It's really quite an experience to see all of you again. Many of you see each other from time to time, but I lived overseas, and in the South, and haven't been back much. The last time I saw most of you, you weren't even 18. And now you're over 55.
So I've missed the entire full-price-movie portion of your lives.
I still like to remember my days in Rochester, and the sweetest nostalgia is that which is most dimly remembered. The most interesting things for me to recall about Bishop Kearney are not the things we mention so often, like Mike Hughto or President Kennedy's death or Oklahoma or the Aquinas Game. Those things are not even memories. They are still with me. But I love to remember the obscure elements of those years.
I remember leaving room for the Holy Spirit. To this day, when I am behind another car at 60 MPH, I still leave enough space for six cars and a pigeon.
I remember a hootenanny.
I remember how surprised I was that Nora Hickey could play the banjo.
I remember how much trouble Tony Mangione got into for wearing a Beatles wig in the gym.
I remember Victor Pinzon singing for us.
Maybe you don't even remember Victor Pinzon. I'll bet you DO remember that just a few weeks after we started school, we came the closest that mankind has ever come to nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But we weren't afraid. Oh, sure, nuclear war would have been bad for some of the ignorant people out there, but we had been trained. We were prepared for a nuclear attack.
We knew to get down low and keep our heads between our knees.
I can remember when the powers-that-be first decided to experiment with boys and girls together in a Kearney classroom experience. It was in "Library Science." I'm not sure why they called it that because it didn't seem to me that there was much science involved. I mean we had to learn how to use a library. It's not like the textbook was written by Dr. Steven Hawking. You only had to know two things:
Shut the hell up.
Memorize the Dewey Decimal System.
I remember that the entire library class was depressing for me because when I was a boy I had my whole life planned out. Then we went to Library Science and I had to change my plans when I found out somebody already numbered all the books.
Damn you Dewey, you numerical genius!
Anyway, it didn't seem to me that the whole boy/girl classroom experiment thing worked that well. Here was the boys' strategy. We would pair off and sit at the same table as some girls, but not actually close enough to make a quiet conversation, since we didn't have the sophistication required to do that. Then we would get their attention in the same way that 14-year-old boys always have: one of the guys would punch the other guy in the crotch. I'm really not sure why this is supposed to work at picking up chicks. It certainly never worked for me, but maybe some of you were more sophisticated than I was.
Now that I think about it, everybody was more sophisticated than I was.
Even the cast of F Troop.
But then again, the tactic probably worked better for the guy doing the punching.
For one thing, if he did get lucky, he could still enjoy it.
Anyway, that's how it worked. Somebody like Don Monacell would sit next to me, punch me in the crotch and use that to start a conversation with the girls. He'd pair off, and then Scott Shales would come over and punch me in the crotch, and away he would go, off to cruise on the love boat while I doubled over in pain.
And yet I knew I was really getting the better end of the deal, even as I sit there doubled over, with my head between my knees. After all, which of us was better prepared for a nuclear attack?.
Of course, there really wasn't anything we wimpy guys could do about the process. We were bound by the guy-code. For one thing, there wasn't any chance I was going to get lucky, so the guy-code required me to help somebody else out if he had a chance. But more important, how was I going to report it? "Oh, Sister Muriel, Don Monacell just punched me in the 'nads."
Now that I think about it, it would have been funny to see her reaction.
I never did have any success at that boy-girl thing in high school, so I got to wondering how teenage guys are supposed to pick up girls, so I went to the Bishop Kearney library to do some research. Sure enough, they had this book "How to Pick up Very Young Girls," and the damned thing must have been sitting in back of some other books for years, because the last one to check it out was Bob Cupello.
Oh, wait a minute. It's copyright 2004. My mistake.
Oh, hell, I've just broken the first rule of public speaking. You should never lie to your audience. I didn't really borrow this copy of "How to Pick up Very Young Girls" from the Kearney library.
They let me have Brother Heathwood's copy.
