April 29, 2010

Private Eyes (Are Watching You)

When I was in second grade and attending an uptight baptist private school, I met the guy who would, for a significant amount of time, be my best friend. His name was Brent. Brent was hilarious. I mean, absolutely hilarious. And when the two of us got together we could sit in a room, not say a word, and just laugh hysterically.

One day I was over at Brent's spending the night. His neighborhood was magical. He knew everyone and there was a succession of little old ladies who were known by the food they handed out. We'd get on our bikes in the hot Houston summer and take a tour, stopping to see the Cookie Lady, the Candy Lady and the Popcorn Lady. After the tour, we dumped our bikes on his front lawn, sat and watched the neighborhood. And while we were watching, Mr. Z died.

Mr. Z - we never did learn the correct spelling of his last name so we made it up (more later) - lived across the street from Brent. He was out mowing his lawn that day when he fell over and died. Right there. Lawnmower still running, gradually cutting a swath of grass through his yard and, eventually, his neighbor's before it came to rest. Brent and I ran inside his house and called an ambulance. It was too late.

Instead of being something that scarred us for life, it became a mystery. Okay, so we later found out that he'd had a history of heart problems and had had a massive heart attack but our second grader imaginations just couldn't stop there. We suspected a plot. We became private investigators. And our first case was that of the dead Mr. Zzwyyxs (pronounced zuh-wicks-us).

I became John D. Copley, private investigator. Brent transformed into John F. Dickson. We were Copley & Dickson, Private Investigators. As the years (and yes, we did this for years) went by, our backstories were fleshed out quite a bit. Both Copley and Dickson were massively wealthy. We did the PI thing as a hobby. We had a vast empire of physical and business holdings which included an oil company and a vast compound which consisted of skyscrapers, underground tunnels and even underground trains. We moonlighted as musicians, playing covers of popular classic rock tunes (mainly by The Who). As I recall, we were also pretty tight with Charlie and his Angels, Magnum PI and Simon & Simon. The whole lot of us would meet and hand out assignments on the elementary school playground.

Eventually, I convinced my parents to pull me out of the baptist school which was growing slightly racist in addition to being uptight. I switched schools, encountered a whole new group of friends but Copley & Dickson didn't die. They just slowed down. Eventually, though, they took a permanent leave of absence from the PI world.

But not too long ago, my mom handed me a dusty old briefcase, one of my fathers from long ago that I'd taken as my own in elementary school. I opened it up. In it I found the Zzwyyxs file, the Copley & Dickson business cards we'd had made (Copley's were silver, Dickson's were blue) and a fake PI badge.

Talk about taking a trip back.

What was your favorite imaginative game when you were a kid? What pop culture games did you play?

Posted by Chris at April 29, 2010 7:00 AM

we were the rogues of rogasia... (no idea where it came from but it sure sounded cool) kinda in the realm of the man from U.N.C.L.E... we lived in a house that i have always believed was eventually going to be a 4 car garage after they built the 2 family house in front... so it was low... you could get on the roof from the fence... mom came home to all the rogues on the roof one day...we were somewhere in the himlays stopping some sort of espinoge... we also had the dead end street that was all fenced off (we said it was electric..) we made magic pens with code breakers and stuff... thanks for that trip down memory lane!!!

Posted by: theunicorn at April 29, 2010 7:30 AM

Nazi Hunters. My best friend and I, in our best German accents would hunt down the evil Nazi's in a farm field-sold-to-developpers across the street from my house. It was perfect because the field was in development, lots of pits and dirt mountains. We'd play it for hours. It was awesome.

Posted by: meanie at April 29, 2010 7:38 AM

I bet Brent would get a kick out of that too -- did you ever think of tracking him down?

Posted by: Karen at April 29, 2010 8:01 AM

I was a Barbie Doll girl, but here's the twist. I love the Beatles and my cousin loved the Stones, so my Barbie and Ken were Paul and Linda McCartney, and hers were Mick and Bianca Jagger! lol!

Posted by: Maribeth at April 29, 2010 8:11 AM

I always played pioneer in the woods behind my house. Our neighborhood backed up to state land and it was just woods for what seemed like forever. I would wander the woods seeing the foundations of old log cabins (fallen trees), avoiding the pond full of black water snakes (this was in Massachusetts so I don't think there were any!) and playing in the stream. It was soooo fun even though I was by myself most of the time! I remember when developers came in and started surveying some of "my" woods. I got so mad that I ripped out all of the stakes I could find. Boy, I bet that pissed some people off!

Posted by: Elizabeth at April 29, 2010 8:36 AM

Ha ha! It must be a time of year for that. My mom just brought me a box of junk that was mine from a million years ago. Hilarious how many bracelets I had with my name on them. Did I need reminding? I never realized I had such a hard time remembering my own name.

