Ah, was there no better feeling than getting off the school bus on a Friday afternoon? Another hard week in the books from hitting the books and nothing staring at you but two days of nothing to do. I would step off ‘big yellow’ and take in a big lungful of suburban air. Not quite the same as fresh mountain air but nowhere like polluted city air. Depending on the season the air could smell of fresh cut grass, burning leaves or honeysuckle vine. But the only thing on my mind was my anodized blue, two wheeled ticket to freedom.
Once in the house I would quickly change clothes, have a small pointless argument with my older brother and grab my Diamond Back. I knew the others were waiting for me so my disagreement with Greg would have to wait until I came back for dinner. Surely by then he would realize that Star Wars was far superior to Superman and Batman. Han Solo had the Millennium Falcon, Batman had what, the Batmobile? Big deal. Clay would meet me first since he lived across the street. He rode a Webco, not a bad bike with its Curb Jumper fork and loop tail rear. Mike would already be waiting on us on his Murray. He was still in elementary school while the rest of us were mature middle schoolers. While he was a few years younger than the rest of us he was taller than all of us. And finally, Jay would ride down on his chrome Diamond Back. Yep, we both had Diamond Backs but Jay’s was the top of the line, while mine was mid-grade. Jay was the ‘rich kid’ in the neighborhood, which was always a little odd since we weren’t in what anyone would consider a rich neighborhood. At one point his dad actually owned a Porsche. Which stood out like an exotic sore thumb among the pickup trucks and station wagons at the community pool parking lot.
The plan was simple, ride bikes until the street lights came on or someone got hungry and bailed. We would terrorize the streets of Wyndham, talk smack to each other at the storm drains because everyone knows that the truest friendships are based on insults, and finally separate and head home for dinner at the very last minute.
Friday night dinner was special in it’s simplicity. I looked forward to it more than any meal of the week for the very reason that it wasn’t homemade. Back when you were a kid homemade didn’t have the same connotation it does now. No homemade meant it was inferior. I craved store bought and processed in my youth. Homemade was cheap, store bought was fancy. And the peak of store bought in my family was frozen pizza.
I would come in the house starving and I could smell the pizza cooking in the oven. I would collapse on the couch in front of the TV, the Muppet Show was already on. What an awesome way to start the evening. My brother would appear from the back of the house at some point, brain still reeling from the realization that Luke Skywalker had a freaking laser sword while Superman only had a cape. He’d call me some stupid name only eight graders would get and therefore lost on me and join me while we watched as Steve Martin was the special guest on this week’s show. We could at least agree that Steve Martin was funny. Just as the Muppet’s were saying their goodnights I would hear the distinctive sound of the oven door opening. The spring in the oven door made that same sound the screen door spring makes when it stretches out. That was the only indication to us, the non-cookers, that the food was ready to come out of the oven. My mom never used the oven timer, not sure if it was a religious thing or not, but she refused to use it. She would just ‘know’ how long it took to cook something. She was usually right but we suffered through more than one burnt loaf of French bread because of it.
As we gathered in the kitchen when the pizza had cooled down enough to eat we would hear the opening piano trill and the narration would begin, the words were such a welcome sound on a Friday night. And on cue, in unison, my brother and I would look at each and say, “Mr. McGee don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry”, grab our plates and run back into the living room to take our places in front of the TV.
Poor Dr Bruce Banner was on another quest to find the answers he needed to end his life as the rage induced Hulk. But the part my brother and I looked forward to the most was when he did get angry and Lou Ferrigno would appear. Wearing the same ripped pants that never seemed to match what Bruce was wearing prior to changing into the Hulk, picking up utility poles like toothpicks and the backs of cars so the wheels would just spin allowing him to capture and then toss, in slow motion, this week’s offender. All would end well for whomever Dr Banner was visiting that week, but not for him. He would throw his coat over his shoulder, stick out his thumb and resume his search for, well what was he looking for exactly? I mean the Hulk was him, he was the Hulk. I still can’t recall. See at least Star Wars makes sense. But he gave my brother and I another week of adventure and something for me and my friends to act out all of the next day.
Now as far as pizza goes, it wasn’t good. The pepperoni was tiny little dices of artificial meat, the crust had the consistency and thickness of a saltine and I’m sure it was chock full of gluten and other chemicals that are now banned. But it was heaven on a Friday night. Watching the Incredible Hulk and eating store-bought, I’ve never felt richer.
Travis Hicks - Contributing author
Travis Hicks was born and raised in Marietta GA, and with the exception of a very brief period of living in Denver CO has lived in metro Atlanta his entire life. A childhood filled with playing outside until way after the streetlights came on, being an expert on the original Star Wars trilogy and his induction into the Front Yard Football Hall of Fame has produced the bon vivant that is Travis Hicks. Travis developed his palate for true southern food by way of his mom’s cornbread, his dad’s mashed potatoes (and knowing to never let the reverse to ever occur). Also adding to Travis’ culinary expertise is knowing that Barbeque is a noun and never a verb.