The Thrill is Back

Words by Sloane Citron

Photos by Scott R. Kline

I’m thinking about getting a fish tank. Nothing major, just five or ten gallons, enough for a few guppies, maybe a quiet blue gourami, perhaps some cardinal tetras. Oh, and of course, a small catfish and a loveable kuhli loach. And a couple of snails. Lots of live plants with a good substrate base and some interesting rocks. And now there is LED lighting. I’ve seen some YouTube videos where people have created really beautiful tanks, far more interesting than anything I’m used to seeing.

I’m also thinking about getting myself a Honda Monkey mini motorcycle. I want the yellow one. It looks like a lot of fun, though I worry that I will buy it, bring it home, and it will just sit in my garage, along with the convertible that I rarely drive. But I can almost smell the bike, its gasoline mixed with oil and the distinctive odor of new rubber tires.

I’ve read that this happens. You get some years on you, the kids grow up and create their own families, and suddenly you want to revert back to the stuff of your youth, the stuff that brings back sweet memories and reminds you of what it was like to have your whole life ahead of you.

As a child, after one of our after-school football games, my neighbor Dick Smith brought me into his home and showed me his three aquariums. I was immediately hooked by the activity of the fish and the noise and smells of his setup. Dick was breeding several of his fish and showed me a school of guppies that had just been born. He promised me some of them.

Within six months, my basement was a hotbed of aquarium action. I had seven tanks filled with everything from angry cichlids to angel fish to gouramis to guppies. Since it was a time when my parents were getting a divorce and my mom was leaving for another city, the workload of caring for all of those fish kept me preoccupied and distracted. I would go down to our basement, put on the latest Beatles album, and take care of my fish. My weekends were spent cleaning out aquariums, a task that took a lot of time and energy and left no time for wallowing.

Dick and I would go to fish stores to look for new fish and visit other collectors to trade, buy and sell fish. Though my variety was large, my favorites were always the guppies. My hobby had started with them, and I had strong memories of my first live birth of babies. Guppies have a sweetness to them: they don’t fight; they are colorful and happy; and they are easy to breed.

When my father started dating a woman who would become my stepmother, he knew he needed to curry favor with me. And so he did the unimaginable for an orthopedic surgeon who swore such a thing would never happen: He bought me a Honda 50 minibike, in yellow, that was all the rage among my friends. With a full tool kit and a bit of experimenting, I was able to take care of that bike and loved tinkering with it, cleaning it and making sure it was always in perfect shape.

There was an alley and open lot behind my home, and I cherished riding there in the rocks and weeds, shifting the gears and running over potholes and tree limbs, the slight taste of danger giving me an adrenaline rush. My friends and I would illegally ride all over town, on sidewalks, the alleys and the streets. The small motorcycles made us feel mature and powerful and gave us a taste of manhood.

And so now, it is no wonder that my mind drifts back to those heady times, fueled by endless YouTube videos of people creating incredible fish tanks and of men riding the new adult version of the Honda 50, called the Honda Monkey. At night, bored and wondering what is next, I think of having a sweet little fish tank with maybe just a few colorful guppies, and I dream of getting a yellow motorbike that smells of gasoline and rubber tires. I want to experience the thrill of baby guppies and to feel the wind in my face as I race around town. I want to feel the exhilaration of my youth, of time forever, of nothing but possibilities.