UAHS Rock

There is a theory that every person, of every generation, ends up thinking the music they listened to in high school and college is the best music ever recorded.  And if, 40 years later, they hear the strains of a song that became a hit during the summer after their junior year it still brings a smile to their lips, injects little youthful exuberance into their soul, and makes them want to move their feet, just as it did during their acne-addled years.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, really.  For most of us, we’ve never listened to music as fully and intensely as we did during high school and college.  Records and bands were important in those days.  It was not uncommon to listen to records, or the radio, for hours, with or without friends, and then talk about new groups and music, or some great older pieces that you’d just discovered, when you encountered your friends at school.  (“Hey, have you listened to this new group called The Eagles?”)  I even subscribed to Rolling Stone, read its reviews of new albums, and sometimes made purchases on the basis of its recommendation alone if the review was a rave.

And, of course, when you listen to music so carefully you tend to associate it with specific memories from your callow youth — like the album that was playing when you and your buddies were playing pool in the basement (Deep Purple’s Machine Head, maybe?) or the song that your high school girlfriend said was her favorite one time when you were out on a date.  How many people who graduated from high school in my year of 1975 can still sing every song on Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run album because repeated listenings ingrained it forever onto their memory banks?

So, I’m guessing that everyone out there thinks that the music that they listened to during their high school and college years — whether those years occurred in the ’50s, ’60s, ’80s, ’90s, or in this new millennium — is unquestionably the greatest music ever.  Fortunately, in my case, involving the music that I listened to during the ’70s, that just happens to be accurate. I’ve made several playlists that capture those songs, and one of them, UAHS Rock, focuses on the harder stuff that I listened to back when I was walking the halls of Upper Arlington High School during the early ’70s, with an embarrassing haircut and ludicrous ’70s clothing.  The first 20 songs of the playlist still stand up pretty well:

I’m Eighteen  — Alice Cooper
Layla — Derek & The Dominos
Smoke On The Water — Deep Purple
Stairway To Heaven — Led Zeppelin
Walk This Way — Aerosmith
Sweet Home Alabama — Lynyrd Skynyrd
Hocus Pocus — Focus
Band On The Run — Paul McCartney & Wings
Superstition — Stevie Wonder
Come And Get Your Love — Redbone
All Right Now — Free
Rocky Mountain Way — Joe Walsh
Twist And Shout — The Beatles
Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress — The Hollies
Badge — Cream
Roll With The Changes — REO Speedwagon
Radar Love — Golden Earring
I’m Your Captain/Closer To Home — Grand Funk Railroad
Hold Your Head Up — Argent
Moby Dick/Bonzo’s Montreux — Led Zeppelin

Everyone A Valedictorian

In Dublin, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, there are three high schools — and this year those schools produced a total of 222 valedictorians.  That’s fully 20 percent of the graduates from Dublin high schools this year.  One of the three high schools, Dublin Coffman, had 96 students who achieved “valedictorian” status.

There were about 800 students in my 1975 Upper Arlington High School graduating class, and there were less than 20 valedictorians.  They all achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average — the higest possible GPA — during high school.  I knew many of them, and one was my best friend, The Entrepreneur.  He was a smart and motivated guy who worked hard to keep that four-point average because he knew that one misstep would knock him out of the running, and he really wanted to attain valedictorian status.  His friends, me included, were proud of him.

Those days are long gone in many schools, where educators consciously are trying to avoid competition for the “number one student” position.  And a 4.0 average is no longer the highest GPA you can get, either.  These days, many schools give additional GPA credit for “advanced” classes, to encourage students to take a more challenging curriculum.  At the Dublin schools, for example, you get “valedictorian” status if you achieve at least a 4.1 GPA.  The Dublin schools call students in that category “valedictorians” to allow them to qualify for college scholarships that are linked to valedictorian status.

(Apparently the Dublin schools don’t ask every one of their hundreds of valedictorians to make a speech at graduation — which means that the students really shouldn’t be called “valedictorians.”  A valedictory, after all, is a farewell address.  But, I digress.)

