At the risk of sounding superstitious and childlike (which I already do to many here, already, I'm sure), I want to share with you a little story of the night...

There came a time when my life would be changed forever. Everything I knew would be left behind, left for memory's feasting. My childhood was spent mostly in Bismarck, ND, but I always had a "feeling" that things would change... We moved to Delta Junction, AK, when I was 17 years of age.

Just to give a background to my recollection, I'll share with you a little bit of history. We drove from North Dakota all the way to Alaska (there and back four times, actually), and began building a house from the ground up. In three months, we had cleared the area of all the trees (of which there were very many), dug and lay the foundation, and built the walls and roof of the house. That is when winter hit in Alaska. Outside was -30 or even -40, but inside the house it was even colder because we had no insulation in the walls yet, no sheetrock, and just a small wood stove which was sluggish to heat up even a small portion of the house; the walls were supposed to keep the cold out, but instead they kept the sun out and in effect made the building into one massive freezer. I remember going downstairs to the "kitchen" and pouring myself some tomato juice---if I didn't drink it in half a minute, it would become a red block of ice. Every morning I dreaded, knowing I would have to get up and immediately get back to working, building and toiling. I thought that period of my life would never end. I remember sleeping in the car because the house had no walls yet and the mobile home was too crowded; I remember sleeping in the house when there was no roof yet nor heat; I remember freezing and shivering, hoping that it was just a bad dream... Ah, those were the days---ones that I never want to go back to. A few of our rooms we had managed to insulate, and we bought portable heaters which we had in each room. I and my brother shared a room, and my sister had the room next to ours.

In Alaska, during the winter, it gets very dark, sometimes pitch black. So there I was, laying in bed, my feet pointed towards the window. I stared up at the dark ceiling for a while, thoughts running through my mind. My brother, John, was fast asleep on the other side of the bed. The only thing I could hear was his soft breathing amidst the roar of dead silence. The night wasn't pitch black, and a soft light filled the window in front of our bed.

I thought to myself, Well now, why don't I glance out towards the window and see what's going on. As my eyes lowered from the ceiling to the window, a tall and black figure filled my view. It appeared to wear a robe of thick darkness, not cloth. Its head was hooded by this darkness. I could not see its face. It just stood there at the foot of my bed, staring down at me. At first, I thought I was just "seeing things," so I looked away. My mind would not allow me to rest, I knew. So to clear things up, I decided to look back and bust this temporal myth my eyes had conjured up. It was still there.

This troubled me greatly. I frowned and turned to my side, not daring to look back. This shouldn't be happening. This isn't real! I kept telling myself that I was just seeing things, that maybe the tomato juice was spiked with a hallucinogen, that maybe I was just tired! My feet were suddenly engulfed in a frosty cold... All and any rational thoughts in my mind were shut up in less than a moment, and were replaced by raw perturbation. The frost began to move up my legs, and the dead silence was pierced with the screaming in my mind. As the cold slowly moved up the back of my body, unhindered panic began to dominate my mind. Mercilessly, the dark presence proceeded to come closer---I felt it moving down the side of the bed towards my head. At first, breathing was a chore, but then it became a struggle as panic had begun to ensue. What I felt can only be described as my soul being slowly torn from me.

The end of my life, my sanity, was nigh. When the cold had reached my spine, I could barely breath, I could not think, I could not speak, I could not move---I was fully paralyzed. My eyes were wide open, but were not registering anything beyond half a foot in front of them. As the cold neared the back of my neck, somewhere in the distance I heard a phone ring. Somehow, I recognized it to be the one in my sister's room on the other side of the wall. It rang only a couple of times before she picked it up, and as soon as I heard her voice, the presence vanished! It was as if something had let me go, and I was left there, panting, my mind once again alive and racing.

I do not know why I was visited by Jack, and I do not know how he was allowed near me, but I do know that that was an experience I would never forget. Whether it was an apparition or specter or what have you, it almost drove me into the merciless realm of insanity. I thank my Lord for delivering me. Since that night, nothing so ferocious has come near me. Jack is out there, somewhere, maybe even watching me from a distance. I know, however, that he is no longer within the right to take hold of me like that again.

I don’t know if it was done out of boredom or some sense of rebellion. Probably a little bit of both. All I know was that it somehow had to be done. When you’re seventeen and trying to prove yourself to your peers and to the rest of the world, that’s all that matters.

