About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

How a Giraffe Brought us Together for a Little While

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comIf only for a moment, we were all united.

It occurred from the most unlikely of sources: April the giraffe. It was, by far, the second-most-famous stable birth in the history of mankind.

I don’t know how many people saw April give birth on Saturday, but I do know they watched from all corners of the globe and represented all religions, cultures, and political positions.

And as unbelievable as it was, we were all on the same side for a few minutes, pulling for the same thing.

It was a modern-day “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” moment.

I wrote about April a month or so ago, back when the internet furor over her pregnancy first began. I talked about how the miracle of birth can be R rated. If you saw — and heard — the video of April’s delivery, you’ll know I was right.

Today, though, let’s celebrate April’s truly remarkable accomplishment: a glimmer of hope for global unification. 

On Saturday, people all over the world were brought together by a giraffe. A giraffe, of all things.

I am even crediting divine intervention for the mid-morning timing. If she had delivered in the evening local time, most of the world would’ve been asleep and missed it.

As I watched — over breakfast, no less — I marveled at all the languages and cultures where people marveled with me. We all marveled at the same thing. I wondered what they were saying. I did not, however, wonder what the looks on their faces were, because I knew they had the same expression I did.

Ordinarily, a giraffe can’t do too much.

A giraffe cannot make a famous speech to rally people.

A giraffe cannot cure diseases in a laboratory.

And it was pretty much by accident that a giraffe made herself — albeit unwittingly — a hero for men, women and children all over the globe.

If we all can get excited for a giraffe, why on earth can’t a person have the same effect on us?

Where are these people who can pull our planet together? Where are our leaders? 

Where are the great men and women of planet earth who can unite us all to move forward as children of a creator who loves us and wants us to get along with each other and prosper?

As I watched April’s calf crash to the ground, I fought the urge to cry, for some reason. But I wasn’t weeping for the calf or his mother, or even for Oliver the father, who was confined in the next stall.

I wanted to weep because it took a streaming internet feed spying on a mother giraffe in her most vulnerable and intimate moments to make me realize what a vacuum we are in as a people.

We, the people, are desperately searching for something to pull us together. We are yearning for a hero.

I’m not taking a shot at the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., in case you’re wondering. If he hadn’t won, whoever did win would’ve been just as ridiculed as he is, only by different people.

I am sick and tired of hearing, “Yeah, my person is bad, but yours is worse.”

Is that the best we can do?

I want a leader. I want someone we can believe in who will pull the world in a direction we all know it wants to go in.

I know that person is out there, somewhere.

We are ripe for the picking.

A giraffe just proved it.

Plenty of Blame in the United Debacle

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI normally agree with the adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity, but this whole United Airlines story is putting that to the test.

By now, you’ve seen the video of the passenger being dragged off of the plane by airport security from an overbooked United flight.

It’s not a good look for the airline. Plus, it has turned into a viral social media disaster, as so many things do these days. 

I think the blame is pretty widespread in this situation.

Let’s start with the obvious.

The flight was overbooked by four passengers. It doesn’t do me much good to know that a company responsible for flying around a 200-ton chunk of steel is incapable of selling the same number of tickets for which it has seats.

This seems to be a pretty easy fix. If the 16-year-old ticket taker down at the Cinema Eight can figure it out, the third largest airline in the world should be able to do the same.

In my opinion, the next gaffe occurred when the people at the gate failed to realize the number of people waiting to fly outnumbered the seats on the plane. They never should have boarded the plane until they had bumped the extra four.

I’ve been in countless airport terminals where the airline paid people to give up their seat.

In this situation, United offered the passengers $1,000 and a hotel room to fly later. Don’t offer me $1,000 and a night in the pizza capital of the world unless you’re serious about it.

The flight was going to Louisville — Louisville, for heaven’s sake, not Maui. I’m sure Louisville is a fabulous place, but I’ve been not going for years for free. I would gladly not go for $1,000.

Back in March, United came under fire for barring two teenage girls from flying because the leggings they were wearing were determined by the gate agent to be inappropriate.

It seems United needs to fire some of their fashion police officers and replace them with a couple of adolescent ticket takers.

Apparently, when no one volunteered to leave the plane, the airline randomly chose four people. The first three — begrudgingly I’m sure — left. It was the guy who became the star of the show who refused.

