Pole Vaulters Get Three Tries
In the sixties girls would hold school books across there chest. Boys would walk along beside them and say clever things until they laughed, and then ask to carry the books, this was the dance.
This particular girl lived across the street from me, I guess she was "the girl next door" in many ways. She was walking down a long steep hill called Sunny hill to her home on Mohawk.
All the streets in our neighborhood were named after indian nations, except Sunnyhill. Several times, my friend and I had tried to ride all the way down it on skateboards. We had recently got better store bought boards that didn't start wigglin at high speeds, however; a boy from Gilkeson Rd, had tried to go down the hill on a bike without breaks and had almost killed himself the year before, so we went about ten feet and jumped off, the sting from the abrupt stop on our feet slapping the pavement was terrible, sort of like a hundred needles in the soul of your feet, it was also unbearably scary to think of jumping off halfway down at twenty miles an hour, so we quit trying,
Today, the girl next door was walking slowly down the steep street with her books held tightly to her chest, I looked at her halfway down the hill and thought, " hmmm, yes. I will make her laugh and ask to carry the books,this is what the movie inside my head is telling me,yes it will succeed".
But, at the end of my street, just before sunny hill, two new girls had just moved in, They were pretty enough, but desperate to get boyfriends,, there really wasnt much of a challenge, so I kept peering up the street, Thinking "why are they here,? this isnt in my art of the movie?."
when the girls saw her coming into view, they got an idea that this girl was wearing a trendy paper dress from England. Everyone at this time was besotted with English fashion and especially the Beatles. Beatle cards were everywhere . We read what the cards said they were like, and the things each Beatles said, and we knew them. The nightly news also had features on the styles of the era and the paper dress was the new thing, they elected me to ask her if it was one she was wearing,
At the time, it didnt occur to me that this was a stupid question that would not be apreciated, they knew it was, but at the juniour high they were new girls and new kids in the vernacular of the kids in school might be thought to be to be,,, uh,.. "dirts". Yet, If they dare asked her the stupid question the sisters feared greatly that they would fall even deeper in the eyes of there peers to..... "worms!", They were unfortunately and wrongfully bonded to their moniker as "dirts", given to them as they were simply new or unknown.
What a mess, I just thought " a paper dress?,Oh well,maybe, I might ask her, but this was really not in the script",
I went to a catholic school and so was not bothered by what ever went on at the junior high, Kids in Catholic schools were slightly less paranoid about the rising an falling of individuals as the vertical presence of Jesus anaesthatized this nonsense, though invisible, he seemed to council his followers that it was not worth the worry, but in truth, It was exceedingly rare for any young person to step back from their teenage reality to seek his presence or voice, but it did happen in these schools occasionally, in the public school next to never, despite my bad grades he was definatively present in me and still is, to many he disappeared in high school,
We had moved to this street in 1964, this girl was nine or ten then, she had really not learned to play hard to get and was easily approachable and talkative. There was a boy who had lived in the house my parents purchased who was somewhat of a bad boy, i guess, and the girl was still infatuated with his pirate escapades and bad boy things he did, At the time, this girl may have thought I was his replacement, but he seemed to me to have been trying to hard and quite frankly was rather contrived as a bad boy, sooner or later just to escape boredom, I became not a bad but, perhaps in my opinion, an unusually adventurous boy, I fancied myself more of a "circus boy" of sorts, anyways, when i would do unusual things like rolling down hills in garbage cans, other kids would say, " oh, cant you see, hes just doing that for attention?" and Id think, " yes, and it appears to be working,, so, im in a garbage can?....can u not see?, Iam the star of this movie?"
Any way, as she approached the conversation went something like this, " uhh. hello,,, um...you look pretty today," to which she would say, thank you, and then look at me like " what do you want?" it made me a little nervous and so i blurted out the question that the two sisters had put in my head," uh is that, by any chance, a paper dress? " she looked at me like I had just hit her in the head with a block of wood, and said," no its not,! I would never wear a paper dress " and she bustled away angrily. Oh dear this moviehas tken a turn for the worst.
I thought." great,...! that went badly, how long will it take for this emptiness to go away?" Right on cue, the sisters came over excitedly, and I told them it wasn't a paper dress, and I started to walk away with my bike, It wobbled badly as the elder sister in her plumpness had once again collapsed the rear wheel.... Oh great!
Later when I went to the Catho;ic high school I became a pole vaulter and it was my reason for living, I learned the first day of training that in a meet u get three trys to clear a heighth , this question about the dress was my first miss, there would be two more
The skateboarding friend that I mentioned, was pretty skinny,when I watched him move, throw, or lift anything, it was like watching the slow moving crane of an erector set moving ,once, after bullying him, he swung his fists in anger and began swearing at me, however,his arms moved so terribly slowly that they seemd to be pulled closer to my face by moths pulling on his sleeves, It was so slow and futile, I honestly thought," wait a minute ,is this a fight? Oh God, its ridiculous!"
