Miss LaPointe



I remember my freshman English teacher. Miss LaPointe. Man she was hot. She was red hot. She was a very attractive woman. Even her name was hot. Miss LaPointe. I think she was French. Talk about being “hot for teacher.”

Nobody ever cut Miss LaPointe’s class. The room was always packed. People would be fighting to get front row desks. There would be people lined up in the hallway. Standing Room Only. Hoping to get a seat in the classroom.

Miss LaPointe wasn’t TRYING to be sexy. But she was so beautiful she couldn’t HELP being sexy. She’d wear these conservative 3-piece suit kind of outfits. But with the first couple of buttons of her blouse unbuttoned. Just enough to give you just a hint of her cleavage. And every now and then she’d bend over to get something from her desk. And for a split second you’d think that one of her breasts might pop out. And there would be an audible gasp. And every male in the class — as well as several of the female lesbians in the class — would be riveted with our attention. It was a classroom learning experience for all of us.

But the thing I most remember about Miss LaPointe. She was a great English teacher. Every book she turned us onto was a classic and well worth reading. Stuff like Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” (“Tell me about the rabbits, George.”).

But the thing I most remember was this one classroom writing assignment. “OK,” said Miss LaPointe. “I want everyone in the class to be silent for the next 15 minutes. And I want you to write down whatever thoughts happen to randomly pop into your head. Whatever you happen to be thinking, just write it down ”

That seemed like a pretty novel approach. And I would spend the next 40 years of my life as an artist doing exactly that.






This probably surprises a lot of people that know me.  But I was actually a happy, well-adjusted kid all the way through 6th grade.  I grew up in a laid-back cow town in the middle of New Jersey.   And I was the undisputed leader of my gang of friends.  We roved all over town, at all hours of day and night, like a pack of wild animals.

Then, in the summer of 1968, age 11, my family suddenly packed up and moved to this suburb.  This strange and up-tight suburb about an hour from New York City.  Most of the parents worked at high-pressure, desperate-for-success jobs in NY, and I think that’s why so many of the kids were so weird, because they were under a lot of pressure, too.

When school started in September, 7th grade, I was in for a shock.  The kids were all mean and cold-hearted.  “Everybody is always mocking everybody,” I thought.  And that was the word that always described it to me: “Mocking.”  It’s like everyone was desperate to fit in, deathly afraid that they didn’t fit in, and ready to viciously attack anyone perceived as not fitting in.

This manifested itself in many odd ways.  For example, if you dared to wear white sox, that was considered an affront to all that was normal and decent.  God knows what it was about white sox. It just was.  And if you ever wore white sox to class once, you wouldn’t do it again. Believe me.  You would be viciously mocked by everyone.  Taunting jeers of “WHITE SOX! WHITE SOX!  GET HIM!”  And after school you’d almost certainly be jumped by a pack of kids, stripped of your socks and shoes, and probably have dirt and grass rubbed into your face for good measure.  It was a weird form of peer-pressure and group-think, I guess.

I was the new kid in town that year, and one of the smallest and youngest in the class.  So I knew I was a likely target for abuse.  But somehow, I got through junior high school relatively unscathed.  I think because I consciously developed an obsequious charm, and an ability to blend in and not be noticed (I didn’t wear white sox, that’s for sure!).  And I might have also had this little glint in my eyes that said:  “If-I-were-you-I-wouldn’t-fuck-with-me.”

Anyways, there was this one girl in our class who, for whatever reason, took the brunt of most of the abuse.  Sarah Gorge.  I’m not sure what it was about Sarah Gorge that made her such a target.  But she was the designated reject.  The scapegoat.  The punching-bag.  The clown.  The court jester.  For the entire class.  For that entire 7th grade year.  I have never before or since seen one person subjected to so much abuse and mockery.  I’m not sure what it was about Sarah Gorge that inspired such universal contempt.  Because she was quiet and kindly and never caused trouble.   I guess it was because she was a little odd looking.  She was sort of mousey-looking, with these big ears.  And she had big front teeth that gave her a horse-faced look.   And she dressed sort of like a 12-year-old little old lady, with her frumpy, Good Will-style clothes.  Or maybe she had cooties.  Who knows.

Virtually everyone in the class picked on Sarah Gorge.  People would call her nasty names and throw objects at her. Etc.

