Tuesday, February 16, 2010

High School: Do You Really Want To Go Back There?

A few years back, someone googling my hometown of Dover, New Jersey, tracked me down and invited me to join him and others in a high school alumni chat room peopled by him and his back-home cronies. I soon observed that I didn’t know any of these folks. Why should I? They were all four or five years ahead of me in school. When I was 16, they were over 20. After a few weeks of enduring their scrutiny and inane comments, it dawned on me that as I was 60, these old farts were pushing 70. Deciding I had absolutely nothing in common with these relics of the 50’s, I quickly extricated myself from their society.

You might think that I would have learned something from this exercise in granfalloonery, but, as is so often the case, I soon wiped it from my mind.

I’d been on facebook a couple years, keeping in touch with the pool-shooting world, when one day, out of the blue, a girl I knew from high school sent me a friend request. Though I couldn’t imagine why she’d want to be in contact with me – I was a bit of a hell raiser back then - I remembered her name and, since it didn’t conjure up any negative vibes, I thought being her facebook friend would be kind of nice. After our initial exchange, we had no contact – no messages of any kind passed between us. Every once in a while, I’d see her face alongside an update of some kind, but I never commented.

Just a word about my high school days: Though I started out as a college prep student, a couple of suspensions and minor scrapes with the police succeeded in getting me transferred to the general population. An uncle of mine was a couple years ahead of me and the few good friends I had back then were from his class.

There was a sweetshop I went to before and after school. I was sort of friendly with the others who hung out there, but, for the most part, I didn’t see them outside the confines of the luncheonette. Like the poolroom, Bill’s Luncheonette was a place I hung at to avoid going home. For the same reason, when I was younger I went to the YMCA every day. To give you a quick idea of what my home life was like, one of my most cherished memories of childhood was a three week stay at the Morris County Youth Center following a fracas I was caught up in involving Officer Schebendach and booze and a high school dance. In charge at MCYC at that time was a nice man named Mr. Angie. He was a fair man; he never kicked, screamed at or beat us. And there was Trudy, a fellow inmate - I still remember her though we never met again following our releases as we had pledged.

Anyway, several months following that initial facebook contact, another person who remembered me from the old days must have seen me listed among my high school buddy’s friends prompting them to send me a friend request. Sure, what the hell. The snowball began tumbling, then, and soon I was in touch with a dozen acquaintances, a dozen acquaintances who hadn’t given me a second thought for the last 40-some odd years.

I’d been thrown out of high school my senior year for knocking a teacher, Lightning Le Claire, on his ass. (The asshole deserved it!) But later, after I had received my GED, I was told I would be added to the class of ‘65’s rolls. In 1970, I received an invitation to the class’s first reunion, remarkable only because I had already started losing my hair and no one recognized me. I was never invited to another reunion. Once, when I inquired why, I was told one of the women involved with organizing these shindigs had some kind of gripe with me. Such is life. In truth, I moved around the country a lot and probably would not have ventured back to Dover for the get-togethers, but it would have been nice to be asked.

Anyway, facebook had suddenly put me in touch with my old pals from the Dover Public School System and Bill’s Luncheonette. Facebook was indiscriminate – gathered there were the shy girls, the kind girls, the girls who could light up your day with a smile, the perky girls forever consumed by the most pressing trivialities and the girls who, in the parlance of those times, were for-doing-it. I had no idea what had gone on in their lives since DHS – it didn’t seem to matter. Somehow, we weren’t in the here-and-now, we were back in the 1960’s.

Unfortunately, when you are in touch with facebook friends, you, indirectly, are in touch with all the people they are in touch with. Soon, faces and names of people I didn’t particularly like were popping up on my screen. There was one whacked-out broad who, I had once heard, had never tired of telling people that I was responsible for the breakup of her marriage.

Admittedly, I was a friend of her husband but we hadn’t hung out since high school. In fact, when at all possible I, like most of our friends, had purposely avoided him. You see, he had taken up the guitar and if you let him corner you, he would proceed to torture you for hours on end with his monotonous finger picking. Though he’s passed on, now, and I have many warm memories of him, you can bet I don’t miss his impromptu concerts. Anyway, unless he lied to his old lady, telling her he had been out with me when he hadn’t, I can’t imagine why she would hold me responsible for their marital problems. Hey, maybe he woke up one day and saw the freakin' light!

Then, there’s the broad who claimed I was responsible for her brother winding up in the clink. He was a guy I knew from Bill’s and I don’t think we spent as much as an hour in each other’s company outside the greasy confines of the luncheonette. To this day, I have no idea what he got busted for, and I don’t care.

