Friday, August 22, 2008

Big Fish

The Common Man is blogging in the land from which he hails this weekend. He, The Uncommon Wife, and The Boy drove out last night to help celebrate a slew of birthdays, including his father's (61), brother's (26), grandmother's (91 years young!) and mother's (the big six-oh). Also, his parents' anniversary was the 15th. The Common Man was fortunate growing up, in that he never had to share his birthday (July 20, for those who want to get him a card or a million dollars) with anyone else in the family. Meanwhile, something like 47 different significant events were celebrated together, stuffed into one short evening. Meanwhile, The Common Man got the whole month of July to himself, meaning he got to choose the cake, the meal, the theme for the party (usually something baseball related). It was a good life.

Anyway, while The Common Man went out to run some errands this morning, he stopped by his old high school and walked around a while. It has been largely revamped, adding a concert auditorium, a courtyardish area, and a mess of new classrooms. Much of the building was entirely unrecognizable.

But that didn't stop The Common Man from finding the band room where he spent many a morning playing his trumpet. Or the stairs he bounded down with the energy of a far younger man. Or the halls where he would wave at friends and weave through crowds. He even could tell where his old calc teacher's new room was by the familiar decorations on the wall and the massive pyramid made of straws and string hanging upside-down from the ceiling.

But here's what The Common Man wasn't expecting. Everything seemed so small. The ceilings seemed lower. The drinking fountains shorter. The stairs narrower. The lockers tinier (how did anyone ever get shoved in there?). It's not like The Common Man has gotten appreciatively bigger (vertically at least) since his high school days, either. He was five-foot-seven then, and he's five-foot-seven now. But somehow, those empty hallways seemed so much littler than they did twelve years ago, filled with shoving, running, shuffling, gregarious, teenagers. Then it seemed huge. That those walls could hold such a busy and bustling throng of humanity and hormones.

Is this what happens when people get older? The things that impressed them so as doe-eyed 16-year-olds just don't have the same juice? That the world will seem ever smaller and more vulnerable? Has The Common Man expanded his perception so much (and will his perception keep expanding so much) that all will seem small in comparison? And is this the natural order or is it simply because The Common Man is so in touch with his inner awesome?

Other random observations:
1) The Common Man was sure a skinny little bastard in high school, and if you look at the right tennis trophy, you can see that.
2) Swimmers are idiots. Who puts a tuxedo shirt on in the pool for a team picture? What kind of idiot poses for a photo in his speedo, on a snowbank in January?
3) You can always tell where the language teachers are, particularly Spanish, as their doors are garishly decorated with maracas and sombreros.
4) The panopticon is alive and well, as there is a camera hanging from the ceiling in the courtyard to spot trouble.
5) How into high school football do you have to be to sit in the stands and watch a team practice without pads in August? Unhealthily so? Do you have to be a former H.S. football star who blew out his knee in the big game and didn't get that scholarship to Football University, or can anyone qualify?
6) Before your freshman year, did your mom take you around the school with a list of your classes to find out where everything was? The Common Man saw two particularly exasperated looking soon-to-be frosh dragging their mothers in tow as they looked for history classrooms. Everything you were picturing in that moment about your high school experience was totally different, wasn't it?

Anyway, The Common Man will be back tomorrow night with a review of the Minnesota State Fair and any and all beers he drank there.

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