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

 

2865808447_678f7faf6f_m.jpg
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.

Further misadventures cutting class with the high school stoners

 .
 When I was 16, a junior in high school, me and the crew of friends I was hanging out with liked to regularly cut school when the weather started getting nice. We’d sneak out to the parking lot behind the high school and we’d all pile into my friends car, usually 2 or 3 guys and 2 or 3 girls. Most of the crew that I hung with at that time were all part of the high school cool crowd, with me being sort of a border-line cool crowder. So I felt a little pressure to always try and act cool, lest the others found out I wasn’t really cool and they’d kicked me out of the cool crowd.

Anyways, we’d often drive to up-state New York, to Harriman Park, this huge state park. Harriman Park was incredibly beautiful, very lush and green. And there were a bunch of rivers and streams, some of which had really nice swimming holes. It felt great to swim in those streams and laze around in the sun. And we would smoke a lot of pot and drink a lot of beer, and we really felt like teenage rebels who were being sneaky and getting away with breaking all the rules. It was a lot more fun then sitting in a classroom staring at a Geometry text book, that’s for sure.

My memory is a little sketchy, so I can’t remember if we went skinny-dipping or not. I think we wore our underwear in the water. All the girls we were hanging with were very pretty. So I think I would have remembered if we were skinny-dipping, because that would have been a big big moment in my life at age 16.

One of our favorite swimming holes was this place that had a rope swing. The pool of water (which was pretty deep) was surrounded by all these rocks and boulders. And you had to climb up the rocks to get to the rope swing, which was about 20 feet above the water. You’d swing out in the air like Tarzan and then “GERONIMO!” into the water. You had to be a little careful about your release-time, though, when you let go of the rope and plummeted downwards, because you wanted to make sure you landed in the water and not on the rocks.

The first time I attempted the rope swing I was more than a little scared. That 20 feet drop looked a LONG ways down. But, considering everybody else was doing it (even all of the girls) I sure wasn’t going to go down as The Guy Too Chicken To Jump Off The Rope Swing. So i held my breath and let ‘er rip. And it was a lot of fun. Pretty soon we started doing wilder and wilder stunts, doing backflips and somersaults in mid-air. Trying to top each other with our moves.

Then one day we got the news that one of the guys in our class who we all knew had gone up to the rope swing with his crew, and apparently he had mis-timed his jump and landed on the rocks. And he was now in the hospital, and was paralyzed from the neck down and would very likely be in that condition for the rest of his life.

Considering all the crazy stuff I did when I was a teenager, it’s a miracle I made it to 20.

.

.