There was a kid that I hung out with at Fox Lake when I went to visit my Dad. I think his name was Ray and he had an older brother and a sister that was about a year older. The girl used to tackle me when she saw me coming up and she would just sit on my chest and slap and punch me. I was always taught never to hit girls so I would just try to get out of it and take the abuse. I tried avoiding her at all costs but sometimes I just couldn’t. I remember I told my Mom about this when I went back home after the first summer (and the repeated beatings) and she told me sometimes you need to hit back to defend yourself. The next summer when I went I walked right up to the house with all of my confidence (and more importantly, approval) of course she came out running, tackled me and started again. I just swung and popped her right in the jaw. She looked at me and said – “good punch”. She got up, helped me up and she never bothered me again.
One time at Ray’s house he snuck a cigarette from his parents and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon to cover the smell (don’t argue with 8 year old logic). We went to his back shed and puffed on the butt and drank some of the beer. It wasn’t what either of us expected and I don’t think we finished either. Clearly we weren’t ready to party it up yet.
There was another kid who lived down the street and he had an Atari 2600, and one of those big ass projection TV’s with the projector on the bottom in front of the TV. I walked into his house and he had like 40 Atari games. No one I knew had a big screen and 40 Atari games! When you’re that age and you see that many games it’s like a homeless person seeing a big sack of cash or a druggie looking at a huge mound of cocaine, at least that’s how I felt about it. I told him he was rich and all I wanted to do was sit in his house and play Atari but he was quickly annoyed by me and we didn’t really hang out much after that. I guess when you’re rich you don’t like other people pointing it out to you. Either that or I just became a sniveling little junkie addicted to his Atari.
When I went to my Dad’s for the summer it was always a treat. It was just me and him (unless he was working and then I just had time to find trouble) and we would do things that I still fondly remember. We used to go to the movies a lot, both in the theaters and drive ins. There was no radio stations that broadcast the sound so you just had the 50’s style speaker boxes at the drive in that you would put in your car. I saw Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and a bunch of Roger Moore James Bond movies which were all great and still some of my favorites but we also saw some really shitty movies. Barbarosa (I know who you are, you’re Mr. Shit), Caveman, Humungous, Zorro the Gay Blade. We would also always get ice cream. I loved going into Baskin Robins as a kid because it seemed like there were a million flavors. Then there was Dog n Suds which was a 50’s style drive in restaurant. My Dad was imparting his nostalgia onto me and these things became very important to me and for me to have things like this to share with my kids. Can’t forget Brown’s fried chicken either. I don’t know if they are still around in the Chicago area but man was that some good stuff.
Then there was Great America. It was an amusement park in Gurnee, IL (It’s a Six Flags now) and that place seemed larger than life. We were driving there in my Dad’s brown Cutlass and it was a hot day so I took my shirt off and was dangling it out the window. He said “don’t drop it!” “I won’t” I said. 30 seconds later and it was on the side of the highway somewhere. We stopped an looked for it but couldn’t find it. So my Dad had to drop $20 on a Great America shirt before we even got in the park (score!). It was 1981 and they had just opened the largest and fastest roller coaster in the world – The American Eagle. My Dad was dying to go on it and I was scared shitless. After some coaxing I agreed to go on. Going up that first hill and seeing how high we were literally was one of the most exciting moments of my life but what goes up, must come down. I think my face froze in absolute panic when we went down that hill. I had a death grip on the bars, my eyes were shut so tight that my eyelids folded inside of each other and I pissed my pants. Yep – the best fucking experience ever! Seriously I mean that. I became addicted to roller coasters from that day forward. I bought the Guinness book of world records just to show everyone that it was in there and that I went on it. So there I was in my pissed in pants and new Great America shirt and it was one of the best days ever.