When I was around the age of twelve, someone thought it would be a good idea to throw snowballs at passing cars. And of course, I followed along.
And of course, I threw a snowball at a car that stopped at the stop sign near Peters Avenue. This led to a large angry man leaping from his car, catching me, and shaking me around like a ragdoll.
I am not sure if the punishment fit the crime, however, I did learn a valuable lesson. I learned with each action there is often a reaction. I learned about accountability and I never threw another snowball at a car after that.
But the youthful mind is a strange thing. Youthful minds have short memories, and the further young minds are from the consequences of their actions; the further they are from the memory of the lessons behind them.
I was about 15 years-old….
A small group of my knucklehead friends and I were taking a late night walk down Gates Avenue.
We had just left the 7-11 on Front Street, and as a result of too much beer, marijuana, and LSD, we were far from well behaved and even farther from quiet.
We stopped for a second, probably laughing about the confused nonsense that comes with the drug territory, but someone dropped a beer bottle, and the noise turned our laughter into hysterical paranoia.
We ran away as fast as we could for as long as we could, which was probably not much farther than the next block.
It was summertime and the streets were quiet. We were amongst the long lazy days of summer vacation. We spent most of our days at the town’s pool, and our evening hours were spent wandering the side streets of our middle-class town. We believed we were somewhat untouchable. I suppose we thought we were tough. But more, we were unbelievably young and still luckily untouched by bad luck. We laughed at trouble because we had yet to learn about the consequences of our actions.
At worst, we were punished at home….but being forced to stay in my room was less punishing when I kept a stash of gin inside my closet, or say, sitting in my room was less troublesome while on psychedelic drugs and staring that vacant stare at my black velvet posters, which glowed under the influence of a warm, blue-colored, fluorescent light.
As we walked down Gates, we turned right onto Dale Avenue. Then we turned left onto Spruce Lane. We moved farther away from the broken beer bottle, and the farther we walked from the incident, the less we thought about the broken glass in the middle of the street. Besides, we were young, high, and completely ignorant to the outcome we were about to face.
We were approaching the end of Spruce and about to reach Hemlock. I remember when the sound of humming streetlamps and the otherwise peacefulness was interrupted by the roar of a face moving pick-up truck.
As the truck moved upon us, the driver hit the brakes, and then the truck screeched to its halt.
Then a full-grown man jumped from his driver’s side door with an aluminum baseball bat in his hand, and very quickly, he lined our small group against his glossy blue pick-up truck. Perhaps we should have run, but none of us were in the state to run far or fast.
As commanded, all of us stood against the side of the grown man’s truck with half-closed, and watery bloodshot eyes. Our long, defiant hair swayed in the summer breeze, and our clothes perhaps reeked from cigarettes and beer.
“You like breaking bottles in the street, do ya?”
The man was much bigger, and much stronger than any of us. And aside from his natural advantage, the man was also armed with a baseball bat, and he appeared willing to take it across any, if not all of our skulls, without a second of hesitation.
He made his point unmistakably clear. “If I ever catch any of you messing around in front of my house again, you’re dead. Do you understand?”
One by one, the irate homeowner made each of us answer him. “Yes sir, I understand.”
Then he added, “And if you have a problem with that, then go home and get your dads, get your older brothers, your uncles, or your cousins. Get anyone you can think of. Then have them come see me and I’ll fuckin kill them too!”
Next, the grown man asked each of us, “What’s your name?”
I was always good with this question.
I always said the same thing. “John Linquist.”
This name, by the way, was not invented by me; however, I used it whenever possible. I used it whenever questioned and needed someone to blame. But the beauty of that name is there was no one in the neighborhood named John Linquist.
(At least, I don’t think there was)
In fact, the name was used so often that while under interrogation during my first arrest, one of the detectives responded to it.
He quickly stood straight and his lips curled as if I cursed his mother.
The detective looked fierce. “I keep hearing about this kid!”
“Yeah,” I confessed. “He’s a really, really bad kid.”
But back to my story, none of us ever messed around in front of that grown man’s house again. We were taught and that lesson stayed with us because we were given something tangible to base or compare our behavior to.
In a sense, we were shown the line in the sand, and if we dared to cross that line, the outcome was already proven.
The strange ending to my story is here I am; I am a homeowner in the very same town. Several years ago I found myself in a similar situation. Some of the local youngsters thought it would be nice to shoot paintballs at the face of newly sided homes.
Some even thought it would be a good idea to break into one of my cars. But youthful minds are forgetful minds. Youthful minds forget that news carries and that young friends often tell on other young friends to save themselves from trouble.
Once I received the information regarding who broke into my car, I learned their addresses, as well as the names of all the parties involved
I had the right plan, but I chose the wrong execution….
After I introduced myself at the front door of one of the youngsters responsible, and after the police later took me into custody explaining, “You can’t do things like that,” I was faced with the charge of menacing, which was dropped to harassment, and later, the case was minimally sentenced by a judge.
In the end, I had to pay an attorney as well as a surcharge and I was fined. There was a two year order of protection against me, and I was slightly looked upon as irrational, but I can assure this; those kids never came on my block again.
I firmly believe people speak in a way because they do not have an understanding of violence. I believe people behave because they have never been held accountable for their actions. For example, I stood at the doorstep of a young man responsible for defacing private property. He was guilty of several acts against my community, but he was never held accountable for any of these crimes.
Once more, I submit I had the right plan, but I chose the wrong execution. I lost my own argument due to the irresponsible judgment in my own behavior.
And because I behaved irrationally, I was looked upon as the villain…and the kids were not.
The boy’s parents believed he was innocent….but he wasn’t.
In their eyes, I was a tattooed maniac, pointlessly threatening their 16 year-old son and the rest of his friend with a machete.
(Again, right plan…..wrong execution)
Currently, that youngster is no longer young. He is an adult now. He is also serving out a lengthy prison sentence for armed robbery.
I wonder if he understands what violence is now. I wonder if he wishes he learned his lesson earlier.
I wonder if he learned that mimicking a different ethnicity, or referring to his middle-class town as being from, “Da hood,” was a mistake.
Perhaps now he understands that considering himself to be a gangster means little when say, locked inside a prison cell with actual criminals, and faced with those who have no value for life or freedom.
The problem I see with our community is our children do not understand what it means to be held accountable for their own actions.
I listened to a young boy call his father an idiot the other day.
I would have never said that to my Old Man.
I accidentally called him stupid once….once…..and I never did that again.
Kids are too brave these days. Maybe it’s the new math they teach in school.
Maybe it’s the shitty cartoons we make them watch, or it’s the new politically correct standards we give them.
Maybe we forget that fear is an excellent tool when it comes to motivation.
And by fear, I do not mean the fear of violence or spankings.
But what about the true fear of loss?
Take away their gadgets. Take away their technology.
I would assume a punishment is less punishing when say, your kid is in their room, and entertained by their I-phones.
I believe children should be held accountable for their actions.
Teach them value.
Teach them about the price of their behavior because the world works in the balance of credits and debits.
This is why I say the “Price,” of behavior, whereas bad behavior takes away, good behavior adds to them.
Make them learn the difference
I think more parents should try this….it can’t make things worse