Letter to a Friend – Part Three

I think of her voice first and foremost, then the large eyes… sort of childlike in their wonder, and old-soul in their skepticism.

I think of the graceful laugh, and the ease with which it acted as punctuation to even the most mundane Sebastopol insight.

I think of the cool attitude.. as if somehow that would provide an express ticket out of Analy High. It never did. We all know that.

I think of how she was able to be so many things when some of us were trying desperately to pull off being anything at all.
– Gregg Victor

I sometimes think to myself now “Why did I not see how troubled that person must have been when I knew them back then.” And of course the answer is that I was just a nutty kid at the time who only barely understood the reflection in the mirror, much less anything else that was going on
– JP

Turnabout Dance (with Sam Crump) 1979

Dear Bernie –

We attended Analy High School from September, 1978 to June 1982. How much can I remember of the experience? Specifically, how much can I remember of you at Analy?

I understand that some people look back at their high years with nostalgia, with fondness. I’m not one of those people. I made a lot of good friends and I had a lot of great times but I’ve no desire to repeat the experience. High school was a part time prison. I spent a good part of my freshman year stoned. I’d go down to the field at brunch, smoke some cheap weed and be high the rest of the morning.

Now I can see all sorts of ways that I could have taken advantage of opportunities at Analy, ways that I could have enjoyed myself and actually prepared myself for the Real World. But that’s with a quarter century of experience under my belt. As a teenager school was regular dull torture, climbing in a box every day with a bunch of other angry (depressed, mean, abrasive) monkeys, performing pointless tricks to receive intangible rewards (or avoid senseless punishments). Was it really horrible? Of course it was. As a kid life is raw and full of sharp edges. There’s no perspective, there’s only DRAMA.

And, surprise surprise, one of the few bright spots was Drama class. I’m a fairly good artist and enjoyed my art classes but they weren’t terribly challenging. Drama was one of the main things that kept me interested in school. Drama was the only class I wouldn’t get stoned for. When we were freshman Drama was our first period class. As sophomores it fell after brunch. So in 10th grade I stopped smoking pot at school. Acting was never any fun when I was high.

You and I were in Drama class all four years of high school and survived four different teachers – Ron Schecklin in 9th grade, Sherry Engstrom and Caroline Ranch-Apple in 10th grade and Amy Glazer-Connolly in 11th and 12th. My memories of Drama are sharper than most of other memories of school. They’re still far fuzzier than I’d like.

Cast Party for Crown Prince of Wanderlust 1979

As freshman, in Beginning Drama, we were part of the cast of The Crowned Prince of Wanderlust, a play for kids that we performed for Park Side and Pinecrest, Sebastopol’s elementary schools. I seem to remember that it was the story of a princess who wouldn’t laugh. Her father the king had offer a reward to anyone who could make her do so. Sam Crump (who went on to a minor career in politics as an adult) played the Prince. I couldn’t tell you what part either of us played.

Yearbook Photo 1979-80

As sophomores, in Advanced Drama, we broke in and broke down Sherry Engstrom, a teacher in her first year at public school. Poor woman didn’t last the year. She managed to rub most of the guys in the class the wrong way and we made her life hell. She did a production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown for our fall musical. The show had such a small cast. Small cast shows don’t make high school drama students happy.

Bernie and D 1980

Things really fell apart when we tried to mount The Importance of Being Ernest as our spring play. The details of why so many of us were angry at Miss Engstrom have long since faded. I can call up lots of old angers and grudges as if they were yesterday. Not for this. In the end we shut down the show and she left Analy.

Model UN 1979-80

Caroline Ranch-Apple replaced her in the spring. Most of the upperclasspeople bailed on Drama that semester and we were left to make up the class as we went along. Advance Drama generally did “Little Theatre” productions (presented on the class stage rather than in the large auditorium) in Fall and Spring. That spring we cobbled together a show out of the short play Love is a Fallacy, parts of Feiffer’s People and some original material. We barely had an audience but we did have fun putting it together.

In the summer of 1980 I went on a cycle tour of Europe with a teacher and a bunch of other kids from Analy. I only mention it because I’ve been going through my scrapbook from the trip and I found your name on my address list of people I was planning to send postcards too. It’s a short list, no more than ten names. Did I write you? What did I say?

Bernice and D 1980

We got a new boss in Drama in our junior year – Amy Glazer-Connolly, a young woman with a family background in theatre and film and a lot of ambition. Amy could be your best friend and a screaming nutcase. She pushed, prodded, praised and pounded on us to get the best results she could from a bunch of small town kids.

Yearbook Photo 1980-81

Maybe she did more good than I give her credit for. I stopped acting after I graduated but quite a few of her students have gone on to work in theatre and film (and continue to do so). None of us have set the world on fire, yet. And I didn’t give up theatre because of working with Amy. Drama got me through high school but I knew I didn’t have the passion for it to pursue it as a hobby or a career. Too much competition and not enough talent or fire in me.

Model UN 1980-81

Our first big production in the fall of 1980 was Best of Broadway. It was a collection of production numbers from hit Broadway shows. Having a voice that wouldn’t hold a tune if it jumped down my throat and feet that couldn’t find rhythm on a map I was assigned to being a stagehand. You’re listed in our yearbook as the show’s stage manager. I’m sure you were good at it.

Drama Club 1980-81

You and I got to show off our acting chops playing a variety of supporting characters to Gregg’s protagonist in Little Theatre production of the one-act Adaptations.

