YDF #3: Passing Notes

Hi folks and welcome to You Decide Friday #3. This week, the winner of the poll, by a landslide, ending up being: “A humorous analysis of some high-school notes between Sharaun & I” (Ten votes is a landslide? Oh man, I need more readers). Anyway, I guess I don’t need much more exposition than that… so here goes.

You guys remember high school, right? Man, I sure do. Not getting into it too much, you should be able to tell by the abundance of high school era stories I post right here on sounds familiar that I had a pretty memorable four-year stint there. As everyone knows, teenage romance is the bread and butter of high school drama, the planet around which those fledgling emotions orbit and swirl. And, what would teenage romance be without the between-classes note exchange? The embryonic love of high school is a fragile thing, barely able to stand the forty minute breaks from each other as required by the bell schedule.

I’ll ask that you read these old notes with the former mindset. I mean… it’s not going to help really, they are still grotesque.

And, I need to be up-front with you guys here: On Tuesday night I dragged two old dusty cardboard boxes out of their resting places high and out of the way on shelves in the garage. One of these boxes is mine, the other Sharaun’s. Both boxes contain roughly the same things: a bunch of notes and other bric-a-brac from the halcyon highschool days of our budding, now going on fifteen years, romance (if you count highschool, which, after this, you might not).

Since it was already apparent that the highschool notes option was going to win this week’s contest, I figured I bet set about poring over the reams and reams of wide-ruled paper we’ve both held onto for so many years now. And, oh and this is the part I needed to be up-front about, it was a disgusting task. I’m serious. These notes are terrible. They are awful. Cringe-worthy. Emetic even. Honestly, as I glossed over note after note, revisiting each from within its pocket-sized quartered folds, I began to wish we’d never kept them at all. Well, maybe that’s not true, but they are certainly embarrassing, to say the least.

First off, it’s highschool, so of course Sharaun and I could barely contain the red-hot urgency of our love – a love the likes of which the world surely had never seen before. In fact, we used the word love so much, and with such conviction, it’s sickening. Other than the every-other-sentence professions of undying cosmic love, most of the notes were about how one of us shouldn’t talk to some other guy or girl, or flirt with this person or that, and quite a few were me apologizing for being lecherous.

Seriously friends, I had to read through so much pure and utter shameful crap to find a couple missives I could use… it was an exercise in patience. In the end though, I found what I think are some comical exchanges betwixt the Sharaun and I of fourteen years ago.

The notes I chose aren’t direct responses to each other, although that would’ve been easy to do. Know why? Because, in addition to passing notes between class at school, Sharaun and I also instituted something we called a “log.” The Log was a notebook that we traded off from one to another each day, and took home with us every other night. Each night, either Sharaun or I would write to each other in the notebook, logging our “in” and “out” times. In the morning, we’d give the log to the other, who’d read it and take it home to write and repeat.

Over the course of the first year or so we were together back in highschool, we filled up three ruled notebooks this way – and still have them all. They are, in a word, ghastly. But, I can manage to look back on them with fondness – because they are documents of a time gone by where I was pretty dang happy. In addition, I kept my own personal relationship journal-type thing (which I wrote in every day, go figure) for the first few months we dated. I had forgotten about that until I opened the box the other night… ugh.

Anyway, the notes I chose aren’t direct responses to each other (did I say that already?). They also aren’t presented here in their entirety, I had to cut the things down to try and get just the interesting bits – so if the portions I present seem somewhat disjointed, it’s because they are. Anyway, my criteria for choosing them was pretty much based on how much I thought I could make fun of them here on the blog, so I purposefully chose the ridiculous and overly inane.

Let’s start with my letter to Sharaun, because, well, honestly, it’s the worst of the two. Here we go, hope they’re not too hard to read…

Ahh, right off the bat we’re talking jealousy. For a relationship seemingly cemented together with a passion so undying, we sure didn’t seem to have a lot of trust in each other. I don’t really know who I was chastising her for hugging, but I love that my suggested solution to her was to stand like a stone while being hugged, rather than reciprocating. What a way to open a letter, right? Oh man… highschool… Moving on.

