As my senior year of H.S. progressed, the one thing I remember most is how everyone had some kind of plan for after H.S.. Everyone except for me. I would listen to my friends discuss it with each other and I was sincerely interested in their futures. Dave, Kenny and Tom were going away to Universities. Scot, Pat and Jim were going to stay home, attend community college and work towards going away to a University. Dave wanted to be an accountant like the head football coach, Coach O’Neil. Kenny was leaning towards journalism and Tom was going to play baseball. Tom was the most gifted, athletically, of the group. Scot loved music and told me he wanted to open the first record store in what was still communist Soviet Union. Pat, the only kid in our group who held a steady job, had the best work ethic. He worked his way up from the Freshman B-Team, with Coach Sock, to become the starting quarterback on our Varsity football team. The team itself didn’t have a good record, but I always appreciated the heart that Pat played with. Jim, like me, liked beer and weed. His father was a union plumber and I remember Jim always saying he didn’t want to work as hard as his dad did. He would go to Community College and try to “figure shit out”. That was the whole idea of union construction: work hard, for a descent negotiated wage, so your children didn’t have too. Chicago is a Union town, my mom’s father and all of her brothers were “union” something or other. My mama always referred to herself as an “electricians daughter”, and any poor workmanship she ever saw was called “scab”. She was the handy man around the house. My father didn’t know the difference between a phillip screwdriver and a regular screwdriver.
Mom always handled anything relating to construction in the houses we lived in. She was always willing to teach and I had a slight, cautious interest in learning. My father, on the other hand, hated physical labor. Mom put him in charge of lawn maintenance. When I became old enough, he sub contracted all lawn work to me. He got overwhelmed with anything requiring construction and lost his patience quickly. Once his patience was gone his anger would flare like a gasoline fire. I remember not wanting to build a table with him for my trains as a child. I loved electric trains and because the four of us lived in a small house, the table was the best way to preserve space. My father bought a “do it yourself” book from a hardware store and informed me this would be our project together. I dreaded the thought. I even approached my mother about the idea looking for support. She told me to approach my dad with my thoughts. I was reluctant to do so because he was so sensitive about being un handy. I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place so I went along with dad’s plan.
The design was a basic 6 x 3 plywood face, framed for strength and would have four legs. Once we built the table, we would paint the plywood face green to give it a grass like appearance. Once the paint dried, we would add trees, buildings and the train tracks. It seemed simple enough. This project turned out to be the most painful experience I remember from my youth.
The do it yourself book, basically, over explained the simplest tasks. Dad had no male mentor, no handy mom and no union uncles to learn from. My father was a smart man with demons from his past that he couldn’t control. It was almost as if he sabotaged the simplest tasks just to scream “fuck you” to the demons. The problem was his self loathing, during these tasks, seemed to spill over on to me directly. I had no defense against dads verbal onslaught. The task, in theory, had the potential to be an educational bonding experience between a father and son over the course of a weekend. In reality, it became a war zone that lasted several weeks.
At one point, the do it yourself book suggested an easier way to screw screws into wood. The suggestion was: take each screw individually, scrape it across a bar of soap then screw the screw. The soap should act as a lubricant and make screwing a lot easier and save time. Money was tight in those days so dad didn’t own any power tools. He went through 26 bars of soap, 4 boxes of screws and a thesaurus full of rageful swear words before the task was complete. The frustration soon became directed at me. “I am a pain in the ass for wanting a table for my trains”, was how I understood his words. At the end of the project, I was positive of only two things: 1.) I would never build anything with my father again, and 2.) I no longer had a desire to play with trains. I was certain of one thing during my senior year future plan… I wanted nothing to do with construction as an adult.
I was beginning to feel somewhat broken because I had no plan. Not only was I without a plan for the future, I didn’t really want a plan. The lack of desire for a plan was magnified by constant questions by teachers, counselors, my father and my friends. In response to the feeling broken, I smoked more weed and got into more fights. Opportunities for fights seem to grow on trees once fighting became my solution. I had no direction to go in and trying to find something I was good at seemed impossible. In reflection, I believe that my insides hurt so badly that I wanted to deliver that pain to someone else. I had an intense rage that needed to be fed, or I feared it would turn on me and eat me. The last fight I got into in H.S. was right after I cheated on my college placement exam. The B-Towne crew and I went to the Whitecastle in town. Whitecastle, the hamburger joint, was a place where all four local H.S. could meet up and discuss party plans, meet the opposite sex or just hang out. Tonight, there was an upset female in the parking lot.
I don’t remember her name, but we had attended Jr. High School together. I approached her, away from my crew, to see why she was upset. According to her friend (she was too upset to talk), her boyfriend had slapped her around, again, at a party in front of everyone there. It was like a switch got flipped in my head. No sooner than I asked where this guy was, this guy appeared out of his nearby parked car. I started to provoke him through name calling and threats. I didn’t know who this kid was and didn’t fucking care. The kid called me an irrelevant name so I dove for his legs. I was stoned, as always, and had a few beers. I was feeling invincible and the rage was now in control. The kid sprawled, swept me to the side and spun on top of me almost immediately. He was a wrestler apparently. Also, he seemed, at this point, to have a lot more experience than me. As soon as he secured his spot on top of me, he grabbed my hair and started to bounce my head off of the blacktop parking lot cement. The mistake he made was stopping. He asked me if I have had enough, which was the decent human thing to do. All I could reply was, “Get the fuck off of me”. So he did. By this time my friends had made it to me and everyone now had come outside the restaurant. My forehead was bleeding yet I felt no pain. I approached the kid and asked to speak to him away from the crowd, in an adjacent parking lot next door. He agreed.
On the walk to the parking lot I reprimanded myself for trying to take the fight to the ground. I had now been training myself for 5 years to box. I needed to stick with what I was good at.
As I approached him I told him I was going to hurt him. My father always told me “cold cocking” or hitting someone who wasn’t prepared was what cowards do. I unloaded as many powerful straight right hands into his face as I could. This kid, completely shocked, stood there taking the entire onslaught. When I was too tired to swing any longer I left him standing there… a complete bloody mess. I was shaking from bloodlust and adrenaline. I had become a complete monster and couldn’t care less.