I woke up singing REO Speedwagon’s ‘Take it on the Run’ this morning and it reminded my of something that happened to me when I was nine years old.
It was a Saturday afternoon and I was walking to the Kwickie to buy a pack of candy cigarettes. The Kwickie was the convenience store at the end of my block, which I guess was owned by a disgruntled former spelling bee champion with a penchant for sexual innuendo.
As I got closer to the Kwickie I could see that Doug Dixon, a high school kid and local badass, was hanging out beside the store, smoking cigarettes with his henchman, whose name I never knew. I contemplated turning around and going home, but I knew that if I didn’t get my candy cigarettes I would regret it later that day when I was working on my one-man show; a ‘Grease’ spinoff I called ‘Kenickie goes to the Kwickie’.
So, I kept walking.
“Hey, you!” said the henchman. “Come over here!”
Fuck. Why couldn’t I have just stayed home and drank apple juice out of a beer mug while telling an imaginary bartender my troubles? Sure, candy cigarettes don’t cause cancer, but it appeared they were about to cause me to get my ass kicked.
“Me?” I said, hoping he was talking to himself.
“Who the fuck do you think I’m talking to, myself? Come over here.”
As I approached the two hoods, I couldn’t stop wondering what was about to happen. Were they going to beat me up? Get me high? Cut holes in my jeans and make me start skipping school? The possibilities were as endless as their future prospects were limited.
“Do you know who I am?” the henchman asked, as Doug Dixon just giggled and kept smoking.
“I’ve seen you around,” I said, hoping to stroke his ego as some kind of local legend.
“No, you don’t know me. And you don’t want to fuck with me.”
Fuck. This was turning out to be a shitty day.
“You want to know why you don’t want to fuck with me?”
I stood there silent. I had only said five words so far and things were not working out so well, so I wanted to hold off as long as possible before uttering my sixth word.
“Do you know who this is?” he asked, while pointing to his T-shirt — a white rock jersey with black sleeves that clearly said REO Speedwagon.
Finally, I thought. A question I can answer intelligently.
“Yeah, it’s a band.”
“No, it’s not a band. It’s a fucking gang. You understand that? I’m in a fucking gang.”
While I stood there confused, waiting for him to punch me because I didn’t realize REO Speedwagon was “a fucking gang,” the henchman turned around and started talking to Doug Dixon. It was like I ceased to exist. This was fine by me, so I slowly walked away.
I finally got my candy cigarettes and when I left the store, I took the much longer way home so I could avoid being told how Styx was the fucking mafia.
Almost thirty years later, I still have no idea what the hell that guy was talking about. It’s not like he was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt. At least then I could get behind the idea that he was in a gang of pissed off and mean Motorhead fans. But REO Speedwagon? As much as I enjoy their cheese-encrusted arena rock ballads, I can’t imagine a group of teenagers sitting around getting pumped up while listening to ‘Keep on Loving You.’ Who could take their taunts seriously? “I’m gonna kick your ass foreverrrrrrrrrr.”
I don’t know what ever happened to the henchman, but I like to imagine he became a roadie for REO Speedwagon and is traveling the country, still insisting that they are a fucking gang.
As for Doug Dixon, he ended up dropping out of high school, knocking up the town slut and getting a job at the Kwickie. At least that’s what I heard from a friend who, heard it from a friend who, heard it from another…
Image courtesy of Ebay.