The Spirit of ‘76, Again (June 16th, 2018, Monett, MO)

The the ghost of my 14th year visited unexpectedly again today. After a trip to Nevada with Nicole and my parents to visit the Bushwackers Museum (interesting, but apologetic of those dang Confederates and cruel and unusual punishment) and check out a Mexican restaurant (Los Sauces–they will roast your stuffed peppers), we returned to Monett and surfed for a good movie we’d all like. We landed on Dazed and Confused, which my parents hadn’t seen but we’d seen multiple times. I’d even screened it for high school classes (a mighty fine resistance theme) and my 30th high school reunion (very, very accurate portrayal of our experience, minus the Texas fixins). I wasn’t immediately aware of it until we were 20 minutes into the film, but, just as I was 14 when I first heard “Night Moves” (see yesterday’s post), I was Wiley Wiggins’ character Mitch’s age during that bicentennial year.

So what? Every time I see this great film I have a new personal epiphany. This time, it occurred to me that the pitch-perfect soundtrack toggles between songs that (for me, at least) triggered emotional and even physical liberation (like “Free Ride” and “Cherry Bomb”), and songs that seemed to portend social intimidation and anxiety (like “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” “Paranoid,” and “Stranglehold). They weren’t (aren’t) guilty pleasures; they captured what particularly small-town high school life was like to navigate. I did get physically intimidated like Mitch and his friends (chipped: punched in the chest); I didn’t really have an upperclassmen take me under his wing. I did escape joyfully into headphones and cold sixers; I didn’t ever figure out how to be cool and withhold my enthusiasm. I most definitely let it all hang out, screaming out car windows to an Alice song, but I never found the philosophers. 9th grade was frustrating, and social hierarchies, sexual game theory, and indifferent, often hostile adults had a lot to do with it.

I wish I could say I got the best of an O’Bannion. The closest I came was joining with my fellow jv football captain Shawn an organizing a practice walk-out, aimed at our coaches and the varsity team, who demanded we go full scrimmage the day after we returned home at 3 a.m. after an overtime loss and bus issues. In general, my actual experience supported Randall “Pink” Floyd’s vow never to call high school the best years of his life.

Short-shrift Division:

Tonight’s Five Crown soundtrack provided by Errol Garner, Johnny Hartman, Fats Waller, and Anita O’Day.

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