The Senior Prom — pretty as a picture

It’s hard to believe my Senior Prom was almost exactly 40 years ago today.

I used to have this laminated photo from my Senior Prom.   It was one of those deals where the people putting on the Prom send a professional photographer around from table to table to capture the Magic Moment, and you could buy a copy for a couple bucks to keep as a memento of that Magic Night.  I probably still have a copy stashed away somewhere amidst my piles of storage locker crap.

In the photo, me and a couple of my high school friends are sitting at our table with our dates.  And its amazing, we all look so young and handsome and beautiful and sexy and fresh-faced and wholesome in our rented tuxes and swanky dinner gowns.  I was going to say “innocent” but if you look closely you can see just the hint of this hardened smirk in some of our eyes, because we had all been through so many weird scenes during the course of our senior year that there was already that look of: “Yeah, yeah, but there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface of this nice, bland prom photo than you could ever guess!”

If you look at the photo, you can also see all the bottles of hard liquor sitting on our table that we had smuggled in for the Prom.  We thought we were pretty slick.   Course, shortly after the photo was taken the management swooped down on us and confiscated all our booze.  The bastards!!   Which was probably just as well.  Because I remember I had a nice, creamy buzz going that night anyways.

The other interesting thing about that photo: It captures us at that exact moment when we’re poised between childhood and adulthood.  The Senior Prom is like your first big practice run into adulthood.  The end of our 13-year school careers, and the first step into  the adult world of independence, jobs, careers and marriages (and, amazingly, one of the couples in the photo is still married 40 years later!).

The weird thing for me was, my senior year of high school was one of the most fucked-up years of my life.  Everything went wrong that year.  My 17th year was one disaster inflicted on me after another, from start to finish.  It was one of those years where you’re never quite the same afterwards.  Your psyche is wounded in all sorts of ways you never quite recover from.  Like the relentless pressure from what you experienced melts the steel of your soul and twists it into this gnarled, gargoyle shape.

But by some weird fluke, the three or four week period around Prom time was a relatively normal period for me.  It was like a tiny oasis of normality amidst the swirling sea of abnormality that was my 17th year.  Its like the Gods of Karma decided to ease up on me for just a bit:  “Hey, fellas, this dude’s ready to crack.  Lets throw him this bone just to keep him going.  Lets give him at least one normal moment to remember his senior year by.”

It was a nice, happy, pleasant night for me.  Aside from that,  I don’t remember much else about that Senior Prom.   Which is probably just as well.  Because if I had fucked up in some spectacular way, I’m sure I would have remembered that.

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The Class of 1974

.Image result for northern highlands regional high school "class of 74"

Ahh, the legendary Class of 1974.  Considered by many to be one of the most admired and impressive high school classes in recent memory.  Who could forget the Class of 1974!

I recently recieved a notice that the Class of 1974 would be holding their 40 year reunion soon. I briefly considered going.  But then I remembered my life had turned out to be a hopeless botch.  So why should I give all the bastards that hated my guts the satisfaction of finding that out.  Let ’em find out when I commit some horrific act that lands me on the frontpage of all the newspapers, just like everybody else.

I keep thinking:  “Why couldn’t they have had the 40th year reunion back in 1994?  I still had all my hair back then, and was actually kind of hip and successful at that point.”  Oh well.  Maybe if I make it to my 60th year reunion, I’ll finally have my shit together by that point.

It reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons.  Its a class reunion, and everyone in the class has turned out to be a bum, wino or derelict.  And one of the bums is saying to another bum:  “Ya know, I thought it was me.  But maybe that school was no damn good!”

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I couldn’t help thinking of my last memories of my high school career back in 1974.  The graduation ceremony took place on the football field behind the school.  All the parents were up in the stands  . . .

I remember a couple nights before there had been the big Graduation Party.  This final blow-out at Steven Dunst’s house.  Steven Dunst was the star quarterback of the football team.  And just about everyone from our class was crammed into his suburban house that night.  Partyin’, man!  As only the Class of 1974 could do it (we were kinda’ famous in that regard).  I went to the big party with my friend Donna.  We were the “class stoners.”   So we felt we had an obligation to drop some acid to add some sparkle to the festivities.

