Soundtrack to Life – Graduation

Okay, so the past two columns have not been exactly what the idea of this column is all about. As such, I’ve received no other stories from any of you. No matter. Things may change over time. But anyways, this story will be a break from the other two, and give you a better idea of what I’m looking for.

———————————————————————

Graduation

“So Long” by The Suicide Machines

I barely remembered the past few nights. Most of the other students were studying hard to see to it they’d make it out those doors uncontested. That was never a worry for me. I’d always been good when it came to tests and exams, so that was the least of my worries. My past few nights had been spent with my friends, lovin’ life on the streets of this miserable city. I was too focused on the days ahead to worry about what questions might be on the papers they threw at us. Here it was, I was finally here. After 13 long years, I’d no longer have to wake up every morning and settle into the ever-conforming crowd so that I could learn. This was it, time to graduate.

I’d taken care to wake up early that day. My friends and I had decided to arrive in style on that final day of school. I was all set, waiting for our chariot to arrive. And there it was. A red convertible Pontiac Sunfire, top down of course. Okay, so it ain’t the snazziest car out there, but come on, it was a convertible. Musse was driving, and I was his first stop. Hopped in the passenger side and enjoyed the crisp summer air of the early morning. Dew still clinging to everything gave the world a distinctive smell. Ahhh, freedom. We gathered up Jay and Tim on the way to school. My god it was beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a morning as much as I enjoyed this one.

I finally felt liberated in this school. With a spring in my step and the heels of my brand new combat boots clicking off the ground, I wandered through many of the halls for what I knew would be the last time. Memories came flooding back. The friends I met, the jokes we shared, the girls I admired from afar, the classes I’d had throughout the past 4 years, and all the changes that had taken place in the building. I looked around for Her, one last time, hoping for the courage to speak, but it never came. Oh well, time for class.

I don’t remember what exams I had that day, though I think it was only one. It never felt so good to leave that school. I wouldn’t have to put up with these people anymore, I hoped. The fact of the matter is, no matter where you go, you’ll have assholes to deal with. But that’s neither here nor there. School had been this burden on my shoulders, the warden watching the inmates, the obligation to which we all had to respond. Perhaps I took it more seriously than others, and that’s why I felt so liberated to be out of there. Honestly, I still have recurring nightmares of being late for school. Told ya I was lame.

Our school, West Bend East and West Highschool, was divided into those two compass points. East had their graduation first, which I sadly didn’t attend. Jay was there, Tim was there, yet I didn’t make it to the cerimony. The next night, West Highschool held it’s graduation. All of the graduates had to go to their homeroom class rooms to get ready for the cerimony. All the guest had to wait in the gymnasium for the cerimony to begin. Teachers and staff patrolled the halls to be sure nobody was breaking the rules. But, leave it to my friends…..

“Joe!”

I looked down the hall and here came Tia, Jay and Adam. The three had gotten past security just to see me before the cerimony. I got a hug from Tia and the four of us chatted for a moment before they wished me luck and headed back to the gymnasium, unescorted by “security”. Here I was, feeling all alone up here, couldn’t find anyone from my class who cared enough to talk to me, and these three wind up finding me. I didn’t see anybody else breaking the rules to see their friends. Damn, I felt special.

We entered the gymnasium, double file, guys and girls arm in arm. Hearing the graduation theme playing, I held myself up high, almost strutting into the assembly. Of course, being a wrestling fan, I couldn’t shake images of Macho Man Randy Savage, but that’s neither here nor there. We sat through the speeches and performances from our valedictorians and other students. I didn’t care much for it, as I remembered some of these people being pompous asses. Of course there were people in the class wearing the masking tape “Hi Mom” on their mortar boards, but no, no streakers. Zack Aiuppa talked about it, but of course he didn’t follow through. The moment of the cerimony had to be Mr. Klingon standing before the assembly and singing “I Hope You Dance” by Leann Wommack, a song which to this day I haven’t forgotten, and have sort of grown attached to.

