February 17th, 2020

Valentines Day 1990

This post originally appeared as a series of tweets on 2/14/2020, but the thread got all weirded up, so I’m preserving it here in story form.

Thirty years ago today, I was a Senior at a small private high school. There were around 30 people in our class and roughly 95 in 9th-12th grades. So far into high school, I had dated two girls: B. (Sophomore year) and different-B. (Junior year), and those stories will be reserved for a later time (or never!). I was not dating anyone at the time of this story.

I don’t remember exactly how it came about, but a girl in our class and I did one of those “hey, since neither of us are dating, let’s be each other’s Valentines” things. All in good fun, most of our class was friendly with each other. (Let’s call her “Sherry” because it rhymes with her real name but isn’t actually her real name, so I won’t get sued here.) Sherry and her twin sister were born on the exact same date as I was, just a little earlier in the day. We jokingly called ourselves “the triplets,” which is not important to the story at all, just some more background.

So the day comes, and I went all out, because that is what I did back then:

  • a very nice card
  • flowers (pretty sure it was roses, but I don’t know how many)
  • a box of chocolates
  • I think one or two other little things (stickers or gadgets, like that)

I also dressed up. Our normal dress code mandated ties for guys, but we’d wear “casual” ties – I had a couple knit ones, a skinny leather one, that kind of thing. But for this most special day, I wore a fancy tie and a sportcoat. A sportcoat!

I show up at school all dressed up and I give these things to Sherry and she is…


What’s the right word here?

“Overwhelmed” isn’t quite right.
“Aghast” is too negative.
“Embarrassed-ish” maybe?

A mix of all of these things.

Needless to say, it’s more than she expected. Like, a lot. She proceeds to do her best to avoid me for the rest of the morning.

Our school was such that we had chapel three times a week, the whole school assembled together in one room with a stage (the Fine Arts Hall, it was called at the time, Room 306). For some reason I no longer remember, I was giving an announcement that day in chapel. I was a Senior, I was involved in a lot of things, it wasn’t terribly unusual for me to do this. When the principal said something along the lines of “and now MadMup has a special announcement” I made my way to the stage. I think he even made some sort of crack about me being all dressed up for the occasion.

So I get to the stage and happen to look over where Sherry is sitting, and she has a look of absolute terror on her face. She is wide-eyed and pale as a ghost, gripping the arms of her chair while trying to shrink back into it.

[I feel I should mention at this time that the reason I hadn’t dated much was because I was… well, I was weird. I was the geek, the sci-fi nerd, the class clown. I had friends, people liked me okay, but… no girls were falling over themselves to date me… and I do not blame a single one of them. I had a lot to figure out yet. Still do! But that’s a story for another time.]

So, yeah, Sherry is absolutely mortified and I’m confused for the briefest of moments as to why, but then it hits me: she thinks I’m going to do some sort of Valentines thing for her in front of the whole school. And, honestly, I was just the sort of person who might have done something like that. I once sang a song I wrote (to the tune of “Goober Peas”) about keeping basketball stats in front of the whole school to earn a letter in the sport (these were complicated times).

It is fortunate for all involved that I was not then the person I am now, because the me of today, upon noticing something like that, would immediately make a joke about it and cause the exact embarrassment she feared. I wouldn’t do it meanly, it would just… happen.

Instead, I just went on with my announcement, and then made my way back to my seat. Sherry was visibly relieved, and I mean, visibly. She must have been terrified. I still feel a little bad about it, 30 years later. I should have given her a heads up, I know that now. Anyway, that dispelled the awkwardness of the morning and we were able to laugh about it after chapel, where she confirmed my suspicions that, yes, she was afraid I’d had some huge gesture planned.

By St. Patrick’s Day the next month, I would be dating a girl in our class, and we would end up dating for a little over two years.

“Ah,” you say, “but there is one detail you have left out. What did Sherry do for you on that Valentines Day?” An excellent question.

She gave me little wind-up plastic heart with feet. Once wound, it would hop around for about 4 seconds. It was cute.

Thanks for tuning in! Next time on Adventures With MadMup, I’ll tell you about the time a whole cabin of girls at summer camp broke my heart.

June 8th, 2009

One In Three

I played baseball for two seasons in high school, my Sophomore and Junior years. I got some play time the first year because the Seniors went on the Senior Trip. I think I played in two, maybe three games. The one vivid memory I have from that time is letting a grounder go through my legs during a game. Is there anything more cliché? I guess some things are clichés for a reason.

I played a few more games my Junior year. I was second base and I loved it there. The highlight of my season was participating in a double play. A player came up to bat and I remembered that last time he was up to bat, he hit it directly over second base. The second baseman lines up about halfway between first and second, so I hadn’t gotten that one. When he came up to bat this time, though, I shifted a little, and, sure enough, he hit in the same exact spot. I snagged it, stepped on second, then threw the ball to Josh on first for the double play. Granted, if Josh hadn’t been 6’3″, we might not have pulled it off, but he was able to stretch enough to grab it.

I think I actually was a pretty good infielder. The problem was, I couldn’t bat for anything. For some reason, I never got much batting practice in during practice, and coach never worked with me on it – bigger fish to fry, I imagine. Our pitching staff batted better than I did, so coach ended up using a designated hitter for my place in the lineup, which was fine by me.

Somewhere in the middle of the season, though, coach found another guy on the roster who could bat a little and field a little, and he must have decided the tradeoff was worthwhile because he pulled me. I believe I was a better fielder than the other guy, but the non-batting did me in. Truth be told, coach never liked me that much anyway — and that’s not me thinking everyone’s out to get me, that can be verified by external sources who I am not afraid to call in on this (Eric, Josh, and Dave – that’s you guys).

