With Theresa gone from my life, I basically concentrated on school. My high school wasn’t an easy one. I’d chosen it because my first choice for future employment was going into space and piloting a spacecraft. To this end, I decided I needed to get into the Air Force Academy, and then apply for astronaut training. I needed a good high school and good grades. Going from a Catholic school to a public high school was a challenge. For one thing, I was suddenly confronted with Algebra and Geometry, two subjects that had not even been hinted at in my grade school mathematics classes. However, I had passed a competitive entrance exam to get in, so I should have been able to succeed. My HS had three levels: (A) Advanced College Prep, in which you got to skip your freshman year of college; (B) College Prep; and (T) Technical. I started 9th grade in the A level, but like a whole class-full of other students, came to realize we weren’t going to make it through four years of that. I did my best, but ended up in a no-man’s land in between A and B for the second semester. Grade school hadn’t really prepared me for the rigors of studying, thinking or hard work involved in high school. In my 8th-grade Geography book, for example, I learned that the reason we experienced earthquakes and volcanoes was because God willed them. No mention of stress in Earth’s crust, or magma under the surface, or underground gas pockets, or drifting continents. The science of tectonic plates was too new to be taken seriously I guess. As I progressed through high school, I learned that I wasn’t going to get into the Air Force Academy. Not only was I struggling with my studies, but you needed 20-20 vision, which I didn’t have, and no history of asthma or bronchitis, both of which I’d had. That was depressing when I learned about that. I did study, however. I remember when Star Trek came out. I longed to watch that show, but homework took about three hours, sometimes longer if I had to babysit, bathe the younger kids or change diapers. They got to watch the old 6″ B&W much more than I could then.
Studying, however, had it’s upside. While my parents dragged everyone else off to roller-skating lessons, practices, and contests in three states (they had been Tri-State champions), I got to stay behind, on my own, alone, in the peace and quiet, to study. Also, I refused to go. I just wasn’t interested. Nerds back then didn’t have video games, or Internet, or role-playing games, but we had books, and coin collecting, and science kits. Loved to mix chemicals up to see what would happen. For awhile, I kept a jar of piss and spit and fingernail clippings and hair. The results were disappointing. With real pure chemicals though, I didn’t do much better, often just creating smelly and/or smoking goo. It kept me entertained though.
Including skating practice, my brother John began spending more time on his own, with friends instead of me. Combed his hair down, a la Beatles, and even found a part-time job after school and summers on a PC-board assembly line. He never said how he got the job, or where to go, but many years later said I could have just gone to a place downtown and applied, which I never knew. Thanks John. We had both worked together with our snowball stand for a few years. It made money, but only enough to buy a few pair of socks, or candy, or books, or things like that. We had tried, unsuccessfully, to sell magazine subscriptions door to door. We had both worked at the same hamburger place. I liked that job, but they never gave me many hours. I was spending increasing amounts of time in the attic room we shared by myself (hence the human waste experiment). I read a lot of course, and studied. I also discovered masturbation on my own. I told John about it, but he had spent a year going to some sort of pre-seminary high school out of state and had learned about it from those guys. We tried doing it at the same time, as it didn’t seem to have any stigma attached to it at the time. I mean, if seminary students did it, why not? It was exciting to discover this fun fact about our penises, and speculate about how much or how high we could shoot in the air. After that though, we kept it to ourselves, but it was hard to completely hide when the covers of your bed were inexplicably tented in the middle of the night. Discovered masturbation before I even knew what it was for or what sex was. It wasn’t so easy to know about in the 50s and early 60s, and our dad took his time getting around to the talk, which was actually so vague we had to complete the lesson through books and magazines.
John was interested in girls, and actually had dates. After one such date I remember him telling me that he had gotten his finger in, and he was really excited about that. He did enjoy french kissing, although once, his tongue got stuck in her braces, and that was embarrassing. He married her right after graduation, and they had a baby soon after.
Since I didn’t skate, and there were no girls in our high school, I didn’t know anyone I could ask out, after the falling out with Theresa. Once I saw a obituary for a grade school classmate’s father and called her up to express my sympathy. I also asked if she’d like to go out sometime. Very tasteless, tactless, and stupid. She was the one that had persuaded Kathleen to rat me out, and was always trying to trip me, so I thought maybe she had liked me. I think I called her another time to invite her to a dance at my high school, but she said no.
That was how high school went socially. I was in clubs after school: Science, coin collecting, camera, computer, and even in plays. Those were odd, since we had no girls, but we simply wore wigs and sock-stuffed bras and took on those roles. (This was a very different time. Frank Zappa was born in this same town 10 years before I was.) Even the captain of the football team and many of our teachers got into the act, donning wigs and dresses. Hey, the pictures are in my yearbook – I wouldn’t make up shit like that! We had Christmas plays, and we had The Poly Follies. They were not serious drama, but just for fun; we even had faux can-can dancers one year. I tried out, but couldn’t cut it as a dancer. I ended up being a female nurse with a line or two that year. One time I was a folk singer – not too bad at that. Other times I was one of many sailors or soldiers. Drama showed up later on with the introduction of the Drama Club. Our first production, Mr. Roberts, had only one woman, and we borrowed her from the girls’ high school. Once I got a part in one of their plays: Sorry, Wrong Number, in which a man plots to have his wife killed (yes, those were very different times). I was the hired killer. There was only the one girl and her drama club director, so I didn’t get to know any girls there. I had a pass to be in the halls, and was often challenged by teachers as I went to and from rehearsals. That was my biggest thrill – being able to walk through the all-girls school with impunity. I wasn’t much of an actor though, so that one play was my only one there. The director even took over that last scene, on a dark stage, when the killer rushes into the house suddenly and strangles the woman. No one could tell it wasn’t me, and he thought it was more effective. The audience screamed. He got to deliver the last and title line, instead of me. Ham.