I ever tell you about the time I was used as a patsy?
There are things that we do as kids that go down in the record book as the craziest thing of all times.
There are things that happen during our young lives that we swear we wonder how we got away with it. In the same regard, there are things that happened, which our parents never found out about —and this was a good thing.
God bless him as he rests, The Old Man never knew the story I am about to tell you. In fact, he went to his grave believing that what I’m about to tell you went differently. So going forward, the details of what I am about to tell you will have to be kept between you and me.
Before going forward and to better help you envision the event as we move on, I would like you to envision a little me, cute kid with a big bowl of hair on my head, small as ever, skinny, and at the age of somewhere near 10 years-old
This was the early 80’s and cable was a new thing in our home. The channel “M-TV” was a new thing and just aired its first music video on August 1st 1981. The station opened with the worlds, Ladies and Gentleman, rock and roll, which followed by the first music video to air, performed by The Buggles called, “Video Killed the Radio Star.”
It was a different world back then. Our town was different. Our country was different too.
As the President of The United States, Ronald Reagan was shot in the chest earlier that year by a man named John Hinckley Jr.
On this day Press Secretary James Brady was shot in the head and Secret Serviceman Timothy McCarthy was shot in his side.
We were living in strange times. there was an oil crisis somewhere around this time. There was a threat of war and there was the cold war. We hated the Russians and they hated us back.
My town was a normal, everyday, middle-income town. No one was exceptionally rich or poor. We had cars in the driveway, fences, garages, and many of the homes in town had the American Flag proudly flying on their front porch or on their lawns
Everything was different back then. Music was different. Fashion was certainly different. Money was different and so was society.
We were tougher then.
We had no technology to interfere with basic conversation. Back then, people spoke with one another, face to face.
Break dancing was a big thing back then. Two-tone pants was a thing with Capezio shoes too and pin-stripe jeans. I never really wore these things —but I do remember the fashion tragedies of the 80’s
I was a little kid then. More accurately, I was a little brother to a well-known athlete. My brother Dave was well-liked both on and off the field.
Dave had a large group of friends —and they were wild at times. Sometimes, Dave threw a few parties and sometimes, like any little kid brother, I would try to sneak down and intermingle with his friends.
And yes, of course, there was beer. Yes,there was underage drinking —but I go back to something I once saw on social media, which is a picture with the word “Alcohol,” in thick white lettering above a glass of scotch on the rocks with words, “Because no good story ever started over a salad.”
In this case, I can say that yes, the above statement is a true.
I tell you we were a different sort back then. And my brother, he and his friends were a different sort too.
Although well-liked and well-respected in the town they were certainly among the wild ones in the neighborhood.
They were the jocks. They were athletes, tough, and quick to fight. They were also the older kids that we young ones looked up to.
Dave and his friends were big names on the football field. More so, Dave was a big name on the Lacrosse field. He was talented and played hard. No quit, he was straight forward, head down into swinging lacrosse sticks, and nothing, I mean nothing stood in Dave’s way on the field.
The game was more physical than finesse back in those days. Then again, everything about our time was more physical and less finesse back then.
I was probably around 8 or 9 the first time Dave took out The Old Man’s car. He made me go with him and his friends so that I couldn’t tell on him, which, I wouldn’t have anyway, but the ride was a fun thing to be on.
This joy ride took place in The Old Man’s company car. Mind you, the car was nothing special; it was a two-tone, woody station wagon The Old Man had for his company.
Dave had a few friends over and packed us all in The Old Man’s car.
I remember thinking, “Pop is gonna kill us if he ever finds out!” and he might have found out on his own.I think Dave might have made a few mistakes when driving but on this night in particular, the only mistake I can recall was made by a kid I will only name as Petrullo.
Dave wanted to show off his plan to drive all through the town by driving up to the park on Prospect Avenue.
My memory of this is small; however, for some reason, Petrullo decided to jump on the hood and for some reason, Dave decided to speed away in reverse with Petrullo gripping onto the hood for his own dear life. It was crazy as ever. And to this day, I can still picture Petrullo’s face when Dave floored the station wagon backwards and sped around the parking lot in Prospect Park.
This went on more times than I can report —not the Petrullo incident so much, but the joyrides happened for sure. Dave was unlicensed, young, crazy as ever, and unaware of the problems that would come.
One night, Dave decided to take out another one of The Old Man’s company trucks. This one was The Old Man’s Dodge. I loved this truck.
The Old Man would start it early in the morning and the engine would rumble, loud, like a machine should sound.
It was a stick shift with a ram’s head for a hood ornament. I tell you this truck was a perfect display of manliness.
On a night when the folks were out, Dave had a party of friends over. It was their idea to take out The Old Man’s truck. But I was not invited to go.
By this time, Dave knew how to keep me quiet with physical threats. Besides, if I remember correctly, I don’t think I wanted to go with them. I was small, young, and tired, and probably in my pajamas when they drove away
The next set of details are unclear to me because I was not in the car; however, Dave managed to get the car home and he managed to get the car in the same spot, and parked the same way The Old Man left it.
(This was The Old Man’s trick. He would park the car a certain way to see if the tires moved so he could tell if Dave took out the car.)
Apparently while joy riding through the town; Dave blew out the drive shaft. Of course, Dave panicked.
He freaked out is what he did as he and his friends worked to get the truck home. Of all the plots and crazy ideas that come to us in our lives, some of our ideas are just crazy enough to work —and none of our ideas are as crazy as the crazy ideas we had as kids.
Dave brainstormed with his friends. He woke me up out of bed and told me about his dilemma.
He explained that Mom and Pop would be home in a few hours and he needed me to stay awake.
The story Dave made me rehearse over and over again went as follows. I was too scared to sleep because I heard a raucous outside. I heard people running around Pop’s truck
They were shining a flashlight underneath the car.
I was scared, I tell you. Scared to the core.
In all honesty, if ever anyone deserved an academy award for best actor; it was me on this night.
I played my part without a hitch. In the background, Dave’s friend Matt was a mechanic —or at least, Matt’s family was all mechanics.
Matt worked on cars too, which is how he knew the drive shaft was blown. Matt removed the drive shaft before my parents came home and it was my job to play it off as the scared kid. I was frightened because I saw men underneath my Father’s car. And up until the last day of my Old Man’s life, Pop went to the grave believing his drive shaft was stolen —not blown out by his joy-riding son, but stolen right in the driveway of his very own home.
I was somewhat famous for my performance. Every so often, The Old Man would recall that night and talk about how thieves came right up on his driveway and stole the drive shaft from his truck.
Dave got away with it and this saved me from at least two weeks of beatings
I think of this and I shake my head.
I think of what we did and what our parents never found out about. I think that kids today are much different. I suppose they are still mischievous and still wild to some degree.
Kids are just different now. They have cell phones now. They have hand held devices. We had rotary phones . . . need I say more?
Before Mom passed, we were talking about my crazy younger days. She shook her head in disbelief.
She told me it was like someone else’s life. She said her memories of back then are like seeing a movie.
It doesn’t even seem real, she told me.
I get that.
These things are like something that happened in another life.
And there are more stories like this.
I think of them and smile. I smile and then I shake my head and think, the 80’s, man I can’t believe we made it out alive.
Sleep well, Pop.
Sorry about the truck though.
But at least we got a good story out of it