We got to be on the main stage for the spring ’81 show Play On!, a comedy about a group of incompetents putting on a murder mystery. You got the part of Aggie, Stage Manager to my Gerry, the high strung director. Maybe your experience earlier in the year helped? Me, I just pretended I was Amy and behaved irrationally. Amy and I got into a few fights during production. I don’t remember if you had problems with. If so they weren’t the public rows that I seemed unable to avoid. A lot of the best gags for the show were stolen from other productions but hell, whatever works to make people laugh.

Drama Class Spring 1981

We did end up in classes together other than Drama. We had PE together as sophomores. I remember playing golf with you and SJ. We didn’t have enough actually golf balls to go around so we played a lot of our games with ping-pong balls. On choppy lawns that doubled as soccer fields. There was Mr. Shecklin’s Advanced English when we were juniors. We were in French together. A few other classes as well though I can longer remember which ones. In my last two years I tried to take as few A track classes as possible. I really didn’t want to think much. I seem to remember that you were more studious.

Student Body Class Convention Spring 1981

In the regular class you and I often sat next to each other. If the teacher alphabetized the seating we didn’t have much choice. I’d make quiet snarky remarks. Sometimes I’d comb and braid your hair. I don’t think I ever asked. Which meant I was comfortable with you. As a teenager I was never good at asking for things. If I didn’t know if something was okay I didn’t do it. I rarely checked to find out.

Yearbook Photo 1981-82

Fall of 81 and our senior year brought us onstage for Showstoppers, another greatest hits musical. You and I are listed as “Specials” for the show. There were four of us “Specials”. The poor folks who couldn’t sing or dance. I’d been taking dance class as my PE elective but I can’t say it helped much. Somehow I got the male lead for the number “Big Spender”. I kept my mouth shut while SJ and the other girls made me look good. I wish I could remember what part you played. All that comes to mind is the “Specials” curtain call. Since we’d been deemed hopeless they didn’t both to choreograph anything for us. We just walked across the stage and waved.

Our spring Little Theatre show in 1982 was Bleacher Bums, a comedy about Cubs fans. On our first night we screwed up a bunch of cues and flubbed lines. We recovered but damn that was painful.

Spirit Rally April 1981

Over Easter vacation you, SJ, Gregg Victor, Brown and I acted in Graduation Day, a short horror movie filmed (videotaped) by the Analy Audio Video club. School was out and we had the run of the campus. We played the unlucky targets of a psychotic teacher (played by Analy’s photography teacher, Joe Compagno). Rather ridiculously I was cast as the captain of the football team. You were the star, playing my fiancée, the head cheerleader and the story’s final girl. SJ and Gregg were our best friends. At one point, after declaring our undying love for each other, we were supposed to kiss. I kissed your forehead instead of your lips. Another girl, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. But at that point I’d known you so long you might have been one of my sisters. Nobody suggested that we shoot the scene again with a real kiss. I felt bad for not kissing you because, goddammit, you weren’t one of my sisters. Ah well.

Discussing their wedding day

How not to kiss your girl friend

Watching her fiance walk away

Finding a body

Trapped by the killer

She pushes the killer onto his own pitchfork

The survivors

I watched a tape of the project recently. I certainly hope we were better actors on stage because we were pretty lousy on film. You’d never know the four of us had been working together for years. And you and I displayed all the fiery attraction of traffic signs.

Caught Typing 1982

After going to Europe in the summer of 1980 I decided to take French classes. I never got very good at it. Still when I got lucky enough to get a scholarship to French Camp, a weekend of camping, culture and speaking French I happy to go. I was glad that you attended as well. I remember sneaking English conversations with you when we were out of hearing of the instructors. My cabin mates (students from a Santa Rosa school) brought a bottle of something with them and they invited me along when they wander the woods in the middle of the night. You declined our invitation to wander but you did accept a drink.

Sometime during our senior year, I think it was in spring, you were hospitalized because of an allergic reaction to, of all things, antiperspirant. I remember you spending about a week there. I drew and our drama class all signed a get well card. I delivered the card by myself. Everyone else claimed to be too scared of the hospital. I believe I told you that I got the job because I was considered the most expendable of the class.

Drama Club 1982

The last show we were in together was in spring of 1982 on the main stage – Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor; a series of vignettes inspired by Chekov’s short stories. I was in three vignettes playing respectively a nervous clerk, a seducer of other men’s wives and a father taking his son to a prostitute. You got two roles yourself – a simple minded servant and a wife being seduced. Kind of obvious which vignette we shared isn’t it? In The Seduction I played a man who knows how to use dullwitted husbands to unwittingly seduced their wives into my arms. You were the wife who got the better of me. No kissing was required. I don’t think Amy would have let us get away with a peck on the forehead.

There were cast parties after every show but it’s one The Good Doctor’s that I have much memory of it. Previously our cast parties had been wholesome things. No alcohol. No drugs. Primarily just the cast and few friends. That was always fine with me. I did plenty of drinking and drugs at other parties. Drama was one of the places in my life when getting wasted wasn’t part of the fun. The Good Doctor cast party? Lots of drinking and getting stoned. It was the end of an era. Our era. We wouldn’t be doing any more shows at Analy. Why not get wasted? I remember matching gulps of Southern Comfort with you. You were impressive. I’ve learned recently that you probably had more practice drinking than I did. At that time I had no idea.

One of the last big school functions was the Junior/Senior Prom. My date had to be home by midnight but I didn’t want to night to end so early. I ended up outside Zerbino’s (Sebastopol’s one and only live music night club) and there you were. You hadn’t gone. It didn’t seem like you cared. I ran into some friends and ended up drinking tecquila out of a broken bottle in one of the town’s many old apple orchards.

On June 11th, 1982 we put on our robes, collected our diplomas, threw up our caps and left Analy behind.