I see a 3 year-old kid that lives a few doors down from me in Los Angeles outside riding his tricycle every once in a while. His parents have him outfitted with a helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads. The thing couldn’t break one single mile per hour going down hill with a tail wind. Someday, his life will require balls. He will find none.
First, a disclaimer: This may offend you!
Oh, and please DO NOT call child protective services on my dad, this event is WELL past the statute of limitations.
Dear contemporary culture,
A ship is safest in the harbor… but that’s not what ships are for. –Some dude that’s not a fucking pussy.
I would advise today’s contemporary culture and all “New Age Parents” of “bubble wrap babies” to please read at your own risk… and pardon the fragments. The following will most assuredly do more than anger you. It will make you pray that your nanny doesn’t raise your androgynous child to be half the Hellion that I certainly must’ve been. It will make you fear for the possibility that a world may come back where people actually take care of themselves. A world where taking complete responsibility for ones own life was the true mark of the passage from childhood to adulthood. Where life wasn’t presented OR expected to be all sunshine and roses. Where bumps were met with well prepared shock absorbers instead of just plain shock that they’re even there in the first place. A world where we weren’t breeding a disproportionate number of soft and unproductive people. A world where kids actually lost at things, and it hurt, and no one actually died from it. A world where obstacles were seen as opportunities to build, grow, prepare and learn.
Okay, enough of that. I’m done. So here goes.
There comes a time in every young dudes life when he’s got to reach down between his legs and see if there’s actually two nuggets down there or not. This is the story of the first time I reached down… and exactly what I found. I was seven.
I had just gotten back from football practice and raced out of my dad’s car and across the street to the neighbor’s yard where I could play MORE football, because in Texas there is no such thing as too much football. So I joined in on a game with about 12 or so local kids who were already playing “tackle the man with the ball” in Troy Thomasak’s front yard. Back then there was no such thing as flag football, except when the cheerleaders would play their annual fun game of “girl-ball”. There was only one kind of football: full contact. No one wore any pads and we tried, sometimes very successfully, to hold off tackling a guy until he was right on the sidewalk (for added pain and lacerations). The goal of the game was to get the ball and scramble around for as long as you could until you got tackled or stripped of the ball. Most of the kids were older than me, and most certainly, all were bigger. I did have one thing in my favor, and that was speed. So, while collision presented a fairly big problem due to my size, collision avoidance was easier for me than most.
It wasn’t long before I scooped up a fumble and started evading any and all pursuers. On my 3rd of 4th lap around the yard, with my bigger pursuers running out of gas, Eddy Baker, who was 10 at the time, reached up just as I screamed past him and grabbed a handful of hair right on the back of my head. My upper body stopped right in it’s tracks, while my legs and lower body flew out from underneath me until I was completely horizontal before slamming to the ground, right on the sidewalk. My head hit the concrete first, and I was truly dazed for a moment. Now this sort of “completely fucking illegal” way of bringing an opponent to the ground was always frowned upon, and even had a name. It was called “red-necking”. It was like clotheslining, only with a fistful of hair. I got up off the ground with tears in my eyes and told him that that was “no fair”, and not to do it again. He just laughed at me for crying and told me to shut up. Every part of my body was willing the tears to just creep back up my cheeks and into my eyes again, but I could already taste them at this point. So, I ran home.
“Good, honest, hardheaded character is a function of the home. If the proper seed is sown there and properly nourished for a few years, it will not be easy for that plant to be uprooted.” -George A. Dorsey …Yeah, that cat might be on to something.
When I walked up toward my front door, my dad met me just as I was rounding the hedges to go inside. He had been watching the whole thing play out from the front door, which was right behind a row of bushes. After I explained what he had already seen, I learned exactly the correct way to eventually deal with this same situation when I would someday be a father.
At this point, I’d like to give a fair warning to all the sissies that didn’t take my advice earlier on. What you are now about to read will completely shock you. You see, my father didn’t march over there and give Eddy an earful of “don’t treat my son that way” crap. What he did was this: he simply wiped my eyes off, told me to go back over there, look him right in the eyes, hold a finger an inch away from his nose and say, “if you do that again, I’ll crack you in the face”. He then held his hands up and let me throw a couple combinations at his hands. It was a crash course in boxing right there on my front porch.
“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children. One is roots. The other is wings.” — Hodding Carter Jr.
