Monday, October 26, 2009

You're in High School again.... No Recess!

Tomorrow I am going back to my high school for a visit with the journalism class and the creative writing class. I am mildly terrified about this. First of all the journalism class will be interviewing me press conference style, but the scariest part.... I'm going back to high school. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. But of course, the teacher sounded really nice and I want to meet the teens in the classes, and ooooh, I get to go in the staff cafe between the two classes. I hope the staff cafe serves the gooey half cooked chocolate chip cookies I enjoyed daily when I was in high school... One of the only things I enjoyed about high school.

I think that's one of my biggest fears, that in this "press conference" I will be asked what I think of my alma mater. And the only thing I can really think to say is, "Well, I survived..." Because when it comes to talking about high school, my two general rules about speaking, especially publicly, clash. There's "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it" (though this mostly for me just applies to talking about other's artistic work. I hate bad reviews, so I'm not going to bash another artist.) and then there's "Always be honest."

So honestly, I hated high school. A lot. So much that I've blocked a lot of memories of it out. Since I tend bar at a place that is right next door to my hometown, I get a lot of grads from my high school and they always ask me if I remember so and so or this teacher or that class and I often just blink at them and make excuses that center around my lack of sobriety during high school. But honestly, I didn't spend that much of high school wasted. Maybe a year altogether. I don't remember high school because I was suffering from severe depression through it. Do I want to be that brutally honest in this "press conference" though?

I'm not so sure, so I figured I'd make a list of things I do remember about my alma mater and we'll see how many I can talk about....

-Summer school. I went the summer before high school started and took health class, hoping to get a feel for the place. All I remember was the smell of the school, which is hard to describe and I'd venture most high schools smell the same, and how the air conditioning made our classroom too cold. I also remember my friends Jenny and Laura getting me addicted to All My Children and One Life to Live that summer because we'd go home after class and eat lunch and watch them. One Life to Live is my one addiction leftover from high school. Fortunately it was the most harmless addiction I had.

-Blue detention slips for detentions I never served, except the one time I went to a Saturday detention, which I found amusing because two of the people I knew there were tripping. (erm, nope, can't really talk abt that one).

-Swimming. In those horrendous 60s style mauve suits they forced us to wear. And how the woman handing them out each day *always* guessed your size wrong so you were either literally swimming in your suit or exploding out of it. I enjoyed including some of these details in Ballads, but had to trim some of them out. Oh, and a little factoid I found out via bartending. The boys had it way worse. And not *just* for the reason my guy friends told me about back in high school. They would tell me how gross the pool was because the boys weren't required to wear swim caps like the girls, so it was all hairballs and disgusting gel floating on top. What my guy friends never told me, probably because they were too freaked out/ashamed and it was not until many years later when they were past it and drunk at a bar that they could reveal this... The guys were forced to take off their swim suits BEFORE they went back into the locker room. And unless you were a teeny guy, the little towel did nothing to hide you, so they were in essence, strutting around the pool naked. Fucked up. (and probably something I shouldn't discuss...)

-I still remember my locker combination. 38-16-30. Seriously, with all I've blocked out, how did I manage to remember that?

-Smoker's corner. When I started smoking freshman year, you could still smoke on school property, right next to the football field. Sophomore year you were forced to stand across the street and smoke. (And I recall getting in trouble once during a fire drill because my friend and I lit up. We were like, "um, we're across the street....") Junior year, you had to be walking while you smoked, you couldn't congregate. And by Senior year, they'd gotten vans for the security guards to enforce this. And I think you had to be a block away from the school to light up or something. It was crazy.

-The Hemingway room. I had English class in it Junior Year. I used to imagine there would be a drive by shooting behind the school that would shatter the big stained glass windows. Seriously I fantasized about that daily. That was how much I hated that class (bad teacher), that room, and my life at the time. I also hate Hemingway, which apparently is like a sin if you are from Oak Park, even though Hemingway hated Oak Park. People from my high school joke to me and say maybe I'll get an English classroom designed in my honor. I'm guessing if they read this blog and my school files and my books for that matter, probably not. And I wouldn't want one. Unless it had Nirvana and Rancid posters on the wall and truly represented my teenage years.

