Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Okay, so I'm old. I manage a coffee shop near the local university and I employ college youths. This fall the kids who were born the year I graduated high school will be coming to college. If I hire one of them I will be twice their age. My coworkers and I used to be friends, but now I'm simply old man Hill. The boss. Somebody's dad. Not cool at all. A dad in a band. How lame is that? Don't get me wrong, I love my life. I cherish it. I would rather be who I am now than the 18 year old I used to be. That kid was crazy.

Anyway, the following story is something I wrote a couple of years ago to take me back to that carefree summer between high school and college when Depeche Mode's Violator was brand new, and my own Personal Jesus was the thrill of being young and looking for love.

His name was Mack. It was a strong name and one that I had never encountered in real life before. In action movies sure, but never in real life, and that added to his mystique. I was 17 and I was full of confusion and a desire for adventure. I had grown up in a small city and I was ready to break out and become the next whatever next was cool to me at the time. It was the end of high school and I had met a guy who was two years older and who didn’t care about convention at all. His main goal was getting laid, and to tell the truth that was on the top of my list as well. It is no small wonder I hitched my load to his wagon that peculiar May in 1990.
Mack was conceited. Mack was a sexist. Mack was a spindly little man without much muscle, but Mack had charisma, and he had passion, but more importantly he had his father’s 1990 Ford Mustang convertible. We would cruise in that glorious machine at 80 miles an hour through the curvy residential hilltop community where the rich people lived, listening to Depeche Mode at top volume without a care in the world. And then we’d have to go home. I still had school, I still worked in the deli of the grocery store. Mack would tear off and I’d watch him from the driveway of my parents house and marvel at him.
One day after graduation I was at the mall buying a Doors CD and I ran into Mack. He was wearing a suit and tie and he looked quite conservative. It wasn’t the usual knee length jeans and Cure t-shirt I was used to. He was embarassed but he kept up his charachter. He said, “I’m looking for jobs, and everybody knows that when looking for jobs you have to put on the best appearances.” I said, “Fuck that, you look like somebody at my father’s office.” He gave a slight grimmace and replied calmly, “You’re too young, you’ll understand in time.” He knew right where to slay me. I shut up after that. I was always looking to be more mature than I was. It’s ironic, because now at age 33 I have to try hard to act as mature as I am.
We got together that day and he decided that his suit would help us get chicks. He told me quite seriously, “you know if we’re going to play lumberjack, you’re going to have to hold up your end of the saw?” I was certain I could and off we went.
Before we could go to the downtown area and pick up chicks we’d have to go to Mack’s house to get me better attired. So there we were looking through his closet trying to find the right clothes that looked cool and fit me. The problem then was the same as all throughout my life, I’m a big guy, and cool clothes never seem to fit me. We did find some things however, some amulets, a nifty vest, and we were satisfied that I would hold my own. We were about to leave on our escapade when Mack’s father came home. His presence alone burst the mytique of Mack’s bubble.
“James,” his father called. “James could you please be at my office at 4:30 to pick me up?”
Mack told his father that he’d be there and then his father, without even noticing me at all started to berate his son on his lack of entusiasm in looking for jobs. He was stern and reproachful about his future saying, “if you want a car as cool as mine you’ll have to work much harder than you are.”
Mack listened quietly and uttered only positive responses. When we finally got out of there I asked, “James? What was that all about?”
“Shut up and get in.” Is all he said.
We drove around and got high and it was a good time but we never found any chicks that day. We did pick up his father at 4:30 and his father drove us home. In his father’s presence Mack was only a shadow, and I had lost the novelty of his friendship. I guess I could have hung out with him more but, as I said in the beginning, Mack was conceited, he was a sexist, he was a spindly little man without much muscle, and besides his name wasn’t even really Mack. Within the month I had fallen in love with a girl and there was no more time to drive with reckless abandon through residential streets listening to Depeche Mode at top volume, but I sure do miss it now.


belsum said...

That was gorgeous. And no, I don't think I've ever read that one before. Don't remember it at all!

Superbadfriend said...

Oh I loved this story. My dad is a Mack too, but he is a nice guy who would never womanize.

I can't wait till the movie comes out.

You are going to write one, yes?

Chris Hill said...

I'll write a movie when I can settle on a story that doesn't cross too many decades. I always tend to want to go epic. Or maybe I can do temporal bookends, like in Stand By Me.

belsum said...

Ooh, she is right! Just that little episode right here would be a great "coming of age" story. One night type of thing. You should do it. It would be really good.