MY STREET PHILOSOPHY
From The Runaway Kid
David Arthur Walters
“To fear the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom; She is created with the faithful in the Womb. She made among men an eternal foundation, and among their descendants She will be trusted. To fear the Lord is Wisdom’s full measure; She satisfies men with Her fruits. She fills their whole house with desirable goods, and their storehouses with Her produce. The fear of the Lord is the crown of Wisdom, making peace and perfect health to flourish.” Ecclesiasticus, or The Wisdom of Jesus The Son of Sirach
The basics of my philosophy, if I may be so vain to call it that, occurred to me as a teenage punk on the streets of Chicago.
I ran away from home for good in February 1959, barely thirteen years of age, bound and determined never to return again. I was a registered missing person, never found despite the efforts of my father.
I was given a ride to Chicago by a man who was transporting illegal fireworks in a stolen car. I told him I was going to Springfield. That was the name of the town I had seen in a movie about a wonderful romance. I thought for sure, if only I could go to that town, a girl like Tammy would love me there, we would work the tobacco fields and live very happily for sure. When we crossed the Mississippi he said it was where Huckleberry Finn hung out. I recall ‘Chantilly Lace’ was playing on the car radio. The singer, Buddy Holly, had just been killed in a plane crash along with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. We arrived in Springfield, Illinois, and it dawned on me, “This is not the place,” so I continued on with him.
The nice car thief offered to drive me on to Chicago where he was to unload his contraband. Why not? I had read about Chicago when I was studying how to be a juvenile delinquent in books about teenage gangs. When we arrived in Chicago, he gave me a coin, and said, “Take the El to the Loop.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. I thought he meant I should take an “elevator.” I had only been in one or two elevators in my life. Still, his instructions didn’t make much sense, because elevators go up and down, not around town, but why would he try to fool me?
I walked around shivering in the bitter cold without a coat until I got up the nerve to ask someone, “Where is the El?”
“It’s those trains overhead!”
“Where is the Loop?”
“Go four blocks that way to the stop, take the train on the other side of the tracks and you’ll get there.”
I didn’t have the slightest idea of what the Loop was or why I was going to it except that is where the nice car thief had said I should go.
I went into a department store to warm up on the way to the train stop, as it was bitter cold and I had the shakes. Gee, what a coincidence! There, right in front of my face, were some nice warm coats. I put on a big overcoat and walked out of the store. I had never been a thief before although I had admired juvenile delinquents in books and movies. What else could I do? Besides, the thief I had met was really a nice guy.
A security guard came running after me. My experience watching The Untouchables came in handy: I wheeled around, put my hand in the coat, and yelled, ‘Back off, buster, or I’ll blow your (expletive deleted) head off!’
He believed me. With my talent, I should have taken up an acting career right away, working my way up from two-bit hoods to the starring role of Al Capone. Little did I know that I would wind up hanging out in pool halls and bowling alleys with two old coots who had been soldiers for Capone’s Outfit.
I ran around the block, scrambled up to the El platform and jumped on the train to the Loop. That is where I learned my basic philosophy. I shall gradually tell you about some of the incidents it was founded on. Suffice it to say right off the bat that the conditions in my school were brutal.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot in libraries. I slept in the doorway of the library my first night in the Loop, and went in to warm up when it opened. I loved to read, and so I was convincing when I lied about my education credentials. I suppose I could have gotten a G.E.D. and went on to college instead of being satisfied with an elementary school education. But academia does not make people wise or even smart. If you think a degree makes you somebody special you have failed.
No, I didn’t learn my philosophy hanging out in classes with rich snots. My early philosophy was not fancy or sophisticated. It certainly was not advanced. “Metaphysics is a lot of nonsense about common sense,” I thought when I read Heidegger, “a way for educated morons to waste time.”
If ordinary people understand what is being said by a popular philosopher, then philosophers call the philosophy mediocre, especially if it is eclectic, a combination of things people know already, but I did not care what philosophers thought about my philosophy.
That being said, here is the simple doctrine that got me through the early years of my life:
“If you don’t love people you’ll get the shit kicked out of you. They still might kick your ass, but you’ll be better off.”