Saturday, May 24, 2014

Memorial Day Time Machine

A look back . . .

Camping at Lake George . . . Oh boy/2013

On the way up the Northway Friday afternoon, I couldn’t believe the number of SUVs and family vans with camping equipment attached, heading off the Lake George exits. I don’t understand this insistence on pitching tents in artificialized camping areas and spending a long weekend getting poured on. It's supposed to rain buckets right through Monday without break, so let’s be soaked to the bone until it ends. Then come home filthy, exhausted, possibly sick and go right back to work on Tuesday. Is there anything worse than “packing up” after a rainy weekend? Miserable.

But it’s not just the rain.

Rain or shine, what's the attraction to these overpacked Lake George camp places on Memorial Day? Why spend your free time living like this? We are in America in 2013. We have 100-inch HD TVs and hotels with hot tubs and swimming pools and state-of-the-art workout rooms. We have it so great we need to invent ways to “rough it.” Why? What’s the point? Building a fire and sucking down canned beers before passing out on the lumpy ground, wake with a crooked back to shower in those slimy public barracks. It’s disgusting. There’s always that wet, rotting kind of aura around the campsite the whole weekend, even when the weather’s nice. I don’t get it, guys, I’m sorry.

When I "did" Lake George on Memorial, we’d grab a cheap hotel on the Strip, bang down some RB & Vs, get busy with the bars. The energy was exciting, a bit intense, but so much possibility. We had a lot of great weekends like that. I almost got us kicked out of a hotel one year. Another year we watched Kobe & Shaq at a cool outside bar called Fire & Ice with a gang of girls. It was great. Whenever that one knucklehead suggested an 8PM detour to King Phillips to meet up with someone there, I never agreed. To me that was the fastest way to lose a killer night to the Hillbilly vortex. Nah. I’d rather listen to live music with college girls on the waterfront. I was single almost my whole twenties though, I will admit that, and if I had a serious g/f I might’ve approached LG differently, but no way would I have camped. Hell no. Thank God for my friend who hated King Philips more than I did.

My parents took me camping all the time when I was a kid, a place called Hidden Pond. I have no idea where that is, just that it was called Hidden Pond. The adults would get wasted, and there’d be motorcycles everywhere. I think one time a fight broke out. I’d wake up in that horrible tent, with the puddle of pooled rain water seeping into my sleeping bag. It ALWAYS rained. All I ever wanted to do was leave. My camping days officially ended when I found myself waist-deep in that slimy little pond, and my dad and his friends were on the shore “making their own cigarettes.” From the swamp to the left of the beach, a long snake emerged, swimming to cross to the swamp on the right. He moved through the water, with head up, three feet from me, and I freaked, splashed out of that water so fast, and never went back.

It’s not just camping though. I don’t understand packing elbow to elbow into the Plaza to go ooohhh and aaahhhh at fireworks on the Fourth. I'm totally bored at Labor Day Parties. Parades? Get real. New Year’s Eve is the worst. I feel like it’s more work to partake in all the American ways of passing a Holiday. I know I sound like a wet blanket, but I just like hanging out and relaxing with my small circle, not engaging in phony activities with thousands of strangers, because that’s what we “always do.” Come on, you actually like the Flag Day Parade and going to the Plaza for Price Chopper fireworks? No you don’t.

In the 80’s, we spent a lot of time at the Howard Johnson Hotel off Exit 19. We’d get a room, go to the movies on Aviation Drive, eat at the greatest pizza place ever: Papa Gino’s. At the hotel, there was a huge indoor pool and hot tub. That’s where I learned to swim. In the morning, we’d go to the hotel’s restaurant for pancakes, so thick with blueberries they’d bleed purple when you touched a fork to them. Every time we head north now, we detour off Exit 19 for a place called Mr. B’s, and I always drive past that HoJo’s, which was torn down years ago, and tell my wife the same battery of remember-when stories. It’ll always be the greatest hotel in the world to me.

Brian Huba

My Memorial Day Question/2012

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, and I have the same question I have every Memorial Day Weekend: WHO WOULD EVER SIGN UP FOR THE ARMED SERVICES? Wait a second, you signed up for this? At eighteen years old you said, “Forget college, forget chasing girls on Friday nights, forget sleeping late on Saturdays and just being young and having fun, let’s go to war in Iraq?” First off, does anybody have any idea why we were ever in Iraq or are still in Afghanistan? On the news last night, I saw a clip of American Troopers stalking through the Afghan Desert, heads on a swivel, guns ready, waiting to shoot somebody or just waiting to be shot themselves. I guess the soldiers were guarding some desert-looking wall. Why? They literally looked like warm bodies with guns, sheep to the slaughter.

