Thursday, February 6, 2014

Very specific memories from early high school

There was a jukebox in the cafeteria, and in 9th grade, before we had an open campus and before, in any case, any of my friends could drive, we sat at a table near the jukebox, though the jukebox itself was considered a zone for dorks only, whom we dubbed "the Jukies." Songs in frequent rotation: "Chattahoochee" by Alan Jackson, "The Sweater Song" by Weezer, "Hello, I Love You" by the Doors.

I remember one Monday at this lunch table, my best friend Marisa had watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show over the weekend with our friend Bryan, who was a year older, and she kept bringing it up every five minutes: in Rocky Horror this, in Rocky Horror that. I got extremely annoyed and made a kind of screaming-through-my-teeth noise and picked up a piece of paper and scrunched it up very loudly. Then Marisa was quiet for the rest of the lunch period.

I remember wearing my new jelly sandals for the first time and walking down the empty hallway, either to or from the bathroom during class, staring at my feet the whole time, and then walking straight into an older guy named Steve that I had a crush on.

I remember Steve telling me I must have "an excellent sense of smell" because once in Algebra II, I said "It smells like mango," and he was chewing mango-flavored gum several rows away.

I remember all the guys in NES, or Never Ever Sober (Steve, Paul, etc.) would cut slits at the bottom of their jeans, up the side on the seam where the flap would be on a pair of track pants, to make them wider, more "bootcut." I still think this was rather fashion-forward.

I remember, very distinctly, as a kind of muscle memory, the thumb action required to button button-fly jeans.

I remember an older, "slutty" girl in Yearbook waltzing in 10 minutes late one day and sing-songily stage-whispering as she passed me, "Life's a journey, not a destination."

This same girl, whose name I can't remember, sat in front of me in Theater Arts, and one day I watched her put on three colors of eyeshadow in class, the way one of her mom's friends had taught her. After she finished, she shrugged and said "I still look like a truck."

This girl had a friend name Blythe, who had very long hair and a cute rack. Our teacher, whose hair was curly and dyed bright red, which made her look very batty, very theater-teacher, told her on the first day that there's a wonderful actress named Blythe Danner, and Blythe said, I know, I'm named after her.

There was a very tall black guy in this class, who sat behind me and wore aviator glasses. He told me that my aura was green and he would sometimes draw my portrait. We were friends in class, but I never talked to him outside of class, because he was a Jukie.

I had another friend in this class who looked like Dave Foley. I always called him Dave Foley. I don't remember his actual name. Once we did an improv skit together, where he played my assistant, and the big joke was that he would tell me something disastrous had happened and I would turn to him slowly and drawl, "And whose fault is that?"

I remember a very annoying girl named Stacey, who sat behind me in French class, asking me what my favorite opera was. I'm sure I could not conceal how appalled I was at this question. Nonetheless she told me proudly that hers was Madame Butterfly.

I remember my English teacher, Mrs. Peterson, teaching the lesson on The Scarlet Letter with the Cliffs notes clearly poking out from inside her copy of the book.

I remember Becky, who sat behind me in math class, telling me she was doing "butt clenches" in her desk.

I remember leaving campus for lunch during the first semester in 10th grade, before I got my license, with Becky and Monique. Becky drove a white Chrysler Le Baron convertible and always put the top down no matter how cold it was. We would go to places like Taco Bell and Sonic. Monique I was scared of. I'd known her in seventh grade when she was obsessed with ballet and her favorite color was pink. Now her boobs were huge, she wore eyeliner, and she had a boyfriend I didn't know, from another school; she talked about sex all the time.

I remember Becky telling me that girls get horny on the third day of their period.

I remember going with Becky and Monique one day during lunch to someone's house that was near campus. Maybe a guy named Bob who always wore striped t-shirts and quoted Beavis and Butthead a lot. In any case he was there, plus a guy named Daniel, and the four of them took hits from a three-foot bong. I did not.

Becky told me a story about Daniel smoking some pot once that must have been laced with LSD, because he came back to class and had to take a chemistry test and just filled the paper up with the letter t.

I remember the day Kyle, who sat next to me in keyboarding, came in with a fresh tattoo. He told me that you can't drink when you get a tattoo because it bleeds too much.

Kyle always wore heavy metal t-shirts. One day he asked me what kind of music I listened to. I told him my favorite band was Teenage Fanclub. He told me that he used to listen to them, back when he listened to that kind of music.

I remember Brian, a blonde skater kid that I liked for a while, calling me every day after school. We'd watch MTV together, over the phone. We both loved Nirvana, but I mostly pretended to like the other music he liked, like The Offspring.

