Mo's Manic Monday - Chip

Posted: Monday, March 19, 2007 by Travis Cody in
26



Welcome to another Manic Monday! Today's theme is Chip. Don't forget to visit our fearless leader at It's A Blog Eat Blog World.

This is my silly post for the theme.



And if you have the time, here's a story for you, sort of a cross between The Couch's Monday Matinee and Mo's Manic Monday. It's an exerpt from a memoir type story that's been sitting around for awhile.

Like Everyone Else

All of my friends had real bikes. Mine had tires, a seat, and handle bars, and it didn't disappear when you put your hand on it.

But the tires were the hard, inflexible kind of rubber that didn't need tubes on the inside. Of course, they never went flat, but the stupid thing didn't look like everybody else's.

It had plastic white rims without spokes, just a couple of bars that crossed through the center and kept the wheels from falling off the forks. Not even mag bars, which would have been half way cool. Just two white hard metal bars. It had fenders that my dad refused to remove. It was a puke green color and most of the paint was chipped and peeling. The handle bars were deep forks that curved into long hand grips with plastic nubs at the end where green and white streamers used to be. It had a banana seat and screamed "I am a goober geek head" whenever I rode it. I made sure that wasn't very often.

At the dinner table every night, I'd look for ways to bring up the possibility of a new bike for my birthday. I’d describe cool new things I'd seen my pal Gino do on his BMX light weight racer. Gino had foot pegs mounted on the back wheel forks, and he could roll the bike on its side and make sparks off the pegs. They were good for me to stand on too, so Gino could pump me around and save us both the embarrassment of my bike.

The other kids I crewed with knew about the puke green weenie. We all swore a solemn oath, the way twelve year olds do. My friends swore never to tell what was hidden away in my garage, or make up stupid jokes about it unless I did first. I vowed never to embarrass the crew by riding it to school. I hitched with Gino.

I laugh at it now, but I remember the day we all swore. It was in Gino's garage. The seven of us stood in a circle. We crossed our arms in front of us, closed our eyes, and pledged. Then we all spit in the palms of our right hands and slapped them down hard on the concrete floor. Then we rode to the park. Well, they rode and I hitched.

That year just before my twelfth birthday, the only thing I wanted was a new bike. Years of mimicking my little brother paid off. I had the moaning and whining thing down. I gasped and groaned every time a BMX commercial came on television. I made sure Gino came by to pick me up every morning for school. He helped with spins and wheelies in the drive way, while I trudged disdainfully through the garage past my own sorry excuse for two wheeled transportation.

At school and at the park, I bragged lavishly about the new bike I was getting for my birthday.

In those last few weeks before I turned twelve, the only time the little green weenie saw the light of day was when I needed it for super jumps. This was a game we played when we could think of nothing better to do. About two blocks from my house was an uphill street on a short cul de sac. The street seemed to go straight up. The sidewalk was the kind with drive way curbs all around. It made a perfect jump ramp for bikes or skateboards. None of my crew was into skating, but we all had bikes. Mine did the best wheelies and jumps off that curb because the tires were so hard. Everybody else's conventional tires went flat after five or six jumps. Donnie Clayton even bent his front rim once. He had a heck of a time explaining that.

I guess I could have been smug about my situation. Patches don't cost too much, but the cement glue was expensive. Explanations were the worst. Parents insisted that tires just shouldn't wear out so fast. Once Gino stuck a nail in his tire, and that worked on his folks. Everybody tried it, but then the parents got together at one of those block party barbecues to compare notes.

After awhile, it got so parents held back allowances as punishment for an over abundance of flat tires. Some of the crew missed out on a week or two of wheelies because they couldn't afford glue and patches. We loved to jump that curb, though. Even the loss of income and walking to school for a week never dulled anyone's enthusiasm for the game.

Of course I was lucky. I never had to worry about explaining flat tires to my folks. My rock hard rubber goon tires never even dented. They were hard enough to chip sidewalks. I commiserated with my friends anyway, and even went so far as to walk when one of the crew was without wheels.

I still wanted that new bike, no matter the advantage the green weenie gave me. I realized the uniqueness of my position. I could probably put the hard tires on my new BMX for jumping, and then switch back for regular every day riding. I began to think I was about to enjoy the best of all worlds.

