Brian, The Ice Storm, and The Mall You might have heard the rumors on the playground. You might have actually seen the prognostications from the local news on the TV set. Three or four times a winter, every child showed their religious devotion, with their prayers and supplications on their knees, when there might not be school tomorrow because of a snowstorm!  The truly devoted would forego even the attempt at homework or studying for a test. You have the faith of a child. “Please, oh, Lord, let your wrath smite this area, for the godless teachers must know your glory. Two or three days of no school, that is all I ask. Amen. P.S. I still want the Evel Knievel Winnebago, complete with jumping ramps and extra motorcycle, for Christmas. I have faith in you.” God usually repaid your child-like faith in Him with you waking up, running to the window, and discovering not a snowflake had fallen. You were going to school. You learned the Almighty really did not like you very much. It was when snowstorms hit during the three or four weeks of winter break. Everyone had drafty houses and had to sit around the hot oven with its door open to give you a little extra warmth. The only thing worse was if, somehow, your father got trapped in the house with you. He always had these strange notions that you should be outside with him helping clear the sidewalks and driveway. I should have been under a blanket watching television like God intended. Invariably your older sibling would kick snow into your too big, hand-me-down, galoshes, which would then slide down to your toes, melt, giving you wet socks, and then refreeze. This allowed you to experience potential frostbite and to know the joys of what future diabetic nerve pain will feel like.  It was during a winter break, when I was in first grade, that we got an ice storm. Ice storms are God’s homage to his love of The Three Stooges. People slip and slide all over the place and end up flat on their backs if they are dumb enough to venture outside. Someone was dumber enough to be out in a car. They discovered the ditch and then a wooden utility pole. The result being my family did not have power for several days.   It was decided that we needed to find someplace else to live until power was restored. My father bravely announced he would stay behind, and let us know when we had electricity. It was a courageous thing he did, giving up his bickering children. He would be forced to live like a bachelor again, eat what he wanted to, hangout with his friends in town… Wait, a minute, he dumped his wife and kids off on someone else for an entire week? My father was the wisest man I have ever known. But who would be dumb enough to take a station wagon filled with annoying children?  We are distantly related to Italians, by marriage. They were a warm, loud, gregarious bunch filled with emotions and feelings. They laughed, were happy, filled with energy, had wonderful humor, and embraced life with feeling and passion. They were everything my Norwegian cultural heritage warned us about.           I want to assure my dear readers that none of my ancestors are Italian. I am almost completely Scandinavian, with a large icing of Irish mixed in. If you know history, Irish women enamored the Vikings when my warrior forbearers invaded that country. Scandinavians are manic depressants that use being judgmental, stoicism, and Ole and Lena jokes to get through life. The Irish are manic depressants that use alcohol and fighting to achieve the same goals. In other words, both are God’s people. There is also a small touch of French DNA in my lineage, but that kind of shame our families don’t like to talk about. My Italian relatives had three sons that were all in high school and college. The best memories of my childhood are the times with them boating and waterskiing on Little Wall Lake. They greeted us at the door, warm and lovingly. One of them even tried to hug me, but I have repressed that scarring memory.   My brothers were sleeping together in sleeping bags in the family room downstairs. My mom and sister got to use the guestroom upstairs. I was sleeping in a waterbed with the middle brother named Brian. He was the height of cool, the John Travolta of Ames, Iowa, except with a cheesier mustache and better hair. All three of these Italian brothers seemed to like me; at least they were kind to me. I was used to my older brothers who showed their love for me by repeatedly punching and torturing me. To be fair, my mom likes to remind me that they did save my life by pulling me out of the river when I was three or four. It is conveniently forgotten that they were the ones that pushed me in, but that is a story for another time. Brian pulled me into his room and showed me the greatest three things I had ever seen. He had a vinyl six-inch doll of a woman in a one-piece swimsuit that when you squeezed her tummy, her top would pop down and her boobs would shoot out. Also a pen with the picture of a shapely girl.  If you turned the pen upside down, her clothes disappeared.  