Monday, April 06, 2009

The Great Flood

My first "disaster" was a flash flood that hit our New Hyde Park neighborhood during a torrential rainfall when I was about ten years old.  By flood standards, it wasn't much - the water level probably did reach more than a foot or so.  Most houses didn't flood.  In fact, only our house, which happened to be the lowest house in an otherwise flat street, suffered a river of sorts that seeped through the front door and the garage door and cascaded down into our basement.  My parents wouldn't let me go out into the water like some of my friends - so I guess the flood came in to me.

I remember watching the basement in amazement, unaware, like any kid,  of the concept of water damage.  I also felt oddly privileged to know that we were the only house with real flooding.   I knew it would give me a measure of celebrity with my friends.  I could see it immediately:  "You had a flood outside your house?  I had a flood INSIDE my house!"  They would gather around in amazement.   Nobody - NOBODY - could say they had a basement waterfall.  

Hey, I take fame where I can get it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

How I Could Have Been Damaged

When I was growing up, before a good part of the protective bubble that envelops nearly every American kid, there were a number of ways I could have been damaged (and was, in some cases!)

I had a toy called the SST - it consisted of a little vehicle that was revved up by pulling a plastic rip cord through a central wheel, and then letting it go down the street.  If you didn't position your hand holding the vehicle just right, you could get a nasty friction burn between your thumb and forefinger.

My Stingray, the bike of choice then, had to be redesigned in the following years after my model.  It featured a gear shift on the center bar.  Apparently it was in just the wrong position if a boy should slip forward and end up straddling the gear shift.  Happily, that never happened to me!

Most kids at the time played with gunpowder - in the form of cap guns - and the rolls of ammunition, which consisted of  bits of gunpowder encased in  little paper bubbles  The roll would be fed through a cap gun, which would set each off with a loud bang and a puff of smoke.  Of course, after a while, we just took the rolls of ammunition, set them down on the curb, and just set them off  by pounding rocks on them.  All we wanted was the boom.  It's a good thing it didn't occur to us to perform a little surgery and collect all the little drops of gunpowder into something more potent.

Of course, it wasn't always the toy that was dangerous.  At one time, I attempted to take apart an old radio - while it was plugged into the wall (actually, it was plugged into the side of the house outside, where I could go about my mischief undisturbed).   As a result, I remember precisely where I was when I learned, with a jolt, about the dangers of electrocution.  Some years later in junior, not surprisingly,  I earned my single worst shop class grade in the Electrical class.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Personality Recognition

One of the more fascinating aspects of re-connecting with my childhood friends on Facebook is realizing, over time, that I still can sense the kid I knew so many years ago.  Through chat and other Facebook correspondence with a number of old friends, some of which I have only fleeting memories.  Yet, there are certain characteristics that touch a distant chord or recognition. 

One friend's absurdist sense of humor seems very familiar.  Though I would be hard pressed to actually remember specific examples from our childhood, it's one of his identifying characteristics.  Another friend shared some traumatic experiences he had after I moved away.  Though I had absolutely no connection to him during those times, through his story I recognized his compassionate personality.  Of course, at eleven years old, I didn't understand those traits, but as an adult, I remember the common sensibilities that brought us together.

Finally, there's one kid of which I remember very little beyond his name and one or two specific memories, perhaps dating back as far as first grade.    But in corresponding with him, I remembered the basics - a nice kid with a particularly friendly personality.  

Though I can see the common threads of my own personality through my lifetime, It still seems surprising to recognize this friends at such a fundamental level.