I bragged it up pretty good about that possibility. Then I was ashamed. My crew and I had sworn an oath, and I felt I might be betraying it by throwing my potential benefits in the face of my friends.

Shame turned to worry as it occurred to me that my plans were premature. My parents were as unreadable as ever. As many times as they gave me what I asked for, it was likely that this time they might not. My dad maintained that I had a perfectly good and sturdy bike. What did I want with a new one?

One day at the park, I guess I got carried away. A kid I didn't know challenged me to a race. I was bragging and telling stories about a new bike that I didn't even have, and this kid called me on it. He told me that if I was so hot, then I didn't need a flashy ride. He said he could probably take me in a race anyway, no matter what I had. I protested that I didn't have anything yet, but when I did I'd be sure to burn his tail.

We went back and forth at each other, and my friends kept their oath and backed me up. Ironically, none of us was riding a bike that day. One of the new kid's friends offered me the use of his bike, but I refused to depend on strange wheels for this kind of challenge.

It almost worked and I almost got out of it. He was about a head taller than I was, and out weighed me by about 20 pounds. He would have beat me in a race just like he said, and it wouldn't have mattered what I rode.

Just as we were running out of twelve year old insults and bravado, my friend Jennifer opened her mouth. She never meant to, but somehow Jen’s helpful suggestions always got me in some kind of trouble. Her bright idea this time was that this kid and I could settle the disagreement by jumping swings. This game consisted of swinging as high and as hard as possible, then diving out as far as your momentum would take you. Ordinarily I would have hugged Jen for her quick witted suggestion. If I ever hugged girls, that is.

But like I said, the other boy was larger. Quick was not the word I would have chosen to go with witted in this case.

I was stuck, though. Here was a solution and I wasn’t backing down, even though I had been bragging. I thought of the oath. It seemed that in order to defend the sanctity of it, I would have to accept the challenge, and win. This was my first introduction to honor. It was brought about by my childish bragging, yes, but at some point a guy has to stand up. Not backing down in the face of stacked odds seems stubborn, but I'd rather see it as holding to a principle.

Oh, hell, I was only twelve.

We chose the middle three swings, leaving one between us to prevent mid air bumping. We picked four judges, two to watch each of us, with teams consisting of one each of our friends. Jen and Tammy were my two judges, because they were always the most fair. I couldn't vouch for my opponent's friends, but I wasn't worried. Tammy Barnes was just as big as my opponent and she would enforce fairness with more than a word if necessary.

Tammy yelled go and we started to kick. Suddenly, my embarrassment and uncertainty took hold and it was like I had a tornado beneath my swing. Sweat poured down my face as I pumped harder and swung higher. I surged two kicks ahead of the other kid, then three. My heart slammed against my ribs. I exulted. A fierce grin split my face.

Then I realized something. The swing was situated in the middle of a large sand area, but I remembered one time I had almost gone too high and jumped out of the sand box. Stubborn pride almost cajoled me into flinging myself that far, but prudence won out. I eased back on my kicks and prepared to moderate my trajectory so as to land in the soft sand.

My opponent, however, had panicked at my fantastic speed. He pumped harder and harder as I slowed down. Just as I was preparing to launch, he flew out of his swing. I remained seated and watched him, hoping he wouldn't break anything when he landed.

Objectively speaking, it was a brilliant flight. Certainly he would have been crowned jump king. He sailed out of the sand box and only just cleared the pavement, landing in a heap on the grass. He probably would have been fine if he hadn't kept flailing his arms and legs. It ruined the perfect parabola he should have cut. And all that screaming threw off his landing. I jumped out of my swing and went over to see how he was.

He was trying not to cry. He sat on the grass cradling his arm.

"Is it broke?" asked Gino.

The kid snuffled. "It hurts."

"Yeah, but is it broken?" Tammy repeated.

The kid wiped his eyes and gathered himself. "I don't think so. I had a broken arm once and it was different. It's probably just sprained."

"Good," said Tammy. "If it was broken, we'd have a draw. Adam wins."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"Broken bones disqualify everybody," Tammy replied in the matter of fact way she had of resolving disputes. She ticked off her fingers. "Bumps, bruises, cuts, sprains. Those are all losers. Adam wins."

