At 19 I faked my California driver’s license. Easy to change 1948 to 1946, to erase part of the 8 with the kind of eraser that worked on typewritten pages. Then I went to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, reported my license lost, and got a new one. I carried the fake ID for ordering beer in pizza parlors and carried the real one in case I was stopped by the cops.
I told no one about my fake ID, not even my closest friends. I used it only when alone. By myself, I’d stop in Me’n’Ed’s Pizza on the way home from Cal State on late afternoons or in early evenings and have a mug of beer. Why?
Or why, starting in 8th grade, did I filch a cigarette, sometimes two, from my father’s Camels. I hid them in my two boxes of railroad literature. I don’t even remember when I smoked them. Certainly not in front of anyone I knew. Probably during the endless hours that I rode around Fullerton solitary on my bike.
“Hey, bub, if you’re going to smoke, I wish you’d buy your own and stop taking mine,” Dad said when I was in 9th grade, maybe 10th, causing me to blush deep red. I was embarrassed because I was the churchgoer, the Christian who’d heard my Baptist preacher proclaim that souls would be in hell for smoking cigarettes, sorry though the Reverend was to have to say it. Dad never went to church, said the biggest hypocrites he’d ever known were churchgoers. Apparently like me.
But I was more profoundly embarrassed for another, deeper reason. How do you say to your dad, “I want to be a man, like you”?
(Photo at top by Vincent West, Reuters. A man drinks beer while smoking a cigarette at the Goiritxu bar in Guernica December 25, 2010. Spain was about to ban smoking in bars.)