Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Little Child Runnin' Wild

Perhaps you may have noticed that I haven't been posting much. Frankly, I've been somewhat lacking in inspiration. But then, as is frequently the case, I found that inspiration in one of the more unusual places. And that place, my friends, is Hobocamp. After reading this, I got to thinking of all the goofy shit I did as a kid. However, unlike our sympathetic heroine Meg, I... well, I suppose it's confession time.

I was not a very good child. I don't mean that I picked on the smaller kids, or talked back to my teachers or parents (Good Lord, no). I mean that I got into a lot of trouble. I did a lot of stupid, frequently illegal, and sometimes downright dangerous shit when I was a wee TK. There were two reasons for this.

1) When I moved here from Cape Town at 9 years old, I came from an environment that was rigidly structured, with curfews and teachers that would beat you with bamboo canes if you did something wrong, even insignificant things. Late for class? Caning. Can't do division? Caning. Then I moved to the uber-liberal suburbs of Massachusetts, and realized that the worst thing that could happen was I'd get detention. Oh. Fucking. No. Not... detention! Bitch, please. I could do detention standing on my head.

2) When I was a kid, I was fairly certain I was invincible. I'm serious. Somewhere along the line, after escaping a few too many situations, I began to think that I simply wasn't going to die. Not that I wouldn't get hurt (I think I've made that clear), but that eventually, I'd make it out OK. Not a smart philosophy, but hey, I was 10. Cut me some slack.

So allow me to tell you some tales of what a bad and often foolish child I was.

TK's Misspent Youth: A Story in Two Parts

Part 1: When It's Cold, I'd Like To Die

When I was about 10 or 11, my parents lived on a house at the very peak of a very tall hill. There was a municipal fence that ran along the back of all the houses on our street. A 10-foot chain link fence that basically served as the boundary between everyone's back yard and the municipal property. And the reason it was government property is because behind that fence was a hill. A BIG fucking hill. Long and steep. And at the bottom of that hill was... The Massachusetts Turnpike, better known as Interstate-90. It's worth noting that there was no fence at the bottom of the hill. Just hill, then highway.

So, of course, what else is there to do when presented with such a vision? Well, if you are my cousin and I, you go sledding. Yes, one winter, after the first snowfall, we decided we were sick of the little Mary hills on the local golf courses, the little wussy hills that only ended in a fence or a pond or a tree. No, we wanted to up the risk factor a bit. So we jumped the fence with our sleds in hand, and stood there, gazing into the mouth of madness. It was one of those moments that you'll always remember, even when it happened over 20 years ago, where you stand on the precipice (literally) and gaze down into your possible doom. There's a moment where your heart beats impossibly fast, where your breath doesn't seem to want to coordinate with your lungs. When your laughter is the kind of high-pitched, crazed laughter that means you are about to do something that every common-sense cell in your brain is screaming in protest against. Then, with a semi-deranged grin on your face, you sit your snowpants-covered butt down on that plastic red disc, and there's a moment when you simply say: Fuck it.

That run was pure adrenaline. I barely remembered it. But I do remember this: There was no way to stop. The sleds were too slick, the snow was too wet. Digging your heels in didn't work. I realized this halfway down the hill. The only way to avoid certain death was to dump the sled. So I rolled and released, and tumbled sideways to a jarring halt, then flipped over just in time to watch the sled careen down the hill, onto the highway, and get smashed into so much red plastic debris by a pickup truck. Then I watched another sled go flying onto I-90 and then into oblivion, as my cousin had made the same decision I had.

Victory. We had done it, and we had survived, and it had been a fucking blast. Only one problem... after our virgin runs, we were plum out of sleds. And we could hardly tell our fathers that we'd lost our sleds because we'd been sledding down a hill of death. So we did what any pair of morally suspect kids would do in this situation: We stole more sleds. Every weekend when it snowed, we'd wait until it was dark, then creep around the neighborhood and steal a couple of sleds. Then we'd hop the fence and try it again. Of course, it also resulted in a neighborhood-wide campaign by the parents to find the thieves, which is why we only did it at night. Sledding. Down a hill that leads to a highway. At night. Yes, it's actually stupider than it sounds.

The game evolved into a test of wills - which of us could go the longest before dumping the sled. Many people, if they had to think of a term for this game, that term would be... ill advised. Unwise, even. Maybe even foolhardy.

I'm pretty sure my cousin won - my momma may have raised a fool, but she didn't raise no suicide.

Part II - Grand Theft Auto: Suburbia - coming soon.

Listening to: Citizen Cope - D'Artagnan's Theme


country roads said...

I love it! We used to sled to the road, and sometimes across, but it barely counts as a road. You win this round!!!

Deutlich said...

Oh, how I miss the sheer audacity that children often have. There are things you couldn't PAY me to do anymore that I would've done in a nanosecond 15-20 years ago.

Kolby said...

I-90's a bitch, TK. I guess we're lucky to have ya.

I still love sledding. Too bad I hate the snow.

Anonymous said...

As the mother of a little boy, you've truly frightened me.

Is this what I have to look forward to?

slouchmonkey said...

So happy I have a daughter!

TK said...

CR - Sadly, yes, I do win.

Deutlich - It's a wonder we're still alive, ain't it?

Kolby - Sledding is probably still fun, even when you're not risking death.

Manda, Slouch - oh, trust me - the next post is worse... though in a completely different way.

girl with curious hair said...

Ice, a hill, a freeway and you on a sled after dark? How in God's name have you stayed alive?

Manny said...

I don't suppose you had an imaginary pet tiger named Hobbes, do you?

demondoll said...

You take my breath away! I have a son, too-
oh, golly.

New Texan said...

If you grew up in Bridgewater, you and I would have been best friends...

Maxine Dangerous said...

Love it! Part II, Part II, Part II!! :)

Kerstin said...

You know, that sounds like damn good fun to me.

I'm bustin' a gut laughing here.

Ranylt said...

Slouchmonkey - Lock your daughter up, because we daughters are no different.

Case in point:

While it was no sledding brakeless into the I-90 (that's hard to beat), my friends and I regularly risked life and limb on the ski hill I grew up beside. Once skiiing downhill off the trail, through the forests, jumping off the lifts twenty feet high, and various hotdogging off 12-foot boulders (leading out of above forests) got boring, we turned to the bob-sled run.

Now, I'm not sure if y'all south of my border have seen many of these, but up here, quite a few ski hills and resorts (no matter how small) tended to have bob-sled runs in the 70s and 80s.

These are basically half-pipe tubes the length of a ski hill, polished to high ice.

We decided it would be fun to bomb down the bob-sled runs (that is, ski down them in an aerodynamically advantageous crouch), and did so repeatedly. It's amazing no one broke a limb. God knows how fast we were going.

It's even more amazing none of us got decapitated; towards the bottom third of the run (read: after we'd gained near max speed), there was a pedestrian footbridge that crossed over the tube. This bridge was less than four feet high. Because, of course, if you're bob-sledding in a nice, sanctioned way, you're lying down on your sled and have plenty of clearance. Not so when you're crouched in a bomb.

I guess it was a good thing I was kind of a shrimp back then.

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