He sat there, blond hair, blue eyes and bored. Strumming his fingers through his spiky hair, he asked,”Its 8 o'clock on Saturday night and we have nothing to do. So what can we do now?”
"We can go watch a movie.” answered Brian. “Olympic is just up the street.”
"It's too late for that. The last shows at Keystone and Olympic were at 7pm, how about a game of D&D instead?" I added.
"Sounds good, but Chad, Jeff, and Ricardo are in Lester tonight.” replied Brian.
"They are probably just goofing around with a few of the video games that I just gave them from the last Commodore 64 club meeting.”
"New games, which ones? Are any like Ultima?” inquired Brian. "Ultima kicks ass."
"One, but I gave them all sorts.”
"Enough nerd talk already," exerted Bill "Why don't we go buy some vodka, orange juice and hang out at the sea wall."
"Biiiilllll, let's go to the sea wall.” replied Todd.
"Alright Bill, let’s go," said Ted. "Mike you are such a nerd."
Feeling a small fire raging inside me, I replied with vigor, "I'm not a nerd just because I play computer games you bonehead. Let’s go play some ball and I'll kick your ass."
"Mike you're still a nerd, let's find a court and I'll kick your ass." replied Albert.
Albert was waiting for this chance. I don't know why we always ended up this way, but somehow he'd find a way to piss me off.
"Like that’s going to happen," I bellowed, "Now where can find a lit court around here?”
"I'm going for a scholarship", rejoiced Bill as he began to swing his arms in a circular motion performing his all too familiar championship dance.
"I’m fine with basketball." said Tony. "I finally got a night out with you guys, so we need do something."
"Kadena is not my turf bro." replied Arman. "Johnny, where on Kadena can shoot hoops at night?"
Johnny responded, "I think there might be one by the rec center, next to the tennis courts."
Joe suddenly shouted, "Let's go banner raiding instead! I need a few more banners."
"That sounds good, let's do that.” replied Johnny he had eagerness in his voice.
"Joe, let's go." said Ted.
"Do you really need more banners?" I added sarcastically.
We were all in Joe’s room. It was a small room, but somehow, it managed to fit the gang. Most of the bedrooms on Kadena had small rooms, especially the two story duplexes. The walls were white but barely visible. Other than a single hot chick poster, store banners lined the walls; most were inscribed with Japanese characters. A myriad of colors and Kanji sprawled the banners and some with a few English words as well. A red and white banner with a black racing car covered Joe's door. All were taken from stores around Okinawa; most were taken by us.
On the floor was a box, it was packed full of banners Joe couldn't fit on the wall. "He needs a bigger room," I said to myself as I snickered.
"So genius, do you have a better idea." snapped Joe.
"No." I said with a glum look. "I already gave my two cents."
"Your opinions are worth two cents, noted." jabbed Brian.
Most of us let out a short laugh, but Johnny and Bill were serious about finding something to do. Bill was looking for any reason to get some alcohol and go to the sea wall. And Johnny, well he looked like the Thinker. He sat on a chair with his elbow on his thigh and his chin in one hand. He had been contemplating something for a while, and now he had a devilish smile. "Now what was Johnny up too?" I wondered.
"How about a treasure hunt?” said Johnny?
"What?" echoed a few voices.
“Lame,” added a few more voices.
Hmm. A treasure hunt that sounded interesting.
"I saw a movie once where you run around collecting things on a list." I said.
Now what was the name of that movie? I'm sure Tony would know it, he was always good a remembering the name of any movie we saw.
"Sounds fun," I added. “We could run around like the movie.”
“What movie?” asked Brian?
"Mike stop being gay." remarked Ted.
I smiled at Ted and gave him the finger.
"Yeah." echoed Bert. "That sounds stupid."
"It's not, trust me it will be fun." answered Johnny.
Johnny seemed invigorated. I think he was hell bent on doing this. He was smiling and I could sense he was holding something back.
"Did I mention the most important part? You can't buy any of the items on the list."
"Five finger discounts. OK I'm in." replied Joe.
And just like that, the lemmings began to jump off the cliff.
"Me too," replied Bill.
"I’m in too," replied Ted.
