I was recently reminded of this time I ran away from home because I wanted to be a werewolf after watching Teen Wolf with Michael J. Fox.. Dead serious folks, I wanted to be a runaway werewolf so bad, and the runaway part was not even in the movie: that was my special addition to the special edition—my parents hated it.
We—well, you see (*sigh*), I dragged my poor friend Brandon along for the ride—and long story short, that was the end of our friendship by the power invested in his mom and dad. Yeah.
If it makes you feel any better about it, I tried to pack accordingly. I emptied out my binder, my Mead folders, text books, pens and pencils all over the floor of my closet (so as to not attract suspicion from the parental units) and stuffed a big blanket in my backpack. I think I might have managed to cram an orange and a few bananas in the remaining space available, perhaps a loaf of bread and some lunch meat. But, definitely had that blanket. Being warm is very important, you see. It was 4A.M. or so when I woke up and prepared to flee the safety of my mother and father’s sanctuary; I’m sure I wasn’t thinking straight. I was probably banking on a hunter/gatherer mentality for future nourishment.
So, how did this all play out? Brandon and I nearly made it to the outskirts of Visalia before a police officer found us. He was so polite! Brandon and I were tired of walking, not to mention hungry, and the officer offered us a ride home. I am guesstimating that I was around 8 years old at that time.
I’m not quite sure what I liked about Teen Wolf so much. All I know is that I watched it over and over and over again. I embraced all the finer details of the main character’s woes and let them parallel my own, tracing the movies subtleties until I had a self-portrait that was near perfect if not half-shabby for a kid still in the single-digit age bracket. I felt like there was something deep down inside of me that made me special and different from everyone else. Is this the heart of a child? Hell, I’m pretty sure is this the heart of an adult. Then again it’s probably just part of being human. Maybe I just really dug Michael J. Fox. Teen Wolf was hot off the heals of Back to the Future—but, in all fairness, as much as I couldn’t get enough of that 1980's goodness, you didn’t see me slipping off toilet seats and careening into bathroom sinks while trying to hang a clock, just to invent the flux capacitor. Sounds dangerous and ridiculous. Nope, I stuck to the far more plausible and credible realm of teenage lycanthropy.
I started beefing up on my knowledge of werewolves, seeking out the most renowned, accredited, and trusted sources of literature regarding the subject: Scholastic Children Publications. I tried with the zeal of a true Michael J. Fox Teen Wolf believer to turn myself into a werewolf so that I could be just like him. I recall, specifically, from this Scholastic publication, mention of ancient folklore that suggested drinking the muddy water of a werewolf footprint could change me (a dog print was the closest thing I could find, and it didn’t do dick). Another method is the age-old tradition found in countless macabre fiction and Hollywood classics that involve werewolves: get mauled by one. Unfortunately, there were no werewolves handy (as they don’t exist) and I knew that, so I let my imagination do the writing at that point and convinced Brandon that what we needed was over the hills, far off in the distant Sequoia National Forest. There, we would find werewolves, or at worst case, wolves. I’d absolutely love to revisit that conversation with Brandon, now, as an adult spectator:
Brandon: “So let me get this straight. There are werewolves over those mountains there?”
Me: Uh, yeah. Where else would a werewolf be? Do you see any werewolves here in Visalia?
Brandon: Huh. Yeah I guess so. Cool!
Brandon must have found something in my absolute certainty agreeable and set out with me, early the next morning, for those distant mountains. The same ones that make Visalia such a popular tourist pitstop in lieu of their quest for California wildlife.
We traveled almost exclusively through several canals that run through the city, below surface streets—I knew, deep down, that people would be looking for us. After all, it was a school day, and our seats were empty in that second grade classroom.
We made a couple of pits stops. We crawled out of the canal, at one point, to rest in a park that would later be a haven for my high school friends and I to smoke illicit substances, talk about life, ruminate on religion, discuss music and art, contemplate the opposite sex, and brainstorm on how to acquire a keg of beer for the night: you know, Teen Wolf kinds of stuff. Go figure.
Brandon and I resumed our journey through the undercurrent of Visalia’s aqueducts, only to eventually collect at a large tunnel covered by steel grating. We ended up climbing out of the channel and over a fence and emerging on the busy thoroughfare of Lovers Lane. A squad car slowly crept up next to us. The passenger-side window rolled down slowly revealing a smiling officer in sun glasses: “Hey fellas!” He was curious as to where we were heading. I informed him that we were heading for the mountains. He replied, “That’s a long ways a way, guys. Are you sure you don’t want a ride?” How could we turn that down? We hopped into the squad car. We were pumped! Neither of us had ever seen the inside of one before. I am happy to say that I think that was my first and last ride in a police car, as far as I can recall. Let me ruminate on that last assertion for a little longer though; I could be wrong.
NOTE TO READER:
This blog became a song. I wrote it as a Christmas gift to my mom and dad a few years ago. It's be latest single. It's called "Running Away From Home."
It's available on Spotify, Apple Music, Soundcloud and all other digital streaming services right now, if you want to hear it: