For the record, I had a perpetually awkward and embarrassing childhood. Big head, big glasses, dressed by my mom, and so bad at sports that it’s a wonder I survived past the age of 5. It’s bad enough that it’s carried over into my teenage years and now young adulthood, but the sheer power of just having occasional flashes of memories from the ages of oh, about 6 or 7, until I was maybe 17, tend to leave me crippled and drooling on the floor, a babbling mess that regresses to the mental age of 4.
Now, that’s not to say that not to say I can’t mine the horror show for a good time. Quite the opposite. Actually, get enough whiskey and cheap wine in me, and all of a sudden, everything’s funny. Especially that time my dad found my porno stash. I know, horrible and blatantly misogynistic, but hey, I was barely a teenager, what do you expect? I generally tended to be guided by every bodily function OTHER than my brain at that age.
Of course the really stupid part of the whole thing was that I’d actually tried to hide the magazine under a stack of skateboarding and heavy metal magazines on my dresser, thinking that no one would ever dare disturb the delicate balance of my room. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. I wandered into my room one day after school and all of a sudden everything was different, the magazines were up on a shelf and surprise! No sign of that precious and forbidden publication I’d oh-so-cleverly concealed beneath issues of “Transworld Skateboarding” and “Metal Edge”.
I panicked, but what was I to do? Run and ask my parents “hey, you guys come across a nudie mag in my room recently? I think I lost one.” HELL NO. Never mind the fact that I was raised to be a “good kid” and not the kind to indulge in hard drugs, smoking, vandalism, and pictures of naked women. So I did the only logical thing, I sat down and started reading comics with the stereo blaring. Surely the smooth tunes of the first Rancid album could sooth the pounding of my heart in my chest, threatening to burst through my ribs like a chestburster from the Aliens movie.
“Oh, hey dad.” I said as he walked into the room, an unimposing man who taught me to ride a bike, play baseball, “cook” by burning shit on the barbeque, and other manly-man stuff.
“Hello son of mine, how goes it?”
Before I could answer however, he threw a package down next to me, wrapped in a plastic bag. Actually, it was a vaguely magazine-shaped object, in a plastic bag from the supermarket.
“Learn to hide things better next time,” he said before walking back out. “OK?”
My heart stopped. Like, literally stopped pumping. Blood froze in my body, and yet I somehow managed to squeak out “o-o-okay…” before the floodgates burst and my heart almost jumped out through my mouth.
I like to think Dad was more amused by this than anything else, because at least now he knew I had a semi-normative sex drive, the common & only moderately repressed kind that most teen boys have.
So, what could possibly top that? How could the shame of having your stash of sexual paraphernalia found by a parent ever be topped in the scale of life’s embarrassment division? Well obviously, you’ve never gotten busted skateboarding by a cop.
I was 16 I think, and obviously at the peak of my radical career. I listened to the Suicide Machines and Black Flag religiously, I had a heavy metal girlfriend, and had managed to avoid both a loitering summons as well as a confrontation with an uppity McDonald’s manager. No one could stop me, and, in my mind, most certainly not some goddamn donut-chomping cops out to bust some Philly kids skateboarding.
Never mind that, about this time, the city of Brotherly Love’s campaign against sidewalk surfers was about to hit its glorious “$500 fine and up to a year probation if caught, not to mention we take your board” peak. Fuck that noise, I wanted to shred!
Don’t hate, I actually used to talk like that, even to myself. “Shred”…jeez.
Which I did, for a brief 5 minutes, tops. Dragged to Philadelphia for a family get-together, I thought that the very least I could get was an hour to myself, to go skate. Shit, the Brotherly Love and their stores that all close at 9 pm owed me that much.
Picture it. The scene, Love Park, central Philadelphia. The time, 3 pm, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The perpetrators, about 30 kids, including a dork from New York and with some guy who was high as hell and had a baggie full of weed and a flask in one hand. We’ll call him “Lucky Bastard”. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute.
I pushed off, I felt alive, I felt free, I felt the wind blowing around me as the utter beauty of…
In an utter panic, I froze. All of a sudden, Lucky Bastard shot by me, board in one hand and his awesome stash in the other. I was shaken awake and I attempted to follow him, figuring I could blend in somehow. Maybe hide my skateboard in my pants, I don’t know.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting. Why do I call this guy Lucky Bastard? In evading the police as we ran, he jumped off a ledge 8 feet, fell on his side, and jumped up, swooping up his stash-bag (first, I noticed), his board, and then continued running, dodging through traffic oblivious to the honks of car horns. Me? I jumped down as well, and attempted to stroll away, as if it was perfectly natural for me to be walking the streets of Philadelphia with a skateboard under my arm next to a “NO SKATEBOARDING $500 FINE” plaque.
“Hold it right there, kid.”
Damn it all to hell.
Over the course of the next ten minutes, an interesting conversation took place.
“Do you know what you were doing wrong?”
Damn straight I did, you dumb pig.
“The signs didn’t mean anything to you?” he barked in an accusatory tone, the kind a neighborhood asshole must regularly employ against the Jehovah’s Witness’s who ignore the NO SOLICITATIONS sign.
Of course it meant something to me, asshole, it means you’re a fascist pig. Don’t you have any drug dealers to frame or something?
“I thought it was OK, I mean all those other guys were skating.”
“Wrong!” I heard from behind me. Oh shit, another one? I turned and saw another officer of the law standing above me on the ledge I’d jumped down from. Like fucking ninjas, man.
“Ok, let’s see some ID. So, New York, huh? They don’t teach you respect the law there?”
Only to overturn cars and throw Molotov cocktails at your pig ass, sir!
“You know I can take your board for this, right? You want that? You want a ticket too? Do you?”
Go ahead, try and take it, you scumsucking amoeba, get your rocks off bullying fucking kids. Come on pig, try it.
“So am I gonna catch you here again breaking the law?”
I could see the window of opportunity closing here, barely held open by every time I’d sang along to “Police Story” and “California Uber Alles”. I could feel it in my brain. I’d be back here every weekend cop, thrashin’ and trashin’! I’d skate every day if I could, knowing how much aggravation it brings to you. You can’t do this to me! I know my rights, pig! You think you can bully me with your fancy fucking uniforms and cars, your handcuffs, and batons, and guns…
“No, no sir.”
I could feel every ounce of balls I’d managed to try and scrape together just implode, right then and there. And the headlines in my head already screamed out “TEENAGE RENEGADE FELLED BY OVERWEIGHT, BALDING COP AND HIS YOUNG, HIP, BUT STILL LAW-ABIDING PARTNER! YOUNG SOCIOPOLITICAL RADICALIST UNABLE TO REACT, HAS HIS PUNK ROCK CREDENTIALS REVOKED. MORE ON PAGE 3.”