We’re blessed with excellent neighbors. This is not something to be taken for granted, nor overlooked. It’s also something you don’t realize until you’re older.
This past weekend we blocked off the street and all the immediate neighbors – and others – converged for a good little shindig. All the kids got to run around and take their bikes up and down the street. Good, down home American stuff. An opportunity to drink a few beers and chill out.
I ended up talking with one neighbor about drinking in college. Drinking happened for me. A lot. And I have a lot of great memories, some involve beer, some do not.
Anyway, we were talking about how some people could drink, have a blast, but stay in control and then there were others who always seemed to lose control – puke, black out, etc. I’ve always wondered if there’s a gene deep down in our wiring that controls this. Why do some people lose control and some don’t?
I’ve never taken alcohol lightly and this post isn’t about alcoholism or anything. It’s just about……control.
Me, I had a lot of drunken escapades and some of my college and maybe high school friends may very well fill in some blanks here (can’t wait to hear it), but I’ve never gotten to the point where I blacked out or can’t remember an entire evening or something. I’m not bragging, either. It just…..is.
That’s me, far right.
Oh, there have been plenty of times where I woke up near sunrise on the floor of my college apartment living room, winter coat still on and a pair of headphones on my head. And there are three occasions from drinking when I did actually throw up.
Three is not a lot, though. Interestingly, the three times were NOT even at college. I simply never let myself get out of control. And I don’t know why. I probably had every reason to.
I ruminated to my neighbor that it could have been because I was allowed at a fairly young age to grab an occasional sip of beer from my dad’s bottle, even in my young teens. While my parents didn’t open the floodgates at home or anything, it just wasn’t a huge sticking point or something they were super harsh, overly threatening or militant about.
I remarked to my neighbor that maybe it was the kids who grew up in the super-militant, obnoxiously strict homes who couldn’t handle the sudden freedom and liberation and easy availability of drinking. They just let it loose. Just a guess, though. No data whatsoever to support any of it and no judgement.
Here it is, though. There was (and is) always some trigger inside me that knew when to stop and “enjoy the buzz,” as my neighbor so succinctly put it. My only guess is that for me, it’s fear. I have a lot of fear when it comes to some things.
Fear. It’s the only thing I can think of. I can’t think of a worse potential outcome, in fact, than being out of control with anything in my life. Always been that way.
What do you think? What’s the difference maker between the ones who could just enjoy the ride and the ones who always took it to the next level?
For the record, this is NOT in any way a criticism or judgement of the people who drank too much and blacked out or whatever. At all. And it’s not a discussion on alcoholism – that is a whole different side of alcohol.
It’s simply an observation and a question about why certain people rode it out and some always went the extra mile! I wonder.
Oh brother, I’m on a high school kick now. Remember yesterday’s post when I said Mr. Schofield looked like Jabba The Hut? I wasn’t kidding! I went back to the old Class of 1989 Nashoba yearbook and found his picture:
OK, so I feel a little like a jerk for saying it and I didn’t mean it from the weight perspective. I mean, he was a little overweight, but it was his face! I mean, look at it! Years removed from high school now, it seems so juvenile for me to be writing it, but damn, it really is true. But again, he was a good teacher – one of those guys who set the tone early and didn’t take shit from any kid. See yesterday’s post.
Now, in leafing through the yearbook in an attempt to find topics to blog about, I came across the Fondest Memories section. Each kid got a little space in the yearbook to put their fondest memories from high school. Here’s what mine looked like:
Alright, so here’s a breakdown of what all this means.
- “1/1/88 – P.W.E.” was my girlfriend and the date we started seeing each other. I met her when we worked at Shaw’s Supermarket in Clinton. She was from another town, so I pretty much dropped off the high school scene at Nashoba during my junior year. I was around much more my senior year, but still spent a lot of time with her. It ended halfway through our first year of college and for years afterward, I felt really bad about how it ended. But you learn and move on.
- “Robert Plant 10/30/88” – fairly obvious. My friend Spencer and I saw him at the Worcester Centrum. I think we were heavy into “Tye Dye On The Highway,” but both of us were Zeppelin fanatics, so we just had to see him. Opener: Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.
