Back in the sticks, we kids all had heroes. Mean Joe Greene turned us on to Coke, f'rinstance. Bruce Jenner had us heaving birch-branch javelins until we realized that Wheaties kinda sucked. Little Davey up the block had it bad for Hondo, the leader-guy on S.W.A.T. And in my tree-fort, God's name (and the password) was Robert Craig Knievel.
(Hey, c'mon. This was before I found out about the domestic abuse and the felonious assault, o.k.? I was ten. Gimme a break.)
It took two Christmases, but I eventually wound up with the temporarily-helmeted bendy-doll, and the van, and, obviously, Evel's crank-up Harley Sportster that somehow persevered, despite about fifty death-leaps off the roof.
(Sorry, Mom. That's what really happened to your roses. I figured they'd grow back faster…)
Of course, as undersupervised kids in the boonies, we copied our idols religiously. We Fosbury-flopped over electric fences into three-haybale faux ProPits. We rescued hostages from each other with our BB guns (though why Davey always had to be the one tied up, I don't wanna speculate). And I piloted my banana-seated Schwinn over & off whatever seemed Kinevelesque. Riding lawn mowers, our German Shepherd ("Stay, King! Staayyy…") and a cliff out in the gravel pit, though that particular wreck left me Knievesquely-concussed.
(Sorry again, Mom. That's really why I was dizzy & throwing up when I came home from Kevin's house. Mrs. R's Shake-n-Bake caught a bum rap.)
Anyway, 90% of Americans own cell phones now, but I'm really glad there weren't any back when I was squaring-up to launch my Sting Ray over the cesspool behind Mr. Cotton's trailer park. Imagine what Mom's check-in call from the restaurant would've sounded like:
"Hi, honey. Gotta work late. What'cha doin?"
"Just about to sky my bike over old Leonard's poop ditch."
"Oh, Lance, no! Don't!"
"But Mom, everybody's already here. Tim sold ten tickets! We've made five bucks so far!"
"Lance, no! That's a cesspool! You're gonna get infected…"
"Aww, it's o.k. I'll make it. We found a car hood, so the ramp's perfect! And Tim's helmet fits great. I got gloves on…"
"You're going to ruin your new shoes!"
"Nahh. Besides, stupid Don Jackomino's betting five bucks I won't even try, plus ten that I won't clear it if I do."
"… Wait… You're betting money on this?"
"Heck, yeah! Twenty bucks total, minus two for the helmet."
"… Uh… well… Pedal fast, kiddo. And text me right afterwards."
(Actually, that sounds exactly like the talk we had when I was packing up for law school. Hm…)
Calls like that would've sucked worse than Bruce's Wheaties. I mean, how could we ever've become neighborhood heroes, if our parents had been able to call & forbid our hijinks before suppertime?
Anyway, whenever I think about nutty old coots and untreated sewage, I think of one annoying dirt-sucking tool: Hoover. Not the vacuum (though that was clever branding) -- the FBI Director, who denied the Mafia even existed until 1957, when about, oh, sixty-leven mob bosses were rounded up by the locals near Apalachin, New York. Yeah. J. Edgar Hoover. (Real first name: John. Went with "Edgar" instead. eeesh…) You know, Clyde Tolson's spouse.
Instead of fighting crime like we paid him to, Edgar busied himself ordering his newest agents to peek through windows, and tap phone lines, and dig through garbage behind the homes of genuine American heroes like The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior.
Think of it. Martin couldn't get a decent bus ride (much less a taxi) in Montgomery, yet from the clinker in Birmingham, despite Don Hooverleone's machinations, he was able to scrawl a few lines (probably on scarce t.p.) and change the course of the country. Of the world, really.
But Edgar? With his power? He dumpster-dove. His files on MLK alone eventually topped 16,000 pages. (Not those "pages," Mr. Foley. Down, boy.) I dunno who supplied the dollies, but on our dime, this dander-inhaler's big move was to threaten to expose Reverend King as a "sexual degenerate." (Haw! - ed.)
These days, the Electronic Communications Protection Act of 1986 (which only covers Fred Flinstone yelling at Wilma) needs updating. Otherwise, today's FBI (read: Hoover's former lunch-fetchers) will continue to be able to track the exact location of any cell phone, sans-warrant. Si, se puede.
There's been one hearing already. Call Congress (if you dare). Or write, like the ACLU did. 'Cause if nobody does, well… I have no idea how our future heroes will make it.