June, 2021 | davidhardiman.com

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Matchbox City: A 7-Year Old’s Engineering Feat Featuring an Epic and Trashy Discovery

In these ingenuous little episodes of my early life I’ve mentioned frequently my close childhood friend Gary DeBaise. He appears so regularly and as such a perfect complement to my actions that one might suspect he is just a literary device or maybe even an imaginary friend. He is neither. But if I were to create an imaginary friend, I’d create him in Gary’s image. And I would never admit I had any imaginary friends because as I’ve often said (to myself only): Keep your friends close, and your imaginary friends closer.

If only we could make the real world like this idealized world. Well, we kids did in 1968.

No one wants to know about your imaginary friends. And thankfully I have none now that they’ve all grown up and moved away. But Gary remains a real lifelong friend; as real as the bracing deluge of an Ice Bucket Challenge. Gary grew up not 3 houses down from me. Well actually that’s not true. It wasn’t not 3 houses down. It was exactly 3 houses down. Oh how the truth will set you free. And now I feel free enough to share the spritely tale of a 7-year-old’s civil engineering project for the ages – ages 7-11. The US Army Corps of Engineers never executed a project so consummately.  

The kids on my block didn’t bother with playdates. We just played, on whatever date it was: whiffle ball, touch football, swamp fox, build and burn a model car. We also rode bikes with banana seats, caught grasshoppers in “The Lot” and habituated our neighborhood mom and pop store (Louise Bros.) for a nickel popsicle. Now at the risk of making this sound too mawkishly idyllic – like we walked out of a Norman Rockwell painting – I must interject, our block was no walk in the park (although there was a nearby park we could walk in). And not to put too gritty a point on it; our neighborhood was also rife with family upheaval, drug use and even suicide. But overall it was a dependable bastion of stay-at-home-moms (mine didn’t even drive till after the “divorce”), work-a-day fathers and healthy, juvenile tropisms. Simply put, we kids liked to do kids’ stuff.

The names of our “gang members” were straight out of an Andy Hardy movie. There was Ricky, Checker, Pat, Pat-Pat (so doubled to differentiate him from the older, more established Pat), and the aforementioned Gary. We were like dogs, padding about, waiting for the next great idea. One day, apropos of nothing, Pat-Pat announced: “Yesterday I drank everything through my toothbrush, just by dipping it in and then sucking out the fluid.” What these days would be met with a derisive smirk and a cold stare was then hailed as a breakthrough in sophisticated drink delivery systems. “Aw man,” Ricky declared, “I’m gonna do that all day tomorrow.”

Now when I say “gang members”, I refer to the motley collection of youthful personalities who banded together for constructive purposes (usually) and not a misguided and dangerous affiliation of urban warriors who think they have turf to protect – turf they don’t even own. I was the youngest member of the crew and as such I was always aspirational – wondering when I’d get to stay up and watch the late 10 o’clock shows like Mission Impossible or Star Trek; let alone some cool guy named Johnny Carson whose show was on at the ungodly hour of 11:30 PM. Years later I would actually penetrate this inky abyss and witness the Tonight Show not only on TV, but in person.

But clearly, in 1968 there were many bridges to cross and childhood metrics to cross off. And until the reality of my parents’ divorce, and it’s soul-killing angst intruded, I was on track to breeze through all of them. From the moment I first detected the incipient cracks in my parents’ marriage I was both uneasy in my predicament and yet supremely confident of my ability to navigate it. Ambivalence; it’s what’s for breakfast. Welcome to earth young David. Not that I was a deep-thinking 7-year-old, this was just the most sophisticated reasoning a 7-year-old could muster. And, truth be told, it’s not too far from the supposed higher reasoning this 60-year-old warhorse can muster either. In the interim there has been tremendous personal growth on my part. For example I’m much taller now than I was when I was seven, and I now drive a car instead of a banana-seat bicycle. Girls have evolved from an infernal nuisance to an eternal necessity. Read the rest of this entry »

Offered with the Utmost Levity and the Least Most Gravity

  1. What is Micronesia? Is that when you forget only a little bit. I can’t remember. It’s not the full-size “nesia”, it’s just a Micro-nesia.
  2. Sequel to The Day the Earth Stood Still. The even more miraculous The Day My 2-year-old Stood Still.
  3. “I like to order my fish with the head on so I know exactly what I’m getting.” “Yeah I do that too, but with veal.”
  4. Male realtors admit; there looking for a turnkey girlfriend who’s move-in ready. A real head turner, and maybe a key turner too.
  5. If a turkey is all ready to eat, does that make it a turnkey turkey?
  6. Aren’t we all just end users?
  7. I’m not growing old, I’m shrinking old
  8. A crime most foul (see how I didn’t say “fowl”). Killing 3 birds with one holiday.

