Don’t Get Caught: A Mischief Makers Guide
Well, here it is October, and as usual I am bringing up the rear with the final and probably worst post of the month. You bastards already used up all the good ideas and I am stuck with my crappy, recycled ideas not the ones I telepathically stole from you minds while you were sleeping so here are some ramblings. Damn I hate being last.
When the topic of mischief making reared it’s gnarled, misshapen head, the first thing that came to mind was to write about some of history’s most famous mischief makers, such as Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, and Napoleon Buonaparte. Or, to possibly bring it a little more up to date and look at the work of Andrew Jackson, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin or George W. Bush. (Please don’t’ get me wrong, I am not putting all these players on the same level of mischief and destruction. George Bush is last on the list not just because he is the most recent but also the lowest achiever, all of the others either perpetrated genocide or conquered vast territories and peoples. Bush definitely fucked up our country but as far as conquering goes he even sucked at that.) All of these guys are really just mischief-makers taken to the illogical extreme. I can just picture them as young boys tying cans to cats tails–except Genghis, he was doing naughty things to camels in the Gobi–and starting fires in the neighborhood swamp, all lashing out to get the parental attention they so desperately craved. Picture young Adolf Hitler in Art School in Vienna getting ridiculed for his mediocre painting becoming an early graffiti artist and defacing schools and graveyards. Truly the overachievers of mischief-making, these guys’ unchecked and spiteful mischief led them down a dangerous path, most dangerous for the rest of us, and each caused havoc in his time. Ironically, we, as a culture, only repudiate the ones that we didn’t agree with. Not many history teachers rail on about the evil deeds of Genghis Khan, (supposedly 1 out of every 8 people on the planet have some of his DNA, really, look it up) or Alexander the Great. Hell, we call him “the Great,” but I bet many of middle-eastern and Persian ancestry have no love for him. Were these historical figures evil or just crying out for help and love in the only way they knew? If you believe in good and evil as absolutes then your answer is clear, but I do not. So, were they just really mentally disturbed and with proper therapy may have been normal and, having gotten the right attention, might the world be very different culturally and politically? Sure, Europe would never have gotten the stirrup which allowed mounted knights and the Feudal system which led to the Rennaissance and then the Enlightenment, American Liberty and the Genocide of the Indians, the rise of Nationalism and Fascism and the great atrocities of Hitler and Stalin which led to the new states and governments in the middle East and the absurd Iraq war of George W Bush. You see it is all on long chain of Mischief with each event leading inexorably to the next.
Oh yeah, now on a completely different track, here are some of the less sinister things that we did as kids in the 70’s and 80’s that you could never get away with today. By the way, if any of these things are illegal, I never did them, this is a purely fictional memoir type ramble on the fun of yesteryear before the Patriot act took all the fun out of our youth.
The main key to mischief making is to not get caught or as my mother used to implore, “Stay out of trouble.” My Dad’s only injunction was not to upset my mother ,so I figured as long as I didn’t get caught it’d all be good. But man, with that mindset did we have some fun.
My earliest memory of raising hell is of my closest childhood friends, Jeff and Larry and I poised upon the granite cliff next to my mother’s house in West Gloucester looking down on the road below with anticipation and fear in our hearts but exhilaration in our minds. Snow was flying and the sky was a cable steel gray, typical New England January day, cold as a witch’s tit and we were well supplied with snowball ammunition to chuck at cars on the street below. We were like the guerrilla fighters of West Gloucester, in our imagination we were heroic defenders against the tyranny of the combustion engine. All right, who am I kidding, we just want to throw shit at cars. It was a blast until one big, mean dude stopped and started charging up the hill yelling profanities all the way. Needless to say, we escaped into the dense forest warren of escape tunnels and switchbacks that only we knew.
In middle school we took our exploits to new levels of daring-do and despicably sticky and smelly chaos. In Gloucester at that time, it was the custom on Halloween to go to the local golf course and instead of hurling snowballs at cars we were now going to engage in a full-on egg battle, a veritable war de oeufs. Groups of friends from school would form battalions of egg and shaving cream wielding combatants creating an unholy mess on the greens. A true, experienced eggeteer would buy his/her eggs weeks in advance and let them ripen somewhere in their yard until they were just revoltingly odorous. The cops let this go on for years, it was a local tradition for generations. I guess they figured they could keep the mayhem contained there and spare the civilians.
Another uber-fun endeavor was a past-time we called hooking. No, we did not sell our teen selves for crack our herion although in Gloucester, at that time, this could have been altogether possible. No, hooking was downtown winter fun at its finest and most perilous. We would pick a stretch of road that was flat and straight and with a stop sign at one end, the stop sign was imperative. We would hide behind the snowbanks made from the street plows and wait for a likely target, a car with a good, low bumper with easy handholds. Then, one of us would creep out behind the car and grab hold, bend our legs into a stunted version of a skier’s stance and go for a slide. Our own poor kid version of a Nantucket sleigh ride for a few hundred yards or more. The peril and hilarity often ensued when the driver realized they had a parasite and hit the gas to shake us loose and still all was good until we hit a pothole or railroad tracks then, blammo, it was like a yard sale, shit was everywhere. Snow hat over here, glove over there little kids a few yards farther away sometimes with a sprained ankle or broken wrist and the rest of us laughing our asses off. But, we were next, the pulse rate rose in anticipation and the fear in the pits of our stomachs. This was the fun of it, never knowing how it would go, a clean ride or some asshole driver who hits the brakes and slides you under the car.
When we got to High School, GHS, or the Gloucester School for the High as we affectionately called it we got licenses and cars and graduated to more pernicious pranks. We played that great American past-time with fervor, it could only be, mailbox baseball. At sixteen and seventeen we were cruising about the streets either before or after a party, or just on a boring suburban school night, looking for ways to be bad. I always kept a bat in the car anyway so naturally this degenerated into mailbox baseball becoming our new sport. We’d look for a nice shiny or freshly painted new box sticking out just a bit farther than others to make it a better shot. It was truly a team sport as the driver would slow down to between 25 and 30 miles per hour and line up the strike zone while the batter got ready at the plate. The pitch is good, the batter swings and bam-pop the “ball,” by which I mean box, would go sailing out into left field or at least down the street. I man who remains unnamed was a repeated target not only by us but as I recently found out by a friend of mine who graduated seven years later and knew nothing of our exploits at the time. Truly, this is a multi-generation sport. When I get a house I am building my mailbox out of ¼ inch steel and welding to the pole, I know Karma’s a bitch but screw these kids nowadays. I like this one.
This stuff just taps the surface but if you ever catch me at a party after a few drinks ask me and I’ll tell you some of the grosser and riskier things that we did and got away with. Sadly, this type of fun today will get you arrested and keep you out of college.
So, on this Halloween, go out, be bad, get dirty but don’t get caught, don’t upset your mother and don’t try to do anything Alexander-the-Great wouldn’t do.