Life & Friendship–Enjoy it and Don’t Take it for Granted

As Emma develops friendships, several very close ones, I can’t help but think to myself whether they will be lifelong friendships or, as is most commonly the case, childhood friends. I think this because I still have close friendships with people who I met in the early grade school years. As This stay at home dad often does, I am trying to look ahead into Emma’s life and by doing so am reminded of past memories of my own life.

Memories of a very dear childhood/teenage friend of mine come to mind. A life with such potential  tragically cut short. This was a very significant chapter in my life that seems like so long ago but, then again, like yesterday…

Hard to believe but 29 years ago–November 2, 1982, I lost my close friend Dan….  More on this to come soon….Ok, a month later and finally getting to this! Unreal how busy we can get!!!

     As I see Emma developing friendships in school I have often been reminded how blessed I am to have lifelong friends that I have known since kindergarten and grade school! Emma has a friend that she has known since she was 3! Avery is now her best friend, Emma talks about her all the time! I wonder if they will be friends 40 years from now! It would be great if they were although what are the odds? I hope they enjoy it while it lasts!!!

The date November 2nd brings back memories of a great friend that I had who past away on that day in 1982 at the age of 16. The memory of that day is crystal clear in my mind. I stayed home from school that day sick. That evening as I was watching the movie Ghost Story, our doorbell rang. I remember a feeling of unease–really weird–and when my Mom said it was a girl for me I really knew something was up. I answered the door and a girl I knew from the area told me that Danny was dead and she thought I should know. I thanked her and then didn’t know what to do…. I got dressed and since my car was not running–it did that a lot and I was so upset I couldn’t drive it at his funeral–I got on my bike and went down the street to where my friends Pete and the gang(not sure who was all there but I know Pete was) were. I told them and they couldn’t believe it. We rode our bikes past Danny’s house and sure enough, lots of cars were there. I remember we all went to Mel’s house and talked about Danny and we were all shell shocked….
[album: http://www.memoirsofastayathomedad.com/wp-content/plugins/dm-albums/dm-albums.php?currdir=/wp-content/uploads/dm-albums/Emma And friends/]
The whole time, his wake and funeral, were surreal. I must have really been in shock as I just went through the motions…..
The circumstances of his death were not made really clear to me–I learned more only years later–but the rumors were flying. Not to get into what the rumors all were but one thing was clear, alcohol was involved. This tragedy put a seal on my heart regarding drinking too much–believe it or not party friends of mine! Also involved were several of Danny’s friends who I have low regard for to this day from his High School. Dan used to live by me and moved right before we went to High School so he went to another school and made other friends. Anyway, I have used this tragedy as an example whenever I talked to younger people about taking chances(Dan was very daring and would take a dare and do crazy things…I clearly remember telling him that he better calm down or he wouldn’t live to be 18) and drinking etc…..
One thing I know for sure, this event changed my life. At that time, my other friends all had girlfriends so I had nobody to really turn to regarding the loss of a close friend–probably my best friend at the time he died. I remember all the nights listening to music–Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Under Pressure, in particular. I paid regular visits to the cemetery many, many times and drove past his house during the nights when I was working my paper route. Thoughts–not serious ones but thoughts of suicide frequented my mind. It was the lowest time I can remember. Thank goodness I came out of it OK!
Now for the fun stuff!! I have many memories of Dan that I think his friends and relatives who may read this would enjoy!
I am not exactly sure how I met Dan but I think it was through a mutual acquaintance, Robbie. The thing that brought us together was the fact that he had a little motorcycle, a Honda 50, and I had a chopper mini-bike–do kids even ride mini bikes anymore??? Anyway, we rode these together and I eventually upgraded to a 1972 Suzuki 90—that I still have in my garage!
**A funny time was when Dan was riding on the back of my motorcycle(Suzuki 90) in shorts. I stopped and he began to get off when his bare inner leg touched the blazing hot tailpipe and he got a big burn. It wasn’t funny then but looking back it is because of how he jumped around in pain…
**I remember a table in the back room of his house that was hollow inside. We would go in through the bottom and then get stuck inside when the other guy sat on top. Scary at times when claustrophobic!
Dan had a really cool train set in his garage that we often played with. I had trains too. We also played with our Hotwheels cars.
