Imagination better than images when recalling goofs of youth
A while ago, I was talking with my old fraternity brother Hoopie. The thought occurred to me that there are very few pictures of either one of us or the rest of the guys from the four years or so we were in college.
The second thought was a heartfelt "Thank goodness!"
While computers and other technology are great, I don't envy the younger generations when it comes to social media websites such as Facebook or the camera capabilities of cell phones and other hand-held technology.
Whatever poor clothing choices these kids make, whatever poor judgment they exhibit, whatever mistakes they make in choosing friends and whatever else they might someday want to forget is there for all the world to see on the World Wide Web.
And it's there forever.
We have boxes of mostly black-and-white pictures of my family when my two brothers, sister and I were growing up, but they (the pictures, not my siblings) are kept in big plastic bins in the basement.
I don't have to worry about the world peeking into my childhood or adolescence. Heck, I don't have to worry about myself peeking into those formative and sometimes forgettable years.
Let's start with the most painful memories that are thankfully not preserved in video or online - my clothing choices.
We might as well get the most agonizing of these out of the way. This occurred during my days at West Virginia University, which coincided with the Disco Era.
I wasn't a sight for sore eyes. I was a sight that made eyes sore. The only thing that would have made it worse would have been if I had gotten a perm, which was also in fashion back then.
As it was, my fraternity party disco outfit was enough to make other partygoers' hair stand on end. I had a paisley shirt, opened enough to reveal a partly gold, mostly green chain, bell-bottom trousers and platform shoes, which added about 2 inches to my 6-foot-3-inch height.
To sum it up, I looked like I was playing the lead in "Frankenstein Goes Disco."
My childhood and teenage fashion sense could at least be blamed on my youth and my family. One of my brothers (who shall remain nameless to avoid a lawsuit) was also a flashy dresser.
Two of my favorites of his were a red, white and blue plaid sports coat worn with a purple ascot and a pair of orange-and-white-striped pants that reminded everyone of two pieces of Fruit Stripe Gum walking down the street.
But I was about the same when it came to style. My taste in clothes as a kid was so outlandish that the clothes look loud in black-and-white photographs.
I am fortunate that my choices of hairstyles are not preserved for a worldwide viewing audience. There was nothing too unusual when I was a kid, since salty baldies were in style. However, the shape of my head did encourage others to ask me to let my hair grow a bit longer.
I am most grateful there is not a web page featuring pictures of me with my late high school-early college period. Long hair was in style, but it made me look like an English sheep dog that got caught in a heavy rainstorm.
Speaking of gratitude for images of myself not preserved for posterity, my athletic prowess - or lack thereof - is also high on my list.
There is a photo of me posed in my Moose junior league baseball uniform holding a bat and looking as if I knew how to use it.
That is much more preferable than video of me in an actual game swinging the bat as if I were blindfolded and trying to hit a piñata.
I am also very fortunate that nobody could use a cell phone to take a video of me taking my one and only ride on a horse.
I knew that experience was doomed when I first walked up to the horse, which I had rented for an hour. Until then, I had always thought that a "horse laugh" was just a figure of speech.
When it took me a half-dozen tries to get into the saddle, I could swear I heard the world's first horse giggle.
The horse knew whom it was dealing with right from the start. I managed to coax it about 50 yards down the trail in the first half-hour. Then it strolled back to the corral and took a nap for the next half-hour.
All in all, it was not something I would want to share with total strangers, or even friends, on some social network site.
There were also a few years when I could have applied for a job as a test pilot at a brewery. Those days are far behind me, so it's nice to know that they will stay there.
But the best part about not having photographic or video evidence of my younger years is that I have to rely on my memory of those times.
And when the memory gets a bit hazy or is of something unpleasant, I can just make something up. Let's see a cell phone or computer do that.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)