There was rafting without cops on the Clackamas River, something I never experienced although I was asked to join in. There were Dazed and Confused seduction scenes on the boats launched at Clackamette Park, where beer was beer and jean cutoffs, tube tops and the occasional macrame garment reigned, and big combs and chew canisters fitted tight in back pockets, and the high school boys all looked like cross country runners, even most of the football players.
There was that one senior prank where someone somehow sprayed deer scent into the radiators of the old building of the high school and the smell was ghastly for days.
There was music. In junior high I listened mostly to soul and funk music: Brothers Johnson, Commodores, Earth Wind and Fire, Ohio Players and Stevie Wonder. How I came to discover this genre is lost to me now. I surely must have heard some of the songs on Top 40 radio stations when they crossed over to the pop charts, but certainly not on KGON. I never listened to KGON. Oregon City had no record store so I would ride Tri-Met #33 alone to downtown Portland and shop at the groovy, incense-filled Crystal Ship tucked inside a secret corner of the Galleria. It was surely there where I bought the 12-inch single of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang and then put it on my little Hitachi stereo’s turntable and listened in my room, perhaps even with Tex the beagle. Later, I got somewhat into rock, and the Rolling Stones’ double album Hot Rocks certainly captured my attention. It was pretty much the soundtrack for our tennis teams.
There was that time when the school’s star athlete stole my math book and vandalized the cover with the misspelled words “fuk” and “shitt.” It was so absurd that I knew one day I would use the incident in a book and here I am doing so.
There were times in junior high when a pebble tossed against my bedroom window around midnight would interrupt my solitude. That pebble sound was wonderful and always unexpected. How did we set them up? They weren’t set up!
There was being a godless preacher’s kid and living in the preacher’s house across the parking lot from Oregon City Church of Christ and it’s football field-shaped front lawn where my dad played football with my grade school friends and taught me how to go long and run the sideline route. There was inviting my friends for sleepovers in the basement of the church and trying to make coffee in a gigantic percolator and playing tackle football on the carpet and chipping plastic golf balls into the baptismal.
There was the berry bus picking up the last generation of white Oregon kids and teens who would pick (or throw) berries in the dusty fields or cull berries on conveyor belts in a jam factory. I don’t have a berry bus or berry picking story because I lasted exactly one day. I couldn’t hack it. Many others did, every summer, all day during the picking season. They had a sack lunch and a thermos of Kool-Aid and that was it. Child labor! And barely any supervision. I have no idea how kids were signed up. I recall getting paid by bringing something over to be weighed. Pennies a pound. You didn’t pick, you didn’t get paid. There is great Oregon novel titled The Berry Bus waiting to be written. It needs to be written.
There was one summer afternoon in 1975 or 1976 when a naked woman sunbathing in Rivercrest Park, our park, sent titillation rippling through the neighborhoods and had us spying on her with toy binoculars we usually reserved for glassing imaginary Panzer divisions massing in the ruins of a demolished city that actually was an old miniature golf course gone to seed and rubble and our own little private Stalingrad.
There was walking to elementary and junior high school in hard rain. There was seeing Apocalypse Now in the Oregon City Drive-In with three buddies and me being the only one who knew it was a lot more than a war movie. I think when I realized that, I might have become a writer right there.
There was the whiffle ball field we sculpted out of a vacant lot (complete with plywood home run fence) and the league we invented, and the statistics I kept with a golf pencil in a spiral notebook.
There was endless days of playing army in the woods along Coffee Creek, and in the marshes of a wetland now buried in asphalt. We were never home and took along sack lunches. We made campfires and roasted hot dogs. We built forts, bunkers and pillboxes. We climbed trees and constructed dams.
There was Saturday Night Fever in seventh grade, in the front row of the Southgate Theater, with a seventh-grade girl with a royal biblical name, wearing a silky floral-print blouse and blue jeans while John Travolta danced onscreen.
There was Portland Wrestling in channel 12 on Saturday nights and the Tom Peterson ads. I never missed it but I never went to a card in the flesh. What a fool!
There was the first McDonald’s opening and everyone going crazy and it being cool to work there, like the mall in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
There was the foos ball craze in junior high and foos tables in the cafeteria and brooding boys who wore foos ball gloves in the back pockets of their jeans all day.
There was a smoking area. For students!
There was driving to the Eastgate Theater to see Raging Bull by myself and then taking a date to Kurosawa’s Kagemusha.
There was hoping that “Hotel California” would or would not come on at a junior high dance depending on whom you were dancing with right before it did come on.
There was home construction class that built a new home every year, and art classes and pottery wheels and kilns and home ec with sewing and cooking, and auto, wood and metal shops and boys taking five periods of shop a day and then graduating with skills that employed them with a middle-class living for the rest of their working lives and skills they taught their children that served those children the rest of their lives when they went on to do home improvement or fix a car.
And there was the darkroom and all the darkroom shenanigans. Darkroom Shenanigans would have been a great name for a rock band in 1981. Sadly, I don’t have a darkroom story. Many do.
There was getting lost finding the prom venue (Holiday Inn off I-5) and walking into a cover band with a female live singer butchering “Start Me Up” but later nailing “Private Eyes.” I got lost trying to find my senior prom! It was awesome.
There was never touching a single computer in my public education, but the Apples and IBMS were there at the very end, gaining a quiet foothold with a certain kind of kid.
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