**I remember Dan had a cool fish tank with tiger Barbs in it and his room had a wall of mirrors. I distinctly remember us listening to Dr Demento on the radio in that room as well as Rod Stewart singing “Do You Think Im Sexy.”
For a time, Dan and I were “at war” with Pete, Maurice, Renee and even Robbie…LOL. Eventually we all joined up as a group.
**A really fun period was during the Blizzard of ’79. I remember sleeping over at his house during the night of heavy snow. We bundled up and went outside to “survive.” This was after the movie of the same name LOL. We walked around the neighborhood and when we came back to his house we found that we were locked out! Ha! i remember we went to my Dad’s car because it was never locked and got some papers and matches from the glove box and then went on Dan’s front porch and lit a fire to keep warm. We were not out ther e too long when a Police car–and future co-worker!–pulled up and shined the spotlight on us. We went in the car while he had the dispatcher call Dan’s house. I remember how good it felt to be warm in that car. Dan’s Mom came out and we went back in the house and received a scolding! Too funny!
**During that winter I remember a night when we went walking around and began “skitching” on the rear of cars. It was a real fun night of skitching, we did it for a long time on many cars. I wonder now how those people didn’t know we were on their rear bumpers!!!
**A really hilarious memory is when I had a sleepover! Us guys would always be up late nights and sneaking outside etc…. but on this occasion the action started in the morning. I remember Pete and I were awake and Dan was sleeping–not a good thing as many pranks were played on guys sleeping, like pouring alcohol on Andrew and when he woke up we told him that he sleepwalked to the bar and drank!! Or like when we poured packets of taco sauce in John G’s open mouth. Or like when we covered John V. with my sisters dolls. Anyway, While Dan was sleeping we got some blue food coloring–I think we must have gotten the idea from the  Willie Wonka movie–and proceeded to drop little drops on Dan’s face. I remember the coloring from the little drops spreading and eventually Dan’s face was colored with blue streaks everywhere. Not sure who else was there but I remember we were all laughing and Dan woke up. We couldn’t contain ourselves and he couldn’t figure out why we were laughing. He eventually went in the bathroom and when he came out I remember him yelling,”Pete!!! I’m gonna kill you!!!’ HAHAHA!!! I am laughing about it now!
**I said that we like to play “survive” alot. Well, we did it even when we didn’t sleep over at each other’s houses. We devised a plan where we would get up at 2am and shine flashlights at each other’s houses. When we saw that the other guy was ready we would go outside! We would walk around the neighborhood, raid people’s gardens, dodge cars, peek into peoples windows(people we knew like Robbie). I remember we were in Robbie’s backyard and we heard voices. We looked into the open back door and observed something that I can’t put on here since it was x-rated and involved Robbie and his older brother Wayne. That is why they were so weird!!! It was funny for us to talk about in the future though..
**Another “survive” night was when us and Pete slept in a tent. I remember we were in Dan’s front yard and observed something that still puzzles me. We saw what appeared to be a person in white running in circles around the schoolyard field in front of Dan’s house. The thing is is that this person made absolutely no noise and was running very, very fast. I remember we were confused and then the person just seemed to disappear! Funny how kids’ minds perceive things!
**Another crazy thing that us kids, Dan included, used to do is go in the field with Pete’s Dad’s bow and arrow(the arrow didn’t have the pointy tip though–like that made it safe!) and we proceeded to shoot the arrow straight up in the air and watch it disappear. We would then run, run, run, so that it didn’t land on us(the damage it could have done!!! OMG). I remember the rush I would get when we saw it coming down and land in the ground! And we would do it over again….How the heck did no adults observe this?? LOL
**Us guys used to always play sports. whether it was baseball, football, kickball or whatever, we were always playing. The place we played baseball at was next to my house. we played in concrete with the field grass being the automatic homerun if the outfielder didn’t touch it. Anyway, the guys used to break the chain link fence so they could pull it down to sit on. I remember my parents didn’t like this and the guys wouldn’t stop doing it. Dan and I came up with the solution. Whenever we played “survive” we would fix the fence with hangers, ropes, wire, etc…. When the guys would ask who fixed it we would say the Munchkins did. the thing is the guys would break what we did. We then got creative and covered it with grease and oil! Oh, those Munchkins!

