The Outline of my Life
12 years old.
Sixth - seventh grade. The height of boyhood.
Meet Ed Mantels, my best friend for the next few years.
We draw comics together, including Ed's Fuzzies. Ed and I sat around drawing comics, and he had a pathetic little collection of comic books. I showed him my enormous collection of Marvel Comics, including very early issues of the Fantastic Four, Spider Man, and other choice morsels.
Ed could barely draw when I met him, but he was talented, and a very quick study. It wasn't long before he could draw as well as if not better than me, and more neatly, too. He also grew up to become a very successful Art Director.
We discovered the National Lampoon magazine together, by accident, at a newsstand in a drugstore by the Kingshighway Branch Library. We couldn't believe how lucky we were to buy a magazine with sexy, funny stories and photo funnies of horribly big breasted naked women. When you're twelve, stuff like that is like gold.
Ed's brother, Murgatroyde, a.k.a. Bud, was a feared enemy. He had an electric guitar we were afraid to touch and a nasty temper.
Walking down the alleys to the Library at Southwest and Kingshighway was my main entertainment in those days. All I liked to do was read.
Started seventh grade, which they set up like in High School, where we had a home room and we went from class to class for different subjects. My home room teacher was Mr. Thompson, a young blonde guy with black horn-rimmed glasses. He was pretty inept, and once had the stupidity to admit to us that we were all smarter than him, which was probably true, but nonetheless stupid to admit to a class you're supposed to be teaching. There was a science teacher, a cruel and worthless man, Mr. Snider, a Math teacher, the cruel and condescending Miss Furderer, and the English teacher, who was an amazing character, Miss Enright.
Miss Enright was a crusty character who drank gin from a thermos, had the highest expectations of her class of any teacher I ever had, told stories about hanging out with Ernest Hemingway at his house in Cuba, and gave me high marks. She had us do public speaking, which the black kids hated, since it meant they had to talk correctly in front of their jeering peers, but which I was strangely good at. She assigned a classic book for us to read every week, which was pretty tricky, since some of those classic books were pretty long. When she told us to read Moby Dick in a week I threw in the towel and didn't even try. She was like that, she didn't seem to think that any level of work was too much for us. She applauded me for my interest in Robert Benchley, since he was a cult interest of hers that showed that I had a little dash of sophistication.
My report card for this year has a comment from Mr. Thompson on my behavior: "Mumbles under his breath. Has an almost defiant attitude." I love that! Almost defiant!
The sexual maturity and intelligence of the north side kids made me jealous. Not to mention their hitting me and making fun of me all the time. The only black kid I had anything in common with, Mark Carrol, (who coincidentally ended up an Art Director like myself) still couldn't stand me because the consensus was that I was a totally pathetic fool beyond redemption.
I start getting beat up and hit a lot by Timothy Bailey and several other kids. They all hated me and called me a fag. This bewildered me, since there were a pair of obviously real fags in our class, and nobody ever called them fags.
My grandparents did some traveling in these years, which really impressed the whole family. They went to Hawaii one year, and Europe another. The glamor of world travel back in the 60s was so much more than it is to day that it defies description.
I fall in love with Lora Steffen. Karen Gorden was still around but she held me in contempt too. I sat behind Lora in Math Class and stared at her long thick curly blonde hair. She was very cool and slouchy and mature looking. We had several giggly chats on the phone that just made me feel worthless and depressed.
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