OK, enough with that crap. Basically, I wanted to talk about one particularly vivid memory from my high school that I alluded to in this post.
First and foremost, it should be noted that I went to a Catholic high school. Second, it should be noted that I was a pretty smart kid (if I do say so myself) and also, a wise-ass. Those three things are a recipe for disaster in Catholic high school. I'd get sent home for having hair that went beyond my shirt collar, or a couple days' worth of teenage stubble on the face. Writing "And now...#1...the Larch" on my Pre-Calc's teacher's chalkboard before class and having her stare quizzically at it for like 30 seconds before erasing it. That sort of thing.
Also, remember that this was the mid-to-late 80s, so fashion was in a transition. And by "transition", I mean it was God-bloody-awful. Those paper-light Don Johnson in Miami Vice double-breasted white blazers were in style, as were ultra-skinny neckties, those knit neckties that were squared off at the bottom, and wearing white suspendered pants well after Labor Day. What the fuck, I was 17 and "What Not to Wear" wasn't on TV yet. Besides, the only place we could really shop for these things were like Tello's and Chess King. Which is why I ended up with a pink tuxedo shirt for the semi-formal I was guilted into going to (to be the date for the only girl in the senior class who didn't have one). Did I mention the shirt was pink? Pink.
Anyway, the boys had a dress code, consisting of pretty much dress shoes, dress socks, dress pants, dress shirt, tie, and jacket. It wasn't a uniform per se, as we all didn't wear the same exact thing, but I certainly did test the boundaries of the code (hello, fish necktie and tuxedo shirt [with the ruffles]). The girls had it worse. They had to wear the requisite school-issued plaid skirt, white blouse, and green jacket. It's a cruel irony that then, I couldn't think of anything less attractive for a girl to wear and now that it's way too late, I think that outfit is absolutely friggin awesome. Figures.
Anyway, I got in a fair amount of trouble in high school, but nothing really compares to this one event. Since my real punishment is probably still yet to come.
You see, like most high schools, we had a bunch of kids (me included) who thought we were musicians and would get together in our parents' basements and sound like shit (Hey, it's tough playing "Pour Some Sugar on Me" when you don't have a decent PA, frosted hair, and ripped-to-shreds jeans). Well, the self-proclaimed "music minister" at the school got wind of our musical debauchery and decided to approach us with an idea. You see, kids aged 15-18 generally hate going to school. And the only thing they hate more than school, is going to Mass. At Catholic high school, you get those two things rolled into one. A sort of anti-Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, if you will.
So, the music minister could sense that he was really losing his target audience in the Mass. There would be no participation and we would all systematically get up, sit down, spout the prayers with all the feeling of Twiki from Buck Rodgers, and mumble the words to all the hymns. The piano player, a nice, but way too smart for her own good student named Mary, wasn't exactly captivating the crowd. Put it this way, we didn't sit at the bar, put bread in her jar, and say, "Mary, what are you doing here?"
Side note about Mary. As I said, she was nice. One of the nicest people I encountered in high school. But I hated her. Mary was the Grade Killer for my Calculus class. You see, NONE of us got Calculus. None. I avoided taking the class, to no avail, because I knew I would bomb it. It's not math. It's not algebra. It's not geometry. It's not trig. I got all that shit. But Calculus was a different beast all-together; we all tanked it. All except Mary. She was Miss Bell Curve 1989. I should have gotten a B in that class (with a 38 test average!), but Mary's constant 95s meant that Dim ended up with a C- (with a 38 test average!). In retrospect, I shouldn't be complaining about that, or Mary, especially since she was the type of girl who would go to MIT and have a nervous breakdown three weeks into freshman year, because she could only memorize pi out to 58 decimal points, drop out, move to Colorado, neglect personal hygeine (especially shaving the underarms and legs) and follow String Cheese Incident around the country. To each their own. Instead, I tanked Calculus, didn't learn my lesson and went to a Catholic college, grew my hair long, and still listen to Iron Maiden. I guess that's a push.
Anyway, long story longer, the music minister approached us (me, another guitar player, a bass player, and my buddy Rob, the keyboardist) about possibly playing the music for the mass in an effort to get the rest of the student body more involved. We reluctantly agreed, mostly because it would allow us to occasionally get out of class to practice our tunes in the chapel. Some advice. If you are a wise-ass punk Catholic high school kid who thinks it might be cool to push the spiritual envelope and play the opening to Maiden's "Number of the Beast" while in the chapel, think again. I tried it and mysteriously got second degree burns on my fingertips.