    We love TurDucken (a chicken, stuffed into a duck inside a turkey), but we also want other types of 3-layered stuffed things:

    1. GiCamPo – That’s a polar bear stuffed into a camel inside a giraffe. Especially good for patients, who on the advice of their doctor, are on an all giraffe, camel and polar bear diet.
    2. A Black and White ZePandUnk – That’s a skunk stuffed into a panda inside a zebra. Comes in B&W.
    3. GriffBeaFife – That’s a Barney Fife stuffed into an Aunt Bea inside an Andy Griffith. “Mmmm Good Cracker.”
    4. PumpCoNimitz – That’s an aircraft carrier, stuffed into a coconut inside a pumpkin. They ate these on Gilligan’s Island. I think that’s how they survived in Micronesia, but I can’t quite remember.
  9. If stuffing a turkey with idiots is outlawed, only outlaw idiots will be stuffed into turkeys. Think about that before you gobble.
  10. I know.  I’m a little worried about all the turkey references too. I mean c’mon man, let it go.
  11. I don’t know about the new guy. I’ve had 3 conversations with him and in each one he’s managed to work in the word “colo-rectal” several times.
  12. Snap, Crackle and Pop get in over their heads down at the milk pond. It almost leads to the drowning of a very soggy Crackle.
  13. A coolly disarming thing to say to a room full of high-powered strangers, “I just came in to see how big everybody’s egos were, and to create some standing for myself. Mission accomplished? I thought so.”
  14. Aren’t we all just visitors?
  15. If you want to avoid food poisoning, only eat oysters in months that have x’s in them
  16. Most men are rescue boyfriends in need of a certified service girlfriend (warning: don’t pet them unless you get permission).
  17. In Ireland large Leprechauns are discriminated against. Instead of a pot of gold they get a pot of coal.
  18. He makes me nervous. Whenever we have a conversation he always refers to my “sit bones.”
  19. Metamorphic rock is a metaphor for four formations formerly forgotten. I know, forced it. Forgive me.

 

Did You Know?

  1. Remember when they were the supposed enemy?

    Communists suffer from Hammer & Sickle Cell Anemia

  2. Children are sick of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
  3. All lobsters are shellfish. When was the last time one lent you a helping claw?
  4. Empowered crabs say, “The world is our oyster.”
  5. Steroidal mussels suffer from ‘roid rage
  6. Stool pigeons told to clam up
  7. Dog traces picture of cat after watching alpha dog do the same. The pack is calling it a copycat mime
  8. The band “10 Years After” is getting back together and touring under the new name “50 Years Before”
  9. Beethoven had a Bee in his thoven.
  10. Midwives who live in halfway houses rarely go all the way

Train Travel: A Very Moving Experience

In America there is no Orient Express. I call it the Occidental Express. That’s Occidental, not Accidental – if you’re oriented properly.

Nowadays they just call me crazy to my face. And why? Maybe it’s because I enthusiastically purchased a $480 one-way AMTRAK ticket for me and my wife on a scheduled 26 hour 36 minute journey from Reno to Denver – a ticket that would cost half as much and take 24 fewer hours if we were to travel by air. You remember AMTRAK don’t you? They’re the ones that use those bright and shiny, parallel metal thingies we all drive over at railroad crossings. Oh, how quickly we forget. For 100 years these track-borne conveyances (often referred to as “trains” if I remember correctly) were this country’s life blood – connecting people and businesses in a generative web of travel and commerce. It was the original World Wide Web. The World Wide Web of wailwoading. Railroading’s antique charms beguile me. Though you may have relegated train travel to the dust bin of history, I have elevated train travel to the must spin of this-story.  

If life is about the journey, this is a journey I long to take. Think of it as the road less traveled. The rail road less traveled. As Robert Frost wrote with such evocative homespun eloquence in his poem The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

And I am eager to take that road less traveled – the railroad. Read the rest of this entry »