« Life At The Top, Redux »

I still feel that my best reflection on the years since high school graduation was written in 2006. You can revisit that entry here. I haven't reread it though I checked last year, and even then I had to concede that there wasn't much I would need to do but refer to the 2006 entry for a great idea of what life has been for me since that pivotal point. The year of 2006 was 15 years on, and this year—17 years on—doesn't mean anything in its "17-ness" but it does invoke the thought that it was indeed half a lifetime ago when I donned cap and gown for a while and did the worthless tossing of the tassel from one side to the next, not to mention the actual tossing of the cap into the air for some unknown reason.

ed standing behind drum kit, dressed in tux, ready for prom nightBut one important thing did come out of that period. On the day after graduation from Madison, it was a "June gloom" Wednesday. It was odd to be at home on a day in the middle of a week. Wednesdays were school days, by Jove! It didn't yet feel like summer. It wasn't hot or cold, but it was too hot to do work and too cool to sit around. I biked over to The Wherehouse at Clairemont Square and bought a copy of Yes' 90125 on cassette (don't ask me why I didn't get it on CD). I might have played drums a bit. The day was sort of surreal. There was not a sense that it was the summer yet, as such a feeling doesn't sink in for a few days or weeks. But there was some current of sensation that I had crossed a new precipice. It was like putting on a piece of clothing which hasn't yet been broken in, but that had promise.

Aside from what was an otherwise mundane day after a week of finals, senior breakfast, rehearsal, yearbook signing, family dinner (and one with Steve Rau and his dad from Germany) and other senior class activities, I did do one thing that clearly was to leave a mark on how I did life from then on. On that June 12th, I had the house to myself until my old man came home from work in the afternoon. On a couple school years' past, I wrote some short reflection on what the year had been to me, but this year there seemed to be more to say than what one page would hold. I ended up penning the first of the sort of journals that initially filled notebooks and other media like this blog. Oh, the ink flowed that day. I wrote a huge, sprawling reflection on life, but mainly focusing on the high school experience that now finally had the cap put on it.

It was off to a bit of a pretentious but hopeful start in its title alone. I called it "Life at the Top" and following the date, I subtitled it, "the day after the end of my life." I guess that points to the great uncertainty of the future, which for me was not planned beyond a summer of drumming as much as I could, a trip to Europe, and mentally preparing to go to community college in August. Really. I had no great plans to go to the school of my choice and major in one thing or another. So at that point, it was as if I was living past the end of my life as I had known it, and really had no idea what came next, what would define life for me. The title spoke of an optimism that I felt, because I think the year before was the beginning of a sense that my life amounted to something, even in its struggles, and for that school year, I felt good somehow. So began the self-introspective journals, seeking some system to the random flux of things, personalities, lessons.

Life at the top for me then described that I had an academically successful year that also had a few extra experiences which made that year special. There was the well received talent show performance of Walk This Way; the April Fool's prank on Katrina; the Future Educator's club; the articles I wrote for the school paper; all the great times hanging out with Stephan Rau from Germany; holding my own against ace student Robert Asimovic in Government class; being a TA in a sophomore English class; "the" photo session before prom; the Ameri-Kraut outing to Balboa Park with Stephan, Shelby, Trudi (latter two from Mission Bay high, but Trudi was also from Germany, and my unenthusiastic prom date); and more. That was much of the stuff that defined that year alone, but there were other things that shaped me during the high school period.

I told how I was inspired by Rick Allen to play the drums. And in 11th grade, play the drums, I did! It became my all-consuming interest. By senior year, I was already known as a drummer, and certainly, the talent show helped bring that to the fore. I remember a community carnival held the weekend after the talent show and some girl came up and recognized me from the show and complimented it. So much for my face-in-the-crowd status of years before.

It was during that time when I defiantly got in touch with my step mom Eda who had by that time moved to Mexico and back. She was persona non grata around my house for years since her 1983 departure and 1984 divorce. It took some doing to get letters to and from her, but it worked out so that she was back in the picture (at least with letters) by the time I graduated. And that was good timing too, since she always seemed like mom to me, and by the time I graduated, I had already known a couple years of silence between my biological mother's family and me (the First Era, as it came to be known). So in this Life at the Top journal, I was commenting on how that renewal of relationship with Eda was for me.

I also devoted wayyyy too many words to the matter of Shelby, something I would continue to do for about another—ahem!—ten years! But at that time, I was filled with optimism for how things would play out with her. She was, rightly speaking, a person who really ignited something in me when I was ultra uptight and conservative and paved the way for me to peer a lot deeper into life, but even by the time of writing LatT, was witnessing the patterns that would play out for years to come, and many of the hurtful things that happened in those subsequent years had some sort of precedent that I chose to ignore. (The summer following this journal was utterly filled with journaling about the relationship that was all but destined to explode between us. My god, that was pathetic, but hey! One day I shall burn all that shit in effigy!) To be fair, there was a time when Shelby was everything good in life, but maybe I need to remind myself that most of that was really a far shorter period than I let on to, back in 1988-89. But not to rain on the parade of 1991, there was complete and unbridled optimism about her place in life. Still, sometimes the best-learned lessons are those that are learned with greatest difficulty so from today's vantage point, I still value it all somehow. It was, as I say, preparatory for all that really matters now (even if it took exactly 12 years to learn what I needed to learn before I graduated from that particular school of hard knocks).

