And that’s the truth. I wouldn’t get very far in this business if I was a liar. That’s the thing about my stories. A lot of it, the notorious shit when I was younger, is all a matter of public record. The rest, heck, I used damn near everyone’s real names, so you can just ask them about the shit if you want. And should you be lucky enough to meet me at a convention (I am a well known hermit) you can ask me about anything that happened, and I will probably share details that didn’t make it the book! Of course, I changed some people’s names. Why? Because I don’t want them in my fucking book, that’s why.
It was February 14th, 1987. It was unusually warm that day for Minnesota. Temps in the fifties. It was so nice, I went out in just a t-shirt and a jean jacket.
The first item I pulled out of my memory bag was the visit to a favorite teacher. The second item?
To walk up to a stranger, or go into a business and cold sell them something? Big balls. It takes more courage to go into a business and try to sell them something they don’t need than it does to rob a store. Those door to door salesmen are all but gone now, but there was a time when you could make a living doing just that. But who was I kidding? I was selling knock-off colognes to college kids that didn’t know any better. It was a temporary job to get me the fuck out of Forest Lake. I would have taken damn near any job at that point to change the scenery.
I just needed to get the fuck out. Forest Lake was an anchor around the necks of friends I went to school with, and that wasn’t for me. I was an adventurer! It didn’t matter that I had never been anywhere! It’s the spirit inside the man that makes him who he is, and my spirit had been jumping to get out for years! I was ready to ‘go for it’, whatever ‘it’ was! The Ward name? What the fuck was that anyway? It was just a label. I was a man, a blank man, ready to let the world shape me into who I would eventually become. The Ward family didn’t want me? Fine. I’ll show them. I’ll become greater than the sum of them all! I’ll put myself out there so much they be forced to acknowledge me! Not only that, I’ll tell secrets and dirty stuff! Yeah! How do you like that, Grandma? Won’t be taking a copy of “Adults Only” to your church group? Aww.
It would be 2 years before I would see my Dad again. He didn’t care. No one cared. They just wanted me out so they didn’t have to worry about me or pay for me anymore. I get it. As a parent of kids in their twenties I understand the frustration of watching your child flounder in an adult world, but I also know the desire for that extra room in the house, and smaller meals followed by quiet nights. But that’s not the way it is; not now, not then. !8 is just a number, and even though the government says you are an adult, very few of us are ready to wear the yolk of adult responsibility. Sometimes, though, you have no choice. You are thrust into a situation and you either have to step up and handle it, or crumble and hope to die. I would end up doing both.
My Mom married Jim. He quit drinking so much and turned into a great guy. He was always there for me when I needed help, and he taught me more than my Dad ever did. He actually took the time to teach me greasy car repairs and he did it right! I came to love him as a Father after the years had hardened me and I could look back from a distance. But I hated his ass back then. He was a bully that lived in the house that I used to call mine. Tony is still the same. I see that guy about once every few years or so. I say a few words to him and that’s about it. His kids are wonderful. They have a good Mom. Too good for Tony. Imagine having to spend the Holidays with the people that used to victimize you. You start to hate the Holidays all around. When Jim first started hanging around, it was all “My son is tough and could kick your ass” and “We need to toughen you up”. Toughen you up. It worked. I became hard and remorseless in a fight. They turned me into an East Side tough guy/thug. I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to save my hands for art, but there I was, smashing them with tools and breaking fingers in fights. I was the kid that went to school wearing the vinyl ‘concrete construction’ jacket.