Stupid Things I Have Seen (or done)

I reminisce at times to ponder life and meaning.  It is usually fruitless and provides no further enlightenment.

Still, I am grateful to have made it this far in life relatively unscathed.  It wasn’t for lack of trying.

During my late elementary school days I was fascinated by electricity and light bulbs.

Knowing electric current flows through wires and then the bulb filament, it seemed logical the more potent the electrical source the brighter the bulb would glow.  I should experiment.

Flashlight Bulb

I took the bulb out of a flashlight andextension-cord stripped the wires from a small extension cord.  Careful not to touch the bare wires together (no point being electrocuted at age 11) I plugged in the extension cord and carefully touched the exposed wires to the flashlight bulb to complete the circuit.

Not a total success.  The bulb was indeed very bright for about a millisecond.  Then it shattered (some might say blew up).  Then the house circuit panel blew.  Took Dad about a minute to get to my room where the smoke from the melted extension cord lingered.  He was not impressed.

Junior high brought the joys of science classes.  For our class project we made a batch of beer, but we also made individual projects for parent’s night.  My project was a volcano – what could go wrong?

On a piece of plywood I constructed the volcano proper from a flour/salt/water modeling mixture.  To create the lava simulation I used potassium permanganate and glycerin which was supposed to react and produce smoke and a bit of flame.

Apparently I used too much.  Luckily, my demonstration was outside of the classroom.  Unluckily, it was under an overhead breezeway, and the flames were trying their best to reach it.  The smoke was dense and widespread.

We did not have to call the fire department (or my Dad), but that was the last year active volcanoes were permitted as a science project.

Other fun times included:

  • Jumping off the roof of our house with an umbrella to slow the descent (come on, every kid does that).  Should have used a bigger umbrella.
  • Sitting with knees on a crossbar, flinging backwards, releasing and landing on your feet (called a penny drop). Can’t count the number of times I simply face-planted.
  • At fourteen I bet a friend of mine a dollar that he couldn’t get me drunk on Rhine wine. I probably lost that bet.  The mere sight or smell of wine would make me physically sick over the next 15 years.  (I’m okay now, thanks!)
  • Same friend had a front screen door. Wanted to see his surprise one day when he opened it and I was there with an aerosol can and a lighter, i.e., a small blow torch.
    Yes, he was surprised (and only slightly singed).  Never considered it would melt a hole in the screen.
    His dad figured an errant football pass had caused the hole, and we didn’t correct him.
  • We had some of the first skateboards (metal wheels off roller skates nailed to a 2×4) and would “shoot the curb” where 2 driveways were within a few feet of each other.  Down one driveway, over the curb, up the next driveway.
    One day another neighborhood kid, Mark, was sitting on our favorite curb in the cul-de-sac and he wouldn’t move.  I had a tiny pocket knife which I opened and held down with my foot – like a very small bayonet.  My plan was to raise my foot at the last second and just hit his leg with my skateboard.
    Realized my timing was off a bit since the knife hadn’t slid under my foot yet I didn’t know where it had gone.  I looked at Mark, he was looking at his leg, and there it was.
    Only a few stitches were required.  I was grounded a week for each stitch.
  • Thinking of knives, I received my first one as a birthday present when I was about 10. Thought I would carve a totem pole in one of the decorative square wooden pillars by our front door.
    Harder than you might think!
    Dad was not impressed, again, by my creative thinking and artistic endeavors.  Didn’t get that knife back until I was 12.

Almost all of us in the neighborhood survived our youth and, amazingly, stayed friends until we eventually drifted apart after high school.

Life is Twisted

We have a couple of wisteria trees.  Their branches, with each passing year, become ever more twisted and intertwined.

Wisteria Twisted 2

The swirling branches, new and old, remind me of the paths some people take during their lives.

New shoots, which can lengthen a foot or more each day, wander aimlessly skyward until their weight makes them drop down into the existing branches.  Children exploring their universe, eventually coming home to the familiarity and safety of friends and relatives.

And, like typical children growing up, some shoots are a bit rebellious and seek new paths away from home.  A nearby chimney to cling to and wrap around, or the adjacent maple tree with its branches beckoning like an exotic, far away town to run away to.

Wisteria Twisted 1

As branches grow more mature and seek their own spot in the world, they continue to wrap clockwise around their elders.  They embrace their siblings and support previous generations.

Sometimes they actually fuse with another branch and become one — a wedding of sorts for these young lovers.  As the years pass, however, one may end up choking the life out of the other until one or both succumb to the suffocating griphold.

Occasionally a branch will be reclusive, finding a path for itself with a minimum amount of twisting, touching, or interacting with others.

Our grape vines are also like perpetual children, year after year.  New growth is fast and furious and chaotic — like children at recess on a mild spring day.

As they run and skip and play, though, they seek friends and support.  “Hello, neighbor leaf.  Will you be my friend?”, a growing shoot may ask as it wraps its tendril around the adjacent vine.  “Hello, Mr. Steel Cable.  Will you help keep me in the air and sunshine?”, another asks on its seasonal journey.

We all have our twisted paths to follow and obstacles to face and overcome, and we can learn from the plants.

It is easier when you have another to hold onto.