Don’t misunderstand me, I have massive respect for people who risk their lives like this, but at the same time, I don’t understand the mentality of a person who willingly walks into that life. That’s all I’m saying, I don’t get it. “But, Brian, the Army pays for college.” First off, that’s kind of untrue, can we just admit that and move on. There are hoops within hoops within hoops, i.e. they own you. Second, if you’re asking me what I’d take: college debt or five years in Iraq waiting to die, um, give me the student-loan debt, I’ll work it out. When I was a high school kid, and I saw that local recruiter, every instinct told me to stay away, because he was going to try to lure me into signing a piece of paper, and once I did, my freedom was gone. I treated that recruiter like a telemarketing Jehovah’s Witness.

“Brian, you’re a coward.” No doubt about it. The lion from the WIZARD OF OZ would make fun of me. I’ll take it. This is my life. I’m chasing my dreams; I’m living the way I want to live. I can’t miss a thing. Honestly, I don’t care about free and fair elections in Iraq. I’m sorry, I don’t. I want to be here, in America, the best country in the history of the world. I want to be with my family, my friends, I want to watch every NY Giants game, and wake up every morning in my own bed. In my mind, the Armed Services are like prison. I know that sounds disrespectful, I know. What can I say? We are living in a Capitalistic World and I am Capitalistic Girl (I mean boy). Sign up for war? Give up my youth and all that fun that goes with being young? Sorry, Charlie, the American Party is too good to miss right now. And I know what you're gonna say, you're gonna tell me if I want to maintain this American Party, somebody has to fight and die for it. Look, I'm not trying to go all Ringo Starr on you (peace & love), but why do they have to die in the dirt of Afghanistan? Is it about 9/11? Didn't we get bin Laden and everyone behind 9/11?

Which brings me to my final question: Does anybody have any idea what’s going on in Iraq or Afghanistan? Eleven years? What? Who are we even fighting? Why have 7,000+ Americans died since 2001? Do you mean to tell me all this death and war is to stop Al Qaeda and the Taliban? What does that even mean? Hey, Mom, your son just got mortar bombed fighting those guys from the grainy training videos who do the monkey bars and crawl through tires in the dirt with rifles. Sorry, I thought he was going to be a doctor or schoolteacher too, mom. That’s who we're fighting? We could be in Afghanistan for a hundred years, and some guy is still going to try and blow up a JFK-bound commercial flight or some major city’s bridge.

The American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI & WWII, those wars HAD to be fought, of course, they made America what it is today. But I have no idea why we went to Iraq and I have no idea why we’re in Afghanistan. If we’re worried about terrorist operations taking root, let’s protect OUR borders, OUR airports, and OUR roads, etc. In Afghanistan, we cannot win; there is no winning anything over there. We need to protect ourselves, here, on the home front. These American boys are like sitting ducks over there, just waiting to die. Are they heroes? Of course. Are the power players and politicians to blame? No doubt about it. But, to be perfectly technical, these young men & women did sign up for this. Nobody forced them, maybe outsmarted them, but not forced. That’s what I don’t get.

And maybe some of our brave, nineteen-year-old service men will be at Lake George this weekend, partying and having fun, and being young, home on leave, etc. But, I promise you, Lake George on Memorial is WAY more fun when you don’t have to go back to a war in Afghanistan on Wednesday. When this weekend is the beginning of a summer of part-time jobs, the beach and girls, Alive at 5s, just being young, it’s much better. That’s what I wanted for me. That’s what I want for my son when and if I have one. Is that selfish? It is.

Read More:

Brian Huba

Randy vs. the Rapture/2011

Dedicated to Dan 'the man' Hepp. All things Savage

At 6.15PM on Saturday night I was sitting in this same spot when I heard a huge thunder roar down from the sky. And I thought: Oh man, is the Rapture really happening as predicted? Seconds later I was still here, and I understood what had taken place in Heaven’s wrestling ring. The Macho Man Randy Savage had landed a flying elbow from the top rope, right across the unconscious face of God, thus saving the world from certain termination. How did Randy Savage get God down you ask? Easy. Miss. Elizabeth distracted the Great Creator with a little ringside leg, and Savage suckered him for the finishing move. So yes I do think the whacko who predicted this Rapture had it right. Problem is he didn't count on Macho Madness. Classic mistake. And when I realized we’d all safely see the next almost-Armageddon, I said out loud, “OOoooooooohhhhhhh Yyyyyyeeeeaaahhhhhh.”

