Kokomo, Quiz Bowl, and Band Room Bleeding

Evolution: 1. My first day of school (holding a panda rug that you’ll read about below). 2. Wearing my “Where’s the Beef” t-shirt, which is probably the greatest beef-related shirt ever. 3. Wearing a Miami shirt for some odd reason. 4. Posing in my tux before driving less than one block to pick up my date for senior prom.

Recently, a vote determined that my old high school building will be closed in 2015. After that, high school kids will be sharing space with the middle schoolers in the building one town over (I always wanted to say “one town over” because it makes me feel like Andy Griffith).

My entire kindergarten-12th grade experience was spent in one school district and a grand total of three buildings. As my buddy Mike astutely noted, once the high school building closes, all three of those buildings will no longer be used for educational purposes. In addition to the high school building being decommissioned, the kindergarten/first grade building is no longer used by the school and the old elementary was demolished several years ago.

With another school about to become obsolete, it’s a good time to reminisce about memories associated with the years I spent in those buildings – memories that, for better or worse, have stuck with me up to this point. Even if you didn’t grow up with me, I hope you can relate to some of these experiences… or at the very least, get a cheap laugh at my expense.

Note: all names have been removed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.

Kindergarten: Remember nap time? I sure do. I had this really sweet shaggy panda rug that I slept on… or at least I tried to sleep on it. Teachers want nap time to be quiet time, but let’s face it: it never was truly quiet. Someone was always sobbing or screaming or farting. Me? I just curled up on my panda rug and waited for cookie time.

First Grade: We had a school secretary/nurse/lunch lady/speech coach/P.A. announcer named Mrs. Rife (fine, I already broke the name-removal protocol) and she did this hilarious thing when she served us Maid-Rites. If you asked for a “Maid-Wrong,” she’d give you the sandwich with the top half of the bun upside-down. Why was it funny? I have no clue. We were first graders; we would have laughed at anything. I also remember other kids throwing hot dogs under the tables in the lunch room. Okay fine, I did it, too… once… just to see what a hot dog would look like when it bounced off a concrete floor. You know what it looked like? AWESOMENESS.

Second Grade: This was back in the day when tube socks were all the rage. I had socks that almost went up to my knees – you know, the ones with the colored stripes at the top. Anytime I was nervous, I’d start pulling up the socks in an OCD-ish fit of trying to calm myself. This led to many years of me pulling on my socks whenever I got nervous. Second grade was also when I got invited to my first roller skate birthday party. This led to me requesting “Kokomo” multiple times when I was at a skating rink a couple years later. I love me some Kokomo.

Third Grade: Our teacher decided to have us make a music video and we chose “Surfin’ USA” as our song. My job was to take an empty Cool Whip container and make it look like a cake. So I sat down at home one night, pulled out my markers, and went to town. I was a Cubs fan at the time (don’t judge), so I only used the red and blue markers. It ended up being a striped red and blue cake, which I was thought was pretty well-done. I brought in the “cake” the next day and one of my classmates asked if he could use it for his scene in the video… he was pretending to be a cop and thought my “cake” would make an excellent light for the top of his squad car. I have pinpointed this as the exact moment when I learned what “multi-purpose” meant.

Fourth Grade: Fourth grade was radical, cool, awesome, sweet, and all the other fad words we used back then (and judging by this blog, I’m still using some of them). Our teacher would give me issues of Sports Illustrated to read, thus fueling my interest in both sports and writing. And I had a girlfriend. Obviously it’s not “girlfriend” like the kind you have when you grow up, but more like a cute puppy dog kind of thing… which is adorable for little fourth grade boys because they haven’t realized how much women are going to hurt them later on.

Fifth Grade: I had two shirts that I wore a lot in fifth grade: one was fluorescent pink and the other was fluorescent green. Why were fluorescent colors in fashion back then? No clue. I don’t remember which shirt I was wearing at the time, but on one field trip, I do remember the class bully smashing me up against the inside of a school bus window. And then after school that day, I found out that one of our family’s cats had to be put down. That was a real fantastic day in Michaelville.