What does it mean when 20 percent of high school graduates obtain valedictorian status?  Call me old school — pun intended — but obviously being a valedictorian doesn’t mean what it once did.  You can’t help but wonder whether grade inflation has played a role and the “everyone gets a trophy” mentality hasn’t crept in to the academic honors process.

And, at a deeper level, it also reflects the diminished role of high schools.  For decades, high school was the end of the educational line for the vast majority of students.  Now high schools view themselves as just another step in the educational process, and their grading and honors policies are consciously designed to help their graduates get into the best colleges — where, perhaps, the real competition will begin.

Are we helping American students by designing high school to minimize real academic competition?  Because, at some point — whether in college, or in graduate school, or in the real world — true intellectual competition will in fact occur, and stress inevitably will come with it.  Maybe giving students a dose of competition and stress in high school would better prepare them for that oncoming reality.

Gun Poses

When I graduated from high school in 1975, senior photos were pretty rote.  Guys had laughable and elaborate coiffures and wore loud jackets, girls had hair that was long, straight, and parted in the middle, and that was about it.  The only breakout photo that I remember was of a friend who was a photographer for the yearbook and had his photo taken with his camera cradled in his hand.

In Nebraska, the approach to boring senior class photos is a little bit different these days.

Apparently Nebraska kids want to be photographed with guns.  So one school district had to come up with some rules about whether gun photos would be considered appropriate, and how they might be regulated.  It concluded that gun photos would be permitted if they were “tasteful and appropriate,” didn’t feature students pointing guns at the camera, and also didn’t include an animal in “obvious distress.”

I’m glad they added that last condition to the rule.  Who would want to open their high school yearbook and see poor blasted Bambi or a partially skinned squirrel on the page?  After all, the acne issues and the hair styles are bound to be ugly enough.

The Wonder Of Fuel Points

When I first started driving, back in 1973, I think the price of regular gas was about 27.9 cents a gallon.

IMG_3442Then the first oil embargo occurred, and gas prices skyrocketed to — oh, I don’t know — maybe 55 cents a gallon?  And the nation was outraged.

In those long ago days, the idea that Americans would pay more than $60 to fill up their gas tanks would have been absolutely ludicrous.  Now, unfortunately, it is commonplace.

Which is why I felt young again when Kish and I stopped to fill up the tank at Giant Eagle on Sunday, and our accumulated Fuel Points allowed us to get premium unleaded gasoline for the ’70s-era price of 55.9 cents a gallon.  A complete fill-up for less than $10!  I felt like going out for a sausage pizza at Tommy’s and then taking Kish to watch the terrifying new thriller Jaws.

Who would have thought that a marketing technique like Fuel Points could make you feel like you were back in high school?

Not A Hand Holder

Should all couples hold hands?  Kish’s sister Heidi believes that holding hands is crucial to a lasting romantic relationship.  Kish and I respectfully disagree.  We think it’s nice to see young couples with fingers intertwined and seniors doddering along with hands linked, but don’t expect us to do it.

My disaffinity for holding hands stems from biology and experience.  The unfortunate reality is that my hands sweat in any hand-holding scenario.  When I was in high school and tried to hold hands with a girl, I felt my hands getting damp, which made me self-conscious, which made my hands sweat all the more.  When I noticed my kind-hearted date trying to surreptitiously wipe off her oily palms on napkins, coat sleeves, curtains, and at every other opportunity, I realized that holding hands probably wasn’t going to increase my chances at meaningful romance.

The experience came from a high school first date that involved a long drive to an event.  My date grabbed my hand as we left and I drove left-handed, becoming increasingly uncomfortable because my right hand was locked into position.  Once you’ve started holding hands, you can’t really retreat without making it seem like a kind of rebuke.  So we drove along, chatting superficially, while I directed every ounce of self-awareness at my immobilized right hand.  What you are supposed to do in such a long-term hand-holding scenario?  Tickle the girl’s palm?  Do “this is the church, this is the steeple” to keep your wrist muscles from spasming?

So, I’ve long ago sworn off hand-holding, and fortunately the love of my life isn’t a hand-holder, either.  Sometimes she’ll hold my arm as we walk along, and that suits us just fine.

