What Happened to Peter Pan?

Peter panBy: Grainne Rhuad

 Most every town has one, a man; a young-ish man somehow suspended between boyhood and manhood, who becomes the voice of the youth, the leader of the pack, the Peter Pan. In my hometown and in my generation this individual was called Ted Shredd.

Ted may have grown up in my town or he may have come here from somewhere else, I am not entirely sure. I first started hearing his name when I made that adolescent leap from grade school to Jr. High. It was the eighties and while the world was dancing around dangerously to Duran Duran and Falco, I was more enamored of the types of music I had grown up with, the blues, bluegrass and a whole lot of classical. It was clearly uncool to admit that I liked this type of music, so I found myself gravitating to anything anti-radio music. The underground at the time was full of punk-rock and reggae and just a beginning of what would become hair bands.

 This was how I first heard whispers of Ted Shredd, it was through musical connections. Kids full of awe would in almost sacred whispers ask if anyone had seen Ted Shredd this weekend. Having just seen this mythical creature was a badge of honor; those who had actually spoken with or had the honor of hanging with him were instant campus celebrities amongst us, so much so that some would make up supposed nights out skating around town with Ted.

It wasn’t until High School that I ever actually saw or met Ted Shredd. He was a Night creature, standing so much taller than the rest of us, his height accentuated by his mile high Mohawk designed by Elmer’s glue and dyed the color of the week, it was whispered with Jell-O. Soon we were shaving our heads and breaking into the pantry in an attempt to dye our hair with sticky dessert treats. When Ted Shredd showed up with his ears pierced we broke out the needles and ice and pierced ours, holding the holes open with safety pins just like Ted. When he got more holes, we got more holes. Of course we all affected wisdom in the fine art of skateboarding which was where Ted took his name from.

 He was often to be seen just like a Fey creature out of the corner of your eyes racing along downtown streets with a gang of street rats trailing behind. An urban Pied Piper on four wheels. Mostly those around him were boys, 12-16; Lost Boys, but there were a few Tinkerbelles as well.

By the time I was out of college and having kids there was a new Peter Pan in Town, his name was DNA. DNA was a different Peter, he was a productive one. Manically so.

 DNA also was whispered about in school playgrounds by boys nearing manhood, but he was much more accessible. Maybe he had been one of those Lost Boys of Ted Shredd, I never knew. But I watched with interest as he pulled the youth of this community together to make some really important things happen.

By this time skating had become a crime. You could not ride your board down any side walk or public area anywhere in town. The youth were not welcome in coffee houses that were more geared towards post college followers of the television show “Friends” (NBC ©). DNA got behind the youth and helped to make a skate park possible in an accessible area of the town, no less.

He also brought music to town. Our town has always had music in it, Billy Idol had come here on his first American Tour quite a coup for our little college town, when Rap Music became popular, we became a stop-off for acts like Ice Tea. But these were all college geared concerts; teens were not welcome and had to sneak in. There were no mixed age venues to watch music other than concerts in the park, and the youth of the late 90’s were not interested in Barbershop quartets and the hippie stylings of the longest playing local group Spark and Cinder. DNA saw this and pulled together his own events production company to bring music to town. He, with a lot a help and a lot of hours at city council took over a landmark but failing cinema and made it a music venue that pulled in at first off label underground bands but nowadays brings bigger names to town.

 All the while he could be found at Farmer’s Market, talking to the youth, buying their mistletoe at Christmas time, listening to their concerns. I would see him out at night with the street kids, letting them know they weren’t throw aways; they could come along for the ride with him for as long as they could keep up. I watched him from afar, I was no longer young but I liked what I saw, a new Pied Piper for a new generation. He was not as Fey as Ted Shredd, but neither was he in anyway grounded.

Not too long ago I looked about and found that this generation has no Peter Pan, not in my hometown. That worried me. Unlike other so called feminist of my age I am not concerned with the Peter Pan syndrome. I have always thought that it is better for a young man to stay in that stasis as long as he needs to. In fact it is better for all of us. We will all of us grow up all too soon. There is something to be said for soaking up youth and bringing more of it with us to our adult lives, when we are ready. We do not need to push our men into being something they are not prepared to deal with. I have a suspicion that this is in a lot of ways responsible for the decline in some men’s attachment to family, the video game obsessions the vicarious living and most recently the dream state that our nation has been in, as if we disappeared into a party and don’t want to go home.

 Also of concern to me is there is no lack of Lost Boys. They are still there, huddled under bridges, roaming streets, sleeping in doorways, but they have no leader no direction. They are angrier more dangerous in their disillusionment. They roam around committing violence indiscriminately and are using drugs and sex more dangerously to numb their pain, uncaring of any future because they cannot see one.

Ted Shredd like any mythical creature disappeared quite suddenly. Maybe he was ready to grow up and didn’t want anyone to know it. Those of us who had been his fans saw the signs. It began when he took a job as a DJ at a well known dive bar. He was very very good and being in college at the time, most of us could be found there on nights he was working. He bought a VW van which he mostly lived out of, instead of whatever magick place he had disappeared to before. One day he simply drove out of town.

