April 22, 2011

Mom's Mistake

My mom is a saint. She's a pure angel who floats on a cloud, gives out compliments, treats everyone nicely, and gives mean people the benefit of the doubt. It drives my dad crazy.

Her compassion and benevolence often caused my sister to cry at the dinner table.

We had to institute a no-sad-story-at-the-dinner-table policy on behalf of my sister, whose sobs routinely turned to gagging fits. This seemed to be a policy to which my mom never quite adhered.

As a child, my mom was so perfect that I can't get any good stories about her out of my grandparents. When I asked them what the worst thing she ever did was, their honest answer was that when she was in first grade, she ran out into the street chasing a squirrel without looking both ways. I had been hoping for some dirt like a story about how she ran off with the teenage son of the local mob don, changed her name to Harmony, and served as a drug mule in the 70's. Turns out, she never even puffed a cigarette.

But she did make a mistake involving a pelican once.

We were out on a dock on the intercoastal waterway, unloading the unused bait from a fishing trip, when a large pelican swooped down and landed on one of the pilings. He waited atop the barnacled post, watching us work and eyeing the frozen fish. That's when my mom got an idea.

She explained it to me with enthusiasm.

I had some concerns.

She continued to endorse the plan. She said it would be fine. She had never lied to me before, so I held up the fish, ever so tentatively.

I cried out in anguish, partially from the pain of my shredded hand caused by the sea beast's razor beak, partially from my all too close encounter with a disease infested sky demon, and partially from my loss of innocence resulting from the shattered facade that parents were always right.

My mom never got over her guilt. To this day, when she sees a pelican, she dies a little inside.

On the plus side, I did get a sweet scar out of it.

April 19, 2011

A Bad Homecoming Habit, or Nun of Your Business

As a member of the student council in high school, I felt that we spent more time trying to build floats on boat trailers than we did fostering a democratic system of self governing. Though I had envisioned tackling school-wide issues such as getting Coke instead of Pepsi in the vending machines, I quickly became somewhat disenchanted with the program.

Despite the trivial nature of the work, I was lured back into service each year by a combination of power hunger and the need to affirm that I was well liked through a formal election process. I also got pretty good at giving speeches, so running for office was usually pretty fun.

The trivial nature of student government activity was remedied by the collective intelligence and sense of humor of my classmates. We quickly realized that the zeal for winning goofy homecoming week competitions displayed by the other grades wasn't quite our thing.

This gave birth to a sort of anti-competition campaign in which we tried to lose each event as ridiculously and wonderfully as possible. I won't even get into how the boys in the male cheerleading competition lost, but let's just say the plug was pulled on the music before the dance number ended due to behavior unbecoming of the institution.

We tried to start a movement to get the cleverly titled "Homecoming Week" changed to "Semana Spectacular," but that was squashed by the administration. We also tried to substitute the usual tricycle riding contest with an ultimate jousting competition in which students battled teachers while balancing above a giant kiddie pool filled with Aveno bath. We actually did get the jousting, but the Aveno bath was nixed.

Senior year was our coup de grace. Tired of building floats to drag like mules onto the football field at halftime while the athletes pointed and laughed, we decided to pick a class theme for the year that would minimize the amount of work and effort involved. That's how we chose to become the "Boat Trailer Seniors." The float would be completed before we had even started it. We could just drag one of the empty trailers onto the field. We even had t-shirts made with a poorly drawn boat trailer on it.

The problem was, we were too immature for our own immaturity. We began to modify the original idea, once beautiful in its simplicity. New concepts spun wildly out of control. The results were phenomenal.

The boat trailer, which was originally supposed to be dragged out by listless, apathetic seniors, was now slated to be pulled by monks to the 2001 Space Odyssey theme song. Then, pirates would come running and screaming from behind the big hill past the end zone, pillage and steal the trailer, and leave a trail of monk bodies in their wake.

As you can see above, not everyone got the pirate costumes just right.

The biggest problem was that the order of monk robes got mixed up and the costume company delivered nun habits. We adhered to the adage, "the show must go on," and carried out our plan. The last minute costume change exacerbated the the violence and offensiveness of the scene. (Note: most of the nuns were actually guys in habits, and a lot of the pirates were girls, so that seemed to help - and added to the humor, I think.)

The weirdest part was that we didn't come in last place. The seniors were pretty bummed and the administration never invited that year's panel of judges to return.

Since then, homecoming rules have been amended. I guess it's understandable.