Finding Fun – Honoring Brian’s 50th Birthday

zb gang and bad hairTo show how much I love my brother, I grudgingly used this photo for a good laugh.  If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? This is the countdown to March 17, and a happy 50th to my brother, Brian, the best brother anyone could ever want in the whole world.

Let’s talk about early teenage things we found fun. This was an interesting place in our lives, interesting like the left-handed Chinese expression wishing you an “interesting” life.  Brian and I leaned on each other a lot and while there were a lot of ups and downs, we had each other.  As with most people at that age, nothing we did really was very well thought through.  We just did things and hung out in places that looking back on it, wasn’t what I would consider using good risk management skills.

The popular hobby at the time was beer can collecting, and Brian and I took it on.  Unlike our friends whose brothers often had competing collections, Brian and I understood early on the power of synergy.  While some families had three boys collecting three times as many discarded, foul-smelling, steel or aluminum cylinders thrown around their rooms, Brian and I had one massive collection that continued on after a lot of other people gave up on theirs. To get these cans, we would go…beer can hunting!

Back in the 70s, before they were being pulled back and forth over global warming, people had clean automobile interiors because they just threw their empties out along the roadway with any other trash (very convenient). The 202 Corridor, like it or not, was a wasteland of trash, or, depending on the view of two boys with a reason to take a hike, a goldmine. For the purposes of comparison, I ran some distances, and found that there were days, even in the snow and cold of winter, where we (along with Joe and Johnny and Mark and anyone else) would trudge as far as six miles along snow-slicked or otherwise traffic-congested highways, looking for cans. We only had a few close calls.

Riding bikes a little farther than we probably should have at the age of 11 and 12, we would go to Lansdale, or to Towamencin, or even a few years later before we could drive, back and forth by bike between North Wales and Bridgeport, or to Valley Forge. In other instances of less-than-full disclosure on our parts, we would play on the railroad tracks in Purple Canyon (where we gained our rock scrambling skills running from “Eagle 1”, LOL), or hop freight trains. We built “forts” (read: early “man caves”) everywhere.

One of our all-time favorites was on this no-man’s land behind the old place on Ross Road in Bridgeport which later turned out to be listed in the United States’ Top 10 Superfund Cleanup Sites, right there with Love Canal and some others.  We used to disregard all the warning signs and climb around in the crick back there, and walk the tops of these huge concrete retaining walls. Inside, there were usually unlabeled 55 gallon drums stacked up, or some kind of orange or green plasma-like substances where we would throw branches, rocks, cinder-blocks, or anything else we found into the pits.

We found among all the discarded drums a huge wooden box, probably the precursor to what today would be a 20-foot intermodal container. We chopped a hole in it with an axe we brought one day and found it large, but empty. We made the hole big enough to enter and exit (Hmmm, a permit-required confined space? Looks cozy!), brought girly mags, candles, and menthol cigarettes, and voila! Home away from home.  With trains nearby to hop and go places on, 202 right across the hill, and within hiking distance of a place where we could occasionally score beer, it became a nice little hiding place from the world, which probably was what kept us sane on some of the days.

There’s nobody else I would have ever wanted to spend those days with. Here’s to you, Brian, the person I could always count on to try to talk me out of doing something that would likely land me in jail or dead. Honestly, there were many days I am sure I wouldn’t have seen 25 if it were not for you, much less 50. This is the countdown to March 17, and a happy 50th to my brother, Brian, the best brother anyone could ever want in the whole world.

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