 DNA grew up too, kinda. He got married, had a family. He began writing a weekly article for our alternative newspaper. He wrote two books, and published them himself. Both are about what happens when the Messiah turns up in our time. They are incredibly hard to read, schizophrenic in the extreme and very true to DNA. There are messages there for those who want to come along for the ride. You probably will never be able to buy one. I have only found one that he donated himself at the local library, but if you someday come across a book in some hole in the wall bookstore titled” Memoirs of the Messiah”, pick it up, give it a try.

It was good, they decided their times. But nobody has yet grabbed this torch. I feel as if our youth are in limbo in an unexplained place. They have no special Pied Piper of their own to show them how to burn off steam, they don’t want to hear from us and really we are not the right people for the job. They need a leader who has recently been where they are at, who understands their unique challenges and cultures.

For now I guess I shall have to hope that like Wendy, my telling his stories will bring a new Peter to the window, intrigue him, and make him want to check out the scene. I’m afraid of what might happen if he doesn’t come soon.

*Author’s Note: None of the names here have been changed. These are and were real people. If Ted Shredd and/or DNA would like to add to refute or address anything written about them here, our Submissions are ever open on our proboards and I am waiting with baited breath to publish them. You guys are amongst my heroes.

18 Comments on “What Happened to Peter Pan?”

  1. This story really grabbed me, Grainne. There is so much pressure put on children to excel, even turning their favorite sports into a drill for perfection. The ones who are not the best athletes, most charming princesses, academic achievers are the losers in the winner take all society. They have no time to play, to pretend that they are princesses and heroes. Without the time for the visualization, they have no goals beyond those set in front of them. Children must be allowed to use their imaginations, for it’s through the imaginative that they dream, invent, and improvise on the world in front of them.

  2. Touching piece while at the same time very concerning. I remember sneaking into Hey Juan’s (wasn’t 21 yet) and drinking pitchers of beer in the back with may pals. Anytime Ted or DNA showed up to throw a few back everyone knew who they were. Always approachable, fun to talk to and just great spirits. What stands out the most for me is how they were able to channel their energies (discontent, marginalized and disenfranchized) to effect positive change in the community they lived in. Enriching all of our lives. I have a deep gratitude for these men. So look for those Teds and DNAs in your communities and send a shot out to them. Thanks Grainne for reminding us to invest in our youth.

  3. I’m not sure about all of this … I’m certainly not sure about all this “family values generations” who have raised killerTeens and apathetic spoiled and “entitled” kids who want and expect a “90’s future” that may never come back. Everyone working to have mega-TVs, give your kids I-Pods and cars and X-Boxes and just about anything that will bring a smile to any child how doesn’t have to ever talk to his parents or respect them … send them to soccer camp, class trips to Hawaii, and dinner from a bag … we have lost a generation or two, and those kids are the ruthless Wall Street and White Supremacists we should all fear today and for decades to come ….

    Kids are either ignored by parents or over scheduled to the 9th degree … there doesn’t seem to be any time to get to know the people next door, to ride a bike or to just imagine. The most valuable thing anyone can give a child is their time, and Americans have no time, busy, busy, busy, but at what cost ? The reality of getting into the right college starts in grammar school, parents today, who were marginalized by their parents, are repeating that behavior .. who really gives a shit about Grandma anymore ??

    American values, consumerism, greed and FEAR. Fear of strangers, anyone different, being raised to judge people with no consideration of facts, life is American Idol and Simon Cow, it is gossip on Access Hollywood and Tiger Woods and Britney Spears wearing no underwear. News is about a Presidential blow job and 50 million dollars spent to remove him from office for a land deal he lost money one anyway. Politics is so corrosive anymore, and opinions so vicious that parents should not let kids watch news on TV without them being there to put all that shit into a context. The very idea of the term, “oral sex” being said on TV News shows, how does anyone explain that to a child ?? Being rude and opinionated is the norm, no one wants to hear anything they haven’t thought of first … racial and ethnic segregation … Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly as spokesmen for the world … no respect for anyone … life is now about what THEY can get, and not give.

    We live in a world of want, and a world where the divide between rich and poor is growing at an alarming rate. We all say that children should be children and then buy sneakers from Indonesia we all know are made by 10 year old children who work for pennies and in 12 hour shifts … our kids know this too and know that it is unimportant, because parents continue to exploit a situation to have what they want …. so why shouldn’t their children. When I was young my parents never worried about me being stolen or hurt, they had no extra money, so we played all day with a ball and could ride almost everywhere. People today drive their kids 20 miles over the speed limit because the want to .. and curse the cop for not catching a robber instead of giving them a ticket. They listen to their parent blame anyone else for their situation, kids can measure effort and see “want” and “entitlement” as part of life. No responsibility for anything …

    I don’t see a solution to any of this, except more time spent with your children and less time being busy … Peter Pan, I never followed one, and am not sure that was ever a good idea, no matter how well intentioned he might have been …..

