Hooo-lawd, now I don't know about you gentle folks, but I will admit to this in front of God and the masses...I sure was feelin' a lot better about this week's match-up before the first half of that game versus Middle Tennessee State, y'all. Bama's offense was uglier than a mud-fence, and it appears that defense is still pert near worthless as a set of teats on a boar-hog when it comes to defending that cotdang HUNH anti-football foolishness.
Now granted, I may be a little harsh in regard to last week's performance...maybe it's just my inner anti-Gump elbowing to the forefront to steal a little of the spotlight. Maybe it's legitimate, as the Ole Miss Rebel Black Bear Ackbars have quite the team this year, with an uber-talented, veteran defense and an offense that's averaging eleventy-billion points per game (albeit against cupcakes of the least stout constitution.)
But after seeing our beloved Crimson Tide struggle against the mighty defense of Left-Central Methamphetamine State A&M's vaunted defense last week, I have great fear. And as we all know (in the words of Master Yoda), fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the Dark Side. I'm not altogether sure that's germane to the current situation in any way, really but it sounded good in my head. Give a brotha a break, will ya?
So this week, in an attempt to satiate Football Loki and his unquenchable thirst for crimson-colored Hoodoo, I ask...nay, I implore you people, lay down your respective hoodoo gauntlets. If you've been saving one up for a rainy day, well cotdangit, it's gonna be pourin' in Bryant Denny this weekend. Lay that sucker down. Bring us your debaucherous, your shameful, your embarrassing, your illicit...no matter what you have to put down on this Hoodoo ledger this week, go ‘head and drop it like it's hot. Our beloved Crimson Tide needs nus this week folks, plain and simple. If the boys don't prevail and you don't participate, well...you'll only have yourself to blame. Make it count, people.
To that end, I have selected for you folks another tale from the wanton childhood days of your faithful narrator, an era in which his biggest concerns were running out of bb's and keeping his bicycle chain greased and ready for whatever may come. Bear in mind, though we did have an Atari gaming system, this was time prior to the absolute domination of time by all things digital. This was even before the era of (gasp) pagers. I guess I'm dating myself (would I date myself?...that's an interesting question, and one I should pose to some of my former flames. I'm not sure I'd be worth my time, you know? But I digress...) when I speak of the archaic communications voice known as the pager, as it is more akin in concept to the smoke signal or carrier pigeon than any of today's sleek and speedy handheld communication tools.
No, this was a time when Saturday mornings were filled with the few pre-cable cartoons that were available before noon, then a neighborhood blitz that was shaped in part by the season. You see, since no one had much in the way of video entertainment, there were no VCRs, and daytime television sucked unless you were a white female between the ages of 36 and 50, most of the kids I knew would flood outdoors and link up for communal fun of one sort or another. Sometimes it was a game of football, at other times it was a pellet gun fight. Sometimes we'd collectively slip off to the pool of one of the more wealthy neighborhood residents in our group of compatriots, an sometimes we'd elect to go play in optimist creek, chasing crawfish nymphs and scooping minnows in dip nets ganked from parental aquariums.
A lot of the time, our activities were reduced to tooling around on our bikes. Now I know kids today have "better" things to do with their time than drift around aimlessly in cul-de-sacs, slow rolling while chatting about what Arn Anderson and Dusty Rhodes were going to do in the evening wrasslin' match or how long it'd be before Santa Clause showed up in Bel Air Mall.
But for us, that was life, simple as it seems. It really was great, I don't feel like I missed out on much when it comes to childhood experience. While I was most undoubtedly short of many of the materials goods enjoyed by my counterparts of the generation, I was rich in regard to experience. And as memory recounts, despite the turmoil of divorce and the uncertainty of pre-teen youth, I was generally happiest when in the woods pot-shotting doves or astride my trusty chrome 20" rolling steed.
Indeed, the bicycle was to ‘80s suburban youth what the horse was to his chap-wearin' dusty-eyed counterpart of the 1880s. I probably spent an average of 12-20 hours each weekend in my bike seat, peddlin' hills or coastin', racin' B-rad and the neighborhood kids or building ramps for stunts. In that regard, your boy OWB was something of a neighborhood legend, as I was the designer of some of the most outrageous and dangerous stunt obstacles known to mankind.
Take for example the classic "over the trunk" stunt I built, not for myself, but for one of the older kids in the neighborhood on a dare. In one of our gatherings, this kid (let's call him "Mike," because every group has at least one arrogant douche named "Mike") had challenged your narrator to truth or dare in front of God and the rest of our assembled mass (which was actually a group of about ten of us, which just happened to include the apple of your narrator's eye, a fetching red-haired lass we'll call Abby.)