Using the sudden outbreak of predictable protests as cover, we retreated. I decided to stop bragging so much, at least until I had something visual about which to brag.

That evening, I went into the garage loaded down with the day's garbage. After dumping it into the big can, I went over and contemplated my bike. I stared at it awhile, then, quite deliberately, I kicked it very hard. I blamed it as the cause of my trouble at the park that afternoon. I thought that a better bike would solve all my problems. It's easier to accept the inanimate as the cause of all your despair when you're twelve than to admit you are simply silly and ridiculous.

Life just seems to go a little better for a kid when he has someone or something else on which to blame things. Accepting responsibility for your own foolishness is a lesson a kid has to grow toward slowly. Repeating mistakes, and enduring the correction of parents and teachers, is essential. Sooner or later, a kid gets isolated enough so he can see that he's really the only person to blame. A kid eventually might figure out that not every action requires blame to be placed.

Although, in the twilight of my eleventh year, all I knew was that my troubles would all be solved if I could just be rid of this stupid weenie excuse for a bicycle, with it’s geek handle bars and banana seat and chipped puke green paint and white no-mag wheels with hard rubber tubeless tires.

The day before my birthday was a Sunday. It was a gorgeous autumn day in early October. Leaves coated the grass. I don't remember exactly how I got out of raking the backyard. I walked to Gino's and discovered to my delight that he was also free for the day. With a grin and a wink, we dashed back to my house and got my green weenie. We headed for the steep street.

The crew was assembled. Now that I think about it with a few years between that time and this, I’m sure I could make a case for that day as a seminal moment. Great historical figures seem to have them. Any one who has done anything worth writing and reading about has had them. Even ordinary guys like me can find some in their lives. That day may have been one of mine.

Everyone had already jumped once. Gino stepped up and said he was next. Tammy nodded. "OK. But I've got something I want to try that I saw on TV."

I didn't mind if she went after Gino. I wasn't ready to jump yet. Besides, when Tammy tried something new, it was always pretty spectacular.

Gino took off, but he didn't go very far up the hill before he started down. I could see he wasn't trying for anything impressive. When he hit the curb he wasn't quite right. He didn't pull his front tire high enough, and it went flat almost immediately. Nobody ever laughed. It had happened to everyone at least once, except me. Though, when it happened to Gino it was like it happened to me. If his bike was down, then we both walked. The school may have been just around the corner, but it's the principle, not the distance.

We put our heads together for an excuse. We hadn't been to the curb for awhile. Miraculously, there had been no flats that time. We decided to use the nail excuse. Gino said it was worth a shot, and he told me he was sure his parents wouldn't ground him. Or they might, but after my birthday party. Gino was the champion at sweet talking parents. He was the perfect Frosted Flake; just enough sugar.

Tammy set up for her turn and we all watched eagerly. She rode up the hill, farther than any of us usually went. She pedaled so fast on the way back down that I wondered how she kept her feet on the pedals.

She hit the curb and flew into the air, way over our heads. Then it looked like she lost control, because the bike turned sideways and Tammy kicked her inside leg way away from the pedal. She got her foot back just in time and turned the bike right. It came down on both wheels and she skidded to a stop. We broke out in cheers.

"Anybody else wanna try?"

Every once in awhile, that thing comes over me. It's like the stubbornness I had shown at the park. It makes me do stuff I shouldn't. It almost always gets me in trouble. I spoke up and said I'd do it. My bike was the best at popping the curb and I thought I could do the jump with the least amount of risk to my green weenie. What I didn't consider was that Tammy's BMX was built for stunts. Gino's was a racing bike and wasn't nearly as sturdy in the wheel forks as Tammy's. Donnie and Matt had bikes built strictly for style. They got most of the flat tires. Jen's was sturdy, like Tammy's, but she wasn't the daredevil. I didn't think of any of this. I wanted to do that stunt.

I rode to the top of the hill and wheeled around as I'd watched Tammy do it. I pumped hard and thought I hit the curb exactly right. I flew into the air. Just as I started the trick, I noticed something was wrong. The handlebars were wobbly, and just as I realized how strange that was, they pulled loose from the socket. The front tire spun off the forks and sailed one way while I landed in the dirt pile, still clutching the handlebars. The body of the bike narrowly missed my head and slammed against a fence. I sat there, stunned but not really injured. The gang scattered.

