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Teenage Wasteland

Teenagers face a lot of stress, too (courtesy of the AASA)

“Don’t cry/Don’t raise your eye/It’s only teenage wasteland.” –From “Baba O’Riley” by The Who

Never were song lyrics more applicable or relatable than they were these last few weeks. Teenagers across our great nation left all their worries, inhibitions, concerns, logic and even common sense behind, choosing instead to break the rules, wreak havoc, embrace chaos and, in one tragic case, end a life.

Yes, it was a rough couple of weeks for teenagers, but rougher still for those whose paths led them into this Teenage Wasteland.

TAYLORSVILLE, UTAH

Richard Portillo had a real passion for soccer. So he often spent his free time serving as a referee for Fut International, a Hispanic soccer league for kids age 5 to 17. Games were held in his Salt Lake City suburb, which made volunteering even easier for him.

Sadly for Portillo, the April 27th game he refereed would turn out to be his last.

Portillo died doing what he loved (courtesy of KSL 5 TV)

Following a clear penalty, Portillo issued a yellow card to a 17-year-old player, warning him that a second card would lead to his ejection from the game. As Portillo was recording the incident on his notepad, the carded player suddenly turned around and punched him in the head, allegedly behind his ear and towards his neck.

The player was immediately tossed out and after experiencing some dizziness, Portillo managed to walk away, seemingly unharmed. Unfortunately, things took a drastic turn for the worst as Portillo’s condition deteriorated. First came the headaches, followed by disorientation and eventually, he slipped into a coma. And he remained in that state until Sunday, when he finally died from his injuries.

And all because some teenager couldn’t control himself or accept the consequences of his actions. Too bad things are out of his hands now. Currently, the charge against this violent teen is only aggravated assault, but rumor has it that an upgrade could be coming. For now, he remains in juvenile detention and, unless I’m horribly mistaken, he should probably get used to it… at least until he’s old enough to relocate to prison.

PROSPECT HEIGHTS, ILLINOIS

Give a 14-year-old an iPad and you just never know what will happen.

In this suburb outside Chicago, the teenager in question used his Apple device to access one of those online sex dating sites. He somehow arranged for a prostitute and soon welcomed 22-year-old Dareka Brooks into his home.

Dareka Brooks, 22, of Milwaukee is charged with one count of armed robbery. (Prospect Heights Police)

Dareka Brooks. He should have slammed the door in her face (courtesy of Prospect Heights Police)

After asking the young man to undress—which I’m sure he did since we all know what he was expecting—Brooks pulled out some pepper spray and attacked him. She escaped with his iPad, a jar full of money and—get this—his piggybank.

Fortunately, the authorities used the iPad to locate and arrest Brooks a short time later. She has been charged with armed robbery and will appear in court at the end of the month. The young victim appears to be safe, from everything but his parents’ wrath, that is. By now he probably wishes he was in jail… or feels like he is after being grounded for the rest of his teenage life.

Poor, horny bastard.

WALWORTH, WISCONSIN

Police from Wisconsin to Illinois are on the lookout for a tan pickup truck pulling a white RV and allegedly heading to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. Inside the vehicle are three suspects thought to be responsible for robbing a Walworth gas station last Thursday. What sets this case apart, though, is the fact that only one of the suspects—the getaway driver—was an adult.

The infamous Sly Stone (courtesy of The Radio Cure)

The armed robbers were kids: a girl between the ages of 10-13 and a boy aged 13-15. They burst into the gas station around 9 a.m., held the clerk at gunpoint, forced him to open the safe, grabbed the cash, jumped into the waiting truck and hauled ass. The vehicle was last seen heading south towards the Wisconsin-Illinois state line.

Authorities believe the suspects to be con artists who pose as a family, claim to need help and swindle money from local businesses and churches. And if nothing else, they also show just how dangerous crime can be when it becomes—to steal a phrase from Sly and the Family Stone—a “family affair.”

CHEVY CHASE, MARYLAND

Have the unfortunate events surrounding the Boston Marathon bombings taught teenagers nothing?