French For A Dummy

I’m going to be spending some time in France in a few months, so I’ve decided to brush up on my French language skills.  Actually, calling them “skills” isn’t quite accurate — unless the meaning of “skills” can be stretched to include a capability that really doesn’t exist.  I can read a little French, and I remember that jambon means ham, but that’s really about as far as it goes.

IMG_4898I took French in junior high school, in high school, and at OSU until I met my language requirements.  Despite these years of patient instruction, I never moved past the most basic levels.  Not surprisingly, my French class memories don’t involve having rapid-fire conversations with proud and dazzled teachers.  Instead, I remember trying to get some “extra credit” by helping my high school French teacher decorate her classroom for Christmas.  To my befuddlement, she wanted me to hang up the letters of the alphabet.  After I did so, she asked me if I got the reference.  When  gave her a confused look in response, she gestured at the letters, barked out a short Gallic laugh, and said “No L!”  I shrugged at this weak example of French humor, then remembered that sophisticates in that country considered Jerry Lewis a genius.

In college, our pleasant if somewhat beefy French instructor wanted to give the class an example of the importance of precise pronunciation.  She explained that, during a recent visit to Paris, she was being pestered by a beret-wearing, cigarette-smoking man.  She meant to dismiss him with a gruff cochon, which means pig, but instead she said couchons, which unfortunately suggested a desire to do the horizontal bop.  She then barked out a short Gallic laugh as the members of the class snickered at her embarrassing predicament.  The only other things I remember from my college French classes are that we students thought mangez mes sous-vetements, which means “eat my shorts,” was a hilarious insult even though the exasperated teacher pointed out that the French never use that phrase, and we also put n’est ce pas? at the end of every conceivable statement because it at least ended our halting sentences with a smooth closing.

So, trying to get up to speed on French in a few months is probably futile — especially since studies indicate that trying to acquire new language skills becomes more difficult with age.  I’m going to try anyway.  I’ve reserved some French language instruction CDs from the library and am going to listen to them on our morning walks.  I’m starting with French for Dummies.  The title is a bit insulting — but it’s probably accurate, n’est ce pas?

A Welcome To Buckeye Nation, And A Pledge

Today is National Letter of Intent Signing Day!  I use initial caps, because for college football fans, it’s a Big Day.  The recruiting wars are finally ended, and the fans of each school count up the number of two-star, three-star, four-star, and five-star athletes who will be joining their teams.  By all accounts, Ohio State, its head coach Urban Meyer, and his hard-working assistants did pretty well this year.  Ezekiel Elliott, whose announcement that he will become a Buckeye is shown here, is one of the more heralded members of the Ohio State class.

When I think of National Letter of Intent Day, however, I think of kids, and their parents.  A high school student who is a stud athlete is still a high school student.  They may run faster, and bench press more, and catch footballs better than your ordinary kids, but deep down they are the same mass of raging hormones that you find in every kid of that age.  They are making a huge decision that could have tremendous, long-term consequences for their lives — and they and their parents are hoping that they make the right decision.  It’s a huge, emotional matter for any high school student about to go away from home to college.  Just imagine what it must be like for a kid who not only is leaving the cocoon of their family, but moving into new territory where their every move will be scrutinized and deconstructed by rabid college football fans.

So, on this National Letter of Intent Signing Day, I want to welcome all of the young men who have committed to come to The Ohio State University — but I especially want to welcome their parents to the family that is Buckeye Nation.

I also want to make this pledge to those parents:  no matter how high the athletic stakes, how big the game, or how colossal the blunder, I will always strive to remember that we are talking about young people here.  I will try to bear in mind that everyone makes mistakes, that we all have committed youthful indiscretions that we regret, and that people can mature and grow and shouldn’t be forever defined by a single, ill-advised decision.  I will always seek to give your kids the benefit of the doubt, just as I would hope that other parents would do with my kids. I suspect I’m not alone in this, so please remember that, for every fan who goes over the top there are dozens, if not hundreds, who support your youngster and wish only the best for him.

Welcome to Buckeye Nation!