Sunday, February 08, 2009

State Memories Project: Colorado

I don’t spend a lot of time bragging about HS accomplishments—any guy pushing 40 who does is leading a pretty sad life--but writing the best memory of the state where I spent my first 18 years necessitates me writing about a really wonderful day from my senior year. Early March. It was a day when everything—-absolutely everything—-came together.

It was the Friday of my cast’s final performance of The Pajama Game, for which I was performing the lead role. It was also the afternoon of the state qualifying meet for Forensics.

I bolted school at lunch to get ready for State Quals. I headed home, changed into my suit, and found a fantastic note from my mother, who had attended opening night along with the rest of my family, including many who traveled to be there. My mom had managed to work herself into a guilt trip because she hadn’t given me flowers after the performance, unlike the parents of Pat Sloan, a really icky young man who I disliked almost as much as my parents disliked his loud, perpetually-self-congratulating mother.

I’ve lost the note—-dammit!-—but it said something very much like this:


Your and Janet’s duet is the most exciting, fantastic, wonderful moment in the whole show. You’ve done a tremendous job! Break a leg again tonight!

Love, Mom

P.S.—If Mrs. Sloan had any taste, she’d have given YOU Pat’s bouquet!

I changed, drove to Arapahoe High School, and told the meet organizer that I needed to get back to Columbine for a show. He very kindly removed me from my third round of Dramatic Interpretation and put me in two second rounds instead. I thanked him--both then and the next time I saw him, which was at Nationals in Salt Lake City in 2004.

Whirlwind. First round done (faking an orgasm on a horse for my portrayal of Equus...hey, anything for a trophy, right?) I change from my debate suit to my Pajama Game costume (pea-green pants). Do second round in costume. First speaker. Leave the room. Enter another. Fourth speaker. Leave the school. Drive like hell along C-470 back to Columbine. Get there safely. Then—-the show.

While I loved my tenor role--I got to sing “Hey There,” “New Town is a Blue Town,” and a few other good pieces—-the highlight was the duet “There Once was a Man.” It’s a pretty kick-ass song that requires a lot of energy. And I was learning at that age that I have a little talent for exciting an audience. My fellow lead was a sweet Texan transplant named Janet. We could play off each other’s energy, gather in some of the audience’s, and throw it back out at them. That feeling of getting an audience into the palm of my hand? It’s up there with any feeling in the world. Period. We worked the audience into a tizzy. I remember feeling a high unlike any I'd known as the we went off stage. I remember hugging Janet like crazy.

On my program, the music teacher, wrote that “Your performance was among the best we have had at Columbine.” And the next day, I learned that I'd finished first at State Quals, too.

So many adults cared about me and worked to make me succeed everywhere I went that day—my coach (Hi, Paula!), my music teacher, my parents, my aunt and grandparents who had traveled so far to see the show, even the forensics meet director, who didn't even know me. It feels great to have everyone I know both rooting for me and, when feasible, making some sacrifices and efforts to help me. I try to keep that in my mind when I’m doing my job as a teacher and a coach (and, shortly, as a parent).

The memory of that entire day—-the note, the speech competition, the performance—-all wraps together into what is still one of the most wonderful single days I’ve ever experienced. It felt like a coronation.

What are your Colorado memories? I've seen some writing from Spoon, Pankleb, and Swankette on their blogs, as well as my dad's and some others on mine--and I've loved every one of them. What else y'all got?


mcmc said...

I'll try to post a Colorado memory soon. In the meantime, we were almost certainly at that state quals meet. Must've been 1988? But I didn't remember that it was at Arapahoe (my alma mater...). Too funny. Clearly, it wasn't as great a day for me as it was for you!

TeacherRefPoet said...

What were you competing in? I didn't see you that day...divided my time between teammates and my girlfriend Dawn--best-looking girl I dated in HS. Only a month, but it included (and improved!) this day...

Alison said...

I promise I'll chime in when you get to a state I've been to. Somehow, I have not been to a single A state, and the only place I have been in Colorado is the Denver airport, which was neither so awesome nor so horrible as to be memorable.

The area around the airport was a lot flatter than I expected, though.

Anonymous said...

Like TRP, his Dad has so many memories of Colorado. Three of our 4 kids were born there. Almost all of my professional life took place there and it is where my wife and I raised our family and saw ourselves mature into middle age and then retirement. Perhaps the memory that stands out is the first Colorado memory which lead to all that followed. I had never been outside of Illinois until I was twelve years old and we drove back to California with my uncle and his two kids who had come to Illinois to visit family. I was so excited about the trip that I threw up waiting for my Dad to get home from work before we could leave. There were no freeways in 1951 and no air conditioned cars as we worked our way across hot and humid Iowa and Nebraska. We stayed on the outskirts of Denver and the next morning drove West on Colfax Ave. to the naural history museum in City Park. We walked around to the West side of the building and I saw the most beautiful sight that my flatlander eyes had ever seen. Before me was a view across the park to the front range with a snowcapped Mt. Evans dominating the vista. To someone whose world consisted of miles of flat cornfields this was heaven. I breathed in that clean, dry mountain air and made a silent promise to myself that I would live here someday. That's why when it came time to pick an internship at tne end of medical school my first criteria was location. I was accepted by Denver General, we moved to Colorado, and as they say, the rest is history.