"Yeah, we make lists, split up into groups and go looking for the same things. In a few hours we get back together to see who has the most items. Obviously, at least one banner is on the list." added Johnny.
Like clockwork everyone else agreed, except for me. I didn't feel like stealing anything, I only did that only once in my entire life and I still regret doing it. As penance for my crime, I hung my shame on my bedroom wall. It was a constant reminder of my foolishness. However, I didn't feel like being the odd man out. I knew everyone was looking at me to hear my answer; however I knew it really didn’t matter since they were going to do it anyways.
"Come on Mikey. Don't let us down. It’s all good." said Arman with a smile.
How can I do this without stealing anything? I had to think quickly, and then I figured it out. The trick was to work around the "don't buy it" rule. If someone already owned it...hmm.
"OK, I'm in," I responded.
We all went downstairs to the typical meeting area, Joe's dining room. Most of us sat on the chairs surrounding Joe's wooden dining room table, the rest stood by or leaned on the walls.
"Joe do you have a pen and paper?" Inquired Johnny "I need to make the lists."
"Fine. I'll get it." replied Joe. “Kate! We need a pen and some paper!”
Begrudgingly Joe’s sister went to get the pen and paper.
Like eager koi waiting to be fed, we gathered around Johnny waiting for the list to emerge. It didn't take long to make the list as everyone contributed to the items in question. The list included a matching set of banners, a traffic sign, some food, an emergency light, and some other odd things. Then we split up into 3 teams. The squads were formed and I was off with Johnny, Brian, and Arman. All of us decided to meet in 2 hours.
As we began our trek, we that noticed that the other teams ran to their cars. However we continued our leisurely stroll to Johnny's green machine.
Johnny said. "I'm glad your brother is here tonight, we hardly get to see him these days."
"His girlfriend finally gave him a night off," I responded.
"He should make more time for us," added Johnny.
Seeing the opening, I raised my voice and said, "He should, but he's got a girlfriend so he's too busy for us."
"That's because he's just pussy whipped!" shouted Joe from the other car.
"Pussy whipped!" echoed Bill.
"Pussy whipped!" echoed Ted.
"Shut up!" yelled Tony. "Most of you don't know what that means anyways. Other than Joe, you’re all a bunch of virgins!"
For a few moments, silence was in the air.
Then we all started to laugh, even though I really had no idea what that phrase meant.
"Pussy whipped!" yelled Bill
"Pussy whipped!" yelled the choir.
"Shut up!" yelled my brother as he got into Joe's car.
The laughing, yelling and prodding continued as the other cars drove off.
When we reached Johnny's car, he exclaimed "It's time for some music!"
He popped in the tape and Judas Priest was brought to life.
I looked at Johnny and said, "If possible can we try not to steal anything tonight?”
Johnny didn't look too thrilled, but he still had a smile.
"Fine, but we might not be able to win." he replied.
"Who needs to win, it should be good enough just to do something exciting tonight." I replied.
"Shotgun!” yelled Arman as he jumped into the front seat.
"Dude. But don't you have to touch the car first." shouted Brian.
"Nope," answered Arman "But if it makes you feel better, I did anyways."
"Crap!" replied Brian.
We all got in Johnny's car and the race was on.
Three hours later, we came back with quite a few items, none stolen; correction, freshly stolen. Since the matching set of banners came from Johnny closet. Joe's crew on the other hand had very questionable material on the table. Like a stop sign! Where the hell did they get that; now that was trouble? Don't ask, don't tell I thought. So I didn't ask.
However, Bill being Bill decided to explain their escapades anyways. But we all failed on one item, the emergency light. However, the gang wasn’t ready to give up on it.
"I want it." said Joe with a stern look of conviction.
"It's at a Japanese police station." replied Bill with a voice of concern.
"So what, I can still get it." shouted Joe.
There was no hesitation in his voice. Joe's mind was made up; he was going to do it. I could see the glimmer in his eyes and the smirk of decadence on his face; the hairs on my arms started to rise, I knew bad news was coming. I didn't like the sound of this; I'd better find out what they were scheming.
"What are you talking about?" I asked.
"An emergency light, a police light and a blue one at that." said Joe. "You know like the flashing red lights that the undercover cops use in their cars."