Then, the same brainiacs who can’t count called security.

I can hear the flight attendant now.

“Ladies and gentlemen, in a moment, a police officer will board the aircraft and drag this man, kicking and screaming, up the aisle. In anticipation of this event, please take out your mobile devices, enable your camera and press the record button.”

Here’s the deal: if I’m in that situation, I’m taking it as a sign that God is telling me, “Get off the plane, take the money and go grab yourself a Cinnabon, because I’m pretty sure that’s Eddie Van Halen over there in line for one.” 

Since no one is saying this aloud, I will. I truly think the guy should’ve gotten off the plane when his name was called.

When he refused, United should’ve shut down the flight, invited everyone off the plane and tried again tomorrow.

In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious making a hundred people mad would’ve been the better choice.

Oh, wait. The flight was cancelled anyway. I’m not sure why, but it may have had something to do with the fact that the passengers and crew watched a future billionaire get dragged off of the plane.

The incident did serve one purpose, though. Nobody is talking about the Pepsi ad anymore.

Beware the Man With a ‘Rare Breed of Expertise’

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comA brand-new spring means renewed hope, rebirth and a fresh new list of chores.

Even a mild winter plays evil tricks on the yard, as you well know.

This spring, I’m considering hiring someone to help for a day. I don’t know who to call, but I certainly know who I would never approach: myself 20 years ago.

Back then, I wasn’t nearly as proficient as I thought I was. And, I wasn’t even close to the expertly-skilled master I am today.

For instance, years ago we bought a backyard greenhouse which I assembled.

It was starting to show its age pretty badly, so we decided to revive it this year.

This reincarnation started with replacing the dutch door.

Let’s not forget I am a master of such things — not a novice like I was back when I assembled it. So naturally, building a new door would be a snap.

I ripped my new plank down the middle to give me two pieces the width I needed.

Then, I cut the lengths to match the old door.

Because of my rare breed of expertise, I was able to cut precision lap joints on the corners so the door frame would be perfectly flat.

I even cut a groove along the edge of two pieces so the little sliding window could open and close. We woodworking giants call that particular cut a dado, just in case you’re ever on Jeopardy.

Finally, I put the pieces together into perfect 90-degree angles.

I marveled at my door frame. All I had left was to remove the plastic panels from what was left of the old door and nail them on.

I chuckled as I pulled the nails 20-year-ago me hammered in back then. Some of them were crooked and a few more were bent.

Since the nails were a specialty item that came with the greenhouse, I reused them. I spent a fair amount of time straightening the ones that my 1997 self bent as he drove them in, which I’m sure he did hastily.

I’ll tell you the truth, 20th Century me was a raw rookie compared to this expert woodworker.

Before I could install the new door, I had to remove the old hinges from the door facing.

As I started looking at them, I saw where at least half of the rusty heads were stripped to the point where a screwdriver would never work.

Good grief. What kind of a hack put them in and stripped the heads in the process?

As middle-aged me shook my head at young me, I unscrewed the ones I could. Then I twisted out the stripped ones with a pair of locking pliers, which took several unnecessary minutes.

It was time to install the door, which by now you surely are picturing as a work of art. 

I put the top part against the door facing and marked where the hinges should go. Then I attached it while Kim held it. 

The bottom part was a little trickier, since it had to be perfectly in line with the top part. But, as I am sure you have already guessed, I attached it with laser perfection.

I stepped back and marveled at my handiwork as I swelled with pride.

Oh, if there were only more of me to go around.

In order to carry my ego over the threshold, I pulled the handle to open the door.

It came open about 6 inches before the bottom edge kind of hit the brick walkway Kim put in some years ago.

Of course, nothing ever “kind of” hits a brick, since bricks are not known for their flexibility.

Somewhere, good ol’ nail bending, screw stripping, 1997 me is sipping lemonade having a good laugh about now. My beautiful new door won’t open. And, I’m too tired to lower the bricks.

Maybe I’ll stop being so hard on my younger self. He could’ve been worse. 

At least his greenhouse door opened and closed for 20 years. 

I Suppose I’ll Still Like Apples in 6 Years

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI have planted countless flowers, shrubs and trees in my life.

Kim loves to garden, and she thinks I love to dig holes, so it’s a natural fit.

Although she normally spearheads the planting projects, I must admit I enjoy it in moderation.

I have transplanted rose of Sharon bushes all over the yard. They sprout up on their own, and I have learned that they never do so in the right place.

We also have a burning bush that likes to procreate, and I have scattered its saplings here and there around the backyard.

We have 8,000 or so varieties of plants that came from Kim’s mother, just like we have a healthy collection of aunt somebody’s variegated something-or-anothers.

Sometimes a planting project is my idea, though. I dug up a couple of cedar trees from the farm my father grew up on and planted them at the house. And as we speak, I am planning a midnight raid to Mama’s old house to dig up some of the iris I loved looking at as a kid.

Planting is rewarding, but it’s hard work.

Many years ago, we nearly died from planting 27 bushes in one day to form a shrub around the swimming pool. Thankfully, the third degree sunburn was there to take my mind off my muscles which felt like rusty log chains the next morning. The only body part I didn’t strain that day was my brain.

We still refer to that experience as the “27 red tip day” in our house. It lives in infamy. I measure all physical pain using the 27 red tip day scale.

We’ve been gardening forever. We planted a tiny garden outside our apartment the first year we were married, and we haven’t missed many — if any — years since. Ours is a city garden, nothing big. I wouldn’t want to tackle a big garden anyway, you know, because of the moderation thing.

Grant got interested in it to the point where he had his on smaller garden a few years. His had better soil. That must’ve been it. I predict once the bug is inside you, it stays there. We’ll see.

Right now, however, we have 121 heirloom tomato plants we grew from seed. One hundred and twenty-one, no joke. I just counted them. I don’t know what we’re going to do with 110 of them, but we’ll figure out something.

I said all that to say this: we’ve never planted a fruit tree. 

I’ve always wished I had fruit trees, but I don’t. And that’s my fault, because I always say it will take too long before they bear fruit.

I guess I have short attention span syndrome. Or maybe I think I’m going to develop apple-infect-ivitis or some other dread fruit-related disease.

How many years ago would I have enjoyed the first apple or peach if we had planted a couple of trees the first time we talked about it?

Decades. Just fewer than three, but decades nonetheless.

I think about it often.

I’m thinking about it now because Kim visited with our 80-year-old neighbor outside last night who said she is going to plant a fruit tree.

I wonder if our neighbor has been putting off planting fruit trees for 50 years? Even if she has, what an inspiration she is. We should all aspire to see the glass half full with such gusto.

Kim said, “That’s the kind of 80 year old I want to be.”

Me, too.

Now, I’m not going to go in some kind of broad-sweeping, tear-jerking “what might’ve been” direction. Thankfully, I don’t have too many regrets.

But unless I change my mind, I am going to plant a couple of fruit trees.

I’ll let you know in 6 years how they turned out.

The Sad Election We Can’t Ever Undo

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThis election was a disaster.

The results will affect the entire world for generations.

How could we get it so wrong?

I’m sorry, wheelbarrow. Boot, you had a good run. And thimble, oh, thimble. We will miss you.

By now you’ve probably heard that these three classic Monopoly game pieces were voted out in an online contest and replaced by a tyrannosaurs rex, a duck and a penguin. More than 4 million people from 146 countries voted.

The internet strikes again.

This is ridiculous.

First of all, the T-rex is scaly instead of smooth like the rest of the pieces. Plus, it looks like it could eat the car in one bite.

The duck is billed (sorry) as a rubber duck, but it’s not rubber. If it were rubber, at least that would make it a little cooler — the way the rope is made out of plastic in Clue.

I’ve never understood peoples’ fascination with penguins in the first place. And the Monopoly penguin has this smart aleck, narcissistic look on his face that reminds me of the selfies people take when they go to the beach.

While we’re changing the iconic pieces, why stop there? We could get rid of the Scottie dog and the car and replace them with a vape pipe and a cellphone. Why not make one out of plastic that looks like a Kardashian? 

I’m sure the move was a marketing ploy to make the game appeal to younger people.

In trying to accomplish that, we ended up with an animal that became extinct a million years ago, a duck that won’t float and a bird that lives on the ice and swims instead of flies.

