7-15-2007 Kids today! or: Necessity is the Mother of...

I woke up so completely early yesterday, I was relieved to find that the bed was actually dry. Whew. I spied the local newspapers, the Times Leader, and the Citizensí Voice Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Hazleton installments. Not much going on. Although, WNEP reported on a murder in Wilkes-Barre, but did not report that a murder had been perpetrated in Hazleton. Funny how that always happens.

So, needless to say, I was on the bike at a very early hour for a lack of anything better to do. Plus, I was itching to road-test my new Vermin tires that include an FPS (flat protection system). In increasing numbers, sodas and such seem to be bottled in plastic bottles. Yet, the proliferation of smashed glass bottles on our streets and sidewalks goes on unabated. And unless youíre a half decade short of your 20th birthday, the thrill that apparently accompanies the smashing of a glass bottle suggests a misspent usage of your time and energies. In other words, youíre an idiot.

Anyway, while taking in that refreshingly cool morning on the Hummer, I ran across the fire department dudes in the Jewelcor building lot preparing a patient for a life flight to only who knows where. And since I havenít been so close to a chopper about to take off since I was a kid standing outside the Sikorski lot, I decided to stand pat and watch that sucker lift off and make itís way across the morning sky.

I stood there wondering what had happened to that poor bastard strapped to the gurney in the back of the ambulance. A big car wreck, perhaps, and brought on by excessive alcohol consumption? That was my best guess. Something equally violent, but much more sinister in nature? And at 6 in the morning? Nah, not likely. But after quite a few minutes had passed, I got bored and moved on just as the pilot had fired up those massive rotors. In addition, I kind of felt like a little kid standing there gawking as I was. And since Iím always being told to act my age, I headed due south.

Good luck

And before very long, based on the radio chatter, it became obvious to me that something criminal and odorous had happened on Park Avenue. And upon my arrival down the street a ways, there were the police cars parked on the same side of the street. So, what had happened? Well, after a rather robust drinking event, one guy decided to stab his buddy to death over a 3-dollar chit or something. Very nice. Yes, kiddies, stupidity is still not illegal. So, now I know who was in the helo. But Iím still not sure why.

My son had a big blowout yesterday to celebrate Zachís 4th birthday. Zach got buried in gifts, mostly toys. We had quite a crowd, lots of food, plenty of agricultural amusement aids, and not a single stabbing came about. I guess we done good in that respect.


I learned of a picture of my nephew on the internet wherein he is standing on the rear pegs of a moving 20Ē bicycle and drinking a ďforty.Ē Funny for sure, but very typical of what I see coming from those purported to be skateboarders. Iím absolutely certain there are plenty of good, respectful kids that thoroughly enjoy their preferred ďsport,Ē so letís not get pigeonholed by dealing exclusively in generalities here. With that said, there are an equal number of kids toting skateboards that are ignorant, disrespectful, publicly foul-mouthed and are obviously in dire need of getting a skateboard upside the head.

Some kids have approached our city government requesting that a skateboard park be erected in the new-look Coal Street Park that seems poised to go from the planning stages to being a reality.

First off, I do believe that, if done correctly, it could actually be a draw for the city. Yeah, perhaps kids will flock to the city a couple of times a year to watch their heroes on wheels display their talents at this proposed amenity. Good. But, a couple of times a year does not a success make. Nor does it suggest that investing $500,000 in a concrete bunker of sorts is going to provide a financial return on that hefty investment. So, to those envisioning the X Games and whatnot drawing hundreds of thousands of unemployed teenagers and unfocused twenty-somethings to Wilkes-Barre with Mommyís check card in hand, I say thatís an overly optimistic assessment of what might come about. Sorry, but ESPN is not going to be building a studio at Coal Street Park no matter how hard we might wish for such a thing.

