Sunday, March 23, 2008

*** A Walk Down "Dream Street"- For Joanna M., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to the North Quincy High School Graduates page on Facebook for a picture of the current "fake" front of North Quincy High.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

When you were a student did you ever sit on the main entrance steps of North Quincy High and dream of your future?

This now seemingly benighted entry, originally simply titled ,A Walk Down “Dream” Street, started life as an equally simple question posed to fellow classmates in the North Quincy High School Class of 1964 (although the question is also suitable to be asked of other classes, as well) in the year 2008 on the Classmates. com website. I had “discovered” the site that year after having gone through a series of events the details of which need not detain us right now but that drove me back to memories, hard, hard-bitten, hard-aching, hard-longing, mist of time, dream memories, of North schoolboy days and of the need to search for my old high school friend and running mate (literally, in track and cross country, as well as “running” around town doing boy high school things, doing the best we could, or trying to), Bill Cadger.

Naturally, the question was posed in its particular form, or so it seemed natural at the time for me to pose it that way, because those old, “real”, august, imposing, institutionally imposing, grey granite-quarried (from the Granite City, natch) main entrance steps (in those days serious steps, two steps at a time steps, especially if you missed first bell, flanked by globular orbs and, like some medieval church, gargoyle-like columns up to the second floor, hence “real”) is a place where Bill and I spent a lot of our time, talking of this and that.

Especially summer night time: hot, sultry, sweaty, steam-drained, no money in pockets, no car to explore the great American teenage night; the be-bop, doo-wop, do doo do doo, ding dong daddy, real gone daddy, be my daddy, let it be me, the night time is the right time, car window-fogged, honk if you love jesus (or whatever activity produced those incessant honks in key turned-off cars), love-tinged, or at least sex-tinged, endless sea, Wollaston Beach night. Do I need to draw you a picture, I think not. Or for the faint-hearted, or good, denizens of that great American teenage night a Howard Johnson’s ice cream (make mine cherry vanilla, double scoop, no jimmies, please) or a trip to American Graffiti-like fast food drive-in, hamburger, hold the onions (just in case today is the night), fries and a frappe (I refuse to describe that taste treat at this far remove, look it up on Wikipedia, or one of those info-sites) Southern Artery night. Lost, all irretrievably lost, and no thousand, thousand (thanks, Sam Coleridge), no, million later, greater experiences can ever replace that. And, add in, non-dated-up, and no possibility of sweet-smelling, soft, rounded, bare shoulder-showing summer sun-dressed (or wintry, bundled up, soft-furred, cashmere-bloused, for that matter), big-haired (hey, do you expect me to remember the name of the hair styles, too?), ruby red-lipped (see, I got the color right), dated-up in sight. So you can see what that “running around town, doing the best we could” of ours mainly consisted.

Mostly, we spoke of dreams of the future: small, soft, fluttery, airless, flightless, high school kid-sized, working class-sized, North Quincy-sized, non-world–beater-sized, no weight dreams really, no, that’s not right, they were weighty enough but only until 18 years old , or maybe 21, weighty. A future driven though, and driven hard, by the need to get out from under, to get away from, to put many miles between us and it, crazy family life (the details of which need not detain us here at all, as I now know, and I have some stories to prove it, that condition was epidemic in the old town then, and probably still is). And also of getting out of one-horse, teen life-stealing, soul-cramping, dream-stealing, small or large take your pick, even breathe-stealing, North Quincy. Of getting out into the far reaches, as far as desire and dough would carry, of the great wild, wanderlust, cosmic, American day and night hitch-hike if you have too, shoe leather-beating walking if you must, road (or European road, or wherever, Christ, even Revere in a crunch, but mainly putting some miles between).

The question, that simple question that I asked above, moreover, did not stand in isolation. As part of that search for “run around” Bill, for figuring out tangled roots, for hard looking at past, good or evil, for hard longing connectedness to youth, for bleeding raider red days I took advantage of the Classmate Class of 1964 message board to fire off, what now seems like an small atomic bombardment of entries about this and that, some serious, most whimsical. (They are, for the most part, still there if you are interested). Obviously though not every question I intended to pose there, or here, especially not this one, was meant to be as whimsical as the first one that I did about the comparative merits of the Rolling Stones and Beatles. With this long-stemmed introduction the rest of the 2008 original entry is (edited a bit) is, in the interest of keeping with its original purpose, posted below:

“Today I am interested in the relationship between our youthful dreams and what actually happened in our lives; our dreams of glory out in the big old world that we did not make, and were not asked about making; of success whether of the pot of gold or less tangible, but just as valuable, goods, or better, ideas; of things or conditions, of himalayas, conquered, physically or mentally; of discoveries made, of self or the whole wide world, great or small. Or, perhaps, of just getting by, just putting one foot in the front of the other two days in a row; of keeping one’s head above water under the impact of young life’s woes; of not sinking down further into the human sink; of smaller, pinched, very pinched, existential dreams but dreams nevertheless.

