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My sister sent a cute video of my twelve-year-old nephew—aka, Super Nephew—riding a tube being towed behind a boat on a lake. I harkened back to my own youth of careless abandon on the water, until l noticed a few things. Let’s start with a look at the tube:
Yes, those are professional models riding a tube that seemed to be the same style in the Super Nephew video. You can tell they are professional because their hair is dry. Super Nephew’s was wet. Amateur.
What I really noticed, though, were the various handles. HANDLES. A person actually has something to grip to prevent being launched into the stratosphere. What’s the fun in that?
We didn’t have such things. Oh, no, the tubes we used were basic, round tire tubes of rubber. No handles. When they got wet, which they tended to do in a lake, they became as slick as greased pigs. Even if you have never touched a greased pig—and I am neither confirming nor denying that detail—you can imagine the difficulty. You had as much chance staying with the tube as winning a rigged game at the county fair. I will confirm losing entirely too much money trying to knock over blasted milk bottles.
If you did manage to hold on to a tube long enough to flop back down on top of it rather than sinking into the depths of the lake, you impaled yourself yourself on the valve stem strategically placed to maximize bodily damage. Some silly safety regulation against maiming minors probably removed that fun for today’s kids.
I continued watching the video of him laughing and hanging on to the handles—no blood or flying bodies involved—and realized the boat driver was not trying to wreak havoc. I remember motors opened full throttle while the boat did figure eights to maximize launch velocity wakes. Well, I mostly remember that. Some memory loss may have been involved. But it was fun. Except for the bruises and mangled body parts.
I think of these things as I walk around our neighborhood. Kids bounce on trampolines with safety nets. Skateboarders wear knee and elbow pads and safety helmets. Swing sets don’t have exposed, rusty bolts. Trust me, when you launched yourself from the height of a swing to see how far through the air you could hurdle your body, you didn’t want to find one of those bolts. Bandaids don’t fix that.
Around the corner from my house, I saw a group of boys ramping their bicycles. Finally, I thought, games I remember. We loved to see who could fly the furtherest, leap the highest, and crash the loudest. Bonus points for the last one.
Then I saw their ramp:
This wasn’t some wooden ramp cobbled together with purloined nails and scrap lumber with the carpentry skills of ten-year-olds. Of course, anyone who has seen one of more recent attempts to pretend I understand tools knows that might have been the height of my skills.
No rotted piece of plywood served as the base, ready to crack under the weight of a tire, for these kids. No, they used solid ramps which could be trusted to remain in place. Again I ask—where is the fun?
Plus they were ramping over soft dirt, not the hard asphalt of a cul-de-sac. When you lost in our game, you lost. Painfully.
Ah, yes, the good old days. Before safety softened a generation. Wait until I see Super Nephew again. I’ll tell him about walking to school…in the snow…uphill…both ways…while fighting off hungry wolves. If my memory is accurate.
P.S.—Long-time readers may remember I’ve written about the bicycle ramp before. And how my sister, mother of Super Nephew, got me in trouble because of it. I don’t hold a grudge, but if you would like to read about her treachery, check out Long Distance Trouble.
Books I’m Reading
After his wife, Michelle, left seven years ago, Jeffy Coltrane does his best to raise his eleven-year-old daughter, Amity. Their quiet life is shattered when a genial homeless man leaves a package with them with the warning to hide it and never open it. When they accidentally activate it, they discover the device allows them to travel to alternate universes. As they search for the missing Michelle—or, at least, her alter ego—evil forces pursue them to steal the device. Unless Amity and Jeffy can outwit them, the place they call home may never be safe again.
In what might be the funniest mix up I’ve ever heard of in TV news, an Argentinian news station became confused in reporting the death after an 81-year-old British man. Sad news, but the man was famous because he was the second person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID vaccine, though his death had nothing to do with it since it occurred five months later. So what’s the gaffe? The man’s real name was Bill Shakespeare—aka, William—and the report seemed to confuse his death with a certain famous writer. Yes, that station actually reported the death of one of the most famous writers in history, despite the fact he had been dead for just a few years already. Read the Guardian’s account.
Gratuitous Dog Picture
Frankie Suave is unimpressed with my essay on kids today. He suggests I pay more attention to the younger dogs in our household and how spoiled they are while he has it so rough. Also, he would like a belly rub. It’s tough being dog-in-charge.
Background title image courtesy Aravind Kumer