Except for Gino. I was afraid to go home. I dragged the bike frame and handlebars. Gino carried the front tire hooked across his handgrips. We concocted several plausible stories to cover his flat tire and my complete destruction. We considered the truth, that's how scared we were. Finally, we settled on half a confession.

We got to my house and went into the garage. My dad was working on his car, and he looked at the two of us and what was left of the green weenie. I blurted out the story. We were riding along, I went up a driveway curb, and the bike disintegrated. It was as close to the truth as I was going to go.

Dad gravely considered the remains of the bike. I don't know if he believed the story.

The next day was Monday. We were out of school on one of those SIP days they have early in the school year. It was my birthday and I was officially twelve. I had developed a habit for stating my next age before I actually turned it. "I'll be twelve next month." Or, "I'm almost twelve." The waiting used to really get to me.

I woke up depressed. I had no bike. I actually missed the stupid little green weenie.

When my friends started to arrive, I perked up. It got better after some games; even better after cake and ice cream, chocolate and chocolate, my absolute favorites. And then came the presents.

I got baseball cards and an album from Gino; a scale model fire engine that I could build and paint from Donnie; a Ninja wagon for my mutant turtles from Jen; a rap tape from Matt (not my favorite music, but it was the thought); a painter's cap with the Dodgers logo on it from Tammy. From my parents came a new walk man, the outfit I had on, and a case of tire patches and cement glue. For some reason, I was dense and the significance of the last gift didn't hit me.

And then my dad wheeled in a new BMX light weight racer just like Gino's. It was white with black racer trim. It had streamlined handle grips with spikes on the rubber. The tires were medium wide with blackened spokes. The seat was simulated leather with plenty of padding in case I needed to sit down.

I also got a brand new lock and uncountable admonishments to be careful and lock it up and not lose the key and so forth.

The crew and I were gone then. I guess that's why we had cake before presents. We rode everywhere. We ended up at the steep street, but I wouldn't jump this bike, not any time soon. I remembered the case of patches and glue. Something told me a flat wouldn't be appreciated on the first day. Truth be known, I had a horrifying image of my new bike in pieces just like the green weenie.

I hardly slept that night. Never before had I been so ready for school. Now I would back up all the bragging I'd done. I rushed through breakfast and ran out the door so fast I forgot all my stuff for school. I didn't hear my mom yell for me to stop. It wasn't until I got to Gino's that I noticed I didn't have my lunch, or my backpack, or the lock for my bike.

I rode straight home after school to test my theory. I wanted to see if the tires from the weenie would fit on the racer. When I got home, I couldn't find the old bike. It wasn't in the garage. I knew the pieces had been there in the morning before I left for school.

Mom cleared up the mystery. She said Dad had taken the wreck with him to work. One of the men my dad worked with had a boy just about my brother's age who was ready to learn to ride a bike. My dad had offered him the green weenie.

I'm pleased now to remember that I was upset, but not because my plans to use the tires had been ruined. For the longest time, all I had wanted was a new bike, a good bike, like everyone else had. I had finally gotten my wish. Now that I had the same as everyone else, I realized that I missed my small piece of individuality. Sure it was puke green and the paint was totally chipped and the handlebars were geeky and the tires didn't have rubber tubes. It had still been mine; unique, one of a kind, like my dad said.

Even now, I still miss that little green weenie.



26 comments:

  1. julie says:

    I like this Travis...it can't help but bring back some youthful memories for everyone. Thanks!

  1. Bond says:

    Loved the comercial, but the story... OH MAN brought me back to my youth.. the big hill, popping wheelies.. I had a big-ass Schwinn...but had put a banana seat and forked hadlebars on it...

    Baseball cards went into the spokes (yes, damn it even the Mickey Mantles' and Willie Mays' and Pete Rose rookie card - though i did end up with a few of those) and we would scream down the stream sounding like Harley's (in our own minds)..

    Great memories.. thanks

  1. Wow. This brought back soooooo many memories for me. My sister and I used to share a bike (my parents were poor, but they knew we needed at least one bike - a kid HAS to have a bike!), and we always fought over whose turn it was to ride.

