Monday, August 31, 2009

Time Was...

“We’ll sing the old alma mater and think of things that used to be.”

I just got back from my first high school reunion.

About 40 people met in a funny looking building out in the middle of nowhere. This was fitting because my high school consisted of about 40 people in a funny looking building in the middle of nowhere.

It was started in 1969 by an African American woman looking to get her kids safely through school. When the last one graduated, ten years later, she shut it down.

But it was a helluva good school while it lasted.

The woman who ran it was smart and tough. (She was an African American woman starting her own school in 1969. You do the math.)

The teachers were almost all amazing.

The kids were trouble. That’s why we were there.

(Actually, I wasn’t much trouble, but I was sufficiently weird to qualify.)

One of my weirdest qualities, was, of course, one that I just might share with you—a vaguely unnatural interest in Chuck Berry.  I was singing his virtues to my high school friends and everyone else I met long before "My Ding-a-Ling" and "Reelin' and Rockin'" brought him back to the mainstream.

At the reunion one friend described me doing the “scoot” at school. (The "scoot" is the one where he sticks one foot out in front and dances forward, backward, or wherever he wants to go while still soloing on the guitar.  It's often confused with the "duckwalk" where he squats down and, well, walks like a duck.)  This is an episode I’ve expunged from my memory banks, but I have no doubt it happened. (I have not been able to expunge a moment at Octoberfest, 1974, where I did a drunken scoot on top of a table in Munich. Luckily, beer prevailed, more giant ones were ordered, and everyone hailed Chuck Berry.)

When my friend mentioned my feeble scoot I tried to change the subject by describing the Brazilian who did it on stage and was so warmly received by Chuck Berry. I aped his performance. My friend laughed. “You got a lot lower in high school,” she said.

That’s for sure.

Chuck Berry recorded some pretty sweetly sentimental songs about school and high school.  My favorite might be "Time Was," which wasn't his, but which he seemed to like.

Time was
When we had fun on the school yard swing
When we exchanged graduation rings
One lovely yesterday

It’s nice to have gone to a high school that makes you feel just like those songs.

(This version of School Day shows a great performance with a backup band that-- but hey, I would have been scared %$^less, too).

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