Coming of age is never easy, regardless of what decade you grew up in. Today it’s gender-swapping, critical race theory, teachers indoctrinating students to think a certain way, to have a certain political point of view. Actual living and breathing adults think that it’s possible to somehow stamp out bullying of any kind. Children can access pornography twenty-four-seven for free on the internet, and you don’t even have to prove you’re old enough. Just as an aside, how old is old enough to watch five guys plowing an (hopefully, but probably not yet) eighteen year old girl through every hole imaginable for thirty to forty-five minutes? In my time, I had to rely on the stack of magazines not-so-cleverly hidden under my dad’s side of the bed, and wait for my parents to not be home, and hope I didn’t get caught looking at noody-books as we called them.
Sure, we had drugs. We could get a dime of weed for cheap and go out to a grove of trees and get high relatively easily. We could enlist the town bum and get him to buy us beer in exchange for letting him have a couple of them for himself. You could buy caffeine pills in a blister pack at the drug store, pop them out and rub the labels off and sell them for a profit in the high school boy’s room, that was always fun. I don’t recall having to show an I.D. to buy cigarettes. My mom certainly didn’t buy them for me, and I always had them, from the time I was in junior-high. Yes, we were unsupervised punks, and we lived wild and free, and we ran the neighborhood like Tony Soprano ran Newark. We just didn’t give a shit.
The eighties were great. All you had to worry about was showing up in school, doing just enough schoolwork to pass, and spend the rest of the time screwing around. I’ll never forget the daily trips to the boy’s room to puff fatties during the entire lunch hour, and then spending the next hour in study hall snoozing away. We might get bored and throw paperclips at random students trying to study. Losers.
I met “Mister Jimmy” around the time I entered junior high. He was a highly influential person, and I emphasize the word “highly”. The kid always had smokes, or weed, sometimes a bottle of cough syrup, anything to help him get through the day. What does a young, highly intelligent lad do when he isn’t being challenged by his teachers, is bored to tears every stinking day in a school system run by tax and spend liberal-crats? He causes chaos, picks fights, harasses teachers, pulls pranks, and gets high all the time. Of course, when he gets caught, he isn’t sent home, oh no, life can’t be that easy. Now they send you to the rubber room of all places. You know the place. This is where you sit in a cubicle all day long, facing the wall, with the teacher seated at his desk behind you reading the papers, all too eager to give you another day if you screw up. You ate your lunches in there, you were allowed to use the small bathroom twice a day, and believe me, you used your time in there just to have an excuse to stand up and stretch your legs for five minutes.
If you did not finish whatever assignments your teachers gave you before the end of the day, boom! You get another day to try again. I had this one teacher, Mister Moron, my English teacher, the guy I offended enough to get me in this god-forsaken place to begin with, would assign me sentences to write. SENTENCES!! For example, he once had me write a thousand times, “I will not tell Mister Moron to fuck off in class”. I would get these assignments every single day in the rubber room, without fail. I found this punishment to be completely unfair.
I was in that rubber room for so long one time, the most popular kid in school, Gumpy, started to feel sorry for me. He had a jacked up chevy van with a gorgeous mural painted on both sides, and plush interior. This thing was sitting on a monster truck 4x4 frame. His dad owned a tour bus company in town. He was a rich kid, and he knew how to party. He started picking me up at the bus stop every day before school. He always had girls and weed, lots of them, and different girls each time, and always a frisbee full of fully ground up bud on the little table in the back. There were several water bongs, enough for all of us on the table. Me and the girls would spend the duration smoking as much weed as we wanted while Gumpy drove us all around several surrounding towns before finally rolling into the high school parking lot. We were usually late though, and that meant I got another day added on to my sentence. Who cares, I was high AF. We had to hurry and close all the windows in the van, including the skylights before the vice-principal walked out to the parking lot to greet us every day. Looking back, I find it quite comical.
