Dire, Dire Docks


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My generation is nostalgic.

Look around. Packaged memories are everywhere.

They sell us millennium falcons that open beers and t-shirts with our favorite cartoon characters. N64 video game soundtracks have over a million views on youtube. The most common comment is this simple lament: “getting old sucks.”

We’re not old, not yet, but we feel old.

We’ve lived a thousand lives.

I personally have saved a princess form a castle. I’ve battled across the beaches of Normandy and up into Hitler’s evil castle. I’ve even slain a mecha-hitler or two.

I’ve soared through pink and orange cloud kingdoms on the purple wings of a dragon. I’ve explored shipwrecks, swimming deep underwater to collect the blue coins that would recharge my air. I’ve raided temples. I’ve piloted mighty robots. I’ve soared off into the heavens, watched the Galactic Empire’s downfall, hopped from platform to platform on Venus and partied all night long with the kindly Ewoks.

I’ve seen and watched and played and read more than a medieval peasant could ever even dream about.

Such sights I’ve seen. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.

I’ve seen it all. We’ve seen it.

We’ve spent our lives living in worlds within worlds.

We grew up on the rug in front of the TV, shooting tortoise shells at cars. We watched John Goodman be an animated dinosaur in New York. We saw what happens when you cross the streams, or when let Ms. Frizzle drive you somewhere, or when you dance with the Goblin King.

More than anything, I think that’s what makes us Nostalgic.

We did so much without doing anything at all.

We got to be kids.

Just kids.

And as an adult, as I sit here at a cheap card table, my right molar hurting from a cavity, I look back on my life and I can see it.

You can see it too, if you just turn around.

There it is, stretching out behind you.

A path.

But it isn’t straight.

It isn’t linear like we thought it was going to be from all the books and movies and games. It’s a mess.

It weaves up and down, around boulders and over streams. There’s some heavy woods, some blinding deserts. Ice flows crack together as the frigid water sloshes across their frictionless surfaces, but the path persists.

It meanders, much like this post.

You track it right up to your feet.

You find yourself here, and now.

It’s night.

Is this it?

It could be.

What was it all for? All this wandering, all the mountains and streams and deserts and ice. What was it all for?

And you think back, back to those days at the dire, dire docks. Collecting coins and stars was your only motivation.

Shrouded in a blue glow, a warm blanket, your mouth agape. It’s not just wonder. It’s not your brain shutting off.

It’s getting lost in something else. It’s that brief moment where you forget that you’re you. You’re Mario the plumber exploring a magic castle. You’re a pokemon explorer snapping pictures of wild monsters. You’re James Bond, armed with his trust pp7 and a license to kill.

You’re a kid living in a land of pure imagination.

The games and movies didn’t matter. Not really

It could have been anything.

But they were our anything.

And so I’v sitting here at this cheap card table. I lean back in my even cheaper chair and I pour a glass of scotch and I think. I think about the old days. About collecting oranges from the trees at twilight. About making water balloons with sister. About sailing playmobile ships across our tiny pool.

There was always a storm. The plastic vessels were nigh unsinkable.

I think about those dire, dire docks, and I open youtube and I search “underwater song super mario 64” and I’m greeted by 154,000 friends who have all come to the same place.

They’re all here to remember.

To remember a time when life was about getting coins.

And swimming around pirate ships.

And for a little bit.

Just for a little bit.

We’re someone else.

All of us.

We’re nobody.

And we float in that blissful dream, carried down the currents to the dire, dire docks.

Children of Summer


rainy window.jpg

It’s rained a lot this year.

We’ve had a deluge of water plummet from the sky.

I’ve only lived here for two years but this much precipitation seems odd for Southern California.

We’re starting to find the cracks in our buildings. Things grow in the dark places under benches and rocks, in the nooks and crannies we didn’t even know our homes had until we detected a strange odor and opened a cabinet to find it full of green.

I had a teacher. Ms. Something-or-other. I remember she was a Ms. and not a Mrs. more than I remember her name because she rarely said her name but she told us all the time about her failed marriage.

