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My wife and I were standing in the cockpit of the Betty Jane II when the first blast reverberated through the marina: Blaaaahhhhhh. Blaaaahhhhhh. Bump! Bump! Blaaaahhhhhh. Blaaaahhhhhh. Bump! The bass notes were so loud, guttural and liver-quivering that they juddered my eyeballs. I looked to see where the disturbance was coming from and zeroed in on a fleet of Jet Skis, WaveRunners and Sea-Doos, all pulling into the dock over at the boat club. Each machine was piled high with late-stage teenagers. And at least one machine was also piled high with a stereo system that apparently, if given half a chance, was capable of blowing the windows out of the dockmaster’s office.
“Kids!” I gravely expostulated, while aiming a disgruntled, -darkly judgmental look. “You gotta wonder—you just gotta -wonder.”
The sentiment was completely in keeping with my occasional tendency to view with alarm what goes on around me. The tendency, I must admit, is not a positive one or even a semi-positive one, but it does pass the time and typically lifts me into a deeply gratifying, holier-than-thou state of mind, at least until reality and truth finally kick in. My wife often aids and abets this last part.
“So, you were never a pain in the rear at that age?” she asked, giving me an over-the-top-of-the-glasses look that, despite a brief spasm of resistance, soon escorted me back down the halls of time to my very own young and restless days in the Adirondack foothills, where my brother and I briefly dabbled in a distraction that was—truth to tell—way more outrageous than simply -hammering a marina with glass-shattering music.
We called it “Bottle Blasting,” a descriptive designation if ever there was one. And it originated with a white plastic Clorox bottle that just happened to be floating upon the broad Oswegatchie River that flowed past our house. We spotted the darn thing at the end of a duck-hunting adventure—it was just -bobbing around, beckoning alluringly, dead ahead, as we eased along in our outboard-powered jon boat.
What happened next was lamentable. For no particularly good reason, one of us (and to this day I can’t remember which), popped a couple of shells into a 12-gauge Remington 870 pump shotgun, lifted it to his shoulder and fired from the bow, scattering a pattern of pellets in such a way as to make the bottle fly uproariously into the air and whoosh further ahead. More shots were then fired, as adolescent fervor took hold. And soon, we’d invented a devilish little scheme that would test the patience of many.
It was simple, really. One guy would sit in the stern of the boat steering a slow, steady course toward the target via the tiller handle of the outboard while the other stood in the bow, rapidly aiming and firing, thereby continually blasting the bottle (BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!), keeping it aloft and jumping ahead with as much pizazz as possible. Both my brother and I got pretty good at the exercise—and the acoustics on the woodsy river were freaking excellent. In time, we cycled through many a Clorox bottle.
But the axe, as you’d imagine, ultimately fell. Bottle Blasting proved very unpopular with the neighbors, especially those
harboring concerns related to boating safety, gun safety, environmental responsibility and, last but not least, peace and quiet. So, the festivities ended the day a couple of people complained to our dad about what his sons were up to without his knowledge.
Remembrance, of course, is the stuff of revelation. And as I stood there in Betty’s cockpit, thinking back, I felt just a tad chastened, especially once the kids at the boat club had turned their stereo down. Wasn’t it just a little rich for a guy like me to get cheesed off over a little late-stage-teenage rambunctiousness? With nary a BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! in the mix? The answer, I’m afraid, was soon obvious. Even to me.