Summer Evening Storms: Ain’t What They Used To Be

Middle school is a tough time for many kids, especially boys. I say boys because the transition from elementary to middle requires something that we, as a male species hate, and that is results. It’s true, little boys go kicking and screaming when it comes to the period of growing up. I know I did.

The summer of 1991 was a pretty huge change for me. I left the comforts of a cush’ fifth grade life to that of an accelerated sixth grader who, in reality, probably shouldn’t have been. A standard sixth grader would have been just fine. And as if that wasn’t hard enough, my family got transferred to Phoenix, Arizona smack in the middle of the school year. It was a royal suck.

Being the new kid, I didn’t really have any friends besides this kid named Reed, who was the most popular kid in school and lived down the street from me. During school he would pretend not know me but after he would always show up at my house ready to talk me into some sort of mischief. And when I say mischief, I mean stuff that would end up on Fox News today because, lets face it, we live in a shaming society. Let me list a few activities for you because we were complete little assholes.

  • Throw oranges from the citrus trees over the highway barrier into traffic.
  • Get into ROCK WARS in the desert with other kids
  • Snipe small animals with BB guns
  • Roll smoke bombs into garages of those who kept them cracked open for their cats
  • T.P. teacher’s houses
  • Hit golfers with water balloons launched from a water balloon launcher
  • And much more

So, when peer pressure got old I would retreat to the house and build monster models while watching movies that I knew would haunt me as soon as dusk came. I believe that is sort of the way I have always run my life. Sure it feels good now but damn if I won’t pay for it later.

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My love of the macabre would rear its head especially during the Arizona evening storms that would light the sky and rumble the foundations of the house. The heat of the day with a mix of northern cool air would produce some of the most fantastic electrical storms I have ever seen and while most kids probably thought nothing of it, I was buried under my blankets, counting the distance of the storm by the Poltergeist method of seconds between lightning and thunder. And we all know what happens when the storm got closer.

I remember riding my bike home for dinner and staring off into the distance over the mountains and seeing the ominous clouds build in the distance like billowing army, marching closer and closer as the afternoon-evening transformed to night. The wind chimes would clang as the wind slowly increased force until it sounded like a spectral howl, wailing with creepy peaks and valleys. As the sun set, an orange hue set upon the whole house and the distraction of dinner in front of the TV was welcome but in the back of my head, night was coming and soon the storm would be here.

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My Mom hated these electrical storms and would demand the TV be unplugged at the first rumble of thunder for fear of a power surge. It supposedly happened to my parents back when I was an infant and ever since then, no matter what size surge protector we had, the TV was going off. That meant off to bed to dwell in my thoughts.

You see, I didn’t have any brothers or sisters growing up and with my Dad always gone on trips, it was just me and Ma at the house. With a Mom who was as nervous as a dog on the 4th of July, I was pretty much left to my own overactive imagination. And as a horror goon, that was pretty grim. Constantly I would see images of Regan’s horrid face from the movie The Exorcist as she would peer from the window when the lightning lit the sky. Why oh why did I watch that from the hallway when Dad had it on HBO earlier in the year? (That’s a rhetorical question because back then, that’s how every sixth grader saw The Exorcist.)

These nights were pretty tough because every ghoul and spook seemed to creep into my thoughts and cause me to hear and see things that just weren’t there. Even passages of books read for fun at the pool would come to haunt me these evenings. “We dare not look out the back window of the house for that’s where the dead wander and rap upon our door.”- Bell Witch

I really hated myself during those few agonizing nights but as soon as the sun came up, I would completely forget the terrors which plagued me just hours before. Nope, it was a new day with no cares in the world. That is until four o’clock came again.

Today, I am still the twisted little kid who loves to get spooked by movies and stories but I have come to love these evening summer storms. Like Eddie Rabbit says, it washes my cares away and even relaxes me into repose. My dog, however, doesn’t agree but I can be the comfort to whatever he is thinking. I am sure it’s not the Tar Man coming out of the closet but who knows? He watches all these silly movies with me now and I don’t know what damage that has done.

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I hope you get these summer storms and if so have grown to appreciate them as much as I have. Just remember, the little things in life are what makes everything worth it.

FYI, big stuff coming and as a hint, REVIEW THE WORLD is visiting again! Badda Bing! The What The Hell Show begins!

Some Of The Things That Make Me Happy

It seems that many conversations I have been in directly or indirectly (because I’m nosy) always revolves around tragedy. There is rarely a time in a coffee shop, on an airplane or happy hour meeting that doesn’t, in some facet, involve someone dying or loss of an eye. Just the other day two ladies were talking about their friend’s mother who had a rash and two weeks later she died. With the same breath, they were talking about shoes. I can’t tell if other people’s tragedy brings comfort or misery really does love company. To me, I work hard at surrounding myself with positives because there seems to be a lot of wet blankets in the world. Here are some of the things that put a smile on my face.

Golden Retrievers are my favorite. I had one when I was a kid. His name was Guy which came from the Sesame Street character “Guy Smiley“, because as a puppy he was the one out of the litter that had a perma-grin. These dogs live a care free life of just being happy. Not really known for their intelligence they go through life rolling in stuff, shedding, napping, drinking from the water bowl then laying their wet mouths on your lap, and being goofy. Above all they just love people which makes them the easiest going animal on the planet. If there is truth to reincarnation, I wouldn’t mind being a retriever. Shit, I practically have the same traits now.

Stormy nights always scared the ba-Jesus out of me as a kid, no thanks to the movie Poltergeist. Today I find them very relaxing. It’s a good reason to unplug the TV and the computer, turn on a reading lamp and just listen to storm approach. At times I may open the garage and watch the show from the safety of my folding chair. Lucky for me, there hasn’t been any real dangerous storms here in a while. If there are, you know I’m going to be the asshole on the news that was found 200 miles away in someone’s tree. I never heed the warnings.

I’m an addicted runner but my addiction doesn’t make me a good one. I have been running most of my life but I just am not meant to be one. That’s why I turn to “Runner’s World” magazine for inspiration. The motivational stories keep me on track to get up, put my running shoes on and head out into the vast darkness every morning. Even though I still come lumbering in, snorting and huffing, side stitched and limping, I still did it. Plus the review of shoes is usually right on.

I know this sounds strange but I am a big fan of foreign vintage advertisements. I consider them more art than anything else and if I could find a print of this above, I would so hang that in the kitchen. Can you imagine a time when this would make you want to buy pork?

One of my new favorite pass times is cruising YouTube for old commercials of yester-year. I’m saving this for a full post later but it also is on the list that makes me happy. More over, I really dig McDonald commercials from ’86-’88. I believe I may have consumed more cheeseburgers during that time but I feel the real reason is that advertisements back then focused on stories rather than the product. Just take a look at this. Until the end, I didn’t know if this was for Trapper Keepers or hight-tops.

Tiki themed anything really floats my board, man. One day I am going to have a basement that will look just like this. I can picture drinking blue martinis and listening to Link Ray on the turntable while outside it’s a whopping 20 degrees. It’s a great reflection of my life; where ever you are, you can always be somewhere else.

Well, that was a pretty pointless post but I had to get some happy thoughts churning. Meetings and sad sacks get to me after a while and just writing about this stuff has already made the day a little better. You guys should try this. I swear it works.

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