Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 148

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 45
Mal Howley: my wife
Adam Howley: my son, age 20
Cassy Howley: my daughter, age 15


My wife, Mal, and I were getting more involved at the school that my daughter was attending for her sophomore year of high school. Mal was organizing and running the snack bar at almost all of the school’s sporting events as a fundraising event for Cassy’s senior class trip. I was enjoying my involvement with the school board even through some difficult times.

After our very successful (and profitable) performances of “Annie” last year, Brenda (the director) and I were asked if we could do more than one play for this school year. Since Brenda was very talented as a director, it was decided that she could do another play with just the high school students. I would attempt to direct a play with just the middle school students. Brenda chose “Oklahoma” and I chose “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” Brenda was lucky to secure the talents of Barry and Margaret Armitage to handle all of the musical aspects of “Oklahoma.” These two dedicated people worked very hard to teach the kids all of the songs. For my play, I’d need to find someone else to perform the music. They would have to learn to play all of the material and be available every day to teach the songs to the kids. Trust me; it’s not easy to find someone who is willing to take on such a big responsibility. This left me with the difficult job of finding another pianist to play the music for “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Around the time we began our pre-production work on these two plays, we got a phone call from the owner of the home in Newport, Rhode Island where Adam had been staying over the summer. She expressed her concern for Adam’s health and well being. She was concerned because Adam seemed to have lost his motivation to be productive and he just wanted to spend his time hanging out with the large group of kids known as “the park rats.” These were the troubled kids with lots of body piercings, tattoos, unusual clothes, and oddly colored hair. These things by themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, but there was a lot of drinking and drugs in this group of underage kids and that worried our friend. It worried Mal and me too, but we thought Adam was smart enough to avoid these things.

We had no way to contact Adam because he didn’t have a cell phone and he was no longer staying in our friend’s home, so we decided to drive down to Rhode Island to find him. The three-hour drive to Newport seemed to take “forever” because we were very worried and had no idea what to expect when (or if) we found Adam. We drove around the area and eventually decided to stop and ask a store owner if they knew of a park where kids hung out. They directed us to a small seaside park but when we got there it was deserted. We weren’t convinced that this was even the “right” park because we had the impression that the large group of “Park Rats” usually stayed in the park until very late almost every night. It would be unusual for the park to be empty. After driving around for a while longer, we decided to get a hotel room for the night and resume our search in the morning.

We didn’t sleep well that night but getting back to our search early in the morning didn’t make much sense since Adam and his friends rarely got up early. When we drove up to the park around mid-morning we were relieved to see Adam there with several of his new friends, several of whom told us how much they loved Adam. To be honest, I didn’t care. I wanted Adam out of there and away from these bad influences.

We took Adam out for lunch and we told him about some of our concerns. He did his best to convince us that although he knew he was doing some things that were not very smart, he felt that he needed to remain here with his new friends. He had no interest in returning to The Boston Conservatory to begin his sophomore year of college. He didn’t want the stress of the increased debt of $30,000 per year and he wasn’t convinced that the education he was getting was worth the price.

After lunch, we drove him to the place he had been staying in Newport. We had no idea that he had been sleeping on the couch of a family who lived in “the projects” of Newport. We didn’t even know that Newport had “projects!” This wealthy city did indeed have low-income government housing and it was just as run-down and disgusting as the government housing in most major cities. Adam told us that there were frequent gunshots heard during the nights and there was drug dealing and violence on an ongoing basis. This convinced us that he needed to come back home to New Hampshire to live with us until he could decide what to do with his life. After much pleading, he agreed to come home for a three-week trial period. You see, once he had tasted the independence of living at college and had experienced basically living on the streets of Newport, he wasn’t excited about the idea of being “controlled” by his parents. We promised to try to work things out while he stayed with us so it would be tolerable for all of us. We left Adam there that day but returned a week later, as arranged, to bring him back to New Hampshire.

Cassy’s friend, “Amy,” was still living with us at that time in our extra bedroom upstairs. Adam set up a bedroom area in the finished basement so he could have his own space and this arrangement worked out just fine.

Next chapter: Adam needs our help.

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