Yesterday, after a friend read one of my essays she told me this: “Well, that was unusual; but you’ve always been pretty unconventional.”

I thanked her for the compliment.

But it jogged something in my head, and it was time for another trip down Memory Lane.

I was always a good kid; obedient, respectful of authority, always did my homework and would read ahead in my textbooks; I was a quiet and geeky kid who was also into comic books.

But even with all that going on, deep down I was also quietly a bit subversive.

I remember on one occasion in Miss Maravic’s fourth grade class seeing a reel to reel tape recorder for the first time (this was a long time ago). Miss Maravic brought it to class one dayand had each of us say a few sentences into the microphone. She would play it back so we
could hear what our voices sounded like. She told us the recorder would be there the next day and our assignment was to find a poem we liked in order to read it into the recorder.

The next day, when it was time to read my poem, I picked up the microphone and recited a poem from a kid’s book of humorous poetry:

Old King Kong was always doing wrong
Always doing wrong was he
He broke his pipe
And He smashed his bowl
And he beat up his fiddlers three
King Kong was a gorilla, you see. 

I could tell Miss Maravic was not amused, but she didn’t say anything. But she did bring the recorder to class again, with the same instruction to choose a poem to recite. Little Isaac took this chance to recite another poem.

Twas midnight on the ocean
Not a streetcar was in sight
The sun was shining brightly
For it rained all day that night
‘Twas a summer day in winter
And snow was raining fast
As a barefoot boy with shoes on
Stood sitting in the grass. 

Miss Maravic wasn’t happy. She looked at me like I owed her money or something.

I don’t remember many particulars about being a wise guy the rest of elementary school or  junior high. I did very well in school, got great grades and often set the curve. But I was often insolent as well and it put me in the unique position where sometimes I was teacher’s pet and
class clown at the same time. (The box next to misconduct interferes with class work was usually checked off on my report card. But I always had great grades). 

In my junior year in high school I had either a stroke of genius, or maybe it was a stroke of weirdness—I’m not sure which. I’ll let you decide.


Mad Magazine used to have a running gag, where the word potrzebie would show in backgrounds for no reason at all: scrawled on buildings, trucks, magazine covers and more .It seemed odd and mysterious; they never explained it but it caught my attention, and it gave me an idea.

A lot of the time I was the first one to show up for Mr. Redler’s Spanish class my junior year.  I would write POTRZEBIE in big block letters on the blackboard; After a while it drove Mr. Redler crazy. He didn’t know who was doing it or what the heck it meant. I finally told him just
before graduation. I haven’t thought about that one in a long time. (Potrzebie is an actual word in Polish, I found out later)

One night in my senior year I was out driving around with my buddy Craig. We spotted a huge outhouse laying on the side of the road just outside of town. We stopped and maneuvered it into the back of his pickup truck—we had a plan for that outhouse. We were going to leave it on the front lawn of our crosstown rival high school. After we spray painted derogatory slogans all over it we dropped it off at the school in the middle of the night.

At the beginning of that same year the two of us came up with an ingenious scheme: a fake raffle. We collected a lot of money, but never announced a winner.

During the course of the school year we used the money to buy multiple kegs of beer and hold big keggers (keg parties) outside of town, for which we’d charge and make the money back and more. At the end of the school year we held the biggest kegger of all at Crystal Lake, with
somewhere around 20 kegs. We didn’t charge anything for that one and the party lasted through the night and far into the next day. That was how we planned it back at the start of the school year: get hold of a lot of money to finance parties, make more money along the way,
then pay everybody back with a big blowout at the end of the school year.

My college years were when I absolutely lost my mind, being rebellious. I’ll spare the particulars, as I would be here the rest of the day typing and give myself carpal tunnel. I’ll just mention that in my senior year I had a pie assassination agency, I called Pie In The Eye,
where people would pay me a fee to hit somebody of their choice in the face with a pie, and in public. Every mission was successful. It climaxed with the university president getting pied at a public event. There were photos and a mention of the event on a nightly national news broadcast.

I’ll skip over the years between the end of college and going through a stroke. I will say, though, that although I never got in trouble being a schoolkid, in the real world, my smart mouth led me to become this hemisphere’s leading expert on how to get fired from decent

Now, I told you all that so I could lead up to living with the aftereffects and managing life after a stroke.

I took that streak of rebelliousness in me and mostly went my own way with my recovery. I’ve done things against medical advice, things that made sense to me, and I ran with them.

Not supposed to read? I read.

Stay off my feet as much as possible? I walk almost an hour just about every day.

Use a walker because I’m a high fall risk? I have never used a walker and I’ve only fallen twice, but those two times were because I tripped over something. Happens to everybody.

Physical Therapy? Out of the question.

Speech therapy? Nope.

I follow medical advice for the most part, but there are things I’ve never felt applied to me and my individual situation. I’ve refused to baby myself. All my life I’ve known where the boundaries are and I’ve always pushed them.

Tell me not to do something I feel I want or need to do, and unless you give me a good reason not to, I will do it.

Bet me I can’t do something and I’ll probably take it as a challenge and do it.

Exploring boundaries and limits all my life is helping me get my life back together after a big stroke. I think recovering from a major stroke and getting on with my life is just a bit easier after a lifetime of moving the goalposts and setting my own boundaries.

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab and, also, welcomes reader comments. Email him at Read more articles by Isaac here;

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.