Posts Tagged ‘denial’

Limited Growth

November 18, 2020

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(Dedicated to librarians)

What book most changed my life? That’s an easy question for me to answer. It was “The Limits to Growth.”

I read it when I was 12 years old, and then I didn’t grow at all for three years. Zero growth because of one book. – that’s life changing.

The Bookmobile Arrives

Book reading is something I was introduced to at age 7 when the Bookmobile made its first visit to my class when I was in Grade Two. There was no library in my upper income suburb, nor did my tiny rural elementary school have one. Just big cars and big lawns.

So when I finally got access to the book scene at that age, I devoured most of the Babar and Peter Rabbit series. Reading books gave my eyes a rest from watching television, and also let me be alone in my room with no disturbances. Plus, I could imagine being a cute little animal living in Paris, or going on adventures and helping other rabbits, instead of just staring at a TV in a suburban setting and fighting for the remote control with other TV-viewers – what used to be called family members.

Library Access

Five years later, when I turned 12, I was finally allowed to take the once-every-two-hours city bus into the downtown library and get a library card. From now on, I could choose from an entire galaxy of books. The world was finally at my fingertips!

Steel City’s library was tiny, but at least it didn’t have wheels. My reading skills and worldly knowledge would finally be leaving the trailer park of Gilligan’s Island-style book sightings.

I read The Limits to Growth in a summer week, letting the very adult-oriented content sink in slowly. Computers and computer simulations were new in 1974, so I felt I was somehow preparing for adulthood and changing times.

Everything in the book seemed to suggest that the way the adults were living in the 70s would end in disaster and misery during my lifetime. And on top of this, it had already been published for two years, so there was even less time to waste. The book told readers of my age that our lives would eventually be destroyed by the bad decisions being made right now.

Growth is a disaster! Something has to be done

That year, at age 12, I was five foot two. Three years later, no change. Same height at age 15.

My weight also stayed the same. And my hair style and glasses.

At 12, it took me 4 hours to mow our lawn. Three years later, still 4 hours.

Steel City had the same population for that period as well, going from 35,000 to 30,000 in the city, with the new suburban bungalow-belt picking up about the same number as were lost in the city.

I watched the same sitcoms at 15 as I did at 12. I had the same circle of friends. They watched the same sitcoms for this period as well.

I wore beige and brown Levis cords for the entire three years. And went through two pairs of size 8 North Star sneakers.

The energy crisis had struck our suburb a year before, so exploding gas prices meant that Steel City was in a major recession throughout my zero growth period. Cars would even start getting smaller a few years later. Shrinking.

Drivers were subsequently granted the new freedom to turn right on a red light, and this meant that it became a lot more dangerous for me and other kids to cross streets or bike to school. My younger brother and sister were henceforth prohibitted from biking to school, whereas me and my older sister had gotten to school by bike almost every day just a few years earlier.

Over dinner, I mentioned to my uncle that Steel City was the only region where more money was spent on highways than on schools. My uncle sneered at me, and then went for a drive alone in his truck. He hadn’t read a book since he left school at age 15. I guess this made him unable to appreciate the need for books or education budgets. With a truck, you can fly around corners at high speed. With a book, you simply can’t do this.

The war on Vietnam that the TV liked so much was, at best, a stalemate. Salaries stagnated. The TV was on for the entire three years with the same Price is Right filler between sitcoms, car chases, and news.

The Times they were a’ Stayin’ Still as my body went through puberty without me.

(Note. Any resemblance to real human beings is unintentional. This story – like other Steel City Fruit stories – is purely fictional.)

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GW and BW

October 17, 2011

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One Friday after Home Economics class, Kirk and I drive out to Big Pond to pick up the most insane marijuana we’ve ever smoked: Rapeseed Bud, it’s called.  “It can fuck you up pretty bad,” Sidney Normandson told us at the high school dance.

After picking up a measured ounce of Rapeseed Bud from a dealer in a church basement, we drive for a short 30 minutes and pick up Sidney, and then drive the hour back to Kirk’s place and fire up the power-hitter. A quarter ounce later, we’re all trashed, and Kirk goes into body stone watching the Expos play the Yankees on television.

Suddenly, Sidney gets a hypnotized look in his eye, jumps up and walks out into the kitchen really focused. Two cat brothers – GW and BW – follow him into the kitchen.

In Home Ec, we talked about the difference between nature and nurture. Sidney explains to me that he is going to torture one cat and spoil the other, and see if it really makes a difference. It’s like an experiment – science.

He looks so concentrated and stressed that I don’t dare try to stop him even though I find this experiment really sick. See, there’s just no point in resisting Sidney’s psychotic need to control: I don’t have as strong a character as he does – even Kirk and I acting together can’t make him budge.  Whenever I disagree with Sidney, he calls me a wimp or a faggot and then threatens to hit me or humiliate me in public. I don’t want to be on the receiving end, so I go along.

Sid spots a blow dryer and a bag of high-end kitty treats sitting on top of the fridge next to a case of empty Pop Shoppe bottles. With Kirk still engrossed in the ballgame, he drops some treats onto the kitchen floor, and both GW and BW go running.

Sidney throws them separate treats farther and farther from one another. When the cats are far enough apart, he attacks GW with the blow dryer yelling things like: “I’m gonna kill you, you little slut!”,”Soooh-eey!” and ” You’re not worth shit, you pissbag!” followed by a few long minutes of : “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!…”

He leaves all the treats in a pile in front of BW and then chases GW around the kitchen yelling “Antichrist! Antichrist!” and cornering him next to the sink.

He plugs the blow dryer into a wall socket, turns it on high, and points it right at the cat’s ear. Wrrrrrrrr! GW curves his back, hisses, and tries in vain to beat back the hot air with his little paw. I’m paralyzed myself, just like GW, and my paws are about as strong as his when it comes to fending off Sidney’s hate-turbocharged charisma.

Through the entire kitty nightmare, Kirk watches baseball and notices nothing else. “Bottom of the fifth, and still no score….”

Finally, the experiment ends with GW running outside and hiding for a few days.

As soon as GW runs off, Sidney pops his smiling head into the TV room and says: “Hey Captain Kirk, want some crackers and cheese?” For Sidney, crackers and cheese are the cigarette afterwards.

I’m not sure if baseball-body-stone Kirk ever figured out how GW got to be so neurotic. He probably doesn’t know or care why BW is so relaxed and confident, while GW – post blow dryer – is a lean loner who rarely seeks affection from cats or people.

Sidney used to fear his father who probably beat him up pretty bad.  But why did he have to take this out out on a little cat? Why not his own son or daughter?

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click for sad pets


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