Friday, October 21, 2011

***Bard Of The North Adamsville High School Class Of 1964?, “Say What?”- For Linda, Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Rebel Without A Cause, an appropriate link for today's post.

Peter Paul Markin, Class Of 1964, comment:

Recently someone from my high school class, Linda, whose last name shall be omitted not out of consideration for her sensibilities but rather to avoid the long litigation which I am sure would ensue if I mentioned her last name and others clamored on and on about why their names were not included, wrote an e-mail, a friendly e-mail I assume, asking me if I, with this never-ending (my word, she just said “a lot”) stream of stories about the old days at early 1960s North Adamsville High, was trying to be the bard (her word, not mine) of the Class of 1964. I rapidly replied with this short answer- “What, are you kidding?”(Although I wish I had said the faux- hip, “say what?,” used in the headline to this entry). Later though, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that I did (and do) mean to be ONE of the latter-day voices of our class. Why? I have, with all due modesty, the perfect resume for the job. Here it is:

I belonged to no in-school clubs. I couldn’t (can’t) sing so the glee club was out although I was tempted to join, low-voice, whisper-voice join, white shirt, string tie, black chinos and all because a certain Rosemary I had eyes for sang a very sweet alto, or whatever they call that sing-song voice that made me think of flowered-fields, picnic baskets and, well, it never worked out so I will just say I was smitten, lonely smitten. (Let me leave it at Rosemary, no last names, again since I am still wary of that litigation from certain Susans, Lindas, and Anns who might still feel hurt not to see their names in lights here. Even though if I had approached them in those days I would have received the deep-freeze, a big time deep-freeze, and been dismissed out of hand.)

The same was true for the school newspaper, the unlamented North Star, although in that case it was a Carol whom I would have joined in order to cub report next to (ditto, on leaving out the last name, okay) except in her case she had a big bruiser of a boyfriend who just happened to play right tackle for the championship Red Raiders school football team. And he (I will use no first or last name for that monster even now and not because I fear litigation, no because I fear for my life, and rightly so) made it very clear one time when I actually talked to her for more that about a minute that unless I had a interest in doormats I had better take my ragamuffin, low rent act elsewhere. Moreover, I doubt, very seriously doubt, that after about two days I could have kept a straight face while performing my duties as a cub reporter reporting on such hot spot topics as the latest cause bake sale, the latest words of wisdom from Miss (Ms.) Sonos, the newspaper’s faculty advisor, about whatever was on her dippy mind, or “shilling” to drum up an audience for the next big school play. Not “the world is my beat” Peter Paul Markin. No way.

I, moreover, belonged to no after-school organizations like the chess club, science club, bird-watchers or any of those other odd-ball activities that couldn’t rate enough to get the school-day imprimatur. See, after school was “Frankie’s time,” Frankie Riley held forth inside, in front of, and sometimes behind, Salducci’s Pizza Parlor “up the Downs” (remember that term?) and I was none other than one of Frankie’s corner boys. Not only that but I was his “shill,” his scribe, busy promoting every scheme, every idea, every half-idea, and every screwy notion that made its way into his ill-formed brain. So who would have had time for a “scoop” on the amount raised at some bake sale, what that nutty Sonos had to say on astrophysics or U.F.O’s, or the virtues of some ill-conceived, poorly-acted school play. I freely admit, freely admit now, after a lifetime of turmoil struggle over ten thousand ideas, fire thousand half-ideas, and a few thousand thought-provoking books that I had known about the Great Books Club held after school I might have been drawn to that. I spend much time later in life struggling with ideas that could just as easily have been thrashed out then. And, of course, the other problem was that if I had known about the club the only girl that I remember that might have been a member of the club and that I might have wanted to talk to was Sarah (remember we are not using last names in case you forgot), and she was, well, just a stick although I liked to talk to her in class. A lot.

