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.