Senior year is a time to break all the rules, find a new personality, be what you want to be, try out new experiences. (Unless you’re my kids, in which case Get back to your school work!) My rule-breaking was more placid than most, not consumed with the classic drinking-sex-violence triumvirate, but entertaining nonetheless: staying out late, going to the beach with friends, showing up at late-night parties, and playing tennis-hockey until 1 a.m.
What’s tennis-hockey, you ask? That’s a subject that could get its own book (look for it from your bookseller, because the Legend of Tennis-Hockey is in the works) Briefly, it was a sport invented by friends of my oldest brother, when they found themselves in a position to play roller hockey at a local pair of tennis courts. The nets, it turned out, were kind of a pain with the blades, so a few days later (as I currently understand it; my research into this subject is yet early) they came back, this time with tennis rackets and tennis balls, and running the game on foot. Rules were established, and the sport of tennis-hockey was born.
The game uses two courts at once, so it became tradition to play after there was any possibility of actual tennis players bumping up against our schedule. It also became tradition, late in my middle school career and extending well into high school, to have battles with my parents over curfew for the possibility of playing, even though my oldest brother’s friends generally didn’t want the fat kid brother there.
As I slimmed down and made friends my own age who were also looking for things to do late at night, we started playing irregularly and infrequently with the older crowd, then just irregularly with those few who remained from the sport’s first days. But their numbers dwindled year-on-year, and soon it was all second-generation players, making our own way in the great big world.
We would set out after 9:30 p.m. to run the courts, sometimes dodging eggs chucked by jealous schoolmates, sometimes dispersed -- the kids, not the eggs -- by the police (who were almost always convinced we were into drugs), sometimes keeping stats that would be slipped into the Agate in the next day’s newspaper. (There were perks to working at the newspaper.)
By senior year, my parents didn’t often object when we wanted to go out and play. I was regularly up until midnight anyway, usually with several friends, so going to the courts on a Tuesday night just wasn’t that big a deal. Yes, they occasionally exercised seemingly arbitrary control over my schedule, but I recognize now that their arbitrary control was strictly based on whether they felt like waiting up until I got home. They were like that.
Playing late at night while maintaining a daytime running-and-biking routine was, obviously, very good for my fitness. One particularly memorable evening, a tennis-playing friend and I ran a 4-on-2 matchup, spending 50 or so minutes in constant motion. About 40 minutes in, my legs were alight with agony from end-to-end sprints and hurdling the net, but I pressed on, not from some need to prove anything to the other players, but because it was me. Our collective stamina paid off with a glorious performance that shall surely be remembered by historians, particularly if I include it in the aforementioned book.
One more tennis-hockey story sticks out, even though it isn’t related to the sport. It happened one Saturday shortly before the end of school. The game went late -- until about 1:30 -- and as was tradition, we went to the local Safeway supermarket to “sit on the cheese”. That was our euphemism for cooling off by going to the dairy case and, well, sitting on the large blocks of cheese. So it wasn’t a euphemism at all. We arrived at the grocery store’s parking lot, performed said cheese sitting, and slipped outside for the 25-cent sodas sold in the machines. There on the curb sat two post-high school girls (they weren’t, to our eyes, “women”, and since they were sitting outside Safeway, I can only assume they were no older than about 20) with a dog.
We showed up as a mob of a half dozen people in my parents’ Ford Aerostar, and though our numbers included many who would be considered "unsocial", we were not incapable of social interaction. One of my friends struck up a conversation. They claimed to have come in from Canada that day, and to have been ditched by their friend who was supposed to take them to the hot springs. The hot springs, it should be noted, were about an hour away, heading to the northwest end of the Olympic Peninsula and a mile or more down a trail that lay at the end of a winding, half-paved road. For the uninitiated, this puts them about 20 minutes from Twilight. No, really, that’s where it is, in actual geography; for all I know, some of Twilight actually happens there.
“We can drive you,” I volunteered.
Looking back on it, I’m shocked they accepted the offer. They must have been well and truly stranded, as a half dozen teenagers (I think we were all guys, too) offering to drive you even further from nowhere for an hour doesn’t sound like a great plan. It was surely the hubris of youth. So all 8 of us (the Aerostar seats, at most, 7), plus the dog, stuffed into the car and drove into the depths of the night. It was gorgeous near the waterfront, but heading upland we found ourselves engulfed in wispy clouds, then shrouded in a cottony blanket of fog. The gravel road to the trailhead seemed to emerge from nothing, the car barely existing in the landscape around it.
Our boisterous group settled into a quieter calm, either from the eerie surrounds or the lateness of the voyage. I don’t remember our passengers revealing much of themselves, but when we arrived and they struck off on the trail, I wondered if they would make it. We sat in silence for a minute or so until they had disappeared, then turned back toward civilization. (Well, Port Angeles.)
I slipped in the door around 3:30, and I don’t remember (a) my parents being up or (b) ever answering for being missed. Which was lucky, because I didn’t have a plausible story -- even that story was so vastly implausible that it’s hard to imagine my parents believing it. Indeed, if my parents are reading this, it’s probably the first they’ve heard of that particular adventure. Hi, mom!, as they say.
As for senior year, the worst I can say is that it passed without incident. That was the year of AP Biology, a class I thoroughly enjoyed that met after lunch. I started taking lunch in the bio classroom, where my friends and I would gather after exercising the privilege granted only to seniors by leaving campus (where I grew up, schools are on campuses because there’s so much space and it doesn’t drop below zero during the winter) to get lunch. My lunch was, 95% of the time, a loaf of bread and reconstituted orange juice concentrate. Average lunch cost: $1.25 ($1 of that was the bread). My parents must have given me some kind of allotment at the beginning of each week, because that lifestyle was a moneymaker. I turned their $20/week or whatever it was into a decent amount of spending money.
(On an even stranger note, I always ate the crust first so I would have the squishy bread innards to finish with. I also kept the OJ concentrate in the bio freezer, which included vacuum-sealed rat carcasses. It was all quite amusing.)
Ultimately, though, my lifestyle didn’t change as the calendar turned from 1996 to 1997. I continued running, kept on biking, stayed with my job and hobbies. I enjoyed myself, and being in shape was becoming a part of that enjoyment. Identity was forming, and it was not what I would have expected 4 years prior.
Next up: Half a Continent Away
Mash out. Spin on.