The Young and the Hopeless...

I love people but I guess I’ve always been a bit of a loner.

Three of my childhood aspirations included living in a lighthouse, working at a polar weather station, and serving a life sentence in prison.

No fooling.

The prison thing came mostly from my love affair with the movie The Birdman of Alcatraz (Burt Lancaster has always been one of my all time favorite movie stars) and my misguided notion that all prisoners are allowed their own private cells, wherein they can write, read, and draw all day long, and still have plenty of time to pursue hobbies like avian medicine without the fear of anal rape. Sure, the guards would be tough and rough around the edges for the first week or so, but pretty soon they’d see that I was an okay guy and they would bring me old National Geographic magazines from home, and would always look away when I had to use the toilet. I also somehow got it in my head that when you were in prison they gave you all the cigarettes you wanted for free. I didn’t smoke, but the idea of getting all the smokes you wanted by simply asking was darn appealing. I saw other movies set in prisons where the inmates had to work making license plates, breaking rocks, and doing the laundry, and they lived with sometimes four people in a single cell. I figured you could request the type of prison you were interested in at the time of sentencing. As it turned out I somehow avoided a life of crime and never spent any time behind bars, but I’m still pretty young, so you never know. Plus, reading Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption put some ideas in my head, so if I absolutely have to work some sort of job behind bars, I’ll sign to work in the library or write a column for the prison newspaper.

I’ve never spent any significant time at an arctic weather station, so living and working at one was probably greatly romanticized by the movies. Two films that spring to mind are The Thing and Ice Station Zebra. Of course you had to dress warmly and you probably needed to drink plenty of hot coffee, but life didn’t seem too awful. Once every hour or so you probably needed to check the outside temperature and wind speed, and make sure there was enough gasoline in the electric generator, but other than that you were on your own to read, draw, or write a couple of novels a week, if you wanted to. There would probably be a few other people working at the station with you, but they would more than likely keep to themselves. Plus, if everyone was feeling a little social there was always a recreation area that had a jukebox and a pool table. Because it was a government job there would probably be free cigarettes and all the soda you could drink.

I never saw any movies set in a lighthouse or read any significant books, but they always looked so damned cool that I wanted to live in one. I’m sure that at some point during their crime-fighting career, the Hardy Boys squared off against some criminal types in a lighthouse, so maybe that’s what put it in my mind. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I especially wanted to live inside the lighthouse. I could be quite happy in a small cottage directly adjacent to it. So after a long day I could climb the spiral stairs up to the top and smoke a cigar and drink a Dad’s root beer while watching the sunset.

In the schools today they have therapists available for the kids to talk to. I think this is a great idea and I’m glad my tax dollars are going toward something so worthwhile. I wonder if I’d had someone to talk to when I was young, if I would have told them about my dreams of being left alone, and if they would have taken any action. I clearly had some issues back then that have followed me into adulthood. If some of these issues had been addressed back then and maybe nipped in the bud, who knows how different my life would be today.

Perhaps I could have been saved from my dysfunctional childhood. Or perhaps I should quit lamenting about what coulda/shoulda/woulda and make some changes starting today.


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