I lived in a CHU. No, not a shoe but a CHU...and it sounds like chew. The acronym for a Containerized Housing Unit. They were popular in Iraq when I was there in 2005, and I had to cope with three 20-somethings and Trombiculidae.
Six bunks, wall lockers, and an air conditioner. When we arrived, we had to remove the plastic shipping cover from my mattress and dust off whatever was in my path. That dusting may have done me in. Those three 20-Something’s occupied the CHU with me for the first 5 days and then were relocated to a different location for about 3 weeks. Only to return and teach me about the differences between a Baby Boomer and a younger generation. I learned a lot and thankful for it.
But, when they were gone I had a visit from a critter and his or her friends. I really didn't get a good look, and in fact, never saw them. But I felt them. I mean really felt them. I was laying on my bunk while trying to fall asleep and I started to feel stinging-like sensations on my body. I thought about the immunizations I had gotten and even the meal I ate that evening. But, this was unlike anything I had experienced before and it increased in intensity as the night went on.
I never fell asleep. I got up several times, turned the light on and tried to figure out why I was getting stung. At least that's how I can describe it. Turning the light on and off didn't help either because it seemed to get worse. I was a wreck.
Morning came and I got up. Turned on the light and looked at my arms. Then I looked at my legs. My chest, and finally my face in the wall locker mirror. I had tiny red bumps all over me and I felt like crap. I took care of hygiene, got dressed and wobbled over to sick call to figure it all out. The doc determined it was mites. Chiggers, or the fancy family name of Trombiculidae.
He arranged to have the engineers come and spray my CHU with some unknown toxic chemical. I was also instructed to fill in the air gaps between the air conditioner and the wall opening with toilet paper or something else to keep light from beaming outside of the CHU at night. Yes, I guess Chiggers are attracted to the light just like Minnesota bugs are attracted to it in the summertime. So, me turning the light on and off only pissed them off and they called for more reinforcements.
“Trombiculid mites go through a lifecycle of egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The larval mites feed on the skin cells of animals. The six-legged parasitic larva feeds on a large variety of creatures, including humans, rabbits, toads, box turtles, quail, and even some insects. After crawling onto their hosts, they inject digestive enzymes into the skin that break down skin cells. They do not actually "bite", but instead form a hole in the skin called a stylostome and chew up tiny parts of the inner skin, thus causing severe irritation and swelling.” (Wikipedia).
I have been itchy at other times since then, and even showered with tea tree oil a few times just to make sure it wasn’t chiggers. No, that probably had more to do with my diet and/or dry winter skin. But, if you ever feel what I was feeling on that hot summer night, don’t call me. You already know what to do….
Fill in the air gaps with toilet paper.
Riding a bike is fun. At least it was for me as a kid. Today, I don’t ride a bike though I probably should. But that would cause me to purchase another one and give up my Raleigh Grand Prix 10-Speed. Yes, my Raleigh Grand Prix 10-Speed that I purchased in 1977, with the money that I earned from working at Wrigley Field. Yes, home of my beloved Cubs that finally won a World Series after 108 years! Go Cubs!
Anyhow, I still have that bike in my basement today. My ex-wife even had it updated for my birthday one year with new tires, brake pads, and handle bar foam. But the excitement didn’t seem to last long. My butt was bigger and my legs just didn’t seem as excited to help me pedal like they did in 1977. Plus winter was approaching and in Minnesota a 10-speed just doesn't get it done. I wonder if my old Sting-Ray would have? Yes, my Sting-Ray! (Future post).
It’s hard to part with it too. That Raleigh Grand Prix shares some of my history and if I threw it out, that would be similar to tossing-out my Ernie Banks and Doug Buffone autographs. There’s just some things my kids are going to have to deal with upon my death and my Raleigh Grand Prix will be one of them. RIP to Ernie and Doug….and don’t worry, the autographs will be there too.
Not only did I buy my Raleigh, but I also purchased a Panasonic AM/FM cassette player “Boom Box”. Yes, that “Boom Box” made many rides with me on my Raleigh on my way over to ESP. That was the “Extra Special Place” that we 7th graders named and was located behind a house on Bryn Mawr that shared the same alley with residents on Olive Ave. I could write more about ESP, but for the sake of underage smoking, drinking, and the approximate location of my first kiss, let’s get back to my Raleigh.
