Boys are not boys, as the expression goes, they are more like groupies. Two of them can cause an international crisis (I came close to that without a brother), but when three or more exist, look out. They come together like atoms in the Super Collider and, like those scientists who are never quite sure as to the result, anything can happen. Just stand back and keep your head low. It’s a lot like that grand old southern expression, “Hey Y’all! Watch this!” Whenever you hear someone nearby say those words, stand back. Those will probably be the last words that person will ever say on this earth. Gangs of boys seem to encourage that kind of showmanship and bravado. I’ll bet that’s the most commonly heard phrase in laboratories full of men, too. That’s right. Men don’t come from their mothers, they emerge from gangs of boys and never forget the thrill of allegiance to the herd.
“Hey y’all! I think this time it will work! Watch this!”
“Albert, that’s what you said last time and it took a month to clean everything up.”
“Yeah, yeah. Small miscalculation. This time for sure.”
“It does look impressive.”
“It’s meant to be impressive! I’m calling it Little Boy. Here we go!”
“Hold it! Let’s at least do this test outdoors, OK?”
So they did. That day caution prevailed in the gang – er, Project.
Now, I’m not speaking of gangs of boys a-la West Side Story. Those developments do spring from the same Super Collider effect, but I’m really speaking to the more innocent (maybe not the right word) or rather endearing (no, still doesn’t capture it), totally daft (that’s more like it) characteristics surrounding boy gangs.
What brings me to this topic is a frozen pipe. Yeah, that frozen pipe, the one that burst last year and also during that other horrid winter a few years ago. No matter how much insulation I put around it the darn thing it offers as much resistance to the cold as a sandbag would to Noah’s flood. So forget it. Fix it in the spring – whenever that comes. In the meantime, I did what any experienced Upstater does under these circumstances and reached for a book. Bolstered by Woolx and hot drinks (maybe I should wrap that pipe in Woolx?), I delved into a story published nearly 100 years ago about a particular gang of boys in Budapest. In all their camradery, classroom pranks, and street negotiations – especially with a rival gang of boys – The Paul Street Boys displayed the common features of guys establishing themselves through group identity, territorial control, and self-created challenges designed to raise individual stature. In short, games of power immersed in growing up.
Molnar’s Classic, made into a film by the same name in 1969. Copyright James V. Michalec 2015
My own street gang held all those ambitions. The boys on Paul Street could easily substitute for my pals, Paul Street for my street, the empty lots for my lots, now long filled with anything but a group of boys on the hunt for excitement. At the end of the day we all seem to have had the same moms who required us home by a certain time, the same teacher we sneered at from the shadows, the same street vendors whom we regarded as either benevolent – or thieves. Yet in between these things, oh, beware! Life in a boy gang is as adventurous in scope and limitless in possibility as a hot summer night ablaze with a sea of dancing fireflies, every blinking light an invitation to rush out and catch the world – but always with the gang.