It could’ve been worse, if you can believe it. 

Also on the ballot were a computer, a bunny slipper, an emoji face and a monster truck for heaven’s sake.

Can you imagine if the inventor of Monopoly were reincarnated to see a monster truck spewing carbon monoxide all over St. James Place?

I’ve got an idea. Let’s not stop with changing the pieces. 

Let’s jack up the price of Boardwalk to a $12.2 million and turn it into a mixed-use development with a Chili’s in the parking lot.

Let’s cave into pressure from MoveOn.org and change the name of Oriental Avenue to something less offensive. While we’re at it, let’s change the name of Marvin Gardens, simply because Marvin Gardens is a dumb name in the first place.

We could gentrify Baltic Avenue. And we need to anyway, because it is only a block from our new domed stadium we built for our new NFL team, which we plan to pay for with the revenue from Luxury Tax.

Oh, wait, I forgot. We eliminated Luxury Tax and shifted that burden to the working poor who play Monopoly.

I mean, how are we going to afford a skybox if we have to pay a Luxury Tax?

Monopoly is a classic game. It was created in the early 20th century and reflects the period.

The thimble, wheelbarrow and boot are all signs of the times.

I always liked to think these pieces represented peoples’ lifestyles. They should be preserved.

I’ll tell you what I’m going to do.

The next time I play Monopoly, I’m going to get the red convertible from the Game of Life, I’m going to stick a blue peg in the driver’s seat for me. Then I’m going to get the prettiest pink peg and stick her next to me.

Then I’m going to get two more blue pegs and two more pink pegs to represent our two kids and their two friends who they insisted on bringing on the trip because my Hawaiian shirt embarrasses them.

That’s what I’m going to use as my Monopoly piece, and I am going to beat the stew out of whoever is the T-rex, the rubber ducky and especially the penguin.

Just land on my redeveloped mixed-use Boardwalk and see what happens, Mr Penguin.

And don’t even think about eating at my Chili’s.

Beware the Ivy of March

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comIn my backyard sits an old bed sheet with a heaping pile of pulled weeds on it.

It’s been there for 9 days. It has endured a couple of rains and even a snow.

It needs to be dragged down by the road for the public works truck to pick up, but no one in my family is probably going near it any time soon.

This pile consists of last year’s dead day lilies, some blackberry stalks and various other weeds.

And somewhere in all those tangles lurks the meanest poison ivy vine the world has ever known.

Mother nature spent all winter breeding this weapon of mass destruction, and take a wild guess where she decided to test it out.

This new strain of killer weed must be invisible; neither Kim nor I ever saw it. On the other hand, we didn’t know we needed to be on the lookout for poison ivy during the first week of March.

We worked for a couple of hours. When I came in, I thoroughly rinsed my hands and arms. It felt so refreshing, I rinsed my face. I rubbed it thoroughly with my hands, then I rubbed it some more with a paper towel.

I didn’t realize I was saturating every square inch of my bare skin with poison ivy oil.

I’ve had poison ivy plenty times in my life. Always before, the symptoms were rows of little clear blisters on my arms or legs. They’re a temporary annoyance more than anything else — never a whole lot worse than mosquito bites.

Not this time.

It took two days after my run-in before the blisters started appearing on my arms. A day later, the rash broke out on my nose, cheek, chin and neck. That’s also when my eyes began to swell.

By the fourth day, my face looked like I had been sparring with Floyd Mayweather. My left eye was swollen to the point that I could see my own eyelid from the inside.

Both arms had several beet-colored, half-dollar-sized blotches.

Kim came away with some, too. She got it on her arms and even a little patch on her forehead. I rarely beat her at anything, but I won the poison ivy challenge in a runaway.

I finally gave in and sought professional help because calamine lotion was only making this stuff mad and more ornery.

The doctor sent me home with 14 days worth of pills, a $100 tube of ointment and a package of cookies.

The cookies, actually, were my idea. When one goes to the doctor, that person deserves a treat. For the record, it was a toss-up between Oreos and army men.

Naturally, I felt the need to explain myself to everyone I saw. More than once I sensed someone thinking, “Why won’t this hideous, one-eyed man stop talking to me?”

