They were young, rebellious, and eager to taste the electric side of life. They were anxious to dive into the colorful, ultra-violet lights, and laugh their way into the psychedelic hours of an early following morning. It was just before evening and the sunset changed the summer sky into different shades of orange and purple.
The green grass behind the playground of the elementary school was littered with four teenage boys, lying on their backs with uncontrollable, ear to ear smiles, and laughing in unstoppable laughter.
Across from the school grounds, the town’s water tower began to flash its red lights at the top of its oval-shaped peak. Around the light blue body of the tower was a deep blue stripe with the town’s name, “East Meadow,” in painted yellow lettering.
The head of the tower poked the belly of the clouds and stood out in the middle of town. Below was a fenced in area with official cars and trucks owned by the town and used by the employees of the local water district.
And as the sky gave into evening, the four boys laughed about their friends that tried to climb the steel-rung ladder, which carried up the side of the support structure, and led up to a catwalk that surrounded the bottom of the tower.
As they continued to laugh, clouds of pot smoke lifted from the boys and a bottle of Jack Daniels passed between them.
There was no one to save them from themselves and no one to stop them from running wild in the streets of their suburban neighborhood. To them, nothing was more important than the rush of adrenaline, their music, and the bizarre laughter that comes with experimentation of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (or LSD) which they mixed with local bags of commercial weed, alcohol, and several pills of Ritalin, crushed into lines, and snorted into their noses with rolled up dollar bills.
To the four young men, the risk meant adventure and their dangle at the edges of sanity was worth it all. The four of them felt most alive while teasing the fingers of death, grinning at their own spectacular downfalls, and pointing their middle fingers at their parents, the authorities, and anyone who opposed them.
They were at the age when consequences did not seem real. The fear of tragedy was mediated by the desire to rage and feel mad; the thrill of insanity was more genius than threatening, and in the small town, slightly untouched by the inner-city problems, slightly unaware, and mostly free of severe, police activity, four teenage boys dared the line of accountability, and howled through the otherwise quiet town.
Leaving from their starting point, they walked from Seventh St and made a right onto Prospect Avenue. They passed the Meadow Dairy on the corner of Prospect and East Meadow Avenue, and then they weaved through the side gate of Prospect Pool.
The neighborhood had its share of different cliques with different gathering places. There were the kids that hung around “The Stores” on Newbridge Rd, and then there were the kids that gathered in the playground behind Barnum Woods Elementary School.
Then there were the kids that hung around Prospect Park.
During the day, families attended the pool at Prospect. People filled the basketball courts and tennis courts, as well. Even the handball courts were filled.
However, the Park Kids sat on the cement-molded benches, wasting away the summer days and running around the bicycle racks that were next to the tennis court.
No one ever expected the string of events. Everything was a laugh, and everyone was willing to experiment, until one thing led to another.
Perhaps some of the kids thought they would always be young and wild. They believed there would always be a tomorrow, or a way out of trouble.
No one believed the outcomes would be what they were.
To some (like the four teenage boys) their behavior was just something to kill the boredom. The wild nights were a way to howl back at the world, which seemed to be misfitting, and awkward.
Their madness was their way of answering the establishment; it was their voice to counteract the insecurity and take control of things they could not change.
This was their rebellion. This was their way of shouting back, but painfully unanswered, this was also their cry for help.
And when the plague of cocaine demons and dope-sick zombies fell through the cracks of their semi-protected world, the age of innocence disappeared.
Eventually, the cliques began to break apart, and as for the four teenage boys, it was not long before the momentum of their sickness turned them from simple, mischievous boys, into street junkies on the prowl.
This was the entry point into addiction…
The year was 1989.
And here we are now. It’s 2014
I heard two parents expressing concern about the drugs in their school.
One woman said, “These kids are on heroin now!”
I have news for them….kids were on heroin then too.
I see these kids today, living exactly as I did. Their clothes and style may have changed, but the sickness of addiction has not.
Many of them are like I was.
They don’t listen and they think they know the system.
Parents seemed to have lost their leash; they gave away control to a politically correct format. They point the blame at other children and learning institutions, but they never point the blame at themselves.
This April 1, 2014 marks my sobriety date. I’ve been sober since 1991.
Part of this blessing is the gift of sight and understanding. The other part is the curse that many of my friends never made it, and I had to watch as others I cared for struggle to find sobriety.
I say this to the parents of today: Aware yourself. Get educated.
Learn what your children do
Unplug their I-phones and their X-Box.
Create rules (Don’t be afraid)
Talk to them. Take them outside instead of letting them sit indoors.
Keep them active.
Listen to them and learn.
Understand that behavior is only a symptom and not the problem (at least it was with me)
Know that tough love works better than enabled love, and above all else, do not give in to manipulation.
Perhaps more of my friends would be alive today if this happened in their house….