Monday, November 30, 2009

The brass pole edition

Two boyhood dreams came true this fall. One was a disappointment. The other was well worth the wait. There’s a third, becoming a writer, that’s mostly just a pain in the butt when it prods you to look for connections and patterns when you should just tell people about something that stands perfectly well on its own.

So I won’t say much about learning to scuba dive after all, other than it costs a whole lot and encourages holding still, the first of which raises the necessary fun threshold to near-impossible levels while the other (for me) lowers the fun potential about as much.

Then there’s the other dream. I’d all but forgotten it. I got to slide down a fire pole this weekend. Admit it, if you were any kind of boy at all, and most kinds of girl, you wanted to slide down a fire pole. I mentioned as much a couple weeks ago, when I spoke at the Lansing Tribute to Veterans. One of the stops on my spring USO trip was an Air Force fire station at Ramstein AFB in Germany, where I got to admire their fire pole and even watch it in use – there was a call for a fuel spill while the other seven cartoonists and I were taking the tour – and even take my favorite photograph, one that shows how fast firemen move and how slow an old-style digital camera’s delay (and a middle-age cartoonist's reaction time) can be.

But I didn’t get to slide down the pole.

Shortly after that speech, a friend and neighbor called to thank me and mention that, gosh, his son is a lieutenant with a nearby fire department and that maybe I might want to be available when he rotated to a shift command at one of the area’s only two-story fire stations, if I could catch his drift. Saturday it came together, on a slow holiday weekend no less, and Patty and I got to tour the station, crawl all over a brand-new million-dollar truck and, yes, slide down the pole as many times as we wanted.

I’d say it was everything I expected as a boy, but I have no realistic memory of what I expected as a boy. I probably expected it would make me feel special, would give me a little bit of a thrill, would have me making multiple repeat trips back up the stairs, and would be just plain fun. Check. I’m sure I couldn’t expect anything like my future wife’s Facebook page or my own blog and the sort of lewd, socially marginal comments about brass poles that the photos would invite.

But if I could, I’d have looked forward to that, too.


Patty MAllett said...

That was SO FUN, and I don't remember dreaming about sliding down a pole in a fire station when I was a kid. Thanks for sharing the opportunity with me!

TriGirl Kate O said...

My uncle was chief of the Dearborn, MI firefighters. Following the remodel of the firehouse, he installed the brass pole in his own house and my cousins and I would have such fun sliding from the second floor to the basement! Such a shame they're not used anymore.

Yours is the comic strip I look forward to reading every day! Thanks to Steve in a Speedo for pointing me to your blog and book. Now I have something else to add to my Christmas list, along with a Garmin310!

Liz said...

Hi, Jef! I just stumbled across your blog via an ad on the webpage. I thought, hooray, now I can follow one of my heroes via blog (Frazz inspired me to take up triathlon several months ago, and I did my first race in September).

Just stopping by to say hello, your blog looks great so far and I hope you keep it up ... and I added your Trizophrenia book to my wish list. I hope you'll visit Seattle some time and sign it :)