I also reflected on how my high school experience was marked by academic improvement all the way through compared to my earlier school experience. I actually liked a lot of it. This is in contrast to a lot of people who hate school and want to do all they can to avoid it. But I never ditched classes or any of that. I wasn't an ace student, but I began with a 2.17 and graduated with a 3.33 which at least showed that I made a good effort. But in LatT, I reflected on a day shortly before ninth grade began a few summers before. It was the first of a series of transformative experiences linked to my church, and more specifically, my pastor Jerry. That one day in 1987 somehow lit a fire under me, and centered me for a good while to come, and somehow instead of ruining my high school experience with the usual teen angst, I did pretty well, and by graduation, I was pleasantly surprised at myself. There was a time in 11th grade when I was so into my church life that it was hard to decompress at the end of a weekend and to step into the shoes of a student. It was during that time when I took part in the church's book study on Martin Buber's book, I and Thou. I'm fairly certain I was the only one of my peers who did that.

Part of what made senior year good was that I was more social in the school setting. I spent time writing about that in LatT. I was not very much so in the years before. I was just a face in the crowd. My old man always hounded me to make the most of high school because as he'd say, they're the "best years of your life." Maybe it was for him. I don't think I could say it, but something was at work that made more of the last year at Madison. Steve Rau was not a sidekick of mine, but he did embolden me in the way that having "someone in your corner" can do. He was smart and likable. Maybe I rode his coattails, but something was at work within me, and he and I had a relationship on the outside of the school schedule, and even as I occasionally talk to him these days, there is a rapport that lets us be free to talk. Back then, we were seen a lot together. Later developments took me to his place on two consecutive trips to Germany, and that of course was an experience which was key to enlarging my world view. But at the time, we started off with laser light shows, movies, stock car racing, overnighters, local tourism, and a healthy dose of humor from KGB-FM before they totally sucked balls. My world of mid 1991 was well defined by Stephan and Shelby.

Ed holding snare drum in casual senior class posed pictureI had my own brand of teenage angst, but it wasn't acted out the same as many others. For that, I am grateful to my church which at the time had a thriving program that kept me feeling included in activities that were stimulating, socially and emotionally. But I did get to having depression in late 11th grade. It coincided with starting my first job—ironically at the place where I loved to hang out every weekend just a year before. I wrote about how the doldrums of the summer of 1990 were brought to an end when I finally let go and went to the photo session for my senior photo. By that time, the routines of church activity were time consuming, especially when coupled with school and my love for drums. I willfully ignored a first chance to get the senior class photo session done and put it off till the last chance was offered. I had some fun. The photographer made me feel at ease somehow, and that carried over into the final year, and in its way, was the kick in the ass that was needed to go to another level, the same as the 1987 conversation with Jerry had done a while before. The photo session included a few poses, and my prop of course was the wonderfully shiny chrome Premier snare drum that I bought a few weeks before. Unfortunately, the decision for the photo to be used in the annual was made by some faceless entity and the worst possible, ugliest, most conservative and stiff looking picture was picked for inclusion. Damn it. I should have done the first session in June!

I typed up the entire Life at the Top journal and made copies of it back in the day when I only had a word processing typewriter and had to go to copy machine at the post office or school or something. It was a gift I gave out to some significant people back then. I don't know if it was really life at the top, but that period had some worthwhile pointers to what was meaningful then and now is a tentatively useful yardstick of progress since. I think a lot of it is corny as hell now, but some of the players went on to play roles for years later, and some still do. Step mom Eda and I still are in contact, and we get together several times a year for long days of talk and lunch. Some of the time spent at the church leads directly to today; Jerry from church continued to be a great teacher for years and years. I still consider him the best teacher I ever had, even though I had to part with the church. Kelli was a girl who came to town from Florida with her mom, both seeming hippy-like in their wild colors and their talk about folk music and stuff. She and I took part in a lot of stuff back then, but I had no idea I'd end up marrying her! (Though she did let me talk fondly of Jethro Tull, and let me give her copies of my Tull recordings.) It is funny to reflect that part of what I told myself in order to endure the trials with Shelby was that it was important to build a history, and then that would sustain a relationship somehow. Of all the ink spilled to that end, the fact is that it was Kelli—with hardly a thing mentioned in journals for years and years to come—who ended up quietly being that friend and confidante that completely flew under my radar for just as many years as Shelby was in the picture. Now, that is pretty remarkable.

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