Eventually, my dad got wind of how long I had been locked up in the rubber room. That’s when he decided to do something about it. Dad had his moments, not many, but this was one of them that worked in my favor. He marched me into the vice principal’s office and had a talk with him. He relayed how Mister Moron, the English teacher gave me ridiculous assignments to spite me, and that this must be the reason I’m spending half the school year locked up like a damned dog and coming home from school wanting to kill himself. Well, Dad being Dad, he gave them an ultimatum, and I will leave that to your imagination, gentle reader, what that entailed.
Yes, I did get off on a tangent here, this story is about my time with Mister Jimmy, so let’s get back to it. I remember Mister Jimmy got his license to drive a year before me. Everyone in my class was a year older than me, or so it seemed. Truth is that my mom lied about my age and got me started in school a year early. She obviously knew what she was doing because I did alright…up until a certain point. I imagine she desperately wanted to get me out of her hair for a few hours a day.
Mister Jimmy was already driving a 1970 Monte Carlo while I still had a year to wait. We spent our time after school, and on weekends driving around in this old muscle car. Sometimes he’d take me out on some old back road deep in the woods someplace and let me drive it. We had a good time wasting all our money on gas, smokes, and McDonalds.
There was this one night when he had his girl with us. All three of us squished together in the front seat of this car, going through the drive-thru at Mickey-D’s. I had my spiked hair, leather jacket, ripped tee-shirt, and bright red parachute pants with a million zippers tucked into a pair of slouchy cowboy boots. I was a hot shit back then, or so I thought. I was pressed against the door to accommodate his girlfriend. I didn’t mind so much. She was kind of cute. Anyway, he decides to show off for her as we pulled out on to the street. He smoked the tires a little on take off and made a left-turn, fish-tailing it as he did so. Unfortunately, the passenger side door I was squished against gave way, and out I went. I slid on my ass down the road for about fifty feet because of those slick nylon parachute pants. My ass was a little warm, but I was otherwise unhurt, and there was only a tiny hole worn through in the back. His girlfriend freaked out and jumped out of the car and ran to my rescue. When she saw I was alright, she hugged me and kissed me about twenty times, relieved I was okay.
One night we drove around all night on back roads, just to see where they go. We found old dirt roads, dead ends, unsafe bridges and just things most people never get to see. I remember this night was late autumn, October most likely, we were driving along, and only the headlights lit our way on this lonely road. It was like driving in a tunnel the way the trees curled over the road so densely. Suddenly, we stopped for what we thought was this weird looking sheep dog standing in the road, staring back at us. This thing did not move a muscle, it stood perfectly still. It was eerie. I remember discussing with Mister Jimmy, wondering why this stupid dog wouldn’t move. Finally, we both got out of the car, and walked up to this “dog”. Well, gentle reader, it wasn’t a dog, it was a tree branch with some autumn leaves still clinging to it, that had fallen into the road. We both swore it looked like a dog, but when you got up close to it, it wasn’t a dog. It freaked us both out that we were both so easily fooled by it.
The day finally came when I got my learner’s permit and started driving. At first, my dad would take me out in his GMC pickup truck with a cap on the bed. We’d go on the back roads at the local state recreation area, Lake Dennison it was called. One night he made me drive in reverse for what seemed like a couple miles down this narrow dirt road in the woods. He wouldn’t allow me to use the mirrors, because he said the registry inspector who gave the driving test would not allow it either. He had me do a few three-point turns, just until I had it mastered. He didn’t realize that Mister Jimmy had already been letting me drive, he just assumed I was a quick learner.
I finally got my driver’s license, but you weren’t allowed to drive after dusk, or midnight, or something, I forget now. I didn’t care. My mom let me borrow the ’76 Ford Granada four-door, and I was like, “Yahoo, let’s party!” I picked up Mister Jimmy, and a couple other punks we managed to befriend along the way and acquired us a case of Budweiser and put it in the trunk. We each took out one “longneck” bottle and cracked it open and started off on a night of back-roads and beer-drinking.
