David Lee Roth just saved my life… again.

Posted: August 18, 2015 in Sometimes...

I come from a broken home.

This is nothing more than a statement of fact. That fact excuses nothing. It is not responsible for any behaviors, good nor bad, that I exhibit.

Nor is it responsible for my legendary drug intake, copious quantities of booze, random outbursts of violence or romance, my humor, my proclivity to weep at the end of Rebel Without a Cause (when Jim rushes to Plato’s lifeless body, arm outstretched, a full magazine in his hand, crying “I got the bullets!”), none of it. Just fact.

However, that fact is responsible for one very, very important thing. My friends.

Many of us came from similarly dysfunctional environments. Some of us had no father, others no mother, some had both but were ignored to the point of feeling as though they had neither. Some were only noticed when their cowardly fathers turned their attentions and fists towards them if they were brazen enough to try and protect their mothers from his insecurity and booze fueled beatings and still others were charged with winning the bread for frail, worn parents that the world had ground to a nub.

Again, no excuses. Narry a one. However, it did leave a void within all of us. A need for structure. It made us very aware of what most children and teens took for granted; that if you are totally alone in this world, you are, simply stated, fucked.

We needed a hierarchy in order to establish goals and to compete, thus learning how to deal with loss and how to excel. We needed emotional support, however unconventional, in order to surmount the many obstacles that our social standing placed before us. The sort of things kids with even barely functioning families already had.

We didn’t have a “Lord of the Flies” approach, however. We were much more cut from the S.E. Hinton teen ruffian paradigm. Nobody got eaten. Not whole, anyway. There was some hazing, and some alpha-dog posturing, of course. And by white suburban, prep school standards, it might have seemed extreme. But we had no examples to be led by, and we had great disdain for weakness. So much so, that the absolute weakest of our ranks could break your jaw before you could say “Fuck your mom”.

Again- no excuses. We were this because this is what we needed to be.

By age 11, we’d all been drunk, smoked weed, were addicted to tobacco in one form or another. We regularly carried weapons, generally blades of varying illegality, procured by questionable means. We were randomly jumped and beaten by other, similar groups of misfit kids. Small town America in the 1980’s was way scarier than NYC, yo. But we never saw it that way then.

Tough kids don’t have the luxury of crying when they gets their 16 year old girlfriend pregnant. Certainly not if she simply dumps him for a football player. As a matter of fact, there were only two excusable instances for tears of any kind (outside of watching Brian’s Song). They were, in this order- If your mom dies, or if your dog dies. Period.

So we found other ways of comforting each other. “Who’d she dump you for? Let’s go fuck him up” or “Fuck it, man. Smoke this and I’ll go swipe a bottle from the old man”.

We reveled in annoying the citizenry. We’d tape M80’s to the chief of police’s picture window and disappear into the night before it exploded because we had no other way of fighting back against the constant harassment. Getting clubbed from behind and left on the sidewalk, or running into the woods, blood stinging your eyes because officer shithead didn’t like you, not because you did anything wrong.

We threw massive keggers, we camped deep, deep in the woods for weeks on end, we threw huge parties for exiles returning from over the border (once the heat died down). We welcomed the cousins, however distant, of all of our crew as though they were our own.

We drove endless loops through small towns on Saturday nights, hopping from one car to another. Who had the shrooms? Who had the weed? Who had that hot chick that was their sister’s friend in the car?

We had no rules, save those we placed on ourselves. Don’t curse in front of anybody’s mom, even if she does, don’t screw around with anybody’s little sister (their older sisters were okay, but if you did, don’t discuss it unless said brother is not present) and under all circumstances, keep your fucking mouth shut. Since all we had in the world was each other, betrayal was met with fast and ugly justice. But betrayal was rare. Not because anyone feared retribution. Rather because of pure, absolute loyalty.

Some might think “How primitive. What vile little creatures” To that, I say now as I said then, Fuck you. To draw that conclusion meant you were so far removed from our reality, you had no right to judge.

Why am I telling you this? I have no need for forgiveness. I had too much fun to be sorry. I’m not trying to explain away my disdain for authority. Quite honestly, I don’t give a fuck what they think of me. The truth is, I’m not telling you anything. I’m simply reminding my 47 year old self of what it was like when I had “The Gang”.

The past few days have been exceedingly tying. There has been betrayal of trust, a sense of uselessness and, worst of all, the loss of an amazing friend. All hot on the heels of a feeling of invincibility and that all was right with the world, literally the day before.

So, after sulking and skulking and feeling sorry for myself, I strapped on my Docs and walked. I walked for several hours, all the while with my earbuds in. First, I tried to find a Buddhist podcast to help me find my center, but I’d heard all of them already. There didn’t seem to be any new ones.

So I turned to Kevin Smith, but again, I’d wasted the new SModcast and TESD earlier in the week when I was feeling good.

I tried Bach, but it wasn’t meaty enough for my misery. I tried Black Sabbath, both Ozzy and Dio, but their pallor of darkness was making me start to feel at home in my misery.

Then, finally, I found it. The only thing that could save me. Van Halen. I started with VH, then VH II, Fair Warning, Women and Children First and, finally, the last great VH album to be released in my youth, Diver Down.

As The Full Bug filled my head with dreams of half-shirt wearing bleach blondes sporting way too much black eye liner and tri-colored frosted eye shadow, I expected instant relief. “Dave has never let me down”, I thought. “What’s happening to me?”

I listened to each album twice. Once before my realization, and once after. That realization was as follows: Without the support system of the group of friends I had as a juvenile delinquent, I will always be, essentially, alone.

Without gentle ribbing, or blatantly abusive jabs, I will never snap out of a funk. Without the expectations of toughness we had for one another, I will never endure. Without my friends, my true family, without The Gang, I will always be alone.

Then I got a text. It was from one of those very people. He was having similar issues in life and I mentioned how I missed the support of our crew. He concurred. I put the phone back in my pocket and hit play.

“Bom ba deedah bom ba deedah…Happy traaails to yoooou…”

It was then, that very fraction of an instant when David Lee Roth gave me the key to all the secrets of the universe.

“Til we meet aaaaaaaaaagain”

I will never be alone. Because I still have each and every one of those kids carrying me every step of the way.

We may drift apart, but we always drift back together again.

I wonder, how many people wish they still had the same friends they grew up with? Tonight, I realized I am a lucky, lucky man.

  1. Write on, Brother…

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