the kids are insane

When I was eleven or twelve or thirteen, my parents were freshly divorced, and my mother was barely scraping by on Markham with four kids. I remember knowing it was (relatively) hard times for us, and knew that some things we had to do without. But I was also a kid, with a kid’s insane view of reality.

I remember seeing a classified ad in some magazine, offering 640 acres of land in Canada for ten dollars. I must have sent off for more information, because I also remember reading a pamphlet that said, yes, the square miles are being sold by the Canadian government for ten bucks, but you the buyer have to agree to produce a specific amount of cordwood from that property yearly for a specific amount of years. I definitely remember my mother refusing to lend me ten bucks or cosign, despite the reasoning I carefully laid out: We could drive there every summer! It’ll be a vacation! We’ll chop down some trees for a week or two, then drive back home! I can hitch-hike! I know this guy! But there was no reasoning with her; she was a mule, unshakeable. I carried a grudge for weeks.

Eleven, twelve, or thirteen year-old kids are insane, and that’s important to remember. They have no real concept of odds, or luck, or even numbers. They don’t have a clue.

Kids grow up eventually. Come age sixteen or seventeen or so, most kids have sussed how the world really works. Because they never won a lottery or a raffle, or got invited to a chocolate ice cream eating contest, sanity arrives. It’s only one in a thousand kids, the lucky kid, that doesn’t get that.

So every once in awhile—in fact, once in every thousand whiles—a kid gets lucky to the extent that several unlikely, pleasant events happen to him as he grows up. He wins a thousand dollars by looking underneath his soda cap. His mother agrees to allow him to purchase a square mile of Canadian wilderness. That sort of thing.

That kid will be unbelievably clueless long after his friends have turned into adults. His understanding of reality will be childish (and therefore insane) much longer than normal. Why should it change? “The universe likes me.” Why make it complicated?

I didn’t win any “scratch n win” contests as a kid, if you don’t count the odd free milkshake or two. I mostly scratched n lost. But that’s the experience of the great majority of people, and it’s only the few away out there under the asymptote of the bell curve that didn’t share it.

I don’t envy them. Good fortune fucked them up at an impressionable (if not critical) age. Can a person recover from that?

That’s all I’m saying.

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