Things really got good when we started driving! I was a year older so I got my license first. The thing that made us the closest was the car my Dad gave me that he had sitting in the driveway for years, a red 1968 Buick Electra 225 convertible. This picture is similiar to the car I had–wish we had the camera phones then that we had now, I would have had tons of pictures! Of course I had mag wheels and the rear tire skirts removed. What a boat!!!! And, my 1st car!!

When I got the car it was in bad shape. It was rusted everywhere and had lots of issues. Out of all my friends, Dan was the only one who helped me to bondo it, sand it, work on it etc…… This is including the fact that he had moved about a mile away and rode his bike to my house! All my other friends were playing baseball or football or whatever….When my Dad and I(and Dan) got the car running, and after I got my license, i would drive to Dan’s house and use his big garage! It seems we were always tinkering with that car! His parents began calling us the Bondo Brothers. I still can remember the smell of that stuff… ***OK, getting late, I will write lots more soon! ***
**One time when we planned on “surviving” we concocted a plan where it would be easier than having to go to the window and pointing a flashlight towards the other’s house. We decided that we could run a kite string from one window to the other and tie a small bell on each end. This way, all we have to do is pull the string and the bell would wake the other guy up. Then, we would meet up outside. We didn’t even think about the possible consequences of  the string  having to cross the street to connect our houses. I remember we kept the sting on the ground across the street and figured that when we pulled the string there would be no cars passing. Anyway, with all this planning etc…it didn’t work as I fell asleep and the little bell didn’t wake me up. Dan did his part and I could tell our system workd since my bell was moved. LOL..funny stuff!
**When we used to talk about the career/job that we would eventually like to get involved in I always said I wanted to be a pilot in the air force(darn my bad eyesight!) and Dan always said he wanted to be a Police Officer. Ironic how I became a Police Officer later! And, Dan’s little cousin Dave also became a Police Officer! How cool it would have been if all 3 of us could have been Police Officers together!
**Speaking of Dan’s little cousin Dave…I remember Dave as a little 10 year old who would always follow Dan and I around. I observed Dan to really like Dave even though he was always teasing him! A quote that Dan used to say to Dave that is clear in my mind is, “Alright Daaaaaave!” Too funny!

**A bad memory I have is when I went camping with Dan at Holiday Park. We were out one night shooting off fireworks when we heard some ducks by the lake. We decided to go there and start throwing fireworks at the ducks. When the ducks started swimming away, we switched from m50s to some air fireworks. We didn’t set them down on the ground to shoot them at the ducks. We held them in our hand and when the wick got down we would throw them towards the ducks and when the firework went off it would fly far towards them. Well, the firework went off in my hand and my entire palm was burned. Ouch! I remember a huge bubble on my hand for the next week! Serves me right for picking on those ducks!

