Or, how I became a paranoid who spends his time knocking down walls of his house and collecting assault rifles.
My daughter is 16 and a half. Yesterday I grudgingly agreed to let her ride in a friend’s car to go to a matinee movie. The thought scares me to death. We home school her because I think that the philosophy of our small school is you are either an adored, pampered, athlete, or you are garbage that will probably end up bad and knocked up and on drugs, and a drop out. My daughter is not a jock, but she is damn good kid, she likes computers and anime and video games, and I just don’t want her in an environment that treats her as a second class citizen. My wife went to a big school with something like a 5000 kid enrollment. I used to think that would be bad, but I have changed my thinking on this. The beauty of the big suburban school is that is seems like no matter what a kid is into, there is a peer group and a clique that shares the same interest.
She and her friends think I am an over-protective, paranoid, nut case (they are right – especially when it comes to my daughter. In fact one could throw the word extremely in front of each of those descriptors without fear of excess) Although compared to my neighbor I might not be the worst. My neighbor told me his daughter was out in her boyfriend’s car, in the driveway, “talking” for a little too long after coming home from a date. He put an end to the “talking” by walking out on his porch with his 12 gauge and letting one bang off up into the air. Apparently this is an effective way to break up “talking” and send a young suitor packing. I give it 9.8s for style points.
I have been thinking about why I am the way I am with my daughter. I know she has to be given the freedom to grow. Great advice a friend gave me is “you give them values and then you give them wings.” Still it is a lot harder when you love them so much.
And compared to the stuff I was doing at her age……
When I was a little younger than my daughter I stole a neighbor’s car and drove myself and four buds a couple hundred miles to a Kiss concert. It was an awesome all day concert with Foghat, Ted Nugent, (I think REO although the ole memory synapses are getting a little fuzzy) and Kiss was the headliner. This was right after the release of their Kiss Alive double album and we had never seen anything like the makeup and pyro-boom booms and stuff. What I remember of it was great. We drove 80 mph plus, had a garbage bag of homegrown reefer (not a sandwich bag – a garbage bag – pounds of it that we carried into this football stadium that housed the event). For those old enough to remember, we rolled joints out of Esmerelda papers, which were basically huge papers so you got a doobie about 6 inches long and ¾ inch around, and I don’t remember what all booze other than there were lots of empties flying out of the window as we zoomed down the highway. Seatbelts – please – for pussies; airbags, never heard of them. Insurance – ah well not really. And oh yeah, there was a riot and police action at the concert.
Although I don’t remember too much about the bands, one incident from that day remains etched in my mind. Every color, sound, and smell. At the open end of the stadium where the stage was, there was a break or opening for a vehicle entrance. The field was standing room only and the stands were pretty well full. It was between bands and we had climbed into the stands to sit with one of my pal’s brother and his girl. It was a gorgeous summer day, sun shining down. The crowd was starting to make rumblings about all of the police accumulating outside the stadium, but we were not too concerned about anything other than the bathroom lines at that point in the day. Then we became aware of a commotion on the other side of the arena. This guy was hanging over the wall by the vehicle entrance, about halfway up in the stands. He was screaming and flipping off someone we could not see but we got the idea who it was. We could hear him screaming “F*** You Pigs!” and other niceties at someone on the outside. He was really animated, just gong crazy screaming and waving the finger – both hands. Then he made his mistake. He ran and grabbed an armful of beers or sodas or cans of something and started throwing them over the wall at whoever he was yelling at. He threw about half a dozen, really putting his arm into the throws. We had a perfect view of all of this and were watching through a haze of pot smoke floating over the field and it all seemed pretty entertaining and kind of somewhere between a tv show and reality. Suddenly this guy stops throwing and takes off running. All I can surmise is that he must have beaned somebody pretty good because a second later a wall of police just exploded through the gate chasing this guy. They rolled into the stadium like a killer tsunami wave of cops. Just boiled into the infield and they were all looking for this guy. I do not think they were trying to just catch him, they were pissed, they were going to kill him. And worse and so obvious to the thousands of stoners watching all of this, the guy was running up the bleachers. The problem with running up is eventually you get to the top and then you are faced with two possible courses of action, and neither is real good. Take a big next step over the top, hoping to discover you have the ability to fly, or probably be beat to death by the cops chasing you.
And boy they wanted him bad! They were literally grasping and diving for this guy and missing by inches, knocking hell out of all the people sitting in the stands and trying to get out of the way. The guy was running through the crowd on the tops of bleachers, clearly buzzed out of his head, but just gliding past everyone like he was Teflon. One stumble and he was burnt toast. Nightsticked, Sapped, beaten and kicked, burnt toast. I remember thinking that there was no way anyone could run broken field like that, up the stands, over people, over coolers and bags and purses, and drinks and junk, on a dead run, and not take a header. Heck, I was having trouble walking on the bleachers without falling, but adrenaline is a great thing. Just as they were ready to nail him, literally in their grasp, no possible escape, this guy made a cut back down the bleachers. He made a cut that not one person in a hundred thousand could have made; He made an open-field missed-tackle cut that would make an ESPN highlight reel of the best halfback cuts of all time, a Gayle Sayers at the peak of his career cut. Except this guy was running through a crowd on the tops of bleachers and running for his life. A half a dozen cops made flying tackles of thin air and this guy ran back down the bleachers full speed untouched and into the crowd in the infield. From our seats we could see the crowd part for the guy like the red sea and then close back in. The last I saw of the guy he threw off his shirt and disappeared into the mass of people down there. I think he got away. The police presence was a little more apparent after this.
That was some day. So I look back on that now and realize how by much I beat the odds.
Of the four other guys with me that day, one I have lost track of. The last I heard he was doing ok but has left a trail of illegitimate kids and divorces. One guy was murdered when he was about 21. One guy is a habitual criminal and has spend half his life in prison, and the other guy we are not sure; he is either dead, on the run, or in a witness protection. I have heard all three theories. And somehow, I am an engineer with a security clearance and a 6-figure income. How the hell did that happen?
And she wonders why I am a paranoid, over-protective, psycho Dad?