Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Hot Rod Assholes

Surviving the late 70’s with a knife and a subliminal tape.

The sound of screeching wheels from muscle cars racing down the street of my old Westminster neighborhood during the night was always unnerving. The teenagers behind the wheel were probably on dope my mom said looking outside from behind the drapes. My brother, George knew them and stepped outside. I was worried they would give him LSD to make him crazy like the hippies I saw on TV. It was like the time when George played his new Deep Purple tape and I started to cry, I was certain that hard rock was the soundtrack to the mayhem outside my home.

I was a terrified, perhaps a sensitive six-year old, but I knew for sure those older kids driving their souped-up sedans were predators itching to cause havoc. I wasn’t exactly sad when my dad announced we were moving to Aurora. I had my fingers crossed there wouldn’t be any cars racing down streets out in the suburbs.
Come on you fuckers

A stoner named Chris LaFever and his gang of troublemaking longhaired acid rockers dashed my utopian Aurora dreams. My friend Howie lived a block from him and we both felt the same terror. One time when he knew Chris was gone, we snuck over to his house to see the pot plants growing on the side of his house. My mom was right, these people were drug addicts.

If my friends and I were playing football or army on the street and heard the roaring of engines several blocks away, we knew trouble was coming and made sure we had plenty of time to run into someone’s open garage. When their cars tore around the corner we’d know it wasn’t someone with a Ronco’s Mr. Microphone coming by to say, "Hey Good Lookin'! We'll be back to pick you up later!" The best-case scenario was that they would whip out a fire extinguisher and you’d get sprayed. To get a better mental picture of these burnouts we had to contend with on a daily basis, Richard Linklater’s film Dazed and Confused paints an accurate picture.

One weekend Howie and I were walking back to his house and one of the freaks raced past us and came to screeching halt. His red break lights put the fear in us as he backed-up to where we were standing. The guy swung open his door, stepped out all agro yelling, “Which one of you assholes threw a snowball at my fucking car!” The crazy look in his eyes said he was ready to start wailing on both of us. We weren’t stupid. There was no remote way in hell we’d throw something at one of those guys. We pleaded with him; our lives depended on it. He got back into his Chevy huffing with anger and peeled off. It was our collective near death experience.

I walked home sick to my stomach with paranoia, looking over my shoulder, listening for that sound. As soon as I got home I went to my dad’s tackle box and found the pocketknife for gutting fish. I slipped it in my pants and vowed that I wouldn’t be afraid anymore. If any of those fuckers came after me, I’d stab him with all my rage and hatred.

A week later during lunch recess on the blacktop a group of us were playing dodge ball, one of the older sixth graders threw me down and he and his friend started to taunt me. I reached in my pocket for the knife and pulled it out. I stood up and chased them around the court yelling “I’m going to kill you” until my voice grew hoarse. Someone ran in to get our teacher Mr. Coffee, he came running out and locked his arms around me while I kicked and screamed and brought me inside. 

We all want to be southern rock.
After I calmed down the questions started: Where did I get the knife? Why did I have a knife? The answers all went back to the hotrods. The reality was I was tired of getting fucked with. Mr. Coffee asked me point blank, “Would you have stabbed any of the kids if you caught them?” I responded with a resounding, “Yes.” 

My parents took me to see a psychologist to talk about my anger. The counselor’s remedy was to send me home with cassette tape on how to relax. I sat in his office and he walked me through on how to listen to the tape; when to tense up and when to release.  All the exercises were done in a chair with the tape lasting about an hour. While other kids went home, had a snack and watched Tom and Jerry, my mom made sure I went to my room, sat in a chair and played the tape. It was my drug for several months.

In retrospect, I want to believe the behavior modification worked. I haven’t pulled a knife on anybody since, but I do admit to punching a couple of people in the face who deserved it. The anger still shows up once in awhile, but instead of reacting I take a proactive approach that includes a lot of walks, bike rides, hikes, playing music, making art, throwing back a couple of drinks. I do all the above because I don’t have the cassette anymore. I taped the Sex Pistols over it a long time ago.

Special thanks to Ana Medina and Monica Zarazua for editing

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