The Return of Darth Neighbor

Yes, the name Darth Neighbor is a cheap rip-off of Star Wars evil-doer Darth Vader, but when I was swinging plastic light sabers in the back yard against my 6-year old son and the neighbor kid, I was usually forced to represent the Dark Side of the force. No problem, we all know Lord Vader had the highest Midichlorian count in the Star Wars universe, so it stands to assume the Dark Side would have ruled my neighborhood as well.

Always cast as the villain, I created a dark Star Wars persona of my own, that of Darth Neighbor, the ultimate power not only in my back yard, but possibly in all of the Providence Ridge housing development.

My own interest in Star Wars ended with Return of the Jedi and the destruction of the second Death Star, however the release of The Phantom Menace inspired a new generation of fans in the franchise (not me though), and inspired the galactic battles that raged in my yard after I got home from work. And of course, only after those little Jedi nuts had finished any homework assignments for the day.

The battles usually took less time than it took the Millenium Falcon to complete the Kessel Run, were always un-choreographed, usually just me chasing a couple of pint-sized wannabe Jedi Knights around the yard, through swing sets, around bushes and trees, between cars, whatever obstacle they could run around or hide behind. But unlike Star Wars, in the universe called my back yard, the Dark Side always prevailed.

Just as Old Ben Kenobi had buried the memories of his days as Obi-Wan, I also forgot about my days as the ass-kicking Darth Neighbor. Until this year, when my daughter reminded me of those days when she sent me my personalized magic band for my trip down to see her at Disney World.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Katie is like a Star Wars historian, but she’s also a pretty good athlete. And she knew the one way to guarantee my attention was to pull out the hockey net and it wouldn’t be long before I showed up. To her credit, she also padded up and laced on her roller blades for those father/daughter games in our driveway; so how could I ignore that much effort? 

When my son and the neighbor kid played, the games deteriorated into watching two Tasmanian Devils hitting the ball everywhere but at the net. It was their own out-of-control brand of “dump and chase” hockey, and like two Unmoored ships in a hurricane, they crashed into each other often and knew no boundaries of any kind, and it went on until one of them slashed the other hard enough in the shins or on the hand with their stick. This usually sent the aggrieved party home or back in the house for first aid or to have a sandwich and a glass of milk or some damn thing, leaving just my daughter “Skates” and me to practice our slap shots and our triple deeks.

And when that box with the magic bands arrived, she also reminded me of the times when father/daughter fun was spent just shooting pucks at a net in my driveway…just the two of us.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Leads to Chaos…

One fool’s endless journey into the infernal regions of his own Christmas hell.

Chaos can lead to hate…An all-encompassing hate that drags me kicking and screaming all the way into Christmas. I know this all sounds a bit harsh and overly dramatic, and while I can’t speak for the thousands of us who deliver Christmas one package at a time, it’s true beyond anything you can write about in that cute, little Christmas poem you’re creating for your blog. And unless the Russians or some other cyber terrorists create a long-term solution to shutting down the Internet today,(about a month should do it comrades), this upcoming Cyber Monday will send the chaos into overdrive. And the hatred of Christmas that fuels the darker side of me will be in full bloom like poison ivy on a Boy Scout.

Chaos isn’t the only culprit in my trip to the darker side…frustration, anger, and disgust have their own roles as well. Rarely a morning in December goes by without at least part of that three-headed monster rearing its ugly head; frustration over a situation out of my control; anger at consumerism gone wild; disgust at retailers who have poisoned our world with Black Friday sales that now begin on Brown Thursday?; remember when it was just called Thanksgiving Thursday? And days that now grow dark at 5 P.M. making an already difficult task harder with the absence of daylight. You want even more chaos? Try adding some snow or ice to the roadways, I can promise frustration, anger, and disgust will be fighting it out to see who rides shotgun with me into my personal Dante’s 10th ring of Hell.