Stunned I retorted, "Are you crazy?"
"Crazy enough to do it." replied Joe.
"You're gonna get arrested." I said.
"Only if they catch me." said Joe.
"Only if they catch us.'" add Tony.
I knew Tony was looking to have a lot of fun tonight, since he hardly ever gets time to hang out with the guys. Still, I looked at my brother in shock. No words could explain the level of disapproval passing through my head.
"Yeah." added Bill.
Ted and Toddd were smiling.
Suddenly, I got this bad feeling that something terrible was about to happen. And it did. Somehow, someway, we all found the challenge very intriguing; so most of us decided to go for it.
Ron and Brian had to leave, it was close to midnight and their curfews were coming up. But for the rest of us, curiosity drove our bravado; we wanted to know if it could be done. For me, if my brother got involved into something this stupid, I'd better make sure we could get out of it. On the plus side, seeing Joe and Bill running from the Japanese Police would be worth all the time and effort. So we all went down to Gate one; to the Japanese police station that held our treasure.
It was just past the witching hour; the air was cool, the stars were out and so were the gremlins. Most of the lights in the neighbor were off, but I could see the apple in the Garden of Ede, an especially bright blue apple. We were in Su-na-be and the blue emergency light could be seen down the street. It was perched on a five foot high wall next to one of the station entrances. The gang was sitting on a street corner a block away, planning the next move.
“Let's do this. Johnny, Tony and Bill you go with me to the wall. I have the wire cutters,” said Joe.
"OK," replied Bill.
“OK,” replied Tony.
“I’ll watch the station, but Joe, we have to be fast," replied Johnny.
Johnny seemed awfully nervous. I got the feeling he thought we wouldn’t go through with it, but now I think he realized there was no going back.
"The rest of you guys, just spread out and let us know if you see anything that we need to run from." said Joe.
"You know, I still think this is crazy." I said.
Joe looked at me and smiled. Unbelievably my fear went away. Joe seemed to shine in these moments. Planning and strategizing for the whole gang; he was always a very effective leader in times of crisis and I was always impressed when he did this. Too bad most of his ability bore fruit in mischievous activities.
The gang never had an official leader, but if I had to pick one, it would be Joe. During these times, we all looked up to him for advice. His charisma easily overwhelmed us and our hearts began to pump vigorously as we began to believe in the impossible.
We all agreed with Joe's plan. We had every street, nook, and cranny covered. We all gave two thumbs up and operation blue light special was underway. Fortunately for me, I agreed to take the outpost down the street where it was just about impossible to see the action and far enough to get away easily. Better off not seeing it, I thought.
Two minutes into the action, make that two long minutes into the plan, I got bored. So I drifted down from my street position to take a peek.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Johnny stood at the opening peeking at the station door, but two thieves were swaying back and forth in the air as they wrestled the beast. Joe and Tony were sitting on top of the wall straddling both sides of the light trying to break it free. Let me clarify that again; ON TOP of the wall and in PLAIN sight! It felt surreal, like living a scene from the movie Urban Cowboy. Except this time, there were two riders on the bull, a few spectators in the audience, and two rodeo clowns holding onto the riders' legs. Bill and Ted were doing their best to keep Joe and Tony on the wall.
I could have been shocked at the blatant disregard for the Japanese police, but the scene was just too hysterical. Bronco busting rodeo clowns I said to myself as I began to die from an uncontrollable laughter.
Painfully holding back from laughing out loud, I quietly yelled "What the hell are you guys doing?"
"Hurry up!" yelled a rattled Johnny.
Joe and Tony were still wrestling with the light.
"Its stuck." remarked Joe. "Mike, get over here and help us pull on this so we can break it off."
"Hell no, you guys are insane. We are going to get caught!" I responded.
"Joe hand me the wire cutters! I think I can get it from this end." demanded Tony.
The wire cutter changed hand. Slowly the light started to budge, but only a little. Then the cherry landed on top and the sundae was complete. Tony jumped off the wall, grabbed the light, put his feet square on the wall and pulled with all his might. Bill held firm, Joe pushed with all his strength and finally it broke off. Humpy Dumpty did his thing and the thieves came crashing to the street, except for the trapeze artist. Joe carried a big grin and simply jumped off the wall.