Now Mike had thrown down the gauntlet right there in front of everybody, catching me somewhat off guard.
"Truth or dare..." he demanded.
"Truth," I answered without hesitation.
"Have you ever seen a girl nekkid?"
Ha, that was easy...Mike had underestimated my worldliness.
"Yeah, my step-mother Big Evie."
The small crowd erupted in laughter. When the giggling subsided, I counterpunched.
"Your turn cat-daddy...truth or dare?"
For some unknown reason, Mike chose dare. Ad I had a dare in store for him. Without saying a word, I went to work like a contractor, salvaging components of the stunt of the day. I barked to on-looker, enlisting them in this construction project.
"Hey, J-nathan, go get me that loose piece of plywood from the back of your daddy's shed. Rickster, don't you have a couple cinder blocks holding up your mailbox? Go get those, we'll only need them a few minutes. And Ash, we're going to need that kiddie pool in your backyard...you know, the one your dog uses to cool off."
The orders dispatched, my charges returned with the requested accoutrements. As if inspired by the Holy Spirits of Nikola Tesla and MacGyver, I went to work. I had pulled a neighbor's garbage can into play, placing it on its side and weighting it in place with a couple of the cement blocks. I placed the plywood over the drum like a ramp, angling it steeply to make sure that it would provide the right trajectory to give Mike a chance of clearing...you guessed it, his mom's car trunk. In the interest of safety, of course, I placed the kiddie pool, full of water, on the other side of the car as a decelerant for Mike, a landing pad, if you will. (OHSA-approved, safety first, people.)
"Um, I don't think it's gonna work," Mike protested. "That ramp's not going to make me go high enough...I can't scratch my mom's car, she'll kill me!"
"Shit man, I've seen the Duke Boys soar like eagles off a dirt hill, they di'nt even have no ramp or nothin'...I bet Bo and Luke wish they had a highly trained ramp builder like me putting together there stunts," I answered.
He tried to back out of it before launch, but the collective group pressured him into it with calls of "sugar-britches," "pussy," and other such pejoratives. Under the weight of peer pressure, Mike agreed to attempt the stunt. After all, he had picked this battle of wills, and he had no choice but to see it through.
As you can imagine, despite the genius of my calculations, Mike's leap was a disaster. The ramp had no lip, and instead of launching, Mike got all tentative, slowing on the approach. Instead of rocketing off of the end of the ramp, he kinda, well, trickled off the end...right onto the trunk of his mother's red 240Z.
Now, when something of this nature occurs, kids in my neighborhood would scatter like roaches when the lights come on. Not too far, mind you, as we'd undoubtedly crouch in a hedgerow or ditch a safe distance away so as to watch the ensuing show/ beatin'. An in this case, there was a beatin' dispatched that would go down in the record books. With a 15 inch sprocket gash scarring the back of her cute little sports car, Mike's single mama lit into him with a fury we kids didn't think was possible. Snakes erupted from her head and her glowing green eyes cast a stone-cold glare. To say she flared red would be a grand exercise in understatement. She picked up the plywood and threw it at Mike as he tried to run away. His attempt to flee was for naught, as she fell upon him like a lioness on a gimpy wildebeest, snatchin' and lashin' him with a belt she must have kept as a souvenir (kinda the way an Indian keep a scalp) from one of her recent conquests or another (as you can likely infer from her selection of automobile, Mike's mom was a bit of a "goer," a fan of "sports" and candid photography, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. For those of you bereft of Monte Python knowledge, in short, she was a bit of a slut.)
Ah, good times, folks. But such is not my Hoodoo. No, I have an embarrassing incident of my own to recount here, as I will not have Football Loki holding me accountable for a lack of proper sacrifice. I have established myself as a constructor of world-class rampage and stunt accessories. World-renowned (and by "world-renowned" I mean known across the whole neighborhood.) When we neighborhood kids saw a dozier and backhoe working on a long-wooded corner lot across the street from one of my biggest rivals, a lazy-eyed rich kid (rich kid meaning he lived in one of the few two-story houses in this particular neighborhood) who was an only child. This bandit, who operated under the name Al the Pal, had it all. He had the Diamondback BMX bike, he had the Atari, he had his own mini-refrigerator in his room. He was the only kid in the ‘hood with the GI Joe aircraft carrier and three (count ‘em folks, three) F-14 Tomcats to go with it. His parents even had a hot tub, in which they'd let him entertain his lucky friends on the occasion of sleepover (which were frequent, since he was an only child.)
Al the Pal and I had a long-standing feud, as he represented what I didn't have but desperately wanted. I had risen to a place of prominence in the neighborhood hierarchy, not through material possessions, but through my own bad-assedness. I didn't like his sense of entitlement, or his belief that affections can be won and loyalties gained through the manipulation of material desires. He was the typical smarmy, smug rich kid of 1980s cinema...only with that lazy eye.