Which reminds me of another story. One night after Oklahoma, I was sitting and talking to an certain girl on the back steps between the second and third floors. Suddenly, Brother Heathwood was coming up the steps toward us. Now we were just sitting and talking innocently, Hell, even if I had wanted to do something sinful, I wouldn't exactly have known how to go about it, but it was after ten at night, we weren't supposed to be there, and we were in the dark, so I was terrified that we were going to catch all kinds of hell for being there. But ol' Brother, he just looks at us, walks past us, and says "G'night, kids. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."
Looking back on it, I just wish he could have been more specific.
Anyway, I never did read his book, too much work. After all, I was the laziest guy in our class, as far as I know.
Although I didn't really know Pat Pulvino that well.
When I wasn't feeling as indolent as usual, I created a web site dedicated to our class. I didn't register a new domain for it. As many of you know, I run many websites and own many domains, so I just used one of my old ones that wasn't currently occupied. I hope you won't be embarrassed to go to www.JapaneseSchoolGirls.com
I'm kidding. It's pioneerclass.com
You can find the Class of 1966 site by clicking here, or through the Wikipedia page for Bishop Kearney High School
The second thing I want to talk about, besides Library Science, is our principal, Brother Clark. I suppose I had a completely unique relationship with him, since I wasn't really his surrogate child, like many of you. I was more like his Moriarty. It must have seemed to him that every time he uncovered some subversive monkey-shines in the school, I was behind them. I particularly remember our last conversation when he called me into his office to discuss the Crownut, a mimeographed underground newspaper that I created and circulated from time to time.
He began by asking me what the purpose of the newspaper was and I responded, "Do you want me to give you the answers you want to hear, or do you want the truth?'
He said: "You be absolutely candid with me, and I'll do the same for you.'
So I made my case, compared it to the other stuff available, said it was no more seditious than the Coronet - no sex or rough talk - and in fact that Greg Conderacci had copied a couple of our articles almost verbatim in the Coronet. He listened to me patiently, and then said, "Greg, I can see how this would be OK for Juniors and Seniors, but we have young kids in this school, and this could cause them to think."
Those were his exact words.
It was a measure of the trust I had in the guy that I said "And we wouldn't want that to happen would we?"
Can you imagine what would have happened to me if I said something like that to some of our teachers (no names) who weren't as grown up as Brother Clark?
Anyway, I continued " ... Excuse me, brother, but it seems that the entire function of educational institutions is to cause students to think."
He responded, "Yes, but students are supposed to learn from their teachers, not from their fellow students."
And I said "Then why is it that what little I know about sex, I learned not from school, but from Larry Schoepful?"
That was true, too. Larry was a guy who went to St Salome's with me,
and maybe with my dad as well.
He was one of those guys for whom 7th grade was five of the happiest years of his life. When he finally left St Salome's, they retired his locker, like the Yankees did with Lou Gehrig. Anyway, this guy was actually, like 20 in 7th grade. I used to drive my bike to school and park it next to his Corvette. And he was my sole source of sexual education up to that time, except for some perfunctory mentions in "religion" class.
Brother Clark totally floored me with his response to this one. He said that the conservative attitude toward sex ed in the schools was not something he agreed with, but he, too, was part of a system and had to follow its guidelines. In fact, he was so candid and honest with me, and so damned mature, that he never even asked me to stop publishing the Crownut, or even brought it up again in the conversation. And yet, by the time I left, I had sheepishly volunteered to stop publishing it ... and I never created another issue. That's how smooth he was.
When I think of Brother now I always associate him with that movie, A Few Good Men, where Jack Nicholson says "you can't handle the truth." I don't know what it says on Brother Clark's tombstone, but if I had written it, it would say "Brother Joseph Clark. He COULD handle the truth."
By the way, there was one more important element to the conversation that day. As I left his office, he said to me, "Greg, you know that sex education thing we discussed. I'd rather you keep our discussion just between us. And by the way, you don't need to know much more. The whole thing is very natural and easy. If you want to be successful with the girls, all you have to do is just pair up with another guy and punch him in the crotch."