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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The one where camp ends


from https://i1.wp.com/www.murphsplace.com/gladiator/images/Police_Verso.jpg

“Do you think it’ll be normal this time?” Mac asked me.  I grunted and turned my gaze down the short hallway, upon the arena floor.  My eyes were momentarily blinded from overhead light’s sheen on the plastic floor below.

“Nope.” I growled, squinting.  I had forgotten my lucky running shorts.  Damn.  “Never normal.”  Mac only nodded and followed my gaze.

“You do realize I’m going to win, don’t you?” He asked.

“Maybe.”  I admitted.  “There’s been others that have said that, and looked what happened to them.”

“Dead?”

“No.  But they wish they were.”

“It’s true,” said Mac.  “If I was missin’ out on this chance to win $75, I’d fucking kill myself.”  He turned to the left and spat, and then continued staring.  We could hear a dull roar from the crowd, like the sounds of surf crashing on a beach, heard distantly through a window, or perhaps an open door.  It was intoxicating.

It was hard to believe that we had been through eight weeks of hell to get here.  Eight weeks of screaming children, insect bites, sun burns, nauseating adolescents and bizzare, sometimes idiotic challenges.  Eight weeks of forgotten lunches and visits to the nurse for scraped knees, or bruised arms, or more insubstantial injuries, whose only remedy was an ice pack and attention.  Eight weeks of bus rides.  Eight weeks of clubs.  Eight weeks of summer camp.

“You remember that one time when timmy beat everyone at gaga, like he was King Leonidas or something?”  I asked, a faint smile playing across my face.

“Yeah,” Mac chuckled, “You remember when my team beat your team at lacrosse-volley-basketball?”  My hands involuntarily tightened on the shafts of the two lacrosse sticks I was holding, whitening my knuckles as I frowned

“Yeah.”  I growled, “We better not play that stupid fucking game again, or I’m liable to spear Ray Jay with these lacrosse sticks.  Then I’ll just take the money.”

“Yeah, but you’ll be a wanted killer.”

“Not in Tijuana mate.  You know how many lacrosse sticks $75 can get you down there?”

“No.”

“A.  Fucking.  lot, mate.”  We stood in silence for a while, each thinking about the riches we would be able to afford with $75, especially in Tijuana.  I decided that if I did indeed lose, I probably wouldn’t spear Ray Jay with his own lacrosse sticks.  It would cause too much of a scene, though I’m sure it would help sate the beserker’s bloodlust that most of the campers have during these exhibitions.

“BLOOD!” Little Timmy the camper screamed, leaning over the railing, frothing at the mouth and dribbling pop tart crumbs across the gym floor.  His eyes flashed feral, like a wolf sensing its prey is near, and he beat his fist against his chest.  His cry riled up the campers behind him, who began to roar like little lions.  “BLOOD AND DEATH!” He roared, turning towards them slowly, arms upraised.  The crowd repeated his macabre cheer.  I remember them being disappointed that day.  There was no blood, only bitter defeat for my partner Amy and me.

This day was no different.  I could hear distant chants of “kill!”  and “maim!” coming from the second grade boy’s section of the lunch area.  I was becoming worried.  What if they didn’t see any blood?  It was the last day of counselor survivor, and the last day of camp to boot.  Would they riot, like angry, english soccer fans?  One would think the concept of 2nd grade boys rioting would be humorous, but I can tell you it is anything but.  They have incredibly bony knees and elbows, and teeth as sharp as knives.

“Where are the girls?” Mac asked, referring to Amy and Pristine.  I shrugged.

“They went into the gym locker to get something for the final challenge.” I muttered, wondering what in god’s name they could be getting.  The lacrosse sticks had not reassured me.

“Maybe we’re just playing lacrosse.”  Mac offered.  I shook my head.

“That’s normal.  Lacrosse is normal.  It’ll be something harder.  Something weird.”  We fell silent, and waited.  I amused myself by playing with the rubber tread that was peeling off the bottom of my ratty old sneakers, while Mac picked at the plastic trim on the wall.  Finally, I saw two figures approaching us through the glare.  I nudged Mac in the ribs, and we both stood up.

“Well,” he asked “what is it?”

“We don’t know.” Amy responded.  “He wouldn’t say, but he had us get two scooters and 6 volleyballs out of the supply closet.”

“Bloody hell,” I breathed, anxiously brushing back my hair, “what’s he up to now?”

Ray Jay suddenly appeared before us, materializing out of the glare like some sort of djinn.

“You ready?” He asked us, holding his hands on either side of him in a welcoming gesture.

