Story time…and this time it’s all true.
I’ve been thinking a lot about life in general these last few weeks and I realize how lucky I have been. Sure, there have been some tough times and times where my own decision making has almost cost me everything, but as I reflect on the good and the bad and the great and the horrible, I feel fortunate that I have learned a lot from both my success and my failures. I wish the same for everyone, even though failure is a tough teacher.
One of the memories that keeps coming back to me is something that happened in 1986. It feels like I have mentioned some of what I am going to tell you before, and if I am repeating myself, I apologize, but I do have to give the backstory first as it will provide context to why I did the stupid things I am about to share.
In high school, my biggest vice was probably ditching. Sure, I was fooling around with drugs and alcohol, too, and eventually girls, and punk rock, and thrift store shopping, and wearing eye liner and spiking my hair. To some extent or another, somebody in my life considered all of those things vices, but looking back, the one I regret the most is all the school and learning I missed out on because I didn’t want to be in class.
Now, maybe, I didn’t want to be in class because it was boring as shit, and I didn’t need to hear about things I could read about in a book or just knew because I listened to people. With a few exceptions, school always kind of bored the hell out of me. Math came easy, at least the basics, and I read a lot, so history was something I knew, too. I loved any chance to write, so journalism/newspaper was a refuge for me and so was English class, but school in general seemed like a waste of time on nice days when I could be out skateboarding or whatever.
As I type this, I realize that my feelings about school in those days are confusing and contradictory. I love school (and obviously still do) but I hated going to school in high school. I clearly liked getting away with not being there. I saw it as sort of a challenge, maybe. Who knows?
Anyway, my first couple of years of high school were spent living with my dad and I took full advantage my freshman year of the lax discipline policy and my dad being across town for the workday. I could pretend to walk to school then turn around and head back home to play video games, watch cable, smoke pot, eat, whatever I wanted. I think we got something like 15 absences a quarter before we would be kicked out and it wasn’t until something like 10 before the school called home. With 4000 plus students, I suppose the staff at Deer Valley HS had to pick their battles. I get that now.
Being an opportunist, I took advantage of that. I did get in trouble for it, don’t get me wrong. I spent a lot of time being grounded and I would promise not to ditch anymore, but I still did. I didn’t as much during sophomore year, but I still skipped my fair share of days. The tough part about ditching at Deer Valley was there was really no place close by to walk to or go when you ditched and getting off campus was tough. There was security everywhere and they didn’t want you to leave.
I usually went back home or to a friend’s house. At some point I met this guy named Monty who had a car, and we would occasionally go to the lake and go waterskiing. I don’t remember if it was his boat or somebody else’s, but those days were fun. I loved to water ski. I got kind of good at it, too.
When I got to Camelback, though, it was a different story. I soon realized that no one questioned you when you walked on or off campus. This meant you could selectively ditch with ease. We might go to first hour and then decide to go to Caf' Casino for coffee and a chocolate tart (God, I miss those) for second and third hour. Then go back for lunch and hit the afternoon classes (or not).
It helped, too, at Camelback that my partner in crime, Cousin Ben, also had a similar feeling about school and was always game to get off campus. Same with our friend and brother, Mark, and most everyone I ended up getting to know there. I think I only had a few friends who were reluctant to ditch. Birds of a feather, right?
Camelback’s policy was a bit stricter on absences, but if I got home before my mom, I could erase the message on our answering machine that I had missed school or missed a class that day. I also learned how to make my absences excused due to a stroke of luck one day. Remember, I was an opportunist.
I was sitting with Mr. Allegretti, who was my guidance counselor, probably talking about the fact that I was having a hard time making it to class, and he had to leave the room. I happened to notice that he had stacks of the little notes he would send to class to get students out to come see him and they already had his signature printed on them. He was a smart fellow and had a stamp made, too, so they were perfect.
One of those made it into my pocket, so I had about a hundred legit pieces of paper to summon folks to see Mr. Allegretti. I was fucking king for a while. At least until I went to the well one too many times with a certain history teacher who wore a terrible toupee. He busted me (and I can’t believe I have forgotten his name) and I got suspended for three days for forgery. My mom was not happy.
Two quick stories about that history guy:
I was in his classroom when the Challenger exploded. He cried. We mocked him. We were assholes.
Mark and I once saw him at the Post Office a few years after I graduated and one of us commented on his wig. He flipped us off as he walked by and we laughed our asses off. We were still assholes.
Damn, I didn’t even get to the story I wanted to tell, but now you have the backstory. To be continued….
See you tomorrow.
Caf' Casino. Stolen from the internet.