Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mountie Pride...And Other Tales From My Teenage Crypt

Best Quote I Heard All Day
High school is closer to the core of the American experience than anything else I can think of.--Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Yep, that's my high school yearbook picture. And the name tag I wore last night at the Montclair High School Class of 1968's 40th reunion. Yes, MHS warrants its own Wikipedia page. If you remember the movie, "Cheaper by the Dozen," the original, not the remake, the Gilbreth family lived in Montclair. Some of our alumni of note:
  • Buzz Aldrin
  • Joe Walsh (of the Eagles, if you're too young to remember)
  • Allen B. DuMont
  • Robert Trent Jones
  • Christina Ricci
  • Warren Littlefield
And me and Dottie Melcher, along with a host of other misanthropes. Well, perhaps that's too harsh a description. The Mad Dob and Marsh, as we were known in high school, haven't changed a whole hell of a lot.

I won't bore you with the details but suffice it to say that there is nothing better than reconnecting with people who you saw every single day of the school year from elementary school through high school. Here's the two of us, posing for a picture, which is perhaps not the most flattering but certainly indicative of the evening.

Somewhere I have a picture of the two of us at our brothers Rich and Bob's elementary school graduation, 16 years old and thought we were hot shit. I suppose not much has changed. It truly hasn't. We had not seen each other for six years. It was more like six minutes.

How We Became Artsy Fartsy Creative Types
When Dottie and I first met in 4th grade, she had a couple of Madame Alexander dolls, large ones, that were Gone With The Wind dolls, maybe Scarlett O'Hara and Melanie. I wasn't much for dolls but I was always fascinated by their clothes. We played with those dolls for quite a while. Until the following year, when Barbie became synonymous with dolly fashion.

When Barbie came out, I was almost 10 but immediately jumped on the Barbie bandwagon because at that time, her clothing was exquisitely made, miniature to-scale zippers and snaps, wonderful lace on the $5 wedding dress that took me weeks to save up for.

I wasn't much of a seamstress but I did try to knit little outfits for Barbie. Lots of dropped stitches, of course. And nothing in the way of shaping. But the garment bug had bitten me.

By the time Dottie and I were in 10th grade in 1966, Mary Quant was our fashion heroine. Our plan for life? We'd design clothes and open up our own boutique, The Mad Dob. Dottie could draw, I couldn't. But we both sewed our own clothes and figured we were hip enough to make a go of it. The dreams of two freaky teenagers. It was a wonderful time.

Going to London in the summer of 1967 and wandering around Carnaby Street whetted our fashion appetite, although we couldn't afford to buy any clothes there. And then to France, where we were blown away by the French girls' amazing style.

By the time graduation time came, our parents had managed to redirect us. Dottie went to Boston University to major in art, I went to Wilson College to major in French because I was really better at languages and I couldn't draw a straight line. The Mad Dob was put on hold, and life continued apace.

The upshot, 40 years later? Dottie is an art director, I'm a writer. We're both still involved in garment design. She specializes in Civil War costumes, crochets and sews. I can still sew, although I haven't for a long time. And you know what I do.

This is just one of the ties that bind. But it may be the most important. Because it's the fucking Vulcan mind meld. From age 9 to 58, things have remained the same--we still laugh at the same things, love the same things, and function the same way, more or less.

If nothing else in my life, I have had extraordinary friends. But this one, this lunatic of my childhood, is the best loved by far. And is she rare and handy? Need you ask? I love her muchly. (And if you ever run into Dottie, ask her about the "electrical" banana we stole one cold December night from a Christmas display downtown. And how she managed to ignite her bangs on the Bunsen burner in chemistry class, which she claims not to remember. But I do.)

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