Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pretty Fine: Every Guy's Nightmare

Every now and then I tell this story during our concerts as an intro to one of our songs.

This story is dedicated to all of the guys in the world who've made a fool of themselves. You know who you are.

I went to a Catholic high school and as you might imagine, contact with members of the opposite sex was limited to twice a day meetings. On special days, like religous holidays or school assemblies, we got an extra boost of the opposite sex.

The entire architecture of the school was designed to maintain this separation. The teachers were the Christian Brothers (of wine fame) and the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM). The school was a T shaped building complex with the stem of the T containing those facilities that couldn't be duplicated because of cost. Facilities like the cafeteria, science labs, gyms, library were fertile grounds for all sorts of adolescent mischief and fantasy, no doubt caused by exposure to the opposite sex. The Boy's and Girl's divisions were in the cross bar of the T. Boys occupied one side in a building painted in light blue and the girls occupied the other wing and yes, it was painted pink. These two wings were separated from the main stem by aerial walkways. We always imagined that individual wings could be isolated in the event of an impure thought by one of the adolescents with raging hormones. Which brings me to the point of this story......

I had a crush on a girl in my class. There, I said it. Guys, you know what I'm talking about. It was that type of crush where I memorized everything I could find out about her. She played basketball and I watched those games from the stands. I knew if I sat in the front desk by the door, I could see her walk by during class change. I knew that if I sat in a certain area in the cafeteria that she would look in my direction and wave. It wasn't until later (after returning her waves) that I realized she wasn't waving at me but rather at someone sitting behind me. Yes, I was a wave interloper, committing the worst faux pas, that of the return wave not meant for you. What a dork!

I remember the day well. It was a Saturday afternoon, early spring, crystal clear sky with just a hint of high clouds, temps in the 60's. It was that type of day that you knew only good things could happen. I came out of the gym heading to the exit where my dad was waiting for me. I have a basketball in my hands and had a pretty good game which for me meant that I didn't throw away the ball and I actually made a foul shot.

As I walk down the hallway, I look up and there she is. The object of my unrequited affection, the person with whom I had countless conversations in my mind, the smartest, coolest chick in the world and she was heading in my direction! This was my chance to atone for those return waves, those smiles, my invisibility. This was it! This was my chance to impress her with my command of the English language and my obvious athletic abilities.....the basketball, that orb of power and status in the high school world.

She approaches and I notice that she is looking at me. I KNOW there is no one behind me this time. There is no chance of mistaken identity. Because I was a musician and practice was a skill ingrained in me, I run through the upcoming conversation in my head:

Her: how are you? Haven't seen you in a while!
Me: Doing pretty fine, how are you! I see you're wearing running shoes. You must be a jogger.
Her: You're smart and I was going for an ice cream cone. Would you like to join me?
Me: Of course, I like nothing better than an ice cream cone after a hard day of basketball practice in the gym behind me where you're heading after talking to me.....
Me: Focus! Focus!

I find myself getting closer to the wall. In fact, I'm getting so close to the wall, I'm tracing the mortar indentations on those cinder block walls. Focus! Be cool! This is your chance to impress her with your wit, smarts, musical and athletic talent. She's looking at me now and I'm starting to sweat. No problem! I just came out of the gym. She'll just think I had a hard workout.....oh yeah, my cool factor will jump up when she thinks about that. Yep, she's definitely looking at me and drifting to my side of the hall. Ok, time for the cool walk!

She's now 5 feet, 4 feet, 3 feet away and she stops in front of me and says:

Her: Hi there. Do you know what time it is?

I still remember the moment I replied to her simple question. It was 40 years ago and I remember every detail of the hallway, the lighting, her looking up at me with those inquiring eyes, that smile, those running shoes, the graceful way she held her hands, the feel of every nub on the basketball I was holding. To this day, I remember those things along with those words spoken by me so eloquently, so polished, so impressive:

Me: Pretty fine, how are you?

copyright 2009 randymarchany

The Neighborhood

The Sunday ritual is always the same. I take my mom to church, and then we stop for lunch and afterwards, go visit my dad. My parents have been separated for 5 years now after 61 years of marriage. Someone asked them on their 55th wedding anniversary how long they’d been married. My dad answered “56 years” and my mom dope slapped him and said “it was 55 years”. My dad sighed and said “it seems like 56.” It was obvious the separation was going to happen but I suppose they were hoping it wouldn’t. Seems silly to me that mom wants to visit my dad after they separated but I guess it’s one of those things that I don’t understand.

My dad’s neighborhood is a nice place with long sloping greens that have the telltale lawnmower tire tracks that leave geometric patterns resembling Incan Nazca lines etched in the grass. The neighbors always have bright flowers that contrast with the lush spring and summer greens and yet still look good with the fall and winter browns. Mr. Simon, my dad’s new neighbor moved in the neighborhood recently so I don’t know much about him. Mrs. Hodges arrived about the same time my dad did. I continue walking and stop by to straighten out Sgt. Brown’s flowers outside his door. He was a Marine and a Korean War vet. I can imagine hearing him “talking” to his troops. I look up and see mom talking to dad from Ms. Collette’s place. Someone always knocks her flower pots over and I pick them up for her. She doesn’t thank me but I get the feeling she appreciates the effort. I start to swing back toward my dad’s place when I get to Mrs. Schaeffer’s place.

The separation has been hard on my mom and I head back to my dad’s place before my mom gets upset with him. Sometimes she gets frustrated with him and I have to listen to her rant about something he did. As I walk up the hill to his place, I see some new neighbors have arrived. One family appears to be a dad and his teenage son, a 16 year old kid. I’ll have to check later to see if he got his driver’s license. My dad’s immediate neighbors have their flowers out and they brighten up the place. My mom always complains that my dad’s flowers aren’t as good or pretty as his neighbors. What can I say? I come up to my mom and gently tug on her arm to let her know it’s time to go. “Who’s the new neighbor?” she asks. “The Youngs”, I reply, “I don’t know much about them.” My mom straightens out my dad’s entrance, always fussing with the plants. I check his entrance one last time and clean his nameplate, “Carlos Marchany, 1904-2004” before we leave only to return next Sunday.

©randymarchany, 2009