**When I was a Police Officer in the early 90s I had a funeral detail(I had to lead a funeral in the police car) that was going to the same cemetery as where Dan was buried. After I was finished I went over to where Dan’s grave is and saw Dan’s grandfather there. It turns out that Dan’s grandmother had died and she was buried next to Dan and Dan’s grandfather was visiting her grave. It was strange seeing him there but it was nice too.
**A very fun time period that we had was when we worked at the restaurant/bar Olivers as busboys. We worked together most of the time and I remember us always goofing off! We even got the other busboys goofing off as well! It seemed all we did was laugh! Our “theme song” for this period was Loverboy’s “Working for The Weekend.” A memory that is forever engrained into me is the following: We were running late for work and it was snowy. When we got to work, the parking lot was full. I proceeded to drive my gigantic car(unreal that I drove that beast as my 1st car!) down a narrow aisle that turned out to be a dead end. There was one parking spot open but it was very tight as the cars were not parked straight. I decided that I couldn’t park in the space so I had to back up. I couldn’t see well so Dan said he would get out and guide me. When I got to the intersection of aisles and had to make a sharp turn to get out of my aisle it was very tight. I asked Dan if it was clear behind me–kept asking him—and he kept saying, “Plenty of room!” He kept saying that until…Crash! My tank of a car struck another car! Well, I suddenly became the world’s best driver as I zoomed back down that dead end aisle and zipped into that impossible parking spot! Ha! I got out and looked around while Dan was laughing and saying that we were in trouble…. Nobody else saw this except another co-worker who began telling us that he was telling….Luckily for us this guy was cool and kept his mouth shut. Well, my car didn’t have a scratch as it had the chrome bumper that was incredibly strong. The car I struck, however, had a big dent in the rear quarterpanel AND was pushed up against the car next to it! The punks that we were, we didn’t say anything and went in to work. About an hour later we heard an announcement requesting the owners of 2 cars…Uh Oh! Dan and I became very anxious and the other guy too. A short time later, we observed a couple Police Officers enter…Uh Oh!!! Well, that is it for this story—–we never heard anything ore about this and I was never caught! Bad, bad, bad……But, funny, funny, funny as I look back!!!
**A fun period  I remember was when we were on our first teen bowling league. I can’t remember the exact 4 on our team since it changed a year later but I believe it was me, Dan, Bill G. and Jaime V. Anyway, we would bowl on Saturdays and Dan’s mom and Bill’s mom would usually drive us there and back. We were the league’s worst team at the beginning. We had the highest handicap and would win due to it–at the beginning. We all improved to the point where we ended up winning straight up by the end of the year and we won the championship. Our team name was The Bad News Bowlers. I remember playing the videogames asteroids and PacMan  during these times as well as running all over the bowling alley! I clearly remember a real crazy time when it was snowing out and we were outside the bowling alley doors waiting to be picked up and throwing snowballs at the cars on North Avenue. Another time was when we were outside and Bill came out with one of the bowling alley’s balls and rolled it across North Avenue! Thankfully, nobody hit that ball!  The weird thing looking back is that nobody ever said anything to us or called the Police!
**When I started driving it seems like we were always driving around. We would put in a couple dollars worth of gas and drive around until it ran out–which was pretty fast considering that car was a gas guzzler. Dan used to always have strawberry scented air freshener spray and would spray it in my car. He even left some in there—I kept it in that car until I sold it years later. Anyway, I always remembered smelling strawberries in that car. Well, after Dan died I was working during the night delivering newspapers with my car. I remember stopping outside his house and staring at his bedroom window in disbelief on many occasions. I clearly remember a night when I was working and thinking about Dan–I frequently would look next to me and picture him there as he was many times in the past–and suddenly smelling a very strong odor of strawberries! It wasn’t a faint smell but it was as if the stuff was just sprayed which it wasn’t. In fact, during the next 20 years this has occurred to me a handful of times in 3 or 4 of my other cars!
**One of the fun and free things that we would do on many occasions was to go into cemeteries at night. We did this to goof off and scare ourselves. On one occasion, we drove into Northlake’s cemetery–who would think that I would do this many times in the future as a police officer as it was a great hiding spot–and we suddenly saw 2 cars driving up behind us in the darkness with no lights! Well, it was the police–and my future co-workers!. They stopped us and searched the car etc…. and let us go as they knew we were “good kids.”
Our favorite cemetery to go into was the one in Elmhurst with the big Windmill. We had to jump the wall to go into this one and this cemetery was real spooky at night with a pond in front of the Windmill and a caretaker’s house by it too. We never damaged anything and usually just scared ourselves by running and saying that a dog was coming etc… and just getting more scared. On one occasion, there was a large group of us, probably 8 or so. I remember most of the guys had climbed up the windmill when someone pulled out a pack of fireworks. Well, that person, Dan and I lit them and ran. It was–and still is–funny to see those guys hurrying to get off the Windmill as the caretaker’s porch light came on! We all ran our butts out of there! It was a very fun night!