We we’re in sixth grade. We just wanted to lay on the floor and watch the overhead fan spin. If you watched carefully you could trace the individual blades with your eyes and it would look sort of like it wasn’t moving at all.

Ms. Something-or-other told me that a lot was a bad word because it didn’t mean anything. I told her it did. She asked me what it meant. I just said more than some.

She didn’t like that.

Better, she opined, to use words like many or several. These words, she told us, had meaning. They had a more concrete value than the lackadaisical a lot.

We didn’t care, though. We just wanted to go catch coquina shells on the beach. They would all sink back under the watery sand when the tide went it. If pressed, I would say there were a lot of them.

Ms. Something-or-other probably wouldn’t have liked that.

But we were children of summer.

South West Florida didn’t have seasons back then. It probably still doesn’t. It has summers. There is, starting from the top of the year, the pollen summer, followed by the wet summer, followed by the hot summer, followed by the good summer, the greatest of them all, dry and temperate, sometimes even cold.

The good summer was nice even though all of the old people came down and clogged-up out roads. Sometimes they would drive the wrong direction on I-75. That wasn’t much fun.

We didn’t care, though. Instead we were in the mall, eating pretzels and chasing the girls around.

I had never understood summer or spring. In music class we would wear romantic orchestras blasting out lovely melodies in honor of the rosy spring and verdant summer, but none of us ever got it.

“Why do they like summer so much?” I would ask Joe Quinn.

“It’s just a bunch of rain,” he would say, her nervous eyes narrowed in skepticism as a flute tweeted and twilled like a bird.

“You can’t even go outside,” I added over the oboes.

Maybe that’s what they liked. Orchestras spent most of their time inside. All they needed was an excuse.

I went to college in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham is a place that has four season, but their all terrible except for fall. There is so much pollen in spring hat I could see it wafting across the quad in great yellow cloud, engulfing freshman fooling enough to try to enjoy the good weather. They would come out the other end on all fours, coughing and clawing at the ground, begging God to open up their air passages. Tears streaked their faces.

Summer had the heat of Los Angeles with the humidity of Florida and the bugs of the Amazon basin. You could only go out at night, and my, those nights were magical. We would prowl around the quad, smoking cigarillos and laughing off the buzz we picked up at the J Clyde.

Sometimes we wold kick things, things like lamp posts or tree trunks, not out of malice, but simple to test if they were really there and this all was’t part of a dream or movie.

Fall was the only tolerable time of year, but it lasted for about two weeks in mid-November.

Winter was cold enough to bite but warm enough to rain. It would be wet and 43. It felt like the heat-death of the universe.

I moved to Los Angeles and expected eternal summer. What I got was perpetual drought. Sometimes it was a cold drought. Sometimes it was a hot one. Most of the time it was a pleasant drought, like the countryside had gotten into a classy hospice.

But this year it rained.

If pressed, I would have to say a lot.

People don’t talk about the drought anymore.

They talk about the unrelenting rain and the perpetual cold. They talk about the holes in the roofs and the green in their cabinets and the brown water-stains on their ceilings and their wet bike seats and how there’s no reason to go outside if you’re going to get wet.

They talk about dreams of summer.

I do too.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to spring and summer.

For the first time in my life, I get why the musicians played.

Because I’m a child of summer, a boy from a land of heat and water, a creature of the everglades and the beach and the sand and the golf courses and the estuaries and the boats and the water skies and the tubes and the wave riders and the pools and the slides and the sprinklers that fired off droplets that would catch the late afternoon light and explode into sprinkles of magic golds that would tumble into the grass that was quickly turning into mud but you didn’t care so you kept jumping and jumping and someone would come out with the water balloons and the kids would screech and for a moment, just for a moment

time stopped.

It froze.

And you wanted to kick something.

Not out of malice,

no, not that,

but just to make sure

that this

was real,

and not a dream

or  just

a part

of some movie.

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