It is the last day of October, the air is cool, and the streets are filled with super-heroes, zombies, mad-scientists, princesses and snowmen. This year, instead of sitting on my porch, smoking cigars and handing out candy to the creatures of the night, I attended my daughters first High School Homecoming. It was a bit odd, to have a Homecoming football game on Halloween, but, truth be told, it was completely appropriate. Especially since her school colors are orange and black. Which added to the whole feel of the night.
The schools clubs even had a “Safe Trick or Treating” event. My daughter, a member of the film club, helped set up her booth, provided candy and dressed up as “Sandy” from the movie “Grease” and her current boyfriend dressed up as “Danny”. At first I was a bit confused about the costumes but then I remembered going to the theatre with my mom when the film first came out, I recalled the homecoming scene in the movie. You know the one, where it was homecoming and Sandy was dressed in her cheerleader costume and meets Danny again for the first time since summer? Yeah, that one. That’s when the costume made a lot of sense to me.
To get back on subject… I believe in my high school career I only attended two homecoming games. My freshman year at my first high school, where the game was held during the day and followed by a dance after. Then I went to a homecoming game my senior year at my third high school. I spent most of the time at that game under the bleachers with my buddies smoking and drinking. Afterwards we went to a house party. No dance, no watching of the game and a total lack of school spirit.
What I do remember, or should I say, my primary memory of those two events was the concession stand food. The rubbery hot dogs that were too hot and overcooked sitting in a soggy bun. Then to help kill the over salted taste of the meat tubes you’d end up dumping as much ketchup, mustard and onions on it just to fool your palette into thinking you were eating something else. Then there was the luke-warm soda pop in a three ounce cup followed by the cold, stale and once again over-salted popcorn.
In order to get these glorious gastronomic treats you’d have to stand in a line fifty people deep and hope no one tries to jump in front of you. Back then, in the early to mid-eighties, I was about five foot four inches tall and weighed a whopping one hundred and fifteen pounds, was unable to stop anyone from jumping in front of me. But it wasn’t just my size, I was a bit shy, unless directly confronted. So I kept my mouth shut, my head down and waited… and waited… and waited. After all, I always seemed to be the new kid in town, or in school and pretty much anywhere I went. However… I always seemed to find a good party, filled with greasers, stoners, jocks and wall-flowers. I got along with them all, yet never really fit in with any of them. After all, there was no place for a motorcycle loving, camping all summer, partying, rocker with an affliction for reading to fit in. Nope. There sure wasn’t.
Fast forward to today, as I sat in the bleachers, making snide comments that bordered on the rude and perverse and bringing laughter to the one or two people who could hear me, I reflected upon those long lost days of my youth.
A youth filled with pain, loss, laughter, great rock music, constant moving and a sense of total alienation. I don’t really feel that way now. Those feelings disappeared when I was in the Navy. That’s where I learned your past doesn’t matter and that when people ask you questions about who you are and where you are… you don’t have to tell the truth, nor do you have to lie. All you have to do is give cliff notes and deflect the answer and let the questioner fill in the blanks and then you just have to sit back and let the tales get taller as they get passed on down the line.
About this time in my train of thought I looked over at my daughter, she was huddled up in her pink ladies jacket, and under the arm of her boyfriend. They were talking, laughing and drinking hot chocolate. She didn’t appear to have any of the awkwardness I had, nor did she display any of the disenfranchised emotions I had at her age. Nope, she was enjoying her first homecoming and absorbing all the craziness a homecoming football game has to offer.
The cheerleaders screaming and dancing and totally distracting the onlookers from the extremely amateur game being played on the gridiron. The costumed kids walking by in all sorts of modern character driven extremes. One kid, dressed in a green nylon suit from head to toe must have walked by us thirty times. There were a few zombies, a couple super heroes and even though the temperature was a tepid forty-eight degrees, some kids were barely wearing any clothes at all. Shorts and t-shirts were in abundance. (I believe there will be a large population of my daughter’s school whose kids will be sick next week.)
One of the biggest differences I discerned was the lack of participation from the high school bands. Back in my day, the bands were everything. The marched the field, they played loud and crazy when the home team scored. And they definitely were the biggest instigators of crowd noise during the game.
Yeah, there was none of that. They were present and even sitting in the bleachers, but I didn’t hear one single note come from any of their instruments. However, there was a DJ. He was sitting in the announcer’s booth playing hip-hop music so loud my teeth were rattling. I didn’t hear a single common sports song. No “Crazy Train”, no “Rock and Roll Part 2” and no school fight song. Nope, instead we were accosted with club music. The cheerleaders were happy to bump and grind to these tunes. Their gyrations made me feel a bit uncomfortable because the last time I saw girls dance like that was in a club, overseas, with chrome plated poles that went from the ceiling to the floor. Not at a High School football game.
I guess I’m just getting old. I suppose that Mr. Jefferson was right when he said “The earth is for the living.” My life is past its half-life and I don’t think when I have a grandchild I will attend his or her homecoming game. I don’t think my ears could handle it, I don’t think my mind could handle the machinations of the younger generation and I know that the football being played will be so far away from where I’m sitting that I wouldn’t be able to see it.
So, just prop me up on my porch, put a lighted cigar in my lips and let me drool uncontrollably as I attempt to curse at the kids walking in my front yard.
Have a great week.