Great Chicago Fire?
Having moved to the suburbs when I was about 10 or 11, out of Chicago, I discovered the defunct farmer’s fields that were now all sold for housing tracts were a great place to play, as did all the other kids whose parents participated in “white flight”.
Across the street from our newly built ranch house, behind just one row of other houses, there were acres and acres and acres of fallow, weeded fields, waiting for the bulldozer. The weeds had to be about four or five feet tall. They were dense and cool and we made forts and paths leading from one fort to another, virtually unseen by anyone and we’d run around in them all day, like idiots.
I was cleverly experimenting with matches then and thought I’d save a lot of work by burning down a little section of weeds instead of having to clear it by hand. The weeds were green and wet; they wouldn’t burn, I thought. Wrong. I set a small conflagration that was instantaneously out of control and when I realized I couldn’t stomp it out I ran like hell, with all the other kids, for home. I didn’t do it!
Huffing from the run, I sat in the kitchen window watching the pale smoke rise between the houses, desperately afraid our little two-street neighborhood would perish.
Mom: What are you doing inside, sweetie? It’s too nice outside to be in here.”
Mom: “Are you okay? You look flushed.”
Me: “I’m okay.”
She looked unbelievingly at me at said “Okay”, and walked into her 1950’s living room and sat on her 1950’s furniture to watch the 1950’s TV: a Lawrence Welk rerun, I think. The fire raged.
I more or less hid in the basement, then the garage, then the basement again. Each time I moved I peeked out across the street, living in fear the doorbell would ring and it would be the cops (“You’ll never take me alive, you dirty coppers!”). Hours later, just before dinner, I ventured out. Casually, hands in pockets, a picture of innocence, I walked around the block to see what I could see. Think about that: an 11 year old kid walking around the block. Hmmm. Well, long story short, nothing had occurred. A contractor with some machine or another had pushed a big mound of dirt over the burn spot (it was all of about ten by fifteen feet; I was sure it was 25 acres), putting the fire out. No trace left. The big Chicago Fire redux was not to be and that was the last time I played with matches. Well…until I started to make this little bomb…..
Wayne Mikosz is an ex-restauranteur, writer, residential designer, collaborative painter with the love of his life and a Certified Appraiser of collectible automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. Visit Convergence Studios. Check out his new book, 10 Stories of Life, Love and Death at www.blurb.com.
Ned and Carol, where are you? The reason I ask is that we keep getting calls for you. It’s been five years since we moved here and signed up for landline phone service. They gave us a number that must have once belonged to you.
But you two – you little imps – you two must have run up some mighty big debts, because not a day goes by that we don’t get a call from a collection service looking for you kids.
“If you are Ned Street or you know how we might locate Ned Street, please call yada-yada-yada.”
Now, when I see the collection agency name come up on caller ID, I pick up the call for two seconds and then disconnect. They are such wearisome calls after five years of hearing the same recorded message. And if I were Ned, would I really call the number for the collection agency? I hardly think so.
And not just one collection service is looking for you. There are several that would be interested in knowing your whereabouts. You and Carol must have racked up some serious debt. I imagine that it all started with some profligate spending on the credit cards and perhaps some gambling. The next thing you knew, it spiraled into a second mortgage and then maybe foreclosure on the house. The banks must have come after you too, but by then you and Carol had split town. Speaking of splitting, my guess is that the stress of your indebtedness drove a wedge between you and Carol, and the marriage folded. I could be wrong, but it seems unlikely that a marriage could survive the such a tremendous fall so far down the rabbit hole. I imagine you’ve gone your separate ways and tried to disappear into the cracks somewhere new, but it must be hard to try to rebuild a decent credit history with the collectors breathing down your neck.
I don’t know when the calls will stop. Maybe never. You would think the statue of patience limitations would have run out after five years, but hope springs eternal in the collection biz. I guess my own hope that the calls would finally stop demonstrates that I too have unrealistic expectations. Anyway, Ned and Carol, I hope you’ve landed on your feet somehow and find a way to rebuild your lives. If you’re ever feeling nostalgic, call your old phone number and let us know how you’re doing.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.
