Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Family Jewels

I could start by telling you about my first polar bear swim.  That’s a short story, though: we cut a hole in the ice, I jumped in, and was a woman for a week after that.  I could tell you about delivering newspapers in winter on a bike.  I’d start the trip in a snowsuit, have it unzipped and off down to my waist halfway through my route, drenched in sweat, and once I hit a parked car head on.  Sliding forward off the seat, my pelvis found the handlebars.  I was a woman for a week.  I dated this girl in Rome that though it’d be funny to kick me with the heel of her cowboy boot in the crotch once while I was tickling her.  I was a woman for a week, and I dropped her faster than a wolf spider.

But let’s talk about boxers.  I was a briefs man for many, many years.  I’d even endured that awkward assortment of pink tinted underoos.  Sometime after my run in with Bo in Hammondsport, I’d decided to learn basketball.  Sports with ‘ball’ in the title have been notoriously harmful to my, um, reproductive capacitance.  Of course, not learning about nutcups until I was nearly fourteen may have had an impact on that.  Our apartment had this lovely basketball court behind it, with a stone barrier all around.  As our neighbors in the adjoining unit didn’t play, we had a big old pile of rubble, dirt and dust on the court.

One afternoon, I took it upon myself to clean up that pile of dust.  I started by removing giant branches and chunks of wood that had scattered from a kindling pile nearby. Next, I came after the dirt and leaves with a shovel.  Soon, I was well into the afternoon, and desired a way to move more swiftly.  I found a giant push broom, and went about the court.  An hour later, I had nearly cleared all the detritus away when, while distractedly rushing side to side, I had the handle level with my waist, and ran into the rock wall.  Suffice it to say, my shaft got the shaft. 

My mother did everything in her saintly power to not laugh to my face.  I mean, she really really really really really tried.  I grabbed some ice from the freezer, and went to my room to lie down.  I’d taken the briefs off, but had to freeball in a pair of jeans because the bruising was rather sore.  So, in a bit of genius, my mother brought home a pair of polka dotted boxers, and thus began an era I’ve never looked back on.

Except at LTC.  They made us wear these Army issue workout shorts 24/7.  Mine were a size too small, but I was ‘expected’ to fit them comfortable by the end of training.  Needless to say, they did not, and I was largely exposed the whole damn month. 

There was a lovely transition phase that no one ever thinks to tell you about when you’re a kid – from boxers to swimming trunks.  I honestly did not see the difference.  In practicality they were the same concept.   So, it goes without saying that my first year at Baptist summer camp, I went without a bathing suit.  I would cannonball into the water in nothing but my t-shirt and boxers.

I think the exposure was overlooked thanks to my shirt.  What kid swims in a giant shirt? 

This kid. 

I was self-conscious of my pudge around strangers.  And I was prone to the kind of bacne they model Warhammer terrains out of.  Might have had something to do with not always having hot water to shower with as a kid; let me tell you, nothing builds character faster than a fresh blast of cold water first thing in the morning.  City kids with your automobiles and Gameboys and walkmen and hot water – y’all could learn something about building character.

This was not an issue until the third day into the week.  Late in the day, you could take a little five minute course on boating safety, and then jam five or six kids onto a boat.  They toss a giant inner tube out the back, tie it on with a rope, and you’d hop on hoping to ride.  I say ‘hoping’, because the driver felt much the same as I do about children, and he was being paid to whip them around, behind a boat, at high speeds, hoping to slingshot them any myriad number of directions.  And most of the kids wanted him doing it faster.

I was one such son of a bitch.  I remember the ride well: started out simple and slow, and I kept making the motions to go faster and faster.  At one point, I was catching a good ten to fifteen feet coming over the crest of waves that crisscrossed in ways that would have the tire being dragged sideways with my feet kicking up against the force of the water.  I became aware for the first time that water at high speeds was hard.  I was so aware of this, that I didn’t try to level the tire out before cresting another cross of waves, spinning through the air like a helicopter blade.  I lost my left hand, then my right.  I hovered a good three seconds, hitting the water like a skipping stone rolling head over heels. Coming to rest, every nerve on my body was tingling like a leg that just woke up.

Which would explain why I didn’t notice I had nothing on from the waist down.  The driver of the boat first pulled up to me, then did another circle, reaching for what I thought was a part of the tire.  Coming around again, he leaned over close to my ear, told me I should put my trunks on before getting back in the boat, tossed them over, then dawdled as he pulled out the ladder.  No one on board was the wiser, thank god, but my mother arrived the next day with a pair of red swim trunks nonetheless. 

I bring this up just to remind everyone: highbrow or lowbrow, a laugh is a laugh.  I still break down in tearful hysterics when I see some poor chump getting the completely unexpected nutshot.   Don’t take yourself seriously; don’t be afraid to smile at a butterfly, colonial humour, or a simple crack in the tallywhacker.  You’re selling yourself short by being afraid to laugh loudly at life.

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