Don’t ever shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue. This was the advice my father gave me during my teenage years.

Actually, his guidance was this:

“Go out,” he instructed. “Get drunk. Get a boyfriend. Have an unhappy love affair.” (He claims he didn’t say this one.) “Fail a few courses.”

These experiences, he professed, would enrich my life.

His advice was weird and his restrictions few, but he did forbid me to do certain things.

“Don’t ever,” he stressed, “shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue. If you want to shoot up, come upstairs out of traffic.”

Danny’s counsel confused me at the time. And even now, while I get the points he was trying to make – experience life, don’t worry so much, it’s okay to mess up – I realize his approach was not quite ordinary. Especially the shooting up in the middle of Second Avenue part. He did explain, when I questioned, that shooting up speed might be okay. But that smack was a downer, and if I shot up smack I would most likely pass out in the middle of the street. Which wasn’t safe.

What I think I’m trying to say is that Danny prided himself on being nontraditional and nonconformist. (I hate to admit that I do as well.) But that in his nontraditional and uber-nonconformist ways, he aimed to share what he knew and what he’d learned. To shower me with his understanding.

Because I was so tightly contained and perfectionistically rigid – both from my own make-up and from my years in the Church – that Danny tried to push me to break rules. Any rules. Maybe even all rules. And because he was such a rule breaker and disregarder, I doubt I listened to him and most likely summarily ignored everything he said.

I was explaining to someone recently how growing up I knew that my childhood was weird, but that I didn’t know it was bad. It was just what I knew. I knew that being a Moonie was different, and for years I thought I was lucky to be one. I knew that life with my father was different, and for years I saw no upside to that at all.

I know that there might not be much upside in “don’t shoot up smack in the middle of Second Avenue.” I realize I would never say that – or most likely anything like that – to my kids. But I like that as an adult I can look deeper into what Danny was trying to say. Even if I’m making it up with hindsight.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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