I remember one day Brian said with disgust, about The Cranberries: "They don't even get hard."


  1. When "The Sweater Song" was big I was living in a veggie coop on the central campus of the U of Michigan. One of my housemates was Rivers Cuomo's brother Leaves. Leaves had majored in Creative Writing at Oberlin, but at that time he was working on a doctorate in Public Health or something. He had long Ted-Nugent hair and sometimes walked with a cane he didn't need. He'd never had a bite of meat in his life. (I wasn't even a vegetarian. I'd moved in to be near a girl who promptly moved out.) "The Sweater Song" was played a lot on Ann Arbor's WIQB, and Leaves carried that first eponymous Weezer album around the coop, trying to get us to listen to it and giving us progess reports on the band's success. We all thought it sucked. (Most of us liked old music. At the time I was addicted to decades-old country blues, e.g., Blind Willie McTell.) "'Weezer'," I thought. "What a stupid name." Leaves had explained that "Weezer" was his brother's childhood nickname, but I still thought it was stupid. He was very proud of his brother but also a little envious. He sang well and played guitar, and I think he resented Rivers for not inviting him to join the band. He definitely resented Rivers for "stealing" his poem and making it the lyrics of "The Sweater Song" without attribution.

    I was always hanging poems on the fridge door, and once I hung a poem that ended, "If you want to destroy my map to your place, just hold a street as I walk away." Leaves wasn't amused. He'd been ripped off again.

    When Leaves moved out, he left behind a red Oberlin t-shirt. We were the same size, so I wore it until I got tired of being accosted by Oberlin alumni.

    1. Rivers and Leaves?! That's funny because there's also River Phoenix and Leaf Phoenix (nee Joaquin, now Joaquin again) ... Rivers and River were both born in 1970.

    2. Hey, I've got my own weezer story! My parents lived next to one of the band members parents, so his mom showed my mom the video for the Buddy Holly song, the Happy Days video. My mom said to me something like "Is that what the kids are into today? Happy days?" It was pretty funny. I got her to sign my copy of Pinkerton.

    3. ha! that is indeed pretty funny.

    4. Now I like the Buddy Holly Song. And Hash Pipe I've always loved. Weezer's Nirvana covers are worth a listen, too.

  2. That's a strange confluence. I didn't know that.

  3. One of our drama teachers (who also taught French) also had curly hair, also dyed red. She played up that the natural nickname for her last name was "Fou," meaning "crazy" en francais.

  4. We also had a jukebox in our high school cafeteria, and there was a large area of floor near it where people danced to the jukebox music. Most of the music on it was late-60's / early-70's R&B. Some specific songs I remember are "My Girl" and "Get Ready" by the Temptations, and a couple of Jackson 5 songs (I remember "A-B-C 1-2-3" specifically), also "Backfield in Motion" by I forget who.

    I mostly hung out with other student poets (there were a few of us), during my first year -- high school was three years, 10-11-12. Then in second year and third year I hung out even more with student poets (from my own school and other schools, thanks to federally funded arts programs), and I hung out with hippie students. One of my high school hippie poet friends finagled getting to interview Allen Ginsberg, when Ginsberg came here for a reading once.

    Among my high school hippie friends were a few people who became known as the Tequila Freaks, because of their favorite pastime on the front lawn (or it may have been in a car in the parking lot?). One day one girl in the tequila group had a little too much of the stuff, and (according to the story -- I didn't witness it myself) at some point she started not feeling very well, then said out loud, "Ohh... I think I'm gonna..." and then she threw up on the lawn. Or the parking lot, whichever it was. From that moment on, her nickname was Puker.

    A group of students at the school started a brief unsuccessful campaign to have the name of the school changed to Jimi Hendrix High School.

    In the spring during my senior year, there were several Friday afternoons when a bunch of us piled into a couple of cars and went across town to the local naked beach. (Not officially or legally a naked beach, but for sure it was one.) There we would party wild and naked till after dark. The beach was on a lake in the middle of a neighborhood with lots of big houses owned by people with lots of money (Minneapolis has several good-sized lakes which are public parks), and several of the kids who would hang out there had parents who were locally prominent citizens and/or had money (a couple of newspaper columnists, a well-known heart surgeon, etc.), so even on the rare occasions when police would show up, nobody was ever arrested, they just told us to shut down the party and head home.

    The thing in your blogpost about the guy who wrote t all over his chemistry test just cracked me up laughing. As we used to say, Better Living Through Chemistry.