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Entry date: 6-7-2024 – Valuable Lessons – Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Life has a way of teaching us things we need to learn. The last couple of days, sense the grand reorganization of summer camp, I’ve got a lovely taste of what it is like to spend time with 6th and 7th grade students. A lesson is being learned.

 

During this past school year, I entertained the thought of moving up to middle school at some point to teach writing to older students. After just two days of working directly with older children, I’m putting that idea on the back burner indefinitely. I think might kill one of them.

 

Some of these kids are such fucking dicks for no reason. They do totally dickheaded things to each other for seemingly no reason and I just have to keep telling myself that it is only another five hours. I am seriously counting the minutes.

 

Now, some of them are delightful, but my experience with a small, handful of kids the last couple of days, makes it hard to focus on the good ones. I haven’t had enough time with them yet to see just what it is that they need other than attention. If it were a classroom situation and I was not a de facto babysitter, it would also be different.

 

But some of these kids just lack basic human decency.

 

It’s very sad. Life can’t be easy for them, but they clearly don’t have anyone in their lives who has been able to help them see that there is a better way of being. They want respect and to be treated well, but they don’t even recognize when someone is truly respectful to them.  

 

As I type this, I realize that I need to step the hell up and do what I can for them this next week. Uggh.  Goddamn it. I don’t want to work that hard.

 

Plus, to do so, I have to open myself up to their abuse. I don’t want to do that either. I just want to make sure no one gets really hurt and I get all the other stuff done I need to do before I leave.

 

*****

 

Lots on my plate today.

 

They are going to shoot electricity into my arm to try and find out where I have a pinched nerve. I’m so tired of my arm vibrating. I’m pretty certain that I know where the nerve is that is pinched. I have a spot that seems to be the source of the issue, but I also have learned enough about nerve things to know that the pain might not be coming from there, either. Stupid, complicated human body.

 

After I get zapped, I will be getting my emission tested and then off to get some estimates on the bumper of my car from the little fender bender thingy from last week. I had planned on going to Superior Court to file some adoption papers so Elise can officially be my daughter, but I need to get Rhondi’s signature on a document first.

 

Fucking paperwork.

 

I’m a bit grumpy.

 

*****

 

While on the subject of records that pleased the hell out of teenage me, I have to visit a place I haven’t visited in a long, long time. Yesterday, I talked about the friendship between Ben, myself, and our neighbor, Eric, that blossomed in 1984. Thinking about him and the Purple Rain days really took me on a trip down memory lane.

 

As teenage boys are wont to do, the three of us talked a lot about girls. Eric, as I mentioned, was already going to Camelback and Ben and I wouldn’t get there until the fall semester of 1985. Ben started at the beginning of the year, and I started in December. I had forgotten how nice it was to have a few friends there already, one of which was Eric.

 

While I could never get Eric to a punk rock show, he did go to Tommy’s with us every once in a while. We shared a lot of music and a lot of stories about high school life. Our friendship was easy and real. There was comfort there.

 

Eric would tell us about the young ladies at Camelback and, to be honest, before I got there, I was often curious if he was exaggerating about his success with them. As it turned out, he was a very honest dude. The ladies really did seem to love him. I wished some of that luck would rub off on me, but I wasn’t very smooth at all.

 

He took us to a pool party at a swanky house in a very well to do neighborhood during the summer of 1985 and it was very interesting to get a glimpse of some of the people I would be going to school with a few months later without them knowing (or caring) who the fuck I was.

 

Here were a couple of punk dudes showing up with Eric, who was definitely not punk. He was also the only black dude at the pool party. It was around this time that he introduced us to a record we would listen to for much of the next year. He might have even talked the host of the pool party to playing it.

 

 

UTFO was a Brooklyn-based rap band that was pretty new at the time, and they put out a self-titled album in 1985. Prior to the full-length coming out, they had released the cassette single, “Roxanne, Roxanne” in 1984. Eric loved it and the next thing I knew, Ben and I were listening to it, too. Ben got the full-length, UTFO, based on “Roxanne, Roxanne.” It was probably the first rap song that I really liked, but mostly because of the early diss track response, “The Real Roxanne.”

 

That was my jam. I think I even bought the album on cassette, too, but I can’t remember for sure.

 

At the time, I knew all the words to both of them and as I listened to it the last couple of days, I realized I still know most of them. Now, for the rest of the album, there were some other moments that put a smile on my face. “Leader of the Pack” is a pretty fun little song and the guys in UTFO definitely were good at word play.

 

Most of the rap music I really enjoy is similar in style to UTFO, but I don’t think I ever gave them a whole lot of credit. It’s almost like that part of my life got put into a little box and was forgotten. The wordplay was definitely more positive than negative and the only thing UTFO would probably get ad-cancel-monished for these days is some of their lines about girls being heavy or ugly, but even these, compared to other acts of the era, were pretty tame.

 

The most striking thing to my ears is how simple their tracks were compared to rap I was listening to in the early and mid-90s. The scratching, which I remember thinking was so interesting, dare I say, “Fresh,” at the time, was so limited. A lot of the basic sounds were repeated from song to song, too.

 

UTFO was interesting because the three rappers that made up the band, Kangol Kid, Doctor Ice, and Educated Rapper (along with DJ Mixmaster Ice), kept things funny and flowing well. They were mildly self-deprecating and would rip on each other a little, but ultimately came off as supportive friends who looked out of each other.

 

They had “Roxanne, Roxanne,” too. It was a clever song about a new girl in the neighborhood who really wouldn’t give them the time of day. It’s a pretty funny song. Apparently, it started one of the first real diss track wars in the early rap world.

 

In “The Real Roxanne,” Elease Jack rips the lines from “Roxanne, Roxanne” to shreds and takes turns taking down each of the four member of UTFO. There is a line I love in there:

 

“I said, ‘Me, the Rox, give up the box’ so you could brag about it for the next six blocks? I said, “Sheeee, you must be crazy, you’re goin’ too fast, Doctor I don’t know where your hands been last.”

 

I don’t know if I had ever heard anyone refer to a vagina as “a box” before then so I thought it was funny as hell. I know diss tracks are still happening, but none of them will be as funny to me as this one. I was tickled as hell yesterday when I listened to it closely for the first time in well over 30 years.

 

Sadly, two of the dudes from UTFO have since left this mortal coil. I learned that from looking at their Wikipedia page. Punk rock swallowed me up in 1985, so my rap days were short, but I will always have an affinity for UTFO.

 

I don’t know how often I will return to this record, but it was definitely one that made my teenage years more interesting.

 

*****


See you tomorrow.



Somehow, I don't think this is what Roxanne looked like.

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