Thursday, June 08, 2006

Those Days In Texas


In high school I was editor of the Ram Country Review, the high school paper. Nobody wanted to be on the high school paper, not the honor students busting their collective asses to take AP courses, not the athletes, not anyone. So I enlisted a bunch of guys who were known as burn-outs, druggies who wore Social Distortion t-shirts, the ones that carved anarchy symbols into their desks with exacto knives. Our teacher was pregnant and then going through a divorce in the years I was on staff and checked out, and I wrote damn near every article in the paper except the center two pages that were reserved for news about heavy metal music. We had Heavy Metal Now!, Heavy Metal Hotline, Heavy Metal News, and Local Heavy Metal. Despite my relative disinterest, I could tell the difference between a Metalica song and say, the Dead Kennedys.

We spent a lot of time in the staff room discussing music and life since the demands of the paper weren't all that much. One of my staff members by senior year managed to have a wife, child, and a new mistress, dark circles around his eyes and a devilish smile. He wanted our opinion on what to do and since I wrote the advice column, I did my best. I told him to rock on. What, if nothing else, did Heavy Metal Hotline teach us? The Ram Country Review also gave me my first publication, one I shared with my friend Hank. When the Challenger space ship exploded, I wrote an article on the tragedy and Hank wrote a poem. Both were predictably awful, mine as exciting as an entry in Webster's Dictionary and Hank's poem as maudlin as a Carly Simon song. But as any writer knows, any publication is good, and I still have a copy of it, Valentine's day so many years ago. Who would have guessed that Heavy Metal Hotline would have yellowed like a clipping from the ancient past?

Michelle's Spell of the Day

"Recovery is eighty percent of lead guitar." Willie Nelson

Texas Two-Step

50 ml scotch whisky
25 ml Drambuie

Pour over ice.
Benedictions and Maledictions

First published in Bordersenses

Those Days In Texas

When we got old,
we were going to live
on an island. I would
still have great legs,
and he would know
a thousand more blues
songs. We'd gossip, our
favorite past-time since
childhood, and he'd turn
a blind eye to my faults
which would be easy
since the doctors said
he'd be completely blind
by then anyway. When
we talked about this,
we lived next door to
each other in shitty one
bedroom apartments, walls
so thin you could hear
the wind even when it
wasn't blowing that hard.
He barely made it into his
thirties and died in another
cramped apartment, this one
in Philadelphia, and when I
think about those days
in Texas, poor as we were,
having nothing but our youth,
I'm pretty sure that was the island.

12 comments:

Cindy said...

Michelle,

you're adorable! Love your cemetery look, so cute in such a sad setting.

xo
Cindy

Anonymous said...

Was that one of your writing teachers buried there?

Anonymous said...

What's an "anarchy symbol"?

Anonymous said...

You could be an advice columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Michelle,
I joined the highschool newspaper staff my senior year so I could skip school. I had the perfect alibi: I was selling ad space at the local businesses downtown. It wasn't until years later that I supervised an inmate newspaper at the Ryan Correctional Facility. Our main writer was a man, who in a fit of rage, shot his eleven year old in the head with a shotgun, killing him instantly. On the day of sentencing the judge asked someone in the courtroom to get this guy a newspaper. The judge made him recite the Piston's score the night before--a whopping 120 points. The judge told him, "That is how many years you will do in prison." So much for anarchy. --Jim

Wichita-Lineman said...

The Heavy Metal Hotline...Party on Wayne, Party on Garth.

An ex-Girlfriend of mine was the editor of the Wayne State newspaper. I wrote a few CD reviews. It's was funny to see my name in print next to "Hearts Greatest Hits Vol. 2". The greatest perk in that relationship, advance press screenings of movies.

Anonymous said...

Then the defendant (see "other such vagaries"above) says, "But judge, I can't do 120 years." The judge says, "Do the best you can."

John said...

Dear Michelle,

Another beautiful, sad, again beautiful post. Bravo! This is your childhood/lifelong friend Hank, yes? Not, I don't think, just another writing instructor.

Paul said...

Graveyard girl, you're managing to bring tears and joy at the same time. Rock on, Mighty Isis!

R2 C2

Jason said...

In middle school I wrote an article for The Jeffersonian condemning the police officers involved in the beating death of Detroit Malice Green. I did this for two reasons. First, even in 8th grade then I was in love with my own opinions. Secondly, our paper staff supervisor was black and i desperately wanted her to now how "cool" and "ready to turn the boats back" I was/am.

Cheri said...

Michelle,
I too wrote for the school newspaper and skipped around town like Jim- only I had an ulcer and went home most of the time to choke down peptobismaul and eat crackers. I have more to say but I'll end up typing forever. =D

Sheila said...

Is that the Hank you always talk about in class? I used to go to the cemetery all the time with my mother visiting and keeping up our familys plots... but when my grandpa Hartman died June 11, 2001 I took it really hard... I haven't been to his grave since the day we put him in the ground... i guess i'm afaid i'll break down... maybe this sunday i'll go... your photo kinda reminded me of how much i want to go but am afraid... loved the poem. sorry about Hank.