Sarah was subjected to the worst abuse in between classes. We all walked in the hallway to our next class in these double-file lines.  Boys on one line and girls on the other.  And whatever guy was lined up alongside Sarah Gorge, we would make a big point of walking several feet ahead of her, or several feet behind her.  As if she had a terrible smell and we would be contaminated if we got too close too her noxious presence.  Even the girls went along with it.  The girls in line, in front of her and behind her, would make a point of keeping an extra large space between them and her.  In this way (and many others), Sarah Gorge was publicly humiliated and isolated from the rest of the class on a constant and daily basis.

Sarah only had one person in the whole class that would associate with her,  Debra Simmons.  Debra was sort of a prim-and-proper young girl, wore glasses, and was Sarah’s only friend.  The two of them would eat lunch together in the cafeteria every day.  And Debra was the only one that would sit with her and walk with her and publicly acknowledge that she was a human being and not a cooty-infested humanoid.

Sometimes I wondered how Sarah Gorge withstood all that abuse.  What it did to her psyche.  But Sarah never publicly reacted to any of this, aside from occasional flashes of pain in her eyes.  Mostly she tried to maintain this goony, brainless smile.  As if she hoped that by being “nice” and inoffensive she might be left alone.  But I think that only enflamed the sadist in the 12-year-old beasts.  That she was so passive and submissive and never fought back.

The worst of Sarah’s tormentors was Johnny Goll.   Johnny Goll was the undisputed king of the class.  The leader of the pack of cool kids that ruled the roost.  Johnny was tall and thin, one of the tallest in the class.  And he had an innocent baby-face that usually fooled the adults.  But he was feared by all the kids.  He was mean, and you could see the coldness in his eyes.  And his lips were always pinched like he was about to make a cutting remark.  Which he usually was.  That was his specialty.  Making these stinging, mocking comments.  With the power of the derision of the entire class backing him up.

Doug Greggan was second in command of the cool crowd.  Doug Greggan was blonde and good-looking and self-assured, the star athlete on the football and basketball team.  One league game he actually scored 32 points.  And his girlfriend Melissa was waiting for him after the game, adoringly.  Doug Greggan already had a steady girlfriend who had already developed breasts. So he was like a man among boys.  He was living the life; he was the person we all dreamed of being.  Doug Greggan could have easily over-taken Johnny Goll as the king of the class, but Doug lacked ambition and was happy to let Johnny run the show and just go along as the admired crown prince.

Doug’s best friend was Torry Mikan, who was also good-looking and athletic, and he had this aggressive gleam in his eyes, like what some guys with an overload of testosterone have.  All the girls had crushes on Doug and Torry, so they were a formidable duo.

Rounding out the cool-kid clique was Moose Starkel.  Moose was big and dumb and blonde and the lineman on the football team.  And he was like a thug who provided back-up muscle if anybody got out of line.

Years later, I would wonder what exactly was Johnny Goll’s problem. Why was he so mean and vicious?  Because he took a special, and almost obsessive, interest in constantly mocking and debase Sarah Gorge.  It was like he had a need to lash out and hurt her.  Like he got his rocks off out of humiliating her.  With Doug and Torry it was nothing personal.  They went along with it and heaped the abuse on Sarah. But it was just for fun.  Something to do.   But with Johnny Goll, you could tell he was out for blood.

It all reminded me of the movie “Lord of the Flies.”  Where this tribe of wild boys ganged up and tormented Piggy as the designated scapegoat of the group.  Systematically destroying him.  Because they could.  The most offensive and grotesque to me were this pack of toadies that circled around the cool crowd.  There were about a dozen of these toadies.  And they were constantly trying to win favor with the cool crowd by entertaining them with their mocking attacks on Sarah Gorge.

Anyways, this one day near the end the school year we were all in our Math Class, when our teacher, Mrs Fitz, was suddenly called away for some emergency.  “I’ll be right back in 15 minutes,” said Mrs. Fitz.  “So everybody open up your textbooks to page 127 and quietly work on the assignment until I get back.”


