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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Poor Kid

Poor kid. He's a kick in the arse shy of eighteen, and he's been gipped as all hell. He knows it, too, but he doesn't complain. He oughta hate my guts, but he doesn't? Least, I don't think he does? See, it was me that hauled him 6,500 miles away from his pals and his native and his fitba' and his birthright: every scot's delight, where drinking becomes legit at eighteen. It was me who chose, but he that now must sacrifice.

Of course, by that age most of us had been drinking for years. Fifteen, I was, still at school but only just... drinking with the grown-ups after a murderous game of rugby - you were old enough to play with them, you were old enough to drink with them. That simple. By the time I was my son's age - seventeen - I was halfway through a four-year apprenticeship, was smoking twenty a day and getting rat-arsed nightly at the Cuinzie from payday Thursday to stoney-broke Sunday when my wages ran out. The Cuinzie Neuk! The Cuinzie - a great wee place in Kinghorn where rock bands like Pallas or Chasar or blech Marillion blasted every night, where punk held no purchase. Where good bands, great bands, soon-to-be-famous bands but more often nowhere bands would play and we would jump and scream and hurl our hair and air-guitar their solos. Where by tradition two bottles each of Nookie Broon for the last bus home. Or the long dark walk, whatever, if you missed it? Godawful stuff - but that wasn't the point. You'd nae money left for a taxi, but taxis were for jessies and matelots anyway: not for the likes of us. Last time I saw the Cuinzie - some years after - it had been turned into an Old Folk's Home. Full, no doubt, of onetime Jaggers and Richards, in cardigan sweaters?

An eighteenth birthday was an event: it meant you could go drinking down the pub with your dad; it made an end to those illicit thrills that drove you pubward in your younger days. It was a kind of growing-up. Once you hit eighteen, a drink became mundane; it became ordinary, everyday fare. Once you hit eighteen it lost its gloss, and you began to settle down. Your wildest days were over.

But there'll be none of that here for my boy(s). At the age when music and bands mean the most, they are denied the delights of watching and bopping while drinking and smoking? By the age of eighteen they are used to it; submissive to constraint. For this is Puritan America, where none shall drink 'til twenty-one; where cigarettes are worse than 'H or a bullet in the head and where teachers send wee kiddies home to point accusing fingers at their parents; where photo-ID is unofficially mandatory. This is Zero-tolerance America, where scissors and tweasers are weapons, by God, and your kids will be expelled should they carry them to school. Sheltered, caring America, where it's always the driver to blame when pedestrians fall; where little kiddies never need be taught how to cross a road - the cars will always stop; where little kiddies grow into bigger kiddies still not knowing how; where little kiddies, precious kiddies, waltz six busy lanes and never look once. The cars will always stop. They'd better, or we'll sue, by God!

Here's the thing: in every young adult that draws a breath there is a pressing need for excess, for life lived wild and loud and stupidly. For two or three years of idiotry, beyond the opressive shelter of parents. And it must always out. The longer it's deferred, the longer they are sheltered, coddled, kept hidden in a cupboard, the longer they stay children. And all the more embarassing they become when finally unleashed. Boys who should be grown, yet find The Man Show funny.

My boy's eighteenth will be a disappointment. He'll need to wait, find something else to occupy his wildboy wiles for now? At least, I'm fairly sure, he won't be jumping garages? And if he ever did, broken neck or not, he'd feel the taste of my boot, jammed squarely up his arse. And he knows it!


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