I thought that today, this being my brother's birthday, I would share a few of my fonder memories of growing up with Ryan "Roundball" Steans.
One of my earliest memories involving Roundball deals with a time when he was just a toddler, and I hoisted him up onto the moving, rubber railing on the escalator at Sears (or maybe it was Penny's- I don't recall). Mom was checking out at the perfume counter or something, and Ryan and I were standing near the escalator, and with just a wee little boost Roundball took flight and travelled up a two or three story escalator on his stomach, his pudgy little arms clinging to the handrail. Mom started kind of screaming once she realized what was going on (in her defense, Roundball was looking at potentially a three story drop if he had let go of the railing), and soon every employee in the store was watching as a smiling, untroubled Roundball travelled all the way up the escalator, only to be retrieved by some guy from electronics up on three when he got to the top of the ride. I'm pretty sure that I was filled with nothing but pried for my brother as I watched him travel all the way to the top. Who would have guessed that he could hold on so long? Anyway, no harm no foul, right? Wrong. I got paddled.
Another fond memory comes from the name Roundball itself. Growing up, Ryan was rarely content to be Ryan. At dinner, from the time that he was a very small child, Ryan regularly complained to my father about the mundanity of his own existence. And he came up with odd, alternate versions of himself that he thought might be a better way to go than the path that fate had chosen for him. He regularly bemoaned the fact that he wasn't black, or named Jesse, or maybe black and named Jesse. He told my father about how he wanted to join the Marines when he grew up because everyone knew that the Marines were tough and that the Air Force was full of sissies (my dad being an Air Force veteran), and on several occasions it seems that he professed a desire to grow up and do "real work" like Grandpa Johnson did down in the iron ore mines rather than sitting behind a desk all day like the Admiral.
So, like many suburban kids, Ryan played soccer, and after he had been practicing with a team for a few weeks we went to one of Ryan's first soccer games of the season (when he was still very young and in grade school), and everyone on the team, including the coach, is cheering Ryan on as "Roundball". My dad (and as I'm writing this, I'm beginning to realize what a patient man my father is) asked the coach why they were calling him Roundball, and the well-intentioned coach responded with something along the lines of, "Well, we know Roundball is just his nickname. We can call him Clyde if you like."
"Call him what?"
"Clyde. He goes by Clyde, right?"
When asked about the different names later, Ryan never seemed to think it was much of a big deal. My brother, somewhere around age 6 or 7, had already developed a set of multiple identities in order to cover his tracks and obscure his true identity, I guess in case he didn't feel like playing soccer anymore and decided to split. Or maybe he thought Clyde and Roundball were more interesting people than Ryan. I'm not sure, and he's never really cleared it up.
There are other stories.... in junior high or early high school Roundball and some of his friends put together a small comedy troupe calling themselves the Vegetable People. They recorded skits with video cameras, and I remember his friends coming over to the house with suitcases full of "hilarious" props, such as rubber replicas of severed limbs and various wigs. They would record videos for school projects that contained completely inappropriate, off-color material, including sexual innuendo and other decidedly non-PC material, and then they would turn it into their teachers and laugh and laugh and laugh when their grades came back and they got an A (the teachers would just be impressed that the videos mentioned the subject matter from their class, but, sadly, most of the teachers weren't clever enough to catch any of the jokes contained in the performances). Most of the videos were pretty damn funny, though.
Anyway, I could go on ad nauseum, but on this, Roundball's birthday, I just thought I'd share a little bit of the backstory on the person that I know as my brother. He's truly a one of a kind, nut, and he has always made my life far more interesting than it would have been without him.
MANY HAPPY RETURNS, ROUNDBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!