Oh, wait… what’s this? Apparently, I was also guilty of hugging someone (our highschool must’ve been a regular hugfest or something). At least I am big enough to commiserate, although I do manage to mention that I actually had to watch Sharaun’s scandalous embrace, whereas mine was more tastefully clandestine. Let’s keep wading through this crap, shall we?

Oh, here I’ve apparently made peace with myself, and am now laying on the love. Let’s see how long I keep up the nice-guy stuff…

Wow. What a jerk thing to say. Basically I’m saying, “I have tons of chicks on my jock, and I’m sure happy you’re not as wanted as I am. But, don’t worry, I don’t flirt with them… even though they’d totally do it with me if I said the word. Glad you’re not as desirable, I couldn’t handle it.” Reading through these notes makes me wonder why in the world Sharaun ever even gave me a shot.

“Rockledge Central” was an unfinished business park that was paved into a dead-end cul-de-sac. We used to drive down there into the dark and the trees and “park.” Notice how I kinda slip that one in there as the last option, as if it weren’t really the first and foremost thing I’d want to do. Sly, ain’t I?

“That huggin’ faggot?” Class act man. Class. Act.

No words… no words.

“Gay-ass fool?” Man, I bet the women truly were lining up.

When I read this stuff, I can actually almost remember feeling and acting like this jealous and possessive highschool kid. I’m not sure if everyone’s highschool relationships were like that or not, but ours sure was.

Once again I seem to be tooting my own womanizing horn. What a catch. How did I ever keep them off?

I’ll leave this to interpretation, but I almost puked up my dinner when I sounded it out. Oh my Lord we were sickening.

So, that’s it. I made it through. Time to collect my thoughts, remember I’m in my thirties and that this was a long time ago (I used to think we were so mature…). Now then, with my head cleared of that foul business, let’s move on to Sharaun’s note to me. This one was taken from one of those “log” deals I talked about above, you can see the in/out time-logging at the top. Ugh.

I just want to run away and hide. It’s that bad, right?

OK, something interesting. Sharaun and I used to stay up all night talking on the phone. We’d stay up well into the morning, sometimes “talking” for five or more hours. I have no idea what we talked about, but more than one time I remember falling asleep on the phone together. Eventually, Sharaun got caught talking to me in the middle of the night. In fact, the resulting phone ban was what started the whole “log” back-and-forth thing – a kind of alternative to being able to talk all night. On some nights, though, she’d manage to sneak the phone into her room and make secret calls to me in the wee hours. This didn’t wake my parents because, when I got my first computer back in ’92, I had decided to pay for a private line in my bedroom so I could monopolize the phone with my dialup Prodigy account. The five dollars per month was totally worth being able to surf the nubile WWW, which I was already addicted to.

Hahaha. Wow. You know what they say about flattery…

Here she’s talking about what we’ll bring with us to the beach when we go some night in the future. We used to tell her folks we were going to see a movie and then drive down to the beach and find a nice dark spot to spread a blanket and make out. Awesome, right?

We really did love talking on the phone…

Oh hey, this portion of the note makes for a neat sideline story…

Once, Sharaun’s grandmother found a note from me Sharaun had inadvertently left in the pocket of her jeans. No problem, right? Only thing was, in that particular note, I was joking around about Sharaun being pregnant – I mean, I was writing about it as if it were true, but Sharaun, of course, knew it for a joke. Anyway, Sharaun’s grandmother freaked out, called Sharaun’s mom (who immediately knew the note for a joke and did not, thank the Lord above, involve her dad). Needless to say Sharaun’s mom was not happy with the note, nor the “coarse” language I used in it (as was a habit of mine back then).

In order to avoid a similar situation again, and to add a layer of security to notes of a “sensitive” nature, I taught Sharaun the code Kyle and I had discovered, and subsequently broken, in the underground tunnels of Astrokalickrama (if you’re completely lost after reading that last sentence, catch your ignorant self up by clicking right here). She’s not using it to mask anything bad here, she must’ve just been keeping in practice or something.