-Spanish class. I used to cheat on my tests by writing the verbs I was supposed to memorize on my shoe. I used to have loud sing alongs of punk and metal songs with Dan and Matt. I think I was in class with Dan one year and Matt the other. I'm not sure. I remember both of them as partners in crime, but I think it was during separate times. I know Dan made a substitute teacher cry.

-Tennis in gym class. My friend Devlin was my partner. We both sucked. We'd intentionally hit the balls off the court so we could go and retrieve them and smoke a quick cigarette.... (something tells me not to tell the cigarette stories. cigarettes are bad and addictive, kids. I have since quit. A few times.)

-The small caf. Freshman year, I ate in the main cafeteria, trying to blend with the herd. The small caf was where the freaks and geeks hung out. By sophomore year I realized it was where I belonged and where all the excitement happened. Like there was the time a bunch of my friends decided it would be freakin' hilarious if they stole a lunch table. So they did. Imagine the confusion on the security guards' faces when about 8 to 10 people lifted up a table and started running like hell with it. They got it a couple blocks away and stashed it in one girl's backyard. Oh and there was the week that my friend Tom made it his goal to get the whole caf to clap. He would just stand up and start clapping at random. The rest of us would rise too and look around at everyone else urging them to join. The security guards kept squashing Tom's impromptu efforts perhaps thinking it would lead to table stealing, but by the end of the week, everyone caught on and the whole cafeteria applauded Tom. Yes, I loved the small caf. I used to enjoy spending all three lunch periods there.... well when I wasn't sneaking off to smoke things that were not regular cigarettes. By my senior year they staggered the lunch periods so you could not ditch as easily. It didn't matter, I had early dismissal and left after 6th period to go to work. (again, maybe these tales of rebellion, not so good for relating).

-General Business. It was a required class otherwise I never would have taken it. I have no recollection about what I learned about the stock market. I just remember that our teacher Mr. B would start our second period class each day by blaring "You Give Love A Bad Name" by Bon Jovi to wake us up. It woke us up, but we all thought he was crazy. The 80s were so over. It was all about Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails then. I remember getting in line at 6 am for Nine Inch Nails tickets with a girl from my General Business class.

-I loved those days after a concert when you'd wear the shirt you got at the concert to school and see who else was wearing shirts with that band's logo. You'd have this moment. You'd be a little tribe.

-I hated how the summer after Jerry Garcia died, all the jock kids became fake deadheads and then tried to buy drugs off the kids they'd used to fuck with (ie me & my friends). I loved that my friends sold them fake drugs.

-Junior Year I really enjoyed the drive to high school. I finally had a car. There was no parking lot, so I would have to quickly run outside between classes to move my car, but it was worth it. I got to drive all my friends to school. The ones I didn't drive would all meet in the school lobby, on this specific spot on the stairs outside of the auditorium. Those 5 to 10 minutes of all of us together at once (umm, well the ones who got to school on time) were bright spots in otherwise shitty days. There is actually a yearbook photo of us. Marcel is in the photo, so it makes me miss him when I look at it though.

-Speaking of yearbooks, every year, by the time it came out I would look completely different than I did in the picture. Brown hair went blond. Blond went black. Long went short. My life would fall apart and be put together again several times each school year. My hair was like a symbol for it all.

-I wrote my junior theme (which you really wrote sophomore year for some reason) on a comparison of the tragic lives and poetry/lyrics of Sylvia Plath and Courtney Love. It was a bad-ass paper. I wish I could find it. Maybe my mom has it.

-Senior Year, I had a couple really cool teachers. Mr. Blackburn, my humanities teacher let me write a comparison paper between Trainspotting and Fahrenheit 451. He yelled at me once for eating Wheat Thins in class though, which I think is the most ridiculous thing ever. Especially since I was still battling anorexic urges back then and felt that I should eat when I could convince myself to eat. (See even the good memories are tainted by bad.)

