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Being a teenager in the early to mid 1970s was even less fun than it is in the early 21st century.
Think about it: Many folks back then had only three or four clear broadcast television channels. There was no cable TV. Zero computers. Zero internet. Zero cell phones. Music was still on big black vinyl phonograph records and fragile eight-track tapes, with cassette tapes just coming onto the market.
The Cold War between the USA and USSR was still going strong, with the prospect for global nuclear Armageddon still frighteningly real, ala the 1983 film War Games. And the US draft insured lots of young men would go to the jungles of Vietnam soon after graduating high school. Especially impoverished students like me who had little prospect for drumming up the money required for college.
Yeah, my family was better off than some of our neighbors, but basically we lived paycheck to paycheck, and felt pinched enough to take drastic measures for survival more than once. One winter we had to completely close off the whole upstairs of our house with a wooden sheet sealing the stairwell and all sleep in the living room together next to the fireplace for warmth. Several old fashioned water-filled radiators in our house froze and busted because we couldn't afford to keep the house warm enough. Stuff like that.
I got my first official job at age 15. In the years to follow sometimes I'd work two regular jobs at once (one during the week, another on weekends) plus some self-employment on the side. I worked full-time at one job the last two or three years in high school-- attending school during the day and working at least eight hours at night.
In college I would work part-time jobs in addition to attending school, plus full-time jobs and/or self-employment during vacations.
Doesn't all that sound terrific?
But that was just the backdrop.
In my first couple years of high school I personally experienced the pinnacle of physical violence in my own life. Never before or after would I endure so much concentrated violence in such a period.
But as bad as the physical injuries were, the mental trauma seemed worse. The teen cliché of unrequited love struck me just like it does countless others at that age. If I could have chosen which condition to be magically excised from my life and memory, it would have been that horrific crush rather than the many beatings. For the beatings were lots easier and faster to recover from.
Being poor during those years too didn't make things any better. For instance, it's difficult to date on a budget of nickels and dimes. Or even have time for dating, between school, jobs, and chores of various sorts.
Somehow between all the fights and jobs and school me and my friends still found some time for recreational activities, though looking back on it now I don't see how.
Of course we had no choice but to pursue the cheapest possible avenues for such. Like do-it-yourself projects. Or hiking and camping in the woods and mountains. Or cave exploring.
We also spent considerable time helping one another work on our cars, take care of our families, and chase after girls.
By pretty much pure luck I bought a 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 for my first car. Those things were close to being a poor man's supercar right off the showroom floor. Basically 1969 Shelby GT-350s with heavier metal body panels rather than fiberglass.
Eventually we all sought more excitement and variety in our pastimes, which led to hot-rodding our cars, racing one another and strangers, and even getting chased by local cops.
We also sneaked into drive-in theaters without paying, and similar things such as might have been portrayed in films like American Graffiti.
But we weren't complete hooligans. We also helped put out wildfires and aid elderly folks along the way. I admit it wasn't wholly altruistic though: after all, we were often looking for new and exciting things to do. And failing that, just something different to do in our spare time.
The leader of our own little group in the latter part of high school and beyond was my best friend Steve.
But Steve and I would mostly part ways during college, after which I might only spend substantial time with him roughly once every 15 years or so. Yikes!
Through late high school and early college though we were pretty tight-- although I did have to find my own things to do when Steve was out with his lady-friends.
Steve at times may have led our little band into questionable circumstances-- but that was part of his charm and the excitement of his company.
But just being Steve's side-kick in my early years helped launch me into my own journey of occasionally interesting times.
Alas, I never was able to charm the ladies like Steve. But in certain other ways I may actually have matched or surpassed his feats along the way.
My super car days began while Steve and I were still a team, and didn't end until some time after we'd gone our separate ways.
Gasoline was considerably cheaper in the 1970s than today. And the minimum wage worth significantly more after inflation too. So despite having no cable TV or internet, in some ways we enjoyed advantages over the youth of today.
Thankfully, although things never did work out regarding my first crush, some other girls of the time helped me get some much needed perspective on matters of the heart. Some of those girls I never got to know as well as I would have liked, such as Sienna, Lindsay, and Alley. Of those I did, I relish the time we spent together. And hopefully show it in my stories.
Some pretty amazing stuff would emerge from the mix of good and bad described above.
One, humanity didn't blow itself up. I know that's obvious now. But back then it was anything but! And so causing lots of us to consider doing some really far out things...
Two, the violence quotient of my own life dropped dramatically after high school. Not to zero by any means. But radically. So much as to amaze me personally.
Three, the Vietnam war ended at almost the perfect time to spare me from having to go. But of course I might have been rejected on the grounds of various physical flaws anyway.
Four, I designed and built my own supercar, with which I went on to have some interesting adventures.
Five, I actually managed to get into college despite my poverty.
Six, I actually survived past the age of 25. This was a major surprise to me personally. I had quite a few class-mates and associates who didn't make it.
Seven, I made some decent money on occasion from self-employment and entrepreneurial ventures along the way. But I didn't get anywhere close to rich. And now I know why.
Eight, my best friend Steve eventually went on to become a world-hopping corporate executive, spending more money in a month than I might spend in years and years, and getting first hand experience of exotic locales such as those seen in James Bond films.
Steve also ended up with a James Bond-like affinity with the ladies.
The last few times I've seen him I've urged him to write up his own true adventures-- no fictional spice would be required at all-- for everyone to read. But I doubt he ever will. Writing's always been too boring for him.
Readers of my own pages will get a small taste of Steve's escapades, as he naturally played important roles in some of my own earliest adventures. But I feel ill-qualified to document his life myself. For there's no way I could do it justice.
And as he and I both agree, many readers would find the actual unvarnished truth of Steve's life too incredible to be true. Like the thousands of women he's been with. I think Wilt Chamberlain may have a similar record there.
And we're talking women surprisingly close to James Bond girl caliber here. Yeah, you'd think quality would suffer with such high quantity. But if Steve ever lowered his standards anywhere it wasn't obvious appearance-wise. His girls were pretty much always very attractive. I know because I met quite a few of them along the way. Some of them even seemed to compare favorably to Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Believe it or not.
Nine, inspired and financed by my own adventures as well as my times spent with Steve, I managed to eventually write up some science fiction novel(s) and establish a decent little web site of my own along the online frontier.
What's yours going to be?
How to change your luck for good or ill
How to get rich in America
The world's top ten biggest reasons for optimism
The world's top ten biggest secrets and surprises OR Real and truthful answers to profound questions of our time
The case against God
How to live well on very, very little
How to make money with your web site
Help for creating your own web site
Help with HTML editing and file uploading