The Good Years: 8
I have a propensity to bitch, I realize, so I figured I'd focus on the positive for a change, with a series of my good years, starting with 8.
The first seven years weren't too hot. Granted up until, say, three, I don't remember much, just flashes of color, the occasional searing pain (which I've been told, or rather was told, by my dead mother could have been the result of when I tried climbing on top of a burning stove to get some cookies, blistering my young baby hands,) mostly snippets, really--forest green and sunlight, red houses and dirt roads. Consciousness hits around four, and I have to say I was none too impressed. Some of the highlights of those early years: a book made just for me, staring a giraffe and a kid named Nick, apparently created by my mom when she sent away details of my young life (things like "friends," "likes" [apparently I liked giraffes]), etc.) to some company that published tailor-made books (think: Shutterfly); riding on the back of my father's motorcycle, which would've been between ages 5 and 6, no helmet, driving down the Chamberlin Highway (in my father's defense, he would've only been 27 or 28 himself, and CT had no helmet laws); an imaginary friend named Mr. Fox, for whom I worked, and who, in addition to circumventing child labor laws, also paid me the illegal immigrant wages of one silver dollar a day. These few memories aside, I have to say I wasn't terribly impressed with life, which seemed mostly an exercise in things one cannot do or have. That changed when I hit 8.
Perhaps "changed" is not the right word. But things definitely looked up. For one, the Yankees won the World Series in '78, beating the Dodgers. But to get there they had to beat the hated Red Sox in a one-game playoff, after the two were tied following 162 games. Picking a baseball team is part chance, part fate, but it is a lifelong commitment (unless you simply bandwagon to whichever team is currently winning), one that will, if you are a man's man, determine a great deal of your life satisfaction. I could've chosen the Red Sox. My best friend Mark was a Sox fan, so too his cousin Rich (with whom I would later go to Europe and who would introduce me to Justine, and who is the oldest friend I still have). Berlin, where I grew up, was split right down the middle in allegiance. Three things determined my picking the Yankees: 1.) my father did not like them. Whether he was a full-blown Sox fan, or whether that came in reaction to my becoming a Yankee fan, I cannot say. But I already didn't like my father, who was brutish and threw my mother down flights of stairs. 2.) Mike Giana liked the Yankees. I thought Mike was cool. Mike was a helluva athlete. 3.) I liked the color blue.
The '78 playoff game was huge in my small social circle. The Yankees had been down 14 and half games as recently as July. The daily taunting by Red Sox fans on the school bus was particular brutal heading into that summer, the first summer of my complete recollected consciousness, not relenting after school let out, since my best friends were Sox fans, so that when the Yankees came storming back into first by the first day of school, vindication was sweet (bragging rights for your team really helps determine pole position at that age). The Red Sox, admittedly, had a great team that year and would not go quietly, themselves mounting a minor comeback the last week of the season, winning on the last day (the Yankees losing to, I believe, Detroit), forcing the sudden death. The game itself was played on October 2nd at Fenway Park. All you need to know of this game is three words: Bucky Fucking Dent.
Being a Yankee fan has served me well. Red Sox fans will cling to their comeback in 2004 against the Yankees as vindication for their choice (they also won in 2007). But this illustrates the very problem with Sox fans: an inferiority complex. Though it hurt at the time, 2004 was merely another season in which the Yankees did not win the World Series, and now resides in the annals with 2001, 1981, 1985, and so on. For Red Sox fans it needs to mean more, and when it can't, it fills them with a gnawing, unrelenting, though impossible to pinpoint, feeling of inadequacy, which may or may not be relating to having tiny penises; I can't say. All I know is that since I've become a Yankee fan, I have seen my team win six World Championships (I can't count 1977, although I vaguely recall their winning it all that year too) to the Red Sox two. Though I am no math major, I do know 6 (7) is more than 2.
It wasn't just the Yankees' victorious season that helped render my 8th year such a success, though it was a big part of it. There was also Muriel Kucharczyk, with whom I shared blackboard duty that school year. Muriel had a mucklemouth, which meant her mouth went all sideways when she talked (and which knocked me out). For those five minutes after class and before recess, when I'd stand next to her, I felt safe, whole, warm, like I was something good. Girls and women have been fulfilling this same role my entire life.
For my 8th birthday, I got a Huffy bicycle, my first taste of freedom on the open road.
I discovered my talent at 8, or rather I was told by others that I had talent. I could draw. This meant I was an artist. I may've sucked at baseball (though I'd never stop trying) but I had a skill. And like Napoleon Dynamite says, girls only like guys with skills. Actually, girls didn't like me much through high school (though I'd have my revenge at the 20 year reunion, as one of only, I believe three, who kept his hair [we showed 'em, Jeff Dubac!]).
So at 8, things were looking up for me. Until I turned 9, when Mike Piskorski broke my leg in a one-on-one game of tackle football in his backyard and I'd be stuck in a full body cast (he broke my right femur so high it was almost my right hip, the same hip I would shatter in a motorcycle accident nearly twenty-five years later that would leave me with traumatic arthritis, chronic pain, and in need of a replacement at 40) all through the winter, missing the start of Little League. My game would never be rebound.