Okay, so after my quick lesson in boxing from my dad, I marched back across the street and right up to Eddy. I pointed my index finger almost straight up his nose, as I was a head shorter than him and said exactly what my dad had told me. He just giggled and walked away calling me a crybaby. Although most of the kids there were my friends, no one stood up for me as Eddie was the biggest kid in the yard and usually picked on whomever he wished, undeterred. After the game resumed, I found my opportunity, grabbed a loose ball and swept right past Eddie knowing that he couldn’t catch or reach me unless he grabbed a handful of hair again. Well, he did just that. This time I was drug back to the ground with a patch of hair missing from a bloody spot right behind my right ear. I immediately started crying again, this time more visibly… and audibly. I said, “I told you not to do that again,” to which he replied, “or what, you pussy?”
You see, there comes a time in every kid’s life when he either starts on a path of self-responsibility and self-sufficiency, or becomes just that… a pussy. And what did I do?? The latter, unfortunately… I ran home crying. My dad was right where I had left him, looking through the bushes. He checked out my head and wiped the blood off. He then asked me if I wanted him to go over there; a question that I would later translate into: “what kind of a man will you end up becoming?”. Although I knew he would go over there if I wanted him to, I could see in my father’s eyes what needed to be done, and I said no. I asked him to hold up his hands again, took another couple swings and headed back across the street. This time I couldn’t hold back the tears. Now I want you to understand that there was nothing “macho” about this. I was, in fact, petrified. I walked right up to Eddie and pointed right in his face and said the exact same line as before. He slapped my hand away and giggled. I looked over my shoulder to see if my dad was there, but I couldn’t see through the bushes. I turned back to Eddie and said, “let’s play”. Eddie said, “start running, pussy” and then Joe Namath’d a spiral right into my chest, which surprisingly I caught without getting the wind knocked out of me. So, run I did, right past Eddie. At this point I had overestimated Eddie’s speed, because he was nowhere near me. So, I immediately turned around and ran right past him again. Without hesitation, he grabbed a handful of hair from the back of my head and yanked me to the ground. Now, the image of what happened next will be tack sharp and vivid in my memory forever, because I saw a Picasso-esque portrait of the definition of false bravado all over Eddie’s face. I yanked his hand off of my head before I even hit the ground and sprang back to my feet immediately turning to face him. The honesty of the venomous rage displayed on my face turned his laughing and pointing very quickly into turning and running. It took me all of a couple milliseconds to catch that fat tub of shit and tackle his sloppy ass right there on the sidewalk. I straddled him, forgot every single punch my father had shown me, and proceeded to hammer fist him in the face until his nose completely exploded and opened up. He was screaming and crying and flailing his arms as I was beating him with the “pinky” sides of my fists. There was blood everywhere. I was so enraged that I was bawling my eyes out while bludgeoning this kid.
The next thing I knew, I was yanked off of him and swept up into the air with my arms still swinging wildly but connecting with nothing. My father had watched the entire thing and sprinted across the street to stop the fight before it got even uglier. When we got back home and I finally stopped crying, my dad tried to teach me the difference between standing up for yourself and actually maiming someone. However, in my freshly released fury I could see no discernible difference. When I finally stopped heaving tears at a near hyperventilation pace, and at my dad’s request, I went back outside and walked across the street to apologize to everybody for losing my temper and shake everyone’s hand. Now, I had seen all of their faces every single time I walked back across the street after having been run off by Eddie, but this time was different. And, here’s where all the pussies start whining about violence. What I saw in their eyes THIS time was completely different. They saw me as a completely different person. The same way adults view others that stand up for themselves, ones that don’t suffer fools gladly.
“Conspicuously absent from the Ten Commandments is any obligation of parent to child. We must suppose that God felt it unnecessary to command by law what He had ensured by love.” -Robert Brault
On that evening, there was only one person who could solve my problem right then and there, and that was myself. No words to Eddie from my father would’ve done anything except exacerbate the problem. And yes, it’s a shame that bullying happens, but it exists, so let’s just acknowledge it and learn to deal with it in the best way possible: head on. Sometimes bullies need to be taught a lesson… with a fist… right between their eyes.
That evening changed the trajectory of my life. It was that cathartic moment in one’s life when a boy reaches down and either finds balls, or he finds a useless generic Barbie & Ken plastic, smooth bulge. Blood was shed that day, but sometimes blood needs to be shed. I’m a better man, and so is Eddie. I guess it was my dad’s way of kicking me off the teat. I had clung too long, and that was the dawning of self-sufficiency. It was that very day that I reached down there, and I was lucky enough, thanks to my dad, to find two solid rocks. Well, I was only seven at the time, so maybe they were more like little pebbles, but they were there… right where they were supposed to be.
That very next Sunday I was picked to be a team captain and got first pick for my team in the Thomasak’s front yard. My first draft choice… Eddie Baker, who is still a dear friend today.
I have an indelible soundtrack in my head for most things that happened in my life, and “I Can See Clearly Now”, by Johnny Nash was in heavy rotation on the radio the day this happened. I love that song. Seems kind of apropos in hindsight.