Monday, February 28, 2011

Don't Try This At Home

Last night I came home after a long, exhausting weekend and decided to watch some television before collapsing into my bed.  I knew my mind was weary so I didn’t want anything that would require much attention or brain activity.  I just wanted something entertaining as I fell asleep.  After scanning the channels I found a show getting ready to start and settled in to be entertained.  The show starts and I am met with the following screen.

Well, that was the end of my plan to watch something mind-numbing.  I was mad.  Who do these people think they are?  They can’t tell me what to do in my own home.  They can insist all they want.  If I want to do something in the privacy of my own home I will. 

I believe the entire reason that these guys even have their own show and are good at what they are doing is because they tried it at home.  Then, at some point, they started the video camera.  Eventually, after watching their antics numerous times and showing it to their friends, someone decided to put it on television. 

The only way to get good at something it to try it at home and then keep doing it.  Why is it that the people telling us not to try these things at home are the ones doing it at home?  Why do they get to tell us not to do it when they have been doing it?  Do they think they have the monopoly on doing stupid things because they thought of it first?

This warning screen is not unique to this show.  I have seen similar screens pop up before countless magic shows, stunt programs, and generally any show that depicts young people having fun doing exciting things.  Why can’t we do these things? 

Growing up my mother always warned us to stop doing some of the things we were doing because we might get hurt.  However, we were boys and that was one of the biggest parts of the thrill.  We knew we could get hurt and that was one of the reasons we did it.  Living that close to danger or possible death is one of the necessary parts of becoming a man.

My brother Kyle once knocked the wind out of himself trying to do a back flip out of the barn loft.  My brother Trevor once sunk a knife (on purpose) into Kyle’s foot while playing a game of Chicken.  A week before my 12th birthday I flipped my bike off the top of a picnic table, landing on my head and knocking myself unconscious.  The three of us have all been attacked by wild animals despite the repeated warnings to not get too close.  Trevor, specifically, lost a wrestling match with a full-grown bull while trying to impress a girl.

The antics never stopped just because we got injured.  It was part of being a boy.  My brothers and myself have various scars all over our bodies and tales of good times to go with every one.  We can tell stories of riding underneath a galloping horse (Kyle), riding a couch being drug down the road at 50 mph (Trevor), misjudging a jump from one moving vehicle to another (me), jumping onto moving trains (all of us), being hung by the neck 10 feet off the ground (Kyle), and falling off numerous roofs.  Trevor has broken so many ribs his chest pops when he breathes.

Why did we do these things?  Sometimes it was for science.  When we doused Trevor’s jeans in diesel fuel and lit him on fire, we were curious to see if he could run 300 feet to the creek to put himself out before getting crispy.  How were we to know other than to do an experiment?  He did make it the first two times.  After the third attempt we decided to stop.  It didn’t go as well.  When diesel fumes and flames are shooting over your head, apparently it is difficult to see.  He ran the wrong direction.

Other times it was to get attention.  My mom’s friend, Linda, would get so nervous when we did this stuff that we didn’t have much of a choice.  You can't walk away from the opportunity to make a grown woman cry.  We would hang upside-down off the roof and look in the window to scare her.  Once we had her attention, one of us would scream and throw a jacket in front of the window so she would think we fell.  It was great.

There were a variety of reasons that seemed good at the time, but the main reason was that we were boys looking for a thrill.  Why else would we dare each other to jump off higher and higher parts of the roof?

We didn’t need Travis Pastrana or Johnny Knoxville to show us dangerous stunts and then tell us that we couldn’t do them.  We just did them on our own.  If we would have had a video camera back then, maybe we would have created JACKASS.

Today, my back problems and aching knees remind me of all the fun I had when I was younger.  My mother’s early touches of gray reminded her even sooner.  Last year, when my daughter got on a four-wheeler for the first time, she gunned it before I was able to explain how the brakes work.  She plowed into a tree and was thrown into the air.  As I watched her sail past me, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for my younger days when I bounced better.  No TV show is going to tell me how to raise my kids.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


For the last few days the National Weather Service has been warning us that the largest storm to hit the area since weather started being recorded in 1886 is coming to kill us all.  The forecast was a few days of ice with up to an inch of accumulation and then 12 to 18 inches of snow.  Since history is about to be made and I knew about it ahead of time, I started chronicling the events for future generations.

