Reelin’ in the Years

I’m sitting in one of my favorite places right now, and the radio is playing Steely Dan’s “Reelin’ in the Years,” (c. 1972).

It’s interesting.  When I was in junior high school, when the song came out (or at least when I first heard it) I thought it meant enjoying the years.  Reveling in them.  Bathing in them. 

Now, from the perspective of 54,  I read the song differently.  It’s not about enjoying the time you’re in, it’s about storing up the time to enjoy.

So my question for today—do you look back and enjoy the time you’ve spent?  I think I do.  Some of the time sucked; some of it remains cringe-worthy, but for the most part I enjoyed it.

What do I remember?  Here’s a blast from 4th grade (or so):

I remember my first “enthusiast” bike.  It was a Columbia Playbike (OK, the name made me cringe) with a five-speed stick, a banana seat, and ape-hanger bars.   It was an orangy-gold in color, with a thick padded gray and white saddle supported by a seatpost and a sissy bar.  I rode it to my friends’ houses, to the local shopping mall (HarMar Mall in Roseville), and in “the valley,” a chunk of undeveloped land between West Owasso Blvd. (where my parents lived) and Victoria Street to the West.  There was a small spur road that went in from West Owasso and quickly turned to dirt, and if you follow it, it lead to “the canyon,” a sandy floor between sharply-sloped sides where birds made their home.

The bike looked a little like this when I got it.  I looked like this, too:


I remember customizing that bike with a ridiculously-high sissy bar, less comfortable but more colorful saddle and a set of grips to match, a speedometer.  Decals.  There was a store down near Lake Josephine, just off County Road D, that had (IIRC) Mad Wheels Bubblegum, which included stickers these were done in the style of the time (either by or in the style of Ed Roth), with characters like Rat Fink:

My personal favorite was The Mad Shifter, which you’ll just have to imagine.  You get the idea.  I will say that I do not now, nor have I ever, enjoyed bubblegum!

Also near there on Lexington was the original Sitzmark Ski Shop, complete with a truly tiny “bunny hill” for all of us tiny newbs in our lace-up boots and cable bindings (it was still a few years before CubCo step-in bindings appeared).  And down from that was the Dairy Queen.  This DQ was a small building with a counter in front where you could order whatever you wanted, but we always ordered “suicides,” Slushies with a combination of flavors that gave you a satisfying cold/sweet/weird experience.

And across from the DQ was a beach where you could see people giving themselves skin cancer (though at the time we didn’t know it) and the occasional boat or floatplane could be seen.  Up County Road D was Emmet D. Williams, where I attended 2d-6th grades.

My best friend Mike’s house was also over in that direction:  West Owasso to Arbogast to what I always thought of as the “new” neighborhood just East of Lexington.  When we were in (I think) 7th grade, Mike and family moved to Cambridge, MN, and I lost touch.  Still, I remember the Iron Butterfly poster in his room and his dad’s recording-studio basement.  And they had the first touch-tone phone I had ever seen!  Mike and I used to go to his house after school and watch Dark Shadows.

All of this was within bike distance.  That bike was my freedom, and one time, almost my death (details to follow, some day).

OK, guess I stowed away some good stuff after all!

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