Well, like I said – I had to cut them down a little, but that’s it. I’m not really sure how I feel about this one… as a blog entry I mean… for some reason I’m half tempted to trash the entire thing. But, it’s here now, and it took a loooong time, so it’s staying. I mean, it took forever to write. In the end, I got tired… and likely sloppy. Sorry. I don’t even know if I like it after all that work. Also, I’ve done something like it before here and here and maybe even here. Whatever.

Did it work?


YDF #2: Hoboing

Happy Friday folks. So much to write about, so little time. Let’s go.

It’s funny, but this week’s winner of the You Decide Friday contest actually fits well as a follow-on to last week’s initial one.

And, by reading that, you’ll likely guess that I decided, in the end, to go with the superdelegate vote instead of the popular one (read: I discounted the “fake” votes and instead went with only what I could tell were heartfelt expressions of my readers’ desires – communicated to me through mouselclick, of course). I also edited the results graph to reflect this, although I left the total number of votes there to somehow acknowledge the disparity (sorry Mr. or Mrs. “pants off” guy or gal).

So, the topic that landed at the top of the heap after ignoring all jiggering was: “When we used to go ‘hoboing.’” Indeed, there was a time when my friends and I used to go “hoboing.” I realize, however, that, before I jump into the good bits, some terminology needs to be explained.

Back in the town where I came of age, sowed my teenage oats, watched my first dirty movie, learned to drive and got my first car, back in that town – the city garbage collection service was, at some point, converted over from round aluminum cans lifted by hand to the modern process: a truck with a robot-arm that allows a single man “crew” to get trash into the truck without ever leaving his comfy seat or the familiar strains of Lynyrd Skynyrd. (My word, is that last bit even a legitimate sentence?)

When this happened, everyone was issued large rolling garbage containers, much like what most larger urban areas have today but with one notable difference: For whatever reason, we called these wheeled garbage cans “hobos.” I know, it sounds odd – and maybe even a bit derogatory to actual boxcar-hopping bindle-carrying folk, but it’s true. To back that up, I actually went to my old hometown’s webpage and searched on “hobo.” Low and behold, it seems like it’s not just Southern-fried patois, it’s actually some kind of brand name or acronym for the garbage can or something. From the city’s Frequently Asked Questions:

What if my HOBO (wheeled garbage container) needs repair?

Call the Public Works Department and they will pick it up, make the repairs, and return it to you. Unless the HOBO has been abused, there is no charge for this service.

Sidenote: I got a kick out of the statement: “Unless the HOBO has been abused.” Makes me think of a doctor going over the transient you turned in, trying to determine if his bumps, bruises and scrapes are a result of hobo-abuse or just a general side-effect of his nomadic, somewhat not-sleepin’-on-featherbeds lifestyle choice. Ahhh, but I digress…

So we had these trash containers, which were wheeled on the back, had two aluminum “stands” at the front-bottom on which they rested, and were also outfitted with an aluminum handlebar-type thing to make transporting them to and from the curb easier on the homeowner. You could tip ‘em onto their wheels and roll them to the curb with ease this way. At the time, we also had me, the somewhat reckless group of friends I used to run with, and the newly-minted Florida driver’s license I’d obtained through the hot days of freshman year spent circling tiny cars with no air conditioning around the driver’s-ed track. These things, coupled with the boredom of a few newly-mobile teenage punks and the fact that my parents had essentially permanently loaned me the red Nissan Sentra four-door (oh man how I loved, and alternately abused, that vehicle) one day spontaneously combined to create the summer’s hottest new nighttime activity: hoboing.

