Wednesday, December 01, 2004


No Ritalin today, though the next time I take it I will probably take only half a capsule. I was talking to a friend last night, a grown up, well an adult sized man, who takes it, and has for most of his life. He only takes 5mg.! I took 30mg. Yes, it was time released, but still. That would explain my laser beam focus. I had almost no interaction with the public so I have no idea if the volume on my intensity was jarringly high. That's probably a good thing.

I was thinking about going through public school in the "gifted" program, such as it was in the 70s, and I found myself wondering if the identification and separation of that gifted group was a very good idea. They culled us out in the 5th grade and in my school there were 4 classrooms of regular kids and one gifted class. We all played together on the same playground, but there was definitely resentment and exclusion of those labeled as gifted. It was very similar to the exclusion experienced by the kids who occupied a bungalow and were labeled as "special." Or in the parlance of the day "F troop" - they were the kids with developmental and emotional disorders that caused them to be too disruptive to sit in a regular class.

In hindsight one wonders if perhaps some of those kids simply didn't test all that well due to learning disorders or biochemical disorders or what have you. In any case the whole labeling thing created a social hierarchy with the special kids at the bottom and the gifted kids one level above them and the "normal" kids pretty much in charge.

The resentment of the normal group toward the gifted group is pretty understandable since we got special field trips and the most interesting teachers. Usually those teachers that were young and excited to be working with kids who could read and write at high school level. We got to go off the regular curriculum and into the world of literature and world studies.

But at the time I didn't really care about that. What I noticed was that the cutest boys were "normal" - the boys in the gifted class were the stereotypical geeks, nerds and dorks. I knew I was doomed until I got to Junior High which was a drag because I was really interested in cute boys.

Probably the worst manifestation of our horrible differentness occurred during the annual event that is 6th grade camp. This was probably conceived of as an introduction to separation and individuation on our way to becoming young adults. Every elementary school in the district would send it's sixth graders to either Camp Hi Hill or Camp O-ongo for one week. It was a time of bonding and playing in the snow and taking hikes with camp counselors who were teachers in training.

The year I was in sixth grade, at that time still part of elementary school, now it is the first year of middle school, the four normal classes all went to Camp Hi Hill. Our gifted class of geeks, dorks and nerds had to stay behind because there wasn't enough room for us. Instead we went to Camp O-ongo with another school the week after the normal kids returned.

There are no words for how much this sucked! Not only were we separated and forced to attend class in a bungalow - did I mention that? They didn't have enough room for us in the regular classrooms, so we got a bungalow. Just like the tards in F Troop. We also had to go to a completely different camp with kids we did not know. Who did not know us. Great way to make some memories. And traumatize a group of 12 years olds who are already in the early stages of the floating psychoses that is adolescence.

And to make matters worse I forgot to pack underwear, and this is before I had begun wearing panties so small that I developed a take it or leave it attitude. I was completely mortified and every night I had to wash out the the granny panties I put on the morning I left and hope that they would dry in the frigid subzero temperature of our cabin. They usually weren't completely dry because that was a lot of cotton. Adding insult to injury, my bunkmate, who also happened to be my best friend got a horrible case of homesickness and had to go sleep up in the main cabin with the counselors, so she could call her mom everynight. I had done my homesickness phase in the fifth grade so I felt her pain, but I was totally bummed that she had to be such a fucking crybaby during the hell week that was camp with strange kids.

There was one redeeming moment in the whole experience and it was pretty awesome. I think it's still one of my favorite near death memories. We were innertubing down a huge hill which basically meant that we would sit on the overblown innertubes with out butts in the hole, arms and legs akimbo, and go flying down the snow covered hill, occasionally catching air. The counselors lined up at the bottom of the hill to slow us down, bring us to a stop and help us off our tubes. And to make sure that we didn't go crashing into the giant tree trunk just beyond. I mean giant as in about 4 feet in diameter. As in would kill you instantly like Sonny Bono should you make contact at a high speed while launching through the air on an innertube.

As I went flying down the mountain, laughing hysterically like you do when you're scared and exhilerated at the same time, I could see all the counselors lined up and secretly prayed that Tony, the incredibly cute Latino guy would be the one to catch me. Oh my God I had the kind of crush on him that rendered me speechless when in his presence. I would secretly watch him at meal time, barely able to breathe much less eat. I would give the evil eye to the young women counselors who flirted with him. I wasn't the only one that noticed that he was hot! The innertube began to turn in circles as I came off a mogul type bump of snow and I picked up speed when I landed so that the first counselor missed me as I sped past him near the bottom of the hill and headed directly toward the tree trunk. The next also missed me although he did hang onto my mitten. I had stopped laughing because they were all yelling and running after me, and not in a good way. But the next thing I knew, I heard the crunch of boots in the snow running very close to me and TONY threw himself on top of me and dug his toes in the snow, braking our progress until we came to rest against the tree trunk. He dropped his head near mine and KISSED ME ON THE CHEEK! asking me if I was okay as everyone cheered. I couldn't even talk I was so overwhelmed with all the love in my 12 year old heart. The rest of the week sped by and now when Tony saw me he'd say hi, howya doin? And I would just die - we practically had a relationship! I cried on the bus home, clutching my memory log that he had signed "Stay off the mountain unless I'm there to catch you - Peace sign - Tony." I knew I'd never see him again.

Back at school our awareness that we had been separated from the herd caused us to act out in various ways that probably made that year, the last year that our teacher, Mr. Kasner ever taught. The poor guy was only about 26 years old. He rode a motorcycle to school and clomped around in bad polyester doubleknit slacks and motorcycle boots which the cuffs of his pants rode up over so that sometimes the white of his calf would show when he sat down. He had HUGE flakes of dandruff. You could tell that he wanted to be cool, and he wanted us to think he was cool, but he wasn't and we picked on him the way that everyone else picked on us.

In an effort to teach us to be self starters and pratitioners of personal responsibility he would give us assignments that had due dates and provide us with free library time and classroom time to complete the work. Most of us didn't bother to do the work because the book with the answers was also available so that we could check to see if we had done our work correctly. We just copied the correct answers onto our papers and spent most of our days screwing around. When someone acted out to the point that Mr. Kasner noticed he would tell them to "take a walk," after that person had been gone about 10 minutes he would send someone else out to retrieve them. When those two people had been gone for another 10 minutes he would send someone else and this would continue until there were only about 10 kids left in class wondering why he was such a dumbass and hoping that they would be picked next. One time he came out himself to get us - I was inevitably one of the first sent to retrieve the walker - and we were playing duck, duck, goose. He started screaming at us and I think he cried.

In retrospect what I know is that Mr. Kasner was really a writer - not a teacher. My favorite part of every day was the hour before class let out when he would read to us from the manuscript he had written. It was a story about three kids who found a magical world in hole in a large tree. It was really a great book and the hours he spent reading it to us were probably the only time that he had our full and rapt attention. And our respect.

He really had a gift for storytelling and in all of my time in the "gifted" program, it was the sharing of that book, I don't know if he ever got it published, that most infused me with possibilities.

Oh, and when Tony the cute camp counselor jumped on top of me.

P.S. - All those geeky, dorky, nerdy boys from the gifted class? They ended up being totally hot and going to Harvard and Yale and becoming successful doctors and such. Of course, this wasn't evident until I saw pictures from a 25 year reunion. I guess it's better not to peak in sixth grade.

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