Sunday, February 15, 2009

The World Vs. Me

I can't really determine what my earliest memories are of my hometown in New Hyde Park.  We lived in the same house from the time I was about a year old to my eleventh year, when we moved away.  Since we didn't move during that initial period in my life, I didn't experience the extraordinary events that form those detailed early memories (for example, the 1964-65 World's Fair, for which I hold my earliest memories). 

Instead, like any small child in a stable world, my universe slowly revealed itself to me, from my home, to my backyard, to my neighbors and beyond.  I rode my bike further and further from my home, until my friends and I took increasingly "daring" expeditions beyond our immediate world and across major boulevards. Those adventures were at once both scary and exciting, but because I was taking those expeditions with a squadron of friends, I don't think we ever questioned our missions: to the toy store, the homes of friends near our school (to which I usually took a school bus), or just up into the neighborhood to unfamiliar territory.  We were still young enough, and our world innocent enough, that we didn't yet know to question ourselves or our friends on moral grounds.  We just did what we thought was alright to do, and usually, it worked out okay.

Of course, as the world unfolded, my knowledge of how to physically survive in that world sometimes lagged.  I remember taking my gravity-powered go-kart to the top of a local street and speeding downward at full speed, dashing through intersections without a care - until a car just missed me as I zipped by.  That's a pretty heady experience - seeing your nine-year-old life flash before your eyes as a car screeches on its brakes and I kept going, moving too fast to stop with my makeshift brake, which was just a piece of wood rubbing against one of my baby-carriage tires.

I didn't quite tell the manufacturer (my dad) what happened, but we did make some modifications to the braking system before my next go-karting experiment.

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