    I would ride that thing all over the neighborhood. I wiped out so many times; I have scars on each knee and elbow.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  1. Jay says:

    I can totally relate to this, in the way that I'm sure all kids could. This is the essence of childhood.

  1. Matt-Man says:

    Bee yoo tee full...It's funny the things we miss from our youth. I for one miss having a fully functional liver. Cheers!!

  1. Sanni says:

    Fantastic story, Trav. I love to read other´s childhood memories - especially when they are so well-written and tantalizing.

    Makes me feel like a child again... but like a strange one:

    I´ve read your story first, watched the commercial afterwards: My childish me will never ever be able to eat choc-chip cookies again =)))

  1. Like most everyone so far, this dug out some old memories for me. I used to love to ride my bike. I rode it everywhere i wanted to go. Then I bought a car when I turned sixteen and haven't peddled a bike since. I miss it, actually. I had a lot of fun on that old BMX. Good times. Thanks for this.

  1. My computer is too old to handle movies and such so I can't watch that part of your post, but I will be back a bit later to read your very long story. I enjoy your writings.

    My MM post is finally up now too

  1. lisa says:

    excellent read Travis. another MM success.

  1. My brother and I always had the old bikes. He pulled them from other people's trash and would fix them up so we had something to ride. We definitely used a lot of patches and cement. Great memories Trav!

  1. Travis says:

    Julie: I wish I had a picture of that old bike - it really was hideous.

    Bond: Who knew about $1000 baseball cards back then? We knew they made the coolest sound in the spokes!

    Songbird: There's a story about me going head first over the handlebars of my BMX onto the roof of a car - maybe I'll tell that one another day.

    Jay: Yup! Thanks for stopping by.

    Matt: Thanks Matt! Have another glass of Rose.

    Sanni: Awwww! Chips Ahoy are the best chocolate chip cookies...except for homemade!

    Lucas: I remember trading in my bike for my first car. It's bittersweet, and part of leaving boyhood behind.

    Imma: I'll be by shortly on my MM rounds.

    Lisa: Awwww shucks. Thanks!

    Tammie Jean: As teenagers, a buddy of mine and I used to put bikes together from spare parts.

  1. Meribah says:

    Funny how the very things we take for granted--and may even resent at times--are often the things we miss the most when they're gone. I really enjoyed the read. Thanks!

  1. JohnH985 says:

    Great story. We've all had things in our life that embarassed as kids, you captured that very well.

  1. Jamie says:

    Mine was a girl's schwinn Silver with a maroon stripe. Manage to chip my front tooth while riding my cousin on the handle bars.

    Thanks for the memory.

  1. excellent story trav! excellent!!

    smiles, bee

  1. Great story Travis! You're so good with all the little details - it brought back lots of childhood memories for me!!!

  1. debalious says:

    Great post - those were the days! We lived to ride

  1. Lizza says:

    You had a geeky bike, that is so cool! Thanks for sharing this story, Travis. The little details added up for a whole lot of excitement and just a tinge of sadness. So true how often we take some things for granted and miss it when it's gone.

  1. Travis says:

    Meri: Agreed.

    John: I appreciate the compliment.

    Jamie: You are most welcome.

    Bee: Thank you my dear.

    Heather: Details are my life!

    Deb: Yeppers!

    Lizza: I gotta find a picture of that goober cycle. It was truly hideous.

  1. Definitely took me back! I'm sadly behind on reading some of your other stuff, though.

  1. Natalie says:

    Your bike sounds really nice. I have fond childhood memories of a few toys but nothing that cool. I had a skateboard that we used to make a car out of a cardboard box. Good times. Thanks for stopping by my manic monday.

  1. Maryfly says:

    awesome story HHT! I really enjoyed reading it, thanks

  1. Sorry i missed ya on Monday...but I love that silly commercial.

    What a great story to make us all sit back and think about our childhood. :)

  1. Coco says:

    Trav, honey, this was absolutely delicious. Wish you'd consider writing a novel
    or maybe compiling a collection of short stories. I remember my first bike ... high rise handlebars, banana seat, pink streamers, whitewall tires ... I rode it everywhere. Don't have a single picture of it, but I can see it so clearly, I don't really need one, either. Your story brought it all back ... thanks hon.

  1. antique equestrian prints says:
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  1. Travis says:

    All spam will be deleted.