- “Van Halen 8/15/86” – this was the “5150” tour, when we thought that Sammy Hagar just might be as good a replacement for Roth as possible. In retrospect, we were wrong, but the show was super fun for us 5 freshman. And of course, the band were consummate showmen, I’ll give them that. The songs don’t hold well today, but the good memories do. I believe it was me, Steve Tuft, Jim Dickhaut, Don Lanza and Gregg Stewart. Openers: Bachman Turner Overdrive. No kidding.
- “Beating Gardner” – if I remember this correctly, Gardner hadn’t lost a regular season high school hockey game in nearly two years or something like that. They were a FORCE! I believe someone had written on the bus’s frosted windows “Gardner – we come in peace.” Anyway, it was late in the season of my junior year and we had already been eliminated from postseason. They were 17-0-1 and we were like 7-8-3 or something like that. For whatever reason, we went up to their building on a Saturday night in a packed house and played like a house on fire. Nashoba 4, Gardner 2. Yours truly potted the winner on a pass from Jim Cellucci. Probably the highlight of my high school hockey career.
- “Freshman Initiation” – ok, this was very early on during our freshman year. We thought it was totally awesome that a few of us had gotten invited to a junior-senior party at someone’s house in the woods of Stow. Oh, we had no idea what was coming. I’ll spare most of the details, but we found ourselves in the middle of the woods in just our underwear and had to walk back, down the road, undressed as such, while cars drove by. Let’s just say the older kids lured us out there with the utmost super-secret weapon – senior girls. We really thought……nevermind. I believe this was me, Jim Dickhaut, Steve Tuft and Neil Lefebvre, but I can’t be 100% positive on that one. I can tell you this: we got a lot of attention and giggles in the hallways from those senior girls the following weeks. I remember walking into the house at the party in my underwear and all those older kids are there laughing at us. The laughter died down a little and then I said sarcastically “WHAT? We’re not getting laid?!?”
- “Boston Garden – Constantly” – this is a reference to the many Bruins games I was able to attend since my dad and a friend of his split season tickets my junior and senior year. Very good memories as they Bruins fielded excellent teams back then.
- The next one says “Prom” but that (W) was supposed to be next to it. It just meant the Wachusett Regional prom, which is where my girlfriend went to high school. I had a much better time at that one than I did at my own.
- “R.E.M.” – just a reference to one of my favorite bands at the time. I still have not seen them live to this day.
- “Pumpkin Hunt ’87” – typical juvenile delinquincy here. A few of us went around the town of Bolton stealing pumpkins and smashing them places. I feel bad about this one now, having kids and all, but back then, as you probably know, we couldn’t have cared less. Boys being boys. Memories are foggy, but I believe it was me, Scott Hayes, Josh Harmon and one or two others.
- “U.S. History” – well, there it is! Maybe I did really enjoy history more than I thought I did. Class was taught by Mr. Eilerman, who had a hand in setting me straight a little bit, something for which I will forever be grateful for. A good, decent man with a wacky sense of humor and an excellent teacher who cared. Also pulled his money out of the stock market the Friday before the market crashed in ’86. How I remember that I have no idea.
- “Zeppelin or U2 at midnight” was a just a reference to what I would listen to the most when I got home from going out. I’d just lay on my bedroom floor, put on the headphones that made me look like Princess Leia, and tune out. It was a total precursor to college, when I would do the same thing (with different music) – lay on the living room floor and not really tune out, but pass out. There were plenty of nights when I woke up the next morning, headphones still on, shoes still on, jacket still on. Ouch.
- “Busted at R.T.” – I will never, ever give this one away. You’ll just have to wonder.
I’m currently in the middle of Rising Tide, a pretty large bio lent to me by my father-in-law about the 1927 Mississippi River floods that devastated much of the south along the river. It’s a pretty stunning read and I’m not even 1/3 of the way through yet. It’s so odd how such a momentous, far-reaching tragedy has largely been forgotten. Makes we wonder what else I don’t know about.
I was thinking the other day how fun it might be to be a history teacher. Then I remembered that the only person who truly cares about history is the one actually teaching it and I quickly realized that maybe it wouldn’t be so much fun. Ever since college, my interest in history has skyrocketed, but in high school, history was just another thing I had to study for. History class itself was one of my favorites because our teacher loved to shut off the lights and teach via this device that I cannot even believe I’ve forgotten the name of the overhead projector. You slip a clear piece of plastic onto it and then use a sharpie-type marker and it projects on the wall.
