How are we still alive?

A generation of thrill-seekers...

I recently wrote a piece about Baby Boomer parents and your reaction indicates you enjoyed it. Good, if you’re happy I’m not exactly happy, but I’m at least somewhat less unhappy which at our age is about as good as it’s going to get.

I mean face it, we’re all wondering when that artery is going to blow and we’ll wind up face down in the plate of mashed potatoes and gravy that stressed that artery to the point of bursting in the first place.

And as so often happens when I’m writing one of these things, that reminds me of a story.

Some of my friends are cops and they have informed me that it’s not uncommon for people our age to go out in a similar way, which they call: “Code on the Commode.”

Put delicately, we go into the bathroom, strain too hard, blow out a piece of our body’s plumbing and die sitting on the toilet.

Now you might think I could have skipped that distasteful information, but you should consider this warning a public service.

We all know we’re headed for a dirt nap, but I’d rather not go out with my pants around my ankles and a bunch of cops, EMTs and tow truck drivers trying to figure out how to get my fat ass out of the bathroom and into the ambulance and I’m guessing most of you feel the same way.

So remember: your bathroom is a goddamn death trap.

You need to be careful in there if you don’t want cops in bars telling funny stories about you to their friends who then write about it on blogs.

BTW: Those guys think it’s funny to coat your silverware with pepper spray while you’re in the bathroom, so if you go out for a meal with them and need to use the commode, take your silverware with you.

Ways to die at the other end of the spectrum

OK, we’ve covered dying at an advanced age, but what I initially set out to write was an essay about all the death-defying shit we did as kids.

As I pointed out in the Baby Boomer article, our parents sent us off for a day of doing stupid stuff and as we rode our bikes out of the driveway, they’d yell, “Be home by dinner.” So in-between breakfast and dinner they actually had no idea where we were and what we were getting up to and some of it was pretty moronic.

There really was a rock quarry near our house filled with stagnant water and we might spend the day jumping off increasingly high ledges because one of our friends dared us to. No lifeguards, no idea if there was another rock ledge six inches under the scummy water we were hurtling toward.

And that wasn’t the only way to get our daily adrenaline fix.

There was a nearby house down a dirt road that was home to a dog that looked part wolf and part Tasmanian Devil and would come tearing off the porch to take a chunk out of your ass when you rode by on a bike, so of course we’d ride our bikes by in hopes that Cujo would chase us and give us a thrill.

The railroad tracks were another source of entertainment.

We would stand in the middle of the nearest railroad bridge, wait for a train and then run screaming to the far end so we wouldn’t be on the bridge when the train passed by.

Or if that wasn’t enough of a thrill; there was a maintenance walkway underneath the bridge – a couple planks wide – and if we really wanted to be scared shitless we could stay down there and get bounced around while the train passed inches above our heads.

Apparently we weren’t the only Baby Boomer kids to find railroad tracks alluring, because there’s a similar scene in the movie “Stand by Me” which was directed by Rob Reiner and adapted from a novella by Stephen King – both Baby Boomers.

If we had tried to kill ourselves on the train tracks the day before and needed a new death-defying activity, we could always take our .22 rifle into the rattlesnake-infested hills and randomly shoot at stuff and hope we didn’t hit a sibling.

If we found a cave up in those hills – and we did – we could explore it even though nobody knew where we were and if anything happened, nobody was coming to help and they wouldn’t even start looking until we were late for a dinner that included the mashed potatoes and gravy that would eventually kill us.

But that was when we were young and lacked judgement.

We grew up and found more efficient ways to hurt ourselves

Our first skateboard was a two-by-four with a metal roller skate nailed to the bottom. If it hit a speck of dust it would stop dead and send us flying down the hill we were “surfing.”

Despite the fact that it looked like someone had taken a cheese grater to our elbows and knees, we lined up to take turns riding that thing and leave another layer of epidermis on the asphalt.

We also owned a big, red bicycle – the kind with a shock absorber on the front – and we recruited kids in the neighborhood to find out how many of us could ride it at once. I think our record was five: one standing on the front-wheel bolts, one sitting on the handlebars, the driver, one perched on the driver’s shoulders and one standing on the back-wheel bolts.

With what amounted to a pickup basketball team perched on the bike you couldn’t really get it going or stop it, so we just pushed off at the top of the hill and found the nearest lawn at the bottom of the hill and abandoned ship.

Which reminds me of another story.

One day our cousin Jimmy came by to show us his new motorcycle; a Honda 250 Scrambler. Until then the motorcycles we were familiar with were big and heavy – Harleys and Indians – and rode like a Cadillacs. If one fell over you had to hire a crew of Teamsters to get it upright again.

This was the first light, fast Japanese bike we’d seen and Jimmy wanted to show us just how fast it was, so we took turns jumping on the back while he scared the shit out of us by rocketing around the four semi-country roads that made what amounted to the giant block our house sat on.

So after Jimmy showed us how fast his Honda was, we wanted to know how fast it was if we tied the big, red bike to it with a rope – an obvious question – and my brother Bob was going to be the big, red bike test pilot.  

If you’d suggested this idea to Chuck Yeager, he would have declined.

So they took off and we could hear Jimmy winding out that Honda on the road behind our house. Bob survived most of the trip around the block and then came down the hill toward our house, front wheel wobbling like crazy while Jimmy gave the Honda the throttle.

It looked like Bob was going to make it alive until Jimmy decided to take a hard left on an access road just before our house and hit the gas after doing so.

Here’s what happened next:

Bob was still going straight down our street – Aguilar Road – but Jimmy was now traveling at a 90 degree angle to Bob’s path…and then the Honda Scrambler took the slack out of the rope and whipped that big, red bike sideways out from under Bob.

After that Bob was still going straight down our street at a pretty good clip, but now had no bike underneath him so he eventually hit the pavement, rolled into a ditch filled with blackberry vines and got stuck with enough thorns to make Jesus Christ himself say, “Hey, enough with the thorns already.”

Which – if you weren’t Bob – was fucking hilarious and if I could go back in time one of my stops would be Aguilar Road so I could watch it all over again, but this time I’d have a video camera so you could enjoy it, too.

That was then, this is now

I was going to end this by saying we all grew up and quit doing all that stupid stuff, but before the day is over I’ll probably pay a visit to the bathroom so I guess my days as a thrill-seeker aren’t over.

In the old days we had to tie a Schwinn to a Honda to defy death, now all we have to do is sit on a toilet.

Pray for me.