The hurly-burly, wing-dingy activity that is the hallmark of summertime in Niagara Falls has begun. Today alone, I’ve seen a cat shoved in a suitcase, two hookers dressed as Sailor Moon (one poor girl was big enough to have her own gravity), and a bachelorette party comprised of ten of the only living brain donors in medical history.
All before noon.
On the plus side, I ascended twenty feet up a ladder yesterday to begin painting my evil lair. (Which the wife insists upon referring to as “our home”.) I’m happy to report all went well; the ladder shook like Kanye West at an awards show and my arm is sore from holding the paint can while slapping on the latest layer of make-up to my HQ, but otherwise, I made it back down under my own steam rather than by the power of gravity and my own “luck”.
The onset of summer coupled with working outdoors for once rather than within the concrete walls of a hotel has filled me with an unbelievably powerful wave of nostalgia. I remember a bright, scorcher-of-a-summer day, much like a million that preceded it. As usual, I was on my own; I had plenty of friends at school but outside the prison walls, I was flying solo.
Ironically, “flying solo”, meant hanging out in a abandoned Ford pickup, which the neighborhood kids dubbed “Big Red”, in a ginormous field that adjoined my childhood home in St. Catharines, Ontario. The windshield and windows had been removed for maximum comfort – and target practice – and the tires had been deflated long ago. It became a suburban relic, parked between civilization and what remained of the countryside. To a kid, it was ridiculously cool.
This is the stuff that childhood dreams are made of, friends.
Granted, these days I’d never let my kid anywhere near an abandoned truck in the middle of a field, where no one can hear you scream, even if it was close to our house. But it was the Seventies and people were secure in their illusion of safety. We actually thought civilization was populated by civilized individuals.
But I digest.
One fine day, in the middle of the afternoon, while I was sitting in Big Red doing nothing (it was glorious), a thought occurred to me.
“What would go great with an afternoon devoted to reading a stack of comics, listening to a transistor radio and slurping down a small cooler of Coke? I know! Popcorn!”
Of course, there were a few problems.
- I was in a truck.
- In a field.
And so I was stumped. Temporarily. Until another thought hit me.
“We have a new popcorn maker at home! And miles of extension cords in the garage! And we even have popcorn!”
And so I indulged my inner mad genius and set out to pop me some corn. After raiding the kitchen and stringing together several extension cords into something from a firefighter’s nightmare and plugging into our garage outlet, that is. And yes, kids, this is long before the golden age of mankind when microwave popcorn was created. Or, for that matter, the microwave.
At any rate, I filled the popcorn maker’s reservoir, activated the machine and the field’s silence was shattered by the mechanical whir of man’s genius.
My plan worked perfectly – but not fast enough to satisfy my boyhood hunger. Fortunately, I had another brainstorm.
“I need something to really get things popping! I got it… Dad’s barbecue lighter fluid would do the trick!”
This keeps getting better, right? Well, buckle up, we’ve barely started.
The latest portion of my plan had a wrinkle to be ironed out. I acquired the lighter fluid easily enough, but even though they were out for the day, my parents’ rules were still in effect. I was forbidden to use matches.
Luckily, my parents never said anything about my dad’s welding torch.
I couldn’t possibly drag the torch out to the field so I located a thin piece of wood, covered it’s tip in rags, lit that up and carried it out to Big Red like some refugee from Lord of the Flies.
You read that right.
So I poured the fluid on the popcorn (you’re cringing, aren’t you?), dipped the flame from my makeshift torch in the reservoir… and then reality decided to rain on my parade. In an isntant it was time to play Johnny Blaze, Junior Firefighter. So I ran back to the garage and found something to smother the flames. Thank Dog for Dad’s giant stack of Playboy magazines.
Told you this would keep getting better.
Remember, the popcorn maker was still plugged in and I had a bottle of lighter fluid right beside it in the cab of the truck. When my efforts failed I was forced to resort to one last tactic. The garden hose wouldn’t reach so I grabbed my father’s emergency supply of beer (after finally unplugging the popcorn maker), and headed out to put everything right. Unfortunately, I sucked at handling a bottle opener but I made due and extinguished the truck-encased bonfire within minutes.
All’s well that ends well, right?
Okay, so maybe not. In the end, my parents (the ultimate buzz-kills) drafted a new, comprehensive set of rules to govern my behavior when they were away – which was still a lot. Not that the new edicts helped much; I was a scamp, through and through. Luckily, the neighborhood kids rather liked the new scent that filled Big Red.
It was a mix of musty magazines, barbecue, popcorn and childhood dreams.
See you in the lobby, kids…