January 30, 2011
7:28pm        Arrive at Wal-Mart to stock up for the impending doom.  I get everything on my list, but know there is something I haven’t thought of.

January 31, 2011
12:43pm      Right on time, the ice starts falling from the sky and coating everything.
1:30pm        Central A&M (Kirsten’s school) calls it a day and sends the students home.  Ice continues to fall.
6:30pm        Receive text that Central A&M is cancelled for the following day.
6:32pm        The ice storm stops.

February 1, 2011
5:59am        Receive text that LCU (Lincoln Christian University – my school) is closing for the day.
6:03am        It occurs to me that I take online classes so the closure does not really affect me.
11:18am      The ice starts falling again, but much harder and accompanied by 35 m.p.h. gusts of wind.
12:30pm      Receive text telling me not to come to work that day.
4:25:17pm   The power goes out
4:25:19pm   Hear cursing from next apartment and loud exclamation, “NO!!!  I WAS RIGHT AT THE END OF THE LEVEL!!!  I HAVEN’T SAVED IT!!!”
4:26pm        Locate a flashlight and establish martial law in the apartment.  Do not open the fridge or the front door.
5:05pm        Receive text to not go to work the next day.
5:08pm        Without television, decided to watch the storm out the window.
5:12pm        Observed unprepared neighbor trying to chip the ice off his windshield with a hatchet.
5:19pm        Observed neighbor give up and go back inside.
5:26:03pm   Alex (Kirsten’s boyfriend) offers for us to ride out the outage at his house with his parents.
5:26:12pm    I tell Kirsten I am staying to keep the pipes from freezing and the python since his heat lamp was out and he is cold-blooded.
5:26:17pm   Kirsten leaves me alone in the apartment.
5:48pm        Receive text that Central A&M is canceled for next day.
5:54pm        The sun sets and the apartment is in total darkness.
5:56pm        I stub my toe on kitchen table.
6:03pm        I remember the thing I forgot when I was stocking up for this storm: candles.
6:08pm        I speak to my parents in Florida to let them know what is going on.  They tell me about their new shorts and the fish they caught that day.
6:14pm        I decide not to talk to my parents again until June.
6:18pm        The wind picks up and the trees start breaking off.
6:23pm        I step out into the stairwell to converse with the neighbors about the declaration that people are not allowed to leave town.  Road travel has been forbidden.
6:29pm        The neighbors start drawing straws to determine who has to make a cigarette run.
8:09pm        Our python wakes up and comes out of his resting place to seek out heat.  Since the heat lamp is out, I put him in my sweatshirt.
8:12pm        An ungrateful reptile bites me on the nipple.
8:19pm        I stub my toe in the bathroom.
8:35pm        Receive text from Kirsten that she is ready to come home.  Apparently, she was just going to visit for a while.
8:37pm        Begin scraping windshield.
8:43pm        Wishing I had a hatchet.
8:56pm        Decided that the 2 foot square section I cleared would have to be enough. Started van.
9:03pm        Finally got maneuvered out of parking lot.
9:04pm        Stopped a half-block from the apartment.  Windshield was frozen again.
9:06pm        Discover that I am stuck in the middle of the road.
9:09pm        Got loose in time to have to clean the windshield again.
9:12pm        Used my memory to guess where I was going since I gave up trying to see.
9:17pm        Retrieved Kirsten and battled our way back home.
9:32pm        Arrive at home after this 30 minute adventure.  (Kirsten was only 4 blocks away.)  I should have just walked.
9:54pm        Power comes back on.
9:56pm        While putting flashlight away I find a box of candles.

After 4 hours and 29 minutes, the power is back on and hope is restored.  I pray that my records serve as a guiding light for future generations as they reflect on this dark period.

February 2, 2011
7:08am        Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring.