Embarking on my potentially final freedom summer (if you will) of life, unless I become a teacher, (which seems unlikely considering the criminal record I plan to accrue), I have begun to reflect upon the parallel time of my life. This post-college summer may or may not mirror the summer of 2005, right after I was finally unshackled from the emotional and physical fetters of boarding school and let loose with my middle school homeslices in NorCal, where the possibilities seemed endless and life seemed like it was really getting into gear …
It was all the simple things back then: Just me, my friends and a giant cup.
I live in a neighborhood that is a de facto subdivision of hundreds of homes across the former estate of a robber baron, James Flood, of railroad riches. Thus, every so often when you traverse the windy streets of my neighborhood, Lindenwood, you come across an artifact or monument, some more majestic and/or creepier than others. On my block, there is a giant cup. A goblet if you will. It has a bust of James Flood’s head sculpted into the front of it, and it can fit exactly seven people. And so it was written: we became the Cup Crew.
Because neighborhood kids would often hide their beer and other illicit substances in the cup, and we oftentimes stole whatever booty we found, we were each bestowed with a Cup alias, a beer-swiping code name. Sarah was Otter Pops, in memory of our favorite frozen snack. Jake was Chester the Molester, for reasons you can probably discern. Ryan was Fajitas, pronounced the American way, and his brother Zack was Munchen, something to do with his wisdom teeth. Blake was Beans Mohammed Jihad, because of his tendency to come to my house just to prepare himself a meal from the canned food in my parents pantry and then leave to go on midnight runs, as well as his tendency to reenact scenes from Team America: World Police at Stanford University using silly string — a favorite pastime of ours. (We’d drive over and ask for directions from passers by, hopefully a couple on a date, and then when the guy told us directions, Blake would yell “MOHAMMED JIHAD” and silly string the shit out of the dude. There is little more satisfying than this.) Laurie was Jamaica Africanus, because although we really liked Harry Potter, we thought that it was a little bit racist for J.K. Rowling to name the Asian girl “Cho Chang.” I mean, really. And lastly, I was Alex Trebecca.
There was a subdivision of just the girl cuppies that we called The Trilegged Dog. When we weren’t with the other group members, we would prank call them using an electric dictionary that Laurie’s grandmother had given her for graduation that was both by a company called Franklin and itself named Franklin. It’s amazing that the boys never correlated the nights we weren’t around with the nights they received creepy electronic voicemails that said “I can see your vagina.”
When we weren’t sitting in a giant cup, our favorite pastime in Palo Alto, CA, a very intellectual town that is home to Stanford University, was to study physics by night. This would entail getting our hands on pumpkins, watermelons, honeydew and coconuts (by whatever means necessary) and heaving them off of a five-story parking garage at Stanford. Aside from silly-stringing the shit out of people on dates, there’s nothing more satisfying than the splat of a watermelon after you’ve chucked it off a building. Well, at least until we started getting more creative. One time Blake showed up to my house with a fiendish grin, hugging an outdated computer monitor. Nobody asked questions, and we all learned a lot about physics that night. For his heroic gift to humanity, we threw off some canned beans too in his honor. Two weeks later an anonymous Cup Kid rolled up to my house with a white porcelain toilet. Nobody asked questions. True enlightenment in life arrived to me via the white-shard mushroom cloud explosion of a toilet I named Leonard, may he rest in pieces.
The police never caught us. We would always have someone on lookout on the ground and up on the garage – we had a great operation going on. Mostly I think that the Stanford police were embarrassed that they couldn’t catch the pumpkin-chuckers and they didn’t want to involve the Palo Alto police. In a town where I’d already been the star of the local newspaper’s police blotter (for a squirrel chewing through the skylight in our kitchen and falling on my head while I was examining the contents of my refrigerator … and then again when another squirrel fell because my dad forgot to close the skylight), they’d have nothing else to do but to find us, so that’s some pretty excellent law-outrunning we executed. My mom got suspicious though once when Blake left an errant coconut in our fruit bowl.
Celebrating mischief well-done was something that could only occur at Chuck’s donuts. Where I live, regretfully there do not exist Shortstop and Wegman’s-quality 24-hour establishments. This round-the-clock tradition only picked up steam in the mom-and-pop donut industry, which still thrives in Northern California because we don’t so much have or care for Dunkin Donuts. The problem with this Donut-shop phenomenon is that the only other people out in suburban wonderland California at that time of night are the cops. Logic dictates that no one likes donuts more than cops. It’s a sad sorry situation, but I have fully enjoyed nary a donut the way I rightfully should in the wee small hours of a summertime night.
The real summation of the summer of 2005 came at the conclusion, when Laurie’s prom date put a letter in her mailbox (which we saw from the creepy lack of postage) at the dead of night, after we returned from some melon-chucking and Chuck’s. This letter recalled how Laurie completely broke Devon’s heart after the one time they made out at prom, and had a disturbing amount of analogies to the movie Forrest Gump. An especially brilliant one-liner involved a comparison of Laurie to Jenny, which seemed to imply that Devon thought Laurie’s “promiscuity” would eventually lead her to get AIDS. Laurie would give me an annotated version of this letter a couple days later for my birthday, complete with indications of where she vomited and which sentences made her consider involving the police (a considerable feat since she already lived next door to a registered sex offender with an excellent view into her bedroom window). It was the best gift ever, and I would use it at the beginning of freshman year as a conversation piece and a way to bond with new friends.
With all this promise ahead of me, of economic downturn, global warming and the looming terrorist threat, I think back to how I was never caught for several potential misdemeanors and I am content that statutes of limitation has probably expired. So as of now, my criminal record might allow me to get my hands on some children and I might get another summer after all. And you know what else? Laurie never got AIDS. Things aren’t so bad!