There is no doubt in my mind that retailers (and their associated e-commerce websites) combined with the pungent smell of their corporate profitability are responsible for a great deal of the ruination of the Christmas meaning. How many families can say they now spend the time after Thanksgiving eating desert, plowing through store circulars and clipping coupons for in-store only prices? All in the name of cross-referencing and updating their Excel spread sheet with the best door-buster price of the movie Deadpool at Wal-Mart, Kohls, Target or Toys ‘R’ Us. Retailers have trained us well. I suppose we should be happy the retailers let us have most of Thanksgiving dinner to ourselves; starting at 6 PM on Thanksgiving through the month of December, they own our asses.

So as we rush headlong,  financially out of control into Christmas and retail’s upcoming blitzkreig of endless multi-media advertisement and wallet-busting sales, keep one thing in mind; Hell’s coming. I’m coming. And your Christmas presents are coming with me!
Pungent

Who Are You To Tell Me I Can’t Complain?

A look back at the week by a conscientious objector to two crappy candidates, and a look forward to a potential 2020 run for the big house.

With the general elections in the books, the country can now rejoice in the knowledge that our Sunday afternoon football games will no longer suffer the endless intrusions of political commercials. Hillary did this…Donald did that…and here in Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty will no longer poison our minds with their constant bitching and backstabbing during their contentious Senate race. From here on out, it will be up to NFL officials to ruin a good game with their constant throwing of flags. Come to think of it, they’re really not flags, more like little yellow hankies. Maybe if we required them to call them hankies, they wouldn’t throw so many. After all, flags are to be revered and respected, hankies are something you blow your nose into, which conveniently is also the universal gesture you make when something stinks. As in that call…

Now, hopefully you’re still here and will allow me to vent my spleen about the results of this week. Did you know the spleen was the organ associated with ill humor and melancholy; don’t know why, I’m 56 years old and wouldn’t know what my spleen looks like if you breaded it, fried it in oil and served it to me with my favorite vegetable. Anywho, that stuff earlier about the NFL officials was just the tip of my  proverbial iceberg of complaints. My family and the two or three friends I have know that sometimes I tend to be a little cranky. Really, it’s true. But there’s something I hear constantly now, especially after Donald Trump’s improbable win over Hillary and it’s this…

…”If you didn’t vote, then you’ve got no right to complain about what happens to you.” Well now, ain’t that special. And pure bullshit. It seems some of you Constitution experts have forgotten just how this place works, not to mention the rights afforded citizens with the very First Ammendment to our Constitution…

Congress (nor my fellow citizens*) shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

*I put in this part.

Nowhere in that ammendment does the phrase “as long as you vote” exist. Putting our constitutional rights aside, how you vote, who you vote for, and if you vote, can also come down simply to your moral compass. And with Hillary and Donald, moral compass played a big part in how and who people voted for this year; or whether they chose to vote or abstain based on their own set of morals. And your fellow citizens certainly have no right to tell you which direction your moral compass should pointing. I have a friend (he would be 1 of the 3) and co-worker who is a Consevative/Tea Party/Dem hating Green Eggs & Ham guy (you know who you are), but he was kind enough to not look down on me in that Sean Hannity kind of way, but to understand and take pity on me and my reason for abstention. Questions for discussion: How does a fiscally responsible conservative vote for a guy who sits in a gold chair?, has filed bankruptcy no less than four times?, who so misunderstood the financial climate and downward spiral of Atlantic City and its casinos?, how could he have so overestimated the weight of his last name and his ability to secure bank loans for construction, forcing him to use high interest rate junk bonds to finance his erection…

of the Taj Mahal Casino?

