A Young Chris Barclay
Perhaps an article isn't the best format to list out the features characterizing my childhood. I guess, since it is 3:25am on this fine Monday night, I will spare you the extensive details for a future podcast or New York Times/ Vox interview.
- I built tree forts. This started in 5th grade, and I kept a journal of my activities and thoughts from that time. Occasionally I'll re-visit it and wallow in its personal value for a long while. I did that today (thus this article.) Back in the day, we'd collect tennis balls and store them as currency, or treasure, and we'd hold these big airsoft gun wars with other neighborhood kids.
- I played drums and saxophone. This started in 4th/5th grade. I played music at a Rock/Blues/Jazz BBQ Joint called "Maddy's." It was real hip, and I would hang out with the high school kids. I was annoying, and I don't know why they were ok with me being there. I got pretty good at music, but quit due to a jealousy of my older brother.
- ok that's pretty much it for now
Today I remembered a childhood book. I couldn't recall the name of it, but I remembered a part of the plot distinctly. The name, as I found out an hour ago, is Roxaboxen. It's all about childhood imagination. These kids go out into the Arizona wilderness and find a bunch of wooden boxes and white stones laying around, cluttered. They pick up the stones and make their own "houses"—plots of white stones in a rectangle shape—and roads. They make a town, and call it—get this—Roxaboxen. They ride around on horses and forge wars. They do whatever they want, pretty much. The book ends where the kids grow up, but they never forget about Roxaboxen. One of the grown-up-kids re-visits Roxaboxen after 50 years and finds that it's still there. Roxaboxen is described as a "special place," that has probably been around much longer than any kid, and will be there long after the kids are gone.
A well-kept secret of mine is that I used to use my imagination a lot as a kid. I'd run around in my backyard holding a stick or a canoe paddle or some badminton rackets or drumsticks or something and pretend I had magic powers like I could control fire or ice or water or rocks. I had this entire world where I was the most powerful warrior and I'd just run around and invent enemies to take down. I constructed an entire reality for myself. The best part was its secrecy, and its infinite possibility. I was deathly afraid of letting other people into it—and I've only told 2 people. But I guess if I'm writing this article, it means a part of me realizes that other people must have experienced a similar childhood. That I'm not a freak. There's something to be said about holding onto childhood-developed anxiety and its conflict with imagination. Playing in the backyard, just me running around casting spells and diplomatically resolving international trade disputes with a battleaxe, is one of my favorite childhood memories. The more I grow up, the more I become aware of the world I live in. Yet simultaneously, my imagination, my ability to slip away—possibly as a distraction, but more likely as a zen form of mental and psychological catharsis—and just be oneself completely for a while, fades more and more.
I realized this a little at Atlanta's annual DragonCon, where people dress up and cosplay and go downtown to hear fan panels and buy merch and just in general be themselves and have a good time with people just like them. The nerd community, the anime community, the losers who probably don't know how stupid they look. But I'd argue it takes a courage that most people cannot muster to go into downtown Atlanta and be themselves, even for a second. I dressed up as Dr. Horrible from the eponymous musical-sing along blog. I got some pretty strange looks taking the Marta transit system downtown. But once I got there, I found some people I knew from school, and they had found another group, and we sat down and played Cards against Humanity and it was the first time in a while where I was a part of a community of teenagers where I felt no repercussions for being myself around. Theatre, of course, is another. But right now it's a little tenuous, not doing the Fall show and all.
The product of this (alongside my recent thoughts on community and imagination and intelligent, serious art) comes out in the form of legacy. Throughout the entirety of my time in high school, the sense of obligation to legacy has persisted. The idea that I want to be remembered. I want to lend the future kids of that highschool a feature to better aid them in personal self-actualization, whether that comes in the form of theatre or creative writing or seeing a note on a wall or in a textbook about some obscure essay or Basquiat-esque truth and thinking "who the fuck highschooler wrote that, and when, and why?" and try it themselves. I've never been one for breaking a rule, although I did steal around 14 wheels from the school, give or take, because of kleptomaniac tendencies. That's another story.
Too often I find myself driving aimlessly downtown, searching half-heartedly for a coffee shop that's still open late at night. The term "coffee shop" is ruined by the fact that it's affiliated with Starbucks and uggs™ and the word "hipster" and laptops and white earplugs with those long white Apple™ cords and that everyone's got their personal white Apple™ charger sprawled on the ground and nobody's talking to anyone else and any eye contact is just darted and temporary and the floor smells like scented soap and everything's eerily sterilized like a coffin, or I guess the tools a coroner uses to cut through dead bodies. It's all affiliated with the death of childhood, and the corporate growth of an industry marketed to people who don't have enough time to care what their coffee tastes like to realize how pumped full of sugar it is or how appealing it is to solely our most basic human senses. That food can be complex like music or art. But I search for a coffee shop because it's late and I need somewhere to go to write or pretend to write or pretend to read but really just fuck around holding a drink or a bad coffee and waste time. Because going home is pretty worthless if the next day you can't wake up and read or do anything productive.
. .. is a good way to look at the very real adult ennui someone faces as a part of the daily routine.
There is a tea shop somewhere nearby I go to sometimes. It's not too well known and they don't have flashy food options. They barely have an online presence. It's good to go and read, just like back in the day when I'd jump around and imagine I was emperor of the world. Except now I'm imagining that years can be subsidized to corporations to alleviate national debt.