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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Out On The Street . . .The Early Years

I didn't mean to ruin as many shirts and pants as I did as a youth. I generally respected my parents and the hard work they put in to dress me and pay for clothes and nice things. I appreciated the new school clothes and hot kicks for the feet that they diligently helped me purchase. But you see, I am a pretty clumsy guy. (I think that most people except for a small minority of gifted mutants are clumsy - I am brave enough to say it out loud. That is why sports, and especially extreme sports like hockey and car driving and winter sports are so popular - they delight us clumsy folks who have no chance of tackling the boards, hitting the ice, clearing the hairpin curve at top speeds. But I digress) I like to think that as a kid I was cool. Devious. Living a double life between Eagle Scout/church going angel and street hoodlum. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Well, that is not exactly true. Half of that is exactly the truth. And the other half, the street hoodlum, couldn't be farther from the truth. But it is the life I think I wanted as a kid growing up in a small town of 7,000 people. In a town the size of Craig, Colorado in the 1970s and the 1980s, there was really no opportunity to be a street thug. If I were to roam the streets past dark, past the standard time to be home, also known as "when the street lights come on," well, I just would have been rounded up by a friendly police patrol, or deputy sheriff and politely and in a pure neighborly fashion, dropped at home. That didn't stop me, however. I was born to run! I was born to rock. I was born to be out on the street. The problem, at least on the those hot summer nights of my high school years, was how to get out of the house. And this is how I ended up ruining so many clothes. You see, part of being cool and running the streets was to get out of the house. And I had this window in my bedroom. My bedroom was located in the back of the house, a good ways away from my parents and I thought it was the bastion of absolute secrecy. Take, for example, a hot July evening. A plan had been formulated earlier in the day and I was to join the crowd down at my friend's parent's laundromat. From there, we would hit the road in the Camero. Buy some beer, perhaps even some whiskey to mix in a Slurpee. I approach the window and begin my escape. Now let's take a moment and look at this window. For some reason, all the windows in the house are high up off the ground, about four and half or five feet. To get to the window, a chair had to be placed. Then the screen removed. It is a narrow window and no real room to just jump out. Don't think of this bedroom window as something that you would see in the movies, where someone like John Travolta would just slide open and enter to find a waiting Olivia Newton John. No, this window, on the outside, is about seven or eight feet from the ground. The plunge to the ground can be quite a shock. There was an old apple tree outside the window that a particularly spry person could grab and help brace the fall, but often as not, the tree limb would get caught on a pants pocket or a shirt sleeve and rip . . . there goes the wardrobe. One could also grab the utility conduit next to window, however there were two troubles with this plan as well: 1. Aluminum conduit can be quite bendy and may or may not be the cause of some electrical or other utility outages. (This is just a theory, I have no idea if hanging off a service conduit of a 1960s-era home can cause the sparking and the power outage - and I deny to this day any knowledge of such actions.) 2. It is also important to mention the propensity for the good old-fashioned finger squeeze that can happen if I were to shimmy up the conduit and get my hand caught between the pole and wall. That gray harmless motherfucker can really hurt and generally be counted on to rip a shoe, shirt or trouser leg. Well, regardless. Every exit seemed to result in a bruise, a sprain or torn clothing. But it was so important! Must I remind you that I was born to run! I was born to rock. I was born to be out on the street! So the July months passed. Summers went by. I rocked the night streets. Scrambling home, taking the same exit, now in reverse. Shimmying up a tree, traversing a conduit. Piling up lawn chairs and lawn ornaments to scramble upon. Kicking the walls. Bumping the window. Falling to the floor of my bedroom. I had returned and I had rocked. And no one was the wiser. Well, no one, except my sister. In the morning after a particularly drunken teenage storming of my window and my room, my sister the next morning just smirked at me. Hung over, clutching a cup of coffee and definitely worse for the wear, she just remarked to me that instead of waking her up every night when I leave through my window that I should just go out the front door. That is what she does. You see, as I was trying to live this movie-inspired lifestyle and take to the night, my sister was also out all hours. However she and her friend the Reverend Ed would simply just go in and out the front door. The shame. And next, I suppose, I should also own up to my dad asking me if I was ever going to repair the screen in my room - his way of letting me know that he also knew of my evening conquests and nighttime debauchery and just let it go on -it entertained him and was indeed harmless in a town of 7,000 people and a town where invariably word of an real wrongdoing would be sent back to him. I still think, however, that my way was much richer and full of a life that rocked. The front door? The horror. The horror.