He was fond of regaling neighborhood kids of his tales of California, since of course, he was one of few kids whose parents had the resources for such grand and leisurely travels.
"Out there in Cali - that's what we call it out there, Cali- out there in Cali, they got grapefruit growin' on trees, you can just go pick one off and eat it. Man, they got a surf shop on every corner...you don't even gotta pay for ‘em, people are so cool there you can just borrow one ifn't you promise to bring it back. At the schools in Cali, they don't got water fountains, naw man. They got Slurpee fountains, you just walk right up to one and slurp it right on out. Teachers too, everybody loves a Slurpee out there. They got these real high-class Slurpees out there to, call ‘em Orange Julius. Bet y'all never had one of those, but you can tell your friends at school you know somebody ‘at had one. Sun always shines in Cali, say it hasn't rained there since 1969..."
Bullshit. Pure unadulterated bullshit. I really hated this kid, and every conversation to which I bore witness pushed me closer to the inevitable end of me lazifying his good eye via my right cross.
Enough character development, back to our tale. The heavy equipment came and left over the course a couple days, leaving a mostly clear four acre lot behind in their wake. This lot had the timber removed, but retained some of the yaupon-holly and briar underbrush common in West Mobile. Of course, there were trails through said brush, which we immediately claimed as our own neighborhood BMX course.
Several of us set about the task of building an assortment of jump ramps, gullies and hairpin turns for the enjoyment of the neighborhood kidfolk. The lot was sloped, and was near the bottom of a huge hill upon which Al the Pal's house was built. The hill was daunting, even without launch ramps on its bottom end, as it allowed a rider to gain so much speed that he'd often develop the shakes: a combination of a lack of balance and confidence that oftentimes led to an enormous spill.
Being the master builder, the King Solomon of neighborhood bike stunt architecture, I was in command of the track. Of course, I installed two part jumps over a dry creek bed that swelled with water only after a rainstorm. I built wooden plank gangways over the methane-scented rusty-red muck-sand in the swampy back end of the lot. I hauled in gravel I scooped from the creek bed to help stabilize the sandy patches that were pure momentum killers for cyclists. It was my master work, no doubt, and it was enjoyed by dozens of kids who called the neighborhood home.
The crowning jewel was a 10 foot tall launch ramp made of felled timber logs and packed clay. Kids in the ‘hood took to calling it "Big Bertha," why I'm not really sure but I went with it. Y'all, Bertha was a nasty bitch, just vicious. The rider was blind at takeoff and had to trust in the Force, as the ramp propelled the cyclist some 20 feet from take-off, over a bed of piled sand, to a smaller clay landing ramp of shorter stature. It was a scary stunt, indeed. I never though anyone among us would have the courage to give it a try, as it was something to which we could all aspire from afar. It was beautiful and frightening all at once...and I for one never even thought about giving it a shot.
Apparently jealous at the hard-won adoration of my peers, Al the Pal skidded into the track one day on his chromed-out Diamondback like the cotdang Sheriff of Nottingham atop his horse. I could tell by his smirk he was up to not god and in an ornery frame of mind.
"What are y'all doin'?"
J-nathan was the first to speak. "Man, this course is awesome, d'you see it yet? It's so cool, OWB is the man!"
Al the Pal was not impressed. "Yeah, I guess it's okay, not as good as the ones I saw out in Cali, but I guess it's good enough for here. Out there, I saw a BMX ramp that was 200 feet high, jumped across a canyon and into a pool full of marshmallow cream."
"WHOAAAAA!" was the collective response of the poor nitwits who believed the yarn Al the Pal was spinning. "Really, that sounds awesome, 200 feet?" "Neat!" "I'd jump it if I could land in a tub of marshmallow cream!"
Idiots. All of them. No power of discernment whatsoever.
Feeling the attention slipping from me to my nemesis, I had to do something...something drastic...to reseize the momentum. I scanned the landscape for something that would get all eyes back on me. I thought about dottin' Al the Pal's good eye, but nah, that was way too forward and needy. Then it occurred to me (as ill-conceived as it was)...I knew what to do.
"Hey y'all, I think I've finally figured out Big Bertha. Gotta get up a good head of steam, push off from the top of Al's driveway...wanna see me try it?
"WOOOO! YEAH, THAT'LL BE AWESOME!" was the collective exclamation. The collective thought it was more of a landmark than a functional stunt ramp...no one ever really thought there'd be a soul brave enough to ride ole' Bertha. But I was undaunted...well, that's a lie. I was plenty daunted, but not as daunted as I would have been had I lost all my buddies to a rich kid with a lazy eye. Drastic times, drastic measures, you know...
