I always had a little streak of wildness in me.
When I was 16 I spent the summer working as an assistant to the janitors at the local elementary school. Doing stuff like scraping the gum off the bottom of the desks, and mopping the floors, and painting over the graffiti in the restrooms. (That was a real eye-opener the first time I went into the girls restroom. The graffiti in the 8th grade girls restroom was even dirtier and more obscene then the graffiti in the boys restroom. Up until that point I had assumed that girls were “sugar and spice and everything nice.” I would never be fooled by that one again.)
Anyways, one day I happened to be in the basement of the elementary school. And I discovered boxes and boxes of all this army surplus stuff. Sleeping bags and backpacks and tents and all kinds of stuff. It looked kind of old, like it dated back to World War II. And God only knows what it was doing down there in the basement. But it looked like it had been sitting down there for a long time. And that nobody had much of a use for any of it. So I decided to take some of it as fair compensation for all my hard work as boy-janitor.
So when nobody was looking, I stashed a bunch of it in the bushes behind the school. And the plan was to pick it up later that night when nobody was around.
So later that night — in the darkness of night — I drove up to the elementary school, with my little brother riding shotgun with me. And as I’m driving I’m smoking a bowl full of pot — which was another stupid thing I liked to do back then. And I drove up the driveway of the school, and get the stuff stashed in the bushes, and crammed it into my car. And then I made my stealthy exit. .
But as I’m driving out of the driveway, a cop car that happened to be patrolling the area, spotted me and drove over towards me.
I paniced — if I had kept my cool I probably could have talked my way out of it. But instead I hit the gas and revved my engine as fast I could go, and went blasting down the road. With the cop car in hot pursuit. I had a good head-start and just wanted to get far enough ahead of the cop to get rid of the stolen goods — and my pot (which was probably the more serious offense back in 1973). “THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW!! THORW IT ALL OUT THE WINDOW!!” I yelled to my little brother. Which he managed to do before the cop got in range. And then I tried to out-race the cop. Who was gaining fast on me.
I was on the main road, which was a long straight-away. But after I was about a mile down the road I could tell that my clunker car was no match for the cop car in a straight drag race. So I took a sudden left turn up this side street to try and ditch the cop. But as I was going up the hill my car really died on me. And the cop car blasted ahead of me and cut me off. So I slammed on the breaks. And that was that. Busted!
I forget what they charged me with. Speeding? Reckless driving? Evading the police? But I had to appear before the Judge. We had this little courtroom in the local City Hall building in the suburban town I lived in. So I go to court one evening for the first (but certainly not the last) time. And the Judge is sitting up there in his black robe. And I remember Karen Massaro — this girl in my high school who also had a bit of wildness in her — was also sitting there among the defendants.
So I’m standing there before the Judge. And he’s all pissed at me, he’s giving me this long and angry lecture. A real tongue-lashing. And the one line I remember was: “As a minister’s son we’d expect you to behave at a higher level of conduct.” And THAT pissed me off. That didn’t seem fair. Just because of my father’s job I’m held to a higher standard than everyone else?
But at least the Judge dismissed the charges and I didn’t have to do hard time in the slammer, on account that this was my first (but certainly not my last) offense.