Universal Debate Club. Population: Me

This weather always stirs up some nostalgic dust. Not the rain, actually. It’s just this time of year. You know, the turning of the seasons… I’d say, oh, about a week or two before I resign to putting all of my bathing suits, Caribbean Soul t-shirts and multiple Surf Style jackets back into storage, while I suffer the colder months. Because there’s still an inch of hope that we’ll have an Indian summer… which we all know isn’t going to happen. And, why is it called an Indian summer*?

(* = footnotes = fancy!)

I loved the fall as a child, but for really peculiar reasons. For me, early September meant I’d get a new stack of old musty weird-smelling textbooks, a new friend or two (thank God for transfer students), and most importantly, a new Trapper Keeper- and a new lunch box. Score! Late September meant schedules and birthday presents, and the dissolution of the aforementioned “new friendships” I’d acquired earlier that month. Yeah. Everything is just “Fine and Dandy” the first few days of school… until you’re jumping the gun on a new friendship, suffocating them and requesting they participate in a “Murder Mystery Birthday Dinner Party” with your mom, dad and hamster named Teddy. Next thing you know, you’re bribing the “new kid” with stickers, tubes of Bonnie Bell lip gloss and Lisa Frank erasers just so they’ll keep their mouth shut. Kids!

When I was a kid I just wanted the simple pleasures… like prescription glasses, an impressive case of mono, braces and a retainer, a second round of Chickenpox, and to break at least one bone in my body by riding my bike into a wall- preferably my arm, so that I would get a sweet cast for tons of my friends (my parents) to draw all over with flowers and peace signs, and then sign their names in a variety of colors from my special “cast pack” of Sharpees which, consequently, I never did get to use. Never broke a bone. Go figure. Nevertheless, I was always prepared. The “cast pack” was a big rainbow pack of Sharpees, part of a Birthday gift one year that I’d refused to open. Because, in the event that I snapped my arm or leg or something else requiring a cast, I knew that the massive collection of colorful permanent markers would come in pretty handy. And I didn’t want to use them up or run the risk of letting them dry out. I especially didn’t want to wear out just one or two of the markers, leaving me with an incomplete set, and a potentially disgraceful misrepresentation of the complex and glorious color wheel- ON MY ARM.

Actually, that’s not true. I did break open the “cast pack” once. I recall having used it to design my Debate Club podium. But, to be fair, I used each color in the pack for an equal amount of time. Even the pink and purple shades, which I didn’t even need for my Debate sign. Instead, I took a few minutes to color with the pink and purple markers on a separate sheet of paper, so as to use up the same amount of ink I had used in the other individual markers. I was a quirky kid.

I also used the Sharpees to design the aptly titled Topic Box for my debates, a shoe box covered in white construction paper, featuring an open slot on the lid and a meticulously drawn American eagle (okay, it probably looked more like a hippo) speaking the words “Universal Topics! Caw!” via a star-shaped speech bubble. All four sides of the box read the words “Topic Box” in alternating red and blue ink. I assume my design scheme included excessive labeling as a precautionary measure, so as to avoid the possibility of confusing it with my Idea Box, an altogether different box. Because that would have been really embarrassing…

The Topic Box was filled generously and specifically with local and national current events (topics) exquisitely penned in a historical Secretary-type script by the hand of my very patient and politically-minded father, including light topics, such as: Union Wage Concessions, Restitution: Blood Money & Unjust Enrichment, and The Iran-Contra Affair.

Every Wednesday night I organized a meeting and scheduled a debate with the Universal Debate Club (population: me) in my room. My father advised me that placing the word “Universal” in front of stuff was essential when attempting to convey the weight and significance of certain things, i.e. Universal Glow Worms, Universal Bath Time, and taking a Universal Poop.

Responsible for pretty much everything but writing the topics, I was elected the Chair, the timekeeper, the adjudicator, and the only team member(s) for both teams. When the clock struck six, I was to blindly select a topic from the certified (by my dad) Topic Box. I sifted through the folded pieces of manila paper, each one a unique shape and seeming like some rare historical antiquity, appearing worn and slightly burnt around the edges (courtesy of my father and my imagination). I’d then run a line of masking tape down the center of my heavily carpeted room (I fell a lot), so as to create what my father referred to as the line of weakness. He told me that I should never stand on the line, and something else about apathy and tolerance. I forget. He also told me that every time I stepped over that line to speak my mind, I’d learn something new about myself. This, of course, resulted in my repeatedly jumping back-and-forth while reciting lines from the Labyrinth, determined to rapidly improve my intelligence and self-awareness… in the hopes that I might someday outsmart my sister. Plus, I’d often wondered why Goldfish crackers never ruined my appetite and was hoping to clear that up. Yeah. After about a minute of that I’d become dizzy and fall over. Thank you, special carpet.

Next, was setting up the podium I’d crafted out of the cardboard box from my sister’s Magnavox stereo. I attached it to my body using my Granddad’s old rainbow suspenders and a strap from one of my mom’s bags, but don’t tell her. She’s doesn’t need to know about that. I’m just saying… sometimes duct tape was involved.

…I can still hear my mom reprimanding my sister for the state of that purse, blaming the sticky duct tape residue on my sister’s wild lifestyle and disregard for other people’s belongings …and I can still hear my sister taking the blame, even though she knew I was somehow responsible for the sticky mess. She was always defending me. 

”At least I HAVE friends!” she’d often say.

When the debate neared, it was important that I chose one of the two debate hats. One red, one blue. The hats were necessary in distinguishing the two teams. I guess my running back-and-forth over a masking tape line-in-the-sand wasn’t enough to get the point across. And when I was ready, I would take a sip from my Dixie cup of water and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I’d thank my audience for coming (Universal Popples and my dad), flip my mother’s egg timer over, and commence to yelling passionately for two minutes straight.

After the time was up, I’d throw the hat down and grab the other. Pressed for time, I hustled to the other side of the masking tape, flipped the timer, and proceeded to yell forcibly about what I perceived to be the opposite side of my previously made argument- whatever that was. I rarely could remember. I just followed my gut instincts. I’d be surprised if I was even speaking English. Anyway, I’m sure it made no sense.

Hmph. And, I guess I’ve changed? Sure. But not that much, probably. My present autumnal feelings are heavily influenced by the ones of my past- and I still fall a lot. I also continue to argue a lot about anything and nothing at all, and frequently forget things… and make no sense. The only difference now is that I can maybe describe it better (debatable, I know. Hah! debatable– get it?!) , with the aid of a slightly more extensive vocabulary and my unique literary techniques… like my finely honed knack for lengthy haphazard explanations, constructing wordy and poorly spun stories surfeited with confusing analogies, anecdotes and metaphors… flooded with comma splices and a surplus of fused and run-on sentences.

*Indian Summer: it may have been a way of saying “false summer.” This is how the term Indian giver was coined for people who take back presents they have bestowed. Of course! Fucking murderous lying asshole European settlers.


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