In the case of Maryland’s Kyle Druckemiller—a 19-year-old who goes by the name Fuhrer on his Twitter page—the answer is obviously “no.”

Earlier this month, Druckemiller was arrested after his girlfriend’s father—suspicious since the young man once brought a loaded gun into his Germantown home—searched his duffel bag and made another shocking discovery. Inside the bag were several pipe bombs, a nine-volt battery, an improvised detonator, two timers and an alligator clip with wires.

Druckemiller just realized why “bomb” and “dumb” end in the same two letters (courtesy of Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office)

Basically everything Druckemiller needed to create his own brand of domestic terrorism, if he so desired.

The good news is that nothing happened because the misguided young man is being held on $500,000 bond. If convicted, he could face as many as 25 years in prison, not to mention a $250,000 fine. Needless to say, the threat of such a punishment has caused Druckemiller to be very compliant.

He told authorities that he learned to make the bombs on YouTube, which certainly comes as no surprise. And like the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, Druckemiller used components he took from fireworks to make the bombs—fireworks that were legally purchased in South Carolina and transported all the way back to Maryland.

Does anyone else sense a pattern forming here?

OVERLAND PARK, KANSAS

Our final story comes from Blue Valley High School in Kansas, where a seemingly harmless senior prank resulted in 100 students being suspended late last week.

In yet another display of teenage rebellion—and poor decision-making—students from Blue Valley broke a window near the pool area, poured inside, stripped down to their bathing suits—as far as I know—and proceeded to swim and cavort until a school resource officer discovered them. He prevented the students from leaving and by the time it was all said and done, all 100 students had been suspended for the remainder of Thursday and all day Friday—a forced three-day weekend that some of the students appreciated, especially seniors.

Other students, however, weren’t so pleased.

The faces of the suspended students (courtesy of KCTV 5)

“It’s a vacation for the seniors because most of them have already checked out,” sophomore David Gressgott explained later. “But for me and my friends, we’re missing class. I have a test tomorrow that I’m going to be missing and might not be able to make up.”

Some parents were also upset by the punishment, which was even applied to a young man who never jumped into the pool, but stood and recorded the incident on his cell phone.

“I don’t think it’s fair that underclassmen that were watching and not participating got suspended for simply watching a senior prank,” David Gressgott’s mother Susan told reporters.

Though I understand what she means, the fact is that once students broke into the pool area—and everyone piled in, both swimmers and spectators—a crime had already been committed. And as they always say, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

Being a teenager isn’t easy. We all know that from either living through that period in our own lives or dealing with kids who are experiencing it now. Between raging hormones, the quest for identity and acceptance, sexual insecurities, hasty decisions and everything else tossed into the mix, it’s a wonder more teenagers don’t behave like the ones mentioned here. Actually, they probably do, only the smart ones don’t get caught or never do anything serious enough to draw attention.

Whatever the case may be, the truth is that as long as there are teenagers, there will always be teenagers in trouble. And what The Who referred to as “teenage wasteland” will undoubtedly continue with each passing generation.

It’s as predictable as night and day.

How to Spend My Sweepstakes Winnings!

English: One Billion Dollar Artwork

One Billion Dollar Artwork (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not one to brag, dear readers, but I have it on good authority that I may have already won a substantial, million-dollar sweepstakes. In fact, someone in my area is guaranteed to win and, without question, that someone is me. Eat your hearts out!

Seriously, though, we all know this is a pile of that stinky stuff I dare not name for fear of my blog never reaching Freshly Pressed. But there’s always a chance and I know I’m in the running.

I get dozens of hosted emails that tell me so.

At some point, I’m sure we’ve all received promises from those huge sweepstakes conglomerates that inundate us with magazine subscription forms and links to “trusted” affiliates. And yes, the majority of them smell like the substance I described a moment ago.

What would happen if we actually won, though?

