Some people go through life doing stupid things. Some of those people doing stupid things suffer immediate reckoning in the form of embarrassment, injury, or even death. Others repeatedly do stupid things and suffer very little or no consequences. Fortunately I am one of the latter. I have done some really, really stupid things and I am still walking, talking and in good shape at sixty five years.
I see where Illinois got hit with tornadoes yesterday. It brought back memories, because if you have ever lived in the Midwest you probably have some experience with tornadoes. This memory is from when I was going to Tinley Park High School in 1965. On an unusually warm November day, school was letting out just as a tornado tore through town. We all stood there in the lobby of the school watching as bits and pieces of Tinley Park were flung through the air. Very exciting for a fifteen year old boy. As soon as the all clear was sounded we rushed out of the school and down 175th Street. About a block from school a car pulled up alongside of me. A man who looked to be in his thirties rolled down his window and asked me where I was going.
"I'm going up to where the tornado hit. Do you want to come with me?"
In 1965 there was no little saying about "Stranger Danger". Sure I had been told by my mom to never accept a ride from somebody I didn't know, but I figured that was for when I was a kid. I was in high school now, I was almost an adult and I could make decisions for myself. So I hopped in this strange man's car and off we went to look at the tornado damage.
"So when did you get out of the Audy Home?" he asked.
The Audy Home is the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center, and I have never been there. Now I look back and I realize this guy was fishing.
"I think you have me mixed up with somebody else." I told him. "I've never been there."
He continued to ask personal questions and make what sounded to me like odd statements as we slowly wound our way through the tornado debris field. It was when he suggested we stop over at his house, which he referred to as "Just outside of town", that I opened the door of the car and got out. Luckily for me, because of the destruction and police barricades, he was moving very slowly. This happened in a suburb of Chicago. Chicago, where John Wayne Gacy stalked young boys in the 1970's, killing an estimated 33 of them and burying them in the crawl space under his house. There were also the Robinson Woods murders in 1955 when three boys aged 11, 13, and 14 were murdered and their naked bodies left in the Des Plaines River. So it wasn't an innocent time. I have no idea who that guy was who gave me the tornado tour. I just know that I opened the door of his car, got out, and walked away. That's my life, like the only house on the block that is still standing after a tornado rips the shit out of everybody else's.