I forget exactly how it started, but I know I was driving. I was really the only one, aside from Joey, who didn’t have a car yet if I remember right, who could drive at the time. We used to drive around the town, sometimes rolling through house-lined streets in local neighborhoods for no reason other than to look for trouble. While out cruising like this one evening, one garbage-pickup eve evening, to be specific, someone got the bright idea to pull up slowly alongside one of the many “hobos” lining either side of the street. “Push it over!,” we urged to the rear passenger, likely having to shout over Experience or The Chronic turned up to eleven. At which point the passenger would roll down the window (the Sentra, although near perfectly equipped for a boy of sixteen and his misfit friends, still did not have the power-package) and shove over the garbage can with a might push, spilling the contents onto the street as I wheeled us away from the scene of the crime, giddy with laughter. Now, as fun as that may sound, and despite the unending joy you think a bunch of motley teens might be able to derive from doing it over and over again – it is not “hoboing.” No… hoboing is that to the next level, I’m afraid.

Pushing over garbage cans is pretty mean, pretty destructive… I mean, the homeowner, lest they see the mess early the next morning prior to garbage pickup, will surely be skipped by the garbage man and his robot-arm truck, an must now also suffer the double-indignity of not only having to pick up his family’s refuse, which has by then likely blown around and is littering the street, but being forced to hold that garbage for whole week longer than expected. This means, by next week, when, the poor wheels on the hobo will be creaking in protest under a load which makes it impossible to close the lid properly – the homeowner will be even more furious when we come by and do it again, y’know, because the fullest hobos obviously make the best targets.

Yes, hobo-pushing was indeed mean and rude and terrible… but it wasn’t hobo-ing. So, what was hobo-ing, you ask? Let’s see….

At some point, the chants of “Push it over” from within the car were turned up a notch: “Grab the handle!,” someone said, “Grab it and hold on, we’re gonna drag that bitch!” Ahhh… and thus was born “hoboing.” The participant, sitting in the rear seat, would wait for me to precisely position the Sentra alongside the target hobo, and would then reach around and grab the metal handlebar. Once firmly held, I’d get the “OK” and would slowly move away from the curb, whereupon the passenger would make sure the hobo turned and tilted back onto its wheels. At that point, it was just a matter of running the Nissan up to 30mph (the ideal hoboing speed, as determined through countless repeated scientific experiments) and the crew giving the signal: “Let it go! Let it go!!” And, they would; let it go I mean, to spectacularly unpredictable results.

Thirty miles-per-hour is faaast people, I’m telling you. When the hobo was released, the metal legs on the front end would make contact with the street, resulting in an immediate and uber-cool jet-engine esque bloom of sparks shining bright on the darkened night street. Sometimes they’d get hung up immediately, flipping over quick and violently in the middle of the street as soon as they were let go, tumbling and bouncing to a stop tens of feet later in a literal explosion of garbage. Other times, and these were the times you hobo’d for, the times for which hoboing became legendary, they’d actually continue to roll along in a glorious cacophony of screeching metal and fiery sparks. Where they’d stop was anyone’s guess, as they could upturn at any moment or sometimes continue along until hitting some obstacle. Crashing a hobo into a mailbox became the ultimate prize, as the impact was stunning… garbage, sparks, occasionally a downed mailbox… Can you imagine waking up in the morning to find your mailbox has been knocked over and covered with garbage? Man… I would be piiissed.

Soon, techniques were developed (I recall fierce debates about how best to position the hobo for release to ensure it would continue to scrape along under the momentum imparted, and what sort of English you needed to put on it to best “steer” its course), scoring was kept, champions were crowned, and, as with everything in those days – antes were upped.

The progression went something like this: 1) Pushing over hobos. 2) Hoboing hobos. 3) Tandem, or team, double-hoboing. 4) Highspeed-hoboing (also known as main-road, four-lane, and highway-hoboing). And, thankfully, it ended there.

You can likely guess what double-hoboing is: Where, once one rear-seat passenger has secured his hobo for the pull, I slowly maneuvered the car to the line of hobos on the opposite side of the road so that the driver-side rear-seat passenger could also grab a hobo. The pull/release process was then repeated, only this time there were two hobos spewing garbage and fire into the streets. We tried and tried to make them collide, but could never get them to converge upon release. Tandem-hoboing was actually deemed too dangerous and eventually abandoned, as the width of the Sentra plus a dragged hobo on either side was often just barely able to thread the needle down the middle of the street when cars were parked curbside overnight. Several times I had to resort to slowing to unacceptable speeds to ensure my hoboers retained their limbs – and that just wouldn’t do. The few times we were successful at team-hoboing, however, were brilliant.

