To give you a framework for where my head was at, my parents got divorced when I was 12 years old. I was living on the North Shore of Chicago in a town called Wilmette when my parents sat my sister and I down to tell us that they were getting a divorce. I was shocked. I thought yelling and screaming was normal in any household. It was just what families did, they shouted at each other. I later learned that this was not normal and that a divorce was the best thing for my parents to be happy. They’re both happily divorced now and living their separate lives.
My 12 year old brain couldn’t really process it all though. I was already somewhat of a misfit. I regularly hung out with my pal Keevan, who was the only black kid in our neighborhood. Keevan was a troublemaker. Him and I used to steal those tiny liquor bottles that they sell on airplanes from the local market and sneak out of our houses late at night and drink them at the local elementary school playground. Man was that fun. We never got caught. We almost did one night. The cops pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school and the second we saw them we HIT THE DECK, like we had seen in the movies. I think I even whispered “HIT THE DECK!” and we hid underneath the slides on the playground to avoid the cops’ spotlight that they were shining around during their routine surveillance. Keevan and I were nothing but trouble.
Keevan was not however involved in my getting arrested twice in one weekend. I was a naughty kid and I hung with another misfit crew, Rich Valko being one of ‘em and the other being my secret crush, Nancy. I smoked cigarettes at the age of 12 to be cool and I was cool. What made me cool at the time was not just because I smoked cigarettes, but also because I was a recent transplant from Atlanta, Georgia. All the girls in this privileged North Shore of Chicago community loved my southern bad boy accent. I was a southern boy and all the gals dug what I was cookin’.
The first time I got arrested was when I was hangin’ out with some of my misfit friends and Nancy behind the Wilmette movie theater in the alley. It was a cold winter night. We were being cool smoking cigarettes and I got the bright idea to light up a bonfire to keep our little hands warm. Bad idea. The manager of the movie theater caught wind of the fire in the alley behind his movie theater and called the cops on us. My other misfit friends were smart enough to scurry away upon the theater manager’s arrival, but Nancy and I stubbornly stood our ground. The manager of the movie theater grabbed me and Nancy and said “COME WITH ME!” Busted. The cops arrived and put Nancy and me in the same squad car and drove us to the station. I whispered to Nancy in the back seat of the squad car, “Alright, our story is that some teenagers lit that fire and we just happened to be there.” She nodded in agreement and stuck to our story when they brought us in for questioning. Nancy was awesome. We got off scott free. Our parents picked us up and all we got was a slap on the wrist.
The very next day, I go for a BMX bike ride with my misfit friend Rich Valko and I get another bright idea. “How about we fill our pockets with rocks and chuck them at garage door windows?” Rich thinks this is an awesome idea and there we are BMX biking down suburban alleyways chucking rocks through garage door windows. I remember thinking that the sound of those garage door windows smashing was the coolest sound ever. Cruisin’ on our BMX bikes and hucking rocks through these windows was the funnest thing ever! But then suddenly, after I had hucked a rock through one garage door window, that garage door opens up and a white Corvette tears out of there chasing after us. The Corvette corners us, a man gets out of his hotrod Corvette, tackles me off of my bike, pins me to the ground, and yells to a neighbor “CALL THE COPS!” There I am again in the police station being interrogated. I get thrown in a jail cell and my parents, to teach me a “lesson,” leave me in there for a good 5 hours. The “lesson” worked, with few exception. I never wanted to pursue a life of crime after that second time of getting arrested in the same weekend.