**Another fun thing we used to do while driving around was to drive to Thatcher road at night with the top down. It is a very dark and narrow road between 2 forest preserves. I would then proceed to turn my lights off. Whoah, how dark it got! I could barely see the white line on the street! I would then kinda stand up so my face was above the windshield while still having my foot on the gas. It was very cool to do this and we did it quite often. Of course some people would get very scared and that was the point! I even got scared at times and had to turn the lights on. How lucky we were that i stayed on the road and that no animals walked out, especially deer!
**When Dan got his car things got even crazier. I remember one night when our group was split between Dan’s car and mine and we drove up to County Line Road–another favorite of ours as we would frequently drive fast on that quiet road. We were competitive with our cars and I remember Dan tried to pass me. I then floored it and the 4 barrel carb kicked in. The next thing you know we are going 105 and the  front end of that old car was shaking. Dan was on my left, unable to pass when I see a car coming the other way towards Dan. Well, as crazy as Dan was, he wouldn’t give up. Me, being the “level headed?” one slowed down so he could get in front of me out of the oncoming car’s way! The guys in my car were freaking! Craziness!
**We all loved the convertible aspect of my car. So much that we would drive with the top down in the winter. We did this alot–it wasn’t so bad in the front seat with the heater on high. It is so funny because I can clearly see the guys in the back seat shivering in cold as we were driving around. Of course Dan and I would be warm in the front but tried not to let the guys in the back know it! We did this all the time! I often ask myself “Where did we drive around at all those days?” I really don’t even know now where it was that we always drove around at. Of course Harlem Avenue was a good spot to look for chicks but I don’t remember ever venturing more than a few miles from where we lived.
**It was Christmastime 1981 and Dan and I ditched school and drove to Woodfield mall to Christmas shop. The Tarney Spencer song “No Time to Lose” and Genesis’ “Abacab” played on the radio on our way there.I remember having fun while shopping in that giant mall. There were lots of girls there and I remember that the Journey Escape and Foreigner 4 albums were all the rage. In fact I think we both bought them. Anyway, it was a very fun day that we played hooky!
**We were constantly working on my car and it was just before Christmas in 1981 that we decided that we would spray paint the car in Dan’s garage. I remember that we were working in a cloud of fumes in the closed garage and that we would go outside in the cold for fresh air from time to time. How crazy insane we were!! Anyway, I can’t remember how many cans of paint it took but we eventually got it painted and it looked much better since all the bondo spots were now painted and the car was one color. It took us all day to do this and we were determined to finish it–and we did! We were both so proud! I wish we had the technology back then so I could have taken pictures, before and after!
**I remember a time when a group of us were driving around and somehow we ended up at the airport driving down a small road that enentered into a secure area. Instead of just turning around when we saw a gate with a guard, we drove up to the gate and spoke to the security guard. I remember we played dumb and acted like we were lost and the guard gladly offered his assistance. I remember the guys in the back seat (Luke S. Bob S. and someone else) were laughing and Dan and I were trying not to laugh in the front seat. Bottom line–and this has stuck with us to this day–is the guard stated, “Basically it’s a U-turn.” We used that quote many times after that! We obviously found our way back home.
**One of the fun things we used to do was go by the creek. Whether it was looking for, and catching and releasing frogs and crayfish, having boat races where we would use old hamburger containers, egg cartons, or anything else that would float and follow them to a specified finish line, or doing the following….There was a day where someone came up with the idea of “rafting” down the creek. I think there were 5 or 6 of us and we all came up with makeshift rafts. I remember that Dan and Bill G partnered up and had a nice little inflatable boat raft or something to that effect. We all got in our rafts and began floating down the creek starting from the Northlake Hospital. I remember that the creek got shallow and narrow at times and that eventually all of our rafts became unusable except for Dan and Bill’s. I remember that we walked along the creek as far as we could to follow them as they continued floating down the creek until we could no longer follow them since the banks disappeared around the trailer park. Dan and Bill continued to raft the creek under Mannheim Rd. and into the train yard near the Mannheim bridge. They stopped somewhere around there and came back to us a couple hours later.
