First day of school 2020. We’ve all been pretty much locked down since March of this year. College and high school spring breaks turned into extended breaks turned into indefinite isolation which morphed into 2019-2020 school year ends in your living room. Thanks, and God bless.
It was not what we or anyone else had planned on, but we persevered. Makeshift classrooms created in every room in the house. My wife mandated family breakfasts with the kids while the kids worked on their homework online till the afternoon in their pajamas. It’s what you do when the world is ending and nobody wants to admit it.
Well we phased into summer break as if Christmas break never ended. It just transformed into February classes abroad(at the school) and then spring break became permanent until June arrived and we all sort of stood around as if someone knocked the wind out of us.
The family waited with baited breath, wondering whether school would indeed start up like normal, except a normal with masks as a mandate. Well the day arrived, which was yesterday, and at this point it seems things may continue like a normal school year(except with masks.) Our son began his sophomore year of high school, while our middle child started her senior year. Our oldest will be moving back to campus next Monday and we will once again be a family in motion, as opposed to being paused like a movie while everyone takes a bathroom break.
I have to say it’s a weird transition, especially after so many months of all of us being stuck under one roof. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and repeat. I have to say I did get used to being here with everyone, even if we’d occasionally get on each other’s nerves. I was not locked down. I was considered essential so during all the spring lockdowns and quarantining I was still going to work everyday. Coming home to a full house had its charm to it. Checking in with everyone’s progress in school and how they’ve been doing in classes was a nice break from worrying about whether I was going to get sick from a driver that wasn’t masked up.
Despite the melancholy of everyone stepping back out into the world, I’m grateful for a bit of the normalcy of the beginning of a school year. I know the kids are happy to get out and do the thing, and my wife is equally happy for that back-to-basics schedule. The family dog hasn’t been alone during the day in months as well, so I’m sure he’s equally thrilled for some quiet in the house.
I started thinking about school and my son starting 10th grade. It got me thinking about my tenth grade year and that it was probably my favorite year of high school. Freshman year was weird and awkward, and my junior year feels mostly forgettable except for when I started dating my wife which was halfway thru the year. My senior year just felt like a breathless race to the finish line, with the exception of a few moments of genuine fun(practicing for the talent show, Art & English trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, prom(?))
My sophomore year was the year that felt like I found out who I was working towards. Playing guitar, discovering Rush and the Seattle music scene, lots of Mario Bros and Castlevania, digging into Fangoria and horror movies on the weekends, Kurt Vonnegut, Stu Hamm, and starting to hang out with one of my lifelong friends, Jason.
Jason and I first met in ninth grade thru my best friend Tyson. Tyson knew Jason before me, with them palling around in 8th grade,(then Jason looked like Joe Elliot of Def Leppard, but without the British smirk) but we all started to know each other in ninth grade gym. We hung out together on my 15th birthday at my house. We saw Child’s Play, came back to my place and ate pizza, and then stayed up till God knows when hanging in my basement practice room talking about God knows what.
The 1988-1989 school year was when Jason and I figured out we’d be lifelong pals, but tenth grade was when we spent nearly every weekend together.
Sophomore year we discovered Rush. It was first through Presto, but then I quickly moved right into 2112 and then Moving Pictures. After that it was a race to see who could buy more of their “Nice Price” cassettes first. Every trip to the mall with Jason’s mom was at least one or two more Rush cassettes we’d force his mom to listen to on the way home.
Sophomore year was also when Jason’s mom bought him a bass and amp and he began taking lessons from my guitar teacher. Saturday mornings were drives over to the outskirts of Syracuse, Indiana where we’d be awed by the guitar prowess of Tim Bushong. He’d show us Living Colour and Mother Love Bone songs while expounding on Steely Dan, King’s X, Woody Allen, and protesting in front of Planned Parenthood. Tim was a cool guy, but he was also a reborn Christian. Despite the religiosity, Tim was a valuable person in our formative years.
I remember specifically Jason’s mom taking us to the mall one time and Jason getting a pair of faux leather boots with metal tips on the end. They looked like something Slash or Tracii Guns might’ve worn. Like rural vampire trying to go for urban Sunset Strip ghost. Jason had long hair and was a pretty slender 15-year old and he looked pretty swag wearing those things in ripped jeans and a Silver Surfer tee. I wasn’t slender and my mom would kill me if I tore up my jeans, but I wanted a pair of those rocker shitkickers.
