Marching Webelos

The best thing about being in the Cub Scouts was getting recognized for being in the Cub Scouts. You flash a badge, you wear a neckerchief, and not only are you in the club, but you're in everyone else's club too. I'd wear that uniform to school for picture day and suddenly transform that "humdrum smile against the paper background" into a proud military portrait in full regalia--a full smile, a missing tooth, and a badass bunch of badges. Two words: aw yeah.

Well nothing was more honorary than marching in the Memorial Day parade as Cub Scout Troop [whatever], in fact, we had more honor than we knew what to do with. "Remember, your behavior reflects on the whole troop," they said. They had to preempt our fighting and make sure each of us got a shot at carrying the banner with our troop insignia, which was a matter we took very seriously. So we stood shoulder to shoulder in one long single-file line holding this thing up and stepping on each other's feet for a mile and a half.

We began the journey at the "secret parade people's meeting area" in the field where the Scotsmen were tuning their sheep bladders and the classic cars were idling and revving up for no reason, and waited there for the eternity it took the thing to get started. We baked, and sweat, and got on each other's nerves under the hot sun, and finally found ourselves lining up to be smack dab between the fire engine and that high school drum ensemble. Let's just say, the novelty of marching wore off pretty fast.

That fire engine was a tough act to follow. It tossed out the most candy, and like hell if we listened to the pack leader about staying in formation once there was candy in the area. If the banner almost dropped a few times and caused an embarrassment for the whole council, it was because we were stuffing our pockets before those leeches on the street corners got theirs. Nobody expects a Cub Scout to be a giver and a sharer anyways.

As far as where we were headed, "who the heck knows... just follow the fire truck."  So we just kept walking and walking under the hot sun, slowly losing our hearing, slowly losing our shirts, and getting on each other's nerves (that would've happened anywhere). When we finally made it to the end, we sat in the grass at the grave site and ate our candy and rang the sweat out of our neckerchiefs until our parents caught up with us. There was some memorial ceremony going on there, but what did we care? We had three things on our minds:  shade, silence, and water!

That's what Cub Scouting is all about, teaching you what's important.

Swimming Lessons

Why do I have to go to swimming lessons when I can just stay home and play Sonic instead? 

That was probably running through my mind in the summer of 1993 or so, on a sunny, hot morning like today. It was like pulling teeth to get me and my brother up, dressed, and out the door, but once we hit the pool, we were having a grand old time. The one we used for our swimming lessons was outdoors, submerged in a bed of scratchy white concrete, and built up on all sides like Fort Knox with high chain link fences. It was like its own micronation of "Community Pool," complete with it's own laws (No Diving, No Splashing, No Running...etc.).

You could only enter in through the changing rooms, which served as its border crossing. The boys and girls separated. It was like passing into a third world country. Our changing room was nothing but a series of slimy, buggy, weedy showers next to a changing bench--which at the right angle was perfectly visible to the outside. That's okay, I'd gotten used to having no privacy, but could only imagine the luxuries the girls had. Their side was probably furnished like a Turkish bath by comparison!

In any case, I did not wear "floaties" know, those things that make you look like you're a real heavyweight stud whenever you... oh who am I kidding, there's nothing manly about floaties! I didn't need them. I could dog paddle with the best of them!

Anyways, most of our lessons involved swimming back and forth, launching off the sides, splashing 101 (holding onto the side and kicking), and learning how to "use spoons, not forks" when going overhand. I insisted on inventing my own swimming maneuver though, calling it "knives," but it didn't take me very far. When I was above water, it was about making bubbles, and when below, it was about holding them in. I used to spend a lot of time under water holding my breath, keeping my eyes open to see up from underneath the other kids like the shark in Jaws. The only bubbles I didn't like so much were the ones that filled my shorts after jumping in, which would blow up my hips and blurp out the leg holes unexpectedly in a big bubble. Well, no. I take that back, those were the best!

That pool also came with a slide, which I was practically running to get in line to (which apparently is against the rules or something). The only problem with the pool was the fact that the water was too damn cold, even on the hottest, most humid days. I could feel every limb on my body shrivel right up when I jumped in--and not just the usual suspect. Now, there were occasional warm spots in the water, but they probably weren't the kind I should've been hanging around in.

At the end of the summer, we were given a cheap printout award by the lifeguards in charge of our swimming lessons (usually slender little high school chicks or dudes with sunglasses and more SPF than Ug's nose. All I remember about that achievement was how horribly, horribly wrong they spelled our last name.

In short, it took a shower just to erase the effects of the chlorine. I can still smell it.

Hurricane Felix

It was the summer of 1995, and my dad had me hooked on the Weather Channel. We were tracking the progress of the hurricane due to make a run up the east coast at category 4 strength, and for at least a week or two, it was the topic of conversation between me and dad. Where is it going to go? Will is swing north? Will it fly out the sea? Will it slam into North Carolina and miss us completely? What the heck is that low pressure system doing? For more on this developing storm system, I take you to my 9-year-old self Weather Channel correspondent...