My face looks better now, but it’s not completely back to normal. My eye still itches. I don’t think the blotches on my arms will ever heal, even after one Benjamin Franklin amount of ointment.

Every time Kim tells the story to someone she says, “I can’t believe I didn’t take a picture. I should’ve taken a picture.” I’m a little concerned by how much she wanted to preserve the hideousness. 

Poison ivy isn’t contagious, which is the good news.

The bad news is, the oil from the plant stays on whatever it touches for a long time. I threw away my trusty White Mule gloves I’ve had for probably 30 years.

I used the nuclear holocaust setting on the washer for my clothes, and I’m still afraid to touch them.

Then there’s the problem of that pile in the backyard. Public works runs again in 3 days, so I have some time to figure out how I’m going to get it to the road.

Regardless of what I do, I’ll be cautious. I don’t want new army men that badly.

Watching April Might Be Hazardous

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comThe internet has created yet another viral sensation.

This one is long-necked, spotted and 15 months pregnant.

She is April the giraffe.

By the time you read this, April may have had her bouncing bundle of joy. Then again, she still may be pacing in her stall at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY.

If you’re not familiar with April, you can get to know her as she goes through the final days of her gestation period.

Just log on to aprilthegiraffe.com, and you can watch her through the stationary camera as she eats, sleeps, walks or just stands there — which she does most of the time.

In the stall immediately behind her is Oliver, the father. This is Oliver’s first calf. It’s April’s fourth trip around the block. I didn’t know this, but a baby giraffe weighs 150 pounds and is 6 feet tall at birth.

Occasionally, a zoo handler — a giraffe whisperer, I suppose — will come in the stall to check on April. Who knows what they do while they’re in there.

Here’s what I do know, though.

Thousands of people all over the world are watching April so they can see the baby giraffe be born.

Since this is a family newspaper — and since such things make me squeamish — I won’t elaborate on how I see it unfolding, but I don’t see any way it can be pretty.

I have a little experience with the miracle of birth within the animal kingdom.

I was probably 7 or 8 years old when daddy bought a herd of black angus cattle. Every day after he got home from work, we drove to the farm to check on them in the summer and throw out some hay bales for them in the winter.

I don’t really know why he got them in the first place. And I sure don’t know why he thought it would be a good idea to have another farmer’s bull come over for a play date one day, but he did.

Of course, one of the heifers got pregnant. (Yes, I realize that was the plan. Don’t email me.)

Somehow or another, daddy knew when she was close to delivering.

I thought I might sit out that trip, but oh, no, that wasn’t happening. This was something I needed to see, from what I was told.

When we got there that evening, the pregnant heifer was not with the rest of the herd. We set out to look for her.

A few moments after we started walking the perimeter of the field, we could hear her mooing.

It wasn’t a regular moo. It was the moo you moo when your quarterback throws an interception in the 4th quarter. It was the moo you moo when you drop the shampoo bottle on your toe.

It was also the moo you moo — which I unceremoniously learned— when you’re having a calf.

I’m not quite sure how I thought it would look. I certainly wasn’t expecting the stork to bring it wrapped in a pink blanket. And I knew it wouldn’t look like a Disney adaptation suitable for Saturday morning cartoons.

But I wasn’t expecting it to look the way it did.

Now, here’s why I’m concerned for the people watching April.

In homes, in classrooms and in cars idling at red lights all over the world, people are going to witness a big, big giraffe give birth to a big, big baby.

And if giraffes are anything like black angus heifers, it’s going to be gross.

Are trauma counselors on standby? Are parents ready to explain what’s going on to their impressionable youngsters? Are parents ready to see it themselves?

Privacy is pretty much a thing of the past nowadays. Even in our most intimate moments big brother seems to be watching us.

Not even a pregnant giraffe is immune. 

I probably won’t be watching, though. I’m still trying to unsee my first live birth.

How We Act When our Potatoes are Stiff

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI simply deplore mean people.

We were at lunch the other day at the place with the fireplace where the servers wear brown aprons with their names and stars embroidered in gold.

You know the place.

A woman was at the table next to us, sitting alone, reading a hardback book with a tan and lavender cover. She was probably in her late 60s.

She looked like a nice person reading a nice book. Since I admire anyone who preoccupies themselves with a book instead of scrolling on their phone, I automatically read lots more nice things into her.