They also had a whoopee cushion, that when sat on made a loud fart sound. Pure class. I thought, “This is what heaven must be like.” Every morning I would wake up to Brian combing his hair in the mirror in his room. He would look at me and say, “What do you think, little man?” He was referring to his hair, I would give him a thumbs up, and he would smile. They had cartoon books, Snoopy, Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, and the like, all over the house. Their dad told World War II stories. I was pretty sure he stole some of them from McHale’s Navy, but it made me dream of a world that lay beyond the snowbound tundra of Iowa. It was the greatest week of my young life. Then one morning, as Brian combed his hair, he asked me something I had never heard before, “Would you like to go to the mall with me?” He was inviting me to the mall. I had to double-check what he had just asked. No one invited me anywhere unless they could bind and gag me.  “You want me to go to the mall with you?” I asked not believing what I was hearing. Of course, he assured me. The mall was the greatest thing in the world in the late 70s. It had a toy store, a place that sold just caramel corn, a record store (Yes, at one time you had to go to a store and pay for music), a place filled with just video games with not a light on, a movie theater, and a bar.   Arriving at the mall, Brian smiled at me. I was walking on air. Here was the coolest guy I had ever met walking with me through the mall. He was a babe hound and I was his copilot. He pointed out a beautiful blonde walking towards us, said how fine she looked, and then strangely fell a step behind me! I then felt his forearm in my back as I tumbled butt over teakettle onto the hard tile floor. In a daze I looked up. Brian was kneeling beside me, asking me if I was all right.  In front of me, I was looking into this beautiful coed kneeling down to help me up. Next thing I knew Brian was telling her how I was his little brother, how he took me to the mall all the time, and was apologizing for my clumsiness. I was still putting two and two together, because I was sure it was Brian that had bumped into me. After they talked for a while, he told me he would meet me later at the video game place. I asked him for a couple of bucks, which garnered a dirty look, but finally he fished the money out of his pocket. As I was walking away, the light finally went on. He used me to pick up a girl. He had used me! Upon finally returning to his house, I ran to my mom, looked at her in the most earnest manner possible, and said, “Can I have a little brother?” 
Brian, The Ice Storm, and The Mall You might have heard the rumors on the playground. You might have actually seen the prognostications from the local news on the TV set. Three or four times a winter, every child showed their religious devotion, with their prayers and supplications on their knees, when there might not be school tomorrow because of a snowstorm!  The truly devoted would forego even the attempt at homework or studying for a test. You have the faith of a child. “Please, oh, Lord, let your wrath smite this area, for the godless teachers must know your glory. Two or three days of no school, that is all I ask. Amen. P.S. I still want the Evel Knievel Winnebago, complete with jumping ramps and extra motorcycle, for Christmas. I have faith in you.” God usually repaid your child-like faith in Him with you waking up, running to the window, and discovering not a snowflake had fallen. You were going to school. You learned the Almighty really did not like you very much. It was when snowstorms hit during the three or four weeks of winter break. Everyone had drafty houses and had to sit around the hot oven with its door open to give you a little extra warmth. The only thing worse was if, somehow, your father got trapped in the house with you. He always had these strange notions that you should be outside with him helping clear the sidewalks and driveway. I should have been under a blanket watching television like God intended. Invariably your older sibling would kick snow into your too big, hand-me-down, galoshes, which would then slide down to your toes, melt, giving you wet socks, and then refreeze. This allowed you to experience potential frostbite and to know the joys of what future diabetic nerve pain will feel like.  It was during a winter break, when I was in first grade, that we got an ice storm. Ice storms are God’s homage to his love of The Three Stooges. People slip and slide all over the place and end up flat on their backs if they are dumb enough to venture outside. Someone was dumber enough to be out in a car. They discovered the ditch and then a wooden utility pole. The result being my family did not have power for several days.   It was decided that we needed to find someplace else to live until power was restored. My father bravely announced he would stay behind, and let us know when we had electricity. It was a courageous thing he did, giving up his bickering children. He would be forced to live like a bachelor again, eat what he wanted to, hangout with his friends in town… Wait, a minute, he dumped his wife and kids off on someone else for an entire week? My father was the wisest man I have ever known. But who would be dumb enough to take a station wagon filled with annoying children?  