-- A return to junior high sparks memories
For the first time since June 2001 I returned to the halls of my mid-academic years, dear West Lake Junior. Some things have changed: the vending machines where we glued coins to the ground to entrap and torture Pearspn are gone. Some things haven't: my co-worker witnessed a non-verbal exchange of a brown paper bag right before school started. Are we 100% sure it was drugs? No, but I'm betting it wasn't covert scissors like those Landon and I exchanged in the bushes at USU.1
Returning to a place that once was your whole life and is now a non-entity is always striking, or perhaps I'm just more nostalgic than some (spoiler, yes I am). To think back on this particular era is to be reminded that HOLY CRAP 12-year-old boys are stupid. Why did Pearspn, Bunna, and I all think afros were acceptable? Did I really make fun of Harry Potter back then? Why did everyone choose boxers as the undergear du jour in P.E.? And mainly, how is it possible that a significant portion of our lunch break was spent molding soda cans in a competition that was inspired by Bunna's religion?
The Can Crushing Competition shines a bright light on the thought process of the male 7th-grader. My friends Ian and Bunna, blessed by mothers who valued hydration, each consumed one soda on the daily. Once these cans were emptied they were molded into crushed objects. Points were awarded for symmetry, level of crushedness, and the number of attempts required to remove the small metal clip connecting the pop-top to the can. Negative points would arise if any leftover liquid was found in the can or if any sharp edges were created in the formation phase.
Having been raised to take liquids like a camel I was ever drinkless at lunch and therefore the de facto judge. I was swayed frequently by the offering of sour patch kids (Ian), the promise of having a friend that talked to girls (Roner), and free Super Smash Brothers tutelage (Bunna). The Official CCC stat sheet if found today2would reveal Bunna's bribe the most effective of the three. Either that or I was in a reverse racism stage, or just bitter Ian had realized my childhood dream by becoming a cowboy. (Thinking ...) Nope, it was just the Super Smash training. Man we logged some hours on that game.
On occasion our friendship would expand beyond virtual violence. Ian got boxing gloves one birthday so we punched each other. Ian took us paintballing one birthday so we shot each other. Ian's brother powerbombed us on birthdays and non-birthdays alike so we suffered with each other. As with all things pain is a bonding agent. I got in on the act once by conking Ian and Bunna's heads together while we passed over Bangerter via the skywalk. Only a 12-year-old brain would wonder to the point of experimentation if slamming two heads together would really hurt as much as portrayed in the movies. Scientific conclusion? It does. My pals were not pleased.
Friend on friend crime was normally avoided as the carnage of others became our delight. When Sam Touch Sam stood on his bike pedal and snapped the poor thing clean off I felt sorry for the bike -- who could handle such heft? -- while his ensuing face-plant made my year. Then he one-upped himself by sliding on roller blades crotch first into a door. By my count these two scenes were the best things that happened in 8th grade. The only other stuff I remember is our church ball team losing to the 9th ward by 40, getting sucker-punched by a gangster, and Final Fantasy VIII being weird. But where was I? Ah yes school grade schadenfreude.
Admittedly ours was a low class brand of terror. Once after last period we scattered a loaf of bread around the parent drop-off/pick-up zone in hopes of luring birds and unleashing a poop storm upon the cars of the privileged. I don't remember if we succeeded or not. What I know is we made a fatal misjudgment for the hot zone in question doubled as our route home and it's possible the only victims were we the pedestrians. Foresight was not our strength during this era.
Nor was the internet. Don't get me wrong, times weren't as ancient as my brother's whose tech class revolved around a single computer and a photoshop wiz who spent the semester attempting to erase the bra from a Victoria Secret picture. But for Bunna and I to link up in a match of Age of Empires required the lockdown of both landlines and a whole lot of running back and forth from house to house to provide instruction for which game to join. This was only slightly easier than checking fantasy scores, which via the Sporting News was a 30 minute endeavor.
Oddly my favorite junior high memory probably came in high school when the alums of West Lake challenged those of Valley Junior. It was under such circumstances that Pearspn made history by playing an entire game with his eyes closed, that Hyrum proved whites are good at basketball, and that I learned just what exactly a Liger is. Our collective amateur performances were as varied as the Valley outfits. There was Bryan, pioneer supporter of Under Armor.3 Carlos, he of full Sunday School regalia, and Hyrum, the only four-eyes of the group. The games were unrivaled in terms of entertainment yet West Lake was on the verge of defeat just as life interrupted. Perhaps in an alternate world Z-ron's lip doesn't explode in game 3, perhaps Nathan doesn't go supernova on his birthday in game 4, perhaps I postpone dental surgery til after the summer, and maybe West Lake could have pulled off a series victory.
Sadly it wasn't mean to be. A loss is a loss and at West Lake we got used to taking those, be it in the form of a polo-only dress code or your dream girl learning you don't know how to hold hands correctly. They all hurt, especially that second one, but who would have known back then that the biggest loss of all would be that I can barely remember any of it?