Sunday, September 26, 2010

Catholic School Boys in Trouble

So far kids, we have met Sir Charles and I have told some tales, all true, of our antics. I cannot reveal, for obvious reasons, all of those insane nights, but let me assure you that there are plenty more to tell. That is coming.

Since SMA was in the rear view, and The High was considered by my parents to be a den of sin and inequity (It was both.), Catholic school was chosen to be where I would spend my senior year. There was a catch: I was to wear a uniform once again.

But this was an easy uniform to wear: white shirt with blue pants. No starched collars, itchy and destructive wool pants or goofy hats. If this was all I had to endure, then it was going to be a cake walk. Despite the more-or-less structure of the school and my parents’ intentions, there were still a million ways to act out at a Catholic school versus a public one. You just have to have the wrong/right friends.

The group I fell in with was a perfect fit. They were cool, into music, smart and all were mavericks. Perfect. And basically none of them really were actively Catholic. Did I mention that they were pro party heads as well? Oh. Somehow I missed that.

Call Him Joe Kidd

Friendships run in cycles. There comes a time in your life when one person becomes your best mate and you are inseparable. Joe Kidd and I became such friends during this period.

Joe was observant, socially adept, funny, and had unnerving confidence. He had this way of smiling at you that could make you feel uncomfortable. As if, all the world was there for his amusement (Even my mom, who adored most of my friends, remarked about how Joe seemed to be so sure of himself.). I’m sure that wasn’t his intention, but rather it was his writer’s instincts of always standing just a little bit back to observe. This appearance of confidence was a useful tool as I saw it, especially with the opposite sex. While the rest of us were tongue-tied, confused or excited into silence, Joe had the knack.

One sure bond between us was music. Joe played all sorts of instruments: drums, banjo, guitar and whatever else he could get his hands on. Hours upon hours were spent in his basement with Joe on the drums or guitar and me on the Donny Lad guitar, making up songs and trying to learn covers. I remember us performing together at a party where we howled through Idiot Wind by Dylan.

Joe once called me, “The 24 hour musician,” meaning that I never stopped talking about it or wanting to play. I was young and hungry to learn. Plus, music was the only thing that seemed to "fit."The rest (family, school, girls-all the usual suspects) seemed very difficult for my teenage angst to endure.

Joe was obsessed with Dylan (Not without merit, Joe’s profile reminds me of Dylan’s Desire cover.). Goddam Dylan accompanied us everywhere we went in the family-business-bakery-van. At that point, I was annoyed by Dylan’s whiny nasal voice and found the whole thing primitive. After all, I was an aspiring guitarist and Dylan was not among the guitar gods. He was a folkie.

Kanawha State Forest was a place where we loved to go to hike for hours. One afternoon, perhaps a skip day from school, we decided to partake of nature’s wonders….and also enjoy the forest as well. Well, one psycho ranger decided that he didn’t like our looks and he might as well hassle us. And hassle us he did.

Psycho Nazi Ranger came up swiftly upon us, insisting that we hand over the nefarious goods. We knew that Ranger Rick was not the police and that his authority extended only to the confines of the forest, but also knew that once said contraband was confiscated, he would do his level best to get us busted. We, who loved and respected the forest and took pleasure the natural beauty and wouldn’t dream of leaving a beer can, were being given the business by this idiot who was acting more like a cop than a conservator of state land. He tried searching Joe who just deftly moved out of his way. When asked, “What’s in that pocket?” Joe would pretend to look and say, “Nothing.” This went on until Ranger Danger decided that he could not violate our rights any further with illegal search and seizure and gave us a stern warning never to return. I was a bit shaken by this incident and I believe Joe was as well, but stay away forever? Methinks Mr. I-wanted-to-be-a-cop-but-couldn’t-pass-the-exam must have been partaking of some of nature’s finest himself.
You know the fkg type.

My brother had experienced a similar run-in with a ranger. After climbing a steep hillside to find a perfect rock upon which he and his girlfriend could “celebrate” and make whoopee, a mad psycho ranger was perversely watching them. The ranger had used a fire road to come up on them from behind. Again, nothing could be or was proven, except that teenagers like to have sex al fresco.

T Bird

“T Bird” sounds like this guy was a rough-and-ready gear head: nothing could be further from the truth. T Bird was a bright, excellent student whom we all knew had the brains to become almost anything he desired. One hot and restless afternoon, while everyone was chatting, flirting and generally dying to get outside, Richard began writing a large scientific formula on the chalkboard. It was huge, stretching across two blackboards. He could have been, in part, showing off, but also actually working on a solution. I do not remember what I yelled out at him, but he buckled over with laughter. It was probably, “What the hell are you trying to do? We might suffer brain injury from that.”

The only thing that could scramble Richard’s mind was a girl named Stephanie. Evidently, his junior year, he had gone out on a date with her and it became legendary, monumental and also an impassable wall. The damn date stood like a block in the road and we all knew the whole story as he had told us all time and again. Hell, it sounded like a dream of a date to a young virgin lad, but the endless Neil Young songs, the dark poetry, the veiled references to suicide- all these pointed to the Stephanie who evidently refused to give him any more attention after that night. We’d be walking in the hall, she’ say hello and he back, and then endless rumination about why? How? What? She drove him insane and he was stuck on her. It was hopeless. He never did go out with her again. She could have cared less.
Dear Stephanie,
You fked up, girl. Richard now works for a major corporation designing missles. Yep, he's that smart.

When the cycle had come around for me and Richard to become best pals, we used to take his green Mustang out for hours. Not meandering mileage, oh no. We took detailed and planned trips that he had memorized from maps. No matter what little side road or alien neighborhood we drove through, he always knew exactly where we were in the plan despite any “impairments.” On those longs trips, the conversation was always dominated by girls: who might go out with us, who was hot but beyond reach, why we liked certain girls, etc. ad infinitum.

There was a period when Richard liked to wear a large leather hat. He looked ridiculous in it, but none of us ever said anything. There was also a time when he began to act very effeminate. He began wearing these musky-jasmine type colognes and his whole bodily affect was completely limp, gestures were exercises in femininity, etc. I began to get worried and confided in a few of our friends. Then, when it was group party time, he began to crawl off from the group and be by himself. We’d see him sitting all alone, the red ash glowing, hunched over like a large bird-hence the nickname.

Richard and I shared a loss of our fathers at an early age, mine by natural causes and his evidently just up and left. This causes a person to be damaged-the damage is for a lifetime and must be resolved, or you end up at the bottom of a bottle or worse. I see now that a drawing I did for him, which had a solitary figure sitting on a huge rock, no doubt inspired by Roger Dean, was a metaphor for the isolation one feels at that age. You have family and friends, yet the mood swings, hormones, an uncertain identity combined with an even more uncertain future can create this sense of isolation. Fking hell, we all feel this way at this time.
For as smart as Richard was, he was able to translate my mainly emotional-meets-music mumblings into sense. I don't think I made much sense back then. Of all my friends at the time, he was not one to jump on the peer sarcastic wagon. His was a more gentle and kind nature.

It’s Like the Finger Pointing at the Moon next

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