Sixth Grade: Our science teacher had a caged ferret in her classroom. It reeked. The room smelled like a hot sauna filled with rancid meat and burnt dog hair. You ever see crows picking at a possum carcass on the side of the road and wonder how they can stand the stank? It’s probably because their sixth grade science teacher owned a caged ferret.

Seventh Grade: I’ll be honest: seventh grade wasn’t the greatest. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease and missed a whole lot of school. And one of the times I actually was at school, I almost decapitated myself in the band room. I was pulling up an old, creaky metal music stand (with the top part pointed away from me, of course) when the top came loose and twisted around. I didn’t have time to react, pulled the stand right towards my face, and sliced myself above the lip (I still have a mark to this day). So I’m standing there bleeding and the ever-brilliant band teacher walks up to me and says, “You shoulda pointed it away from your face.” Gee, thanks for the concern. No, no, don’t mind the blood gushing from my face. I’ll just cup my hands and catch it before it stains your precious band room carpet. Hey, I’ve got an idea: while I’m waiting for my mom to pick me up and take me to the doctor, why don’t I put this broken music stand back together? Would you like that? Because I’m just standing here bleeding – my schedule’s wide open for the next five or ten minutes (NOW THAT’S SARCASM!!)

Eighth Grade: My grandpa died when I was in eighth grade, so really, everything else takes a back seat to that. The one good thing that happened in eighth grade was that I scored two points in our final basketball game of the season. I was dribbling the ball down the court on a breakaway and for some reason, I stopped near the free throw line and sank a jumper instead of taking it in for a layup. Oh, and we won on a crazy half-court buzzer beater after going winless all throughout seventh and eighth grade. No big deal. Maybe we stunk because we had to wear starchy uniforms from the ‘70s that left nothing to the imagination… not like anyone had anything for the imagination at this point anyway, but you get the drift.

Freshman Year: I went out for varsity basketball, but had to leave the team after good ‘ol Crohn’s Disease knocked me for a loop. But in the short time I was on the team, some of the seniors started calling me Muggsy (after Muggsy Bogues, one of the shortest players in NBA history). I remember we had this drill in practice where your teammates lined up on one side and you had to run the length of the court while passing the ball back and forth to each of them. You had to do it without dribbling, and if something went wrong, you had to do push-ups or laps or some form of punishment. Anyhoo, we had this foreign exchange student who kept throwing the ball over my head every. single. time. To this day, I still wish I had learned to yell “LOWER!” in Spanish.

Sophomore Year: I really don’t remember anything highly entertaining from this year. It was the last year of our school before we merged with the school nearby to form a new, bigger, more powerful uber-school – kinda like when the robot lions join together to form Voltron.

Junior Year: I fractured my wrist while rough housing with my brother. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the doctor who gave me a shot to numb my arm, then proceeded to re-set the fractured bone BEFORE the numbing could take effect. The fractured wrist taught me a few valuable life lessons: how to scratch an itch with a pencil, how to take a shower with a garbage bag wrapped around my arm, and of course, how to swear vengeance on incompetent doctors.

Senior Year: This was the second year of our school’s Quiz Bowl domination, a legacy that continued long after we graduated. After winning the conference tournament the previous year, we came back and did it again. Mystery surrounded this year’s competition. Did we lose on purpose in the double-elimination tournament just so we could fight our way through the losers’ bracket and embarrass the host school two games in a row to win the championship? Did we steal a copy of the questions beforehand? The world will never know. Also, senior year was when I had my first official girlfriend. Didn’t amount to much, but I accidentally did a textbook piledriver on her younger brother that summer, so that counts as something positive, right?



  1. Michael,
    Your stories are great! I feel like I know you so well now. And who knew you had so much hair. 😉 JK. Looking forward to the next one!

  2. Thanks. Ha – yeah, I used to have more hair back in the day. Maybe the disappearance of it is one of the downsides of being married ha ha.

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