2 kool 4 school lunch
Sometimes a new relationship involves fights – fevered fractious fracases full of frenzy, fried flesh, frosh and flying food. Our first independent restaurant experiences began in school cafeterias. We chose our companions and meals and practiced social skills. Over time the food got better and we stopped throwing it.
Unpacking my totally uncool red-and-black-plaid lunch box in the grade school cafegymatorium in Reading, Pa. Lebanon bologna sandwich. Carrot sticks. Oreos? Oreos? Come on Oreos. Aww .. dried apricots, but I never objected like Little Gordon Ramsay (NSFW).
Junior high in Tucson, Ariz. – total freedom to eat doughnuts or get high in the desert. Everybody was divided into jocks or freaks. No respect for sardonic malcontents ... yet. ...
Back in Reading, I attended a large urban high school. A thousand kids ate in each of the two lunch periods. For me, lunch was raconteur training. Lunch table politics was Hobbesian; switching tables was socially hazardous. You needed a loyal crew.
One day Stacy Gottschall pointed a fish stick at me and said, "People either love you or hate you, Bob."
Yes! This was now my lunch table. I was the roller of big cigars.
The cafeteria was a tinderbox of itchy teenage angst, with teachers slurking about the restive herds. Inexplicably we had a juke box and every day for weeks someone played the P-Funk classic Flash Light.
♫ Ha da da dee da ha da ha da da da ...
I'm sure that if poet Wallace Stevens was valedictorian of Reading Boys High School, there was no Parliament-ary funk debate on whether to get up or get down. He had empires of ice cream to consider.
I sneered at the trippy funk jam. I banged my elbow on the table to the beat in mock enthusiasm. Then I started feeling it, really feeling it. It became a ritual for my table. Soon half the caf was elbow banging, dinging glasses with forks, and chanting along.
Ooh, stop light
Sardonic loner meet sardonic stealth-funk lunch table insurgent – Che Groovarra. My antic metastasized into a farrago of ironic, derisive, and genuine enthusiasm of white, black, and Puerto Rican kids. Why? Teacher torture. They trundled around muting our tempo-taunting tables, only to have the tintinnabular tapping pop up at others in a Whack-A-Mole slurry of chaos. Our pubescent tribes were briefly one nation under a groove.
On Hoagie Friday a fight broke out during Flash Light. The teachers swarmed the brawlers. Instead of getting up, we got down and banged to the beat and bleated Flash Light ... creating a funktastic West Side Story rhythmic throw-down.
The legacy of that year's valedictorian: I whipped in cafeteria cups a cacophony of concupiscent nerds. During my graduation speech, I burbled out some approved banalities, but in my head I was going ...
♫ Ha da da dee da ha da ha da da da ..
Sometimes the finale of seem is not be but beat.
P.S. I'm doing a weekly guest post on Midnight Sun called Tipsy Tuesdays. The new posts and 15 previous guest posts are collected here.
(Photo credits: Getty Images and bootsy.collins.com)