Nor did I belong to church-affiliated clubs, christ no, I was on that long doubting Thomas road away from churchly concerns. Oh, except for one Minnie, ya, sweet Irish rose Minnie, whom I used to sit a few rows behind at 8:00 AM Mass at Sacred Heart and stare at her ass on Sunday. But I could have done that anywhere, and did according to her best friend, Jean, who sat behind me in class and has stated for the record in public as recently as a couple of years ago that I did it every time I could in the corridor and that Minnie knew about it, and kind of liked the idea although a lot of good that knowledge does me now. Moreover Phil Larkin (it’s okay to use his last name because I have already talked about “Foul-Mouth” Phil before, plenty, and he is in no position, no position this side of a four by six cell, to even spell the word litigation in my presence), ya, Phil Larkin moved in on her way before I got up the nerve to do more than watch her sway.

Ditto organizations like the YMCA, eagle scouts, or any of those service things. Corner boy life declared such things as strictly corn ball. Not that I had anything, per se, against joining organizations. What I was though, and this was the attraction of rough-edged, snarly corner boy-ness for me, was alienated from anything that smacked of straight up, of normal, of, well square. And everything mentioned above, except for the girl part (and in that girl part maybe not including a stick like Sarah although I really did like to talk to her in class. She had some great big ideas, and knew how to articulate them. I hope she still does. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Instead of watching Minnie sway 24/7 I could have been cheek to cheek with Sarah, discussing stuff and... Don’t you think I haven’t thought about that, christ?)

I also played no major sport that drove a lot of the social networking of the time (I am being polite using that term here: this is a family-friendly site after all. Isn’t it? If it isn’t then upon notice I will be more than happy to “spill the beans” about what was said, how it was said, and by whom about who did what every school day Monday morning before school in the boys’ lav, or the girls’ lave for that matter. And, again I will not worry in the least about litigation. Hey, the truth is a powerful defense.). The sports that did drive me throughout my high school career, track and cross-country, were then very marginal sports for “nerds,” low-rent fake athletes, and other assorted odd-balls, and I was, moreover, overwhelmingly underwhelming at them, to boot. I have recently moved to have my times in various track events declared classified information under a national security blanket just so certain prying eyes like ace-runner Bill Bailey and, naturally, that nemesis Frankie Riley do no gain access to that information for their own nefarious purposes.

I did not hang around with the class intellectuals, although I was as obsessed and driven by books, ideas and theories as anyone else at the time, maybe more so. I was, to be polite again, painfully shy around girls, as my furtive desire for Minnie mentioned above attests to, and therefore somewhat socially backward, although I was privately enthralled by more than one of them. Girls, that is. And to top it all off, to use a term that I think truly describes me then, I was something of a ragamuffin from the town's wrong side of the track, the notorious Blank Street section over by the bridge to Boston. Oh, did I mentioned that I was also so alienated from the old high school environment that I either threw, or threatened to throw, my yearbook in the nearest river right after graduation; in any case I no longer have it.

Perfect, right? No. Not a complete enough resume? Well how about this. My family, on my mother’s side, had been in the old town since about the time of the “famine ships” from Ireland in the 1840s. I have not gone in depth on the family genealogy but way back when someone in the family was a servant of some sort, to one of the branches of the presidential Adams family. Most of my relatives distance and far, went through the old high school. The streets of the old town were filled with the remnants of the clan. My friends, deny it or not and I sometimes did, the diaspora "old sod" shanty Irish aura of North Adamsville was in the blood.

How else then can one explain, after a forty year hiatus, this overweening desire of mine to write about the “Dust Bowl” that served as a training track during my running days. (The field situated just across the street from North Adamsville Middle School, of unblessed memory. Does anyone really want to go back in early teen life? No way.) Or write on the oddness of separate boys’ and girls’ bowling teams during our high school years, as if mixed social contact in that endeavor would lead to s-x, or whatever. Or my taking a “cheap” pot shot at that mysterious “Tri-Hi-Y” (a harmless social organization for women students that I have skewered for its virginal aspirations, its three purities; thoughts, acts, and deeds, or something like that). Or the million other things that pop into my head these days. Oh ya, I can write, a little. Not unimportant for a bard, right? The soul of a poet, if somewhat deaf to the sweetness of the language. Time and technology has given us an exceptional opportunity to tell our collective story and seek immortality and I want in on that. Old Walt Whitman can sing of America, I will sing of the old town, gladly.

Well, do I get a job? Hey, you can always “fire” me. Just “click” and move on.

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