Saturday, August 01, 2009

High School Reunion

"I'm standing before my old high school, it's been 35 yrs since I touched the door.
But to heal the old pain we must face it again so I'll walk down that hallway once more.
I have come to this 35 yr reunion for my heart is still prisoner of war.
And if I find it's alright we're escaping tonight, that's what I came back here for.

Won't you please waltz with me?
I feel like I'm just like I used to be my heart is locked up here so quietly believing that you hold the key.
Won't you please waltz me free?
The turns of our steps are untangling me, free from some dragged around memory and the rusty old remnants of fear.
And after 35 years, I'm melting the shackles with tears.

I'm as nervous as if its still high school, you're happily married I know.
But it's not just this dance that I'm asking you for, I'm asking you ten years ago.
Remember I wrote in your yearbook? Could you please waste some time on me?
There's just a few things I must tell you,but that's as brave as I could be.

Won't you please waltz with me?
I feel like I'm just like I used to be my heart is locked up here so quietly believing that you hold the key.

Won't you please waltz me free?
The turns of our steps are untangling me, free from some dragged around memory and the rusty old remnants of fear.
And after 35 years, I'm melting the shackles with tears.
-David Wilcox "The Last Chance Waltz" from "Home Again"

I can picture it as if it was yesterday. Walking through the halls of a school so big, it had two campuses. Hard to believe that in one of the smallest cities in the Quad Cities (there are actually five cities there, but East Moline was kicked out for bad behaviour), our school had one of the highest enrollments. The school not only serves East Moline, but Silvis, Colona, Green Rock, Carbon Cliff, etc. The school was not for the timid or meek at heart and since East Moline is situated on the wrong side of the tracks (the whole town, figuratively and literally), you can imagine this boys struggle to acclimate myself into the multi cultured fabric of United Township High School after coming from the lilly white southern Missouri town of Ava (pop. 2500). See, that was another thing that made us feel special. It was Moline High, Rock Island High, Bettendorf High, Davenport Central, East, and West but no, instead of East Moline High we were United Township. The north campus was reserved for the freshman and sophomores, perched high a top a hill close to the boundary of Silvis. On a good day, you could look out the window and see John Deere and all it's foundries and manufacturing plants, back when John Deere HAD a foundry and manufacturing plants. The plants were usually humming with people working all three shifts, seven days a week. I'm not sure what's going on in those buildings now. We used to call north campus "The Prison" because, from a distance, it looked like one, sans the barbed wire. North campus became so overcrowded, (notice how big the classrooms were on the slideshow below) lunch was served in three shifts, you were lucky if you had first shift because third shift was actually somewhere closer to one oclock. I developed my first crush on a teacher there. Pamela Newborn was my English teacher, a very young black woman who was simply stunning. I never missed her class. Mr. Diaz was my history teacher and if we got all of our work done, he'd let us bring in records to play on Friday. I believe he is now the principal. Those kids now are lucky, he was a great teacher and a great human being. Did I say that East Moline was multi cultured? Understatement. We were hispanic before being hispanic was cool. I ran around with guys with the last name of Soliz, Alejo, Martinez and Terronez. I learned about Santana and Malo from them and they learned about Led Zeppelin, Wishbone Ash, Blue Oyster Cult and Humble Pie from me. One of my best friends was the son of the preacher at the local Southern Baptist Church with an afro to die for. DaVoss Murray was another guy I palled with. DeVoss was Al Green, always trying to be so cool and he usually was. That was one thing I couldn't pull off. Being Al Green, that is. As old as it was, (built in 1913) it had a certain charm. Kind of like an old Victorian mansion that was rumoured to be haunted. One of my clsses in my sophomore year required me to be bused to the hallowed halls of South Campus which was reserved for the big kids (juniors and seniors). Five minutes before the bell rang, I'd have to be dismissed early from Latin class (thank God) and catch the bus to south campus, where I would arrive at class five minutes late. Five minutes before that class was over, I'd catch the bus to go back to north campus where I would arrive five minutes late. I felt very special. The summer of 1972 was the "transition year" going from the north to the south. South Campus was newer, cleaner and much more fun. Smoking dope in the parking lot (for reference, see the opening scene of "Dazed and Confused") and then piling in to SC was one sure sign that you weren't a kid anymore. The teachers were cooler and better (or so I thought anyway) with a journalism teacher that allowed us to build a radio station in the back of his class. "Only if you can get the parts yourselves." That summer between junior and senior year was spent pleading with local stations to give us their scrap parts so John "Ohm" Perkins could fix them. Writing stories for the school newspaper was a blast and the subject of most of them was...wait for! My review of "Goats Head Soup" by the Stones contained the line.."this is the first Stones album that marks the decline of what once was the greatest rock and roll band on Earth. They hit their apogee with "Exile" and it will be a long, slow, painful descent from that peak." Pretty spot on if I do say so myself. My good friend Mike was not pleased. "The only musical taste you have is in your mouth." Critics. I remember loaning my copy of "Catch Bull at Four" to a gal (no names) because she wanted to listen to it and I wanted to make a great impression and then being horrified when it came back to me in almost pieces. "Sorry about that", and then she proceeded to date my arch rival. Bitch. The thing that tied it all together was music. From "Maggie Mae" to "Sundown" and "Annies Song", I don't think the quality of music from 1971-1974 has ever been duplicated. Great albums and great pop songs (Roberta Flack, Neil Diamond and the Carpenters still slay me). 35 years. Where's it gone? I can't fathom the things and the memories that have washed under the bridge since then. Marriage twice, three kids, grandkids and an incredible career in radio that I could have only dreamed about, NEVER in my wildest fantasies did I think it would have turned out like this. It will be great to see some of those people just to say the lines that Toby Keith once made famous.. "how do you like me now?" It will be just great to see others and catch up on how we got this far. In a class our size, a number of them have passed, some I didn't know about til recently (Kevin Claeys). I've met presidents, almost a Beatle, Bob Seger, John Mellencamp, almost Bruce Springsteen (Max Weinberg) and spent the last 32 years playing for a living. The ties that have bridged those years are few and far between, but the one strong thread, the one thing that will transport me back in time was, is and will always remain one thing...the music. Here's to Lobo, Edward Bear, Hurricane Smith, Mouth and McNeil, Don McClean, War, the Ohio Players, the Ojays, etc etc.
35 years, where'd it go?


karlene's mom said...

nice... well said.

jb said...

When everything else--youth, hair, sometimes optimism--is gone, the music abides, and it's often what makes it possible to go on. Very well said. Thanks a lot.


Anonymous said...

Randy....What a GREAT blog that really hits home. How many times have I been cruising down the road listening to the radio and a song comes on that INSTANTLY transports me back in time to younger, more innocent and wreckless days! I've said many times that the music I loved in my youth is the soundtrack of my life. You are so right.....The ties that connect our lives now to decades past are certainly few and far between....But the right song can make us feel just like we did so many years ago when we buried our faces in our pillows and sobbed over that first heartbreak while another song can make us remember the TRIUMPH we felt graduating from high school, winning that award or finally getting the attention of that "fox" or "hunk" (Yep, these are 70's terms!!) HOW MANY times I've been brought to tears and literally VISCERALLY moved by a song from years ago that reminds me of precious times spent with someone I have loved whom I no longer have in my life.
I spent some of the best years of my life listening to you spin many of these great tunes.......
You did it with CLASS, Rocko....
Hugs & Kisses to you :-)

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