I priced it out before I made my purchase by visiting and calling several stores. I still do today whenever I buy something. I like to find the deals, but I also like to know I’m getting a fair price. My older brother owned one, and I thought if its good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me. His was a dark brown I believe, and I went with blue. His had better brakes, a comfortable seat, and the tires looked better. His cost more than mine but we both had a Raleigh. Yes, a Raleigh! It competed with Schwinn but was lighter and more hip at that time. No Walmart’s or Targets around then, except for K-Mart, Sears, Toys-Are-Us and other department stores. But they didn’t sell Raleigh’s. I had to find a bike store.
I found one in Rogers Park on Clark street near Lunt. Don’t recall the name of the place but the owner was a quick talker and my bike was displayed in the window and $20 bucks cheaper than the other place. $159 bucks! He sold it to me, but I later discovered that perhaps my Raleigh had some after-market parts or perhaps the company started using other suppliers. I don’t know, but just wasn’t the same as my brothers. Doesn’t really matter though, because I still have my Raleigh and he doesn’t have his. Probably, because of the parts.
But, what did I do with my “Boom Box” though!!
We lived on Olive, but I grew up on Hollywood. Across the street from our rental where we lived when I was born on Hollywood, there was a Swedish couple named Mama and Holger. I was the last of eight kids and they always treated us like family, even when we moved into a house one block away on Olive.
They drove a Ford LTD and had a backyard full of petunias during the Spring and Summer. A bench was in located in backyard right next to the basement door of that 3-flat, and that's where I learned about pipe smoke. Holger smoked a pipe and we had many summer conversations on that bench with my cut-off jeans, t-shirts, and Woolworth's purchased gym shoes. Those shoes weren't the comfortable type like today either. You could pound a nail in wood with them and they were always black in color.
While Holger and I talked about life on that bench, Mama would be upstairs making her weekly batch of Swedish biscuits. At noon, Holger and I would make our way up to their first-floor apartment and sit down at "The Table". It was 40" x 24" and when the hidden leaf’s were extended it became 40" x 44 1/2". The top was made of a vintage enamel porcelain and there were extension springs under it. The leaf’s were never extended, and there were only 3 chairs available because it sat right up against the kitchen wall. We would eat lunch and then top it off with one of Mama's biscuits.
Not much would be said at the table except for small talk, and it was always about the old country or Mr. McGillicuddy who lived in the broom closet. I had a vast imagination back then, and they enjoyed feeding it with this make-believe character who never seemed to appear when I opened the closet door.
After lunch, Holger would go work around the building and I would sometimes play under The Table. I would lightly grab the springs that slightly hung down underneath, and before I knew it, I would fall asleep. I would often wake up to the smell of something Mama was cooking on the stove and then make my way home. My parents didn't worry about me back then. Mama and Holger were great people along with their only daughter, Lillian.
After Holger and Mama died, Lillian let all of us kids come over to their basement and take some items to remember them by. I looked around and saw two pictures. One of Abraham Lincoln and the other of George Washington. As I decided on those I then realized the most treasured possession of all that those pictures sat on.... The Table. I asked, and Lillian said; "Mama would want you to have that".
The Table has seen the likes of all of my kids and they too played underneath it and lightly grabbed the springs. Bread dough has been rolled on it, computers have sat on it, and it still looks the same to me today as it did back in 1966. I'm grateful to have met Mama, Holger, and Lillian, as their memories are always present when I look at The Table. If I drank today, I would toast them all with Mama’s favorite drink…. a White Russian. She hardly ever drank, but when she did, her Swedish accent became more American sounding and she would sometimes throw in a Black Russian for the night cap.
RIP Mama, Holger, & Lillian. I thank you for not only the memories, but most importantly, the love....and "The Table".
Okay, I realize I'm a father and there's just certain things that come along with it. Dance recitals, soccer, baseball, basketball, cross country, concerts, and smelly shoes.
Not just smelly either. I mean nasty.
The type of smell one would encounter in the worst of all garbage bins or that left over three bean salad that somehow got pushed into the back of the fridge and ripened. That smell you encounter when it’s just about time to get into the car and you realize your kid left their shoes in the backseat on a hot summer day with the windows closed. A smell that hits you when you enter a room and wonder what is dying or already died. A mouse? Leftover milk in a cup? Nope. It's my kid’s shoes.
I see them every now and then wearing their shoes without socks. I warn them. They look at me and wonder. I look back and ponder.... wondering if perhaps the hospital mixed-up the babies. Ahh, it’s my kid. Deal with it dad.
Dr. Scholl was a genius. According to Drscholls.com; ...."Sweaty feet allow bacteria to grow, and the bacteria that feed off the dead skin cells from your feet are the biggest cause of foot odor." Yum, nothing like a feast of dead skin cells to brighten my day. Makes the chopped-off fingernails I find while washing the hardwood floors seem so delightful. That's another future post for sure.
