and collects dust?

With the purchase of a new house my life had forked.  The new branch would grow with me creating experiences, making friends and living life in Golfview Woods; the branch of Meadow Road and Grandview now ended with further growth sprouting only in the realm of what could have been, alternate reality and dreams. Who would I be if there was no fork, there was no move and the branch grew in one straight line ?  My whole life experience would be vastly different!  The course of life is a quickly flowing river and we are subject to its currents, bends and directions.  We can paddle here or there when opportunities arise to modify our course but often the river itself changes and over this we have absolutely no control.

Th dream of me returning to Meadow road is a manifestation of my desire as a ten year old boy to return to that house, my home and realizing I cannot.  In the meditative state of deep sleep my mind tries anyway but finds only gray, flickering shadows through which it cannot penetrate to reach the beautiful, warm and inviting home of the past.

I sat there, in my fourth grade wooden desk with very heavy thoughts.  I missed my home, just a few blocks away and was very sad.  This dream is those thoughts and emotions which buried themselves so very deep in my subconscious, saying hello again.