Garbage Juice Segues

Funny what memories a smell can trigger.

Take the thread that began yesterday after one whiff of–for lack of a better term–garbage juice.

If you’ve ever walked, ran, or ridden your bicycle through a neighborhood shortly after your local sanitation department has made a pickup, your olfactory senses have been treated to the essence of the lingering garbage juice on the streets.

Garbage_cans_Marion_AR_2013-03-03_006And from there, my mind segued to…

Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village in the 1990s to a bar with a Wheel of Fortune-type game going on. The bartender would spin the wheel and you could win free drinks, cash and other prizes. However, if the wheel stopped at the wrong slot, you could be forced to drink bar swill the bartenders mopped off the the bar and saved in a pickle jar. The rancid liquid smelled like, uh, garbage juice.

Since midnight had long passed, I figured why not take a shot at spinning the wheel. So at my direction, the spunky female bartender spun the thing. Surely I’d hit the jackpot, maybe I’d buy drinks for the house, make some late-night friends. Guess who landed in Bar Swill Land?

A moment that wasn’t my proudest followed: I welched. My refusal to drink the bar swill instantly transformed the bartender into Mommie Dearest and I understood, despite my condition, the time had come for my departure.

And from there, my mind segued to…

The Manhattan hotel where I was staying, which also served as the team hotel for a certain baseball team. One of the team’s players happened to be on the elevator with me and this particular player, who was a pitcher, happened to be in a similar state of creativity to yours truly. We enjoyed a few laughs about the game that would start at noon–or roughly eight hours away–then went our separate ways.

And from there, my mind segued to…

Yankee Stadium the following day. Sometime around the fifth or sixth inning the pitcher from the elevator gets called from the bullpen to pitch with two outs, runners on base and Yankee Stadium roaring.

After tortoise-like entry and warm up–you could have squeezed a quart of gin from his nose–he delivered his first pitch. The hitter swung and ripped a line drive directly to the second baseman.

Inning over.

Said pitcher strolled off the mound like, “no problem.” Meanwhile, I’m had a moment of satori, I mean, I’d just seen an old theory validated. God really does take care of babies and drunks.

And to think, all of that deep thinking originated from a single whiff of garbage juice.


Bum Rap For Kids

Kids are getting a bum rap.

They are routinely condemned for preferring video games to playing outside. Typical adult rhetoric: “It wasn’t like that when we were kids! We went outdoors and played all day!”

You hear more of this the longer the summer rolls along. I think it’s piling on.

First, if we had video games when we were kids, we would have sat in front of “Call of Duty” or “Grand Theft Auto” like our lives depended on the outcome. Anybody who says otherwise is not being honest.  Next, we talk about all the stuff we did outside–and we did–but the climate was different.

Kid playing video gamesTake riding your bike. Going all over the place was acceptable.  You didn’t have to check in like you do today.  I don’t know if that’s because things are so dangerous out in the big, bad world, or if it’s simply a case of helicopter parents.

Recently while riding my bicycle–I still get to ride wherever I want if I clear it with Patti–I drove past one of the fields where we played lob ball pick-up games. Nobody was playing.  Of course, they couldn’t since the gates were locked.

I also observed a lack of venues in my old neighborhood.  Swann Circle had once been our Wrigley Field. Those friendly confines are now covered with trees, not ivy.  And the vacant lots that facilitated any number of games all have houses built on them.

So we bark about kids not getting outside and playing like we did in the old days, but there’s nowhere to play, save for the organized team practices or lessons that are more like job interviews than play. This tells me the problem might not be the kids.