We are distantly related to Italians, by marriage. They were a warm, loud, gregarious bunch filled with emotions and feelings. They laughed, were happy, filled with energy, had wonderful humor, and embraced life with feeling and passion. They were everything my Norwegian cultural heritage warned us about.           I want to assure my dear readers that none of my ancestors are Italian. I am almost completely Scandinavian, with a large icing of Irish mixed in. If you know history, Irish women enamored the Vikings when my warrior forbearers invaded that country. Scandinavians are manic depressants that use being judgmental, stoicism, and Ole and Lena jokes to get through life. The Irish are manic depressants that use alcohol and fighting to achieve the same goals. In other words, both are God’s people. There is also a small touch of French DNA in my lineage, but that kind of shame our families don’t like to talk about. My Italian relatives had three sons that were all in high school and college. The best memories of my childhood are the times with them boating and waterskiing on Little Wall Lake. They greeted us at the door, warm and lovingly. One of them even tried to hug me, but I have repressed that scarring memory.   My brothers were sleeping together in sleeping bags in the family room downstairs. My mom and sister got to use the guestroom upstairs. I was sleeping in a waterbed with the middle brother named Brian. He was the height of cool, the John Travolta of Ames, Iowa, except with a cheesier mustache and better hair. All three of these Italian brothers seemed to like me; at least they were kind to me. I was used to my older brothers who showed their love for me by repeatedly punching and torturing me. To be fair, my mom likes to remind me that they did save my life by pulling me out of the river when I was three or four. It is conveniently forgotten that they were the ones that pushed me in, but that is a story for another time. Brian pulled me into his room and showed me the greatest three things I had ever seen. He had a vinyl six-inch doll of a woman in a one-piece swimsuit that when you squeezed her tummy, her top would pop down and her boobs would shoot out. Also a pen with the picture of a shapely girl.  If you turned the pen upside down, her clothes disappeared.  They also had a whoopee cushion, that when sat on made a loud fart sound. Pure class. I thought, “This is what heaven must be like.” Every morning I would wake up to Brian combing his hair in the mirror in his room. He would look at me and say, “What do you think, little man?” He was referring to his hair, I would give him a thumbs up, and he would smile. They had cartoon books, Snoopy, Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, and the like, all over the house. Their dad told World War II stories. I was pretty sure he stole some of them from McHale’s Navy, but it made me dream of a world that lay beyond the snowbound tundra of Iowa. It was the greatest week of my young life. Then one morning, as Brian combed his hair, he asked me something I had never heard before, “Would you like to go to the mall with me?” He was inviting me to the mall. I had to double-check what he had just asked. No one invited me anywhere unless they could bind and gag me.  “You want me to go to the mall with you?” I asked not believing what I was hearing. Of course, he assured me. The mall was the greatest thing in the world in the late 70s. It had a toy store, a place that sold just caramel corn, a record store (Yes, at one time you had to go to a store and pay for music), a place filled with just video games with not a light on, a movie theater, and a bar.   Arriving at the mall, Brian smiled at me. I was walking on air. Here was the coolest guy I had ever met walking with me through the mall. He was a babe hound and I was his copilot. He pointed out a beautiful blonde walking towards us, said how fine she looked, and then strangely fell a step behind me! I then felt his forearm in my back as I tumbled butt over teakettle onto the hard tile floor. In a daze I looked up. Brian was kneeling beside me, asking me if I was all right.  In front of me, I was looking into this beautiful coed kneeling down to help me up. Next thing I knew Brian was telling her how I was his little brother, how he took me to the mall all the time, and was apologizing for my clumsiness. I was still putting two and two together, because I was sure it was Brian that had bumped into me. After they talked for a while, he told me he would meet me later at the video game place. I asked him for a couple of bucks, which garnered a dirty look, but finally he fished the money out of his pocket. As I was walking away, the light finally went on. He used me to pick up a girl. He had used me! Upon finally returning to his house, I ran to my mom, looked at her in the most earnest manner possible, and said, “Can I have a little brother?”