-The other cool teacher was my philosophy teacher. In that class I gave a full presentation about the ethics of veganism. Everyone ended up agreeing with me by the end that veganism was the ethically correct choice except for the hardcore Christian kid who insisted god put the animals here for us to eat and the crazy hippie girl who couldn't get past the idea that plants could have feelings too. We also watched Blade Runner and Wings of Desire, two of my all time favorite movies.

-I petitioned for a Women's History course and the school actually instituted it... the year after I graduated.

-The school literary magazine was called Crest. My friends and I thought it was lame that you had to be friends with the right people to get your work in, so we created Crust, our own literary zine.

-Rushing to try to get into the computer lab during study hall. Not to check email because no one really had email back then (well, I did get it junior year), but to relive innocent grade school days by playing Oregon Trail. If you didn't get into the computer lab, you had to go to the library or back to your study hall room or you could just leave and find some place to smoke, which is usually what I did.

-I remember all the boys I had crushes on, but won't relive those painful moments. Nor will I relive all the bad abusive boyfriend moments of sophomore year. I did ditch class with him more than once and end up hanging out in the bathroom when we couldn't get into the computer lab. But I will go for a fonder bathroom memory: the time my friend Jill got her nose pierced in the bathroom. It was so bad-ass. Jill was so bad-ass. I started smoking with her at lunch. And she was the one who told me about how easy it was to graduate early. Thank you, Jill. Getting out of there early was the best thing I could have done for myself.

Yeah, I don't know about sharing these memories. I think if asked about my memories, I'll just say, "I survived. And I liked the half-baked cookies."

Oh and the quote in the blog title is from a Nirvana song off Bleach. How come no one told me they were releasing a remastered Bleach? And it's coming out on white vinyl. Now I must own this even though my pink vinyl Bleach that I got for 10$ at a used record store and is actually worth 200$ is still my prize possession. Well that and my Bleach CD that is signed by Krist Novoselic. Yeah, Bleach, that record changed my life. I need this remaster.... off to email my local record store.


me said...

I was so there for the lunch table stealing incident.

little miss gnomide said...

I think it is so cool that you petitioned for a Women's History course and created your own zine.

I also hated high school. I had thought I wanted to teach HS English until my favorite English teacher told me that some days he fantasied about taking 1 or 2 students out of the classroom and then throwing a grenade in. Apparently teachers don't like high school either.

Anonymous said...

Did we have General Business together? I have that same memory. I think the kids at OPRF will be glad to hear about how much you hated it. When you're in HS everyone acts like it's the best years of your life, when in reality it's not. I'm sure they'll be inspired to hear how much cool sh*t you can do when you get out of there....

Terry Flamm said...

Thanks for sharing your high school memories. Our school paper was called The Helm, and I created my own parody of it called The Helmet. I drew pictures of teachers (my favorite showed some losing our tuition money at the racetrack) and made up stories about them. A teacher confiscated a copy I had lent to a friend, but thought it was funny and read it out loud to his class. My first exposure as a writer.

marina said...

my school has the soft, hot, half-baked cookies! i never get them because i never have money, but my friends get them and they smell awesome. haha.
and i'm sad i forgot to enter the shrinking violet contest. ]=
i read the book and it was amazing though. [=


Anonymous said...

As a poor soul still in High School, I honestly think that you should be completely honest about your experiences, because you survived, you can give hope to the current generation. Besides, there's nothing cooler than adult who will talk honestly about their rebel-high-school days.

Punk Rock Girl said...

Just play "Story of My Life" ("High school seemed like such a blur..."). I'm using it to respond to my next high school reunion invite.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Yeah I saw a bit today of why teachers hate high school, Gwen. But overall my visit was good and I was honest. I have to be. It's just who I am. Didn't tell any of these stories though.

Alison, not sure if we had General Business together, but Iknow that teacher started every class with that song because a friend of mine who had him told me so.

Oh and the cookies are not soft anymore. It broke my heart.

Marina, sorry you didn't get to enter the contest.