For some reason it seemed really important at the time that we get that weather vane from the top of Howard Johnson’s

 

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Makin’ the scene at Ho-Jo’s.

I was a pretty well-behaved young boy most of the time growing up. Until I hit around age 16, And then I started to get a little wild. . . I never really did anything seriously criminal that got me into real trouble. But I did my fair share of stupid stuff. Stupid juvenile pranks mostly . . 

Like I remember one night well after midnight, me and my friends climbed up on top of the roof of the local Howard Johnson’s restaurant and tried to climb up the steeple in the hopes of stealing this really cool weather vane that they had on the top of the steeple. We weren’t able to get the weather vane off, and fortunately we didn’t break our fool necks in the process. As you can see from the photo, it’s a pretty steep climb . . But that was the kind of stuff I used to do.

The other thing I remember about Howard Johnson’s — or Ho Jo’s as we called it. Like I said, I was pretty straight and normal all the way up to age 16. Pretty much followed the program and did what I was told. Up until that point it was like I had been standing on a conveyer belt, just mindlessly moving forward wherever it took me.

But I distinctly remember the first moment I stepped off the conveyer belt. It was the beginning of my junior year of high school, and I was standing by my locker with my school books, about to go to my first period class. As usual. When one of my friends — who had just gotten his driver’s licence and had a car — sidled up to me and said:

“We’re all gonna’ cut class and go to Ho Jo’s for breakfast. You wanna come along?”

“Well sure,” I said.

We all snuck down the hallway, feeling very sneaky. Piled in my friend’s car in the school parking. And took off. Freedom! It was like making a jailbreak.

As we sat at the counter of Ho Jo’s drinking our coffee — something I had never drunk before — it felt truly surreal. Everyone else was back in class going along with the program. And here we were on the outside looking in.

It was like my first step to being an individual and an adult.

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