My mom humored me and bought me the exact same pair of boots. I remember wearing them once to school and I felt like a complete clown. That was a rare occasion of where I tried pulling off something I had no business trying to pull off. I went right back to my Reebok hi-tops and never looked back(my older brother found those boots sort of cool and I gifted them to him.)
Jason and I also hung with an older guy named Terry. Terry was four years older than us and out of school. Terry was shorter but built like a weightlifter, because he was a weightlifter. Imagine Hugh Jackman as Wolverine but with long hair and listening to Slayer and Mercyful Fate. Terry was a metal head muscle dude that did competitive weight lifting and was also straight edge. No drugs or drinking. But he also had a temper on him.
I remember one time Terry took Jason and I to Video Plus to rent Rawhead Rex or Hellraiser III. We pulled in and Terry saw the car owned by the guy that messed around with Terry’s ex-girlfriend, the one that broke them up. He walked up to the dude’s car and punched the side of it three or four times and dented the door like it was made out of aluminum foil. We got our movie and got the hell out.
Despite wondering if he was going to flip out suddenly, we dug hanging around Terry. And really, who doesn’t want someone like that on your side?
Tenth grade also saw me discovering Kurt Vonnegut. My grandma worked at a small town library and would check out books for my dad. She got me Breakfast of Champions and I remember reading it in like two days and pretty much being blown away. Vonnegut became my literary obsession. While kids were heading to Florida for spring break I was staying up till 2am listening to Stuart Hamm’s Radio Free Albemuth and burning through The Sirens of Titan and Cat’s Cradle. Like Rush, Jason and I raced through Vonnegut’s books to see who could get through more of them.
I think Kurt Vonnegut was someone that taught me empathy and how sadness and humor could be one in the same. He was the ever thoughtful Midwestern humanist. The nice guy in constant existential crisis who used science fiction to explain our human foibles, while using humor to make it not hurt so bad. I owe Vonnegut a lot.
I can remember going to my other Grandma’s house out in the middle of nowhere in Fulton County with Jason. My grandma and grandpa had a farm out there. I can vividly recall Jason and I having ideas of turning one of their out buildings into a recording studio where we could record our working class prog rock anthems. Even though there was no way that would ever happen it was a blast thinking about it.
My first concert was in tenth grade. My older brother took Jason and I to Fort Wayne to see Joe Satriani at the Embassy Theater. He was touring for Flying In A Blue Dream and we were still reeling from that album. The show was amazing and I remember on the way home Jason fell asleep in the back of my brother’s Cutlass. Because us Hubners could be assholes sometimes my brother put in Van Halen’s self-titled and we cranked “Eruption” to wake Jason up from his post-concert slumber. Good times.
There was a girl I had a crush on my sophomore year as well. Her name was Karrie Hall and she was from New York. She had a pretty thick East Coast accent, which felt very exotic to me. Karrie sat in front of me in Geometry. We’d talk about music a lot. She was into metal, and so was I. I remember her telling me about how one of her friends back east had sex with Tom Araya from Slayer and I felt like “Whoa. It’s like she’s a celebrity or something”, which then I felt instantly sick to my stomach on further reflection. Karrie had the teased 80s hair, wore ripped jeans, and a dark blue jean jacket. She was the coolest girl I’d ever met. I even bought a copy of Pink Floyd’s The Delicate Sound of Thunder off of her even thought I didn’t want it. I figured why not? Can’t hurt my chances of a future date.
Turns out that while it probably didn’t hurt it, it didn’t help it either. Karrie ended up dating one of the stoner metal heads that were not in my friend group(which was like four people tops.) After that year Karrie moved away and I never saw her again, though I do think of her from time to time and wonder how she’s doing.
Thinking back to my tenth grade year I regret not truly appreciating those moments. I mean, how did I know that the 1989-1990 school year was going to be the best of my academic career? I was just trying to survive, man. I was just trying to soak up as much “Tom Sawyer” and “Cygnus X-1” as I could before everyone was on to me and realized what a dork I was truly was. There was an excitement and darkness both in that year. Finding a new friend who seemingly “got it” and felt as awkward and freaked out as you had a power to it. When we could equally enjoy “The Boys Of Summer”, Death Angel’s Act III, Hardware, and a Tombstone pizza at 1am all on the same weekend night who cared about anything else? Midnight walks downtown talking about some mysterious girl in study hall we both pined for, or wondering if we’d ever get that chicken coop recording studio built before my grandparents sold their place. Or advancing to a new level on Kid Icarus on the NES, those were the things that mattered that year. And looking back that looks pretty nice.
I’ll leave you with something from one of the greatest humans that ever walked the earth, and a Hoosier at that.