Sunday, November 23, 2008

teenage wasteland redux

(pic - false memories of idyllic childhood)

Having spent most of my first wave baby boom childhood as a chronic asthmatic whose parents worked at full time jobs in the city, I'd also spent a lot of the average school year home alone. Many people who'd lived at the lake earlier had moved away to the new suburbs meaning I reached puberty in a very quiet and serene environment. Not only was the lake wonderful but behind the house my parents had bought in the late 50's there were hundreds of square miles of undeveloped public parkland. I wandered and dreamed.

In time a September arrived that meant highschool but the closest school had no room for us until the following year when the first expansion would be completed, leaving a number of us to be bussed to a school in a town so out of the way and tiny that I've forgotten the name. I do recall it was in a Quaker farming district and the bus ride was 20 miles along narrow country roads. By the time all the kids on our route had been picked up it was standing room only and the driver routinely stopped the bus to demand we cease screaming, yelling and singing rude songs or he'd leave us to walk home. I learned all the verses to 'North Atlantic Squadron' before I knew what most of them meant.

(pic - how many jock straps does it take to cover a French teacher's desk?)

In classrooms overflowing with 9th graders the staff and our sternly raised Quaker classmates were completely flummoxed by the raucous behavior of 12 busloads of rampant juveniles. I'd made a friend of a girl who lived not far way whose mother had gone to England for a 4 month holiday and since her father worked at night, my parents had agreed to let her come and live with us in the interim. A sister!

The first thing we decided to do was stop going to school. We hated the place so it made sense to us and our excuses for not going got wilder and more theatrical as the months went by. We made bandages for our heads and pretend casts for our supposedly broken arms and legs and waved out the window when the bus stopped to get us. Once we covered ourselves with red pen marks to prove we had a communicable disease. Every so often we'd show up at school with notes for the principal we'd written ourselves but I don't think he cared because it was all too overwhelming for him anyway. We amused ourselves by walking up to the highway and catching the bus to Toronto where we'd spend the days riding the subway and exploring the city - always being sure to be home before my parents. The fun ended the evening my mother found a time stamped subway transfer on our dresser. I won't describe her remarks but my friend moved back home and the following spring the family moved away. We'd missed 93 days at school.

That left my only possible companion being the girl at the opposite end of our little road. We were friends of necessity, thrown together again because of being the same age. She was 6 months older, 6 inches taller and 1 IQ point smarter than me according to a teacher who'd thought it wise to announce everybody's scores to the entire school. Rita and I came out first and second. Yay. Once again both sets of parents made the mistake of believing we were smart enough to be trusted. Hah.

There wasn't much for teenagers to do back then (even worse than now) but there was a movie theater in a town 8 miles south and my dad was willing to drive us there both nights and be available to bring us home later. You'd never see anyone standing outside that theater but amazingly, inside it was always packed

(pic - the original movie madness)

No adults ever went to the Friday and Saturday night shows. There was always a double feature with cartoons and the fabulous 'Coming Attractions' trailers to get everybody pumped up for the following weekend. Not all the 'B' movies were sci-fi but even though those were the best, I'll never forget Steve Reeves as Hercules drinking from the spring of forgetfulness then leaving his demi-god life to become a manwhore for the lusty queen of Lidia. It was very titillating and we were all really ready for that. In fact, in the darkness and considering the hormone levels of the audience, there was always a lot of general titillating going on. Depending on how scary or silly the movie was, or simply because there were so many of us in the same cramped space, there was also shrieking and shouting rising to levels of cacophony that would cause the 'dreaded event'. The movie would stop. The manager, who resembled nobody more than than Mr. Burns from the Simpsons, would march down the side aisle carrying his flashlight and climbed the stairs to the stage. The projectionist would shine a spotlight on him for his usual 5 minute tirade of threats to close the theater and throw us all out. Then he'd slowly march back up the aisle and the movie resumed. So did the noise.

Thus began my transition to adulthood.