Random Thinking At 4AM

Thoughts while most normal people are still asleep

New Year’s Resolution: Angry Driving

Every year after a few drinks at home on New Year’s Eve, the subject always
seems to surface about how we can each improve our lives in the upcoming twelve
months to be a better person.  These resolutions rarely if ever actually make it
to the finish line, however the alcohol usually aids us in setting these goals
and objectives anyways.  From healthy diets to making more time available for
exercise, in most cases these plans fall by the wayside by the third week of
January.  This year was no different from the rest.  However, as I was stewing
in traffic on my way to work the other day, an epiphany of epic proportions
revealed itself to me…I am a very angry driver!  I set forth devising a
strategy to remove this stressful situation immediately, therefore setting a
healthy and hopefully obtainable resolution to change the interior of my Chevy
Impala into a safer, G rated place for myself and my family.

As with overcoming any obstacle, the support and cooperation of those around you are
crucial in assisting one kick a bad habit.  Here are a few suggestions that I
have developed that will help me in obtaining freedom from the grips of road
rage by passing them along to you:

1. Many years ago an engineer for one of the car companies invented a
handy and useful device that works wonders to alert others of a sudden lane
change or quick right turn.  He called this option the Turn Signal.  Every day I
encounter several other drivers that either have never been shown the blinker
stick or forgot what the long handle directly in front of their noses did and
therefore avoid touching it before consulting the owner’s manual, which would be
considered distracted driving, so they just don’t use it.  If you rediscover the
joy of using the Turn Signal, not only will others around you appreciate your
generosity, but the motion involved in clicking it on burns approximately
.003791 calories…which also helps you with your weight loss and fitness

2. When following another driver that is following someone else
in the fast lane that is chatting away on their cellphone and their speed
continues decreasing gradually, this qualifies as a “Don’t shoot the messenger
for the message” situation.  Gesturing angrily at the second driver in line is
not acceptable in any way, shape, or form.  If I counted the times this has
happened to me I would have enough birds to open my own aviary!

3. Trying to weave in and out of stop and go rush hour traffic not only creates an extreme form of motion sickness in your fellow commuters, but also usually ends up in
adding to the already maddening delays when you end up a blip on the daily
traffic reporter’s map due to the result of a “Fender Bender” or a “Police
Situation”.  You usually end up getting passed by the “patient” drivers anyways
a mile up the road, so don’t be a jackbag..stay in line like the rest of

Hopefully these tips will not only be useful to everyone out there on
the highways across this nation, but will also result in helping me enter the
land of peaceful, stress-free commutes, therefore aiding me in beating a
resolution for the first time in many.years.  Then I will be able to put all my energy and focus into next years plan…not being an angry passenger!


My Christmas Memories

Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year. There are so many memories that come rushing back to me every year when the strains of “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” start repeating every hour on the hour on the local “All Christmas Music…All The Time” radio station. The thoughts of Christmases past never cease to bring a smile to my face and the occasional joyful teardrops to my eyes.

My dad was not the type of guy that dressed up in a Santa suit on Christmas Eve. As a matter of fact his bedtime story went something like “Twas the night before Christmas…get your butts in the bed…NOW…The End”. So imagine the utter shock and sheer terror that came over me when I slightly parted my left eyelid in the middle of the night and found myself looking directly into the face of the big man! My brother and I shared a room at the time, and I was sleeping soundly on the top bunk when I got the feeling that someone else was in the room with us. And there he was, making sure we were both asleep…pondering on whether to leave the presents or the “better luck next year” lump of coal in our stockings. I closed my eyes tightly and held my breath for what seemed like days before finally hearing the heavy footsteps trudge slowly from the room. I covered my head with my comforter and spent a restless night listening intently for signs of what the jolly old man was up to between the pauses of my brother’s heavy snoring.

Traditionally we have to wake my parents every Christmas morning. However that year when the sun peeked in through the window blinds, I did not budge. Finally after my mom asking if I was feeling ok and taking my temperature for precautionary reasons, Christmas proceeded as usual. To this day when asked who dressed up like Santa that year, I receive blank stares from both my parents and vehement…and believable…”that never happened in my house” responses.

