I really pity my children. No, not because of the shame and embarrassment that having me for a father brings upon them on a daily basis. Nor is it due to the fact that they are going to make some therapist very rich when they get older. I am not even talking about the inevitable public scene that occurs every time we go out, I don’t care if he was 5 years-old everybody knows that the Skeeball at Chuckie Cheese is my “turf”. I just feel bad about the world they are growing up in. This isn’t a lament about the fact that I now have to suit my kids up in Kevlar to take them to the movies or the fact that by the time they are grown the average daily temperature will be around 160 degrees. This is more about the wonderful things that I had as a kid, that they never will. Childhood is about rituals and the rituals I experienced as a kid made me who I am today. Oh wait, that is probably not the best endorsement.
I remember the joy that was walking to school. Once you got of a certain age, the feeling of independence as you would cut thru other people’s yards on your way to the day’s learning was amazing. Nobody hassled you as you would enjoy the peace and quiet. It was also comforting to know that every house along the way was a refuge of safety as you knew everybody in the neighborhood and saw that a parent at each house was looking out for you. I watch kids walk to school today and they act like they are trying to traverse the landscape in a zombie holocaust. They have a look of abject fear as they cross the streets because they know that the average car driver is more likely to be watching a funny cat video than actually watching the roads. Whereas I felt safer because the neighbors were watching me, they know that a neighbor staring at them is probably the first step to them becoming part of an Amber Alert. However, the kids are learning one valuable survival lesson,” If you fall behind, you get left behind.”
I think that we should change the way we refer to time. Historians use the designations of “B.C.” and “A.D.” to refer to the different eras. I think we need to change those to “B.C.I.D.” and “A.C.I.D.”, that is “before caller i.d”. and “after caller i.d.”. Caller i.d. and their bastard child the cell phone have robbed kids of a lot of fun and a skill that all people need to master, cold calculated revenge. If a teacher disrespected us in class or gave homework on a weekend , or was late with the bribe money, they would be guaranteed to find themselves awakened by a 2 a.m. phone call by someone claiming to be the police or they would never go hungry because there would be at least 25 pizzas delivered to their house between 11 p.m. and 11:15 p.m. If you called a business and said you were the President, they had to trust you because there was no technological way to verify it otherwise. This also made dating way easier as a teen. You knew someone liked you if you would get two or three of the following phone calls: Ring….Ring….Hello?…click. It was like a warm up to actually talking to someone you were crushing on. If you do that today, the person on the other end immediately knows who you are and they develop little pet names for you like,”stalker” and “defendant”. The greatest thing about the anonymity of telephones was the joy of calling you parents at Midnight and explaining to them how i was still at the “Library” Thankfully my parents never thought to ask me where exactly in the library did they keep all the Boone’s Farm.
My kids will never know the pure joygasm that Saturday morning brought them. Today’s kids think they have it made in that there are a half dozen channels on cable or satellite that show cartoons, but the reality is that several of those channels are just repeated channels for time zone difference. Watching the same show 4 hours after you watched it the first time is not actually variety, its repetition. When I was growing up, the only cartoons were shown in a 4 hour 3 network block of programming on Saturday morning. You started planning your viewing the night before. I remember putting more effort into planning how I was going to get up early on Saturday than I did for any science project I ever completed. If you happened to get up too early , you had to endure either some Farm Report, cause the price of soybean futures are soooooooo interesting, or some half-assed kids’ news show. The great part of the kids’ news shows were that they were a kind of Nerd Litmus Test. They would pick the geekiest kids in the world to host those shows and as long as you were less nerdy than those wastes of oxygen you felt pretty good. As a sort of pallet cleanser, the next show would usually be one of the Sid and Marty Kroft freak shows. They would usually feature some over acting kids and a bunch of Giangantic talking puppets. We watched shows like HR Puffnstuff and people wonder why drug use went up in the 1980s.
Finally, the real entertainment would arrive. There were great shows like The Challenge of the Super-friends, it was a great show except for the damn Wondertwins. Really, you turn into water? It is not a superpower if you can be defeated by a Brawny paper towel. In addition to the classic Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman collection of heroes, they would include characters like Apache Chief, who could turn from a regular sized native american into…….a giant native american. That is a neato power but unfortunately it is about 120 years too late.
As great as the other cartoons were, they were just an opening act for the rock stars of all cartoons, The Looney Tunes. I loved Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the rest . Not only were they entertaining, they were educational. I learned that the duck is actually the natural predator of the mexican mouse . I learned that gravity only affects you if you
look down. I learned that it is always “Duck Season”. And most importantly, a rabbit in a dress will pass for a human female every time.
The kids today also suffer from the advertising icons like we never did. Tony the Tiger was a kitchen-bound friend to us. Now he is a roided out freak who encouraged kids to eat a big bowl of cereal and milk and then run around in the heat playing soccer. Any cartoon animal that encourages the playing of soccer should be euthanized. We had the Cookie Crisp Cookie Crook. We learned about a tasty cereal and the need to stay out of jail. But most of all, we kept Ronald McDonald where he belonged, in a fantasy world populated by Hamburglers, giant purple Grimaces and Mayors who heads were actually cheeseburgers. Today he is in commercials roaming the streets and parks of America. Sorry, a clown in a park is the subject of a nightmare or a criminal trial not a commercial. I don’t know what a McFlurry is, but I have a bad feeling that the principle ingredient is Roofies.
There were lots of other fun things that my kids will never know. Things like having chicken pox and wanting to peal your skin off for a week, and that apparently means you can get Shingles ,which are chicken pox’s bad ass older brother, when you get older. They will never know what it means to “be kind and please rewind”. They won’t understand the dangers of sleeping on a water bed if you have keys in your pocket. I still wear a life jacket to sleep on my Temper-pedic cause you just never know. They don’t understand the days before youth coaches had background checks. What do you call 4 hours of physical torment? Football practice.
They won’t ever know how it felt to think that the nukes might fall on you at any moment, and hoping the would hit your neighbors house first cause he ratted you out for breaking his window with that baseball. They also won’t know what it was like to feel like you would be a smart- assed teenager forever….and to be right.