Of course, the second Mrs. Fitz left the classroom, the entire room burst out into madness and chaos.  Needless to say, Sarah Gorge became the designated target yet again.  She was pelted with a barrage of spit-balls.  It was like it was a snow-storm of spitballs, deluging Sarah Gorge. They were bouncing off her head and her back and her dress.  People were spitting them out of their mouths, and shooting them like voodoo darts out of hollowed-out pens.  And one of the toadies actually snuck up behind Sarah Gorge with two chalk erasers from the blackboard and clapped them together, engulfing Sarah in a cloud of chalk dust.  Everybody was laughing riotously, of course, and hurling mocking insults at Sarah, as well as chanting the mocking jeer of the day:  “SARAH GORGE-Y, HORSE-FACED PIE, KISS THE BOYS AND MAKE THEM DIE!!”  And then everyone would make vomiting, retching noises in Sarah’s direction.

Just when the abuse seemed to be reaching some kind of frenzied crescendo of hysteria, Debra Simmons suddenly stood up and shouted:


There was a momentary quiet in the classroom.  We were all stunned.  What was this?  Someone standing up in defense of Sarah Gorge?  It was so unexpected and unprecedented.  We had difficulty assimilating it into our 7th grade minds.  Who was this person, and why was she spoiling our fun?

“Ah, sit down and shut up, Simmons,” snarled Johnny Goll.  “You stink like cow-pies.”

And then everybody went back to abusing Sarah Gorge.  But it was like we had been taken down several notches. Like our balloon had been deflated.  We still directed an occasional horse-laugh in Sarah’s direction, but it was like there was this metallic after-taste to our laughter now.  And by the time Mrs. Fitz returned to the class, we were already silent and strangely subdued.

Years later I would think of Debra Simmons’s righteous speech. And it was one of the bravest and most courageous things I had ever seen.  Like a lone woman standing up to an angry mob that was ready to stone a woman to death.

Sadly, even Debra Simmon’s would eventually turn on Sarah Gorge by the end of the year.  It was like the cumulative pressure of being constantly ostracized by the group finally wore her down.  Like she just couldn’t stand being a pariah anymore. She made a big show of repudiating Sarah in front of the whole class one day, and symbolically joined in with the rest of us.  So Sarah was finally completely alone.  Though, thankfully for her, there were only a few more weeks left until the end of the school year.

Well, eventually, we all graduated and moved on to the regional high school.  Half the people in the high school were from another town, who knew nothing about Sarah and her past.  So Sarah was able to quietly blend in with the crowd for the rest of her high school career.  Her senior year, she actually drove to school in a big pick-up truck, and she took to wearing cowboy boots, which gave her the air of a goony cowgirl.  Every now and then I would catch a glimpse of her face as we passed in the hallway.  And I always wondered what she was thinking.  If she still remembered that horrible year, or was scarred by it.  She mostly just seemed relieved to be ignored and left to herself.

And Johnny Goll apparently peaked early in 7th grade.  By high school he had metamorphosed into a faceless non-entity;  just another face-in-the-crowd.  One year he even came down with a bad case of facial acne. Which seemed almost like justice. Like now he was getting a taste of his own medicine.  Finding out what its like to be publicly embarrassed and humiliated.


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.



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!”

*                                            *                              *

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.



The third time I got drunk

Here We Come....

I remember the third time I got drunk.  1973, age 16, a junior in high school.  A guy in our class named Punchin’ Bob Miller — Punchin’ Bob was his nickname because he was well known for his boxing prowess  — was going to be fighting in the first round of the Golden Gloves boxing tournament.    So my pal Johnny Walker Red suggested that we show our support for our fellow Northern Highlands Regional High School classmate by going to the fight and cheering him on.   Chuck and I agreed that this was an excellent idea.

There had been a whole bunch of articles and features about Punchin’ Bob in the local newspapers and local TV stations.  Young Kid From the Suburbs Competing in the Legendary Golden Gloves Tournament!  So it was a big deal.  Personally, I always found Punchin’ Bob to be a little on the smug and arrogant side.  But then, he was young and good looking and strong as a bull and from a rich family.  So I guess it would have been hard for him to NOT be a little full of himself.   And he never once punched me, so what the heck.

The Golden Glove tournament took place in the fabulous Felt Forum, which was an annex of the legendary Madison Square Garden in New York City.  So this was the big time.   The Big Apple.  If you could make it there you could make it anywhere.   Or so I’m told.

