If one were to discover an old yearbook from 1987, they would see a version of me radically different from 1988. The small town picture showed me for what I was; beaten and miserable. I had a stunned expression like a caged rat.
However, the following picture from my first year at Vincent Massey High? Not even the same guy. I appeared bright-eyed and ready to conquer the world. Thanks to my sisters wedding makeover, I wore my hair different. I was also starting to develop more mature facial features.
Ok, I’ll say it. I looked magnificent.
Of course, new school means new friends. I never was very good at that particular skill, but it wasn’t long before the problem took care of itself. For example, Computer Science class. I sat next to this big guy, Nathan. Every now and then Nathan would lean over and punch my arm. It was absolutely done in good humor, but after a while it was starting to piss me off.
The teacher would turn.
Bang bang, on my arm.
A while later the teacher would turn his attention elsewhere once more.
Bang bang, on my arm.
“What the eternal hell, man?” I would say, half laughing and half wanting to pile-drive this asshole. I then see his textbook and inside is most assuredly a comic book. My desire to commit a homicide is overtaken by curiosity.
“What book is that?” I whisper.
He quickly passes me the book and I slide it into my textbook. It’s some obscure comic called Ralph Snart, and it was gut-splitting funny. I was accustomed to the seriousness of Marvel superheroes but this was just straight-up comedy. It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.
Nathan quickly became my best friend in high school. Quite often I would head over to his place and like a starved urchin, raid his fridge. If fortune shone upon me, I would be on the receiving end of his mom’s Ukrainian cabbage-roll suppers. I never knew anything in the universe could taste so magnificent.
Nathan’s family was fairly well off since his dad owned an autobody shop. So naturally he had access to a lot of toys. In this case, a Commodore 64 souped-up to the max, complete with a phenomenal 1200 baud modem. He even had his own private phone line.
Back in 1988, there was no Internet. But there was a series of dial-in sites we termed a BBS ( Bill Board System ) run by independent hobbyists. You would dial in ( if a line was available ), hopefully connect, and then play a text-based game or download software. If you chose the later, you committed yourself to a task that would take hours, if not overnight. Remember…1200 baud. Most people who owned a modem had a 300 baud, so Nathan was playing with the big boys. There were of course, limitations to this basic form of telecommunications. If the line got disconnected, you had to start a download over. Being a pirate in those days took effort and a ton of patience.
Nathan’s family also had another grand feature, cable TV. At my old farm, we had an antenna or whatever coat-hanger provided the best reception. Through cable I was introduced to the imaginative world of science fiction. In particular, Red Dwarf, a British low-budget comedy about a guy who is the last man in the universe. His only companions are the ships aging computer, a hologram of his old bunkmate, an evolved cat and an eager-to-please custodial android. There was also Doctor Who, but I never could get into that one.
But what about girls? Well, In short order, I got what I was long asking for. Yes, believe it or not, John got a girlfriend. I think. It was all rather sudden. And as you would fully expect, I had no idea what to do with her.
Elaine was a perfectly nice girl who took a liking to me within the first two months at Vincent Massey. She was absolutely the instigator in the relationship by asking me out for coffee and even to a Midnight Oil concert, which was pretty awesome. She was a soft spoken brunette and I’m sure I could have been a little more clear on my intentions. But that would have meant I would have had a clue what they were, and I wasn’t entirely self-aware yet.
Try to imagine a dog chasing a car. That’s young guys with girls. We chase, chase, chase and finally a car stops. Then we just stare at the vehicle like, “ok…what now?” That was me at this stage of life.
I think the whole “relationship” lasted a month. In terms of being a decent boyfriend, wow…did I ever drop the ball. Terrible communication and when I decided it was time to call it quits, I sort of just slid away without the decency of letting her know. I simply never had any emotional investment in the whole enterprise. Suffice to say, she could have easily done better by getting a hamster.
But I took it as a learning experience. Clearly I was capable of getting a girlfriend. That was a start. Now I just had to connect with one who was more my type. What was my type? Well, that took a little independent study to determine.