My philosophy has always been to wear good socks. Ventilation is key along with a good shower every now and then helps too. Sure, there are plenty of holistic remedies like soaking your feet in black tea or vinegar, lavender oil rubs, and even a honey and garlic paste. Not sure I'm putting garlic on my feet when I use so often for other things.... like cooking.
Of course, there is a medical term used for smelly feet which causes smelly shoes. I went to Wales via the internet to find out. It’s called; Bromodosis. Sure, I've had my share of smelly shoes throughout my life, but they were mine. That's what makes the walk to the washing machine with a pair of my kid’s gym shoes an interesting task. It’s just that dryer that I'd love to figure out when they are bouncing around and creating so much noise while drying that reminds me it won't be long and I'll be repeating the same task again. Zapatos malolientes!
Ever since I was a kid, I've daydreamed. From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, or back to a basketball game in 8th grade....it just all keeps on recycling. Today, they give kids prescription drugs. Back then, a person did drugs. Today, a kid daydreams, but only when they’re not playing video games. I did it while playing pinball and that probably explains why I tilted so much.
I was shy around girls back then too. But, not when I daydreamed.... I dated them all. I dated so many girls in my daydreams that it had a profound effect when I wore those ugly polyester pants in school. Too much room and not enough tight. A tent in the middle of the classroom. It caused me to sit longer than everyone else when the fire alarm went off or when called-on to do a math problem on the chalk board. I hated math. TMI, I know.... but I blame it on Catholic school.
Today, I can daydream and multitask too. Yes, having a conversation when someone mentions ice cream just sends me into funk. Over and over, I see Rocky Road or Butter Brickle dancing like sugar plums within my brain. I keep nodding while they talk not hearing much of what is said. Until, I notice that the ice cream somehow faded away and I'm left wondering what the hell was just talked about. I can be planting perennials in the flower garden and also be giving a great speech in front of a very large crowd.
"Focus dude...focus!" I tell myself.
There's regular daydreaming like I do, and also maladaptive. Maladaptive daydreaming is real and causes many to create entire scenarios with very detailed specifics. There are actually maladaptive online support groups to help people coup and share information for solutions. Many maladaptive daydreamers suffered from trauma or abuse as child and it developed into a more addictive pattern as time went on. Questions linger for many and I'm always fascinated by my own wandering mind.
Diet...I think it come down to diet. Either that, or maybe it was a few of those rocks that hit my skull while playing war in the sandlot, or the sharp pointed corner of that kitchen table that I collided with? Not sure, but it really doesn't matter I guess. I am who I am when it comes to certain things but I do try and change the things of which I can control. Like not daydreaming while typing this post. Nope. That didn't happen either. Damn Rocky Road!
My son at the park this morning before school. He’s my youngest child of the seven, and is in 5th grade. He still likes to say: “Dad you wanna watch a movie with me?” Oh, how those days can be numbered when you’re not paying attention.
This morning I was on the phone when he departed to head out for school. I hung up and didn’t like that I missed saying goodbye, so I put on my shoes. I looked outside and he was almost at the park so I walked down the street without my coat to wish him a great day. As I approached, I snapped this picture.
Watching him on that swing humbled me like I have been many times before as a father. How many more times will I be able to see him play on a swing I thought? How many more times will I be able to hear him say; “Dad I made some popcorn, would you like some?” Or “Dad I have a band concert next week can you go?”
Oh, how I have failed him and my kids many times. Concentrating on work or what I deemed important, while missing the simple opportunities to push my son on a swing while making him laugh at my stupid jokes. Not today though...I pushed him on that swing and was very grateful to be alive and see the joy on his face.
As I pushed him, I thought about the love of the moment, the love I have for him, and the fact that eventually he would not want me around. That happens because kids have to discover who they are and it’s also when parents learn about humility and letting go. It’s not always easy to let go, but when we think about our own adolescence years it all seems to make perfect sense. Kids have to discover who they are, make choices, and learn about how they fit into this thing we call life.
After he got off the swing, I gave him a hug and told him I loved him.... he said he loved me....as he keenly looked over his shoulder to make sure his schoolmates weren’t watching as they approached the park. 😊
Lol...yep, those days are surely numbered. Enjoy them while you can.
Hello! I'm John. A father of seven kids, veteran, and I love to write. I write about whatever comes to my mind at a particular time. We all have our crazy, but it doesn't mean we aren't normal. We're just human.