“Yeah sure,” I growled, “But what are we doing?”

“Does it matter?”

I stood silent and thought for a long time.  The roar of the crowd washed over us, growing in volume and viciousness with every swelling cheer.  “No.”  I finally answered, hefting my lacrosse sticks on to my shoulders.  I glanced at Amy, who nodded slightly.  “Not one bit.”

“Good.”  Ray Jay said, clasping his hands together.  He moved to the side of the passage and bowed low.  “After you.”  I gave Mac a look, and he just nodded, and so the 5 us went, into the brilliant light of the arena floor.

100 Years of Solitude


The beginnings of Lego City are as mysterious as they are trivial, and as mythical as they are stupid.  I was there, at the beginning of things, and I am quite certain I shall be there at the end, quite certain indeed, but despite concentrating all of my mental faculties and straining them to the breaking point, I cannot recall it’s founder, nor even when it’s first brick was laid.

Some say the great builder Osferth the Selfish built the first structure, a low ceilinged bunker, resplendent in its multicolored bricks of glimmering plastic, and that it was he who first discovered the mysterious orbs that the settlers later used as a currency.  I tend to agree with this opinion.  Osferth’s mother works as a secretary at the school where we have camp, and he was always in the room early.  He would have had ample opportunity to begin the initial construction, an the drive and willpower to do it.

Others say that Martin the cruel, upon discovering the mysterious orbs, was the creator, and that he used a vast slave army to build the metropolis that he later ruled with an iron first.  It is true, I admit, that Martin was and is Lego City’s chief supporter, and that he was among its first citizens, but Martin lacks the creativity and intelligence to begin such a great project, though he does posses the tyrannical disposition to see it through to the bitter end, regardless of the cost.  It is therefore unlikely that he started lego city, but he did end up ruling it as Lego Cities Dictator and Grand Generalissimo.

Pictured: Martin in the future

Perhaps it was his south American heritage that gave him the propensity toward totalitarian rule,or perhaps he was simply dropped as a baby. Perhaps he regretted his decisions when the bombs began to fall, and the once gleaming towers of the business district were reduced to so many brightly colored bricks, and his empire crumbled around him, but I doubt it.  Repentance is a mysterious, unknown concept to Martin, one which he treats with a sort of bemused curiosity, like one would a dancing squirrel.

Still others believe that the city was constructed by the old ones, in the ancient times before camp had begun, and that all of the lego leaders of the modern era “were merely pretenders, desperately clinging to the past and monolithic structures they could not understand.  I do not give much credit to this theory, either.  I was there at the beginning of camp.  It was Schultz and I who cleaned the room, and put up the decorations, and I do not remember anything being on the fabled Lego table, other than barely perceptible memories of Lego Cities past, like faded ruts in an old dirt rode.

lego futurama

I’m so happy Futurama is back on TV.

Regardless of its creator, Lego City quickly took the group of second grade boys into it’s room temperature, polymer embrace.  Houses, offices and stores began popping up at an alarming rate, like weeds in a neglected garden, or perhaps like overused memes on Facebook.

http://twistedsifter.com/2012/02/top-10-what-my-friends-think-i-do-vs-what-i-actually-do-posters/

CURSE YOU ZUCKERBERG! AND 9GAG, TOO!

But things were growing too quickly.  Far too quickly.  Being second graders, the boys had no concept of economics or conservation, and were unaware that the capitalist society they were nourishing into adulthood required a constant influx of new materials to survive.  Growth, it is said, was it’s beating heart, and growth, it is said, would be its doom, but for now, the boys merely built, blissfully unaware of the deadly quagmire into which they walked.

“This will last forever!” Martin cheerfully told Timmy as he added yet another brick to his mansion.

“Yeah!” Timmy slobbered, “We’ll never stop!”

Interestingly, the economy and culture of lego city evolved at an accelerated rate than regular societies.  In the early days, Lego city was a lawless frontier, where a ship got you a job, and a gun helped you keep it.

Ahem…

Bank robbing was the citizens main source of income, but there was a sharp falloff in profit when everyone realized that A: Banks weren’t a safe place to keep their mystical orb money anymore and B: they were doing nothing but stealing their own money.  Everyone began to build lego safe rooms in their lego houses that had lego drawers that were perfect for holding their lego money.  The lego economy then evolved to simply hoarding as much money as possible and not letting anyone else take it.

Things were coming to a head, and it was around this time that the first lego governments began to form.  Martin was unanimously elected by himself to be lego president and mayor of Lego City, due to his being the only surviving “founder” of lego city since Osferth left camp for a family vacation, and his constant and unstoppable bullying.

