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The Desire For Exclusion - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
The Desire For Exclusion
The first time I drank a whole beer was at the party after the senior prom. I didn't go to the prom itself, but was persuaded to attend the party -- a long story, that -- at the very end of the school year. And so I found myself drinking five "pony" Michelobs, observing my classmates and their dates -- including the astonishingly hot Sylvie, my friend John's younger sister -- operating under varying degrees of influence, and staying up all night for the first time when I didn't have a deadline.

As innocent of sin as I was, however, I had long nurtured a fantasy of myself as someone with a taste for exotic intoxication. Shortly after I started at Queen Anne School in the seventh grade, I entered a phase in which The Beatles were my sole musical fixation. I listened to their records over and over and I read as much as I could about their career. I was particularly fascinated with the band's psychedelic era, which began in the wake of Rubber Soul and petered out around the time of the so-called White Album.

At some point during the intense misery of seventh grade, I began to picture myself in a boat on a river, staring up at the marmalade skies. That was 1980-1981, the year of the hostage crisis, when the burnt-out shell of the Sixties was torn down to make way for the urban redevelopment plan of the Eighties. But there were still reminders of a time that both frightened and fascinated me. A number of the seniors in the school still looked like the pot-smoking longhairs that had scared me when I was in elementary school and had to accompany my mother to PTA meetings at Palisades High School. And that's because, as I later found out from my friend Roy, they were pot-smoking longhairs.

The year before I arrived, Roy's older brother Glenn had been part of a contingent that held a bong hit contest as a fundraiser for the class trip and didn't feel it necessary to keep that fact a secret. 1980-1981 wasn't that wild, but the Student Council President was a hard-partying slacker that the school's administration grudgingly tolerated.

All that changed at the start of my eighth grade year. A number of seniors were expelled from the school for smoking pot in the first month of school. Suddenly the dress code was being enforced and short hair was the order of the day. But it was that turning of the tide that served as the inspiration for my fantasy. The grave voices of teachers discussing the expulsions, the stricken look of the remaining seniors, the way the scrutiny of the powers that be was now palpably upon all of us -- they turned me on.

Still miserable beyond belief -- or at least what I can believe myself capable of putting up with today -- I began to daydream of the day when I, too, would be "disappeared" from campus. And so, my Beatles phase still in mind, I gradually hashed out the details of a fantasy in which I would be expelled from school for having a trunk full of LSD.

Mind you, I didn't even know what form LSD came in. I couldn't even visualize a trunk of it. Nevertheless, the fantasy persisted, through the ups and downs of the desert floor I traversed in my passage from seventh grader to twelfth grader. In the end, I was able to replace this impossible-to-realize dream with one I could make real, in which I was able to expel myself from the school through the power of imagination, by writing something for the last issue of our school news magazine -- that's what the long story hinges on -- and doing what I could to absent myself from other school activities.

And then I gave in and tried to experience a "normal" high school graduation after all. Instead of disappearing completely from my classmates' lives as I had planned, I found myself nursing those beers -- I still remember how unpleasant they tasted -- and waiting for the sun to rise. By the time I made it home, my parents and sister were gone. I grabbed a blanket and went to sprawl on the backyard lawn, wondering if I had managed to get a hangover or not. I distinctly remember musing on my expulsion fantasy as I lay there, being annoyed by the heat and humidity, blades of grass poking through the blanket and my clothes to remind me why one doesn't sunbathe in a Maryland summer unless one is at the beach.

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14 comments or Leave a comment
bitterlawngnome From: bitterlawngnome Date: August 21st, 2006 12:15 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
LOL that's so funny. I didn't go to most of the high school parties cause the kids DIDN'T know what a bong hit was. I went from an inner city (you'd say "ghetto" now) school where the grade 4 curriculum was who to buy drugs from and what combinations were fun ... to a place where the boys would still squeal "EWWW GIIIIRLS" on the playground.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 21st, 2006 01:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
That must have been quite a transition!
bitterlawngnome From: bitterlawngnome Date: August 21st, 2006 02:17 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Holy cow was it ever.

It sounds like the transition from 70s to 80s was pretty abrupt where you were? I can remember letters to the editor saying "oh thank god, the young hooligans have stopped wearing jeans" LOL.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 21st, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, it was pretty much like that. Once Reagan had settled into office, "Snap!," the nearly headless spirit of the 60s was finally decapitated.
From: ex_benlinus Date: August 21st, 2006 02:18 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It was Hendrix for me. I'd scare myself with the song Third Stone From the Sun, but listen to it over and over. I was probably 13. But by then I'd already been drinking and smoking for a little bit (older brother and sister).

More memoir stuff please. I like this stuff.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 21st, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, thanks. I remember getting into Hendrix. He wasn't on the radio much then, just "Foxy Lady" and maybe the occasional "Purple Haze." But I bought his Smash Hits -- on vinyl, since that was 1984 -- and blared them from my not-so-boomix Panasonic box on our "Blue-Gold Field Day," a day of fall revelry amid the tedium of the academic year. I liked the way it felt, listening in public to music most of the people around me couldn't grasp.
hollsterhambone From: hollsterhambone Date: August 21st, 2006 06:15 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I love this post!

I don't think you were drunk enough, though--you still felt the grass underneath you.