When we entered Steven Dunst’s living room  the acid was just starting to take effect.  Its wonders to behold.  A rock band — made up of the coolest of the cool kids in our class — was jamming out some tunes at the far end of Dunst’s living room.  They were playing Eagles songs and Byrds songs and all the cool folk-rock songs that were in that year.  I distinctly remember they were playing the Eagles hit “Take It Easy” at the time.  I wanted to get a closer look at the band, so I wormed my way through the packed crowd and sat down right up front on what seemed like an excellent place to sit.  What I only realized much later — much to my chagrin — was actually a glass coffee table.

Anyways, I’m sitting there grooving to the music when all of a sudden there’s this loud explosion, this loud popping sound.  And I remember these beautiful, chrystaline shards of glass flying into the air in all sorts of spectacular psychedelic patterns.  The next thing I know I’m sitting there on the floor amidst all this broken glass.  The band  stopped playing “Take It Easy”  like THAT —     . . . . .  That was one of the most shocking aspects.  That it had went from this loud, booming, electric party noise to total silence, in a blink of an eye.  And everybody in the room was STARING at me.  And they all looked shocked, angry, and displeased.   I knew instinctively that somehow,  something bad had  happened, and that it somehow involved me.  But my acid-addled brain couldn’t quite put the pieces together.  For a second I thought:  “This is surely one of those whacky LSD hallucinations that  happen with regularity while tripping.  Wait’ll I tell Donna about this one.  She’ll laugh good.”  And I felt a momentary sense of hopefulness.  Which quickly passed.

Then I was at the kitchen sink, and Donna was running water over my hands, trying to wash the blood and shards of broken glass off of my hands.   I spotted Steven Dunst off in the distance.  He was rushing back and forth from room to room with  his hand up on his forehead in an anguished pose.  I suddenly felt a strong and compelling need to talk to Steven Dunst personally.  To resolve this problem.  Whatever it was.  Perhaps the glass coffee table could be repaired.  Possibly with glue and scotch tape. . .

Then Steven Dunst is standing before me.  Me and Steven had gone back a long ways.  We had both been the 11th and 12 men on the Jay Vee basketball team back in 1972, and we had spent a lot of time during the course of the season sitting at the end of the bench and arguing over which one of us was in fact the worst member of the team.  (Ed. note:  According to reliable sources, it was Dunst.)    I was about to tell Steven an amusing anecdote from that season past when he said:

“Just leave.”

Me and Donna skulked out of the party.  We spent the rest of the evening driving aimlessly around the suburban  streets of New Jersey, waiting for the acid to wear off.  At least Donna didn’t desert me that night.  I gotta’ give her points for that.  I was rapidly sinking into a subhuman funk of despair.  This black hole I would never pull myself out of.  Everything amplified a thousand times over by the fiendish intensity of the LSD.

“Just don’t think about,” said Donna.

I thought about that for a moment.

NHRS, Allendale

 

Then we got out of the car for some fresh air.  We were standing atop this off-ramp, by this bridge that over-looked the freeway below us.  I watched the car headlights blasting off like rockets into the distance.  And wished I could get in one of those cars and take off and never look back.  For a second I considered jumping off the bridge.  But then I figured I had already done enough stupid stuff for one night. . . .

A couple days later it was Graduation Day.  I shuffled through the ceremony in a zombie stupor.  Later, a couple of us were sitting around on the front steps of the high school.  It was the end of the line, the end of our high school careers.  And we were all poised to go our separate ways forever and embark on our adult lives.  Suzie Q, the high school sexpot, passed by, and made a quick joke.  “I heard you had a smashing time at Dunst’s party the other night.  Ha ha.”  She had always considered me a fool.  And now I had officially confirmed it.

Oh well.  That’s life.  But I’ll tell you one thing.  To this day I STILL hate that fucking song “Take It Easy.”  Whenever it comes on the radio, believe me, I can’t change the channel fast enough.

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