Highway-hoboing was the absolute culmination, the logical pinnacle, of the activity. The idea was simple: Liberate a hobo from the tight suburban streets and pull it along a more major thoroughfare, ramping the drag-speeds to the physical maximums sustainable by the hoboer. The risks were clear: Police were on those roads, and other cars too, and the whole thing would be much less hidden and out in the open. But, the danger made it all the more a goal. It only happened once, and I think we got to 45mph. At those speeds, the hobo became unstable (duh), wrenching itself from the hoboer’s hand and spilling a fantastic plume of garbage in a large fan along the main drag. It was spectacular.

Again, I put myself in the homeowner’s shoes… and like to imagine that he used that main road to get to and from work during the day. What must one think, waking up to find their garbage can altogether missing – gone. Then, how confounded would you be as, on your morning commute, your notice that it’s your street address on the side of the upturned hobo laying in the middle of the road amidst the twenty foot long spill of garbage you were only moments before head-shakingly tsk-tsking as you neared. Surely it would rock your world.

As fun as hoboing was, like all sports it was not without price to the human participants. “Hobo-pit” was a common ailment of participants, and several lunchtime Mondays at school were spent comparing the bruises in armpits caused by the popup locks (no power-package, remember?) one had to drape one’s arm over while dragging a heavy garbage cans down the road at 30mph (not an easy task, truly). Sore shoulders, hands, elbows and wrists were another common complaint. Being dedicated athletes, however, we never let these bothers interfere with our sport – and we continued to hobo for several months.

Eventually, we stopped hoboing, probably in favor of some other awful activity, but hoboing provided us bunch of stupid kids with evenings full of fun for at least a few months.

And that’s the story of hoboing, more or less (without much proofreading, so I expect I’ll have to amend it tomorrow when I finally re-read it). Hope you enjoyed it. Goodnight.

YDF #1: The Garba Mane

Hi everyone.

Welcome to the first, of what I hope to be not-just-one, You Decide Friday. Today you helped decide the course of the blog by suggesting content through voting and plain-out suggesting. I’m so glad so many of you voted, and am impressed with the suggestions and the clever “gaming” of the system to essentially beat my anti-cheat statements yesterday about the “all of the above” thing. I say “all of the above” is cheating and that I’ll defer to the 2nd most popular by votes, and you up-vote all the others equally… good job.

First, I want to get some logistical clarifications out of the way. In retrospect, I did a poor job explaining how I intended the poll to work: The original topic suggestions entered by me are just a few items off my huge running list of “blog ideas.” By voting on your favorite, I didn’t mean to say that I’d never write about the others – they’ll all get hit eventually (as long as I enjoy writing). So, maybe that’ll help next time around. And, as a technical sidenote: In the end, I decided I don’t like the polling plugin I spent so much time configuring – when I tried to close the poll for voting earlier today, it wouldn’t work, and kept accepting votes. I’ve decided to go with a different, less AJAXy-cool polling plugin the next time around.

Anyway, up until the aforementioned poll-gaming, the results were a tie between “all of the above” and “How Keaton loves the garbage man, just like I used to.” In the end, I decided to go with the latter. Next time, I’ll better frame the poll (once more, the idea being that you’re voting on which post idea you’d most desire me to write about that Friday, but understanding all the ideas are captured and will probably eventually make their way onto the internet). So then, let’s take bull by the horns… shall we?