Time came for us to walk across the stage. I watched as single file they went across the stage. Applause was to be held until the end of the cerimony, but there were a few rowdy onlookers who felt a need to hoot and holler for their friend or family member. I didn’t plan on doing anything fancy when crossing the stage. Just to take my diploma with a somber straight face. My time was coming as we wound down the line.

“Joseph R. Nichols”

I walked up the steps, shook hands, and just as I reached for my diploma, I hear it straight ahead of me in a higher tier of bleachers.

“Go Joe!”

Damn them. I couldn’t help grinning ear to ear. One of the few who got a cheer.

When all was said and done, the tassle had been turned to the other side, it was time to mingle. We left the gymnasium, passing by friends and family. There was my ever-proud father with the camcorder in hand and his friend Tom. We made our way to the cafeteria where all could meet and talk. My dad handed me the camera as I went around meeting up with my friends and other graduates. While wandering from group to group, I couldn’t help but sing a little, low enough so the camera didn’t catch it though. A song I’d heard lately, playing from the tape deck in Jay’s van.

“You know you make me wanna say so long
You know you make me wanna say good bye.”

A lot of them did. There were a lot of people in the cafeteria that day that I never cared to see again. I wanted to put this place behind me as soon as possible. I still had one more social event to attend though. Project Graduation.

I got in Jay’s van and stopped at his house to change into my street clothes, nameley my black T-shirt with a red anarchy symbol on the front, and “Punk’s Not Dead” in white lettering on the back. Oh yeah, I was gonna ruffle some feathers. The whole event was basically to keep us from drinking and raising a ruckus on the streets that night. Jay and I went cuz it just seemed like a good idea. Hell, free food and a variety of activities beat the hell outta boredom and having to pay for a meal at Webb’s. Jay cleaned house in the gambling event we had there, and wound up ranking third over all. He picked up a microwave as his prize. This was very exciting at the time as we were talking about opening a coffee shop at the time. In the big raffle we had going on, I got a blanket. Whoopdeefuckin’doo. Well, we could use it for the roadtrip we were planning. We still had fun though. An American Gladiator style joust event was there, and a boxing game with oversized gloves. So whenever we got bored we beat the tar out of eachother. There was a hypnotist there later on, always good entertainment. Yeah, it was all sappy wholesome fun, but hey, it was fun.

As we drove off that night, I couldn’t shake the song from my head. This was it, the last hurrah. I wouldn’t see a lot of these people ever again. And as I thought about it, I smiled. Though the song is more of a breakup song, I guess it fits my relationship with that school.

How could such a simple argument turn into this?
I thought that I knew everything about you.
I pushed that flashing red button that set you off.
I guess that I didn’t really know you as well as I thought I did.
I guess that I figured out everything about you.
I guess that I know all there is to know.
I guess that I figured out what makes you do the things you do.
I guess that I know everything that there is to know.
You know you make me wanna say so long.
You know you make me wanna say good bye.
You know you make me wanna say so long.
You know you make me wanna say GOOD BYE!!!
How could you do all the things you’ve done to me?
And still have the nerve to say we’re friends, I don’t know.
They tell me that it’s all a part of growing up and being scared.
When I was down and out, where were you, you weren’t there!
I guess that I figured out everything about you.
I guess that I know all there is to know.
I guess that I figured out what makes you do the things you do.
I guess that I know everything that there is to know.
You know you make me wanna say so long.
You know you make me wanna say good bye.
You know you make me wanna say so long.
You know you make me wanna say GOOD BYE!!!
Good bye!
Good bye!
Good bye!
Good fuckin’ bye!

———————————————————————

Got a story you’d like to tell about a song that’s in the Soundtrack of your life? Don’t post it on the board. Email it to me and I’ll put it in my column. Stories will be posted in the order that their received. I don’t play favorites. All I ask is that you make sure the spelling and grammar are in fine order.
Email your stories to: loki@baloolapalooza.com