But wait, there’s more. As a citizen, I’ve met most of the lofty expectations of We the People, which grants me the right to not only free speech , hell I can even begin my own 2020 campaign for the White House, thereby allowing me to pollute the landscape with signs heralding my candidacy. As a precursor to my potential 2020 run, and to save both the liberal and the conservative media time, I can at this time state that:

I pay my fair share of taxes (guess I’m just stupid); I make payment for the goods and services I purchase to the persons and businesses I purchase them from, at the agreed upon price and without the relief of bankruptcy to discharge those debts (can el-presidente elect say that?); I’ve committed no crimes (felonies) recently; unlike our elected officials I provide my employer a good day’s work for a good day’s pay (although we both might disagree on exactly what we provide each other); and I respect the rights of my neighbors to throw loud all-night pool parties to which I am not invited; I respect the rights of my neighbors dogs to do their numbers 1 & 2 in my yard (actually I really hate that one and once in the White House there will be no more of that); I’m not stingy giving out Halloween candy (I have the best chocolates); I drive responsibly but irritatingly slow; I give money to my church whenever I’m there; I donate freely to my favorite charities like St. Jude Children’s Hospital & Research Center as well as the Variety Club; last year I personally worked to raise almost $12,000 in support of the great work they do at St. Jude (I’m also back at it again this year); my wife and I have raised and educated two responsible citizens of this country; and even though I’ve not been called recently, I would be more than happy to serve on a jury that allows me to throw any of my current neighbors in the hoosegow, especially the ones with the loud pool parties and the dogs who seem to be suffering from irritable bowel syndrome whenever they walk by my house. (Once in the White House, they can then beg me for forgiveness and a Presidential Pardon. It won’t be anywhere near that easy.)

So my fellow Americans, I reserve the right to complain about our leaders, their policies, and their erections, regardless of my voting history and whether I chose to put them there or not (just our leaders and policies, once in office my first job will be to make sure our leaders are never permitted to have erections of any kind). Our Constitution and Country guarantee me those rights, and I will exercise them until they pull this iPad from my cold dead hands.

Lofty

Santa And the e-Commerce Mutants

A Christmas story of endurance, exhaustion, dedication, and the hope that just maybe somebody will appreciate these over-worked mutants enough to share a plate of holiday cookies.

We were never seen as superheroes like Iron Man or Thor or Captain America even. And we weren’t anti-heroes like Magneto and Wolverine, at least not until November and December. Most of the year the public tolerated our existence, a necessary evil in a consumer driven society. But in those final months of the year, when a certain sled driving, long white beard growing, red suit and hat wearing, overweight, elderly gentleman relished us more than the children of the country would ever know, we became the most tracked people on the Internet, even more than the jolly fat man himself. And possibly the most vilified mutants the world would ever know if we failed in our endeavors.

The jolly fat man asks us to do unspeakable things to compensate for his inadequecies, to work longer hours and more days than even that band of miniature, miserable little toy makers he keeps hidden away up north. We are his e-commerce face, his face to the Internet shopping public, his face to people who couldn’t wait until December 24th for their gifts. The face the shopping public would hate the rest of the year if little Jimmy didn’t get the latest, hottest toy available on-line and delivered on-time. We often grew sick and tired of Santa and his persona, his tricked-out sleigh (compensating for something he is), those vile beasts he calls reindeer (actually caribou), and it showed in our public faces, in our contempt for the mutant beings that him and these 2 months would turn us into. There’s a reason why Santa’s always smiling and it’s because we deflected any of the potential criticism about his so-called world class distribution system. 

Did you ever wonder how white beard does it? How he could fit all that stuff into one tiny sleigh? How he could get a pack of flying reindeer (caribou) to circle the world in one night? What happens when there’s no fireplace? Tim Allen aside, I don’t know about the fireplace trick, but the answer to the first three questions is…he doesn’t. He has lots of help from the mutants who cover large land areas such as the continental United States. Sure, he takes a lot of the small boxes and bags and poses for the publicity photos, but the backbone of his Yuletide network begins with those elves and their old-fashioned little toys, ( why he feels compelled to keep them around is a mystery; how many kids really want a little wooden train or airplane?), and ends on the backs of us, his merry-making mutants. Oh, and Amazon. And of course, loving moms and dads everywhere who relish the idea of him to kids not quite ready to do the math on the possibility of his existence.

