Steve from Cottagers Confidential recently posted some pictures of Oklahoma on facebook. This immediately sent one of my brain’s filing clerks off into the archives, and sure enough, he pulled back some memories of me being 9/10/11 and making my own imaginary American football league. Don’t laugh, I’m not alone in these flights of oddness: Jack Kerouac did this sort of thing all the time growing up. Anyway, I used to have these notebooks and in them would be leagues of teams. I think they were inspired by college Football, then on TV in England (albeit at 4am) and much more interesting than the pro game because of the interesting place names, more basic uniforms and probably other things I can’t remember now. I was a curious lad and this sort of thing floated my boat. Anyway, I mention this only because I also remembered that my favourite teams in this league were Tulsa and Oklahoma City, who (within the confines of my notebook) must have had quite the rivalry back then.
Childhood experiences have been on my mind a fair bit recently. I’m reading Stephen King’s “IT”, which is a very childhood-centric book. I think about what Stanley’s childhood is going to be like quite a lot. I frequently ponder that our adult life is more or less anchored in this time, and that the things we did when young are the things that we’ll eventually return to. For my part I remember editing a magazine featuring a dog called pickles while at lower school. I could draw you pickles now. Here:
It was better than that – I used pens rather than MS Paint back then.
Now I my middle age (is 35 middle age? I suppose it must be) here I am pedelling a football magazine outside the stadium.
Which in itself is the realisation of a childhood dream. At the weekend Dad reminded me how we all used to support Liverpool when we were kids. In Bedford we had Luton to watch, and watch we did, but the big team of the time was Liverpool. We always used to enjoy, be thrilled even, watching Ian Rush, Kenny Dalglish and Ronnie Whelan doing their thing. From there I knew I wanted to be involved in football, and I always dreamed about having a season ticket somewhere. Geography always seemed to render this impossible, but when I moved to Tooting suddenly Fulham was (relatively) on my doorstep. It was a dream come true. Watching a team *every* week. Knowing the players so well that they’re somehow yours. I could never own Ian Rush or Kenny Dalglish, but I have seen almost every kick that our current squad has made in a Fulham shirt. That means something. I don’t know what, but the nine year old me would have approved wholeheartedly. He’d be thrilled, even.
Childhood fascinations with america have led towards many other grown up interests: baseball, jazz, california-based detective fiction (Chandler and MacDonald really), the music of the Grateful Dead (west coast again…), the work of writers like Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, the photography of Robert Frank… yeah, wow, Robert Frank. These things are all rooted in a deep seated fascination with America, or my early perceptions of America at least. It’s mind boggling really. As we age we change, we hang on to these little strands and then work with them to fit the life we now lead. America isn’t a place of wonder for me any more, but it’s a rich resource, pumping out extraoardinary things to be savoured when I’m ready for them (I’ve had lots of jazz records for years but don’t listen to them as much as I could. But their time will come. I think maybe when I’m 45. I had lots of Grateful Dead for a time, too. I’ve only just started to really listen to it. I just wasn’t quite ready. But I knew I would be.). Football isn’t a source of wonder, either, but it’s part of us, deeply so. Even last night, when I was sitting in the back row of the Putney End, my mind wandering, my eyes taking virtually nothing of the game in, I sat there feeling like king of the world. The buzz, the light, the shiny black empty seats around me and the shimmering green pitch in front of me, the gable along the roof of the Johnny Haynes Stand, the whole experience of being at a night game by the Thames. Then being jarred out of my dream by Clint Dempsey’s goals, not reacting, but smiling inside because Fulham are on their way again.