Like mice in a barn when the farmer came a visit'n, everyone scurried in every direction possible. I ran and ran and ran and ran. To where, I didn't care, just wanted to get away from this place.
I finally found my hiding spot close to a set of vending machine next to the sea wall. It seemed like an hour later when the pounding heartbeat began to leave my ears. Regaining some senses, I noticed that the vending machine sold my favorite drink. I reached in my pocket and found two coins. Ni-hya-ku-yen, thank god, just enough to buy some tsu-bu tsu-bu. So I bought it, drank it, and boy did it feel refreshing; nothing quite sooths a restless body like the sweet taste of cold pulped orange juice.
The sounds of the ocean beckoned to me and I slowly walked to the sea wall. The night sky was black, but a beacon of grayness that was the wall paved my way though the darkness. I followed the concrete steps and stood at the wall looking towards the sea beyond. A hundred feet away, a lone street light provided the glimmer that danced off the incoming waves. The echos of crashing waves were comforting, as if mother nature herself was soothing me with her tireless lullaby. I jumped off on the wall and on to a jack. The wall was full of them, giant concrete jacks lined the barrier; the jacks were used to break up the waves but also provided a whimsical beauty to otherwise ugly wall. I leaned back and lay on the jack. Though hard, it was comfortable and I could easily see the stars above.
"Mikey there you are." said a reassuring voice. In an instant, I knew who it was. I never understood it, but he was always the cool cat. He was never nervous or in doubt under any situation; I was sure that he didn't even break a sweat; unlike me, he probably just walked away from the scene. He was the group’s implicit Zen master.
I asked, "Hey Arman, are the police still looking for us?"
"No worries baby, I got your six."
More relaxed I asked, "Did anyone get caught?"
"I don't think so, but you’re the first one I’ve found." replied Arman. "I don't think the JPs knew what happened. By the way, got any change?"
I tossed him my last coin. He said thanks and bought a drink.
I got off the wall and we continued to walk around Su-na-be for the next 30 minutes until we met up with some of the gang, including Joe, his big smile, and his blue light. The missing thieves must have "little piggyed it" out of here and ran all the way home.
After regrouping at the sea wall, we began our journey back to the main gate. On our way, we walked passed everyone's favorite video store; it specialized in selling cheap illegally copied movies that everyone watched. From the second story, it sat high above the street; I felt as if it was looking down on us passing judgment. "Hypocrite,” I said to myself, smiled, and enjoyed the irony of the situation.
I turned towards Arman and said, "I think I'll have to buy a movie tomorrow."
"Which one," asked Arman?
"It doesn't matter. I just need a too." I replied.
We arrived at the crossing. We stood next to the used car dealership at the traffic light that was opposite Gate One. Though past midnight, cars still zoomed by and the gate guard was busy.
My brother and I gave our salutations to the gang and proceeded home. We still lived in Su-na-be, so we just needed to walk 3 blocks to find our beds.
"You know you're crazy," I said to my brother. "and you are lucky you didn't end up in jail tonight."
Un-phased, he just smiled and said, "Come on Mike, you have to admit it was pretty fun."
"Yeah, but what we did was crazy. This is the stuff of legends; I can't believe we pulled it off. No one will ever believe us."
Tony started to laugh out loud.
"Who cares if people believe us or not; it doesn't change the fact that we did it. But you are right about one thing, my girl will never believe me."
I shook my head in disbelief and smiled at him. He didn't listen to a single word I said, but it didn't matter. He was right, tonight was fun; extremely stupid, extremely dangerous, but extremely fun as well.
A few blocks from my house the rodeo scene kept on creeping back into my mind and I couldn't stop laughing. Stupid kids! How the hell did so many American kids, making so much noise in the middle of the night, not get caught by the Japanese Police? Luck must be on our side. But then again, luck was always on my side. I smiled and continued to laugh out loud.
Dumb-ass events like this peppered my sophomore memories. But to its credit, stupid things like this did help to shape my character and got me to realize my limits on what peer pressure could make me do. They say that stupidity knows no bounds, which is true, but after tonight I knew mine. Luckily, outside of my gang, no one in school knew this side of me.