“Them boys are going to get you in trouble.”
My sweet nanny use to say that about my pack of childhood chums all of the time. She was never wrong — they did get me into trouble. I also reciprocated. We were boys, bad boys, and we elevated stupid to a fine art. As an added bonus, we never really coped just how stupid we were. Ignorance was truly bliss during those days.
Those of us who survived, looking back, realize just how freaking ignorant we were. Those of us who survived look at our own children, cross our fingers, and hope that karma really isn’t a bitch. I’m 40 years old now and I hope that karma can be kind. I hope that something I’ve done in the years between 18 and 40 might cancel out some of the shit that I have coming to me. That I’m not going to have thugs and convicts on my hands as cosmic comeuppance. So far so good. I’m blessed with good kids (knock on wood).
We pulled lots of stupid stunts, both big and small. Some of us were Boy Scouts, a convenient cover for our evil. We could have pulled arson. We could have pulled armed robbery. We could have bashed little old ladies over the head for their social security checks. When the cops showed up, they would have taken one look at our scouting uniforms, our innocent looking and cherubic faces, and they would have believed anything we would have said. All we would of had to do is point in the opposite direction, shout “they went that away!” And off they would have went.
I was the Dr. Peter Venkman of scouts, constantly dodging and hustling my way through. I was an honored scout because I was good at bullshitting my way around adults. I was also always on the verge of being kicked out because there were a few adults wise to that fact. I was always bucking authority, yet, for some damn reason, always willfully placing myself under authority. It was a good way to keep banging my head against a brick wall. As I said, stupid.
The thing I remember the most about then was that I was so angry— so very angry. Puberty had dumped an extra dose of pissed off hormones in my blood stream. I was mad at the world. I was mad at *other* worlds. I use to flip off pictures of Mars. It was like a race of mad little stupid elves had taken over my brain.
In the time honored tradition of angst ridden morons, I was also confused. The combination of anger and confusion made me miserable and nasty. I was a punk rocker in a town that thought that rock music only consisted of Journey and Bob Seager. I was a Goth Rambo who hated Randy Travis and George Strait. I couldn’t reconcile myself to that environment, and was made to feel guilty because I couldn’t. I thought my peers were stupid, my parents stupid, and even my friends stupid. Why else would they back me when I’d do something dumb like dropping a pack of firecrackers into the toilet? Of course they were stupid. So was I —– I just thought that I wasn’t and that made me both stupid and arrogant.
It’s hard to pick out the dumbest thing we did. Somewhere in the top ten is the time we stole somebody’s sister’s car and went tear assing around town. We were all messed up on pot and moonshine and the car ended up totaled. We went to jail over that little incident (none of us were wearing our uniforms). Some of our fathers were highly placed. They pulled strings. All we got out of it was a community service wristslap. We were just lucky, crazy lucky that we didn’t kill somebody. If we’d killed ourselves that would have been just as well.
Some of us never made it out of adolescence or past early adulthood. My cousin and another friend committed suicide. Others fell prey to alcohol and drugs. The list shrinks more every year.
I survived because I changed. It seems to me now that many people do not progress past the age of 18. As the U2 song says, they’re stuck in a moment. Being stuck doesn’t shield you from the facts of life —- there are repercussions for your actions. You can hurt people very easily. You need to care. Caring cures stupidity. Caring makes you a real person.
A little bit before my nanny died, she observed me playing with my infant son. She knew what I’d done then, knew what I’d been through after. When I sat down on the porch with her, she held my hand and said, “you were always really a good boy.”
Not always, nanny. Not by a long shot. But I’m trying to be.