August 9, 2006

When I was cool

A friend of mine asked today, "when was the last time you felt cool?"

Hmmm. Bloggers are decidedly uncool. So subtract a few years. When did this blog start? Married people. Not cool. Now we're back to 2003. In LA I lived in Silverlake, which used to be cool, but by the time I lived there all the cool people had exited for Echo Park or Eagle Rock. I worked in the movies for a while. Cool from the outside, so not cool from the inside. The definition of uncool is being screamed at by your boss while on a Gulf Stream Jet and having the only other people in the cabin, 3 stewardess, snicker as you sit and take it. Also I was working on crap films like the Sabrina remake and IQ. The cool people worked on films like Bottle Rocket and Shallow Grave. My life as a nomadic backpacker... potentially cool for people stuck at desk jobs, but on the road there were always people who went further. When I arrived in Mongolia the talk was of mythic backpacker Ronnie from Tasmania. His exploits were discussed in hushed tones always ending with, "He vanished in the Gobi you know." That guy was cool. College? Please. I wore red socks (virtually every day), wrote a thesis on Chinese bronze casting, and thought it was fun to post xeroxes of raisin bread slices all over campus. Sigh. In high school I weighed about 90 pounds, talked with a deep drawl, and would get very excited when discussing "the world of the future." I was the school photographer. School photographers are never cool. Two words: Academic Decathalete. I showed up to Jr. High with a broken leg and on the first day broke my crutches. I had to hop from class to class. That pretty much ruined it for that year.

The last time I was cool? 1979. I was in 6th grade. Brookhollow Elementary home of the mighty Beavers. Mr. Johhny Futch, the principal (Futch is an unfortunate name for a principal), caught me doing a bit from Steve Martin's album Comedy is not Pretty to a group of classmates. But really I was reciting the bit for Janet, a transfer student from Baton Rouge who had only been in school two months (and would only stay month more before her parents mysteriously decided to move again.). Janet loved Steve Martin. She could talk dinosaurs and she loved orange velour. This last fact she told me over lunch a few days after arriving and within a week I had convinced my mom to buy not one but two velour shirts. One was red but could pass as orange. I told Janet it was tangerine and she deemed it "amazing." Janet was horrified when Mr. Fuchs grabbed me by my chain mid-joke (yes I wore a silver chain) and dragged me away.

Mr. Futch had a glassed-in office visible to anyone that walked by. Picture a square office with two glass walls open to the cafeteria. On the back wall, a painting of a deer and on the other, a big blackboard. In the corner a window and a potted plant. The desk sat dead center. It was bare save for a few framed pictures of deer kills, a soft focus portrait of Mrs. Futch, a microphone, and a large wooden paddle carved from a 2 by 4 and polished to a high gloss sheen. The office smelled of mimeograph ink.

Futch liked to lecture before he doled out punishment and he gravely informed me that "cussing" would not be tolerated. Speaking in a soft voice he contemplated the number of "licks" I would be receiving. One wouldn't teach me a lesson, and I needed a lesson as this was a second offense, but eight might be to much... "five, five is a good number". I was steeling myself for the blows when without warning he was called away leaving me alone in the office. "Don't touch anything," he smiled, "or you're looking at seven." I waited. I scanned for books to stuff down my jeans. Nothing. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Outside I saw my class in the cafeteria. They were almost finished and Janet was there. She saw me and made a sad face. I waved. She waved back. The bell was ringing. Lunch was over. I knew my class would be passing the office and in that moment I felt overwhelmed. "SOMETHING must be done," I thought. I looked outside. It was raining. On the chalkboard I wrote in big letters. "I did it for you Janet." I underlined Janet twice. Then I quickly opened the window and slipped out. In less than a minute I was on my bike pedaling full tilt down Live Oak Lane. I knew Mr. Futch would be calling my mom. I knew she would probably be waiting for me. Probably outside the house. She would drive me straight back to that office. But as I rode my bike on that rainy day I was cool as hell. I knew it. Janet knew it, and that's all that mattered.

posted at 02:52 AM by raul

Filed under: personal history

TAGS: 1979 (4) academic decathlon (1) brookhollow school (1) cool (1) grade school (1) lufkin (9)


08/09/06 11:18 AM

Thought one: they paddled sixth graders?