And from what Iíve seen out there, the great majority of these skateboarders couldnít outrun an angry senior citizen, or manage to stay upright on the things long enough to even lay claim to being a skateboarder. The reality is, most of them just flat out suck at what they claim is their sport of preference. They suck. So, the expensive liability issues are a legitimate concern that need to be thoroughly researched before anyone gets to sinking a single penny on any of this. Iím of the firm opinion that if there is a skate park built, and if there are crowds of kids making the trek to this proposed concrete Mecca, the local emergency rooms will likewise see a corresponding increase in activity. Itís a recipe for injuries. A clear lack of talent plus a concrete course equals broken limbs and cool stuff such as that. So, take a number, get in line behind the illegals and hope that your broken limb doesnít heal at a really weird angle while you wait.

Weíve even got one city council person who shot straight from the hip by saying heís all for building the park, and made some comment about how the kids have ďnothing to do.Ē And The Times Leader has editorialized itís support of this proposed concrete playground.

First of all, slow down. Secondly, if kids today have nothing to do, then Iím going to find myself a clever attorney and sue the federal, state and local governments for forcing me to amuse myself by way of my imagination only. When I was a kid, we had tin-friction cars, tennis ball, Matchboxes, slingshots and the puke machine down at the corner playground. And everything else came to us by way of improvisation, and by walking ten miles in the snow to acquire that which substituted for something else. No toy rifle to play Army? Use a stick.

If these rich kids awash in opulence and decadence have nothing to do, then I got totally screwed when I was a little kid, and a teenager. And to anyone that tells me such a ridiculous and factually-challenged thing, I say go and get that tiny, tiny portion of your brain that actually functions enlarged. Have these poor deprived kids rip down a large hill on a homemade skateboard--roller skate wheels haphazardly nailed to a plank--and then Iíll consider listening to their plight. Yeah, have them roll down that same hill in a homemade wooden go-cart sans a brake, and then weíll talk. Have them take the belts off of a tractor motor, and then try to negotiate the turn at the bottom of the hill, and only then will we be on the same page. Oh, wait. Thereís no need for any creativity or ingenuity when youíre given the keys to a $6,000 ATV on your 14th birthday.

Nothing to do? When we needed a basketball, we went and scooped one out of the thousands of gallons of water rushing into the water authority building down by the river. One slip, youíre pinned against a strainer and a goner for sure. But such was the life of a kid who had lots to do. Baseball gloves? What? Donít need no gloves, since weíve got these two hands that are already conveniently attached. A pool? Whatís that? When we wanted to swim, we packed up the Nova and headed for the oceanfront, or one of the two local state parks. Um, Kettletown had a lake and Indian Wells flanked a flowing river. Mentos and Diet Coke? Uncontrolled explosions on YouTube? Nope, didnít exist just yet. We had to steal Momís baking soda and add water. And when Mom got to looking for her missing baking accoutrements, Dadís flailing belt usually found itís way into the mix. No dried-out corn muffins on this day, only welts.

Nothing to do? My 6-year-old grandson has toys that would have blown my mind when I was 20. He has toys that were the stuff of science fiction when his mom was born in 1979. The kid has Nerf guns that could easily down a Cessna, while many moons ago we had to mangle a bottle cap before we could down a bird with a slingshot. The kid plays with discs that contain more information that NASAía computers did when they went all the way to the moon. And what did we have? What, a fragile Marvin Gaye vinyl 45 that scratched at the mere thought of putting a needle to it? He has brilliantly crafted interactive electronic toys, while we had Talking Battleship. He paints and ďcolorsĒ on the personal computer, while we created temporary masterpieces on an Etch Ďoí Sketch. We had stolen shopping carts turned on their sides on the ice to serve as a hockey goal, not organized no-check hockey leagues under inflated domes. We had AM radio by which to take in a game, and not a nearby baseball stadium, a nearby arena or a gazillion television networks dedicated to sports. We had the box scores to learn of what we had missed, not television tickers and e-mail alerts and text messages. We had encyclopedias at the library when we got curious about the world around us. Not Google, nor Wickipedia, nor a $500 Iphone. We flipped baseball cards at recess, and now kids conspire to murder their classmates in lieu of recess, which was deemed to be too completely dangerous for the kids of today. The kids too completely soft, too completely pampered to ever stand up to the rigors, the self-esteem damaging torture of school-sanctioned dodgeball massacres. We had our seemingly limitless imagination, our ever-present ingenuity and an omnipresent naÔvete that made life manageable, even satisfying, without oodles and oodles of expensive amenities, gadgets and what have you at our ready 24/7.

