I was riding down Walnut Street in Lewiston when I happened upon a young boy playing with what appeared to be an old curtain rod.

It was one of those flimsy L-shaped things but the boy seemed to have crafted it, through sheer imagination, into the best toy on the block.

For a little while, it was a hockey stick and the lad was up and down the sidewalk, slapping at a crushed coffee cup that served as a puck. In his mind, no doubt, that little section of Walnut Street was Madison Square Garden and this here was overtime of the seventh game of the Stanley Cup.

The next time I came around the block, the boy had transformed the curtain rod into some kind of hi-tech space weapon, which he used to cut down all the extraterrestrial interlopers that occupied the landscape of his mind.

A little later, the curtain rod was a baseball bat and it made a nice whistling sound when the boy swung it at the rocks, bottle caps and crushed cups he tossed to himself. Over the course of the next hour, it would also serve as golf club, old man cane and fencing sword.

All afternoon, the boy created adventure out of a bland household item a less imaginative person had likely tossed in the trash. Watching him, I thought about an ex-girlfriend who used to say, “You know, if you don’t thrill easy, it doesn’t happen often.”

Just never you mind what that girlfriend might have meant, uttering that line to me every other day. The point is that right there on Walnut Street I said to myself, “Self. You gotta be better about appreciating the little things in life because that’s where real joy is.”

A couple seconds later I thought, “Self, you’re an idiot. Have you forgotten about the shoelaces? The cat ball? The crushed cups?”

As usual, I was right. Although I may have many, many, many flaws in my personal character, failing to appreciate all the small things in life ain’t one of them.

Recently, I broke a lace on my boot. After all the customary swearing and throwing things, I went in search of new laces. All I could find locally, though, were wimpy little strings that would have no chance of holding up to my rigorous and muddy lifestyle. So I went online, found a pair for seven bucks and OH MY GOD! My life has been changed forever!

The laces in question are Miscly Round Boot Heavy Duty and Durable Shoelaces for Boots, Work Boots and Hiking Shoes. The suckers are reinforced with two inner nylon paracords and an outer polyester weave. They’re topped with the beefiest aglets you’ve ever seen, which means they’re tough as nails and won’t come untied every five minutes like regular, loser laces.

For the first three days after receiving the laces in the mail, I insisted on having witnesses around every time I tied them up because I wanted others to behold the glory of them.

“Wife!” I would shout at all hours. “Come hither, woman. I am about to tie my laces!”

If she wasn’t available or if she just plain refused to get out of bed to behold the miracle of boot lace tying, I would go out into the street and find a passing stranger to bear witness.

“You there! Old man hobbling across the street. Hobble back this way and marvel at my knot! Hurry on over now, or you’ll miss the threading of the aglets!”

Wicked excited about these laces, I am, and yet it somehow doesn’t quite compare to the matter of the cat ball.

I have this little ball made of foam and yarn that I got for the cats a while back. The cats want nothing to do with the ball, but I’ve discovered that if I run across the kitchen at a full tilt into the hallway, I can spin and try to make a cross-kitchen shot into the recycling bin. It’s turned into a really elegant game, Cat Ball. I’ve got rules and a scoring system all set up and I won’t hesitate to completely rearrange the kitchen to accommodate a round.

I’ll go tearing across the kitchen at 2 a.m., twirling like a ballerina to make a sweet overhand shot into the bin, and the celebrations get so loud at times, it’s punctuated by a certain wife slamming the bedroom door shut. Poor sport, that’s what she is.

Then there’s the military flashlight. Erma gerd, the military flashlight! I picked it up at Tractor Supply for $15, one of those GI-style lights that look like the top end of a periscope. With its angled head and flat bottom, the sucker can stand up on its own without rolling away like an ordinary, tubular flashlight. Tubular flashlights are yesterday’s news, bro.

I got so much enjoyment out of this light, I lived for a week in the crawl space beneath the house where it was just me, darkness and the replica Fulton MX991 to light the way. OK, not really, but I DID go out and buy three additional flashlights at Tractor Supply. I had planned to give them away as gifts, but nuh uh. Nope, these are mine.

I have a thing about paper cups, empty water bottles and plastic gallon jugs that float across the downtown streets like dirty phantoms. You call that stuff litter, I call it adventure — I like to run over the suckers with my motorcycle, and the deeper the crunching sound, the more excited I get. A simple Starbucks cup standing upright in the Colisee parking lot will fill me with a kind of glee normally reserved for little kids on Christmas morning. I’ll run that sucker down, savor the defeated POP sound it makes, and then circle back to admire my work.

“You shoulda seen the Starbucks cup I wrecked down at the Colisee,” I’ll tell my wife at dinnertime. “Bet they could hear that POP for five blocks.”

She usually drifts away when I start showing her the pictures.

Remember how giddy I became when I discovered the toilet light? Boy, I loved that thing. It hung inside the toilet and rotated through all the colors of the rainbow, which gleamed off the toilet water like jewels. I’d find myself hanging out in the bathroom even when I didn’t need to be there. “This,” I’d marvel. “This is what it must have been like to pee on the Starship Enterprise.”

I get the same kind of dopamine hit from fireflies, Kraft macaroni and cheese, wrapping paper tubes, and stuff I find at Dollar Tree that I cannot BELIEVE costs only one dollar.

Thrill easy? Yeah, I guess that’s me. That’s why I envied and understood the little lad on Walnut Street with his bent and rickety curtain rod. I was thinking of maybe going to Dollar Tree and getting a rod of my own, but there’s no time for that, my friends.

The Cat Ball championships are coming up fast, and man, I’ve got to get prepared.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. If you see him, ask him about his boot laces.


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