Then there was the period of time leading up to the Christmas of 1973. I had reached the age where I became one of those nosey kids that would sneak a peek here and there in search of items that I had categorically listed and mailed (the old-fashioned way with an envelope and a postage stamp) on a detailed list to S.C. at the North Pole. I was obviously not to the advanced stage of deductive reasoning to recognize the fact that the North Pole and the city of Detroit shared the exact same zip code. Anyways, I snuck in my parents room and took a look under their bed after school one late December afternoon and to my amazement discovered the beautiful bright yellow skateboard with the burgandy wheels that I had placed Numero Uno on my most wanted list. I immediately had a flashback to the prior year’s Christmas Eve when I woke up to see the large intruder in the red and white suit standing over me, had what can only be described as a moderate panic attack, carefully replaced the skateboard where I had found it, and ran like hell to my room.

To my utter astonishment, sitting under the tree Christmas morning wrapped with a thick red ribbon and huge bow with a tag that read “From Santa” was the same skateboard I had discovered a few days earlier. I was surprised at how surprised I was! The fact never even crossed my mind until many years later that maybe it wasn’t Santa that stashed those gifts under my parents bed after all.

Christmas Eve, 1975. By this time I had outgrown my belief in Santa Claus, even though I still went to Wonderland Mall that year for a “photo op” and to deliver a list…just in case. I had also moved into my own room, which was adjacent to the living room. From my new vantage point I could hear EVERYTHING! The sounds of boxes being wrapped and the shake of the glass ornaments as the presents were placed under the tree. And…for at least an hour…clinking, tinking, tapping, and thunks (no these were not the names of in-case-of-an-emergency replacement reindeer). I tossed and turned until the annoying sounds finally ceased, then waited patiently as my parents fell into a deep sleep. I got quietly out of bed, slid into my cool Spiderman slippers, eased the bedroom door open, and went out to explore. Unfortunately, my mom had turned out every light in the front of the house. If she would have left the lamp on low like she usually did I would have seen the Jack Lalanne barbell set my dad had meticulously assembled in the middle of the floor instead of tripping over them and landing on the packages that were towards the front of the tree. I sat stunned on a brightly wrapped present that later luckily turned out to be some new pajamas for my brother instead of something fragile and started devising a genius plan in case they heard the commotion. Sleepwalking! Yeah, that’s the ticket! I listened for the inevitable sound of footsteps walking rapidly up the hallway but to my pleasant surprise…nothing! I snuck stealthily back to my bed and fell asleep immediately. Our Miniature Schnauzer Ginger took the heat for the “damaged” package later that morning.

My wife's 2012 Christmas village!

My wife’s 2012 Christmas village!

As I gaze onto the streets of my wife’s Christmas village upon reflecting back at my childhood memories, I can only hope that I have succeeded in some way to instill memories that my children will fondly look back on sometime in the future. And I also would like to take the time to thank my parents for making Christmas the most wonderful time of the year for my brother and I. And to all of you that have taken moments out of your busy lives to visit this blot, have a fantastic and memorable holidays!

Holiday Jalapeno Hummus

Now that the Holiday season has officially opened…meaning the period AFTER Thanksgiving, not the modified version of decorating all the malls and stores fully after the porchlights go out on Halloween night one…it is time to post my most requested appetizer recipe: Holiday Jalapeno Hummus.

A long time ago (five years to be exact), I wanted to come up with something new to bring to our annual Christmas Eve family get-together. I love the heat of peppers and bringing something that would spice things up a bit became my goal. This dish is best when the optional Habanero is added to the mix. I did this the inaugural batch to the raves and kudos of the adults, but after making all the kids cry the night before Christmas, I switched to a couple of Serranos the next year. Here are the ingredients:

2 cans of Chickpeas

3 Green Onions

2 cloves of Garlic

2 Jalapeno peppers

2 Serrano peppers (or 1 Habanero pepper which I HIGHLY recommend)

3/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup Tahini

1/2 tsp Cumin

1/2 tsp Chipotle pepper

1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper

The juice of 1 whole Lemon

Chop the Green Onions fine, dice up all the peppers, and mince the Garlic. Open the cans of Chickpeas and carefully drain them, saving the juice if needed for the blending process. Put about 2 tablespoons of the EVOO in a medium saute pan and bring up to medium heat. Sweat the onions and peppers until soft, approximately five minutes, then add the Garlic for another minute. Add the Chickpeas and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from the heat and get ready to rev up that blender. Pour in the EVOO, dump in the Tahini, then add the Chickpea mixture. Sprinkle in the Cumin, Chipotle, and Cayenne, then squeeze in the Lemon juice, being careful not to shoot the seeds into the blender. Pulse until the Hummus is smooth and creamy, adding some of the Chickpea juice and doing an occasional scrape with a spatula if necessary. Serve warm or cold, it is delicious either way!

