I used to break things until I found something I was good at.
Angry Boys (Part 1)
When I was a kid, I used to break things. Most of the things I broke were made of glass. The noise of shattering glass proved to be a good reward for my efforts. Whether I was putting my fist through a window because I got locked in the bathroom after pee-wee football practice (pee-wee football has nothing to do with urine, I promise), taking a piece of glass out of the my babysitter’s living room table and throwing it in the driveway (probably explains some flat tires), or breaking my older brother’s Transformers (sorry, Jeremy) - I had a knack for destruction. I was a blonde-hair, blue-eyed version of Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction, but I instead had two arms, two feet and a mouth that spewed vulgarity like an ever-erupting volcano spews red hot molten magma.
That one time
Perhaps the most memorable (and incredibly stupid) time I broke something was when I, at the young age of 9-ish, was on another do-no-good-mission at the village park with my younger brother and the town twins.
For purposes beyond the realm of reasoning, we thought it would be a good idea to randomly start throwing small parking lot stones about, trying to mimic the throwing speed of Nolan Ryan - the great Texan-American Major League Baseball pitcher. Somehow, the game Throw the stones at the window didn't seem like a bad idea.
Photo of Nolan Ryan, 1980s
We started by throwing the stones into an empty parking lot, but after a few minutes this proved too boring. Chucking gravel rocks into a large empty space with no physical impact or destructive purpose is a fruitless task. We needed a target; we wanted a challenge.
Next, we pivoted to face a nearby row of trees and threw in their direction. This again proved too easy as the trees were too close to us and we didn’t feel like moving from our perch. Besides, we were never going to fell a tree with tiny stones. They barely even made a dent.
We turned again to what would be our final target of the morning…
The only other remaining nearby target was the village sports hall. This was initially off-limits as we felt building destruction was a pastime enjoyed by the kids from the
other side of the train tracks. Surely, the four of us whose parents were considered to be so upstanding in the community could never engage in activities so detrimental to the welfare and reputation of the village (and to our parents). Surely not. Right?
It was time to join 'em!
We wanted a target. We wanted one NOW, and the convenient proximal location of the sports hall meant it would become the next object for our stone-throwing pitching practice.
The sports hall was a small, functional little purpose-built building used to store sporting equipment for local youth sports teams. It sat nestled between the tennis courts, a parking lot, and the baseball diamonds. It also featured the bathroom window I punched through a couple years earlier. I had sliced my hand on the glass and always wanted payback. The building had windows of various sizes – some big, some small. We thought by throwing stones at the small window we would be safe. After all, we were about 60 feet away.
We took turns throwing, shouting out announcements every time we stepped up to throw (picture a bunch of kids doing Harry Caray and Bob Uecker impressions). We’d all missed our first few throws and it was my turn once again.
“Step aside, guys. I’m gonna get it this time.” I said, spoken with genuine bravado.
I picked up a stone,
set my feet in position and eyed up the target.
“Goodbye, window.” I whispered.
One of the twins narrated my actions:
“Nolan Ryan steps up to the mound.
Here’s the wind-up...
and the pitch…
“€#@%! What the £@$$! @$^! *&**$”
I wasn’t happy. Clearly.
To my non-American readers, the Home Plate Umpire calls out the word “Ball!” if the pitcher throws the baseball to the hitter but it misses the strike zone (beyond where is reasonable for him to hit it). In this case, I missed the small window.
You’d have thought I would have been relieved to have missed the window. You’d have hoped we had thought it through and knew it was a not a good thing to hit a window with a stone. But you’d have been wrong. We were a bunch absent-minded kids who had a less-than-microscopic ability to foreshadow.
My brother stepped up but I pushed him back. “It’s still my turn!” I demanded, brushing him aside. “Get out of my way.” The twins could only watch in awe.
I had to be the one to do this.
For myself and my pride as a future Hall of Famer.
Also, for Nolan Ryan.
But MOST importantly - for God!
I leaned over and picked up another stone off the ground, tossed it up a few times, and then spun it around in my hand, analyzing the corners and gripping points of this precious quarried gravel. It felt right; it looked right; surely this was The One: The Stone that would see me written into the annals of local gravel-throwing glory.
I got into position.
Then came the wind up.
Then came the pitch.
My arms immediately shot up in ecstatic jubilation. I hit the window! I did it! The rock went straight through it and disappeared into the dark room like a rock disappears when you throw it into the blackness of a lake. I was a certain bet to be a first ballot Hall of Famer.
It was when I saw the back of the other three as they ran away that I first realised that choosing the window of a public building as a target for stone-throwing was a stupid thing to do. Whoops. As I watched them run away I, for the first time, realised what I’d actually just done.
I seized up and just about emptied myself there.
My trip to "The Hall"
When I arrived home, I found a righteously indignant mother who immediately phoned the Village Hall to speak with the Town Clerk and tell her what had happened. How did my mom already find out?! It had only been a few minutes!
And that’s when I saw - sitting in the next room - my smiling, smirking, freckle-faced little brother sitting on the couch watching Looney Tunes. I should have known he would betray me...
If I only had a stone…
My mother immediately drove me to the Village Hall to confess to the Mayor’s Office, to confess to what I had done and to offer to pay for it out of my allowance. The Clerk was a kind lady who knew me since I was born. She thanked me for confessing and told me I was very brave for telling her.
Yes. I am a very brave boy. I thought to myself, puffing my chest out.
She then told me the window will have to be paid for by people in the town who pay their taxes.
Phew. Off the hook.
UNTIL I GOT HOME
I was immediately grounded and rightfully received a few whacks to the backside. I was pleased, however, to know that the local taxpayers of Pigeon, Michigan had my back. Thanks guys!
I’m not sure why micro-destruction was so appealing, but it’s a fairly common thing to do for kids who often feel distant from others or those who are trying to prove themselves. Maybe it was because I felt different because of Tourette’s? ADD? Maybe it was my inability to think before I acted, or some other reason? I’ll blame it on the self-diagnosed ADD for now…
Whatever the case, I learned some valuable lessons that day:
1- Don’t throw rocks at glass
2- Never trust your younger brother
3- I needed to find a way to avoid paying taxes
It would be a number of years before I found something I truly enjoyed doing (other than sports). Perhaps it took that dream dying to be able to find other interests, including writing for comedy and playing guitar and singing. You’ll just have to read next week to find out what that was! I’ll even include a few links to some videos I did as a student.
But here's a sneak peak:
See you next week!