Thought two: when i was in the sixth grade I was in love with a boy who could name almost every country on the world map in our class. I was really into geography. I still am.

08/09/06 06:25 PM

I like the memory.

And, I tend to think of you as one of the "cool" bloggers, so make of that what you will.

08/09/06 10:15 PM

This is what I remember about Tony Gutierrez. You haven't written about that yet, in high school people called you Tony. That's a funny story. I was a sophomore when you were a senior.

-You used to make tapes with punk rock music and hide them around the school with the message "this tape might just change your life" on the label. I still have 2 of your tapes, and they did sorta kinda change my life.
-You wore converse low tops in Lufkin Texas where nobody wore converse low tops. You also wore vans which people in Lufkin thought were "freaky".
-Everyone thought of you as a superstar student and a "good" boy, but I heard stories...
-You used to talk real fast like there weren't enough minutes in the day to get the words out.
-You once helped me with my biology which I was having troubles with in an after school tutoring lesson. We were in Mr. Boyette's class which had no air conditioning. You said, "This is ridiculous, we can't study under these conditions" Then you drove me to Rays where we had burgers and shakes in your truck while you explained Lysosomes and Peroxisomes. On another afternoon you explained lucid dreaming and taught me the draw on your hand before you go to bed and then look at your hand in the dream technique. You also introduced me to Muddy Waters and The Talking Heads.
-Once I told you how much I hated Lufkin. You told me and I quote, "You can't be great unless you suffer. You'll be out of here in two years. Count the days, I do."
-You were mean to my friend once. She liked you and wrote you a note tellingyou that and you told her she wasn't your type. We all knew who you liked but it was still pretty cold. Sorry for including this one, but it shocked me because I idolized you.

I also want to say I'm real sorry about what happened to yoru mom and Christopher. My mom still can't talk about that without crying. It shocked the whole town. Now that I have kids I understand a little bit, but it's still... I don't have words. I tried to get in touch with you back then but by the time I found you number it felt like too much time had passed and I didn't know what to say. I knew your mom through school. She was so beautiful and smart. Christopher was one of the most gentle souls I've ever met. I'm sorry we never got to be friends.

I've been reading your blog for a few months. I found it by googling Farm and Ranch News. I live in Portland now with my husband and 2 dogs. He's also a reformed punk. I'm a pharmacist now so some of that Biology stuck! By now you should know who I am. Hi.

08/09/06 11:24 PM

Hey! Send me your phone number. We must talk.

08/10/06 01:49 AM

Cool is a hierarchy. As uncool as you might be there is always someone less cool than you which by default makes you cooler. And even at your coolest you will never be as cool as say, Mr. T.

Cool is also situational. To the readers of this blog you are cool (otherwise why read unless to ridicule and I don't think that's why we come here). You would have been cool at 16 too, but you were in an uncool town, a town that defined cool as something else. I don't know much about Texas but I imagine cool had something to do with dipping skoal. You don't strike me as a skoal dipper.

Cool is elusive. As you note, blogger's aren't cool. To be truly cool you can't care. You can't comment, you just have to be. But if your maybe you being is creating which makes you cool again, unless you talk about it, then it fades away.

08/10/06 12:22 PM

Anonymous from Lufkin, your post made me cry a little. I'm feeling ungrounded lately, and Lufkin, claustrophobic though it may be, is some of the only ground I have. How lucky you were to have Tony as your friend at LHS. I think I found this blog doing a blog search for "Lufkin" a few months ago.

08/10/06 02:28 PM

Your honesty and self-awareness is so refreshing.
You characterize yourself perfectly.
I loved this. It inspired me to sit down and write!

08/10/06 06:48 PM

wow, raul. That note from anonymous kind of single-handedly justifies the entire blogging phenomenon right there. My mind is completely boggled.

08/12/06 07:19 AM

What a wonderful exchange from friends and strangers-
and the email from your old friend - well, raw and real-
very moving.

08/12/06 08:21 PM

I love your writing, so funny and emotional. You must promise to put it all together in a memoir someday.

Beautiful comments from Anonymous and egg.

You blog is an inspiration.

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