With Martin’s ascendancy to the presidency of Lego City, things took a turn for the worst.  His first act was to take most of everyone’s money, which angered all of the other campers.  I never found out what his reasons for stealing the orbs were, but I can only assume it went to feed a bloated lego military budget and lego social programs, which he plundered at whim.  This happened during the second week of camp, and schultz and I had noticed a subtle shift in the group dynamics.   Kids seemed angrier than normal, as if some unseen force was slowly draining all their happiness.  By the end of the week, kids were fighting all of the time, arguing with one another and even punching and kicking occasionally.

“Charles!”  Timmy complained, running up to me and tugging on my athletic shorts, nearly pulling them off.  “Martin’s stealing all of our money!”

“It’s not money!  And Stop pulling!” I growled, slapping his hand away.  “It’s just little plastic orbs.  They aren’t worth anything.”

“They are too!”

“How?”

“Because we said they are!”

“Do you even buy anything with them?”

“Um… no?”

“So why does it matter?”  Timmy paused, staring up into the ceiling, lost in thought.  I can only assume that he was formulating various arguments.  He finally decided, after around 4 minutes, in which I just stood there, glaring at him, to go with

“But Martin stole my…”

“It’s not real!  None of it is!  These orbs are worthless!  You here me?  They have no intrinsic value!  Your getting upset over nothing!”  Timmy stared at me again, slowly cocking his head to the right, looking at me as if I were some sort of madman.  He took a few hesitant steps backwards, not looking away, and then ran back to the group.  I’m not sure if anything was ever reconciled with Martin,  but I had a good shout at Martin to share and be nice, and the mere illusion of punishment might have been enough to calm the kids down.

It was at the beginning of week three that the true disaster struck.  The Lego mine beneath the table ran dry, and the growth came to a screeching halt.  Their lego economy had been built assuming that there would always be an unending stream of legos, and worse still, that they would never have to recycle any from the already built buildings, despite the fact that many of them were not being used.  The citizens turned to Martin to lead them through this crisis, and he initially sought help from a higher power, me.

“Um, Charles,” he said in his latin accent, “we’re out of legos.”

“Too bad.” I said.  Legos were none of my concern.  Trust me, I checked my contract.

Martin then decided to try and redistribute the legos, but it was too late.  The other citizens had been displeased with him since his ascendency, and that displeasure turned to dislike when he stole from them, and that dislike turned to outright hatred when he failed to solve the lego crisis and tried to steal even more of their legos.  Things were looking very bleak for Martin, very bleak indeed, and so he did what all desperate leaders do when there is no clear solution.  He declared war.  On Lego China.

It probably looks something like this

Now, let me make it clear that there is no Lego China.  Well, at least not in our club house.  I assume that Lego has a Chinese branch, and I’m sure there is a Chinese themed set of legos, but as far as Lego City was concerned, they were at war with, well, nothing.

I’m not sure what Martin hoped to accomplish.  I suppose he was hoping that he could distract the other campers from the present economic crisis by giving them a “real” enemy to fight.  He immediately set in motion a draft of all of the legos campers had at home, in order to build warships, x-wings and light sabers, the staple of any modern army.  Supplies, however, were few and far between, thanks largely to the campers’ parents’ blockade of all lego goods leaving their houses.  Tempers began to rise, and Martin was once again in need of some outside help.  Fortunately for him, Schultz, my co-counselor, had a hatred for Lego City as irrational as it was voluminous.

He had been secretly stealing legos from the campers for days, and had thrown his lot in with the fictitious Lego Chinese and constructed a gargantuan nuclear lego bomb.  Schultz warned the campers that the Lego Chinese were none to pleased that the citizens of Lego City had declared war on them, and had prepared a preemptive and unstoppable nuclear attack.  He warned that they had one day to evacuate Lego City, before it was burned to the ground.

The reactions were mixed.  Some prudent campers, like Chris, Martins cousin and second in command, built lego caravans to carry their vast lego goods out of town.  Others were more doubtful that any attack would be forthcoming.

Flee! Flee!

“He can’t blow up our city.”  Timmy slurred to Roger, another evacuating camper.  “He just can’t!  Counselors can’t drop nuclear bombs, right?”  Roger shrugged, and strapped another lego bundle to the roof of his lego car.

“Of course not!” Said Martin, standing tall in front of their magnificent city.  “I urge all of my Lego Brothers to stay.  We are a safe, thriving community!  The idea that some “lego Chinese lego nuclear lego bomb” can destroy our mighty lego city is simply preposterous.”