When I was a young kid, I loved the garbage man; or so my parents tell me. In fact, around the age of four or five, I was apparently quite fond of all-things garbage. Now, my parents, much like all parents, I’m sure, have, over the course of my adult life, latched on to a few “go-to” stories and anecdotes about my childhood, and the refer to them whenever possible. The one about how I used to love the garbage man, and garbage in general, is one of these old standards. The “David, did I ever tell you about how much you loved the garbage man?,” question is one I’ve become intimately familiar with. (“No, pop. I used to love the garbage man?… Get out!,” is a good tongue-in-cheek response, by the way.) Sarcasm aside, my folks seem to take particular delight in regaling me with tales of how I’d wait outside each morning on garbage-collection day so I could wave and smile to the garbage man in his truck (particularly if we’re amongst a gathering of my grown-up buds).

This may sound odd today, but you have to remember how “active” garbage day was in its heyday. Back then, garbage collection was done not by a guy driving a truck with a robotic arm who never has to leave the comfort of his cab, but by a highly-orchestrated “crew” of workers. In these days of yore, a garbage collection “team” consisted of: the guy who drove the truck, and one or two additional guys who actually rode on the back of the truck, clutching to special perches designed specifically for the purpose. When the truck stopped at the curb, which had been conscientiously lined with garbage cans by homeowners the night before, the ridealong men actually jumped off the trucks and used their thick-gloved hands to hoist and dump the trash into the back of the truck. This was something of a choreographed ballet, the principles dressed in overalls, workboots, and grimy baseball caps. As a kid, it must’ve been something to see.

Did I do a good enough job convincing you it wasn’t that odd of a thing to be interested in? No? Well, I guess that’s fine, because there’s more…

In addition to the story about how I loved the garbage man, and garbage collection day, my parents nearly always segue that story into the one about how, when in public places, I used to run from garbage can to garbage can – giving each a big hug. Now, look, I know what you’re thinking… you’re saying to yourself, “Dave, that’s kinda odd… I mean, the thing with the garbage truck and all… boys are often impressed with big machines and stuff so that’s pretty understandable. But… embracing garbage cans?… That’s a little odd.” And yes, I know, I know. But, what’s a guy to do? I can’t go all America’s Most Wanted, put on some weight, change my hair color and shave my beard, move to Fargo and go by Bill Schmidt or anything – I have to stand up to my past, have to greet it with… open arms. So what if I ran between garbage cans hugging them? Odd, yes; certifiable, no.

Making a long story short, or something, it suffices to say that, as tyke, I liked garbagey stuff. And, while I’ve long outgrown this refuse infatuation (aside from the small level of fascination I still have in the whole taking-away-garbage “process”), I fear it seems to be genetic. Keaton, as cute and spotless-clean as she is, seems to also suffer from the garbage-man love (she calls him the “garba mane,” but then, we all have petnames for the things we love).

Every Thursday morning, when she hears the rumble of the garbage truck making its rounds through the still-sleepy neighborhood, she’ll shout, “The garba mane is coming daddy!” “Yes,” Sharaun or I will reply, “You hear the garbage man, don’t you?” “Yeah, I hear a garba mane!,” she’ll say, followed with a, “See him?!” We tend to pull dialog out of her, so we’ll reply with simple questions like, “What does the garbage man do?,” or, “Do you like seeing the garbage man?” “Yeah!,” she’ll reply anxiously, “He dumpa trash, daddy! He dumpa trash inna big truck! W-w-w-w-wan-wan-wanna-wan-wanna wave at the garba man, daddy!” At which point we’ll (actually, it’s typically Sharaun, since I’ve usually already left for work) take her outside and let her watch the garbage truck take away our trash.

She smiles and shouts and waves at the man driving the truck. Originally, he sat there as stone, somehow managing to not acknowledge Keaton, all her brilliant cuteness directed squarely at him. Personally, I think he might have figured her for some kind of cuteness-Medusa, and likely feared that, should he look at her directly, he’d be turned into a fluffy little yellow chick or stuffed Sanrio kitten. Nowadays, though, Sharaun says his hardened heart has grown weak, and he returns Keaton’s smiles and waves as he directs the robot-arm to our trash.

I love that she loves the garbage man. It makes me think that she’s somehow like me, even though I know it’s purely coincidental and all.

Well, that’s it. Hope you enjoyed it. Goodnight.