    As always, very interesting and thought provoking. You are GOOD.

    (BTW, I know some parents are good parents, just not enough to make a “social” difference. )

  4. Today it is as if Smee, in an effort to befriend Tick Tock the Croc, fed Cap’ain Hook to reptile. Despite the inherent nature of ‘evil’ that Captain Hook ecapsulated, that nature was defined and limited by the “Pirate Code” giving a certain amount of predictability to the actions Captain Hook would follow. The crew now looks to Smee for leadership so the former first mate now emulates the captain without understanding the reasons why Captain Hook chose his line of actions in the first place. So there sits Smee in the cave with the corpse of the Indian in a row boat at the pole picking off random pieces of flesh from the rotting corpse of the Indian Princess debating if he should tie the Princess to the pole or not.

    Peter Pan may have always opined that he would never grow up but in a way he did not have a reason to do so as long as Captain Hook existed. Peter Pan was the enabler of the Lost Boys; while he did not lead with a heavy hand, Peter Pan’s finger did point the way. Without the well defined opposition of Captain Hook with instead the flummoxed Smee in command, Peter Pan had no notion of what was out of bounds and what wasn’t. Peter Pan gave up. Perhaps it is not that Peter Pan is dead but threw himself into an iceberg to cryogenically preserve himself for a time when the world makes sense again. I can’t help but to wonder if it is not so much that Neverland has been left without direction but an over glut of feigned direction from Peter Pan wannabe’s who covet the old aspirations of the Captain Hook led pirates. This is my long winded way of saying that I agree with Rich that there are good parents but their influence isn’t as powerful as that of the Smee led pirates to make a ‘social’ difference.

  5. I’m with Thomas on this – the time for new Peter Pan’s is over because there is no well-defined oposition for him to overcome anymore: if anything, the proverbial devil is in every facet of our society and no longer has need of a leader to drive itself. When a social order become this rotten and hypocritical at its core no amount of well-intentioned people aspiring to “make a difference” will do anything beyond slowing down the meltdown of society; forget Peter Pan, what need are Tyler Durden-like folks to blow this garbage heap straight to hell so that there may be a chance of starting over.

  6. Christopher, I am seriously mulling over your statement. I do love me some Tyler Durden. However Tyler is an individual of a slightly higher maturity level. I almost think Tyler had to have had someplace to try out his anarchist thought processes before developing a direction to focus it.
    This is where I see a Peter Pan type stasis as a good focal point. A little bit longer in Nevernever, and an individual may be more prepared to be a Space Monkey rather than say an investment banker.

    Going over Rich and A.B.’s comments as well, I am thinking that people are looking at my use of Peter Pan as the Disney Peter. All full of fun and play. I would request that maybe, you look beyond that to what a leader could be, which is anything.

    I will entertain the ideal that “there is no well-defined opposition for him to overcome anymore.” However this is his role, find a definition and point the little beasties at it, giving purpose where ther is none.

    I am also thinking that Tyler Durden never wanted to blow the “garbage heap straight to hell” he simply wanted anarchy as a means of leveling the playing field, so that something else, something new and something yet to be defined could occur.

  7. Another point which I thought worth making was to address Rich’s concerns over parenting. Nobody can replace parents in their jobs obviously, however parents cannot do everything. There comes a time in the hatchlings life when they are at odds with everything about their parents which is the normal process of breaking away and becoming an individual. Parents should nurture this, they should allow for questioning and rivalry, however many times this is difficult for too many reasons to count. Historically societies had ways of dealing with this, the child would be fostered, or sent to begin training in a craft. Also available to them would be an extended family to hand, with uncles cousins, grandparents and friends to relate to, of many different ages.
    Our extremely unhealthy society has become so insular that we no longer have these mentors for youth. Older brothers and cousins grow up and move away, there is no appretice system so youth can seperate from family while immediately moving into a position of self worth.
    Yes parents should teach compassion but the natural human growth demands that individuals learn from outside sources as well, and we are not even sending everyone to school.

  8. Grainne, I’ll submit that Peter lost his happy thoughts sometime around 1996 and is still looking for them…

    I, for one, believe he will find them again.

    Good article. It made me remember things I’d forgotten.

  9. Took me time to read all the comments, but I really liked the article. It proved to be very helpful to me. It’s always nice when you can not only be edjucated, but also entertained! I’m sure you had good time writing this article.

  10. DNA here. Wow. I was trolling for anything that might have popped up about my novel over the years and found your article. Frankly, I think it was the nicest thing I’ve ever read written about my exploits. I felt like I was reading a young Tom Wolfe writing about the surf/acid culture. I also like your line about the novel
    “They are incredibly hard to read, schizophrenic in the extreme and very true to DNA”—-that is the truest review I’ve gotten.
    I must admit that I met Ted Shred my first day in Chico and he was/is an amazing person. I saw him defy gravity. He actually said, “Gravity I defy you!” The he did. Quite the magician.

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