“My friends all tell me they have no friends at all.”—John Prine, “Dear Abbey”
Well, I guess I had 3 or 4 friends in high school. Ron, Bryan, Tom and Larry. Our common interests were pop music, jazz, James Bond books and movies, and girls—at some point we all had steady girlfriends, at least until they ditched us. We enjoyed reading MAD Magazine and watching Steve Allen on TV, and imitating his vocalisms: smock! smock! We were a little goofy.
We also got into pretending we were spies. On TV at the time was a show called Man from U.N.C.L.E. Forgot what U.N.C.L.E stood for, but the two main characters were played by David McCollum (the slight blonde one), and Robert Vaughn (the dark leading character one), who both dressed in black turtlenecks. So we all bought black turtlenecks and pretended we were boys from U.N.C.L.E.
One night while staying over at Bryan’s house, Ron, Bryan and me (was Tom there? Not sure. Larry wasn’t there), decided it would be fun to sneak out after midnight and terrorize the neighborhood. We had some cherry bombs and M-80s—high powered firecrackers. Not sure how we got them because they were illegal in Missouri. I think we got them from some older boys who smuggled them in from Texas. Anyway, our method was to put a lit cigarette on their fuses and high tail it. About five minutes later the cigarette would burn down, then BOOM. House lights would turn on in the neighborhood, people would poke their heads out windows and front doors (“Mildred, did you hear that?”) and we would be blocks away giggling under some bushes. The local cop came around and shined his search light from his car, but never saw us. Great fun.
Later that year a neighbor of Tom’s chewed him out for some reason. Tom didn’t think it was deserved, so he talked us into plotting revenge. You guessed it—strategic placement of cherry bombs on the neighbors lawn. We did this for three or four nights in a row and enjoyed watching him fly out of his house cursing and yelling while we hid in some bushed atop a hill. We were enjoying the scene until one night a flashlight came out of the dark and the cop asked us what we were doing. We played dumb, but he busted us as we tried to ditch the fireworks in the bushes. After a free ride in his squad car to the station, he called our parents to come pick us up. On their way over he told us that we were lucky that we didn’t get shot, because the guy we were bombing was a shell shocked WWII vet, who told the cops that if they didn’t catch the damned kids that were doing this to him he would shoot them. Suddenly things got serious.
Our parents showed up and after a scolding from the police, the cops turned us over to their custody knowing that we would catch hell at home. I think I got grounded for a month. Nowadays we would have been booked, and likely gone to juvie jail after being required to write a not of apology to the neighbor. But back then there was no restorative justice—just turn the offenders over to the parents and let them handle it.
So what were my friends like in high school? They were like co-conspirators. We weren’t bad, and probably typical. I’ve heard it said that adolescent boys blood doesn’t flow up to their heads. Upon refection I think this is probably true.