For those who’ve been living under a Macho-sized rock since Friday, former WWF icon, Randy ‘the Macho Man’ Savage died in Florida, after suffering a heart attack at the wheel and driving his jeep into a tree. He was 58 years old. His wife was sitting shotgun, and maybe, from across the meridian, he thought he saw that tree staring at his wife the same way he caught Hogan hawking Elizabeth in the 80’s, and said, “Tree, you get jealous eyes, ooh yeah,’ and taught that roadside birch a lesson, Macho style, same way he taught Hogan backstage at Saturday Night’s Main Event. Maybe but probably not. I like to think he went to that big Slim Jim Factory in the sky to save all mankind from the forthcoming Rapture. And I’d like to be the first to say, ‘Thank you, Macho Man.’

Macho’s was a life of sheer madness, and, as a former WWF fanatic, I loved every second of the always-nonsensical insanity. Genius comes in all shapes and sizes, and what Savage could do with Mene Gene by his side cutting promo was second to none. Plus he was an amazing wrestler inside the 'steel' ropes. Savage survived multiple bites from Jake the snake’s 12-ft python, Damien. If that’s not Macho, I don’t know what is. He had feuds with guys named Rickey Steamboat and Honky Tonk Man. He wrestled Hulk Hogan in the main event at Wrestlemania V. He held all major WWF Championships. (Forget WCW. That was fake wrestling.) He told Morgan Fairchild not to go crazy on him while sitting beside her on Arsenio Hall’s couch. A Kardashian-sized jab in the 80's. 'Can you dig it!'

Everyone has been going on line and sharing their favorite memories of the Macho Man. Whether it was the Mega Powers vs. the Mega Bucks, or his battles with the Bobby Heenan family, or his outrageous outfits and huge sunglasses, or the fact that he was the only figure in sports history to get away with, and gain popularity from, playing the abusive, out-of-control boyfriend. There was no limit to his theatrics, and when he was on the circuit, the WWF was as real any athletic event in America.

My favorite memory of the Madness was seeing him live at the Glens Falls Civic Center when I was 9 years old. WWF used to have this interview segment hosted by a red-faced fellow named Brother Love, who was anything but. I was less than ten feet from Savage being interviewed on a raised platform when the massive Andre the Giant came out to confront him. How decidedly inconvenient, I thought, because Randy was just bashing the Giant. While Macho was distracted by the Giant, the Million Dollar Man came rushing from behind, clobbered Savage with a double-fist to the back of the head, dropping him right into the waiting clutch of Andre. The Giant raised Savage up in a vicious choke hold then tossed him off like a bag of trash. The crowd booed and I booed, until Andre the Giant looked right at me, swear to God he did, and I froze a big boo in my throat and gave Andre a 'giant-sized' thumbs-up out of fear. If I didn't he would've choke-slammed me. Like I said, WWF wrestling was real back then. I still can’t figure out how come Savage couldn’t see Million Dollar Man behind him, or at least suspect something fishy was about to fly. Oh well, that was Randy Savage for you. Crazy as they came.

By the time he died, Savage’s once black beard had gone snow white and the whole act felt long gone, but it was always great, always Macho, right till his final promo cut for the WWE video game. Along with Hulk Hogan he helped define a time in wrestling that will forever prove to be its pinnacle, and for that he’ll always be a part of my childhood and best memories. A part of an innocent time when I believed rassling was for real. But those days are done for me, for all of us born in the 80’s, and now Macho Man is gone too. Heaven bound to battle Big John Studd, Andre the Giant, Rick Rude, and Owen Hart, and of course, Miss. Elizabeth in his eternal corner, distracting opponents for Randy then taking the blame when he loses.

When Savage walked through the pearly gates on Friday, I’m sure he was wearing his bright pink robe and big sunglasses, and the heavenly harps played ‘Pomp & Circumstance,’ because Macho never made a ring walk with any other music. And when he finally met God, I’m sure he pointed his finger right in the Creator's face, and said, ‘The Macho man is not impressed, ooh yeah.’ I’m sure of it.

Thanks for saving us from the Rapture, Randy.

See the Madness for yourself:

For more Macho Madness see the Cat’s Pajamas @ Facebook

Brian Huba

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