Anywho, we did this gig for awhile, but it really didn't work at all. I mean, church music is really designed for like organs and flutes and piccolos and violas. I physically could not groove to "How Great Thou Art." We were miserable and the rest of the student body couldn't have been more disinterested than if we were playing Air Supply on kazoo.
We had a band meeting and then met with the music minister and told him our idea: Howsabout we take comtemporary tunes, strip them down, and do complete instrumental versions for the musical breaks in the Mass? Every song would have to pass his muster first, so we couldn't slip in Ozzy's "Mr. Crowley" or something like that, but, we argued, this would pique the student body's interest and maybe cause them to be more involved. Of course, we couldn't have given a shit less about that...we just didn't want to play "Ave Maria" anymore.
The music guy actually agreed with our request and the first song we did was called "The Tale That Wasn't Right", a ballad by a band called, get this, Helloween, a German speed/thrash metal band. I played with my back to the crowd like Eddie Van Halen used to do. Not because I didn't want other musicians to steal my tasty licks. Because I didn't want them see me in full flop-sweat mode a la Albert Brooks in Broadcast News.
That tune went over well. Hardly anyone really knew it, but it wasn't "church music", so people dug it. So, we did what anyone else would have done. We passed it off as an original.
Next time, we did "Holiday" by the Scorpions. Again, no vocals (which is good because I had not yet mastered my Klaus Meine impression) and it also went over really well. It was mellow. The priest, principal, and music minister were happy. We were happy. The rest of the students seemed less unhappy. Hey, isn't that what Mass is supposed to be about? Apparently not, because the next (and last) time we played, we did:
Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
Now, we ran this one by the music minister, I swear. It's not my fault he didn't know about The Wall and I sure as hell wasn't going to be the one to tell him that if he didn't eat his meat, he couldn't have any pudding. He was gonna have to figure that out on his own.
So, we did this tune while the entire student body received Communion.
"One, two, three, four..."
And then the simltaneous thud of a B-minor being played by me and the bass player. The keyboard player layered a macabre veil of sound during the verses, waiting for his main part that came during the chorus. The other guitar player, much more accomplished than I, played Roger Waters' eerie vocal line and then switched over to Gilmour's soothing part when the keyboards really kicked in. I'm there, in my Sonny Crocket jacket and skinny tie, eyes closed, praying we don't screw up.
Then, something odd happened.
No, the Grinch's heart didn't grow three sizes that day. But I noticed that there was a hum over the crowd that was indiscernable at first. But it grew louder and more pronounced. And then, I figured out what it was. The entire student body (even Mary) was SINGING "Comfortably Numb". During Communion. I looked at Rob, the keyboard player, and mouthed "We're fucked". During Communion.
So, instead of thinking about their innumerable sins and the Body of Christ, they were thinking about getting wrecked on Heffenreffer and Bob Geldof shaving off his eyebrows. This is just great. As if I'm not in enough trouble for the whole Nine-Fingered Nun thing, I'm adding this to my eternal damnation resume.
For some reason that day, there were more people receiving communion than in the Vatican, because we finished the tune and there were still long lines of people. Our music minister told us to keep going. So we did. Including a seven minute outro solo. In between clearing my brow from the continuous flop sweat that came from basically sealing my place in hell, I looked up at the priest who was celebrating Mass and he looked at me with an evil glare that I had never seen before or since. And I swear me mouthed "You're fucked" to me. During Communion.
We weren't THAT fucked really. We got some notoriety for the stunt and we weren't asked to ever play again until class night, when we did a 15 minute long version of "Hotel California" that culminated with me sticking out my tongue, giving the "horns up" sign to everyone, and flicking my guitar picks in the audience. Thus ended my high school music career.
When I think back to high school, I don't think about dances or girlfriends, or getting drunk by the water towers, or even the people I encountered there. I think about this torturously long and uninteresting story. Why, you ask? Maybe it was the only time I made my mark among my peers. Maybe it's because we set out to do something we wanted to do and we kicked its ass. Maybe it's because it really is the one good memory of high school that outshines the crap I went through. But I don't really think so. I think I remember it most because every time I hear "Comfortably Numb" now, I get stigmata-like second degree burns on my fingertips. Which might be God's way of telling me I'm fucked. I figured as much. He seems like a "Pigs On The Wing" kind of guy.
There is no pain, I am receding,