Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The fuel that makes my ideas burn always come from my experiences growing up in a small town named Ashton. For some unknown reason I always come back to this place. Not because of the unbelievable tranquility that lies at the end of the Snake River Plain, not because of the enlightened persons in the community, or the limitless freedom one feels growing up is such a place. It's because despite where you come from it always feels like home. I’ve heard the same love and adoration from the mouth of a kid growing up in a crime riddled urban war zone. I hear it from people growing up in extreme poverty, in regions of the world that have very few resources, not even clean water in some instances.
So what is it that made me become so attached to this place? The positive and negative influence of several key people from the area. As a child, as a teen and now as an adult. So who are they? Could I make a list and realistically inject honesty, objectivity, and all the necessary components necessary for a truly genuine archive that will forever float in this age of technological space? No. I can't. One name that undeniably deserves to be on this list if this list is ever produced is Mr. Dick Seeley. The school principal whose iron fist ruled the halls and grounds of the formerly great structure of wood, rock and steel. A few years ago it was reduced to rubble and is now a blank in the history of the Ashton landscape. Other than the image within my mind’s eye the only thing that reminds me that it ever stood is the marquee and the large pine tree which stood just to the right of the main entrance. Several of the other buildings are still standing as well as the remnants of the football field but the tree and marquee force the memory out of seclusion.
One of my first memories of Mr. Seeley was 7th grade; I was standing next to my newly decorated locker when he approached from behind. The normally easy to distinguish sound of his cowboy boots was drowned by the noise of the hallway chatter. "What do you think you are doing with this filth hanging in this locker?", the harsh tone one octave higher than any other adult in the vicinity, the unique sound of the lisp in the S's, the silence that over took the hall which was seconds ago vibrant with the sounds of teens preparing for their next class. Frozen with fear all I could say was “nothing", the verbal lashing that came forth to my less than clever response was painfully embarrassing and left a bruised ego. Worse was the witnessing of the ego deflation by my school mates.
The locker contained a sketched version of Iron Maiden's Powerslave cover and many 80's hairband photos torn from the pages of Metal Edge magazine. Eddie not being the most saintly looking creature and the 80's rockers all looking like masculine faced prostitutes posing for some raunchy porn mag. A porn mag that preferred what looked like transvestites in leather pants, scarves, and hairspray over the normal fleshy fanfare none the less. All of these images probably left his aged brain swirling with questions. Probably the same thing I feel when I see torn underwear exposing butt while the belt loops hang somewhere below in some form of lazy rebellion.
Our run-ins would include several verbal altercations, suspensions and later on the last recorded paddling in North Fremont history. Maybe even state history. The paddle was of the oak variety with holes and handle just like you see in cartoons and antique photography of eras far beyond our comprehension. So it went. The feud, battle, the war between us. To the mind of a dazed and confused teen he represented oppression and the flame snuffer of creativity and imagination. This man was the reason songs like Another Brick in The Wall by Pink Floyd were written. Cut them and mold them all the same, make them follow the path of least resistance and smash the belief that you can rage against the machine and feed off of it as well!
It was in the year of 1992, between February and March, when I returned to school following a three month hiatus that I became clearly acquainted with his tyrant of a man. He pulled me into his office and requested a sit down. Like two warring mafia families we sat across from each other in his office which I had frequented in previous years. This office never changed during those six years. The bulldog poster to the left of his angry mug offering a witty set of words to promote uniformity and compliance still made me smile as I recalled the many snide comments that followed every visit to this place. The lisp in the S still present, the seriousness of his tone still unchanged, the absence of a smile and the directness of his message never clearer. He offered his office as sanctuary from the internal and external battles I would soon face. This was the first of several sit downs in which this man offered me advice about being a man and about being true to myself. He was describing himself. He never lowered his standard for me or anyone else because everyone is capable of achieving greatness. It was because of his belief in me that I attempted a dark horse graduation of high school and abandoned the predictable teen drop out scenario portrayed in after school specials.
One day I may run into him and I will offer up the gratitude I have for his willingness to be hard despite his plunging popularity among students. For his fortitude in the face of change, he never gave a ribbon for fifth place, no trophy for participation, no pat on the back for giving up, no special treatment for lack of effort, and more important he never gave up on the thorns stuck in the side of North Fremont High. He only gave what he was capable of giving and nothing more. In short he was real. The safety and security that came from the words of wisdom were not rehearsed as I so often hear today. This need to cradle and coddle people while in the same breath lashing out at them and pushing them towards the authorities to deal with just doesn’t make sense to me. Mr. Seeley wasn’t Mr. Sensitivity but genuine, he wasn’t Mr. Calm and cool but effective, he wasn’t Mr. approachable but he was respectful and if teaching the children how to live in this big bad world was the goal, well, goal accomplished.