I soon realized she was dissatisfied with her mashed potatoes.

I didn’t hear what she said, but I could hear the server apologize as she brought a replacement serving.

I didn’t think much about it until a manager appeared.

“I understand you didn’t like your mashed potatoes,” he said.

She snapped back, “We could lay brick if ya had any.”

What a jerk.

So the person I thought was sweet grandma was actually Mommie Dearest.

She sneered and shook her head while the manager groveled and tried to make make up for the horrible, unspeakable injustice the place had piled on top of her.

For the rest of the meal, I was rooting for the manager to snap, come back with a brick and crush her plate with it before throwing his name tag into the sweet tea pitcher and going to Montana the way he’d dreamed about since the first day he put on those rubber-soled shoes.

He didn’t, and naturally, I didn’t expect him to.

Sometimes I think mean people are happier than people like me and the brickless restaurant manager.

You’re probably the same way. There are lots of us other-cheek-turners out there.

Things people say, do and — of course — post on Facebook get under our skin, and we tend to let them overstay their welcome in our minds.

I once saw a humorous T-shirt that said “contents under pressure” on the front. I still regret not buying it.

Some years ago, I interacted with someone on a daily basis who could say the meanest things. Rarely did a week go by when someone didn’t incur her wrath.

She was a decent person, and I liked her more than most people did. But far more often than not, I thought she could’ve handled situations with a little more finesse.

I always wondered how people with mean streaks could sleep at night.

Then one day, it hit me.

It’s because they let off the steam on a regular basis.

That “contents under pressure” T-shirt doesn’t apply to them, because they don’t ever give anything a chance to build up.

It’s not an endearing quality, but I’ll bet Miss Mashed Potato Breath slept like a baby while relishing the zinger she put on the manager.

We see meanness everywhere — in traffic, on social media, at work and countless other situations in everyday life.

I don’t think anyone would deny it’s getting worse, given our national political climate right now.

I guess there are just more things to be mean about than there used to be.

It’s not my style, though. I don’t think it ever will be.

I’ll normally eat the mashed potatoes, whether I like them or not. And when the server asks me how they taste, I’ll say “fine” 99 times out of 100, regardless of whether or not they would double as mortar.

You probably do the same thing. Most people do. We’re the grease on the cogs of society — keeping someone else’s day from stinking simply by keeping our mouths shut.

I say we stay the course and not let people like Miss Mashed Potato Breath change us.

Look! You Never See That in the Neighborhood

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comOn our way home from the office one evening last December, a herd of deer — probably 10 or more — meandered across the road in front of the car right smack dab in the middle of our neighborhood.

It was a rare and unusual sight, but it didn’t hold a candle to what I saw on the way home yesterday.

I know you’re probably thinking I’m going to say Elvis or a UFO or the police SWAT team trying to talk someone off the roof.

This wasn’t anything like that. As I rounded a curve I saw a bunch of kids playing soccer in a vacant field.

There must have been 12 of them — maybe 15.

It didn’t hit me initially, then I started trying to remember the last time I saw kids outside playing a pick-up ballgame of any kind. I couldn’t. 

Our ever-growing reliance on technology has replaced the ball and bat, and I don’t understand how anyone could see that as a good thing.

When I was growing up, the kids in my neighborhood and I engaged in at least one pick-up game of football, basketball or baseball just about every day. We were born before the soccer generation.

We showed up, we chose up sides, and we played until our tongues hung out of our parched mouths.

We had access to organized youth sports, but I much preferred doing it this way. Our uniforms were shirts and skins. We didn’t have a schedule to stick on the refrigerator. Nobody’s dad was a volunteer coach, and nobody’s mom brought snacks. We didn’t have a team outing to the cheapest pizza buffet in town at the end of the season, because the season never ended.

Scraped knees and elbows were our participation ribbons.

The lessons we learned were invaluable.

We learned sportsmanship. In baseball, we shared our glove with someone on the other team if he didn’t have his own, or if his was being used as second base.

We had no officials, obviously. So we had to learn to compromise. This was usually punctuated by the team losing the argument saying, “Let the babies have it,” but it was compromise none the less.