We had only been on the road a few minutes when I noticed the blue lights in my mirror. “Oh shit, I’m getting pulled over!” I looked around at my friends and all their eyes were big as saucers, frozen in fear, not knowing what to do. I tried to hand my beer off to the guy next to me, and he just sat there shaking his head. I knew if I had this beer on me when the cop walked up to the window, I was dead. I thought my life was over. I was going to lose my license, my parents were going to kill me, and never trust me again. I had no hope at all.
We sat there for what seemed like ten minutes, and the cop never got out of his car. I remember asking, “What’s he doing?” and my friends were guessing he was running my plates through the computer. It was agonizing. I felt like a man on death row being marched to the electric chair, and they are taking their sweet time doing it.
Finally, without warning, the blue lights turned off. I was confused. I said, “Hey, he turned off his lights!”
“Oh, well that means you can go.”, was the answer I got from Mister Jimmy.
“What? Really? Are you sure?”
“Yeah, just go man! Just put it in drive, and pull away, you’re good.”
I nervously put it in drive, and drove away, trying not to look too anxious about it. I looked in the mirror as I was headed down the road and saw the cop bang a u-ie and go in the opposite direction. I had to piss so bad my back teeth were floating. I couldn’t understand why he just let me go. He didn’t even ask to see my license or my registration. To this day, I still don’t understand it. I’ve been stopped many times in my life, and I’ve never had that happen again, not once. Looking back, all I can say is, God was watching over me that day. It’s the only explanation.
In our adventures exploring the back roads, we found ourselves in that old Granada again, just me and Mister Jimmy. We decided to drive around in the sand pits near the highway. This was the place all the four-wheelers and motor-cross riders went to do their thing. This was no place for the bimbo-box I was driving that day. I took it slow, and was nervously navigating the obstacles out there, trying not to bottom out or do any damage Dad might notice when I brought the car home. All the while, Mister Jimmy egged me on. We came across a little stream of water, and I could see some rocks poking out of the water. I saw that the trail continued on the other side of the narrow stream. Mister Jimmy stuck his head out the window and said I could make it if I steered clear of the rock. I thought he meant the one visible rock, but there was another one I couldn’t see. He said to give it some speed and go through with confidence and don’t let up or we’ll get stuck in the sand.
I trusted Mister Jimmy, though I never knew why, I just did. I did what he told me to do, and all seemed find until “BOOM!”, we hit something solid, a rock hiding under the water, and came to a dead stop, but then somehow the car slid over the rock, and we made it to the other side. Mister Jimmy went face-first into the windshield and smashed it pretty good, and then he slumped back in his seat and moaned, holding his face.
The windshield looked like it got hit with a baseball from the inside. I put it in park on the other side of the stream and got out. Mister Jimmy was examining the cut on his forehead that was now starting to swell. I crawled under the car and looked at the damage, and my heart sank. The whole front end had a huge rock-shaped dent in it, and I knew this would be hard to explain when my dad found out about it.
After making sure Mister Jimmy was okay, I drove the now-wobbly Ford Granada out of the sand pits. It was a slow, rickety ride to drop off Mister Jimmy, and then to my house. I pulled in the driveway, and parked-ever-so-close to the garage door, which was set away from the house, in order to keep my dad from seeing the damage to the car. I knew he’d see it, I just wanted to avoid the inevitable for as long as possible.
My Dad got home from work, and the first thing he said to me walking into the house was, “Hey stupid, why is the car parked so close to the garage?”
“I don’t know, I just felt like parking over there.”, was all I could think to say about it.
