Saturday, November 10, 2007

George S. Halas Disapproves of You and Your Lack of Social Mores

Hey, wow, holy shit, I guess it’s about 30 years since the day I saw my first Bears game in person. I don’t remember the exact date, but it was late Fall 1977. I suppose I could look up the exact date somewhere, but I don’t feel like it right now. Anyway, let’s pretend it was 30 years ago, this Sunday (tomorrow).

I was 10 years old, and I was hanging out in the kitchen one Sunday afternoon, when the phone rang. It was Dan, I heard my mom yelling to my dad, who was in the living room. Dan was our next door neighbor, and he had an extra ticket to the Bears game that day. Oh man I wanted to go.

My dad, on the other hand, didn’t want to go, didn’t care, so my mom hung up. Wait! Wait! Wait! I started to yell like a 10-year-old STDPM – who was a loud and demanding little fucker, at that time. I want to go! Give me the ticket! Call him back!

I threw an unholy tantrum with success, because my dad called Dan and set me up. And it was proved once again for me, in clear terms – if you want something, ask for it. And don’t take no for an answer.

Looking back on it now, it’s obvious to me that part of my parents’ lack of enthusiasm about the whole thing was … Dan, our next-door neighbor. Specifically, sending off their 10-year-old idiotic insane son with Dan, the next-door neighbor, to choogle down 50 or so miles to Chicago for a Bears game. It seemed reasonable to me, at the time – I would get to go to the Bears game, was the bottom line for me – but 30 years later, I can see my folks’ point of view, a little bit.

See, next door to us was a rental house, and it domiciled a rotating roster of young families alternated by hairy bachelors with muscly cars and intermittently visible means of support. During the latter times, that house was a real fascination for me. Or the driveway, anyway, where I could hang out without bothering anyone. I had the heavily precedent-protected common-law right to use the basketball hoop on the garage anytime I wanted, so I shot a lot of free throws there.

That was where I lustfully fondled the fenders of my first silver metal-flake Corvette Stingray … and my last, as it turns out. Corvettes just seem lame to me, for about the last … 20 years, but that was a great day, nonetheless.

There was also the time this one dude’s Chevelle – oh man. That was fucked up. The way I remember it is, early one weekend morning I woke up and dragged the damn basketball over next door to the initial disappointment of seeing a car parked under the damn basket. Which was replaced immediately by awe and complete rapture. The car was charred and black all over, and the tires were melted into the goddamn asphalt. I spent several highly excited minutes circling the hulk and inspecting every surface at about two inches’ distance. Then I ran back to my mom’s kitchen and hyperventilated at everyone about what I had seen. My mom turned from the stove and gave me her best deadpan look (she is the #1 deadpan looker-at-er of all time) and said, “Did you sleep through the firetrucks?”

That might’ve even been Dan’s car. I don’t remember. I know he didn’t drive the Corvette, because if I’d have been driven to a Bears game in a Corvette in 1977, at the age of 10, I would have exploded into a fine mist of pre-adolescent particles, and I wouldn’t be writing this now. I don’t think it was the burny-uppy Chevelle, though – I think he drove a Dodge Dart or something otherwise extremely cool and rock and roll.

Dan, the next-door neighbor. Dan was a Vietnam vet, long straight brown hair, mustache, about 5 foot 10, medium build. Smoked cigarettes. Drank. Yes. I think my parents used to worry about him a little, or try to play the role of somewhat older, more stable polite people for him. Well, OK, I’m not so sure about that, 100 percent. My parents were sort of on the periphery of that game then, in terms of various forms of “adult alcoholic” enablement, the warm compassion that is shared by fellow boozers of all ages, the kind hand of helping offered by the young and the aged in turn to one another in condescending drunken sweetitude.

Which explains why, one time, when Dan came home either too drunk to get his keys in the keyhole or too drunk to have remembered to bring his housekeys home with him, my parents gathered his wobbly self up and hoisted him back to my house, and sat him at the kitchen table for a cup of coffee.

Of course, being the little hyperaware hellion that I was, I was on top of all this hubbub, and digging it to death. So of course I plopped my own self at the kitchen table and shortly found myself shooting the shit alone in the room with Dan.

Then Dan started ranting, and ranting in a slurred way that I recognized as the voice of drunk men. Which, I had learned a bunch of times, could mean danger. Then I realized that Dan was ranting about the Vietnam War. Which I had learned about, too, having seen it on TV and also having heard such things as young men yelling stuff about it before picking up a pool cue to swing at somebody while my mom was grabbing me and pulling me to a quieter part of the bar.

Which means that I was in a sensitized state when Dan unloaded on me and said this – “Every generation gets its war. They all get em. Our parents got theirs, we got ours. You’ll get your war, too. You’ll get your war.”

Freaked me right out.

So, anyway, that’s Dan. So anyway I put that dimwitted foot of mine down, and Dan took me to the Bears game. At Soldier Field, we met up with a girlfriend of his, who I remember being a very nice woman. It was cold. Dan had a flask of hooch, but he wouldn’t let me have a taste. The Bears won. I brought my binoculars to the game, and Dan made fun of me over and over for watching the Honey Bears cheerleaders through them instead of the game. He caught me, what can I say? And I got to see Walter Payton play, and everyone was all excited about Vince Evans getting some snaps instead of Bob Avellini,and everything was totally awesome about that day.


Feral Mom said...

I dig your stories, childhood and otherwise, and this was exactly what I was looking to read on a lonesome Sunday, though the "every generation gets their war" kind of freaked me out too. Anyway, thanks for a great, old skool STDPM story.

Stronger Than Dirt Pete Moss said...

Wow, thanks for saying so, FM. I appreciate the compliment.

I think the main theme to that story was that, when I was a grabby little kid, I used to shamelessly demand stuff that I wanted until I got it. Which is no longer true of me -- but then, it would be pretty unseemly for a 40-year-old dude to throw a shrieking tantrum every time somebody said "no," eh? OK, I know some people who would find it fucking hilarious -- for about one minute. Is there a lesson? I have no idea; I'm just kind of amazed I used to have that kind of cheek.

I never did get "my" war, of course. I guess Gulf War Uno was the closest thing, although that lasted about two weeks, and there was no risk of conscription being reintroduced.

Dan's grim augury haunted me for the rest of my childhood, though -- an era containing the Reagan Administration and the resumption of draft registration, which didn't give me a warm-puppy feeling at all, to be sure. Let's just say I spent a lot of time listening to my Bob & Doug McKenzie album and practicing my Canadian accent.