Written by: Lyle Deixler
When I was a kid there was a junkyard in my neighborhood in New Jersey. My friends and I would spend hours playing there after school. It was actually the remnants of about eight or ten homes the builder of our development purchased and demolished to make way for our houses. We called it the junkyard. There were mountains of debris piled fifteen, twenty feet high and tons of cool stuff for twelve-year old boys to dig through.
There was also a huge foundation dug out of the earth for a supermarket that was never built. In the winter it would fill with rainwater and freeze. One day I was there with two friends: Robert was a kid from the neighborhood and James was the son of one of my father’s business associates.
James was a few years older than Robert and I, a wild kid who didn’t listen to anybody. One cold, January afternoon Robert found a beat-up stuffed doll that he took a liking to and wanted to bring home. The three of us stood on the edge of the foundation. James suddenly yanked the doll out of Robert’s hand and tossed it out onto the frozen water.
Robert started bitching and saying how much he wanted the doll. James just stood there and laughed at him.
I looked out at the sheen of ice. The doll lay about twenty feet from the edge of the foundation. I felt guilty over the fact that my father’s business associate’s son just angered my friend and threw the doll out there. Like an idiot I said, “I’ll get it.”
I half-climbed and slid down the side of the foundation. Then I gently stepped out onto the ice. It held and I took a few more steps. It still held and I walked further out. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of breaking ice and broke through it in an instant. I immediately panicked and, not realizing there was a hole above me that my body just made, started pressing with my hands against the ice above my head in an attempt to push through it and get out of the water. It didn’t work.
Then the coldness hit me, a freezing sting that shot right through me. Somehow in my terrified state I recalled there was a hole up there and started feeling for it with my hands. I found it and was actually able to pull myself out. I slithered out of the hole on my stomach, stood and quickly walked back to the edge of the foundation. The ice this time miraculously held and I made it.
Robert and James stood at the top of the foundation in shock. They knew it was useless to try and help me since the ice was obviously not strong enough to support someone.
I walked home a freezing, dripping, soaking wet mess. As soon as I walked into the front hallway of my house and my parents saw me standing there shivering they freaked out.
“What happened to you?” my mother asked.
“I fell through ice at the junkyard.”
They both came running toward me. “What?! Oh my god! Hurry up and get out of those wet clothes and into the shower!”
They stripped me and pushed me into a shower where the warm water felt amazing.
That summer I spent two weeks in August with my family down at Long Beach Island, New Jersey. My parents would rent a house for us in the same neighborhood family friends owned a house. Two other families we grew up with also rented homes nearby.
One day about six or seven of us (my two older sisters and our group’s kids, who were all also older than I) rented a boat and went fishing and swimming in the bay. At the end of the day we returned the boat and had to cross one busy road, the island’s main street, to get back to our neighborhood. I wasn’t paying attention, looked up and saw everyone had crossed one side of the road. I assumed it was safe and darted out after them.
A young guy driving an orange Camaro slammed on its breaks. The front of the car caught my left hip and sent my flying about twenty feet into the air. I landed on the side of the road, slid on my hands and knees, got scraped up pretty good but was otherwise fine.
My sisters and the other kids came running over to me. The guys in the car stopped and pulled over. I was scared and crying. I got into the backseat with one of my sisters and the guys who hit me drove us to our friend’s house. I noticed the seat was wet and couldn’t figure out why. Then I realized I was so scared I peed in my shorts.
We got to the house and all the adults were out shopping. My knee was bloodied and the kids weren’t sure what to do so they called an ambulance. The EMTs came over, put a bandage on my knee then grumbled out loud that I was okay and we shouldn’t have bothered them with my minor injury.
Just as the ambulance was pulling away from the house the adults came home and rushing inside to see what was wrong.
“Lyle got hit by a car,” one of my sisters told my parents.
My parents came running toward me like they did when I fell through the ice while crying out once again, “What?! Oh my god!”
There was a drive-in movie theater in the town where I grew up. When I was eight-years old in 1974 a brilliant, hysterically politically uncorrect crime drama called The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three came out and my father wanted to see it. He brought my mother, two sisters and me to the drive-in. Within the first ten minutes of the movie practically every four-letter curse word was uttered. I sat in the backseat of the car amazed, thinking they just said shit! They just said fuck! My mother was not pleased at all. She sat next to my father in the front seat, turned to him and said, “Great movie to take the kids to!” My vocabulary certainly increased after that night.
The next year the movie Jaws debuted. One day I was having one of those stupid, little kid arguments with my friends out in the street in front of my house. We were arguing over the size of the monster shark and I yelled out something like, “No you fucking idiot, it was twenty-five feet long!”
My mother was in the garage and heard me. She stepped outside and called out to me sternly, “Lyle, please don’t use language like that. It’s disgusting and inappropriate.”
My friends laughed hysterically at me while the embarrassment ate me alive.
When I was about 15 me and three or four of my closest friends went into Manhattan to get fake IDs. Everybody knew the infamous Playland Arcade, a few blocks north of Penn Station, was the place to go for such documentation. For the ridiculous price of about $8 you got a simple, laminated card with a color picture of your face, taken right there at Playland’s fake ID counter, titled with New Jersey State Identification on the top (or whatever state you wanted it to be from.) First you filled out a little card and could put anything on it regarding name, date of birth, height, etc. It was that simple and they worked – once you discovered which liquor stores and bars would accept them.
Most of my closest friends in high school were a year or two older than me. Some of them didn’t have fake IDs and on several occasions it was up to me to saunter into the liquor store to get booze for the night. They would laugh and say stuff like, “Deixler, dude, you’re the youngest one here and you’re going to get the beer.” I would smile cockily at them while certainly being a little nervous at the same time. I was also successful just about every time I used that Playland ID.
The scariest part though about my fraudulent identification was something that happened while my friends and I were standing outside of the Playland Arcade. Some guy walked up to me on the sidewalk. He knew exactly what I was: a yutz from Jersey coming into the big city to get my phony credentials.
“Hey man,” he said, “you need a fake ID?”
“Yeah,” I replied.
“Well forget about Playland, theirs are the worst. They never work. I can get you the best ID and cheaper too, than Playland.”
“Really?” I asked, interested.
“Just come with me,” he cocked his head toward a big, white van parked next to us on the street. “I can get you the best ID,” he repeated.
Suddenly I got scared. “No man, that’s okay,” I told him. I quickly walked away to rejoin my friends. It was by far the best decision I ever made as a kid.