This meant one thing: lights off was a chance to:
- Make all kinds of shadows on the wall with your hands. Some of questionable taste. All ridiculous.
- Pass notes to others
- Write notes to girlfriends
- Do homework for the next class (yeah, the one you didn’t do the night before)
Unfortunately for me, sleeping was never an option, because I cannot sleep sitting. But plenty of people slept. Which reminds me of a classic high school moment. It was freshman year in high school, early in the year. I was sitting in Western Civilization, quite possibly the worst class of ALL-TIME. I mean, I love history, but Western Civ was like being poked in the eye with a stick, over and over and over. Anyway, I’m sitting there and we’re seated alphebetically. Four seats in front of me is Mark Blanding and I notice that he is completely asleep. That doesn’t bode well, because the teacher is Mr. Schofield, a large man who bears a striking resemblance to Jabba The Hut. I kid you not. That said, he was a good person with a solid sense of humor and a good teacher, many of us didn’t like him because you actually had to work in his class, but I think we all respected him. Or feared him.
Anyway, Blanding is sitting there, head down, and Schofield notices after a few minutes. He stops his lecture (thank god) and quietly walks over to Blanding’s desk and KICKS it so damn hard. I tell you what, Blanding jumped nearly a mile. And since we’re all 13 and 14 years old, it’s the funniest damn thing we’ve seen at school yet. Even Schofield was laughing, very very proud of himself. NOBODY ever fell asleep in that Western Civ again.
I had no intention of this turning into a high school memory, but that’s the beauty of blogging, you write about one thing and it spurs memories of others. Now I’ll have to think of some good high school stories to share.
Bonus points to anyone who can ID the quote in today’s subject header.
I remain a sporadic (at best) blog poster while our lives get turned upside down for about a week. This week we’ll physically move everything out of this house, where it will reside on a truck for several days while the house we bought gets some work done (wood floors, etc). In the meantime, we’ll be staying with the in-laws. Everything is a mess. In flux. In transition. It won’t be settled for a few weeks.
Anyway, last week I was invited to play in the Nashoba Regional High School ice hockey alumni game. The game was held this past Saturday night over in Boxborough, MA, a rink I haven’t liked playing in since the early 1990s. They keep the temperature too damn warm. Regardless, my thoughts were that I’d be seeing some old classmates and having a good time talking about some of the ridiculous things we did back then. My fondest high school memories have to be the four hockey seasons I played there. There isn’t much better – not only does it keep you in shape and keep you mentally sharp, it also establishes the importance of teamwork, both in sports and life. So anyway, I was expecting a lot of laughs.
When I arrived, I was a little shocked at how organized it all was! There was a check-in table for the players, locker room assignments and hockey shirts given to us – with our names on the back! There was a green team and a white team (all Nashoba alum) and I was on the white squad. There was about 30 total players. In each locker room there was a case of water and the night’s agenda taped to the door, which included 10 minutes of warmups, individual player introductions and then the national anthem. This was like a real hockey game!
Now, without sounding too narcissistic, I must now relay that I am one of the school’s career leaders in points. I’m not the top guy and I don’t know where I rank, I only know this because I’m apparantly one of 6 or 7 players in school history who amassed 100 points in their careers (one is Hall Gill, who now plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs). This is only important because when the game started, it felt like almost everyone out there was a 100-point scorer. Much to my surprise, this was a competitive, super-fast, back-and-forth hockey game, made up of mostly graduates from the 1998-2007 era. There were a few of us from the 1980s, although only one other guy on either team was a person I was actually a teammate with.
So there was very little reminisicing and a LOT of skating – certainly the fastest game I’ve been involved in since I tried out for a division 1 college team back in 1990 and I played in a scrimmage. At 36, my age certainly showed – some of these guys really had wheels, but I took some satisfaction in the fact that I got off a few very good shots and kept pretty good pace for the first two periods. Either age or conditioning started showing in the 3rd – I’d like to think it was age, as I’m still skating twice a week these days. But who knows.
So yes, it was fun, but in a far different way than I expected. The green team ended up winning 10-9 on a late third period goal, but in the end, it was just a fun game and good to talk with some of the guys who came after me, many of whom went on to college hockey careers as well. I was very pleasantly surprised by how excellent some of these players really were.