I grew up in a trailer court. It was like our own little ecosystem some sick developer plopped in the middle of a Pennsylvania corn field. Most of that corn never made it to harvest, as we stomped it down for forts and trails, hide and seek, and just for the thrill of destroying something. Next to the cornfield was a grassy patch where we’d play kickball, and lining the field were mature oak trees with low limbs, perfect for climbing. At the top I could look out onto all that green and never appreciate how fragile the limbs were or how beautiful the world can be when you get up high enough. It was just another thrill.
Unfortunately for my music teacher, Mr. Komenski, he also lived in that squalid little trailer court, neighbor to the worst-behaved kids he’d ever have in his classes. It would be like living in the projects with your principal. A fun trailer court fact is that all our electric boxes are set up together in a little row in the middle of the “backyards” (I use that term very loosely). They can be manually shut off simply by pulling the lever down. Poof. No more electricity for you, Mr. Komenski. One time he must have been cooking because he came hurtling out his front door wearing an apron and brandishing a wooden spoon.
Even those distractions lose their luster when you’re nine. One day my little brother, Kevin, my friend Tony, and I were on a mission in the woods near our Darwinian enclave, trying to dispel the boredom that so often afflicts the irresponsible. When, tah-dah! Leaning against a tree in the middle of nowhere was an old, rust-encrusted bay window, the kind that had nine panes and took up an entire wall of the living room. Neglect showed in the dust that lined the panes like laundry lint. Obviously whoever left this nasty old piece of house didn’t really care about it, and we were sure they wouldn’t mind us playing with it. I don’t remember whose idea it was to throw crab apples into the panes, set up as they were into nine separate targets, challenging us. We hit most of them, eventually placating ourselves with knocking off the stubborn shards that clung to the iron frame. In our reverie, we didn’t hear the crunching of the leaves. When I finally registered the angry, hissing leaves and the low voice, he was upon us. I was definitely in trouble.