"This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy," I chanted to myself as I made the lone ascent to the type of Al's hill, peddling hard against gravity as Big Bertha disappeared in the distance. From the grade of the hill, I'd probably be going somewhere around 35 miles per hour when I hit that ramp. Now I wasn't schooled in calculus at that age, but I knew enough about basic physics and gravity to know that at 35 mph, with a 10 foot launch, my lummox ass was going to come down pretty hard. I made up my mind to avoid the bicycle seat at all cost, as I knew my future family would thank me.
I stopped at the top of the hill, perched somewhere between mediocrity and legend, one man, alone, with his fears right before him at the bottom of the hill. I saw the crowd at the bottom around the ramp, cheering, arms raised. Combined with the fear, it was somewhat exhilarating.
"I can do this, be the ramp," I said to myself. I could do it, I thought. It wasn't THAT scary or...you know, deadly.
I began my descent, speed building, knobby BMX tires whirring against the concrete of Al the Pal's driveway in ascending frequency that matched my speed. By the time I hit the two lanes between Al's and the track, I could feel the wobbles creeping in, but I steadied myself, still building speed. I hit the hard-pan of the clay track that approached Big Bertha a mere 50 yards away. There was no turning back, so I decided to give it my all. I peddled right up to the bottom of the ramp.
"I can do it, I can do it, I can do it," I chanted in my head as I began up the ramp. It was really high...and I was going really fast. "I can do it, I can...I CAN'T DO IT! I CAN'T DO IT! AHHHHHHH!"
But it was too late to stop. I had slowed just enough to kill a little of my momentum, but I couldn't stop before I reached the launch pad. I sailed into the air, time slowing to a crawl. I could see B-Rad, mouth agape, looking up at his soon to particulate brother. I could see Abby, hands clinched in a prayer, squinting with foreknowledge of the impact. I could see Al the Pal, ever-present smirk, nodding his head at the outcome even a fool could have predicted.
It seemed like I was in the air for an hour, moving in slow motion, time nearly at a standstill. I looked down to see that I was indeed going to miss the catch ramp, which would leave me to crash down into the sand between the ramps.
"I guess there are worse ways to die," I thought.
I couldn't have been more wrong. This was probably the worst way I could have died. As I neared the ground, time took his previous full-speed pace and I crashed into the sand. The bike was canted so the front wheel hit first, and followed by my hefty weight, it folded like a lawn chair, the frame contorted and bent into an aluminum pretzel. The front wheel exploded with a pop. I missed the seat, fortunately, but that was the only bounty Fortune would bestow on me that day. I was immediately catapulted over the handle bars upon impact, and the screw holding the hand brakes on my handlebars gashed a four inch long trench in my quad. My wrists had hung up on the hand grips in an ill-advised attempt to steer myself out of the crash, so I had nothing in place to buffer my fall save for face and sand. My jaw slammed shut, teeth clenched together like a vice, rattling the recessed of my skull. My cheekbone took the brunt of the force, which resulted in something akin to a carpet burn across half my face. Likewise, my shoulder was sand-blasted and seemed to not be functioning correctly, until I bent it back and IT POPPED BACK INTO THE SOCKET!
I screamed out in pain. "AHHHHHHHHHHH! SHEEEEYUTTT!"
I looked like a Walking Dead extra, and felt little better. Al the Pal was cackling, but the other neighborhood kids were too terrified at my transformation to laugh. Hell, all I saw of mi amore Abby was elbows as she ran for her house without so much as a word or comforting gesture. B-Rad was like, "Whoa!"
I waved him over. "Get my Bike, man, I can't carry it." He shouldered what was left of the frame, and so began my walk (nay, limp) of shame back to my father's house.
So embarrassed was I by this episode that I didn't even go back to my father's house for a month, skipping the every-other-weekend visit on account of not wanting to deal with the scorn. J-nathan later told me everyone thought I had died when I didn't come back two weeks after the accident, and I guess they were justified in that assumption.
It was a nasty spill, indeed. But my injuries were nothing alongside my bruised pride, as like my boy Icarus, your narrator, out of hubris, had simply tried to fly to close to the sun. No, really...that's not a metaphor, my ass was soarin' higher than any God-fearin' southern young'un should ever try to fly. If the Good Lord had intended for my big ass to fly, he would have pinned wings to my back. Or rather, more likely a jet engine would have been required because of all the heft. Had to be said. After all, I'm about nothing if not truth.
Roll Tide Roll. For the love of Football Loki and all that is good and right in this universe, may our beloved Crimson Tide triumph over the Rebel Black Bear Landshark Ackbars this weekend!