He nodded doubtfully and turned and walked outside to go have a look. I remember watching him from the kitchen window. He shook his head when he finally saw the windshield, and at first that’s all he saw. He came inside and he was calm, thankfully, but still looked mad. He was always mad. I told him I hit a rock that was sticking out in the middle of the road on a road that was under construction in the area, and that I had foolishly decided to drive down it anyway. He seemed disbelieving at first, but somehow he bought my bullshit story. I knew if I told him I took Mom’s car into the sandpits, he’d probably “disappear” me like he did to most of the pets we had growing up. I was genuinely scared of what he might do to me. The next day I had to tell the same bullshit tale to the equally unbelieving insurance man over the phone. I got a nice surcharge on my car insurance from it.
The last outrageous tale I’d like to relay to you is the night we almost totaled my Mom’s Chevy Citation. We had a good-sized drinking party in the basement of Mister Jimmy’s parent’s house. There was a terrible snowstorm happening this night. It was no night to go anywhere in a bimbo-box like the one I had. We got pretty lit from all the drinking games we were playing and decided to go get some McDonalds. I was hesitant at first, but it didn’t take much effort to convince me to drive to the next town to get some cheeseburgers.
We piled into the Citation and started down the road. The road already had a couple inches of fresh snow on it, and it hadn’t been plowed. The road he lived on was very hilly, and where his house was, it was on the longest of all the hills on that road, and we were slowly going down it.
I got behind this slow-poke in front of me, the driver was brake-checking every two seconds. I was trying very hard not to hit the brakes too much because that would put us into a slide. Unfortunately, the car in front of me brake-checked one too many times, and I was forced to try and slow down. That’s all it took. The car went into this slow three-sixty while still moving straight down the hill. I must have had difficulty controlling my emotions because I remember laughing hysterically as we slowly spun around, while my friends were getting all their “Oh-shits” out. The car finally did leave the road, and settled into a deep gully on the side, and the tire popped.
We all got out and surveyed the damage. Thankfully, the only apparent damage was the popped tire. Still, I was freaking out, I knew if I brought home another damaged car, my Dad was really going to kill me and stick me in a shallow grave somewhere. Mister Jimmy was quick to find a solution. He said this kid named “Musty” had a garage down the road, and if we can just get the car there, he might be able to fix the tire for us for free. So, the four of us managed to push the car back out onto the road and headed back up the hill. There would be no McDonald’s this night.
We got to Musty’s house and woke him up. He was really kind to us that night, because he pulled the wheel off and brought it into the garage and put it on the tire-changing machine. He was able to fill it up and rebalance it and we soon had it back on the car, good as new. We drove back to Mister Jimmy’s and slept it off the rest of the night.
The next day, when I brought the car home, my dad went outside to look at it. By this time, it was routine for him to check to see if I broke anything. This time he spent a bit longer than usual, and I was confident he wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong with it. We did a good job for a bunch of drunks.
Finally, he comes back in the house, and he says, “Did something happen to the car last night?”
“No!”, doing my best to appear insulted.
“Come take a look at this!”, he said as he motioned for me to follow him outside. By now, I was getting nervous, but still maintained my nonchalant smirk as if nothing was wrong.
He walked over to the car and squatted down, looking at the tire. It wasn’t the same tire that popped and was reseated and re-inflated, oh no. It was the other tire, the one on the back but on the same passenger side. He pointed to the tiny little pebbles wedged in between the rim and the tire, and asked, “How’d that get there?”
I replied with my best dumb teenager expression and said, “I dunno…”
He asked again, “Did you do something with the car last night?”
I lied with the straightest face I could muster, “No, we hung out in the basement and played cards all night, honest!”
He accepted my answer, but he never really believed me either. He would bring up the subject on occasion by saying, “I still think you did something to the car that night, you just won’t tell me!” That was the extent of it though. Once again, I got away with it. I was a good liar, and it kept me out of trouble once again.
I could share many stories of harrowing adventures of my misspent teenage years, but for now, I will end this here. As you can plainly tell, I somehow managed to survive my time running with Mister Jimmy. There are some things I am not ready to divulge just yet, but I may someday. Just not today.