My early years, let’s say the seven or so before the second grade, were spent in Albuquerque, N.M. living a life of almost sin-free exposure. I suspect I knew a cuss word or two, but not much else about the ill ways of the world. The temperate climate there and the fact that it was the seventies meant drive-in movies were a staple of free-time existence, and my family took in their fair share – including my two favorite stuffed animals, Phoenix and Squeaky.
From the back of the Pacer, through the large hatchback window it afforded me, I could always divert my eyes to other films playing – the one’s that weren’t G rated. We might have been there to watch Grease but you could always find some R-rated flick screening across the way, and if there were enough people there to see it you could hear it too – the little speakers working in unison provided adequate exposure to say… the hellish screams of trapped teens in Carrie.
At some point, through this viewing methodology I was able to see Children of the Corn. Having just IMDB’d it, I can see that point was post-Albuquerque – which means we must have kept hitting drive-ins for a spell in our days in Texas or possibly went during our trips back to New Mexico to visit family. The location isn’t relevant, but the memory of Malachai, Isaac, and their minions certainly is. I have a firm hunch that it was from this film, my fear of youth-mobs was born.
Sometime later, due to some true-crime novel or possibly a paper pushing garbage to make sales – my mom introduced me to this theory: in the future, due to increasingly corrupt moral values and lackadaisical parenting the population would find itself dealing with mindless pubescent killing machines – children who’d stab you for your wares, leave you for dead, and never experience remorse. You need not scan the internet too hard to find incidents that mimic that line of thinking. In the last week alone I read about: a girl who killed the family cat to use its blood for a Lady Gaga show, and another girl who shot her father with his crossbow because he took away her cellphone, and numerous flash-mobs of teens creating all kinds of havoc in and around Chicago’s Miracle Mile.
But long before I had such easy access to macabre stories of youth gone wild, I’ve always been on high alert when confronted with more than a few whipper-snappers on a NYC city street. The other morning, while taking an early and peaceful stroll to see a friend for breakfast, I came upon three or four dozen of them, hanging out like vultures in front of the local Mickey D’s. Would I walk around them, even though I had only a few minutes until my friend could brand me truant? Hell no, although as it turns out he would have condoned that action due to possessing the same fear. No, I just did what I always do – grab a smoke and light it in front of them, as if I haven’t a care in the world, and to say, “Look at me. I’m smoking – tough guys smoke, right? right?” I’m sure even the nervous chuckles in my head are audible on some level to this evil breed.
But yes, the ol’ guy-you-better-not-mess-with-because-he-smokes trick – works every time. Has so far anyway.