I’ll bet you’re asking, what could send a mutant into a rage that would scare even Wolverine or Deadpool? It’s not just one thing, it’s everything. An unappreciative pot-bellied boss who gets all the credit, which yes I’ll admit, that’s a pretty common thing; a buying public (say this next part with all the disdain you can muster) who starts buying in early November and doesn’t stop until the last of the after-Christmas sales; drivers who lack the skills to drive in the snow, yet jump in the car at the first sign of snow; homeowners who insist on decorating every inch of their home, especially the house number and mailbox; daylight savings time and the ensuing lack of daylight; those high-beam lights people shine on their front doors to show off a Christmas wreath and are absolutely blinding if you look at them; all the hard to see electric cords and tie downs used to inflate and hold in place those cheesy Christmas yard decorations  that can easily take a mutant down to the ground; and the most asked questions of the season,”What’s this?”, “Who’s it for?”, “Where’s it coming from?”, “Will you hide it in the garage under that green moldy tarp for me?“, and “Can you come back later, I don’t want my kids to see you, or see you bringing it up to the house?”. 

And then there’s the worse insult a mutant endures. The fire truck Santa Clause. For weeks we freaks work tirelessly delivering Santa’s e-commerce packages, and on the Saturday before Christmas these wannabe Santas show up, driving their trucks down neighborhood streets, working their sirens, and tossing those awful candy canes to any kid who comes running. And they do come running, often ignoring the mutant walking up the driveway with a box containing something they really want. It makes a mutant want to climb up on that fire truck and rip that phony…

…thank the pretend Santa for his courage and service…he is a volunteer fireman after all. And when one of his also-phony elves, who by the way is not wearing the requisite green jacket, red stockings, brown shoes, and hat with a feather in it worn by the union boys up north, offers me a candy cane while blowing cigarette smoke in my face, this mutant has had enough,”No, I don’t want one of your candy canes, what I want you to do is move your truck to the side so I can continue with my 14 hour day!”

So this year, as you’re busy spreading your holiday cheer; please give Santa’s e-commerce mutants a happy thought; because we deliver the Christmas you so relish, and all that stuff you bought.

HO-HO-HO! It’s not just his laugh…it’s item number two on Santa’s after Christmas list of things to do.

Relish

Take Down Those Lights and Put That Tree Away!

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

It happens every year and the older I get the worse it gets. It could be a neighbor, maybe a Target or a Kohl’s, or even a grocery store. The Christmas season envelope gets pushed further and advertised earlier than it ever has in the past. Raise your hand if you’ve already seen a TV commercial or department store display aimed at potential Christmas shoppers. Enough already, I haven’t even given out my first fortune cookie for Halloween yet. It is amazing how many of these you can save up after a year of eating take-out Chinese food. If you were a kid which would you choose, the cookie that could explain your future or some nasty old pennies wrapped in Saran Wrap and tied with orange ribbon? The cookie I’ll bet.

The point, which I’ve obviously lost track of, is I’m a kid from the 1960’s and for me, October through December was defined by the celebration of three events, Halloween and the preceding night, Mischief Night,  Thanksgiving and all of the creative ways to cook left-over turkey, and Christmas with all of its toys and the birth of our Savior. I would be a liar if I told you as a kid the birth of Jesus ranked ahead of getting a year’s worth of new toys. Anyway, with each of these three important events, there were TV specials that defined that holiday and triggered a series of events culminating in Christmas and the just as important, Winter Break in the Evesham Township School District. And the birth of our Savior.

Charlie Brown and the other apparently parent-less Peanuts kids had no competition when it came to shows celebrating the joy of Halloween or the feast that was Thanksgiving and the importance of having enough bread to make all of that toast. Or for wandering the neighborhood at all times of the night. A Charlie Brown Christmas had much more competition, but even at my advanced age remains my favorite, sorry Grinch, mostly because we both have Beagles. Maybe if Max were a beagle I would feel differently.