**When Dan moved to the North side of Northlake I remember sleeping over at his house. I clearly remember a night when we stayed up very late playing with his new, top of the line, videogame system called The Oddyssey. We played for hours and hours that night! This spurned me to get the awesome Intellivision videogame system!
**My car was old and there was a period of time where the floor by the drivers feet area rusted all the way through causing a small hole in the floor. I used this floor to get my friends whenever it rained! I figured out that if I put my feet over the hole while driving through a puddle  the water would shoot through the hole and would shoot to the side of my feet into the car and onto the other occupants–except me! Dan caught on and would anticipate my driving through puddles. He could lean all the way to the right and forward to avoid water and we used to have a good time getting the guys in the backseat wet! Good Times!
**When we are teenagers we think a bit differently than when we are older–obviously. Well, I remember a time when Dan and I were upset over things–I think over us having no girls and/or family stuff, I don’t remember. I do remember that we talked about death. I remember us saying that we wanted to be buried in our cars–that would be something!!– and that we wanted to be next to each other. I remember him saying that he wasn’t afraid to die and I said that I was. We didn’t talk about this too much except on this occasion and I often wonder if any other young people would want to be buried in ther cars?
**I remember Dan being an excellent Roller Skater. We began to go to the skating rink on North Ave. and 5th Ave. I could not skate at all at first and Dan had a jolly good time skating circles around me etc….Eventually, I got pretty good too. I remember a night when they played the song “I Love Rock & Roll” and Dan was smiling a monster smile and skating all over the place like he was having the time of his life! I also remember a very embarassing time for me when I was skating and lost my balance and grabbed out to prevent from falling. Well, It happens that there were 3 girls next to me and I grabbed the one closest to me by her chest as I was falling down causing her to fall down on top of me. Needless to say, she was extremely upset while my friends were all laughing at me. For the rest of the night the girls were calling my pervert at every chance they could while Dan and the guys–Bill G, Pete, Carlos?- were all laughing at me! Looking back, it is hilarious!
**There was a day when some of us guys, I think myself and Dan and his Leyden friends, cut school and drove my car downtown. We drove around the city–I hate doing this now so I can’t imagine doing it then with that gigantic car–and somehow ended up on Wells street. This was my first exposure to public displays of gayness by men. I remember a couple guys dressed in all black leather holding hands and kissing and Dan standing up in the car–top was down–and yelling out “Hey you Fag^*ts!” I also remember several of the other gay guys in the area starting to run towards us and me getting us out of there!!
**When we used to go to Northlake Junior High we took the bus. Dan was a year behind us and took the same bus. There was a kid in our grade named Bruce Halverson–why I remember his name is beyond me– that used to kinda pick on Dan. We used to tell Bruce to stop but he would persist when we were not around or not looking. It went on for awhile and then I remember that Dan had had enough. I remember that he and Bruce had decided to fight and the planning went on for days…I remember the day of the fight….We stayed on the bus a couple blocks longer and got off at 44th and Hirsch, the site of the brawl. There were a group of us who were aware of the event that had come so there was obviously a larger group there than normal. I remember how Dan was nervous on the bus ride there but he was very determined and had psyched himself up for it. Well, the fight began and was a bit clumsy for a bit with many missed swings and feints. I remember Dan bouncing around doing his Mohammed Ali impersonation and us guys were laughing. Eventually they both landed some blows and they ended up on the ground etc…I think a lady came out and broke them up with no real clear victor. I do remember that Dan got respect from Bruce and they shook hands afterwards. Dan was also very proud that he had stood up to the bully.

**Another hilarious(now) incident with Dan is when John Guido’s playhouse had a Bee’s nest in it. These were the big bumblebees and there were lots of them–we couldn’t figure out how we would get them out of there…Until, Dan came up with the bright idea that he would get them out by dressing up in a snowsuit(this was mid-summer), boots, gloves, and a motorcycle helmet.
I remember the group of us watching as he entered the playhouse looking all crazy….A very short time later he came running out screaming. When we saw that there were about 5 or 6 big bumblebees attached to his back we all ran away from him screaming..LOL! He then ran backwards into John’s brick house and repeatedly banged up against it to get the bees off.  We all stood way back until it was safe to approach.. When he took the clothes off he had a bunch of big welts where the bees had stung him through the snowsuit. Too funny(now)! Oh, I don’t remember if he got the nest all the way out or not!


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