Put On a Happy Face
We are a bit UNHAPPY to have heard that the pump (a pump?) in the community water system was stolen and has left us without our tanks getting filled for 10 days with no fill-up in sight. The usual is twice a week the water comes on for one half day. We have three storage tanks that fill when the water comes on. Who steals a community water pump? (short answer -- some ladrones here in Puerto Escondido).
This is the first stolen pump story, but we have had a water delivery disruption for various reasons every year we have been here (now in our fourth). One time we were without tank replenishment for 5 weeks (conservative yes – we had to buy a fill of water from a truck that time). Dare I suggest those delivery truck people might be complicit – no.
Regardless of who the thieves are while we are a dry community we can raise our glass (beer more available than Scotch and WATER) to a new report from the Pew Research Center that declares Mexican people the happiest in the world!
While the wealthy who live in advanced economies say they are happier with their life situation, those living in emerging economies are close to the same level of satisfaction, according to a new Pew Research Center report.
The survey asked respondents of 43 nations to measure their happiness on a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents the highest rung of life’s ladder. Those who answered between 7 and 10 were counted as being happy.
Mexico, a country plagued with crime and corruption, had the overall highest score in the survey, measuring in at 79% satisfaction in life.
Mexico’s response represents a shift in what The Economist called a “fraying link between happiness and income.” On average, people residing in countries with advanced economies like Germany, France, Japan, and the US answered with a median of 53% of having a comfortable and gratifying life. Of the 10 countries with advanced economies, Israel is the leader of the pack at 75%.
Half of Mexico’s counterparts, like Venezuela and Brazil, weren’t too far behind by listing their lives as highly satisfying. Meanwhile, people in countries in the Middle East, including Tunisia, Jordan, and Egypt, said they were the least satisfied among the emerging nations.
We Are ¡Numero UNO!
So know we are a happy lot down here. We will have water again – soon we hope. Stay Tuned!
John Calypso lives outside Veracruz, Mexico, as well as Puerto Escondido. Back in the 60s, he was a very hip guy living in Hollywood and rubbing shoulders with Beatles and Monkees. Read lots more in his blog, Viva Veracruz and Viva Puerto Escondido.
Earlier this year, a report from The Guardian claimed that there’s a rise among what they call “Silver Gamers,” otherwise known as video game enthusiasts who encompass the entire age group known as “older people.” But while “younger people” might be playing purely for entertainment purposes, silver gamers are experiencing an additional positive side effect.
The article cited a study from the University of California—San Francisco, which found that “60-year-olds who played a custom-designed video game for 12 hours over the course of a month improved their multitasking abilities to levels better than those achieved by 20-year-olds playing the game for the first time.” Not only that, but it noted that “the subjects retained those improvements six months later.”
Now, while I can certainly see how some games would appeal to geezers, let’s be honest: the games they’re talking about are not complex adventure/shooter console games.
The language in the games can be pretty rough. I do not have the patience to deal with a bunch of kids telling me that they’ve done derogatory things to my mother over a headset. Saying those things to anyone, let alone someone over 60, isn’t clever — it’s just disgusting. At least have the decency to come up with a good “your mama” joke.
So what games are geezers more likely to play? According to Slate over a third of older adults claim to play some kind of digital game at least once a week, with 17% reporting that they game every day.
One of the most common types of games reported among the survey group were motion-detecting sports games, specifically Wii Bowling, of Nintendo’s Wii Sports. As much as it may seem cliche, the most popular game reportedly enjoyed by Baby Boomers are puzzle games. Games like solitaire and Bejeweled are two favorites, especially when played on tablets or handheld devices.
Yeah, a lot of the games people our age are interested in probably sound simple to the younger crowd, but hell, at least they have the potential to help keep us sharp — something that the brat with a username like YoLoBiTCheZ9573 probably can’t claim. But then again he’s probably too busy coming up with witty ways to inform other users of the fact that he’s porking their loved ones.
Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.
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Wayne Karberg lives in Laramie, Wyoming where he hikes the prairies and captures some amazing landscape images. See more of his photos on flickr.