When I was a kid, there was a house down the street we weren’t allowed to play at. We called it The Bad House. Drug dealers lived there — whatever the heck those were.
I don’t remember what The Bad House looked like, because instead of a wide open grassy front yard like all the other houses had, there was a tall rust-colored wooden fence all the way around the yard, with a narrow opening for the driveway. Imagine the splinteryest, most fallingest-down fence you can, take a few more boards off, multiply the splinters by eleven, and you’ve got it.
The neighbors used to complain about the SWAT team using their backyard as a staging area. Frankly, I thought it was pretty cool. It was like something out of The A-Team. “SWAT’s out back again, fool!” But the little old lady with hair rollers didn’t see it that way. Maybe she never watched TV.
The folks that lived at The Bad House wore blue jeans so tight they looked like a second skin, leather vests over tank tops or muscle shirts, dirty old boots, and lots of jewelry. The women had long purple fingernails and the men had long flowing beards. They rode Harleys.
Oh, was I fascinated by those people. I watched them whenever I could. How could I, too, learn to simply reek of coolness? I studied them. I observed. My mom told me “Just walk fast and don’t look at them,” when passing The Bad House on my way to Kindergarten, but oh boy, did I look. It was like the forbidden fruit! How could I not look? They scowled at my mom and smiled at me as we walked by. Even though they were drug dealers — whatever that meant — I wanted to join their gang.
Then there was Kindergarten Career Day. I showed the class my crayon drawing of adult me on a big black motorcycle, wearing big black boots, complete with cigarette hanging out of my mouth, and explained what I wanted to be when I grew up. Then I looked at my mom and the teachers, waiting for their smiling seals of approval. Their eyes were very big.
Not long after that, my mom decided to homeschool. I don’t think there was a connection, but I could be wrong.