Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where I Come From...


Bologna sandwiches and Gone With The Wind, that's what I was raised the context of The Outsiders that is. The 1983 film based on S.E. Hinton's bestseller was without question the biggest influence of my early adolescence. I thought that Ponyboy Curtis was a pretty cool guy. I kinda wanted to be him. At that point in my life, the wrong side of the tracks was a pretty familiar place, and denim jackets and beat up Chuck Taylors was something of a uniform. S.E. Hinton wrote The Outsiders when she was sixteen years old...sixteen years old. That's almost unbelievable.

I flipped on the TV tonight and there was Ponyboy and Johnny hiding out in that old abandoned church, smoking cigarettes, eating bologna sandwiches, and reading Margaret Mitchell. There was Dallas and Sodapop, Two-Bit and Steve, Dary and Cherry Valance...Tom Waits even made a sly appearance as Buck Merrill. I loved everything about The Outsiders. They made a young guy who didn't quite fit in feel like he had a bit of company, and I did, the book and the movie just romanticized the kind of crap that kids who lived in rented houses, next to factories, with too much freedom usually feel.

My friends weren't criminals, not yet at least, and they were mostly practicing troublemakers. Their parents didn't care where they were, they didn't care where they were going, and nobody was going to notice them if they didn't break a window, get drunk or high, or maybe get kicked out of their house. I was a good kid stuck with some pretty bad friends. Of course, I grew up...I met new friends...I started spending more time in the Teeter basement, and I stopped daydreaming of S.E. Hinton sunsets and wrong kids vs. right kids. It just didn't make much sense.

We grew up in the country, on a half-assed farm. We boarded standard-breds from the local race track, sometimes there were beef cattle in the pasture...sometimes. We mucked stalls, swiped cigarettes from unlocked trucks in the factory parking lot, and wasted as much time in town as we could. We didn't own a damn thing, but we weren't too bad off. On summer nights you could hear the freight train rumbling from the other side of the river. We had leather jackets, like a lot of the other kids, and we stole beers from our father's fridges. A lot of the guys I knew back then didn't change much over the years. They kept their leather jackets, their jeans stayed ripped and tight, their hair long...and I sometimes wonder why we chose to change. We were just kids, really, barely thirteen or fourteen, but we were eager to prove ourselves tough, and it was a bit of a badge of honor to fit in on the wrong side of town. It's funny how all of it comes floating back just from this one film.

I still run into some of those guys every once in awhile, and sometimes they say hey, and sometimes they don't remember a thing it seems. I giggle at the leather jackets, and laugh out loud at the high top sneakers still on their feet. Some of them hang out in pool halls still, and some of them did the same as me...they grew up, but every one of them could tell you what it felt like to only belong to each other.

I love this movie more than almost anything else I've ever laid my eyes on. It feels like a time in my life that I don't think about very often anymore. Sometimes I miss it...a guy can miss dysfunctional if he lives with it long enough. Mostly I just miss the familiarity of it all, of those people, of their families, and those streets and empty dirt roads. I miss the sound of that train way off in the distance, and I miss the feeling that only fourteen has...when it's you vs. everybody, or so you think. Man, what a great movie...

"When I stepped out into the bright sunlight, from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman, and a ride home."

Paul Newman...Ponyboy, that's tough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was when a black eye was a trophy, especially when u earned it fightin the older kid that nobody would mess with. Lookin tough was as important as being tough, until it really mattered then you'd better be tough. Alot of boundaries were defined back then invisible but real, boundaries that many once learned didn't cross the rest of the way thru school even into adulthood. Once you proved yourself you didn't have to really again, you just needed to make a little extra room sometimes for those who'd forgot or hadn't learned yet. That was an amazing and confusing time, looking there now. Not country but not town either, not the wrong side but not the right. Its funny cause those feelings still resonate even into my adulthood. Alot of that came flooding back to me as we shovelled dirt onto Danny's casket. I've friends from those years who to this day would wade into a scrap on my behalf and never even question whether it was for a just cause or i had earned it, i looked up that day and saw what was left of some of them. I knew even that day they just would. Maybe it was because we had done the same thing for them once or maybe it was because for awhile there, it was, us against everyone else. Funny where loyalties lie and how lines drawn in the sand 23 years ago are barely visible but you can still make them out in the right light even today. Even funnier how some people still see those lines and with somber nods pay respect to what was earned 23 years ago even when we've forgotten.

Uncle B

October 1, 2010 at 12:29 PM  

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