Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hall Monitors

Remember Archie & Edith singing "Those Were The Days"? Me too, but nostalgia ain't my thing.

Paging through my high school yearbook the other day made me think about how fast this life flies by. Actually, that's a total lie, I never thought any such thing - it was more like - 'geez, look at that mop of hair!'

Now it's my blog so I get to brag! Here goes:  I graduated in the top 10 of my HS class. Positively sure of it, 'cause there were only 13 of us, so the odds were stacked heavily in my favor. Here's the class photo, see if you can find me. (Hint: Row 2 third from left)

Okay. That wasn't really my class but below is a picture of me at 16 in all my polyester glory. No big deal but this is the the last photo ever taken of me without a beard. My school had a very strict dress code. See that hair? They wouldn't let me graduate 'til it was cut. Couldn't touch the eyebrows, ears or collar. No jeans. No sneakers. No stubble. I started growing my beard the day after graduation. I was 17.

My English teacher gave me a "D" 1st marking period junior year, even though I never scored anything lower than a "B". Thought my mother was gonna kill me. At the parent/teacher meeting, Miss Schwartzenbach explained, in her most condescending tone, that, while my results were worthy of a higher grade, "the effort wasn't." After that, instead of absorbing the info as it was doled out, which was my standard approach, I became more engaged in the process & English Lit, of all things, became my favorite subject, well, maybe it held 2nd place, a smidgeon lower than Phys Ed. At the end of the year, the grade was changed. It seems Miss S & Mrs E were in "cahoots."

There were no silver spoons in our household. The public school in my hometown had an awful reputation & my mom decided, when I was 7, that private school was a must. My dad didn't share her enthusiasm. To pay the tuition, she struck a deal. In exchange for working as the school janitor for zero pay, my tuition was waived & my education from then on came complete with my own personal hall monitor. On the plus side, I received a very good education. I can tell ya, I never got away with nothin'. Cut class? Yeah right. Study Halls? No way. Full load. Mom explained what she thought the word 'homework' meant, whereas she believed that study hall was a wasted 'social hour'. Okay, but geez, I played 3 sports, always had practice or games, had a job working most nights & weekends. Well, it didn't kill me, but gettin' whacked in the head with a broom wasn't much fun. No worries, Mom's only 4'10", no permanent damage &, by my senior year I'd learned to duck. Swooshing sounds still get my attention.

I've since learned how to tie a Windsor knot.   

Back to the school stuff & realtime bragging about someone that deserves it. My niece Valerie is in Washington DC this week as part of The National Young Leaders Conference & she's one of the youngest invitees, maybe even the youngest. Her grades make mine look pathetic. Can't say too much 'cause she gets embarrassed, wouldn't even let the newspaper interview her or use her name. The NYLC sends updates on the conference to teachers & guidance counselors involved with the participants. Uncle Dave, that's me, gets these updates, since Val included me, listing me as her "College & Career Counselor". Now that is cool.

When I was writing BAD LATITUDE, Val would read sample chapters & give me feedback. I made her one of my primary characters in both BAD LATITUDE & RECKLESS ENDEAVOR. One of these days, I'll be reading her work & then.... I guess I'll get nostalgic.

Here's a copy of part of today's email update about Val's day in DC. She's running around the halls of Congress meeting Senators & such. Congrats Val! Proud of ya kid!  

Dear Mr. Ebright,

Today's NYLC schedule afforded Valerie a special opportunity to interact with the lawmakers and staffers who determine our nation's legislative agenda on Capitol Hill! The day began with a welcome address delivered from the floor of the House of Representatives. Valerie and her fellow scholars sat in the actual chairs used by House members! After the House floor, Valerie proceeded to her congressional appointments. These meetings with representatives, senators or staffers gave Valerie a chance to challenge our nation's elected leaders with tough questions and get a firsthand view of life and work on Capitol Hill.

In the evening, Valerie switched her focus from legislative matters to judicial topics, engaging in the "Testing the Constitution" simulation. After reviewing yesterday's discussion of the role of the Supreme Court, a history of some of its most famous decisions and an introduction to legal reasoning and debate, Valerie jumped right into the simulation. With her fellow scholars members playing the roles of justices and attorneys for the petitioner and respondent, Valerie debated whether the constitution and case law favored a car passenger's Fourth Amendment right to privacy or a police officer's need for safety during a traffic stop. The details of this simulation were taken from the real-life case of Arizona v. Johnson.


Mark LaFlamme said...

Dammit, I was studying that group pic before I scrolled down. Thought I had you picked out, too.

joylene said...

Hey--where's the pic of you at 16???

I met the kid top, 3rd from the left at the Briza Del Mar in San Jose Del Cabo. I heard he died a few years ago. He was very loud, and everyone within a mile radius heard about his time as one of the Our Gang.

Congrats to Valerie. You sound proud. I take it she gets her smarts from your side of the family?

I'm checking back in 30 minutes, so you should have plenty of time to post that pic of you and your poly-suit.

JaxPop said...

Mark - I was the one with circle around the eye.

Joylene - The pic is posted. Flippy hair, loud pattern, screwy tie. Val's a good kid, but she's from Deb's side of la familia.

Kathryn Neff Perry said...

Val is a lucky kid to have so many family members support her. Your Mom sounds like my Mom (the height and the broom) ha ha
Enjoyed your blog!

Carol J. Garvin said...

I find it fascinating to hear my grown kids reminiscing about their school days. What they remember as important are things that I took for granted as a parent--insisting on good manners, respect for others, giving their best effort, etc. They've turned into pretty wonderful adults and I love to see how they are passing along similar values to their children.

It's wonderful to hear of your niece's success as a student. Your pride in her is obvious and justified and it suggests she's got a great supportive family behind her, including an uncle who hasn't turned out too badly himself, bragging notwithstanding. ;)

JaxPop said...

Katt - Val's a good kid. I kinda like her. Mom's a lefty. Learned how to duck a southpaw early in life.

Carol - Tolerance of mediocrity these days seems, unfortunately, to be more the norm than the exception.