Saturday, March 23, 2019

Self Indulgent Nostalgia (No. 2.2)

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my (eventual) grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who don't yet, aka the Stickies) to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.

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                                  Who The Hell Is This Guy?

Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars 
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse  
Iggy -- My imaginary Sticky
Dana -- My imaginary Gentlereader

"If you're yearning for the good old days, just turn off the air conditioning."
                                                                                  -Griff Niblack

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

Last week's letter ended thusly:

"Still, In the course of one summer, I went from perpetual pissing contests with the boys I ran with back in the Burgh (with an h) to enjoying school (and a tiny bit of civilized social life) for the first time since first grade. It wasn't till the following September that things got stupid again."

[Coming soon to a theater near you, Boys In the Burgh (with an h)]

Clearly, an explanation is in order. It started in third grade. We had moved from one Pittsburgh (with an h) neighborhood, the Bluff (near Mercy Hospital) to the Sahside flats the summer before third grade.

I have a limited amount of memories to draw on from first and second grade that I won't bore you with here. While I had plenty of friends, the only one I remember vividly is Frankie Mancuso, baseball card collector extraordinaire. Hello Frankie, wherever you are.

Starting with third grade, I remember lots of things vividly, I particularly remember my friends. The baby boom was still booming so believe it or not my Dear Stickies I had a lot of friends (not so much nowadays Gentlereaders).

My primary group of friends, "the boys I ran with" of the first paragraph, consisted of the boys I sat in a classroom with from third thru seventh grade and less intensive friendships with other kids from the neighborhood that were in other grades or went to a different school. As far as I knew at the time, this was how the world worked.

Long story short, I was a weird kid that loved to read but hated school. I wasn't a nerd but I came to the conclusion early on that my typical friend's obsession with sports, who was toughest, what were the right sneakers, the right clothes, etc. was, well, goofy. But I had to fake it as best I could because those were the rules. It must be me.

[For the record, I wasn't a sissy. I loved swimming, biking, skateboarding, rock 'n' roll, Cub Scouts, street fairs and what I guess you could call urban exploring. I wandered all over the Sah-side and even other relatively far-flung neighborhoods (streetcar rides were five cents). My parents often had no idea what I was up to. I was always home for dinner and then by the time the street lights came on. 

No one ever tried to kidnap me and no priest ever tried to molest me. Go figure. But yes, I know it happened/happens. When I'm king child molesters will be castrated and placed in cages with doors that have been welded shut.]

Bit of a detour, I know, but you see, that's why eighth grade rocked. I fit in with those kids and found out that if I worked hard I could get decent grades.

Now, we finally come to the reason why this, in retrospect, turned out to be one of the most pivotal years of my life, which I made mention of two letters ago when I began what's turned into a series.

[Thank God, FINALLY!]

Dana, I've missed you. Where've you been?

[Getting drunk, you haven't told them yet, have you?]

All in due time, I want to finish this series first. Gotta tell ya, buddy, I think you're overreacting...

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, pivoting. If I had gone on to Catholic high school I would've had a whole different life. Not necessarily better, but certainly quite different. I regret nothing as I've had a full and interesting life. The best part of which was 21 years with your late, great Nana -- and is 34 (and counting...) years with your mom -- and is 18, 16, 13 & 13 (and counting...) years with yinz guys.

If I had gone on to Catholic high school I would likely have also gone to college and have entered the real world with a minimum of 120 or so certified college credits obtained in four years as opposed to the 39 certified credits I managed to accumulate in the course of the 47 years that have passed since I graduated from high school.


My parents couldn't afford to send me to Catholic high school with my new friends. Hell, they really couldn't afford the tiny house we lived in, the first one they ever owned.


After eight years of hyper-conservative Catholic education, I thought a public high school would be cool. I mean, c'mon it was the late '60s! Time to rock n' roll!


Although compared to the inner city neighborhoods I had lived in the township I/we found ourselves living in was "rich," the boys in burbs were, for the most part, just as goofy as the boys in the Burgh (with an h).


I did have a few close friends that got me through and helped me to survive things like the gym teacher who thought his job was to toughen up the boys in his charge for Vietnam (although he personally didn't see any need to put his ass on the line).

I can't help but wonder if S'ter had an intuition of what lay ahead for me. Somehow, she didn't discover I was off to join the infidels till after eighth-grade graduation when she was wishing us goodbye and good luck.

She was shocked, and had tears in her eyes, when she found out what my plans were. I was shocked that this aloof, cold, taskmaster apparently gave a damn about me. Go figure. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day. 
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©2019 Mark Mehlmauer

[I haven't got around to figuring out the official way to do this yet... but as of 12.15.18 I'm offering up my humble scribbles under a Creative Commons License. That is to say, Anyone may republish my columns anywhere -- as long as they don't alter them and as long as they credit me (Mark Mehlmauer) as the author, and, link to my website, The Flyoverland Crank.

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