Assault on Fort Stupid

By Paul D. Dickinson

Many of the things in my life that  have turned out to be stupid– started out as being cool– in fact there is a fine line between what is cool and what is stupid. My entire life is full of stupid moves– I call it a well rounded education.

  Hey! This could be a fort!
Hey! This could be a fort!

When  I was about 15, me and my friends built a fort,  And like a good skateboarding ramp, all forts need to be made out of lumber stolen from a construction site. When you are 15 you will run down a busy street with a huge sheet of plywood. We felt protected by some sort of Amnesty– we were building a fort, after all.   We built   said structure on a vacant ravine in the middle of inner city St. Paul. This wasn’t that long ago, really, but it was indeed before they attempted to put condos   on every inch of God’s green earth. So there were vacant lots and ravines that, like the plywood, we considered our  birthright. So we built this fort right into the side of a  hill– it was part  Hobbit home and part machine gun nest. It was cool. We need a place to stash all Playboys we found with the  covers removed in the  7-11 dumpster on Grand Ave,  as well as other precious treasures of   teenage boys including knives and cigarettes.

The thing about building a fort, and this explains why people jump Snake River Canyon with a Motorcycle or climb Mount Everest- once the fort is done, you  have to do something else. So we got some rope, the same way we got the plywood, and built a system  of commando style links between a few trees- we would shimmy like Rambo between the trees – that was cool. Then we started firing model rockets with the nose cones glued on– out of the ravine, down into the houses and traffic below. To protect ourselves from retaliation,  we built Burmese style tiger traps in the side of the hill- so anyone unfamiliar with our elaborate secret path ,  running up the hill to get us might fall in one of these pits- that was cool.

   All these rockets should've been enough.
All these rockets should’ve been enough.

But it was stupid when Bobby O’ Niell  brought his mom’s 45 Automatic down to the fort. Now, at first it was cool , because nothing is cooler than a gun. But the jackass had some blanks in the gun-which really  made no sense, his mom was a real estate agent, not an actress in action films!  Well,  he starts shooting it off- and it was as loud as hell!!  We began to argue. Bobby  just kept firing the damn thing. It seemed like a good time to leave either by foot, or elaborate commando rope network. But I didn’t, because I was stupid.

All the Kung Fu movies I had been watching did not prepare me for happened next–an overweight but intrepid St. Paul Cop, gun drawn, had run up the hill, somehow dodged all of our death traps- and before I knew it, I was lying in the dirt, face down  and handcuffed- not cool. I got lucky–  Since Bobby was older and had the gun, they brought  him to jail– but this cop actually brought me home- where a fate worse than jail awaited me from my parents. But they were not there- It was my lovely Grandma that lived with us– She really sweet talked the cop, made all sorts of promises.  When the  Cop left- she looked at me, with  the most severe look I’ve ever seen on a human being and said “No more Fort”. Cool.

    Sunny day in Fort Stupid.
Sunny day in Fort Stupid.

Paul D. Dickinson is a Minnesota poet with many books, a film about him, and he is the co-host of the famous Riot Act Reading Series, which is generally run out of the Turf. He also fronts the band Frances Gumm.