Saturday, May 25, 2013

I've begun reading...

...The Night of the Gun, by David Carr. It's a riveting story of his life as a drug addict, wife-beater and all-around thug before he cleaned up his act and became a reporter for the New York Times.

I knew Carr was from suburban Minneapolis, like me, but what I didn't know was that he and I attended the same high school:

It was assumed that I would go to Benilde High School, a suburban all-boys Catholic school where my older brothers had gone. We were expected to work summers and pay half the tuition. I caddied at a Jewish country club, came up with my share, and hated nearly every second of it. Benilde had the same triumvirate that existed in every high school at the time: jocks, nerds, and freaks. I self-assigned to the freaks.

Now, I guess my experience at Benilde was a little different from Carr's. First of all, he and I could have been a "tag team": Carr graduated in the spring of 1974 and I transferred in as a junior the following fall. (We moved to Minneapolis from New Jersey that year -- the subject of another post.) So our paths narrowly missed. Also, I didn't actually attend "Benilde," but rather Benilde-St. Margaret's. (The two schools had merged over the summer.) And, finally, I would characterize my experience at BSM as an overall positive one, after the initial shock of transferring into a newly-merged school as a junior while not knowing a soul in the entire state of Minnesota.

Carr's description of Benilde as a triumvirate made me think, though: to which of the three groups did I belong?

Well, it certainly wasn't the freaks. At sixteen, I was well on my way to developing a drinking problem, but I was still terrified of marijuana and other drugs at that time.

A jock? I wish. While -- strictly speaking -- a member of the varsity baseball team, I was probably the last one chosen for the squad and rarely saw playing time.

(I do remember one afternoon in my senior year when I actually started. We drove to away games in our own cars -- it was the '70s, remember? -- and one of the vehicles carrying a number of the starters got lost along the way. This was in the days before GPS; it was in the days before anything. Coach Elmer Schwankl -- his real name -- had no choice that day but to put me in at second base, probably where I could do the least amount of damage. As we were taking the field in the bottom of the first, Terry, our first baseman -- and not the nicest guy in the world -- stuck his glove in my chest and said, "No errors." I looked back at him as if to say, "Who, me?" and then promptly handled a routine ground ball hit on the very first pitch. Terry seemed genuinely surprised when he caught my throw to first, and I think he even acquired a new-found respect for me. When it was my turn to bat in the next inning, I either walked, or grounded out, or did something half-way respectable. At least I didn't strike out. But by that time, the starters had arrived and I took my usual seat on the bench next to Coach Schwankl. My day in the sun had finally come, I hadn't blown it, and I ended up getting my varsity letter after the season, albeit too late to wear on one of those jackets with the leather sleeves I so coveted. Oh, well.)

So what group does that leave? Well, the nerds, I guess. Although I didn't think of myself that way. Like everything else in life, the lines between the three groups were blurry (and probably still are). The guys I hung out with played sports but weren't what you'd call "jocks." Most, but not all, of us drank. And one of us had even tried pot. (I wonder if his older brother knew Carr.) But we certainly weren't freaks (or burn-outs, as we called them).

No, we were more like what Carr later described in the book as "the nerdy can-do people who worked [on the newspaper]. Too square. Too uptight. Too intimidating."

Too intimidating? Us? We were really just insecure, conscientious students who desperately wanted to please our parents. The kind of teenagers grown-ups would have called "good kids."

I wish I had known Carr back then, or knew someone who knew him. I'd love to meet him; he's one of my favorite writers on the Times.

But what I really want to know is, is David Carr related to Chris Carr, who graduated in my class? He was from Hopkins too. Are they brothers? Cousins? I'd like to know.

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