Use the Habanero...you won't regret it!!!

Use the Habanero…you won’t regret it!!!

If you decide to try out this recipe, and small children are not present for your special occasion or party, definitely go with the Habanero. It really adds a robust flavor that stands out above your basic store-bought Hummus. Your feedback is always appreciated and have yourselves an amazing Holiday season!

Election Day

Despite all the negativity that usually surrounds every November election, I always look forward to exercising my right as an American to vote.  Obtaining that little “I Voted Today” sticker upon exiting the voting precinct has always felt like receiving a high five from our Nation’s forefathers.  Voicing your opinion through filling out the marks on a ballot and watching them slide easily into its final destination should make everyone feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.  It isn’t always easy getting from the starting gate to the finish line however.

Everywhere you stop, look, or listen becomes a seemingly neverending battle zone for political ads that attempt to sway your opinion towards a candidate or a proposal.  If I could mute the television every day it would make life so much easier, but the fact that I can’t lip read or figure out how to turn on the closed caption feature would make me miss out on the really good commercials…(Andre Dawson?)…and that doesn’t work for me.

Radio also becomes burdensome during the months leading up to Election Day.  It seems like every time I pop in a CD to avoid the ad blitz…yes, some people my age still listen to those…I end up missing out on vital and useful information such as accidents blocking all lanes of the freeway and rolling construction zones during my commute to work.  Being late because I took a chance on listening to “Now That’s What I Call The 80’s Volume 43” over the traffic reports has already gotten me written up twice, and probably won’t fly as an excuse next time.

Another area to watch for are those political yard signs.  Talk about distracted driving, especially when you are trying to see how your neighbors plan on voting and end up hitting the only pothole in the subdivision and ending up getting a costly quote for new tires at the closest dealer or repair shop.  Yes, I am speaking from experience on the subject.  Being nosy equals wallet cramps!

So with this election season winding down, come Wednesday we can all breathe a hefty sigh of relief…WE MADE IT!!! And no matter how you decide to vote, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, or just visiting this planet (I think there is a special permit for this one), get out and feel the adrenaline!  Let your voice ring out triumphantly for being part of this great experience and celebrate the fact that we all live in a democracy where we have the right to choose.  Feel the power!

Posted from WordPress by Ken Berry

Recipes: All-American Bangers and Smash

A few years ago, I wanted to cook up some different dishes from around the world and decided to try my luck at the English delicacy Bangers and Mash.  It turned out decent, but nothing earth-shattering or memorable.  Then we hit an obstacle with ever wanting to try it again when my wife my daughter and I all got a mild case of food poisoning from trying “authentic” Bangers at the United Kingdom exhibit in Epcot Center at Disney World.  I finally got a chance to tweak my recipe in early July using my boys as the Guinea pigs (my wife and daughter were in Chicago that weekend).  I believe I came up with a winner, and no one got sick!

The Bangers part is easy…1 package of Stadium Brats, figure two brats per serving.  Grill them to desired state…some like them burnt, others not so much!

For the potatoes, I absolutely love redskin potatoes.  I would figure on 4 potatoes per serving, so on this occasion I boiled 12 with the skins on until they were soft enough to smash, which takes a good 20 minutes.  Dump them into a colander and put them back in the pot, roughly smashing them…hence where I got the name.

The trick to making Bangers and Smash is definitely in the gravy.  Here is what I used:

1 large Vidalia onion

4 Tbsp light salted butter

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

2 cups chicken stock

2 tsp champagne mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

And the secret ingredient… 4 fluid Oz raspberry wine

Caramelize those onions!

The only reason I used raspberry wine is it was a gift from my brother-in-law and I decided to wing it instead of going out for a malbec.  Slice the onion thinly, melt the butter in a medium pan, then cook the onions till they soften, lowering the heat to a simmer and covering with a lid for ten minutes to get the onions good and caramelized, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the flour for about a minute, and add the chicken stock, wine, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce.  Simmer and stir to thicken.  Plate with the potatoes in the center.  Add a bratwurst on each side, then pour a generous amount of gravy over everything…done!

