When I Was in High School Street Gangs Were Nicer

My 20 year high school reunion was a year and a half ago. I addressed the subject in an unfinished blog post at the time. Then I forgot about it, which also describes my relationship with parking tickets. I just found this in my drafts folder. It’s of middling quality, which far exceeds my threshold for this blog. Consequently, I present you an 18 month old draft blog post.

This is a street gang I was in. There’s me in the middle. We look pretty harmless, but watch out when we all get out our bo staffs.

Like all cool high school graduating classes, mine just hosted a reunion commemorating 20 years since we all graduated. Or, rather, most of us graduated (my high school had the highest drop-out rate in the conference -- GO EAGLES!!!)

I couldn’t attend the reunion because I live too far away. But I saw pictures and it looked like fun. People dressed up nice. One guy wore a baseball cap. I guess I could’ve attended. It would’ve cost me over a thousand dollars though to fly over from India. Probably I would’ve got the “Most Devoted” award, if they had such a thing, but I also think my classmates would’ve snickered a little to themselves, like, “Wow, Abu Halen needs to get a life if he’s willing to fly 8,000 miles to come to this party with beer even though he doesn’t drink.” I would’ve worn my Color Me Badd t-shirt though, so there’s that.

Even though I didn’t make it to the reunion, the fact that it happened has given me occasion to reminisce a little bit on those quality years in my adolescent development. I’ll share some with you. You’re welcome.

There were a lot of dumb haircuts in Multnomah County in 1993, but I assure you mine was the worst. I don't know why my mom let me go to school looking like I did. Maybe because she was my barber and stylist. My hairstyle was kind of a mullet, but instead of just being long in the back and short on top, I had the sides shaved clean off. I wasn't even cool enough to have lines shaved into the sides like Vanilla Ice. The sides were just gone, like I’d accidentally started a fire near my ears but got it under control before it reached the top of my head or the mullet in back.

Also, as a freshman my entire wardrobe consisted of t-shirts with Loony Tunes characters on them along with oversized Loony Tunes-themed flannel boxers. Which I wore on the OUTSIDE, over my real underwear. I may have had subconscious issues with growing up, which, to be really honest with you, still kind of afflict me. Strangely, I was not beat up at all my freshman year, possibly because I appeared so out of touch with reality that the bullies worried I could snap at any moment and just go honey badger all over them.

I had a crush on Michelle Dubey. She sat by me in English class and we memorized Romeo and Juliet by practicing on each other. Then she moved to Kansas. I felt bad about that for several minutes, then I moved on to crushing on Stacy, who was in the grade ahead of me and who was dating a guy the grade ahead of her, and he was the captain of the football team, or something manly like that. I was manly too though. As I previously noted, I wore underwear like it was outerwear. So, pretty manly.

Things worked out pretty well between me and Stacy. Two years later, we were in the same AP Biology class. As such, we both occupied the same classroom at the same time three times per week. So basically we were dating. I’m not sure if we ever broke up or not. We never really talked about it, or talked at all to one another, for that matter. I’m suddenly a little worried she may think we’re still dating.

The choir at my school was super good. I wasn't really in it. Once, my junior year, they went on a trip somewhere for a choir competition, and I went to the airport with them. Then they all got on the plane, and I didn't, because I wasn't in the choir. Then their plane left, and I went home. I don't think I comprehended the cosmic meaning of it back then. 

I ran for student body president at the end of my junior year against Luke. It was just me against him. Mano y mano, which I thought meant "man to man,” but which I now know means “Spanish-speaking man to Spanish-speaking man.” We delivered our speeches to the student body late one morning over the school intercom system. My speech listed all the reasons I should be elected, such as, deforestation and Free Willy. Luke's speech was better than mine. Simply reading the day’s horoscopes aloud probably would’ve been better than my speech. Anyhow, when we finished, we both went to the empty cafeteria and we each bought a glass bottle of root beer. And we sat at a table and clinked our bottles and talked and laughed for a long time. Luke was a good guy.

Luke was such a good guy, in fact, that he let me use the 4-track recording equipment in his house to record a demo tape for my senior project. I spent a lot of time at Luke’s house that spring. It may or may not have got to the point where I’d just let myself into his house and call out, “Hi Mom, I’m home. I’m hungry, are there any Fruit Roll-Ups?” I recorded four or five songs I’d written. I wish I still had them. They were pretty good. If memory serves, one had a lyric about a picture of John Denver hanging on a wall in a bar. That was maybe the most cogent thought I’ve ever had.

Proof that I graduated from high school. Or, at least proof that I hung out with people who graduated and they let me wear their clothes temporarily. Jessica there on the left married my best friend. I’m very cool with that.

For reasons that remain unclear to me, I was selected to represent my high school at the Oregon State Mock Legislature my junior year, which was held in the actual chambers of the Oregon legislature in Salem. I think I agreed to go because I felt like something with "mock" in the title had to be at least partially fun. I didn't really understand what was going on most of the time. The other kids were really into politics. Like, they just knew all these big words, and they somehow knew all the issues. Maybe their families talked about the issues at the dinner table. We always talked about the salt and the ketchup at ours, or at least about please passing it.

I remember somebody opening the floor for discussion about euthanasia, which at the time I had never heard of. I was really confused as to why we were having a discussion about youth in Asia. Eventually the Speaker asked my opinion on the subject, and I just looked around at the whole chamber and said, "Well, they're okay, I guess." <Mic drop>