I was in English class, reading Saul Bellow's Henderson: The Rain King.
I was in the back hiding under my jacket reading while the rest of the
class was watching Finding Nemo. I was never a model student by any
means, but if the class was interesting, I would try to get as much out
of it as possible.
The teacher came over and asked what I was
doing. Since it was an English class, and we were watching Finding
Nemo, I figured it wouldn't be a problem if I did some actual, you
know, reading. The teacher always knew I was an excellent writer, and I
figured she'd give me a pass.
Quick aside- she knew I was a good
writer (or at least creative) after this: we were assigned "R.A.F.T."
essays, which were essentially free-form creative writing projects.
We'd have around twenty minutes to finish, and then a few people would
present. I always loved doing these, and I love public speaking, so it
was great for me. One day, I was really exhausted and didn't feel like
doing much of anything, so I blew the day's assignment off. Naturally,
the teacher called on me. After trying to worm out of it for a bit, I
realized she wouldn't take no for an answer. I stood up, with
absolutely nothing written and no ideas, and walked to the front of the
class with a blank piece of notebook paper. I stood there for about
five seconds before I started saying the first thing that came into my
head, which was Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Here's how it went:
Twinkle, twinkle, little star... how I wonder what you are...
You are a massive fusion energy plant
You shatter and fuse the building blocks of the universe
You breathe life into our modest world
Twinkle, twinkle, little star... now I know just what you are.
like that, anyway. I'm paraphrasing. I'm sure it didn't sound so
elegant. I remember I was jittery when I was speaking, since I was
making it up on the spot.
Apparently it was a huge hit, she
loved it. At the end of class, she asked for my paper and I told her I
lost it or something. Anyway...
She took my book. This was the
last thing I expected, since it was an English class, after all. I was
never a defiant student and I never caused trouble, I always kept to
myself. I got up, and went up to the teacher's desk. Not really sure
exactly what I expected to happen. I guess I thought that she'd give me
the book back or something? I stood there looking at her, and she was
looking at me with a "what are you doing here?" sort of expression. I
took my book from her desk, gathered my things, and left to sleep in my
car the rest of the day. I never went back to that class.
end of the semester, my parents got a phone call about my absenteeism.
When they confronted me about it, I deflected. I always hated it when
my parents intervened on my behalf, since I wanted nothing more than to
be a self-motivated independent person. They obviously got pissed at
me, and eventually I told them the story. I felt guilty about it. I
felt as if I acted like a petulant child (which, I guess, I did).
My parents were shocked at what happened. Much to my dismay, my father decided to take up arms on my behalf.
father: he does not raise his voice when he gets angry. He is prone to
outbursts when provoked on a personal level, but when he feels
affronted by any sort of institution, his rage is channeled into an
even-keeled smoldering voice of passionate reason. I wasn't around to
hear his side of the conversation with my English teacher, but after it
was over, my mom staggered out of the room, looking for all the world
like she just had the fuck of her life. She was actually jumping up and
down with eyes wide describing the verbal onslaught that was just
issued upon my teacher. For the first time, I was happy that my parents
decided to sling stones for me as I looked on.
The next day, I
went into that English class. The teacher pulled me aside, and offered
me a deal. I was to do a presentation on anything that I wanted. I had
to do it well, no bullshitting. If I did that, she'd give me a passing
At the time, I was very interested in what the internet
decided to call "urban exploration." Basically, the exploration of your
immediate environment. My immediate environment was a yawning
megalopolis of pavement, peppered with buildings and dimpled with storm
drains. I couldn't wait to get started on this project.
skipped classes, stole garbage bags from the bathrooms and taped them
around my shoes, and explored up and down the old storm drain outside
the school, cataloging the experience with pictures. I snuck into every
nook and cranny of the campus. Every boiler room, elevator shaft, and
computer room there was. Then, I decided to climb up on the roof. Bad
I'd been up there before. Once, on a lark, I decided to
climb the radio tower up there. To this day, I'm shocked nobody saw me
and called the cops for that one... it was a very tall tower. I knew
how to get up there, I knew how to get down. Outside a boiler room on
the second floor, climb an AC vent on the second story roof, and pull
up onto the top of the building. So, up I went. And I brought my camera.
this day, I'm embarrassed to look at the pictures I took. Maybe I'll
post them with faces blurred or something, because they're pretty
funny. First few pictures, empty torch-down expanse of rooftop. A few
shots out onto the road, and some silly pictures of the campus below. I
took some pictures of the lockers on the second story from over a
ledge. Then I went back down the way I came up.
When I got back
into the boiler room, it seemed like something was wrong. There was
people running all around, and I heard radios. I sat there, knowing
what I'd see when I looked at the pictures. About fifteen minutes
later, I looked at them, knowing what I'd find.
Students pointing, administrators on radios, people running all around. Fuck.
I sat there for another ten minutes before walking calmly out the door, hoping that nobody would notice me. I wasn't so lucky.
SRO grabbed me by the back of my shirt and pushed me against the wall
and cuffed me. My computer teacher feebly vouched for my integrity as I
was led off. Fortunately, I wasn't actually arrested. They led me to
the office, where they browbeat me about this and that. I was freaked
out, I thought I was going to jail. My parents were pissed, too. They
called them in. We all laugh about it now, but at the time, I was
I ended up not finishing the project and I got a D in the class.