All-American Bangers and Smash

As with any of my recipes, if you try them leave me a comment, tweet, or email letting me know what you thought, and I will try to post more on this blog in the future.

Recipes: Chile Relleno Pizza

One night while I was on lunch at work, I got a huge craving for Chile Rellenos.  The craving then started morphing into a plan…how could I put all the wonderful flavors of this great Mexican dish into one masterpiece.  I was thinking of a casserole, but after bouncing the idea off my wife, she said “You know what would be good?  Incorporate it into a pizza using sweet Mexican corn cake as the crust.”  And so, our Chile Relleno Pizza recipe was born!  The ingredients are:

1 pkg Chi Chi’s corn cake mix

1 can sweet creamed corn

1 can refried beans

3 servings of minute rice

1 1/2 cups salsa

4 Oz ground turkey

1 poblano pepper

1/2 pkg taco seasoning

2 cups Mexican shredded cheese blend

The first thing you are going to have to do is roast the poblano.  My method is to raise the top rack close to the broiler, and blister the skin of the pepper until it chars, which takes around five to ten minutes.  Put the poblano in a brown lunch bag, seal it, and let it set for 30 minutes.  The skin will peel off easily.

After taking the poblano out of the oven, lower the temperature to 400 degrees and mix the corn cake batter together.  We have a nice deep dish pizza stone that we use, so pour the mixture into the stone and pop it in the oven for 40 minutes.

While the corn cake is baking, make the rice on the stove top, brown and season the turkey, and if you care to make the salsa instead of using a jar, I will add my easy salsa recipe at the end.  Otherwise, your favorite store-bought salsa will work.  When the rice is ready and fluffed, add 1 cup of salsa to it and fold it together…quick and easy Spanish rice!

When the corn cake is done, remove it from the oven and start layering your pizza.  First the refried beans, followed by some Spanish rice, then sprinkle the seasoned turkey.  After peeling the poblano, dice it and spread it evenly across the top.  Take a half cup of the salsa and swirl it over the top, add the cheese, put the stone back in the oven for ten minutes and you are ready to enjoy this sweet and savory concoction!

Chile Relleno Pizza..my comfort food!

My salsa is super easy to make.  I chop up 4 scallions, 1/2 a green bell pepper, 1 medium jalapeno pepper and sweat them in a medium sauce pan until soft.  I then put a tablespoon of diced garlic in before turning the heat down.  Put in a 28 Oz can of crushed tomatoes and simmer on low heat, adding a squeeze from half a lime and stirring occasionally.

This is a very tasty dish that I hope you all will try when you get a chance.  This is one of my absolute favorites!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Home One Day

Due to circumstances beyond my control back in 2000, I took a job that was an hour drive one way from my house.  My youngest son had just been born and the shop that I had worked at for fifteen years abruptly closed its doors.  I worked at this new location for seven years, so needless to say, I spent a LOT of time in the car commuting back and forth.  I experienced many interesting trips over that span, including one four hour ride home in the snow during a rough winter, but there was one traveling experience that happened that I will never forget.

It was one of those irritating rush hours where the accidents were all on the other side of the freeway, but everyone heading westbound had to make sure they slowed down to take a peek at what was going on.  After sitting in stop-and-go traffic for well over an hour, there appeared to be a break on the horizon as people finally started locating their gas pedals…except for one car…in the fast lane…directly in front of yours truly.  I am a very patient man and I don’t like tailgating people, so being that it was now dusk I simply moved over enough to where my headlights were shining in this guys drivers side mirror.  After another five painfully slow miles, the right turn signal finally came on and he eased out of the left lane.  As I began to accelerate up to the posted speed limit, my eyes were glued to the window of the “slow poke”.  Suddenly, a head reared around with glaring, angry eyes towards my direction.  I was getting ready to release the bird with no wings into his general field of vision when I realized who was staring back at me…none other than Michigan’s own Jeff Daniels!

I quickly stopped the gesture by grabbing the steering wheel and as I passed, all I could manage was a smile and a wave.  He was not amused.  As I carefully monitored my rear view mirror, I thought about what had just occurred.  I had listened to his interview that morning on the Drew and Mike radio show, so I knew he was in town promoting a concert and the release of a new CD.  He had mentioned that he was going to be signing copies that evening at the Brighton Borders location.  I figured that buying his CD was the least I could do after pissing him off on the freeway,so I went home, got my two boys in case I needed backup, and headed over to the book store.

