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Captain Pike's Ship Log II

Still Hanging in There

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When I was a little kid, I had a bag of marbles. We used to play marbles outside in the dirt for hours. Can you imagine kids doing this today? We almost always went outside to play, unless the weather was really bad. I remember one day my friend Bruce Robinson and I climbed up to the top of a couple of young maple trees during a ferocious wind storm. We held on to those thin trees for dear life as the merciless wind buffeted us around. We were both screaming at the top of our lungs in real fear. While it was truly scary, I at least knew that I could've climbed down at any time and been safe. The, "make believe", part of it was that I allowed myself to be petrified with fear at the very thin top of this tree and it was delightfully fun!

Being a kid meant that we could pretend things at the will of our own imaginations. Oh, it was probably not safe climbing to the top of that tree on such a windy day. But I learned how to explore my world through make-believe, at times having tremendous fun. We rationally pressed the envelope of our childhood confinement to learn about the reasonableness of rules and the acceptance of punishment. I was allowed to go out and play in the neighborhood and expected to come home for dinner at the agreed-upon time. I walked to friends houses and I walked home, sometimes after dark. When I was old enough to have a drivers license, I sometimes hitchhiked many miles. It was not uncommon for boys to do this – girls never hitchhiked by themselves – this would have been considered a bad idea. I also knew how to change a flat tire.

Today, kids aren't expected to walk anywhere, unless they have a PDA device held firmly in their hand in front of them – that way they can be in constant contact at all times. In fact, it would be an odd thing to sit quietly by oneself anywhere, ever, that is, without being in textual or voice contact with someone. And if anyone is seen hitchhiking, he is obviously a lowlife felon, to be steered clear of. No normal person has any business opening the hood of an automobile or messing around with a flat tire – it's not safe to be outside your car anywhere, except at known locations, like the mall or a friends house. Besides, cars can be dirty, smelly and greasy underneath. Flat tires and fuel outages or other nonperformance of one's vehicle is strictly the business of AAA.

A while back we went to see, "Final Destination 5", in 3-D at the IMAX theater in our town. As soon as I got the nice, black plastic, 3-D glasses on, I was ducking the movie titles, breathing hard through the previews as the letters making up the words on the screen came ripping past my head in alarming clarity – I was sure that blood spattered on me a couple of times during the show.

With maturity, I'll admit to a certain amount of hearing loss (my wife says it's a very particularly selective loss, pertaining mostly to her) and I find myself sometimes wondering what people are saying, in a room with normal conversation going on. Technically – sensor failure has provided my brain with poorer quality data. The mind adapts to this loss of signal efficiency by working harder to process the input data. It's amazing what my mind comes up with during the first pass – when someone says something to you, you need some kind of a response in a timely fashion. Often, a half a minute later, my brain will jog me with the obviously correct answer, after it has reprocessed the poor quality data, relative to the current context.

But, back in the theater, as soon as this surroundsound audio came on, I wished I had worn some of those little yellow earplugs – the foam ones you scrunch up, and then they expand inside your ear canal. I remembered then how I had thought the same thing the last time we came to the movies. Did I mention, that it also seems as though I might have a bit of memory loss? No? Well I do think that some earplugs might preserve what I've got left in the hearing department. Incidentally, I remember as a young guy, noticing my buddy, rolling those little yellow cylinders up at a rock concert – he was protecting his hearing back then. "What a dweeb", I thought, "we're at a Dead Show, for Christ's sake – turn it up, oh, and give me a toke on that!" And by the way, that friend can hear pretty well today. And come to think of it, I think his memory's pretty good too.

Anyway, that's the thing – I feel somewhat obsolete these days. I mean, if anyone's actually reading this, they might not know what I mean by, Dead Show. The Grateful Dead was something, an institution, they weren't really, "rock 'n roll". They weren't even that well known or, super popular – but the notion of the Grateful Dead is a thing that has gone past, like the stagecoach or the telegram. These things were a big part of the lives of some of the folks that lived during that time. So what, right? It's just funny, being a guy that lived in a time when, for example, there was no way to rent a movie, no way at all (I mean even before VHS tapes).

Both of my parents and my first wife have passed on. All my aunts and uncles – dead. All those people, everything they knew, felt and remembered, gone forever. It's almost like a dream to me. The only vestige is my two wonderful children – they are evidence that that past life existed. It's like I'm walking along the mountain top and it's getting narrower and narrower as I proceed. Don't get me wrong, I really love being alive. More than ever, in fact. Sometimes I get pretty down; I have some baggage, some physical detriment you might say, which makes living life these days something that requires more planning, help from other people and even some specialized equipment! It's a funny thing: my spontaneity and invincibility have declined and my aches and pains and fatigue are on the rise, but life is more valuable today than ever. I suppose it's no different than a kid with a pocket full of quarters at the arcade – at first he's willing to play nearly any kind of game – maybe even involving other people, however, the emptier his pocket grows, the more wisely he considers on his continuing purchases.

Even odder, the warning and advice given me by my now passed elders is more commonly to be heard, echoing back just behind conscious thought. "Save your money boy…", I hear my father say – the ticket for the movie I was talking about was $14, in the afternoon, with the senior citizen discount! You can bet I heard old dad, rest his soul, I could imagine his eyes bugging out at the incredulity of my spending that much money on something that would've cost him a nickel. I heed!

Updated 02-11-2012 at 03:57 PM by Captain Pike (The word, "listening", in the title, was erroneous.)

, Autobiographical


  1. Virgil's Avatar
    Captain! It's always a pleasure to see one of your blogs.

    We didn't play marbles when I was a kid. I guess when you live in Brooklyn, marbles shoot too far on concrete. We played baseball card games, and i remember losing a lot.

    It's no exaggeration. I really walked a mile to high school and then back every day.

    My wife says i have that same hearing problem. It's a wife thing. Don't fret it.

    I was never a Dead fan groing up. You're right they're different from most rock n roll. I do remember really liking Shake Down Street, but that had more of a pop appeal. But I have grown to like a number of their songs as I've discovered them later in life. Sugar Magnolia might be my favorite. Uncle John's Band is really good too. And of course Truckin'. Oh and I really like Touch of Grey; that seems to really speak to me in my age.

    Family and friends that have come in and out of our lives are treasures. Life wouldn't have value without them or their memories. One has to be of a certain age (like us) to really know that in one's bones.

    You do great, despite your "physical detriment." God continue to give you strength, my friend.