I have some friends (once extremely good friends) who purposefully disappeared—meaning, went to Alaska to can fish or some such and never came back, made contact, or got email addresses. I am upset about this. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 21st, 2006 06:40 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Yeah, I think it was just the stale beer that gave mea headache. I'm glad I didn't disappear then, though I must admit that the prospect of doing so at later stages in life has often appealed to me forcefully.
hollsterhambone From: hollsterhambone Date: August 21st, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Sometimes to me it seems like a nice idea to start completely fresh and become a "different" person (even though that person won't be that much different from myself, just a version of something that was already there). But those times are few and far between. But just the idea of a fresh start sometimes sounds invigorating.
tpratt From: tpratt Date: August 21st, 2006 07:04 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
your story reminds me of a time I tried to finish a magnum of some cheap-shit Cook's or something filched from the basement back in Stockton when I was like 17 or 18. I woke up in the middle of the backyard lawn, twigs entwined in my greasy long hair, with the taste of catshit hangover on my tongue. I went back inside the house to find a note from my Dad with a ten dollar bill attached. If memory serves, the note read "get a haircut and get your lazy ass a goddamn job." I took the dough to some place where they only gave you buzzcuts, no other possibility. Four bucks, I think it was. I spent the other six on beer.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 21st, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I feel like I missed out on some important experiences. I wish I could tell a story like that. It would be better, though, if you'd come in and hurled all over that pristine near-white carpet in the room that your brother warned us not to walk into, for fear that we might leave a stain. Even a little vomit on the "Spirit of '76" wallpaper upstairs would have been a nice touch.
From: tropicopolitan Date: August 22nd, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

turn, turn, turn

This is a great post. Funny--I came of cultural age exactly ten years later, and the shift from the 80s to the 90s seems to be almost exactly the reverse from that from the 70s to 80s. I remember suffering my most intense social misery in sixth grade at the hands of a bunch of big-banged, designer jeans-clad girls who called themselves the "Ladies of the Eighties" (it was 1989), while by the early years of the nineties everyone was wearing baggy flannel shirts (even in Hawaii), the songs on the airwaves were all about unraveling sweaters, and social activism and grassroots organizing was in. hm. It gives me some hope for the class of 2010.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: August 23rd, 2006 05:00 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: turn, turn, turn

Maybe that's why I liked grad school so much better than high school. It did seem, even as someone a little too old to partake of the youthful energy, that the early-to-mid 1990s were a lot better than my 1980s.

Then again, we got to celebrate the departure of a Bush from office. Here's hoping that we get a reprise of that party before 2030.
xmoonbunnyx From: xmoonbunnyx Date: August 24th, 2006 07:15 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Dazed & Confused

Have you seen the film "Dazed and Confused"? When you described the school's crackdown on pot, etc., I thought of that film. And how you laid outside on the blanket. that's in the movie, too. ;)

Do you drink much now? You said you didn't like the taste.

My first time drinking was at Brian's 18th birthday. His (rather sexy) second-cousin winked at us and handed us a plastic glass of vodka and gatorade. 1/2 and 1/2. We polished that off in a heartbeat, the two of us drinking from straws like in those old-fashioned ice-cream parlor drawings -- only not gazing at each other in love but rather eyes glimmering with mischief and mayhem. We downed 3 more glasses. I suppose the equivalent for me alone would be about 6-7 shots. You would think I'd be seeing a kaleidoscope. Or maybe just the cement -- you know, on the way down. Neither applies. I was just "a giggly lil schoolgirl," as Brian said, and I kept staring dreamily off at the stars. My reverie was interrupted by my ex-girlfriend, who phoned drunk off her ass, stuttering "I love you." I laughed at her. Alcohol lowered my inhibitions, and for once I was treating her back the way she always treated me. Sometime after hanging up and chilling with my friends, I got up to leave.
"Hold it, missy," Brian said, grasping my right arm and dragging me back into my chair. "You need to drink this water first." He handed me a bottle. I raised my eyebrows. But I drank it.
And when I tried again to leave, he handed me another, and said, "drink it." I rolled my eyes. But I drank it. And would you believe he did it again?

After all that water, I was finally able to leave, so I drove 45 minutes to Sahuarita. At home, my mother opened my door, ready to say something, and stopped dead, looking at me. "You're drunk!" she exclaimed, eyes wide. "You were drinking and driving."

"Well, technically, I drank -- and THEN I drove," was my witty answer. She just stared at me like I wasn't her own kin. And then walked back out of my room. And I fell into bed and slept...

Brian and his friend Cory were slammed the next morning, but I was fine.. worked and everything.

But I didn't tell all the truth here. What about the truth before the truth? Like, the fact that my father's a violent alcoholic. He's had 3 (caught) DUI's so far. My maternal grandmother died from alcohol-related diseases, notably cerorsis (sp?) of the liver. She drank vodka everyday. My father's brother is an alcoholic, as well as their father. And my maternal grandfather had a drinking problem. Everyone else has either had or continues to have drug problems.

Maybe that explains 7 shots on my first night drinking.

Hmm, that turned out to be a lot of a comment. Sorry for taking over! I should be practicing writing fiction for the class I'm in right now. Actually, what I REALLY should be doing is sleeping cuz I have class at 9 tomorrow morning.

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