After purchasing the CD and taking my place in a very long line, it was announced that Jeff Daniels was in the building.  He walked to the back of the store where they had a table set up looking extremely tired from what had to have been an exhausting day…or was he still fuming over the jack bag he encountered a few hours earlier (raises hand slowly).  As I got closer and closer, I watched nervously as he politely went through the motions of signing autographs.  I started thinking about what I should say when I got up to the table.  “Loved you in ‘Dumb and Dumber'”?  That’s what EVERYONE else appeared to be saying.  “Hi, I am the asshole from the freeway today”?  Not a chance!  I held out my CD towards him and squeaked out “I loved you in ‘Bloodwork'”.  Apparently this was THE thing to say!  He looked up at me, grabbed the CD box out if my hand, and excitedly told me “Hey, I wrote a song about that!  It’s called ‘Dirty Harry Blues’!  It is every actors dream to get killed in a movie by Clint Eastwood!  Make sure you check the song out!”  I had gone from pissing off Jeff Daniels to making his day in a matter of hours.  He was obviously proud of his work in that movie, and was excited that someone, luckily me, had mentioned it.

Catch Jeff Daniels in the new HBO hit “The Newsroom”

Two things happened after this encounter.  The first was to change the name of the headlights-in-the-mirror move to the “Jeff Daniels”.  The second is to tell people when the subject of movies is approached to make sure, if they haven’t already done so, to watch the movie “Bloodwork”.  It is a GREAT flick, and his performance was first class all the way!  Oh, and by the way…sorry about the whole freeway thing…if that ever happens again I promise to pull off to the side and kick my own ass!

Recipes: Ten Spice Baked Chicken and Waffles

One of my hobbies that I love to do, but don’t do often enough, is cooking.  When I was off work a few years back recovering from herniated C5 disc surgery, I started watching the Food Network.  Up until that time, my culinary skills amounted to cooking hot dogs in the microwave, and occasionally scrambling an egg.  But after watching those eye-opening programs, I thought to myself, “Hey…I can do that!”  So in the years since, I have tried to come up with some of my own recipes, which I will share on this blog with the hope that you guys will give them a try and let me know what you think.

Nothing says palate pleaser more than the combination of Chicken and Waffles.  My wife has had the good fortune of visiting Gladys Knight’s restaurant in Atlanta and Roscoe’s in Los Angeles but due to work I had to miss those trips.  I did however get to visit a place in Brooklyn, New York that our daughter recommended called “Pies and Thighs” which gave me something to set the bar at (besides IHOP, that is).  I set forth with my mission of making a very tasty spice mix for my chicken and here is what I came up with.

2 cups of Italian bread crumbs

1 Tbsp dry mustard

1 Tbsp oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ancho chile powder

1 tsp coriander

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

Pound out 3 nice sized chicken breasts and soak them in 2 cups of buttermilk for at least 30 minutes.  Then dip the chicken into the bread crumb and spice mixture and sear in a large pan in 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil on both sides until brown.  Spray some Pam on a baking sheet and place the chicken in the oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  Voila!  You get that fried chicken flavor without the deep-fried mess, and the chicken turns out incredibly tender. And now, the waffle batter.

2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

2 large eggs

4 tsp baking powder

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 Tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 cups of 2% milk

Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl until batter is smooth and pourable.  I use my Cuisinart Griddler but any waffle iron will do.  This recipe makes 6 servings of chicken at 347 calories per serving, and 10 waffles at 155 calories per serving. My kids are my greatest critics, and they absolutely loved these Chicken and Waffles.  After I tasted them myself, I already started thinking of when I could make them again.  If you are hungry and bored, give this recipe a try…you won’t be sorry!

My take on Chicken and Waffles!

Oh, and Happy Birthday to my beautiful wife Kim!  Chicken and Waffles for dinner tonight?


Thanks to the fact that I was named after one of my dad’s best friends, my name has forever been linked to that small North Carolina town of Mayberry.  I’m not complaining because it could have been worse…Marion and Sue being prime examples of questionable boys names.  However, I did endure a fair share of good-natured teasing over the years.  And despite the fact that the actor Ken Berry made many other television shows and movie appearances, the jokes aimed at me always centered around that old familiar whistled theme song.

The dreaded Elementary school morning attendance roll call was my first experience.  From regular teachers on the first day of school…every semester…to substitute teachers, my name would be announced and immediately followed by a quick rendition of the theme song (even the one sub that couldn’t whistle but hummed it instead).  This eventually turned the theme of one of my favorite shows into a painful, reoccurring earwig.