My point is, each of these holidays owned a portion of the calendar, not to be infringed upon by either of the other two. You didn’t make out your Christmas list or mail your Christmas cards at Halloween, you didn’t wear your Halloween costume at the Thanksgiving dinner table (unless you were an Indian or a pilgrim for Halloween, then you could probably pull it off), and your parents didn’t start decorating the house for Christmas until at least after the leftover Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing were disposed of during the long 4-day weekend. In my parents house, the end of the Thanksgiving holiday signaled my father to send a kid up in the attic to retrieve the outdoor Christmas lights and to go into the garage and retrieve the 4 x 8 sheet of plywood he used to begin the month long construction of the train platform my family enjoyed every year.

If you’re still wondering the reasons for this semi-incoherent rant; it would be the neighbor who this week I saw has already put out Christmas lights. No, they’re not Halloween lights, these are the red, blue, and green lights of Christmas, not the orange lights one would expect in October.

And the small package Halloween costumes I used to deliver have been replaced by giant artificial Christmas trees. Already. In October. Before Thanksgiving even.

And the oversized Amazon boxes containing the biggest toy a parent can buy. No, not big as in popular, big as in the bigger the toy, the more a parent must really love their child. Whatever happened to love comes in smaller boxes? And nothing says love like a nice 6-pack of tube socks or underwear.

And the endless arguments about stores opening or not on Thanksgiving Day. How about retailers (and FedEx and UPS) give employees Black Friday off as well. Consumers will still spend their hard earned money 24 hours later. You can call it Cafe Noir Saturday which is the color of brewed coffee, but still a shade of black. Think of the impact to the coffee industry from  consumers saying Cafe Noir Saturday instead of just Black Friday.

I’m not trying to dictate how people should enjoy their holidays because not enough people will even read this to make a difference. People should do as they please no matter how over the top it appears. And if you’re the only one in you’re neighborhood who already has their Christmas lights up, I would be willing to bet you’re neighbors are saying the same thing, just behind your back.

It’s not Halloween yet and I’m already pushing burnout from the overselling of Christmas. 

image
Giant

Mr. Unremarkable vs. The Power of No!

Another historical fiction from South Jersey’s favorite 1970’s SuperHero In Training.

Anyone who has ever participated in Superhero (S.H.I.T.) training or simply struggled to find an answer to a personal question knows the power of this one simple word. The word No can be a bulldozer in training, it oozes with negativity and can often be the final opinion in the daily decision making process. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so few superheroes around. Just like me, you may have experienced this verbal phenomenon early in your own life...

Hey Dad, since I haven’t mastered Fire Manipulation yet, can I soak these cattails in gasoline (not to be confused with cat tails or cat’s tail), imageand don’t you think they would make great torches for running around the neighborhood?” Of course my Dad replied with the one and only correct answer in his mind, “Noooo!” This was followed by a fast trip into the garage to see what fresh hell I had dreamed up. I swear he had developed Teleportation skills. Now as somewhat of an adult I can see why he was concerned,  but as a S.H.I.T. I was disappointed his No put an end to my daring idea.

Like most regular kids in the neighborhood, I spent many weekend summer days winning the imageWorld Series. Unfortunately, unlike so many other kids who had one of those pitch back nets, my bottom of the 9th inning was played out using a tennis ball thrown against a broken mirror propped against the side of the house. It worked pretty good for me once I broke the glass in the mirror, on just the second pitch I’m proud to say. Mom and Dad…not as proud however. And after a wild pitch broke 2 shingles on the house, the power of No won out once again. As in No more balls against the side of the house. The garage then? “No!” It was here that it became painfully obvious, if I was going to pitch in the World Series it would only be by my superpower to change reality, known in the world of S.H.I.T.’s as Reality Warping.

As a youth playing baseball in rural South Jersey in the ’70’s the yes vs. no debate was also a mental altercation I had with my coach during my first year in Little League. While I knew that Yes, I could and wanted to pitch, he felt that No, I wasn’t a pitcher, his son was, and my best talents that first year were to keep the official score book. And I have to give him credit, no matter how much I used my power of Mind Control, he fought it all season.

