"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them." - Henry David Thoreau

Monday, November 8, 2010

...Dying of the Light.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned...It's been over a month since my last blog post. 

It's not that I haven't had anything to say.  No, that's not it.  I suppose I could blame it on not having the time to sit down and collect my thoughts.  That would be untrue.  I may chalk it up to simply not having anything I felt was worthy of a lengthy dissertation.

That all changed this past weekend.  Now, before I begin this emotional autopsy on myself, a brief history lesson is in order;

The tiny townhouse where I grew up.
My family moved to the town of Lansdale, PA in 1973.  Lansdale existed in a kind of buffer zone between the Philly suburbs and rural farmland.  Beautiful area and a great place for a kid to grow up.  I was five years old when we moved and about to start first grade. I skipped Kindergarten, because my parents had me in a Montessori pre-school program.  I later found out that Montessori is really a front organization operated by Rosicrucians to indoctrinate potential acolytes.*

Byrne Hall at GMA, where I attended grade school.

I attended Gwynedd-Mercy Academy from grades 1-8.  A private Catholic school, GMA was best remembered (by me) as being a place where young, knobby-kneed boys were cruelly forced to wear grey short pants in twenty degree weather. It was there I learned about such Catholic traditions as Transubstantiation, a.k.a. Ritualistic Cannibalism.  I peaked academically in fourth grade.  After that, my ADD kicked in and it was all downhill from there.

I did manage to get into a really good high school; La Salle College High School.  I believe the recruitment pamphlet described La Salle as a 'Catholic, All-Boys College Preparatory School and Nazi Larvae Death Camp' or something like that.  It was run by the Christian Brothers.  An odd name, I felt because they never seemed to me to act very Christ-like or very brotherly (I chalked it up to all that brandy they drank).  I hated every waking moment.  It was an hour bus ride into Philadelphia from Lansdale and the bus was too big to climb up the steep hill to get to the school.  Be it rain, sleet or snow, we had to trudge up that goddam hill every morning.  Not the best way to start the day.  I was a short, stocky, unathletic nerd who didn't fit in anywhere. By the end of my sophomore year, I was seriously contemplating suicide. No joke.

During the following summer, we received a letter from La Salle suggesting to my parents that I would be better off attending a different school.  I agreed, but the alternative was even more frightening...North Penn.  A public school.  I thought I would be eaten alive.  My impression of public school could be summed up in one word: Prison.  There had to be a good reason why the school was nicknamed 'North Penetentiary.'  NPHS was a massive, Pentagon-like facility with over a thousand students wandering it's many winding corridors.  It took a while for me to get comfortable there, but once it did, I embraced the diversity I found. Imagine it...there were kids of different backgrounds, poor kids, Jewish kids, kids who climb on rocks (oops, went into Armour Hot Dog mode there).  Oh, and most importantly; Girls! Yes, those mysterious, maddening creatures whose only reason for existing was to confound and frustrate me at every turn. 

Senior Prom. Yikes. I look like the 'Bad Humor Man.'
If they gave out class awards for 'Most Likely to Worship a Girl From Afar,' I would've been a shoo-in.  I realized that my well-developed HDS (Humor Defense System) coupled with being a 'nice guy' inevitably led me to permanent 'friend' status among the girls in my social circle.  It didn't help that I was also deathly afraid of what would happen if any girl did show interest.  What the hell would I do then?  I was clueless. 

Senior year was better.  I had carved out my own little niche with some really great friends and made it out of school with my sanity intact.  The week after I graduated in 1985, my parents and I moved to Wildwood, New Jersey.  Some of my adventures there have been chronicled here.

I left Lansdale behind.  For a while.  I returned briefly in 1988, but I will spare you the sordid details of that rollercoaster of despair.  For now.

Since my sojourn to Las Vegas in 1989, I returned to the inviting confines of Montgomery County only once, for a single day, back in 2000.  A familiar blur, it was like looking at a swiftly shifting home movie through the windshield of a car.  No time for reflection or regret.  Maybe it's better than way.

A few weeks ago, the technological miracle/time-waster/Satan's Screwdriver called Facebook afforded me an opportunity to finally go back to my hometown to ride the wave of nostalgia that's been nagging at me since I've reconnected with so many old friends and acquaintances from those days.  An informal event was being planned where members of the graduating NPHS classes from '80-'90 were to gather.  I hemmed and hawed, not actually making the decision to go until the week of the event.

How bad could it be, right?  Right...?

I had no idea.  Looking back, I should have known.  All the signs were there in bright, screaming neon, but I chose to ignore them.  I rushed headlong, looking directly into the abyss.  It didn't even bother to look back.

TOMORROW: Part Two of "You Can't Go Home Again" or "West Point Blank."

*I can not prove this 'fact,' because all pertinent records were erased by a cadre of Illuminati techno-ninjas working under direct orders from the still-living (though disembodied) brain of Pope Innocent XII.

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