At school though, he would join me in my bullying, one day he noticed there was a very deep and pensive look on my face, he wondered if I had succumbed to the endless drudge of learning, I assured him that wasnt the case at all, and that I was carefully observing the back of Jimmy Horgan's head over there to see if it was a good candidate for a Back of the head "fadaappping", He looked puzzled, and I said "slapping," I explained, some heads when this is done to them unfortunately, make a dull clunk,decidedly unsatisfactory, as These were not the"good smacking heads " yet, with care and a certain amount of study one can find the perfect back of the head, slightly and appropriately flat, such a one gives a delightfull smacking sound ,once you slap the back of said head, these are called, the "good smackin heads".
He was deeply intrigued with all the bad horse shit science of foolery,I never thought he would dare to attempt it, but he managed the courage to do it, and when the offendees would seek revenge, he met them with an emperious Germanic,somewhat, glowering, un blinking stare, not unlike his picture on the back page of his Memoir," Kaufman Hill," He was a bold effective bluffer, and nominally sorta brave lad.
later, in the Catholic High School I became to the teachers n coaches a "Personae sort of ineresting and we are as yet undecided about his non gratis..."
In the end,the axe fell, I had to switch to the Pub;ic school after my sophmore year, A school, like a prison, is not able to sustain discipline unless everyone submits to rules, Bieng interesting is important, noone in prison can survive alone, to a certain limited extent this attribute is a neccesary evil, like lawyers, but it cannot be the reason for living or it is a perversion that will disrupt order. I was summarily dismissed after my sophmore year.
There was a generous portion of shame, with a distant slippery wonder of new adventures in a public school with ga ga gaaaa girls.
Anyway, After this me and my partner in crime drifted apart, There was however one last incident before this time that made him wonder if I was a Demigod. There was a tall steep clover covered hill behind an upper-class high end shopping building called " Kaufmans" , The two of us would stand on top of the hill and share dreams of romance, bullying,and athletic triumph,
Because he was a skeleton with some muscel and tendons, his plan was to become a cross country phenom, he worked pretty hard at it and his freshmen and sophmore year he may or may not have gotten some acclaim, but when he went to the larger meets he noticed sadly that the big boys had another gear, and no amount of brain power could conjure up speed, Anyway we both had one thing in common, and that was the acclaim thing,We really were like two jackasses chasin the carrot and we were both dreamers, kaufman hill was the highest place in our dreamy teen kingdom,
Then suddenly it was interupted unexpecteadly, at the bottom of the hill a smallish nerdy needy boy appeared , he had advented himself to scream at us, In the course of human events he had gotten the short end of the stick from both of us, me for a series of bullying and and a sort of mental fatigue I gave him with the undeserved attention for endless clown antics at the all boy catholic high school, and my friend, for His downtown lawyer dad's kinda short changing him in wages, his dad's name for him probably was, " cant close on a tree sale for the life of him", the vehicle for the fathers disdain was a failed Christmas Tree business in the South Hill Mall in Bethel Park,,
Im not going to go into what he was saying at the bottom of the hill that day, but our dreams were recieving cannonballs, and It was clearly railing of a dangerous sort for one so small and alone in a desolate place of no adult supervision. He felt safe because he was about fifty yards away at the bottom of the hill, We attempted to stone him, but the distance was too great and he enjoyed evading the stones and laughing derisively, finally. I found a flat stone and hurled it far to the left of him at an angle upward , it seemed to stop at one point in its ascent and came chugging mystically down a steep tragectory for his person, He laughed at first and then, alarmed, he took to his heals with an unexpected bonus of girlish screaming, until the stone tracked him and smashed solidly in his buttock, he fell down swearing and cursing. My friend was always under a lot of stress, he was an A student, meticulous and perfect in everything he did, the expectaions of his parents were exceedingly high,They were wonderfull parents, but, I must say, I never saw him enveloped in complete joy until this day. He began jumping up and down and in a breathless high falsaeto began chanting, loud, but, almost breathless;y, " Hisss aaaaaasss, hhiiissss aaaaasssss it it iiittt hit him..... Right,!,, iinn ttthe... aaaaassssssss,,,,!!!!!" quite frankly. The circus boy had hit a home run, I realized in a ephiponal flash that all that my parents teachers and friends had warned me about my antics, was a lie, this is what I thought at the time of my youth, do i still bleiieve it?, ill never tell. That day it was like a movie with a happy ending for us, I enjoyed my buddies mis guided worship of me that he so genrously lavished on me, and He sang my praises at the school, but at the time of the incident I realized that there might be repraisal's from the boys family,He was moaning and screaming purportedly in pain, but it was more or less, a loud theatrical, "look at me world, look at meeee,!!" ruh ro,! I had several days of deep fearfull forboding that the world or his parents telling mine would bring punishment and real pain in my ass, quite bitter and real paranoia, and then on the other hand, deceitfull sweet sinfull pleasure in false demigod worship at school, finally it blew over.,,good riddance! The boy at the bottom of the hill never forgave me, for some strange reason he began referring to me as "Alice", which bothered me a lot. Getting even was important to him, his little name game took more out of me than the rock took out of him, quite frankly the rock had a mind of its own ,I didnt want him to be hurt just to shuttup! y My friend had an uncle who was a priest and had given him