Stage 2: Teenage Victories

Looking back on my teenage years gives me a lot more material to work with, as far as things that I might call victories.

Mostly because it was in my teens that the whirlwind of moving around all over the Goddamn place stopped. Between the ages of five and twelve, I saw about forty countries and almost all fifty states. (I’d see the last ten or so during my teen years, but as vacation destinations, not outright moves.) So when we finally settled down in Xenia for a couple years, I got to… well, take shocking amounts of drugs and have outrageous amounts of sex.

I guess it’s a victory that I nailed the head cheerleader in junior high, but “high” was the operative word there and that’s a level of debauchery that is simply not appropriate to recount in any detail on a modern blog. It was a simpler time, when chemically-aided coercion was considered perfectly acceptable, and it’s not like she ran off sobbing when she sobered up… on the contrary, she bragged about it. The 1980s were awesome. Someday maybe I’ll tell you some of the games we used to play in dance clubs.

But the first real victory I had was graduating high school, because I was sixteen years old when I did it. See, all the drugs and sex and going out to clubs (and of course I had a fake ID) were seriously bothering my parents, who were simultaneously concerned that I was effectively insane…. and completely clueless as to why. So they sent me to an ongoing stream of psychologists and psychiatrists, who kept putting me on this or that medication, and then sitting there scratching their heads about why it wasn’t doing anything. “He’s a child,” they’d say. “He should be a hair’s breadth shy of a vegetable on that much Trilafon.”

Which, of course, is not what happened because I’d been pumping my body full of recreational pharmaceuticals since I was twelve. My body saw a drug enter the system and swung into action like a team of Marine recon veterans performing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  Cats – terminating the invader with extreme prejudice while guaranteeing the maximum possible entertainment value. On more than one occasion, they needed not only parental consent but FDA approval to increase my dosage of something or other well beyond not only the normal dosage protocols, but also the bounds of reason and medical ethics.

Ultimately, when I was 15, they put me into a “boarding school” which is really just another name for “mental institution.” This is what they did in the 1980s. Look it up – the PMRC, Back in Control training centre, the insurance scams aimed primarily at rich and military parents, the general abuses of the entire mental health system for money. And the common thread of everything was that they had absolutely no interest in helping the patient.

But there was one shining light at the end of the tunnel: there was a limit. They couldn’t keep me there past the age of eighteen, and they couldn’t keep me there past high school graduation. So I buckled down, applied myself, and started racking up credits left and right. It was just over a year before they basically scratched their heads and admitted they were over the line and had to give me a diploma.

It was 1986. For the first time in my life, I had won. I got to leave the asylum and go to college, where I would make stupid choices and accomplish nothing because I was fucking sixteen and completely not ready. But fuck it, I won.

The next really big teenage victory came about because I needed to get a job. I had graduated high school, so it was time for me to pay rent and shit. And since I was sixteen, nobody wanted to hire me. So I was going around offering computer maintenance services on a freelance basis, and I happened to walk into a Re/Max office at the office park near my house, where I offered to perform basic maintenance on the computers there on weekends for $20 an hour.

“I can’t just hire the kid down the street,” the office manager said. And then he smiled and winked in a totally non-creepy way, adding “I could hire the company that was started by the kid down the street, though.”

This is where most of the people I knew would have walked out saying “I didn’t get the job,” then gone home and smoked a bunch of pot. Well, I never actually smoked pot at home. My father was working at the Pentagon at the time, and had a top-end CI clearance. Any drugs in his house might have cost him his clearance, his job, and his career. So my stash was not even on my property, but in one of several hidden locations in the under-construction Woodbridge housing development, which thanks to a major dispute over zoning and HOA interaction would not finish construction until I had stopped smoking pot anyway. But I digress, because I didn’t go off and smoke pot.

I got on a bus.

That bus took me north to downtown Alexandria, where I went to the county clerk’s office and asked what the requirements were to get a business licence. The clerk laid it out, and then I asked if I had to be eighteen. After about twenty minutes of pretty much everyone in the office looking up every law they could think of, the answer came back: evidently not. So I filled out some forms and handed over some cash, and they printed off the first-ever business licence for Darklock Communications. It was the 19th of May, 1986. I think. It might have been the 9th, but I’m pretty sure it was the 19th.

I got back on the bus and headed back to the office park, where I showed my business licence to the Re/Max manager again. And he laughed, clapped a hand on my shoulder, and said “$20 an hour, right?”

“Nope,” I said. “$40 an hour. But I think there’s a kid down the street who charges $20 an hour.”

And he laughed, and we bonded and shit. We sealed the agreement with a beer and he gave me a key to the office. Yes, the manager of my local real estate office hired a 16 year old off the street on the strength of a $15 business licence, then gave him a beer. I said it earlier: the 1980s were awesome.

I’d keep that job for a while, but ultimately I left so I could pursue my career in hip-hop, which didn’t exactly go so well. I did release a couple of demo tapes, first as Ricky B. Fresh and later as D.C. Bubba. None of them were particularly well-received, but I did get to be the house DJ for The Complex in Southeast D.C. through most of my college days. Until it was closed down for the massive amount of dust and rock being sold through the fence out back. But that’s another story, and hardly a victory.

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