Tag Archives: High School

Reunion Show

The Knights of Columbus parking lot was smaller than he remembered. It fit the same amount of cars — two rows of twenty on the side, and four rows of twelve in the back — but it looked more like an outgrown toy than something real. He remembers the way it used to look on the night of a show, like the busiest joint in town, the countercultural hub of the universe, with kids shuffling in from all across the state to catch the next new punk rock band that would blow up on the scene like a roman candle before their chords would dissipate into the air as the reverb faded away into hushed suburban legends of what could have been.

Kevin found a parking spot one block away on the street behind the venue. He immediately flashed back like a war veteran to that irrational panic of getting his car towed by the fascist neighbors hellbent on shutting down the show, but his fears subsided when he noticed that his was the only car on the block that wasn’t covered in stickers of some obscure bands, as well as the only one that looked like it could actually run. He double-checked to make sure that he locked the doors. When he did he become such a grownup, scared of what the freakshow ruffians might do behind his back? When did he become The Man, and so afraid of what he used to be?

As he shuffled between the cars and made his way towards the door, Kevin took note of all the fresh familiar faces that filled the parking lot. He didn’t know any of them specifically, but he knew their types — the smokers, and the older kids pounding PBRs in the back, the unhappy but supportive girlfriends who can’t stand the crowds, the kid who’s pacing around in hopes that he won’t have to pay the five buck cover, and what he could only assume was the Scene Queen and her flock passing judgement on their subjects. He wondered if he looked as alien as he felt, returning to the place he once called home.

Then he noticed the sign on the door: “Epidural Colonic Brigade Reunion Show – One Night Only!” and he wondered why he came, why he told the rest of the band he wouldn’t play, and why he still decided to show up tonight, return to the world he thought he’d left behind. Kevin heard the back door to the club swung up open with a sudden bang, startling the collected drunks, and he watched as a pair of sweaty, sloppy teens struggled to carry a Marshall half-stack across the threshold. The boys both glowed with that post-coital radiance of young love. But it wasn’t for sex; it was rock and roll. And then he remembered the feeling, that adrenaline thrill of shitty sound levels, playing on the floor on the same plane with the audience, and for that brief flash of time, ruling the world.

‘Twas The Night Before Christmas Break

Twas the night before Christmas break, when all through the web.
Not a tweeter was tweeting, not even your Aunt Deb.
The blog posts were scheduled to autopost with care
In hopes that the readership soon would be there.

The college kids were passed out all drunk in their beds,
while visions of potential high school hook ups danced in their heads.
And mama implores them to help her with chores,
but they’d rather sit around the whole month and be bored.

The news cycle trickles out with hardly a clatter
And we habitually check Facebook to see what really matters.
But everyone posts the same holiday status
of seasonal greetings and some New Years gladness.

The impending threat of the first-fallen snow
gives a nostalgic glimmer to objects below.
And then once it snows, what instead should be appear
But wet muddy roads that make it hard to steer

For every little drink driver, so lively and thick —
but really, you should have had a DD, you dick.
How rapid you spun when to black ice you came
but you’ll come out unscathed, and still find someone to blame.

“Well yeah but so maybe I had a few beers.
I was just fine to drive, there was nothing to fear.
I was typing a text to see who else was home
when I don’t know, man, I just swerved on the road.”

And the mornings you spend with your family feel quaint
but by mid-afternoon, it’s clear that they ain’t.
Your parents have so many answers to seek
when they don’t realize that you just want to sleep.

But you’re still looking forward to seeing old friends —
forgetting, of course, their own holiday plans.
So you look back to Facebook, but nothing is new,
so then you check twitter to find something to do.

But your parents have cable, so hey, that’s still cool!
With eight thousand channels, and you feel like a fool
for watching some network crap you don’t like
but that’s better than just surfing channels all night.

Then you see an old ex on the way to the store,
And she’s fat, or he’s married to that old high school whore.
And the comfort is fleeting, but at least now you’ve seen
that your life didn’t peak when you’d just turned eighteen.

So you get drunk with dad and discuss politics
and realize that hey, maybe he’s not such a prick,
and wine works much faster than cheap, shitty beer
so you start to rethink your plans for New Years.

Then you remember your plans for a productive week,
and the things that you wanted to watch, write, and read.
But instead you fall down a Wikipedia hole
and learn all about the agricultural benefits of voles.

And you watch with your parents an childhood great
which washes over you with a sentimental wave
and those annual plans you had made with your friends
are now spent at home with more emails to send,

checking twitter, and updates on Facebook for news;
you find nothing, and so open a new bottle of booze.
But when the time comes to leave, you drive off with a grin
because you can’t wait ’til next year to do it again.

Dad’s Diaries

Dad’s diaries are waiting in the top drawer of
a bed stand in the places that we go when we
get lonely for an hour. The paper-thin parchment
crunches when I turn the page, like autumn leaves
that fell from burning trees too soon;
translucent and impermanent, the noises
keep me company in every bawdy tomb.

I read my favorite stories to a girl that I
won’t Mary from the time when you were
thirty-two, and think of all the shit you carried
with you on your back (you never let it weigh
you down) and I am hoping to remember all
the things you taught me back when you were still around.

Dad, I see your diary was written down by
someone else’s hand, but I still remember
everything you taught me about how to be
a man. You’ll be glad to know your grand
daughter is working overseas where she is
farming in a fertile land and does it all for
free, and how I almost tied your grandson to
a fence the other day, but I just pelted him
with rocks until he bled out all the gay.

