Few people know I was in Little League and Scouts.
I was in Little League when I was about 8 because I thought I liked baseball, but it turns out I didn't like a lot of the people who liked baseball. Our team was pretty hopeless; I was inept with poor depth perception, we had two kids who cried all the time, we had a lot of no-shows (both teams), angry parents living through their kids, angry kids resenting their parents, and a coach who was nice, but obviously frustrated as hell with us. I only have a few memories of it, and I got cut out of the group photo because I was never told when it was. I missed a lot of games. My parents never came to my games, and I only did one season. Good thing I only rented the equipment.
I am not sure why I started Cub Scouts. Maybe because my mother knew I was an awkward kid, but my first "Den" was with a lot of older kids. They treated me decently, and I was with them for one year. I have to say I had a pretty good time with the first Den. But then someone started another troupe a little farther away, and I got transferred because they were closer to my age.
This Den was run by a squirrelly Jewish family called the Knasels (make your own jokes). Mr. Knasel was a great guy, but he had some job where he kept getting called away on the phone; something to do with satellites. This left Mrs. Knasel to run things most of the time, and she was very submissive and a bit whiny. They had two kids: David, who was a scout our age in the den, and Willy, a younger kid who really needed a beating. The meetings were in the attic above their garage, and in the summers it got real hot. Mrs. Knasel made us Kool-aid, but she never put sugar in it. I thought this was dumb for year until it dawned on me that giving sugar to cramped kids in a hot attic may not have been wise. Her own kids were really hyperactive and undisciplined.
We did stick to scout traditions, though. I can't say they slacked there. I went from Cub to Webelos with them. I got all my badges, did all that was required, and was considered a good scout.
But it sucked. First of all, Mrs. Knasel did a terrible job keeping some of the scouts in line, sometimes her own kids were to blame, and sometimes they were just going with the flow. We got left alone more than we should have. The attic had a lot of distracting stuff, and the reason I have a scar on the bridge of my nose was where I got hit by a rusty meat cleaver when her son was playing "Michael Myers" from that horror movie that came out in the late 70s, I think it was "Halloween." I had to have 5 stitches on my nose, 2 under my left eye. Luckily, they are almost invisible now, and my glasses hide the spot anyway. Another time, Mr. Knasel got into an accident on I-95. It wasn't his fault; some trucker fell asleep at the wheel, and slowly pushed us into a concrete wall, and the jackass behind us was tailgating, so Mr. Knasel couldn't slow down. Finally, when our windows shattered and the left fender started shooting sparks against the concrete, the guy behind us stopped (well, he kind of had to), and even helped us cross the highway to the shoulder until the police arrived. The truck driver just kept on driving...
My parents didn't allow me to go on camp-outs.
Scout meetings were pretty bad. A lot of chaos ensued. Some of the older Eagle Scouts were dealing drugs which depressed me, and after I got my "Arrow of Light," (only one of three in our whole troupe that year), I was asked by the troupe leader (some high community muckety-muck), "Are you going to join Eagle Scouts next year?" I asked if I'd be with the same people. "Of course!" I said no, and that was the end of that. I'll never forget that guy's face, he was stunned.
I had a real bitter view of the scouts until I was asked to help out with a camp-out when I was about 20. A friend of mine was a pack leader, and needed an extra body and eye for the weekend. His scouts were awesome. They loved me. I loved them. Too bad I got the flu on that trip, but at least I got to canoe down the Rappahannock, see lots of stars (they were so bright, you could read by them), and teach kids about fire and knives. Then I found that two people I really respect, Brad and ironkite, were Eagle Scouts.
If I ever recall a distinct lesson about scouts, I always recall what one scoutmaster said about fire. "Fire is like a woman," he said, "turn your back on her, and she'll consume everything and burn you." He was going through a bitter divorce, apparently. But damn if that still goes through my head with fire.
Later on, David Knasel became the neighborhood teen bum. Always wearing dirty clothes, looking half stoned. One day, when I was about 17, I saw him leaving Giant Food, and I decided to say hi and see how things were going for him. Before I crossed the street, two cars drove up to where he was, some men in suits got out, and threw him over the hood of the car. One guy started reading him the Miranda rights as they pulled stuff out of his pokcets. One guy looked at me gawking and told me unless I had business being there, to scram. So I did.