PART I: TALES OF A BOY
1. BOY VS NATURE
When I was about 13, my mother and I were walking on the beach. Many years later, I would have wrecked the car on the cliff above, but that day we were walking and enjoying the sand, the sounds, and shooting the shit. Suddenly, I lock eyes on a 250-pound piece of pole: driftwood. It looked like someone had cut three feet off a big telephone pole and thrown it in the water. Stupid, right? Well to the craziest, most imaginative boy in the world, this wasn’t a huge pain in the ass, with getting it up the hill, and then dragging it a mile or two down the road to the house. It was the greatest chopping block in the world. It was the perfect height, width, and circumference but was a piece of gray-white driftwood. I thought I had found gold and, damn the cost, I was going to get this 250-pound pain-in-the-ass home, which already had a perfectly good chopping block.
The quest began. Now, cliffs flank the beach we were on and the only way up it was a path through the woods that went up a thirty-to-forty foot hill. So mom and I turned back and continued to talk about whatever the hell. While we are walking back, I kick and push the log along the beach. When I was 13, or really all my life, I have been a small dude. At the time, I probably weighed 80 pounds soaking wet. So this log was wearing me out after rolling it over five hundred yards of sandy beach.
We entered the path through the woods. In my hometown, we have poison ivy and briars, not woods. Remember the poor guy in Saw who was surrounded by barbed wire. Yeah, that guy brought back memories but I had to push that log through my self-inflicted hell. After a hundred feet of natural acupuncture, I reached the hill. I knew this would be the culmination of my quest. I had heard the story of Sisyphus and knew he spent eternity pushing a boulder up a hill over and over and I would not repeat history. I was better than that log and smarter than Sisyphus.
I sunk my flip-flops (poor choice of footwear) into the dirt and put my shoulder to the log. I could put my shoulder to the log, which was probably two feet off the ground because I was three feet tall at the time. Remember just before you get your growth spurt? Well, imagine it never hit.
So runt, log, hill. This was not a perfect geometrical 45-degree angle hill; the beginning was easier but got steeper and steeper towards the top. The first third of the hill went past pretty easily. When I get to the middle, I rested for the big push to the top and my inevitable victory over nature. This path was dirt and a little damp underfoot so my flip-flops were not working well. I finished my rest, told myself, “You’re better than the log, gravity, hill, poor footwear, and genetics” and pushed on. When I was 75% of the way to the top, still slipping my ass off, the log looked to be winning. At three times my body weight, it was like a midget trying to push a football in the Coliseum, only on a hill and me in flops. I said, “Fuck” and let the log roll back down the path.
I paced, swore, paced, swore again, and the whole time my mother was watching, coaching, and trying to control her laughter as her tiny part-Serb son was bested by a log. I’m sure she was torn between feeling pride for my tenacity, pity for my being small, and laughing her ass off at the sight of her tiny son fighting nature.
I regained my vigor; reminded myself that I’m a Serb, English, Scottish, Irish mutt. I’m the crazy, rule the world, fight like hell, and fight like hell while drunk product of shoddy breeding. I put my shoulder to the object of my rage and rolled that mother like a fine joint. I was halfway there and was not stopping. My Serb forefathers started World War One. I didn’t even need a break. I bent the world and nature to my will like my English forefathers shouting, “Make the world England.” I was 75% there when the Scott in me came out. I saw the green hills of my forefathers, the dirty rainy crap hole where they lived and kept pushing myself as if I were a participant in the Highland Games. Scenes of Brave Heart flashed before me, and I thought Freedom! I got to the final feet and could see the top.
My mother was jumping up and down shouting, “You got this. You can do it; come on. Make me proud.”
The Irishman in me kicked in, and the fight was on. But wait, I’m 13. I had no liquid courage, AKA Irish fuel. And the machine ran out of steam. I slipped, and the log rolled over my 80-pound body, down the hill, off the path, and into a briar patch. I rolled down the hill, flip-flops flying everywhere. It was like a B-52 strike in Nam. I got to the bottom of the hill, resting comfortably on my face.
I snapped back to Serb. I was nuts, enraged, and I erupted with profanity, obscenity, and disgust at how this piece of shit log would not heed my will. “Why won’t you go home? Are you too good for my home? Answer me, log!” I rushed up the hill to my waiting mother who wanted to say, “Watch your language”, but was probably just happy I hadn’t broken every bone in my body when that huge damn log had rolled over my face. I spoke with my mom as we were going home down the road. She started to console me with “It’s OK. You’ll get bigger, it was a big hill. That was a huge log, the honor is in the attempt.” I cut her off.
“Hell no. I’m not done yet. I need shit. I need pants for briers, boots for the mud, gloves to protect my hands, my stepdad’s jeep, a really long line off the boat, and my scrawny Serb mad scientist ass!”
She agreed to my plan. We got into the jeep and returned to the beach. I hopped out, grabbed the rope, and George of the Jungle to the log in seconds. I tied the rope around the log, got my ass back up the hill, and attached the end of the rope to the jeep. Before my mom could get out of the car, I was already dragging a 250-pound log behind my stepdad’s jeep, on a fifty-foot piece of rope down the road, shouting, “Fuck you, nature. I win this round!” God made us different, but Henry Ford and Sam Colt made us equals.
So guys, remember never to give up. Sometimes you have to go away and come back to solve your problem. With a good plan, the proper equipment, and the little crazy Serb mad scientist screaming to get out of all of us, you can do anything.
Long live the writers