We learned at least enough responsibility to know to go home when the streetlights came on.

We learned tolerance. If the most annoying kid in the neighborhood was the one who owned the football, then he was tolerated. And if he played his cards right, sometimes he even got to play quarterback.

We learned that wounds of all types eventually heal, and bruises fade from purple to green to yellow before disappearing completely and being quickly forgotten.

I don’t remember if we actually ever said, “rub some dirt on it,” but we had hundreds of opportunities.

We learned time management, which meant cutting the yard early in the morning before the game commenced.

I think the main thing we learned is sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. And sometimes you just have to agree to disagree about who won and who lost.

There was always a tomorrow. There was always another game.

We were healthy, we were skinny, we were tanned, and we were happy.

Kids today are missing that experience. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good video game. In fact, we had video games — and other indoor activities like board games and cards — back in those days, too.

That’s what we did when it rained or if it was so cold the basketball turned to stone.

Although I could, I am not going to go on some big, long rant about kids these days spending too much time locked in their bedrooms in the dark staring at a screen.

I just don’t understand why it is more fun to play a game on a computer than in real life.

I would give just about anything for one more day in that vacant lot. I miss it.

Those kids playing soccer yesterday will miss it one day, too. And they’ll be glad they had it.

A Burger and Shake is Easy Enough, Right?

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comI rarely get a hamburger from a restaurant, but when I do, I like to have a milkshake with it.

To me, it is the ultimate pairing.

The burger and the shake — chocolate of course — create a kind of magical tasty synergy that few other food combinations can match in my book.

I don’t care if it’s 12 degrees below zero. If I’m standing in front of a counter with a big menu behind the employees’ heads, and if I’m ordering a hamburger, I’m getting a milkshake with it.

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions when I found myself at a little independent burger place I like.

While I was waiting for the people in front of me to finish ordering, I could see the styrofoam cups in three distinct sizes next to the milkshake machine.

I ordered my burger and a medium chocolate shake.

“We only have small and large.”

“But, you have three sizes of cups.”

“We put milkshakes in these,” she said, pointing to stacks of clear plastic cups.

I asked to see the sizes, and she held up two cups — one in each hand.

They looked identical.

“Aren’t they the same size?”

“No, they’re not.”

I sincerely thought maybe she had bet a co-worker that she could prove I was the most gullible person on the face of the earth.

“They look like they’re exactly the same size.”

“Well, they’re not.”

“Then I’ll take the large,” I said, pointing to the one in her right hand.

“That’s the small.”

This really happened.

For the record, I have no idea if I ended up with the small or the large.

Maybe the young woman working the counter was just confused, and I can see how she would be. Back before she was born, it was easy to order a drink from a burger place, because there was only one size. And, under the golden arches for instance, it was 7 ounces.

Now each place has a half dozen different sizes, and even the smallest is too much. The biggest of the big ones are downright colossal.

It’s impossible to remember from place to place how big each size is.

At fast food joint A, a medium may be 22 ounces.

At fast food joint B, if you order a medium, it gets delivered to you by an employee wearing one of those back-support belts furniture movers wear to lift a hutch.

And, most places don’t even have a size they call small anymore. I guess that’s because we’re in America and implying that you can’t swig down a drink big enough to have high tide twice a day would be seen as a sign of weakness, I don’t know.

I cannot even imagine ordering a large drink these days. I guess it comes on a forklift going beep-beep-beep as it rumbles into the lobby.

Huge drinks have been around awhile, though. I didn’t realize it, but 7-Eleven actually introduced its famous Big Gulp way back in 1976. Nowadays, the Big Gulp is the smallest of all the Gulps.

Just in case you don’t frequent 7-Eleven, they have five Gulp sizes.

The biggest is the Team Gulp which gushes to the tune of a whopping 128 ounces. That’s a gallon, ladies and gentlemen. 

The Team Gulp comes in a container with a handle and a screw-on lid. Maybe you’re supposed to share it with, oh, 10 or so people.

I realize that what started out as me making fun of a place not having a big enough difference between their two sizes of cups suddenly turned into me complaining about drinks being too big.

I just wanted to tell the milkshake story. The rest was just bonus drivel.

No need to thank me. The next time you see me, you can just buy me a milkshake.

You pick the size.

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