If this is what we call having ďnothing to do,Ē then I demand a do-over. I demand that whoís ever in charge of all of this malarkey push back my birth by thirty years or so.

We considered suicide, ever so briefly, when we got caught shoplifting a pack of Razzleís at the corner store and had to face the wrath of Dad when we got home tired and sweaty from the factory. These days, kids are near suicidal when their cell phones act up, or when their internet connection speeds are unexplainably down, or when their parents have the unmitigated audacity to present them with a used car when they turn 16. We got brand new patches to cover the wholes in our jeans where our knees were peeking out. Kids today get $2,000 tattoos and prohibitively expensive jewelry implants to make up for that which they so obviously lack. We had our heads shaved when Summer fast approached, but today, kids do unspeakably unsightly things to their heads and all for effect. And they do it with their parentís approval, if not, their encouragement.

They constantly need to express themselves, they continually need their egos and their self-esteem reinflated by way of a materialistic Botox of sorts. They need, they need and they need still some more. Thing is, if they didnít have all that they have, they would be forced to improvise, to amuse themselves as we all did so long ago.

I have long marveled at how well-read and well-spoken our founding fathers were. How could people with parchment and quills be far more intelligent that people with personal computers in their homes? How could people schooled in one-room school houses obviously out-perform those tutored by way of billions of dollars in investments? How could a bunch of people born to farmers living in remote cabins be so intelligent? How? Iím thinking it has much to do with being forced to use oneís brain on a continual basis, something that is very lacking as I type.

So, now they tell us they need a skate park. No, the cell phone, the Ipod and the Iphone isnít enough. No, the flared Neon with the spoiler and the asinine muffler isnít enough. The personal computer, the PDA and wireless internet isnít near enough for them. The X-Box, the Play Station, the Game Boy and the camera phone with the latest text messaging capabilities isnít cutting it. A AAA baseball team, an AHL hockey team, the inflated sports domes and a skiing resort a few minutes away from the air-conditioned abode isnít enough for them. The nearby water slides, the city pool, the countless golf courses and the state parks just wonít cut it for this effeminate bunch. No, and ATVs, motorized skateboards and miniature motorcycles arenít near stimulating enough.

Perhaps if theyíd all just get a job, they wouldnít be having so many problems brought on by all of the idle time they have to suffer through. Weíre supposed to make sure that our kids have it better than we had it. But Iím here to tell you that providing creature comfort after creature comfort will not make up for a lack of meaningful parenting. So, if your predictably spoiled, overweight kid gets to bitching about not having someplace to skate, or someplace to (pick one), or some new expensive gadget, hand them a job application, dismiss their non-stop yearning for something more and be content in the knowledge that there is no more effective love than tough love.

I say all of this not as an indictment of the spoiled kids that toil away today, but more of an indictment of their parents and what they did to them.

All I know is, if these overindulged kids could have idly wasted their days as we did when I was but a sprat of ten, theyíd learn that a much simpler life is not necessarily a life to be avoided at all costs. What we may have lacked in a materialistic sense, we made up for in spades by way of our unrelenting resourcefulness.

Sadly, with the advent of the readily-available credit card, and the removal of ďNo!,Ē and ďWe canít afford it!Ē from the lexicon, Americaís children became overly voracious consumers, when what they should have remained all along was naÔve, tough-minded and starry-eyed kids.

Thereís nothing to do? Now we need to build a skate park, too? Weíre going to fix the irremediable by asking the irremediably self-centered what currently tops their forever expanding and increasingly expensive wish list? Exactly whoís in charge here? The spoiled brats, or their best friends/parents?

$500,000? Thatís the monetary equivalent of hiring of 5 or 6 more police officers. Thatís a new ladder truck, or an entire fleet of new police cars. Thatís the remodeling of an entire city block. And thatís money better spent.

Themís my thoughts.

ĎTil next time