I was 15 years old, and at that age, I was indestructible. I knew everything. I could do everything. And I certainly didn’t need any authority figure to tell me otherwise.
One random Saturday, I was sitting at my desk in my room, typing away at my large keyboard while looking at my large, tube-style computer monitor. My desk didn’t have a lot of room on it, so when I went to reach to hit the ESC key, I knocked over a cup of red Gatorade that was on the edge of my desk.
It fell off the desk and spilled on to the floor.
“Oh come on! You’ve gotta be kidding me!” I was angry. I was yelling. I yelled more. I got down on my knees and started to dab the carpet with a paper towel, or an old t-shirt, or whatever I had available.
Then, my dad walked to my bedroom door. “What are you yelling about?”
“I’m pissed off that I spilled Gatorade on the floor.”
“Well stop yelling about it and just clean it up.” Well, obviously. I already in process of doing that. Why did he need to give me crap about it? I was a 15-year-old know-it-all, and I didn’t have to take this. So I decided to voice my displeasure with his response.
“Why don’t you stop giving me crap and help me out,” I said in response.
“Don’t talk to me like that!” he screamed back.
And so ensued a typical argument between a father and son. But this one was different. There was something about this yelling match that escalated quickly…and dangerously.
As my father and I exchanged verbal jabs, our tests of one another continued to rise in anger and volume. At this point, my mother was in the door way pleading for us to stop. I stared my dad in his eyes and he peered back. Then he raised his fist, bringing his right hand up by the side of his shoulder, ready to strike.
I looked at him. I saw his fist. I smirked.
My mom stood, screaming in the doorway. “STOP IT! PLEASE STOP IT!”
I leaned in just a bit further. “Do it.”
My dad clenched his teeth as his jaw pushed forward. His fist tightened further. Then he slowly lowered it. I walked past him and past my mom, ran down the stairs and left the house.
I walked down our street onto Travilah Road, the major two-lane road next to our neighborhood, and walked down the side of the street until I got to the shopping center about two miles down the road. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to go. But I was angry. I was exerting my authority as a young adult (not that I was one). I wanted to go back and fight my dad. I would win. Maybe we needed to fight. Maybe that would be a rite of passage.
But I didn’t know what to do, so I called my friend, Adams Landsman.
I met Adam through a regional youth group I was in, and we instantly hit it off. We hung out a lot, both had the same guitar instructor, and loved punk music. He was only a year older than me.
When he answered his phone, I told him what happened.
“Where are you?” he asked. I told him that I was next to the Burger King at the Travilah Shopping Center. “I’ll be there in 15 minutes.”
And 15 minutes later, Adam showed up in his mom’s minivan. He unlocked the door and I hopped in the front seat next to him. We talked more about what happened with my dad and he was both sympathetic and understanding.
“I’ve got just the thing to help,” he told me.
We drove back to his place and hung out for a bit before we got back in the minivan. We were headed to downtown Washington, DC. I wasn’t familiar with it, as going to the city in that day wasn’t something you did. About 30 minutes later, we parked on a side street and walked to a place called The Garage. “This is it,” he told me. “Live punk music…just what you need.”
He paid for my ticket, and we walked inside to the small venue that fit no more than a few hundred people. The bands playing I had never heard of: The Pietasters, a traditional ska band, and Catch-22, a ska-punk band. When Catch-22 hit the stage, I ran right up to the front of the crowd, moshing and thrashing around with the other diehard fans. I had no idea what songs they were playing, but it was fast punk music, and I was into it. About an hour later, the Pietasters took the stage, and Adam and I grooved to the music. We met cool people, including a physics professor from Baltimore. I met the Catch-22 band members and told them how much I enjoyed the show.
Afterwards, Adam took me back to his place and I spent the night with him. The next day, about 24 hours after I walked out of my house the day before, he dropped me off at home. My anger had subsided and I was more calm. My dad and I didn’t address the incident, but at least we weren’t at each other’s throats, literally.
Adam and I kept in rare contact throughout the years, and I hadn’t seen him in quite a long time until April 2018, when my grandmother died.
Adam was one of the few people my age who came to the funeral. And later that night, at the shiva (the Jewish ceremony to observe a death), Adam showed up again. I don’t know what triggered it, perhaps it was just being reflective in the wake of my grandmother’s death, but I shared this story with him. I told him how much I appreciated him back in 2000, and that I never thanked him for saving me from myself. If he didn’t pick me up, who knows what would have happened with me and my dad. Maybe he would have hit me? Maybe I would have hit him? Maybe there would have been irreparable damage done?
There were a lot of maybes, but none of them ever happened because Adam saved me that night.
He didn’t remember much of what happened, other than that we went to the concert.
“Thank you,” I told him.
In mid-December 2019, about 20 years after that night at The Garage, Adam texted me. “Got an extra ticket for a show at U Street Music Hall. On me.”
I hadn’t been to a show with Adam in almost 20 years. I talked to my wife. “Would it be okay if I went to this?”
On Thursday, December 19th, I took the metro into the city and met Adam in the basement club of a two-story building that just happened to be where my doctor’s office sat on the second floor.
We got our wristbands and our hands stamped and walked into the venue. This time, as we were old enough, we went to the bar and grabbed some beers and talked. I took a look around. While it was a different venue, and we were 20 years older, I had the same feeling I had 20 years before. I felt the same rush of live ska music I did before. The same rush of being alive. This time, I was a 35-year-old husband and father of a four-month-old daughter.
I was just glad to be there with Adam, and I was again grateful for that night he saved me from myself.
And I also hoped that we’d do the same in another 20 years.
Thank you, Adam, again, for saving me from myself.