Thursday, February 17, 2011

In the Midnight Hour

Adolescence is a time of discovery. One such discovery was that the day had twenty-four hours- it didn't end at 10:30 PM. There was another world which sprang into existence in the middle of the night. Everyone's parents worked in the morning, so if one was discreet one could leave the house at midnight, meet up with a friend or two, and prowl the streets, looking for adventure.

My childhood friend Kevin had a special knowledge of secret places. One of these places was the roof of Our Lady of Victory, the local catholic K-8 school. There was a certain section of the roof which overhung a railing next to the playground. There was only a 5 foot gap between the railing and the gutter, anyone who had the nerve (and could do a pull-up) could hoist themselves up. From there it was any easy job to attain the roof of the classroom building, a good forty feet above the ground.

We lived on the northern edge of North Minneapolis, a housing development on what only a generation prior had been a potato field. The land was table-flat, any elevation was an anomaly. When we stood on that roof, we could see for miles- taking in a vista of treetops, only broken by distant grain elevators. We could see the boundaries of our world: banal, small- a bedroom community with no attractions. There were no bars, no pubs- we lived in a "dry" ward. As we raced around on that roof-top, going from one side to the other, we felt excited by our double transgression- trespassing, and on the Church's property!

We managed to get down without killing ourselves, but there would be other midnight excursions, which gradually morphed into our late teen years, when booze, girls and other worldly temptations (in other parts of the city) replaced these childish games. We never found a bigger thrill, though.

By Professor Batty


Anonymous NormanLake said...

It all comes back to me, Except that as parochial school students, my friends Charlie and Bob, the Gallagher boys and I, would have some holy day or another off from school, while public school kids had to be in attendance. We would climb up to the roof via a railing on the swimming pool section,much like you describe, except we would do it in broad daylight. Taunting the kids who had to be there by peeking in the windows or performing silly stunts, for their amusement. Of course, some would take offense, an "shaft" us and such. We had to be sure that we were off the roof by schoolday end, lest we get accosted on our maneuvers, by school officials or irate upperclassmen. I guess we were amusing enough we never got beat up, or caught.

Blogger oroboros said...

As a kid our housing tract was bordered by the railroad tracks.My cousin Barbara and I on one memorable midnight escapade climbed up on top of one of the boxcars sitting on the siding tracks and waited for a train to come whooshing by at 60+ MPH. The whole car trembled and swayed with the pounding and bow wave of the locomotive and suction of the passing carriages following it. Talk about thrill! That was it...and over 50 years ago now but vividly remembered.

Blogger Professor Batty said...

NormanLake and oroboros ~ I can't even begin to count the number of times a misstep would have ended in disaster when I was a teen. I guess that was the fun of it.

Blogger oroboros said...

I hear you Prof. B. I've used up not a few of my nine lives...and there was no fun about it!

Anonymous NormanLake said...

Oroboros/batty, one misstep...Instant recognition! We would jump the D&M, a couple blocks from the carbridge over the Thunder Bay river, and jump in as we passed over the river. It took some "skill" to catch the train, and swimming trunks with sneakers was all the costume we would need. Trip, while attempting to "board", and the least you would get for the effort would be skinned knees, arms, face, etc. The wromg slip, and adios. One story I would never have told my children.

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