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Friday, August 21, 2009

Mongo in Motion

Come along with me on a trip. It won’t take…too long. It’s kind of like the Great Space Coaster, but with no giant fish skeletons or talking wildebeests. We’re going to go back to a time when Mongo could see his toes and had all of his hair the same color, the 80s.

I don’t know what it is but I’ve kind of become self reflective on my childhood since John Hughes died. I started designing a bunch of fake 80s school/college shirts for my shop. I really dipped into that well a lot to keep up with the idea that school starts up in a week or so. In any case, one of the ideas that came to me lead to a fake promotional shirt for Quicksilver Messenger service. Because, after all, what’s 80s nostalgia without a single degree of Kevin Bacon?

That got me to thinking, though, about my youth. When I was a kid, I rode my bike everywhere. I had a paper route and did all my delivering by bike. The only times I did not was during the snowy winter months, when grass was not available to travel upon, and when I turned 17. At that point, I dropped my bike, all together, and drove my 1984 Pontiac Firebird. But prior to turning 16 or 17, my main mode of transportation was a bike. Unfortunately, it is a practice I have gotten out of doing and quite frankly, I could use the exercise. However, I live on a hill and I don’t really much want to ride my bike up a hill, so for now, the only pedals my feet will touch are the brake and gas in my Maxx or Sunfire POS.

As a small child, my main mode of transportation was my Spider-Man big wheel. It was like my mid life crisis convertible. I adored that thing. Then, one evening, my Mom had to move my Dad’s truck in the driveway and wasn’t aware that my big wheel was directly behind it. She backed up over top of my beloved big wheel and rolled it. It never was the same after that. It didn’t go as fast because the plastic wheel had been bent slightly enough to catch on the frame. The seat was now cracked, causing me to lean back a little more, which was uncomfortable. It also was a little lopsided in peddling.

For as much as I am a childhood advocate of riding a bike, I was a late adopter of the practice. I was actually seven before I really took to riding a bicycle. I remember for my first communion I got a black Huffy bike with the bread loaf seat and number plate with a big old ten that quickly got discarded. However, I had not been taught how to ride one yet so it sat on my porch for a couple of years. Meanwhile, my father made the attempt to teach me how to ride a bike by packing up my brother’s white and orange banana seat version and driving up to the local ball field.

We’d go up on evenings before sunset and he would start me out in the dirt infield. I would simply get a push and be off in concentric circles around the pitcher’s mound for about seven to ten minutes or until I fell down, whichever came first. After awhile I got pretty good. In fact, if I do say so myself, if bike riding was like NASCAR driving I would be the king of the leader board as I made only left turns for an entire summer on that ball field.

But my father worked and had other responsibilities during certain times and he couldn’t be there to help me push off from a dead stop. Eventually, I just started doing it myself out of necessity and on asphalt, no less. After a few bumps and bruises I finally got the hang of it and was riding my bike all over the neighborhood like Forest Gump running all over the U.S. However, I had a set of boundaries with my bike. I lived on the main road in my town and spanning that road were streets numbered nine through twelve. I was allowed within the grid of those streets running North to South and a three street perimeter running East to West with my house in the middle. I also had to be home when the street lights came on in the evening. That was a neighborhood wide rule in my town.

That didn’t deter me, though. I managed to pull off the biggest, super secret ninja mission ever in the history of kids behaving badly with their bikes. My friend Marc and I would push those parent set boundaries at the age of eight. We effectively crossed that line in the sand when we set out to ride our bikes to the Dari Chef for some ice cream. With our pockets filled to the brim with loose change, we attempted to traverse Route 119 and head up the road to the ice cream shop, nearby. Starting out from the Kingdom Hall on the edge of our preset boundary, we immediately crossed the highway and then made the treacherous climb up the hill to the plaza that contained the Dari Chef, Village Grocer, and Village Baker stores. The Dari Chef was the local version of a Dairy Queen and as kids we all loved it, especially on a hot day after a little league game.

Now, It may have only been a half a mile from my house to the store, but for two eight year olds, travelling by bike, uphill, along a busy highway, it was like sneaking into Mordor. First of all, we were not even supposed to be on this side of the highway, let alone this far up it. Still, we savored the taste of soft serve ice cream even more because this was against the rules for us.

For years, my parents never knew we had embarked on such a perilous journey. It wasn’t until I was old enough to legally drink that I ever divulged my super secret mission for ice cream. My friend, however, wasn’t so lucky. One of his parents’ friends recognized him at the store and had mentioned to his Mother that he was there. He was grounded for a week. But in true BFF fashion he never gave me up as an accomplice. I automatically assumed that she figured I was involved, as we were, after all, best friends. However, I had that charmed childhood where I envisioned these grand schemes for world domination and enlisted my friends to help me execute them.

As I moved onto new ones, the wreckage laid behind me was riddled with the various groundings and spanked bottoms of my friends who were patsies in my schemes. They took the fall as mastermind while I worked like Emperor Palpatine behind the scenes, pulling the strings. I was the Angel child, who could do no wrong, though my parents knew better. And I too will be prepared when it comes time for my child to begin riding a bike. I will probably have to low jack it or she will be halfway to Rita’s Italian Ice two cities away before I realize the loose change on my dresser has been pilfered.

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