Unfortunately for my coach, league rules said I had to play at least one inning in each game, meaning someone else had to keep the book. So around the 7th inning of each game I would get up off of my glove (I liked to sit on it so I didn’t lose it) and take my place in right field or wherever he chose to play me. And God love him, he over-managed us all the way to the league championship game. And in that game, all of the double switches and pitching changes he made finally caught up to him. I would have to hit. With a runner on first and one out, down by a run. The air was filled with drama, or the remnants of Billy Zawatawicz’s last flatulent masterpiece, I’m not sure drama ever smelled like that. Happy to be off the bench, away from Billy, I made the most of my at-bat and lined a 6-hopper through the infield into center field allowing the runner on first to go all the way to third.

As a bench player, you would think that would have been my biggest accomplishment and I would be satisfied. It was, but I was not. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who has ever coached at the Little League level knows what should have happened next. A double steal. Make the other team throw the ball. Worse case, I might be out at second, but the runner on third would score on the throw to second base and tie the game. It was that obvious. Except to the coach who treated every game like it was Game 7 of the World Series, but was now incapable of that type of second-level thinking. And after no sign from him on the first two pitches, it would be up to me and my Superhuman Speed. When the next pitch crossed home plate, I was off and running to glory. About half way there I looked back to see the catcher had made up his mind to attempt and throw me out at second. It was working, by God my plan was working!

Now, following up on part 2 of my plan, I took a look over to third base, and what I saw shocked me. Not only was my coach there, waving his hands over his head in a, “Who told you to do that?” kind of way, but the runner on third was still there, standing on the base, laughing at another round of commotion Billy had caused on our bench.  As I started my slide, several questions popped into my head, the most critical of which was “Why was I the only one running?”  But as my foot touched the bag, barely ahead of the tag, I felt only vindication for my decision to run. It was up to the home plate umpire, the game’s only umpire, had he actually seen the play, would he make the right call? The answer was No to both questions. And as I laid there in the dirt, I had an epiphany. “When trying to think like an adult, sometimes you remove logic and common sense.” I’m still not sure what that means, but as we stood in line to get our Second Place trophy, my coach questioned my decision to try and steal second base. Would he ever have the logic to see the strategy in what I tried to do? Would he ever question his own lack of vision that stranded a runner at third base? Would he suggest to Billy’s parents a common sense low flatulent diet for Billy? Maybe, but if I had to make a guess, it would be No, all three times.

 

More Origin Tales of Mr. Unremarkable 

More disappointment and underachieving from the one who wasn’t expected to deliver much else anyway.

As I mentioned in the first origin story of Mr. Unremarkable, also known to the super-poweredpowerless and most muggles as, Me, I already had mastered the power to Outswim, as demonstrated by my ability to make it to the egg first. And as I learned in my high school Math class, with two destinations to choose from, the subpower of Probability Manipulation gave me the ability to choose the correct tube the required egg had dropped into, creating the most unremarkable of superheroes. So I also had that going for me.

Yet, for reasons unexplained, it was felt that I needed swimming lessons during my adolescent summers. Were my parents not there during my creation, did they not know of my heroics, what were they thinking? Swimming lessons? And, since I didn’t know how to generate the power of  Superhuman Speed, I was forced to take the slowest, most pedestrian form of transport available to every kid in the summer swim  program, a school bus. And not a good school bus, this was one of the buses they didn’t use during the school year. This was a bus they rolled out when all of the good buses were taking the summer off. A bus with no suspension to speak of, a bus that appeared to be spraying for mosquitoes as it choked and sputtered along the road, a bus where the front appeard to be going to the right while the back appeard to be going to the left.

