Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Terminally Embarrassing Adolescence


My freshman year of high school in Cucamonga, California. Gym class. Specifically the shower afterwards, which was mandatory - and absolutely mortifying for a 14 year old.

The routine here was to drop your underwear, walk into the water, walk out, towel off like you were on fire and immediately re-don your tighty whities, before anyone saw the ghastly changes to your body that were only happening to YOU, and you ALONE.

That wasn't my problem. The problem on this day was that I had left a small skid mark in my underwear. 

  • Which was lying on the bench. 
  • Which everyone in my peer group (hundreds, maybe thousands) immediately saw. 
  • And laughed at. 
  • And then pointed and laughed at ME, standing there, naked in the shower.
  • And I nearly died from embarrassment.
And then at the prom they poured pigs blood all over me.
So I burned the school down.
With my MIND. 



I was a surfer at one time. No, really! Me, with skin like the underbelly of a newborn gosling, used to spend a lot of time with a boogie board off the coast of Huntington Beach. Even though I couldn't really swim.

One day my friend Richard and I were way out in the swells when I endo-ed after barn walling down a left-hand breaker and biffed it straight to the cactus. (That is, I fell off my board and got caught up in the wave which hurtled me down underwater to the reef below.) 

Now being a Barney I had unfortunately done this sort of thing many times before. The trick is to use your last remaining moment above the waterline to get a big gulp of air before you get slammed down for good. 

You just go limp, and ride the turbulence underwater with your eyes closed. Eventually your body will figure out which way is up, the water will clear, and you can follow your leash up to your surfboard on the surface. Not a problem.

Except this time - 
  1. My leash had snapped in the cacophony and my board was heading into the beach without me, and 
  2. While I was down there I got nailed by a jellyfish.

Which means, of course, I screamed. Because if these spineless, brainless dinosaurs ever collectively decide to take us over, then Humanity is DOOMED. A sting hurts that much, and I would gladly welcome our new gelatinous overlords if it meant that I never had to feel that kind of pain again.

Meet the new boss
So, the worst thing you can do when you are underwater is scream. Because then your body will then reflexedly INHALE, and now you've lost all your buoyancy.

Now this isn't a Frodo saving Samwise from the Anduin River kind of tranquility. I was pissed at myself, I could see which way was up now, and I thrashed my way up to the light, cursing like Yosemite Sam with my lungs full of water.

But I had used up all my strength in getting up there. I was exhausted, my left leg was completely numb and my board was nowhere in sight. I couldn't see Richard either, but he heard me retching all the seawater out of me.

And damn but I am one lucky bastard: Rich was on his high school water polo team and had just completed a lifeguard program. He paddled over, sized up my situation at a glance, and hopped off his board to encircle me with one arm. But I was seriously panicked by this point and I lunged at him.

And then he did something so surprising that I completely forgot my dangerous situation and stopped in mid-lunge.

He rose out of the water like mighty Cthulhu, with that bizarre eggbeater kick that only water polo goalies can achieve, and he cocked his right arm back like he was about to clock me a good one. 

Richard and I and some actual GIRLS. Camp Oakes, 1979.
Please forgive almost everything in this photograph.
Because you can't save a frantic person from drowning. You can only save a calm person from drowning. And he was quite willing to cold-cock me in order to save me.

But luckily I was gob smacked by this vision above me and I stopped struggling. He talked to me all the way into shore, asking me questions, and I don't remember a word that either of us said. But I am forever grateful.

And a few years later I got him laid, so I think we're even now. 


The Death of disco. Thank the gods. Its fun at parties now, but now you only hear the best of the genre. For those born after 1975 though, you have no idea how pervasive disco was, how omnipresent it became and how much most of it SUCKED. 

But that's what the girls liked, and I liked girls, and not being able to dance the Hustle with them was pretty much the End of Everything.

You're right, Geddy: Most of it certainly did.
At that time in my life I was living in the shadow of Mount Baldy, our mail route was "rural route #2" and I only got ONE radio station, KFI, 50,000 watts of mayonnaise, and all they played was "Boogie Oogie Oogie". Ugh.

I turned off the radio and taught myself to play a musical instrument by sheer necessity. And that, I think, saved my life.

Angus McMahan

(Pics from allwomenstalk.com, Olan Mills [pre-braces! Can you TELL?], dabuschckah.deviantart.com, Authors collection [don't remember the girl on the left, but that's Karen Baldwin between Rich and I], and Pinterest.)

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