So I moved into my new role on the team: benchsitter/team clown. I was the loudest cheerer, but I also had a morale-boosting hat I’d wear on the bench: it had Vulcan ears on it, and it was epic. Coach hated it, but the team mostly liked it and the fans got a kick out of it. And, hey, being in sports is about having fun, right?

Advance the clock to this past Saturday: I’m sitting on a bench in our first softball game of the season, only the Vulcan hat has long been lost in the sands of time. I haven’t played any organized sports in longer than I’d care to admit, and I’m actually feeling a little overwhelmed by the officialness of it all – there’s rosters, batting orders, umpires, and even some fans who’ve come out to watch, and it’s all very surreal. I don’t actually get a field position to start off, but the rule in this league is that everyone bats, even if they’re not on the field.

I get on base with my first at-bat, and no one’s more surprised than me. I end up making it all the way home over the course of the next couple of batters, but not before injuring myself on my trip from first to second — and by “trip” I mean a literal trip. The ground is a little uneven, and my legs are a bit unused to running, and right before I got to second base, I fell.

You know the part near the end of T2 where the T-1000 is being frozen by the liquid nitrogen? He takes a few steps with difficulty, and then one one step his leg breaks off about mid-calf and he does this kind of three-point fall? My trip near second looked about like that, with my hand thankfully on the base at the end of it, safe.

I discovered that I probably need to invest in a pair of cleats for this season. I did end up playing second base for two of the seven innings and I really enjoyed it. But on one particular play, the ball came my way, and after I got it and threw it, my right foot slidout to the side far enough that I was off-balance and fell forward. I turned it into a somersault and got right back up, but I’m pretty sure it was the only softball-field somersault saw that day, and possibly ever. If you can do your job on the field and be the team clown? That’s what I want to do.

I did get to bat two more times, but the ball beat me to first base both times. I ended the game with a .333 batting average which is, as I’m sure you know, an average the pros would get paid millions for.

First thing I’m buying when those millions come in? A new Vulcan hat.

December 8th, 2008

If I Fell

Song Info (from Beatlesongs):”If I Fell” was 100% written by Lennon, who said “It’s semiautobiographical, but not consciously” and “that’s my first attempt at a ballad proper.” Note from me: This is my second-favorite Beatles song, as I love the harmonies and think it is a beautiful piece.

The building where most of my high school classes took place was over a hundred years old, and four floors if you counted the basement, which you have to. What we referred to as “the back stairway” was a sort of square spiral that went from the basement all the way up to the third floor, with about an eight-foot open square down through the middle. Centered above the empty space was a five-bulbed chandelier, from which Jonny V. removed the bulbs and dropped them the four floors to the basement, and made the President of the college (the high school was on the grounds of the college and shared several rooms) very, very angry.

I get the dates confused, and I’m not sure if it was my freshman or sophomore year in high school, but my first high school girlfriend had just broken up with me — you’d think that’ be the sort of thing I’d remember more clearly, but I can’t figure it out. Hrm.

Anyway, she started sorta seeing someone else (Jason W., if you’re wondering – I include that here strictly so I can mention to his brother that I mentioned his brother on here) which is why she decided to break up with me. Well, I mean, I’m sure there were other reasons she decided to break up with me which probably also led to her seeing the other guy, but the seeing the other guy was the thing she decided to do right before breaking up with me.

I was new to this whole breaking up thing, and wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to do. I figured I probably still needed to go to classes and eat and stuff, but what to do around her? Or him, for that matter? He was an upperclassmen, so I already was beneath him socially, and this just compounded the issue. And, as mentioned, he was my friend’s older brother. Far too complicated for my teenaged brain.

I decided avoidance was the best method, a device I would turn to quite often in the ensuing years, even though it never seemed to work out all that great. If I saw either of them, I would find some place else to be. The high school area was fairly small, so this happened more often than a person would have liked, but oh well.

The snack shop was located in the basement, and it’s where the majority of us high schoolers went for lunch. The snack shop wasn’t very big, but our class of 33 was the biggest that had ever gone through the school at the time, so it worked all right. Like most teenagers are wont to do, we’d stay at lunch until the last possible minute, and then run up the back stairs as fast as possible to the second floor where our classes were. We weren’t supposed to do this, but we did.

I learned somewhere along the way that if I grabbed a corner post as I was sprinting up the stairs, I could keep my speed up while turning, just like in Batman when the Batmobile uses the cable to make the corner. On this particular day, I must have been running particularly late, because I was making good time up the stairs.

I had made one or two turns already when I passed a couple that was meandering slowly upwards. As I passed them, I realized it was them. Now driven to make even better time, I grabbed at the corner post to make the turn and hurry on my way.

And missed.

I don’t know if I was hurrying to quickly or if I was rattled by my urge to avoid, but I do know what happens when you’re trying to make a corner upstairs at top speed: centrifugal forces do what they were designed to do.

Not only did I fall, I fell spectacularly. I really wish I could have seen it. I fell into the corner across from the post, a good five feet away. I smacked the ground and the wall both. I was in pain, but I needed to get up and out of there, as this had happened not five feet in front of my ex and her new boyfriend. I got up as quickly as I could and continued on my way as fast as I could. I was a floor above them when I heard them start laughing, and I suspect the only reason it took them so long is that they were initially stunned.

I took those stairs at those same speeds many times before then and many times after, and that was the only time that ever happened.