This unfortunate pattern quickly followed me into other areas.  In my Little League appearances, the theme quickly became my walk-up music, as coaches and parents serenaded me before my at bats.  On my bowling league after throwing a few strikes or converting a split, the song whistled out its approval.  As an acolyte at my Lutheran church I swear I heard it faintly once or twice as I extinguished the candles following the pastor’s lengthy sermons, leading me to believe I would actually start hearing the organist belt it out as the flock headed towards the basement for congregating and refreshments.

For the record…I have never actually visited Mayberry…maybe someday.

My adult years didn’t see much of a decrease in this behavior.  At the first shop I worked at upon becoming the afternoon shift leader, I answered the phone a handful of times to the whistling of the theme followed by a quick hang up.  I quickly delegated the answering of the phone task to one of the other employees.  Even as recently as a year ago, I would at random times hear the song in the distance at my new shop, leading me to invest in a good pair of ear plugs.  Fortunately, after being promoted to night shift foreman at our new production facility, my new employees are either too young to remember the song, or haven’t made the connection yet, although the day shift foreman did leave an F-Troop screen saver on the shop computer one day, which was a nice change from the normal ribbing…no sound!

It was recently brought to my attention from some of my friends on Twitter that there is a Mayberry-themed restaurant about thirty miles from my house.  I just Googled their website and it looks like a pretty neat place.  In the next few weeks, I will take my wife and kids over to try out the homestyle cooking and who knows, maybe I’ll even get a former resident discount…fingers crossed!

Detroit Street Games

I spent the ages from three to thirteen growing up on the west side of Detroit.  Being that the closest park was a really long distance bike ride away, we had to use a little creativity when it came to playing sports in our neighborhood.  Our games had to be modified slightly to include concrete, curbs, cars, and sidewalks into the normal rules of the games we played.  That never stopped us from enjoying our weekly baseball, football, and hockey contests.

Since we didn’t have the luxury of having a decent baseball diamond to use without the fear of breaking windows, we played Curbball.  Normally a two player game, the batter would step into the batters box…about three to five feet away from the curb…and, using a tennis ball, would bounce the ball off the high curb out into the field of play.  A single was anything on the ground that avoided the fielder’s glove.  A double went over their heads, bouncing on the grass just past the opposite curb.  A triple would be any ball reaching the neighbors shrubs, and a homer went over them, which was usually only possible on very windy days.  Most games would last a full nine innings, with on-field delays occurring only due to three circumstances: traffic; the “get in here it’s dinner time” alert; and the “whenever the neighbor failed to clean up after his dog” delay (rhymes with “spit ball”).

During the fall, after a few attempts at playing two-hand touch football in the street ended with the usage of too many bandages, we resorted to playing a game we referred to as “Tackle the Guy With the Football” on our small square of a front yard.  The object of the game was to receive the football at the driveway of the house next door, then try to maneuver successfully across the playing field to the paydirt of the sidewalk on the opposite side without being brought down.  Scoring was based on how many times you made it to the end zone, and the battles were grueling to say the least.  Unfortunately, when the price of clothes ruined by grass stains and holes surpassed that of the Band-Aids used in our street football contests, the games would eventually be canceled by the hierarchy…otherwise known as our parents.

During the winter we would play our version of street hockey.  There were no ponds in the neighborhood, and most of us didn’t know how to skate anyways.  My friend Ronnie was the only kid around with a goal, so we would play at his house, setting the net just off the road on his parents driveway.  Strategy was an important factor in scoring the most goals.  One tactic was to stick handle the tennis ball through a puddle if one was available due to the previous days weather conditions.  If the goalie was wearing pants that he didn’t want to look like denim polka dots after a game, you could get a few easy goals this way.  The other main method for goal advantage was to use passing cars as a screen.  This required critical timing, releasing the shot milliseconds after the rear of the car passed the goal.  As with most good things, using screening quickly became a non-option the first time Ronnie nailed the back of a Ford Station Wagon and had to serve two weeks in the penalty box…grounded!

It just goes to show you that a little imagination in action can go a long way in bringing the thrill and excitement of professional sports into any given environment.  And even though our games suffered through their fair share of growing pains and tweaks, they were as much fun to play as the ones they were modeled after.

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