Thursday, March 06, 2008

Surviving Our Youth

When you get to the age of 82, pushing 83, you occasionally wonder how you made it this far. I mean, how did I survive those stupid things I did? For instance, riding our bicycles down South Mountain (OK, folks from Colorado and the like would laugh at calling this overgrown hill a mountain, but in NJ it stands out) as fast as we and gravity could move a “racing” bicycle. It was a concrete road with tar strips every thirty feet or so to allow for expansion during the summer. These required that you hang on to the handle bar with all your strength to avoid a flying exit into the trees on the side of the road. Also, no helmets, no gloves, no knee guards, etc.

Why, for heavens sake, did we invent surfing while crossing the North Atlantic in January? We were in a troopship which, despite the time of year, got very hot below decks. The waves were sweeping over the bow of the ship and down the length of the deck. Ropes were strung along the decks for those whose duties took them on deck. We used them to take a fast action bath and cool off. Damn, that water was cold! Hanging on with hands, our feet were straight out behind us. It was difficult to hang on, but the consequences of letting go were all too obvious. Somehow we survived.

We got no more cautious as time went by. In Germany, our company occupied the Ford factory close to Cologne on the east bank of the Rhine River. A buddy and I had to go out and up the river to repair phone wires that had been broken by shell fire. Like most American workers, when the job was done, we took a little time for ourselves before going back to headquarters. In the dark of night, we sat up on the river levee and watched the tracer fire from the German side of the river. It was pretty, but it never seemed to occur to us that if those machine gunners lowered their sights a few feet we would have been mincemeat.

And, most foolish of all, we smoked for thirty years,


kenju said...

I did the last thing too, and it was exceedingly foolish. There were a few others during my life - but none I'd care to lay out here...LOL

I am imagining you holding onto a rope while the frigid waters splash over you. It makes me cold to think of it!

Archana said...

Man, that Atlantic ocean swimming sounds soooooooo scary!

Somethings seem like so much fun while doing them :-)! Hindsight is a different story....Good thing though - else we wouldn't getting to read such interesting stories from you :-)!

Anonymous said...

My husband's grandfather smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish until the day he died aged 96!It all depends on your body constitution. So no point in worrying now.You have stopped now, so hope for the best!