I don’t know how often these two assholes repeated their spurious claims or if they're still repeating them, but the fact that they fostered these fictions bugged the living shit out of me. Every time one of their names popped up, I felt like spittin' on my monitor. And that's a mess to clean up. So, I decided I had no choice but to drop out of the facebook hometown scene. And I did.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Olympics: Will NBC Cash In On Tragedy

I did a lot of sledding when I was a kid. When it snowed, the Town of Dover used to close off Segur Street, a fairly steep hill on the north side, thereby turning an otherwise boring snow day off into one packed with thrills and chills. In the fall, there was a grassy hill in Locust Hill Cemetery that we used to slide down while sitting or laying on sheets of cardboard. That’s about a close as I ever got to the insanity known as lugeing.

The idea of Georgian luge competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili flying down the track on his back in such an extremely vulnerable position at 90 miles an hour boggles the mind. I mean, if you have an urge to compete, don’t you think you could find a safer outlet? Still, it’s a recognized Olympic sport and, apparently, it’s gaining in popularity, at least with the athletes.

Now, in the aftermath of the tragic death of Nodar, it appears lugeing will become more popular with tv viewers, too. NBC keeps hammering home the inherent dangers associated with the Olympic track in hopes, I suspect, to make viewers tune in to the luge competition just to see if anyone else crashes.

Australian luger Hannah Campbell-Pegg compared fellow luge competitors to crash-test dummies. ''I think they are pushing it a little too much,'' she said referring to the fast and dangerous Olympic track.”

Let’s see how much airtime goes toward the luge, now. Will people be drawn to it with the same morbid curiosity that bolsters auto racing?

Speaking of auto racing, I’m more interested in watching Danica Patrick at Daytona, today, than anything going on in Vancouver.

Anyway, as I twittered yesterday, if you want to make the Olympics more popular, eliminate opening ceremonies that are geared toward those who would rather go to a Broadway show than a ballgame.

As for Nodar Kumaritashvili, his death is a tragic loss for his teammates, friends, family and for all those who foresaw the Olympics as a wonderful event.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pearl Harbor All Over Again

Personally, I’m sorry about what’s happened to Toyota. Over the years, I’ve had more than one of their products and I have to admit they were among the best cars I’ve ever owned. Back when I used to change the plugs and oil on my own cars, Toyota continued to make things accessible when American automakers like Ford were hiding distributors in the rear of engines and placing plugs where you couldn’t get at them. Just last year, I came this close to buying a new Prius. Still, I was born in the 1940’s, a time when opinions on the Japanese were flavored by kamikazes and Pearl Harbor. A lot of folks my parent’s age who had lived through WWII didn’t think too kindly toward the “Japs,” as they were called, and they weren’t shy about making it known. Back then, of course, Japanese cars weren’t an issue. But, as the Japanese auto industry grew, dissension from WWII vets became more prevalent. Once, while parking my Toyota in a supermarket parking lot, I was accosted by an old-timer who cursed me and anyone else who would own a Japanese car. Which reminds me - back when I was a kid the phrase “made in Japan” was synonymous with “crap.” Miraculously, that changed with the ascent of Toyota and Honda. But now we’ve come full circle – the Japanese have once again launched a sneak attack on the United States, this time by firing their inferior and dangerous automobiles at the unsuspecting American public.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Catching up with Brett, Conan and Haiti

Though I haven’t been blogging, I’ve been watching, observing what’s been going on, and thinking about it. Here a few thoughts on recent and current topics.

Those who blame Brett Favre for the Viking’s loss to the Saints are out of their minds. Let’s face it, if his teammates hadn’t put the ball on the ground with mind-numbing regularity, there would have been no need to throw the ball in the late stages of the game and, thus, no interception. The Viking’s season, with their signing of Favre, was indeed a big gamble and it would have paid off if the rest of the team hadn’t succumbed to big-game pressure. As far as I’m concerned, Favre was the NFL’s MVP this year. I hate to think of where the Vikes would’ve finished without him.

As for Coco, he got a royal screwing, as did the 50 and under viewing public. Well, fellow young people, we still have Jimmy Kimmel, for the time being at least. It’s not that I don’t appreciate Letterman and Leno. I do. In fact, I recently submitted a Fun Fact to Dave which, understandably, was ignored. Here it is:

While Greek Mathematician Archimedes was the first to prove the value of pi around 240 BC, the first person to top it with ice cream was Pennsylvanian Al Lamode.

But, let’s face it, L & L are getting old as are their jokes and senses of humor. Contrarily, Conan is fresh. Different. New. YOUNG!

As for the Idahoan Baby Stealers, the so-called “New Life Children's Refuge,” yes, they belong in jail for committing yet one more atrocity in the name of religion. The world has to be protected from these people just as they have to be protected from terrorists and radicals of every religious persuasion. I’m reminded of something that happened in my home town of Dover, NJ, long ago when I was a kid. A local girl was suffering from cancer. There was a jar in the luncheonette where we hung out in which patrons dropped contributions that were to go toward the girl’s medical expenses. Unfortunately, while many of us looked at the ever-swelling wad of donations with pride, one miserable and worthless drug user viewed it as easy pickings and one day, when all backs were turned, he snatched the jar off the counter and took off with it. Taking advantage of someone else’s misery – that’s what’s going on here.