Tag Archives: astronomy

‘Hmmm: Where IS that lizard?’

It’s Friday. That means a memoir-in-progress flashback to the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s.

 

March 9, 1982: “Anthropology essay due. Don’t think Ms. Maserang-Hodge-McCoy will be humored by, ‘Why My Ethnocentricity Is Best.’ ”

On further review: My college anthropology teacher really did have a double-hyphenated last name. It had something to do with her white-hot hatred of men. As I recall — and I might be making this part up — each of her last names was based on her maiden name, her mother’s maiden name, and her grandmother’s maiden name.

And also, she did not “get” my essay. I got an “F.” I made a “D” in the class — the lowest grade I ever got in my life, except for that “I-minus” (equivalent of D-minus) in seventh grade math, but I have blotted most of that nightmarish seventh grade year in Jefferson City from my mind. The only thing that period of my life gave me were stories to tell someday to therapists and psychologists. 

I’m not kidding.

– From the pages of My Senior Drear, the day-by-day, hour-by-hour log of each day of my four years of tormenting classmates, teachers and administrators at Belle High School …

Monday, March 9, 1981 – Before school: picked up Kelly; mailed my financial aid form. … Second hour (astronomy): Saw a film about Alaska. What a bore. What the heck does that have to do with astronomy? … Had baseball practice after school …

Quick step back to the 70s, from my freshman year … Thursday, March 9, 1978 — Mostly boring and hot. First hour band: Played “Battle Hymn of the Republic” ALL HOUR! The brass section sucked today. Alto saxes? We rocked, of course, as usual. … Second hour: showed my pet lizard around the room. Got in trouble for showing my pet lizard … Fifth hour: PE. My lizard is missing. Check the cafeteria …

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My (not so) finest hours

It’s Friday. That means a memoir-in-progress flashback to the big hair and big dreams of the 1980s.

From the pages of My Senior Drear, the day-by-day, hour-by-hour log of each day of my four years of tormenting classmates, teachers and administrators at Belle High School …

Monday, Feb. 23, 1981 – Second hour (astronomy). Some stuff about Saturn. Ten or 11 moons, rings are made out of chunks of ice, blah blah blah … and these notes:

“Uranus orbits the sun once for every 84 earth years. It has five moons … Tim asks Mr. Abel how many of the moons could fit in Uranus. Mr. A. ignored him … I asked Tim how many moons he thought would fit in Uranus. Tim says, ‘We’re not talking about myanus. I’m wondering about Uranus.’ However, I respectfully insisted, ‘Myanus ain’t nobody’s business.’”

Laughter. Hysterical laughter. (At least from me and Tim).

“Mr. A. says he’s worried about me and Tim … Worried we’re going to end up in prison someday.”

How to not win

In a moment I’ll present the evidence of one of the most bone-headed decisions I ever made – at least up to the point of me being 17-years-old. I was a speech-and-debate nerd and excelled in original oratory (wrote a speech, memorized it, delivered it in compelling, convincing manner); debate (when we were on the “affirmative” side, Jack Smith and I advocated for banning tobacco products, and we wiped out the competition … until we came up against state champion debaters from Pattonville High); and extemporaneous speaking.

I was a wiz at extemp. You’d draw a topic from a bowl or hat, then you had 30 minutes to jot down an outline or ideas on a notecard. When your name was called, you presented a five- or six-minute persuasive speech.

Sometimes the topic related to a current event of the day, and me being a news nerd and all, I’d knock those speeches out of the park. I was the conference champion. (I LOVED extemp and, to this day, seem to have the gift of gab.)

And then I got stupid. And arrogant.

You see, one strategy of extemporaneous speaking was to assume a position opposite from the prevailing public opinion. I could advocate for or against nuclear energy. (How many of you kids out there remember when the Callaway Plant wasn’t there? I warned against the civilization-ending certainty of unmanageable nuclear waste or the national security danger of depending on fossil fuels and foreign oil for our energy). I could convince an astronaut that space travel was wasteful and unnecessary.

So there I was in the spring of 1981, in the semi-final round of the state speech and debate tournament in Jefferson City. The questions we chose from related to state policy. I was on a roll.

And then I reached into a tumbler and pulled out the folded piece of paper with my question: “Should Missouri legalize prostitution?”

Conventional wisdom said, “Don’t get cute here.”

But I was much less conventional back in 1981. I prepared a note card (below, just the front included here) with an outline that I was sure would convince anyone that, of course, we should legalize the world’s oldest profession.

I strutted into the room, already wondering what my championship round speech topic might be, when I realized the judge was a woman older than my grandparents.

I stayed the course of unconventional.

The judge was unconvinceable.

It was my final speech of the state tournament.

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Filed under MIP: Memoir-in-progress