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Full Speed Ahead: A Memoir

Let’s Start With a Little Song by Yours Truly

“There was a time, so many, many years ago

When music played from a thing called the radio.

Neighbors talked and visited on the patio

Groovin’ on a Saturday night, all right!”

Always ready to play ball

Always ready to play ball

Let’s Time Travel, Shall We?

“Be back before dark, Bill,” and as my mother’s warning faded in the hot summer haze, my friends and I rode off in search of adventure, heads down, pedaling furiously towards a future unknown, pushing limits we did not know existed, free and easy, choose a direction, no compass to guide us, no rules to live by (or so we wanted to believe), only one guiding star, be back before dark, and the unspoken directions, call if there’s a problem, always had a dime in my jean’s pocket, just in case, a dime for any phone booth handy, drop it in, hear the soothing sound of connection, hope like hell someone picked up on the other end.

We were living on the vig from borrowed time, with no thought about the payback down the road of life.

If Mom was worried about my increased freedom, and I’m sure she was, she didn’t show it. Dad’s only concern, I’m sure, was that I’d do something stupid because, well, it is a teenage boy’s province to do stupid. That’s just the real of it. Logic was forcibly pushed by the wayside as soon as our feet met the pedals. Logic was limiting. Logic was confining. Logic was restricting and logic was the absolute opposite of fun for a seventeen-year old, with far too much testosterone and friends to egg him on for any challenge, no matter the ridiculous nature of that challenge. Fear was nipped and tucked into a private corner of the cerebellum, overwhelmed by the need to have fun. Fear was for the old. Fear was never spoken, for to give it voice was to constrict us during a moment destined to be exhillerating.

That’s just the way it was back in ’65.

It’s hard to imagine now, 2021, safety measures in place, helmets and overprotective parents and lawsuits, insurance companies salivating at the thought of accidents, the word of the day always caution, you be careful now, honey, only ride to the end of the block now, slowly, mustn’t go too fast, never in the road, now, do you have your cell phone with you, call me if you need me, I’ll have my phone with me, Mommy’s always here for you, darling, you go have fun now, but be careful in those clothes, we don’t want a rip or a stain now, do we, precious?

Gag me with a spoon!

We had no idea what the future held for us and, truthfully, we didn’t care. We were supermen with red capes flying in the wind, arms outstretched, faster than speeding bullets, more powerful than locomotives, able to leap tall buildings at a single bound, and we had yet to meet our Kryptonite.

The best childhood home ever

The best childhood home ever

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but carelessness will rule the day, back in ’65, full-throttle we go, into the Great Unknown, absolutely no time for caution, ripped jeans and scratched knees and bloody elbows, those were the medals of freedom at fifteen, back in ’65, rope swings into creeks, jumping off bridges into icy water, riding the Schwinn at breakneck speeds down root-clogged trails, all the while talking baseball, talking girls, talking trash and not meaning a word of it, the language of youth, feeling the warm comfort of friendship, knowing they had your back and you had theirs, some of those friendships still existing decades later, and ain’t that just too cool for words?

Expectations, fascinations, lookin’ for some new equations. Eight will get you five, lay down your bet, who will be the first to get hurt on any given day, until you’ve crashed you haven’t lived, the credo for our summer days, and crash we did . . .

And live we did . . .

Remember the cure for those scratches and scrapes? Right out of the history books, boys and girls, some horrendous orange liquid called Mercurochrome, stung like the dickens, stained your clothes, stained your skin, a badge of honor for sure, brush some on, cover it with a Band Aid, and you’re good to go for another day. Jump back on that bike with the baseball cards attached to the spokes, we were all just rebels without a cause, aimless and reckless, no concept of disabling injuries, no thought about crippling mishaps, ten feet tall and bulletproof, thank you very much, no room for sissies back then, caution a thing that old men practiced and embraced in order to squeeze one more year out of the seventy allotted.

Not nearly as smart as I thought I was

Not nearly as smart as I thought I was

The Art of Communication

Need to talk to someone? Pick up the phone, dial the number from memory, if they don’t pick up, hop on the bike and go find them, simple as that, or try again later, sooner or later the mantra of the day, back in ’65, laughing as I type this, where the hell is my cell phone, can’t seem to get through a thirty minute segment of my day without checking that damned thing, attached to my hip, it is, and I only know two phone numbers by memory, my own and my wife’s, but you better believe I remember my number from childhood, PR 9-1569, thank you very much, the PR standing for the Proctor District where I lived, that’s how important those days were to me . . . are to me . . .

You want security? You think you need video monitoring? Nothing happened in our neighborhood without ten mothers knowing about it. The CIA could have learned a thing or two about surveillance from the mothers on our block, truth be told, and it happened that way because, wait for it, people gave a damn about their neighbors back in ’65, I’m not shucking you, now, it’s the truth, or at least it was in our neighborhood, Mrs. Mertz and Mrs. Gordon and Mrs. Lilly and Mrs. Hoffman and my mom, God bless them all, they knew exactly where we were at all times, don’t know how they managed but they did, and any stranger who wandered through the neighborhood passed a visual character check ten feet into his journey.

It’s just the way it was!

Hell No It Wasn’t All Sunshine and Roses

Heartaches there were many, girls a mystery, stumbling and bumbling our way down the Lane of Disappointments, turn downs, shut downs, rejected and ejected, you gotta pay your dues when you’re young, suffer the turndowns, a numbers game, ten no’s for one yes.

Lookin’ for the new equations . . .

Takin’ on the bullies, paying for the myopic opinions of many, biases did exist, flaunting and blatantly obvious to all but the young, you’re different, and you’re different, and you, learning the rules with each new day, some to be followed, some to be ignored, and some broken, time-honored traditions of those seeking a path of their own, expectations, fascinations, lookin’ for the new equations.

Secrets squirreled inside your head, secrets in the family closets, unspoken but powerful, learning which to subscribe to and which to slice, dice, and vegomatic their asses forever, all part of the growing, the maturing, the understanding, eventually breaking away, so necessary, tossing aside the chains and finding a new path . . .

Lookin’ for the new equations . . .

That’s just the way it was back in 1965.

“There was a time, so many, many years ago

When music played from a thing called a radio

Neighbors talked and visited on the patio

Groovin’ on a Saturday night, all right!”


My thanks to songwriter John Ondrasik III for the inspiration.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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