Or so you think.

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

I think I took my first hit of pot when I was around fourteen. Shit, in my neighborhood it was easier to get that then it was to get somebody to buy you booze. See, with pot, you knew what you were getting when you and your friends chipped in to buy that nickel or dime bag. The dealers had already taken their cut and the count was a given. Besides, they didn't require ID. With booze, you had to turn over your hard-earned cash to some lowlife who might make off with it or even refuse to turn the booze over to you once they went inside and bought it.

Who you gonna complain to?

And you, you can be mean
And I, I'll drink all the time
'Cause we're lovers, and that is a fact
Yes we're lovers, and that is that

But then if you were lucky enough to find somebody who looked old enough or some liquor store owner who was desperate enough to sell you some booze direct, why half step? Who wants to wet their whistle drinking some bum wine or pre-mixed screwdriver or some other god-awful concoction that would leave you with the Godzilla of all hangovers?

Fuck that shit, make it a fifth of Jack

Though nothing, will keep us together
We could steal time, just for one day
We can be heroes, forever and ever
What d'you say?

So, with bottle in hand and enclosed in a brown paper bag you and your friends would meet under the cover of darkness in some remote corner of the neighborhood park or deserted schoolyard. Maybe someone would bring a joint or two, maybe someone else some beer and you’d sit in a circle with a boom box in the center hoping that “some girls” meant more than what The Rolling Stones had to offer.

I, I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins, like dolphins can swim
Though nothing, nothing will keep us together
We can beat them, forever and ever
Oh we can be heroes, just for one day

And as the weed and the bottle got passed around and the conversation became more intense it wouldn’t be long before we’d all be howling at the moon. We’d dream only dreams that you have when you’re still wet behind the ears and “shake our rattle at the sky”. Free from our inhibitions, we’d rant and we’d rave aloud about how there was no way we were gonna be like our parents. No fuckin’ nine to five for us, the footprints that we left would be etched in the ground for eternity for all of the rest of the world to see. We were our own band of brothers and would remain as such for our lifetimes.

I, I won't be king
And you, you won't be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can be heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day

But then, some funny shit happens along the way. Some of the those friends either fall out of favor, some drift off to college, some die by their own hands and some run off in to the relative safety to the awaiting arms of Uncle Sam. And it all seems to happen in the blink of an eye.

I, I can remember (I remember)
Standing, by the wall (by the wall)
And the guns, shot above our heads (over our heads)
And we kissed, as though nothing could fall (nothing could fall)
And the shame, was on the other side
Oh we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes, just for one day

Forty some odd years have know gone by since those nights spent in the park with Jack and his and my youthful companions. I try to keep track of those friends from long ago through the magic of the internet. Since I’m not big on reunions, I do it quietly and anonymously. Some have moved on from the old neighborhood, some have stayed and some seem to have vanished from the face of the earth. So much for those footprints I mentioned earlier.

We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day

A smile still crosses my face when I think about them. We played and dreamt hard and I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re seventeen and age and a sense of responsibility hasn’t yet mellowed you.

We're nothing, and nothing will help us
Maybe we're lying, then you better not stay
But we could be safer, just for one day

But then again, who the hell am I kidding? When I was a kid, I would’ve hoped that that it would have been somehow “cool” to have parents who were attuned to the times and weren’t some distant relics living in the past. I guess we all want that when we’re that age.

We didn’t know shit.

This week is prom week for my kid and her senior year in high school. I asked her if she wanted me to spring for a limo for her and her friends to shuttle her back and forth in style and she said that wouldn’t be necessary. I asked her if I could buy her anything that would make this special night even more special and she looked over at me, smiled a coy smile and in a questioning voice said:


And I said “I won’t do that.”

She was smart enough not to ask for an explanation but since she’s a quasi regular here I’ll give her one anyway.

It’s not because I don’t trust her and don’t want to see her (or myself) get busted or hurt or anything like that. It runs a bit deeper than any of those things.

See, I still think that those teenage years are meant to be fraught with experiments, rebellion and a bit of fantasy. It comes with the territory and probably always will.

I just want that territory to be a bit more grounded in reality and not to come out of the other side of a bottle.

Be safe honey, daddy loves you.

Lyrics come courtesy of David Bowie and his fine tune called Heroes.

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