Back then, watching the Weather Channel was like watching a Sega Genesis game. The bright blue Local on the 8's screen was populated by bold white letters, little blazing suns, and puffy rainclouds stuck to fat lightning bolts, and was always delivered in the key of cool--and by that I mean laid back, Pure Moods-y, sax-driven adult contempo. smooth. Nothing was cooler than watching those big green snot blobs pass over the landscapes of gray puzzle pieces so long as Kenny G was the one heralding their journey. The wind could be ripping the roof off your house, and it'd all be okay so long as it was set to elevator muzak.

Anyways, I remember Felix better than Hurricane Bob because I'd grown a few more braincells during those years. Hurricane Bob actually hit us, but all I remember about it is how I "held the furniture down" so nothing would break should the house go up like the Wizard of Oz. Men got to protect the house, after all. By the time of Felix, I was less interested in thwarting disaster, and more interested in watching it--the stock Hurricane Andrew footage that is, of roofs getting thrown off, waves crashing through windows, palm trees bent sideways...etc. And to think, we had one coming our way!  Fire up the camcorders!

So you couldn't beat the Weather Channel when it came to excuses for father/son bonding, because when the storm hits, the men got to be prepared... the destruction won't tape itself! As it turns out, Felix hovered around North Carolina and did a couple loops before spinning out towards the North Atlantic. Bummer. It didn't flash, it fizzled, which is probably why we didn't stay tuned for Hurricane Luis.

Creepy Crawlers

I'm going to echo what others have said about the Easy Bake Ovens: they were sexist. Sure, nothing beats a light bulb when it comes to baking the best brownies, but did the ovens always have to be so rounded, soft, and pink? I know many boys would have loved those things if we didn't feel like we were breaking the law by enjoying their edibles. In fact, many young men are coming forth, like myself, and declaring proudly that, yes, because of that machine, baking is cool, even in pink.

It's not that I had anything against the color pink. Heck, in the 90s, pink was unavoidable. It was one of the primary colors of the decade. And I may be an uber dork, but I am also still a dude. I didn't fear pink, it's just I feared the "implication."

But all hope was not lost. The marketers weren't really ignoring those of us with a Y chromosome, for another 60's toy was making a comeback in the 90s. And this one they chose to cast in that other hallowed primary color of the 90s: lime green, making it automatically a "boy toy" for some reason. Easily the boy equivalent to the Easy Bake, it was known as the Creepy Crawler "bug maker" (don't dare call it an oven!). This thing was one of the coolest gadgets ever because it appealed to two of the things boys love: bugs and goop. You'd pour your goop in the molds, slide them into the "bug maker", wait a while and slide them out, extract them one by one and have yourself... inedible rubber bugs... spiders and centipedes...etc., which you could then stick places to gross out the girls, which would cause them to get angry for some reason. Even though they never looked real enough to actually creep anyone out, the girls still kicked our butts for doing it.
It's not an oven!
But that prank only worked until even they got into it, because really, who says only boys can be into grody, slimy bugs anyways? By then I was already scarfing down those bulb-leavened cupcakes, so things evened out in the culinary arena. And I know I can't be the only one to put a few of these in my mouth. Even though they were inedible and they were bugs, they still at least looked like the most delectably chewy candy ever. Of course, whatever was in that "Plasti-Goop" probably couldn't have been healthy, but whatever. It wasn't the worst goop I've tried.

In any case, all it goes to show is that boys like to cook too, and for that there were slimy bugs, but we also like to eat what we cook, and for that, there were pink ovens. In the end, few were grossed out enough to go hungry... until after the cupcakes set in our systems for 30 minutes.

Spring Cleaning! is in the air, and that means if you're like me, and by that I mean a 90's kid, then you probably have this song running through your head... and if you don't, allow me to permanently put it there (Update: unfortunately you got to view it on youtube because every year many poor starving Viacoms go hungry).

Rocko was my favorite cartoon as a kid, and easily one of the most perverse, most mind-f@#%ingly awesome shows ever produced that isn't Ren and Stimpy. So without further adieu, the lyrics to Spring Cleaning:

Summers for fishing, and for lounging around...
Fall is for raking all the leaves off the ground...
Winter is for skating like Torville and Dean...
But we all know that spring is the season to clean.

Spring cleaning, spring cleaning!
We deodorize and sanitize and harmonize too!
Spring cleaning, spring cleaning!
We're gonna make this town look all shiny and new!

Spring cleaning! (I'll sweep off this mat!)
Spring cleaning! (I'll vacuum the cat!)
Spring cleaning! (Where'd I get this dead rat?)
You'll find a lot of stuff when your spring cleaning!

We got a lot of junk that we have just been dying to get rid of,
And there's so much garbage in this can that it's about to blow the lid off

Spring cleaning, spring cleaning!
Our disinfecting prowess is second to none! K?
Spring cleaning, spring cleaning!
It's a sick digusting job... sick disgusting job... sick disgusting job...
But it's gotta get done! *fart*