Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's Just Hang-ups .... It's Just Hang-ups ....

The dictionary definition of a “hang-up” is: “ … a source of mental or emotional difficulty.”

As a kid, I dealt with several hang-ups. Some of these have influenced me through the years.

When we lived on Pipkin Street in Beaumont during the 1940s, I often walked to school. J. L. Giles Elementary was only one block from our house.

One troublesome hang-up arose when I walked to school using the sidewalk. I had to be careful not to step on a crack. I learned to pace my steps so that each foot would step once on each section between the cracks. Variations of this included stepping on every crack with my left foot. At other times my right foot would receive the honors of being the one that had to step on the cracks.

Then I went through a phase of pretending there was an elastic string attached to my belt. The other end of the string was attached to my house. When I left for school each morning I imagined that the string stretched out. In other words no matter where I walked, the string kept me in contact with home. My real hang-up on this elastic string concept was that I had to be sure to walk home from school using the exact path I had used that morning while walking to school. Any deviation from that path meant that the string would get all tangled up.

Fortunately I managed to conquer those hang-ups because it became too frustrating to get them right all the time. Also, there were times when I had to throw all caution to the wind. For example, if Pancho, the Viguet’s German Shepherd ran at me barking and growling, I quit worrying about cracks in the sidewalk and tangling up my elastic string. I ran for cover wherever that happened to be. Same thing with Terry, the school bully. He delighted in finding me after school and beating me up. I discovered that I could outrun him. Again, my concerns for the cracks and the elastic string had to be set aside.

When was about 10 years old, I developed a hang-up that has stayed with me and has menaced my being for more than sixty years.

This hang-up had to do with “even numbers.” Even today I prefer even numbers and am sometimes a bit disconcerted when ushered into an odd number situation. For example, I always request an even telephone number. Also I prefer even numbers on my automobile tags.

This even number obsession first showed up in the strangest manner. For example, suppose that I scratched my right ear with my right hand. Then I would think, “Well, my right ear got scratched but my left ear did not.” So I would scratch my left ear with my left hand so that both ears would feel equal treatment. But actually this was not equal because the right ear was scratched first. Also, each ear had been scratched only once and to be even, each ear needed another scratch. Since the right ear had been first, I scratched the left ear first for the second round then the right ear.

Ok this meant that the right ear was scratched first but then the left ear was scratched two times in a row before the right ear received its second scratch. That’s about as even as things could be but just to make sure that proper closure was attained with both ears feeling equal, I proceeded to scratch both ears twice simultaneously.

My wife has told me that I, “ … have neurotic tendencies.” But I know better than that.

I’m not neurotic. I just have hang-ups.

Winston Hamby

Saturday, August 09, 2008

You Can't Hide Forever ...

When Paul Anawaty sent me an e-mail the other day, I remembered an event that took place in his back yard before he was born. I’ll start at the beginning.

Do you remember playing the game “Hide And Go Seek?” Of course you do. This childhood game was loads of fun. The kids on Pipkin Street in Beaumont used to play the game all the time. As I recall it was more fun hiding than it was being “It.” If you were “It” you had to look for the others who were hiding. The “It” role was kind of fun but could bring on frustration … especially if you looked everywhere and could not find anyone.

In the middle 1940s, The Pipkin Street gang, made up mostly of kids living in the 1300 block of Pipkin Street, spent hours hiding and seeking. Our rules went like this: The one who was “It” would have to hide his eyes. The way you hid your eyes was to place your hands over them. And peeking was cheating and no Pipkin Street member would ever bring dishonor on the group by cheating.

I never cheated by peeking. I did learn how to listen to every little sound. Sometimes I could hear footsteps of the others as they made their ways into hiding. This may have been a “semi-cheat” but certainly not a full-blown deception.

Anyway, the “seeker” would stand on the front porch of my house and face the door. With eyes covered he would count to 100. He was required to count audibly so the “hiders” could hear how he was coming along. At the end of the count, the “It” would yell, “Here I come, ready or not.”

We set boundaries for the game. For example, you could not hide beyond Jackie Garretson’s house going east on Pipkin and no further than Sonny Collier’s house going west. This left us with options of hiding anywhere within that perimeter. This included the yards of Margaret Ann Burch, my yard, the Heartfields’ and Mike Grime’s yards on one side of the street and Sonny’s yard, the Halfins’ yard, the Anawatys’ yard and Jackie’s yard on the other side.

One afternoon Malcolm Ward was “It.” Malcolm began counting and everyone scattered. I ran behind the Anawatys’ house looking around for a good hiding place. Their backyard was clear. Then I noticed the back door to the garage was open. I stepped into the garage and all I saw were yard tools and a wringer washing machine.

At first I thought just standing there inside the garage would suffice. Malcolm would never look there. Then on the other hand, he might. So I crawled up and hid inside the washing machine. It was like a big tub open on the top. I curled up around the agitator and considered myself sufficiently hidden.

Sure enough after just a few minutes, I heard Malcolm inside the garage. Hopefully he would not venture over and look down into the washing machine. He didn’t. He left and I stayed curled up inside that machine for a solid thirty minutes.

Finally I crawled out of the machine and walked back to the street. There was no one anywhere.

Turned out the gang was not playing Hide and Go Seek anymore. They thought I had gone home so they all went home. That washing machine was the best hiding place I ever had.

Paul Anawaty was born one year later. I never did thank Mr. or Mrs. Anawaty for their secure washing machine. And since I now cannot acknowledge to them my appreciation, I’ll thank their son. Paul, thank you for having parents that allowed the Pipkin Street gang to play in their yard and hide in their washing machine.

Winston Hamby