I won’t say that I didn’t enjoy those early morning swim lessons at Cedar Creek Lake…in the cold refreshing waters of their…well, cedar lake. What I will say is that I would have preferred to have my lessons in the comfort of the heated pool not far away from that cold lake. I really feel like I could have reached my true Aquability with such a simple change to my training venue. But instead, those who taught me, as usual, failed to identify and match my true potential with the proper training environment required for one with my certain set of skills. So, just like every other kid there, I would stretch out my beach towel and learn to overcome another one of the hindrances to becoming my true heroic-self, Sand in my Shorts. Not exactly a battle with a kraken, but truly uncomfortable in many ways.

For some reason, Mr. Forrester, who owned and operated the Creek (my little nickname for the place), along with his staff decided that myself and the super-powered powerlesses needed to learn four different swim strokes. Freestyle, which let’s face it, I already had that one, the Breast Stroke and the Butterfly stroke, and finally, the Backstroke. Master them all and I would achieve true Aquability, if not then I would be just another kid battling Sand in my Shorts. 

There was one unintended distraction that both Inspired and Motivated. It could Elevate young males to swim faster and father than ever before, or Reduce lesser-willed males to something like a cedar lake jellyfish. I’m sure by now you’ve guessed it-a female swim instructor. Complete with blonde hair, a black one-piece bikini bathing suit, and a whistle just in case the first two characteristics didn’t capture the attention and imagination of the older pre-teen boys. I however, still saddled with Balls That Haven’t Dropped, hardly took notice. I was there to achieve Aquability only, anything else would only Distract and Deter me from achieving that goal

These training sessions were hot and grueling early morning tests meant to discourage the super-powered powerless. Or Camp Fishes as I would refer to them. These Camp Fishes all had jobs to do. Some were there to challenge my Swimability, some were sent to simply kick Sand in my Shorts, you know, the kids with the suddenly big feet who felt it necessary to kick sand on you and your towel as they trudged by. These older, usually bigger than me kids, who hadn’t learned to even float yet, also helped me develop the power of Danger Sense, a sense that would serve me well with two older sisters and a little too much attitude for someone my age.

Using my sub-power to Skip the Details, the culmination of all of this training was the traditional Test of Strokes. The annual Ordeal where all of the little Camp Fishes and little S.H.I.T.(s) (this was the acronym the instructors used for those of us SuperHeroes In Training) swam the length of the Creek to the amusement of the instructors…and of course to see who could swim the farthest using the strokes taught us. This is where I would separate myself as a little S.H.I.T. from the simply ordinary Camp Fish. Of course, on my way to growing my legend as Mr. Unremarkable, I failed to achieve my desired result. I did not swim farther than everyone else. I did not swim faster than everyone else. As I sat in the lake, marking my spot for the length of my swim, I watched, as even some of the Camp Fish stroked right by me. Kicking their legs, leg kicks that propelled them further and faster, leg kicks I forgot to employ. And I wondered, why had my instructors failed me…again? And from who or what did this sudden small flow of warm water emanate from?

And in the end, when it was time for my certificate, “Old Man Forrester”, handed me my “has participated in” certificate and not the “has achieved True Aquability” certificate I needed to further my cred as a superhero. But then the Old Man did something that brought the whole Cedar Creek Lake experience into perspective. Along with a coupon for a Famous Cedar Creek Lake Teenie Weenie and a free drink from any water fountain on the property, cup not included, (not redeemable on date of issue) Old Man Forrester gave me a leaflet to give to my parents so they could sign me up for another round of swimming lessons.

Riding the bus home from Cedar Creek Lake, my sisters in the front of the bus going right, me in the back and going to the left, I stared at that leaflet, at that certificate that represented my newest disappointment, and it finally came to me. This whole thing was a simple money grab. Cedar Creek Lake would continue to give me a “participation” certificate until I was too old to take their training lessons. It would be years before I received a “has achieved True Aquability” certificate, if at all. How could I continue to swim in that cold lake water each morning? All so I could end up with a teenie weenie and a certificate?

…No, not me, not this little S.H.I.T.