I will confess here, as this seemingly is a confessional age, or, maybe just as a vestige of that family history-rooted, hard-crusted, incense-driven, fatalistic Catholic upbringing long abandoned but etched in, no, embedded in, some far recesses of memory that my returning to the North Quincy High School Class of 1964 fold did not just occur by happenstance. A couple of months ago (December 2007) my mother, Doris Margaret Johnson (nee Radley) NQHS Class of 1943, passed away. For a good part of her life she lived in locations a mere stone's throw from the school. You could, for example, see the back of the school from my grandparents' house on Young Street. As part of the grieving process, I suppose, I felt a need to come back to North Quincy. To my, and her, roots. As part of that experience as I walked up Hancock Street and down East Squantum I passed by the old high school. That triggered some memories, some dream street memories, that motivate today's question.

If my memory is correct, and I am not just dream-addled, I had not been in North Quincy for at least the pass 25 years and so I was a little surprised to see that the main entrance steps of the high school, and central to the question posed, were no longer there. You remember the steps, right? They led to the then second floor and were flanked by, I think, a couple of lions or some gargoyles. (I have since then, after viewing a copy of the 1964 Manet, found out that they were actually flanked by a sphere and a column on each side. I was close though, right?) I can remember spending many a summer night during high school, along with my old pal from the class Bill Cadger, the legendary track man and cross country runner, sitting on those steps talking about our futures. Now for this question I am only using the steps as a metaphor, so to speak. You probably have your own 'steps' metaphor for where you thrashed out your dreams. How did they work out?

A lot of what Bill and I talked about at the time was how we were going to do in the upcoming cross country and track seasons, girls, the desperate need to get away from the family trap, girls, no money in pockets for girls, cars, no money for cars, girls. (Remember, please, those were the days when future expectations, and anguishes, were expressed in days and months, not years.) Of course we dreamed of being world-class runners, as every runner does. Bill went on to have an outstanding high school career. I, on the other hand, was, giving myself much the best of it, a below average runner. So much for some dreams.

We spoke, as well, of other dreams then. I do not remember the content of Bill's but mine went something like this. I had dreams for social justice. For working people to get a fair shake in this sorry old world. That, my friends, has, sad to say, not turned out as expected. But enough from me. I will finish this entry with a line from a Bob Dylan lyric. "I'll let you be in my dream, if I can be in your dream". Fair enough?”

Monday, March 17, 2008

***Where Were You On March 17th?-For Kathy B., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Saint Patrick's Day for those three people in the North Quincy universe who may not know what it is all about.

Al Johnson, Class Of 1964, comment:

Recyling is good, right? So here I am recycling an entry from March 2008 on Classmates. See, I really am enlarging my 'green footprint' on old Mother Earth . And asking a 'green' question to boot.

Did you ever skip(or think about skipping)school to attend the St. Patrick's Day Parade in South Boston?

Chocky Ar La (Rough Translation From the Gaelic; Our Day Will Come)

Well, we are approaching March 17th and I am in my high Irish mood. And it has nothing to do that day being Evacuation Day, although celebrating the departure of any British imperial army out of any colony governed by that crowd (I am being kind here, this is after all a family-friendly site) is always cause for rejoicing. The half (on my mother's side) of me that is Irish prompts the above question; although one hardly needs to be Irish to answer it. I have seen more than one person without the remotest connection to Ireland turn 'shamrock green' on this day.

Of course, anyone who has read my entry "In Search of Lost Time" elsewhere in this section knows that I worked in Boston. As part of that experience I have enjoyed having March 17th off every year (to the befuddlement of my 'significant other' and other 'real' working people). The holiday may be officially in honor of Evacuation Day but (wink) we know what it is really about, don't we? And that is the point of my question. As Quincy students we had school, or were expected to be in school. But how many of us somehow got 'sick' that day, as a matter of course. Or lusted in our hearts to be 'sick'? Be truthful now? For all of those who answer NO to this question I want a notarized copy of your high school attendance from March 1, 1961 (if you went to Atlantic Junior High) to March 31 1964.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

***The Class of 1964 Football Seniors-For Don McN., Class Of 1964

Click on the headline to link to the "" high school sports section. Hey, it's the only link that I could think to give some flavor to this post.

Al Johnson, Class of 1964, comment:

Are the senior members of the 1964 football team digitally-challenged?

Ah, the glories of cyberspace and....time. After over forty years a mere mortal can finally take his cracks at the pampered Goliaths of the gridiron from the Class of 1964. Why? After a couple of run throughs of the list of class members on this site (Classmates) I noticed an absence of the names of those heroic figures. Furthermore, from the lack of any illustrious names at all on the North Quincy Alumni site, apparently the skill level necessary to Google that site is something on the order of that of quantum physics to these behemoths. Let me give my take on this situation.

Do not get me wrong, I spend many an enjoyable Saturday afternoon watching and screaming my head off as the lads did their business, especially that final victory over arch-rival Quincy High in November, 1963. The problem is what they did the rest of the week. Those six periods of gym per day must have been exhausting. Those 'study' halls must have really taxed their abilities. Moreover, being fed the victor's grapes by nubile young women (translation for any "politically incorrect" fossils from the class; girls, chicks or, uh, broads) atrophied their mental capacities. Take my word for it, these things have a cumulative effect and so today we have a whole subculture of aging men who are unable to click the ON button on a computer. If I were any of these now senior seniors I would be mad as hell at Coach Leone. I believe a law suit is in order. And furthermore...

...Oops, I just had a flashback of a phalanx of some irate senior guards and tackles led by "Woj" coming after me and my smart mouth through this screen. Hey guys, I was just kidding. Okay? But to be on the safe side I think that I will click the OFF button now.