See, I’m trying hard to live my life
just the way you told me, or at least
the way I read it in this dusty little
story book where your friends had all
your best intentions written down.
But Father, I have got to ask how you
drank from that bloody glass and split
the fish while we were killing kingdoms
in your name, and how you loved the lonely
lepers and you knew your mother’s whore,
when you told me that the wicked
would not be let in your doors. But you’re
not around to give me all the answers
I might need, so I am forced to watch
as Mary takes my sixty bucks
for a fuckĀ and leaves.

Burning Words

It was the first day back from winter break. As the first period bell rang, we begrudgingly sidled into Ms. Nitkin’s 11th grade double-period American Studies class. Nitkin was a feisty old Jewish lesbian from Cheshire, who had long since cemented her reputation as both the hardest and greatest teacher at the school. She didn’t take any bullshit (as she so eloquently told me when she handed back my very first essay with a big fat “D” sprawled across the page), but she made her teaching worthwhile, and always pushed you to your very best. She had given us the week between Christmas and New Years to read Huckleberry Finn, by native Nutmegger Samuel Clemens, also known as Mark Twain. Being assigned an entire novel to read over winter break always seemed cruel and unfair, but we did as we were told, and came to that first period class ready to discuss the book and bear Nitkin’s sardonic, witty wrath.

Once we’d all settled down — a good five minutes after the late bell rang — Ms. Nitkin stood up from her desk, hardly taller than she was when sitting down, and made her first declaration to the class: “Nigger. There, I said. Now that that’s out of the way, I hope you all read Huck Finn,” and proceeded with her usual four-question verbal quiz, just to make sure we actually read the book, instead of skimming SparkNotes.

After the quiz, Ms. Nitkin told us a bit of the history of the book’s censorship, as a means of launching us off into a class discussion. Almost immediately, and with much less arguing and shouting than was typically expected of us, the class came to several unanimous decisions: yes, the book uses the word “Nigger,” no, it’s not a very nice word to use, and yes, it was still historically accurate. This set us off on our debate — was Jim the true hero of the book, despite the fact that he was a “nigger?”

The lone black girl in the class — technically Jamaican-American, not African — raised her hand for the first time. Ms. Nitkin called on her to speak, and with seething vitriol she declared her disgust for that word and the shame it brought upon her people. Once again, the rest of the class agreed, and genuinely sympathized as best we could.

But she carried on, spewing vile about how terrible it was for Jim to be called such a thing. Still we all continued to agree, just as we had at the start of the class. She insulted Mark Twain’s worth as an author, and the educational and historical value of the book because of this. Ms. Nitkin tried several times to change the topic, re-iterating that, although the rest of us were white, we were still on her side.

The girl continued her rant, or argument, or declaration, or whatever else it may have been, well into the middle of the second period of the class, interfering with the instructional time allotted to another teacher. The next day, Ms. Nitkin brought in an entirely new book for us to read — this time with only three days to do it. In her final year as a teacher before retirement, Ms. Nitkin changed her curriculum for the first and only time, in effort to satiate the outraged student.

I can’t remember anything about that book we read next, but I sure as hell remember Huck Finn.

Let’s talk about chess.

Let’s talk about chess, baby, let’s talk about you and me, let’s talk about all the good things, and the bad things, like pawns en prise, let’s talk about chess… let’s talk about chess!

Salt n’ Pepa, “Let’s talk about Chess”

When I was in high school, I played a lot of chess. A lot. I never got too interested in learning the game all the way through – to me, it wasn’t a problem I had to solve, just a fun thing to do. I liked winning, sure – but I didn’t have to win, so I didn’t study middlegames, tactics, et al.

What I did do, however, was learn a number of openings. I always thought it was interesting to respond to other players’ machinations with moves that were unexpected and unanticipated – surprise, of course, being the most interesting thing that can occur in chess or in any “open” game, in which all the information is available to all the players at all times.

I surprised myself today when I realized that I can still recall the names – as well as the moves and the designed purposes – of a whole host of chess openings that I used to use when I played in high school.

There is, for instance, the classic Philidor Defense, in which the common opening 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 is met not by the standard, reflective 2. … Nc6, but instead by a pawn buttress of 2. … d6. This is far preferable to the poor Damiano Defense of 2. … f6, which exposes the kingside and leaves the king vulnerable to a sacrifice attack. Once the night captures with 3. Nxe5, the response 3. … fxe5 (that threat of capture being the implied defense of said center pawn, after all) is met by 4. Qh5+ and the king, with no guards at the castle gate, must leave the safety of the back line.

While I enjoyed messing around with unusual defenses as black, I also liked using odd opening lines as white. Two of my particular favorites to play were 1. b4 (try to figure out what to make of that!) and the old, long-forgotten King’s Gambit.

The Queen’s Gambit (1. d4 d5 2. c4) is still standard, but the parallel gambit on the kingside (1. e4 e5 2. f4) is exceptionally rare nowadays. Though it was the most common opening back in the 1800’s, it is now not often seen, and it is certainly not the kind of opening most young players have had the chance to play against.

I won quite a few games with the King’s Gambit opening, if I recall correctly (and I may not – I’m sure most of my losses have been gracefully papered over by the vagaries of my mind, and only the impressive victories remain), and I definitely enjoyed the sharp, aggressive gameplay that it brought to the table. I suggest that any chess playing readers out there give it a shot and see if they like it.

Go ahead. I liken it to taking the Schwinn out of the garage and firing it up for old times’ sake. Except this bicycle, you’ve never learned to ride.

PS: A side note to non-chess playing readers: learn.