For me, spending this newfound wealth would be easy. I have always had a wish list for my lottery winnings. Granted, it’s mostly in my head, but it has almost always been there. And I’m sure you have a similar list for yourself. Nevertheless, here are the BIG ONES for me:

Clearing my debts

The obvious first step in spending $10 million—or more, depending on the size of my prize—is to settle all of my outstanding debts. The house, the cars, my credit cards. All of them would meet their demise. And given the obscene size of my new-and-improved bank account, many of my friends’ and family’s bills would get paid, too. It’s only fair since I would totally expect the same of them. Thankfully, I get to make those decisions because I’m the millionaire. This means I’m immediately more important than the people around me and thus wield the power of the gods. Not!

House overlooking Ballintoy - geograph.org.uk ...

House overlooking Ballintoy – geograph.org.uk – 54364 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Build, build, and build!

For almost as long as I’ve dreamed of hitting the jackpot or winning the lottery, I have held in my mind the blueprints for my dream home. Some of its design took hold when I was a wee man, so of course there will be hidden passages and a secret underground headquarters—kind of like my own version of the Bat cave. Then there’s the indoor/outdoor pool connected to a “lazy river” that drifts through a number of downstairs rooms. My guests won’t even have to walk to the kitchen for a cold beverage. Just float on by and grab one from the fridge, but only if my wet bar by the pool isn’t properly stocked. I even have plans for additional seating to be built into the walls in many rooms. This way people forced to stand can pop one out—kind of like a pilot might do with his jump seat on an airliner—and grab a seat like the rest of us. Nifty, huh?

And lest we forget the in-house movie theater, video game parlor and hot-wired technology center… all of them necessities in the house of my dreams.

Get out and see the world

One of my favorite hobbies—back when I could afford it, that is—was to travel the world. In 41 years, I’ve managed to visit almost every state in our great nation (including Hawaii), as well as numerous islands in the Caribbean, spicy countries throughout Central and South America, and one European nation, Germany. For more about my experiences there, see my blog series that begins with Remembering The Wall, Part One.

Unfortunately, my primary financier—my father—passed away in 2007, so my travel has been largely reduced to an annual trip to the North Carolina coast with my family. Given the chance and the cash, however, I would jet off to explore Africa, Asia, more of Europe and without a doubt Australia. I’ve been fortunate to meet people from all of those places, and they sure seem more interesting than some of the yahoos I’ve encountered in this area. Present company excluded, of course.

Start a business

Since I’ll already have a dream house with all the trimmings at my disposal—and since I’ve grown weary of the nine-to-five, paycheck-to-paycheck life—my new employer would have to be me. Whether I open a restaurant, launch an Internet start-up or simply write on a freelance basis for the rest of my days, I would be the only person I needed to answer to. Yes, I’ve had some great bosses in my time—and some completely horrible ones, too—but none of them understand me as much as I understand myself. As long as I don’t ask for too much time off, we should be good.

English: The iPad on a table in the Apple case

The iPad on a table in the Apple case (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give me more stuff!

I’m not going to lie to you, but I would accumulate more “stuff” if I had an almost bottomless pot of gold to draw from. Materialism has never been one of my character traits, mostly because I can’t afford much, but it would be nice to have the latest Smartphone or the newest iPad. And I wouldn’t mind driving something that wasn’t 11 years old and more than 150,000 miles past new. It doesn’t have to be a Ferrari, mind you, just something nice with some modern amenities. I’m sure cup-holder technology has evolved since my 2001 Ford pickup was manufactured.

The element of surprise

The last way I would spend my winnings would mirror the “prize patrol” that delivered my disgustingly large payout. After donating some large chunks to charity, I would look for people who need financial assistance—the deserving ones, not the freeloaders—and surprise them with anonymous cash to make life a little easier for them. This might include disaster victims, the habitually unemployed or perhaps less-fortunate kids at Christmastime. Searching for worthy recipients would be half the fun, but seeing them enrich their lives or solve their problems would be almost as rewarding as my sweepstakes winnings. Almost.

Now all that remains is waiting for my big check to arrive. In the evenings, I often find myself dashing to the front door anytime I hear a car engine outside. I want to be ready when the prize people come, so I make sure my hair is neat, my teeth are brushed and my clothing isn’t tattered. Someday they will arrive and I’ll be faced with another challenge…

Trying to get that big check into the drive-thru window at my local bank. I sure hope it folds.

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