the nick name "pants with nothing in em", sure we had a lot of boyhood adventures together and we shared little secrets, In the stoning, narrative I called him my buddy, However; as I reflect, i realize that sadly.... I was never a fully fleshed out friend, nope sadly, the circus boy's only friend was his audience under the teen scene big top, Pants with nothin in em, was in truth, more of a historian for my antics, this, distance between us grew, most of it because I was just about as terrible as u could be in school when it came to academics, this alienated me from him, at school,,,, but, in the neighborhood ,and the surrounding teen hot-spots we were in some strange way bonded till the end of my sophmore year, as I was pretty much the only circus boy in town, One day I stupidly revealed my crush on the girl next door to him, I said stupidly cause it was not unlike Archie saying" hey Reggie, theres a really cool girl,.... Veronica ! on my street, uh, why don't you cruise by in your Avanti an just steal her from me,?' But anyway, all of a sudden, out of the blue, he came and said that we were both invited to a spin the bottle thing at her house. Hmm?... well, thats interesting...how in the hell did u manage that? I guess it will be okay, but I still regretted telling him about her, but,then thought," Oh well, hmm,....uh, better brush my teeth," When we arrived, we were kinda horrified that it was kids from the juniour high we had never seen before. Even as a child, I had my doubt about kids in the public schools, they seemed smarter and meaner, there sports programs were generally much better, so It was a trade off,, The other dayI heard a song that was flowing over with so much soul and funk and creativity that I really missed the eighties and Prince,, it was Prince's song which I believe is, or should be titled, "Alls I Want is Your Kiss". Well, that pretty much was my sentiment at the time too, The rug in her parents living room was too slow to play spin the bottle on so we adjourned to the back porch. When it came my turn to spin it i thought I would hedge my bets by spinning it ever so slowly towards my dream girl as if no one was watching, that was my plan, however; when I did this, there was at first, a huge question mark of aghastment and silent silence that erupted suddenly in laughter at my lil plan,,this was in the eighth grade, and it was slightly more pain full than my first miss because I should have been smarter and wiser unfortunately, I wasn't. Pants with nothing in em, seemed at this point to be several leagues ahead of me in the little race,I have to admit, he really knew how to work clothes, no one even suspected that there was nothing in em, but I thought," good luck! you're not even in the same school, and don't forget, your Catholic like me,!" any way, that was what happened ,needless to say it was my,,well you know... second miss, It was kinda strange what happened in the ninth grade, she was purposely avoiding me for some reason the whole year, occasionally, Id see pants with nothing in em, like a walking skeleton in gnatty attire sneaking around her house, but quite frankly the crush, had cooled to a minor obcession, I was consumed heart and soul with pole vaulting in the ninth grade, and even though she was interesting, I imagined there would be plenty more like her when I went to the Olympics, Hmm,,,let me see, um,yeah yknow, were kinda comin to the close, or the end of this thing, and I just wanted to remember if I really did believe that I was going to the olympics? it's hard to say really, but If I asked myself honestly, I would have to say, yes!, as I was still a child, being a child is like nothing that we will ever have or be under the influence of in our lives again,, The closest thing I can compare it to is bellieving and knowing that I will see Jesus at the end of this long life, despite many misses and some triumphs, thats all, that should really be enough.
Anyway, one day I looked over at her house and there was a bunch of guys hangin out and I thought, " well, just as christmas only come once a year, so so too that spin the bottle thing?". I brushed my teeth, and went over. The girl next door greeted me politely and demurely. but secretly hidden behind her demeanor was a little of " what the hell are u doing here tarzan? " I explained to her that I had supposed it was the spin the bottle thing time again, she paused, raised her eyebrows,laterI found that one out of about a hundred girlss was attracted to my abject honesty. She was not one of them by any means, by this time she was becoming a young lady, so she explained gently that things had changed and one of those gury was her boy friend, and they were all here for a, "get together" with other people with their girlfriends and boyfriends, I said, "oh okay I understand, bye". The old vaulting cross bars were metal, on a really bad miss they clanged loudly and would as an after thought of there own inanimate vengeance come down and clonk u in the head, That wasnt the case this time, because I had some acclaim as a pole vaulter and quite frankly thought the guys looked skinny and rather anemic. I was happy too, that pants with nothing in em wasn't her boyfriend, although that didn't keep him from tryin to be. Well that was my third miss, oh yeah, by the way, it took a long time for reality to set in, I mean, about the olympics thing. I was in my senior year and I realized that I was five and a half feet away from an olympic pole vault and had better be realistic. The school record for the pole vault was 13.9 this was a foot away as my best jump was 12,9 however; at a WPIAL sanctioned Decathlonleon Meet I somehow managed to jump about five inches higher than I ever had in the high jump and managed by the grace of God to get the high jump record. Being a consummate egotist I thought Id go to school and banners would be waving and everyone would ask for may autograph but, it was not so, one nice thing did happen though , my soccer buddy, Martin Cappoferri, AKA known as Cappo, came sauntering into my home room. which was the one large classroom by the girls gym for Drivers Ed, He announced that I had broken the school record, waved at me and left. That was rather nice ,and made the circus boy happy that day,