Only about a quarter of the campers evacuated that day.  They were they lucky ones.  Around 9:07 A.M the following morning, an unusual object was reported to be flying at an alarming rate towards Lego City.  The authorities attempted to explain it away by claiming it was nothing but a rogue lego weather balloon, but as the object grew neared, it became clear to all watching that it was not balloon shaped at all but was, in fact, a gigantic cube.

Ahem…

The cube came into a holding pattern over lego city at 9:08.  Martin assured everyone that it was nothing to be afraid of, but then the bay doors opened, and Schultz’s cube began to rain unholy lego nuclear fire down upon the decrepit Lego City.

It was a massacre.  The populous had been taken completely unaware, and were therefore unable to defend themselves from the lego onslaught.  Whole skyscrapers were smashed to their foundations with but one mighty swoop of Schultz’s right hand, while the left smashed houses to bits in seconds.  A mere minute later, Lego city was completely gone, wiped off the face of the lego table, and all the blocks had been relocated to the cavernous drawer beneath.

The first democratic and fair lego elections were held soon thereafter, and George, the nicest and most level headed of all the campers, was elected to be the new president.  The office of mayor was done away with, and George’s first act in office was try Martin for treason and criminal negligence.  He lost, and it was decided that he should face the wrath of the lego firing squad.  Martin protested, of course he did, but his pleas were silenced by the the supreme court judge, Schultz.

A short time later, as he faced the lego firing squad of his former friends and subjects, generalissimo Martin was to remember that distant afternoon when he and his friends at camp built a city out of nothing but legos.

It couldnt stay buried forever…..


As I might have said before, I used to blog on a website called Blogspot, which I found to be the adolescent form of WordPress: moody and annoying.  This might have been what caused me to stop writing in first place, that and red dead redemption of course.  After i stumbled upon the glittering beauty of wordpress and, as i bean writing again, enchanted by its ease of use, I realized that some of my articles from Blogspot were still good reads… or at least I thought they were and everyone else who read them were too polite to say otherwise or that they didn’t read it at all.  Anyway, I’ve decided to re-post some of my old posts from Blogspot.  here you go.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My Pretentious Bag: A Study of Sustainability


I bought a pretentious bag at whole foods several weeks ago. This was a time, of course, when our gulf was being submersed in endless pools of oil, France and Italy were sent off in the knock out rounds of the world cup and the Executives of BP found themselves more hated than the demon offspring of Adolf Hitler and the great Satan himself.

It's evil cant be tamed!

Something had to be done, and evey time i looked out my window, do you want to know what I saw? If not I’m gonna tell you anyway. I saw people driving cars and eating food and throwing away trash and running water. No one was doing shit. It was up to me to make sure that the world would be sustainable for the rest of time, even into and after the apocalypse.

Not pictured: an oil spill

Fortunately I was at whole foods, a chain of stores that specializes in making you feel like you are making a difference, and then charging you for it; a cheap psychiatrist. I was waiting to purchase some authentic Greek yogurt, not Greek granola, and Chilean black cherries when the thought struck me: now, at long last, was my time to take a stand. But how? HOW???? And then I saw it, conveniently located by the self-checkout, which I always use because I fear other people, was a bag. But it was no normal bag. No, not a normal bag in the slightest. This bag was made of 80% recycled… stuff. With this bag, I would never again need use paper bags. Since paper bags are the scourge of the planet, I realized that this would be the perfect way for me to make a difference, to take a stand. I gleefully seized said bag, which proudly proclaimed on it’s side that I am for a sustainable ecosystem, and implied that you aren’t. The bag itself is bright blue and green, depicting landscapes and clouds from the Teletubbies, and looks as if it were stitched together by child slaves who were freed and then put to work somewhere else doing the exact same thing, but now for twice as much.

We love making bags! And forced labor!

My self esteem had never soared so high. I puzzled over exactly how many manatees would be saved by my selflessness, over how many orphans that would find loving families because I opted to not use a paper bag. I finally decided on 5. As I headed home, I knew that the world would soon right itself, due to a little thing called the butterfly effect. Who knows the long lasting ramification of my simple purchase? Someone in Vietnam could have very well encountered a leprechaun, gotten a wish, and snagged his pot of gold because I didn’t use a paper bag!

Ye found me pot o' Gold!

And now look what has happened. Oil spill? Plugged. Dengue Fever? Lived through it. Child slave rebellion? Crushed. So next time the world has a problem give me a call. Ill buy another bag.

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