Tuesday, December 22, 2009

views of contemporary society

i wasn't much of a joiner back in high school. in spite of that, i'm in every activity picture in the yearbook for my junior year, which was my last year in high school. i got a diploma, too. it was the '70s and there were lots of early college admission opportunities for a young snotnose like myself who tested well, even though i was a "z" student -- i worked hard only at baiting my teachers and avoiding doing work. today, they'd take one look at my standardized test stores, compare them with my academic performance, stamp my application "slacker" and shred it after mailing the pro forma rejection letter. but i digress.

the reason i was in all those activity pictures was that on the day the photographer came to take them, a friend of mine i'll call hap and i ditched all of our classes and hung out in the courtyard talking to the picture-taking guy all day long. we're listed in every photo as "unknown" and "unknown." it was a good way (good = funny to me) to end a singularly undistinguished academic career.

we weren't exactly what i'd call good friends -- never went to each other's houses or anything like that -- but we were cheap, easy sources of amusement for each other in the one class (english) that we had together two years in a row. the first year, we would sit in the back of the room screwing around and drawing cartoons for the entire class period while our dotty english teacher (whose name escapes me) spent most of her time interacting with the really _neat_ girls, who adored her.

the next year, we tried the same gambit, but our teacher mr. kennedy was having none of it. at the end of the year, he punished us for our year of insubordinate bullshit by making us read a play -- edward albee's the zoo story, in which we played the only two characters -- in front of the class. i retaliated by composing a piece of free verse, which i handed in the last day of class and which he read aloud to the class with some surprise -- that the slacker bum was capable of actually _producing_ something. he didn't notice, of course, that if you read the first letter of every line vertically, from top to bottom, they spelled out "don't be such a fucking wiseass." i imagined him going through his folder of school memories at some indeterminate point in the future, realizing he'd been had, and dropping dead on the spot. the fantasies of youth.

hap and i actually belonged to one sanctioned organization: views of contemporary society. the nominal purpose of this organization was to bring speakers on the issues of the day to our school. in reality, we did nothing but show grade b horror flicks and have a pizza party at the end of the year. outside of hap and myself, the members were all girls -- not the really neat ones, but not the really hood-y ones, either. as they were a year older than hap and me, and i was an extremely awkward and asocial kid, it was intoxicating being surrounded by _older women_ -- older women who thought that my buddy and i were a hoot, at that, because we worked really hard at being funny in a snidely sarcastic, jaded and cynical way.

we might well have been the angriest, most embittered 15-year-olds that ever existed. hap had an excuse, at least: when he was ten, he'd found his father's body after his dad committed suicide in their garage. we both liked music and would endlessly debate who was a better songwriter: lou reed or john denver. it seemed incongruous that a kid as angry and bitter as hap would dig somebody as fundamentally flat and uninteresting as denver, but like i said, he had an excuse.

the adviser for "views" was my social studies teacher, whom i'll call richie c. he'd been in the navy and seemed to be less caught up in the bullshit of being an authority figure than most of my teachers were. (i saw the same lack of intensity about meaningless bullshit in an older cat i knew during the first of my three semesters of college, who'd also been in the navy. maybe they teach it in boot camp.) his two best buddies on the faculty were tony d., who was from the bronx and claimed to have known dion di mucci (he said that dion was laughed out of the bronx for shaving his legs so they'd fit into those pipestem jeans), and bob k., who owned the first bmw i ever saw and whose cousin danny was the lead guitarist in the blues project, maybe the best band to come out of noo yawk city during the heyday of folk-rock and early psychedelia.

i don't remember all the movies we showed. most of them seemed to have vincent price in them, although i do remember that once we showed cool hand luke, which made quite an impression on me and my schoolmates. there were two non-cinematic attractions i lobbied (with hap's support) to bring to my high school. one was roller derby. the other was jay silverheels, the actor who'd played tonto in the lone ranger. for some reason, the girls didn't think that either of those ideas was worthy of our time and treasure.


Blogger a. said...

30 years later and a thousand miles away, teachers were showing my classes cool hand luke and vincent price movies as well. maybe it's some secret mandatory requirement buried in the fine print of the curriculum nationwide.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Krakhaus said...

Thanks....great read!

6:16 AM  
Blogger Grubbermeister said...

Salad days, indeed.

9:37 AM  

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