It was about a 45 minute bus ride from the suburbs of New Jersey to New York City and when we hit Manhatten, Red had yet another great idea.  There was a chain of restaurants in New York called Burger and Brew, and the deal was, if you bought the hamburger and french fries dinner you could get all the beer you could drink.  Me, Chuck and Red were determined to get our money’s worth.  I’m amazed that they served us considering that the drinking age was 18 and we were only 16.   And we looked it.  Hell, Red with his skinny little body and face full of freckles looked like an innocent 13 year-old boy.   That is until you took a closer look at the hard glint of mischief in his eyes.  But I guess things were looser back then.  So we sat there in our cozy little booth polishing off brew after brew.  There was a warm, electric glow to the lighting in the restaurant.  You know?  That kind of lighting where you can’t see anybody’s zits and everybody looks better than they are.  Most of the people in the restaurant were corporate businessmen and secretaries having a couple pops before they took the train home.  So we felt very worldly and adult sitting there amongst them, slowly getting schnockered.  Pretty soon I began experiencing that feeling for the first time that I would come to covet in my long and varied career as a consumer of alcohol . . . that feeling where you look across the table at the guys you’re drinking with and say stuff like:  “Ya knowww . . . You guys REALLY are the GREATEST!!”

Suddenly we remembered the fight was about to start, so we quickly guzzled down the rest of our beers,  paid our bill and went romping down the wide sidewalks of downtown Manhatten.  When we got to our seats the fight was just about ready to start.  And there was Punchin’ Bob way down there standing in the middle of the lighted stage of the ring, like he was standing at the center of the universe.   “Its Punchin’ Bob!”  we all shouted.   It was a surreal feeling to see somebody we actually knew standing there on center stage.  Punchin’ Bob was throwing warm-up  sparring punches in the air and looking incredible tough and rugged  in his big, balloon-like boxer shorts.  After reading all the glowing reviews about Punchin’ Bob in the local papers we were convinced that he was destined to win the tournament and bring glory to the name of Northern Highlands Regional High School.

When the bell rang and the fight started we were cheering wildly.  But pretty soon we got quieter and quieter.   Punchin’ Bob was fighting this black guy, and the black guy was way too quick for Punchin’ Bob.  For three rounds he beat the living crap out of Punchin’ Bob.   He basically used Punchin’ Bob as a punching bag.   Even from up in the nose-bleed seats we could see how red Punchin’ Bob’s face was from all the punches he had taken.  By the end of the fight Punchin’ Bob wasn’t even trying to land any blows anymore, he was mostly just trying to cover up his head, wearily, and avoid further beatings.

When the bell sounded and the fight ended we were all a little stunned.  “Poor Punchin’ Bob,” we said.

“Yeah, but he showed he’s got guts and courage by the way he hung in there until the end,” declared Red.   And we all agreed that Punchin’ Bob had indeed brought pride and glory to the mighty Northern Highlands Regional High School.

The referee stood in the middle of the ring with the two fighters by his side as we awaited the announcer to announce the winner.   The black fighter was dancing around in anticipation of victory.   Punchin’ Bob was standing there with his head slumped down like he could barely stay on his feet.

“And the winner is . . . Punchin’ Bob Miller from Upper Saddle River, New Jersey,” announced the announcer.  When the referee raised Punchin’ Bob’s arm in the air, Punchin’ Bob looked like he could barely hold his arm up.   At first everybody in the arena was stunned.  And then there were some scattered boos and curses from the crowd.  It wasn’t like a cacophony of booing or anything.  But you could definitely tell the crowd was angry and disgusted and felt like it had been jobbed.

This old guy who was sitting next to me smoking a cigar (those were the days when you could smoke inside and men were men) and who was obviously a boxing afficionado, turned to me and said:  “They want to keep that kid in the tournament because he’s generating a lot of publicity and selling a lot of tickets.”   It was the first time it occurred to me that race sometimes played a factor in these things.  And that life was not necessarily fair.

The other thing I remember was the bus ride home.   I looked over at Red and his face was changing colors and he was contorted in pain.  “Hey Red, are you all right?” I said.

“Holy shit, I’ve got to piss like an Irish racehorse,” said Red.  “I’m afraid I’m gonna piss my pants.”  Red sat there fidgeting and groaning for the next 15 minutes until we finally got to our stop.  And Red raced out of that bus like a bat out of hell and pissed for what seemed like at least 10 minutes straight.  That Johnny Walker Red, he was a character.  I wonder what ever happened to him.   I haven’t seen him in 40 years.  I hope the years are treating him well.