Posted by: Debbie at April 29, 2010 8:39 AM

Thanks for triggering a memory I'd totally forgotten: When I was a kid, I lived on a small crescent, which was full of kids. One of the big shows at the time was "Battle Of The Planets", a transplanted Japanese animated series, revoiced in part by Casey Kasem, who as I recall did a lot of cartoon voice work in those days. Anyway, we worshipped the show and somehow I came up with this game wherein I alone, or however many friends were around, would be "G-Force". The goal was to circumambulate the crescent, toy guns in hand, without being seen by anybody. This was no small task, as there were always people around. We snuck about, hid behind bushes and cars and cut through people's back yards. If you got seen, you were dead, and the game ended for you. You could, however, take out people with your gun after which it didn't matter if they saw you. It was sorta like LARP-larvae. Wow... memory lane, indeed.

Posted by: martin at April 29, 2010 9:33 AM

That's awesome. No wonder Mia is so dang creative in her own play.

Posted by: k8 at April 29, 2010 10:35 AM

I don't ever remember being that creative as a child. My sister would always get me to play in her make believe world. She controlled what I said in there and did.

I do remember my uncle had the coolest old recliner with a open top arm that had controls that didn't work (it was a big deal in early 80's) and we would sit in there and be pilots with our maufactured seatbelts and headphones. LOL

Posted by: debb at April 29, 2010 11:17 AM

Hm. There were only 2 other kids in my neighborhood and none of us were really into those imaginative games. I had a "fort" in our unfinished basement; my Dad put walls and a door on a storage platform that was already there. It was lit by a single naked bulb on a pull chain and furnished with carpet scraps and tchotchkes from yard sales. We couldn't stand up inside without bumping our heads. I don't know what we talked about; I wanted to be Harriet the Spy but I don't think I ever told anyone that. I also tooled around the neighborhood on my bike, imagining I was winning a road race. Imagination is not my strong suit.

What a great find you Mom made. Thanks for sharing the story.

Posted by: Brooke at April 29, 2010 12:21 PM

My best friend and I were super heroes. But not when we were young - this was in high school. (Yes, we were amazingly cool.)

He was Mexican, so he was Senor Loco Grande, and I was Really Really Sexy Man (a play off of Really Really Big Man from Rocko's Modern Life. As I said, we were cool).

We had an ongoing comic of ourselves that was co-written in our classes. I'd write an entry, then pass it to him in the hallway to read. Then he'd do the same. Eventually characters from our life came in and out of the stories as well: (ex)girlfriends, friends, not-so-friends.

Good times. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Posted by: Caleb Gardner at April 29, 2010 12:45 PM

Fun story Chris! My cousin and I always recreated the BoxCar Children books.

Posted by: Heather at April 29, 2010 1:21 PM

Now I'm going to have that song stuck in my head. I guess it could be worse - a Katy Perry song or something....
Anywho - A girl I was friends with had some small little bungalow's out in the woods behind her house. From what I understand years prior there was a summer camp back there. By the time we were kids though they'd been abandoned for years. We used a bungalow and painted it inside (we used spray paint) and then we set up folding tables and we'd bring all kinds of crap that our parents didn't want and we acted like it was our "store." We'd pretend to sell things to people. On occasion our Mom's would come down to our store and humor us and buy things. Fun for years!! About 5 years ago my friend came for a visit and we went back to the property. Most of the stuff we had there was gone, but there were a few memories still, and our paintings on the walls :)

Posted by: Rose @Dozenroses13 at April 29, 2010 2:50 PM

My friend Angela and I would come up with elaborate stories that involved us hiding out/escaping/needing to survive. We were experts at small campfires before jr. high (no, we did NOT have permission for this) and often took food from our houses to cook. We built forts, used the trees in our yards to travel above the ground (country girls, lot o' trees close together) and traveled through neighbors yards in an effort to Get Away.

As for pop culture, I loved playing Grease. A lot of my friends had the album and a few of us had seen the movie.

Posted by: Melissa at April 29, 2010 2:53 PM

I had nothing, NOTHING, even remotely close to that. Just a lot of girl barbies, conspicuously missing a Ken, up to the devil's business.

Posted by: Mr Lady at April 29, 2010 9:05 PM

I cannot even begin to tell you all of the stories...and you wouldn't want to give over all of the hours it would take! But as for pop culture influences on my childhood imagination, my friend and I would becomes characters in "The Big Valley" and ride our horses through the country righting wrongs. Considering we were technically trespassing in said country wasn't at all ironic.

We also liked to spy...created out own id badges a la Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Posted by: Lojo at April 30, 2010 7:40 AM

We used to pretend we were "spies" and pretty much anyone in the neighborhood was fair game. We would sneak around their backyards and make up elaborate stories about them and why they were the "bad guys." We also played Dukes of Hazzard a lot. Good times.

Posted by: Akofaolain at May 1, 2010 10:10 PM