Tuesday, November 23, 2004

It’s starting to warm up again. Last weekend it was incredibly cold in LA, like, below 50. Brrr. Seriously, some parts of Southern California got snow.

I miss snow. I woulda been thrilled as a kid to have a snow day... in November! Take off from school, go sledding, try to build bizarre snowmen like in Calvin & Hobbes, only to have my friends laugh at my lousy amorphous creations, 'til... WHAP! They got a face full of frozen art -- yeah, I can sculpt a snowball real good.

I also liked to make some extra cash shoveling driveways. That got me thinking about other things I did for money as a teenager. (No, not that. No one would pay me for that.)

Sometimes I’d baby-sit. Usually that was a job for the teenage girls, but there were some boyz in the ‘hood who didn’t want a chick looking after them, so their parents would ask me. Hmm, get to hang out, play video games, watch TV and raid the fridge and get paid for it? Easiest gig in the world. Beat toiling away in sub-freezing temperatures, getting a strained back and frostbitten toes.

And the kids liked me ‘cause I let ‘em get away with stuff. Make noise, have extra desserts, stay up late and watch scary movies.

I remember letting 9-year-old Danny see one of those Halloween movies. He got pretty frightened, so I allowed him to stay up past his bedtime, but when his parents were gonna come home soon, we figured he’d better get tucked in.

Danny was still kinda shaken-up and nervous; kid needed reassuring. I wouldn’t say that what he saw was just a movie -- I hated when my parents told me that. Jaws, Alien, Body Snatchers -- they were more than just a movie -- they were an experience. A scary-ass nerve-wrenching experience. So I tried to rationalize the situation. I told Danny that Halloween took place near Chicago or something. Far, far away from Long Island. And besides, Michael Myers wasn’t after us. He was only hurting people who stood in the way of him getting Jamie Lee Curtis. And that was only ‘cause she showed her boobies in Trading Places. “We’ll watch that next time,” I told him.

That calmed him down, and so I left the room. A second later, Danny heard from the hallway: “Hey -- what the --?! No, stop! Augh! Aahhhh!”

Then I’d fall back and land so that just my legs stuck out of the open doorway. My lifeless legs, which didn’t move even as Danny yelled, “Cut it out, Mike. Stop. C’mon, get up now. It’s not funny anymore! MIKE?!”

Hee-hee. Kids are great. They’ll believe anything.

I wasn’t as cruel to Russell across the street. He was only four or five. But I still inadvertently managed to scare the crap outta him, too.

At that time, He-Man was the big thing. He announced that he was He-Man; I was Skeletor. So we wound up chasing each other around his house playing this game. I didn’t really know that show, but I just did some kinda snarly bad-guy thing: “I’ll get you He-Man. Rrrr!” And he’d laugh and shout catchphrases from the cartoon and run away on his tiny legs. To even the playing field, I’d drag myself along the carpet just using my arms. And it was all fun and games... until I cornered him. “Ha-HA, I’ve got you now, He-Man!”

As I got closer, I saw Russell’s face turn to horror, as if I were truly a demonic animated monster shuffling across the rug toward him. The little guy started to tremble in fear. Whoa -- he really got into this game. I had to break character and tell him, “Russell, it’s okay, it’s me. We’re just playing, remember?” He snapped out of it, I gave him a hug, and he nearly started crying in relief.

I thought it was amazing -- you can see how children let their imagination take over.

Oh, you can also see why I didn’t give up on shoveling driveways. After freaking out the neighborhood kids, I wasn’t about to quit my day job.


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