"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Monday, December 01, 2003
Drowning Under a Tidal Wave
dread Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English dreden, from Old English dr[AE]dan
Date: before 12th century
1 a : to fear greatly b archaic : to regard with awe
2 : to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face
3 : junior high school life for Cliff
OK, picking up where I left off here, we'll see how far I get this time.
Junior high school.
Such a turmoil this period has in my mind. There are victories, defeats, misery, elations, I ran the gamut. And all while my body was going through that hormone frenzy they call "puberty." I hated that part.
Let's start with the music, shall we? That's one of the happy parts of this.
I had always liked music. I sang in our church choir, and started taking guitar lessons when I was ten. I was in a "band" when I was in fifth grade and we played for the school talent show, playing the song "Louie Louie." No, I didn't play guitar, a friend of mine did that, I played tamborine. He played guitar and sang, a friend named Ken played drums, and I just stood there going "ching ching ching." I was not really the "front guy" for the band.
But by the time I got into junior high, my guitar playing talents had gotten pretty darn passable. I was taking weekly lessons from a guy named Earl (my dad still insists on calling him Earl the Pearl, I have no idea why.) Earl lived in an apartment in my grandparent's house, so every Saturday my dad and I would go over there and I would have a guitar lesson while dad visited his parents, then grandmom and granddad would join dad and I for lunch, usually corned beef hash on rice. Man, I could eat my weight in that stuff.
I usually did, too.
At the same time, like I mentioned earlier, my body decided it was high time it made the transition from baby to adult at light speed. So all of a sudden I was living in this body that seemed to want to do all these odd things like smell bad, sweat, itch, have a mind of its own in the wrong situation, you know the score. It was a pretty miserable time from that direction.
It didn't help any that the junior high school I was zoned into had been old when my mother attended it. The word was that they had even stabled horses in the basement once. I don't know how true that one was, but the place was always hot and dirty and had holes in the walls and filth just everywhere. It came to the point where I would shower each day when I got home, I felt so cruddy from just sitting there. And I so dreaded going to school each day.
Back to the music.
The choir director there was a lady named Mrs. Williams, a dedicated and extremely talented black lady who really was one of my favorite teachers of all time. I now had enough talent on the guitar to play backup for the chorus. And she asked me to play in the school talent show.
So I picked the song that was my showpiece song at the time, titled "I'm in Love with a Big Blue Frog."
Somehow, sitting in my grandparents house that sounded like a much better idea than it actually WAS.
I got teased about that song for the next five years. Some people STILL remember it.
The bullying got nothing but worse. One of my teachers was even a bit of a bully, which did not help matters. He used to make us sit on a live radiator if we misbehaved. Imagine what they would do to him now.
In January of that school year I was one of the acts at the Myrtle Beach Canadian-American Folk Festival. I had chosen a song called "A' Soulin" by Peter Paul and Mary which had a rather difficult hand picked guitar part. I was gonna blow them away.
So, the day comes and I get up there in front of about 5,000 people and statewide live TV, and start playing.
And I mess up just a little, which causes me to TOTALLY forget ALL of the words.
I scrambled to remember them, slurring my voice when I couldn't, and stumbled through the song as best I could. I got some polite applause when I left the stage, terrified as a 14 year old boy could be.
But there is something about the stage, the crowd, at least for me. It terrifies me, but it drew me like a magnet draws iron. I could not stay away.
Besides, after that, how bad could it get?
Do not try to solve all life's problems at once -- learn to dread each day as it comes.