Reflections: High School Memories and University Reality

High School Class Reunion invitations have come around again. It will the 45th.
Time slips by. I have only attended one.
People attending and setting it up are all excited, and they should be – high school is supposed to be one’s most memorable moments. It is a big transition in your life and a progress towards becoming an adult, hopefully it leads to higher forms of education even if it is trade school.

I attended the ten-year anniversary of our graduating class which was held in a swank resort. There were memorial pictures hung on one wall … fellow classmates. One died of cancer, being a mother of two children, married to her high school sweetheart. One died when his Corvette hit a concrete barrier, police estimating he was doing at least 100 mph when he hit and revealed that drunk driving was involved. And another fellow student, one of the quieter ones, like me died in Vietnam.

The reception was interesting and revealing. Those who were popular in school, usually on some sports team or some high school committee, whose entry in the yearbook revealed a person to ‘most succeed’ had been in and out of marriage a couple of times and one was an alcoholic. Some didn’t show up because they were in some Hippie colony somewhere or doing drugs, while at least one couldn’t attend because he was serving time in prison. Don’t remember for what. Just like high school, they remembered the clicks and reestablished the gossip.
I only attended out of curiosity. At the time, I had served my country in a short two-year enlistment in the United States Army and when coming out found that jobs were not easy to get – a recession was going on. But, I kept going to the employment office and found an opportunity to get into the trucking business and be my own boss. A fellow veteran was selling his waste oil business and I slowly got it going better than he claimed, for there were fewer customers than he either stated or imagined. But I used my natural ability at diplomacy and was always punctual and always came no matter how short a notice was given. I also added customer clientele that required their horse arenas to be sprayed down with something that was environmentally friendly and not irritate the horses skin – the whole idea to keep the dust down from the sawdust in the arena. It worked and soon I had 300 customers from an original 75.
Then the unions decided to have strikes at the place where I would drop off and receive so much a gallon for waste oil, most of it coming from service station holding tanks, making sure the water was run off from the tank and spilled in an area that was safe for the environment.
Then corporations decided that the business of recycle was a good venture, so they bought their fleet of tractors and liquid-container trailers and ran most of us little guys out of business. We couldn’t compete with their prices. First we were getting money, a few cents per gallon at the pickup end and when unloaded at the refinery another few cents. I saw the prediction of the future for small business in waste oil and sold out.
After I sold my trucking business, I drove a taxi for awhile and ran across a sweet deal on a limousine and went into that business, paying a dispatcher 25% off the top for services. It was at that time that I went to the high school reunion. People who wouldn’t give me the time of day were saying, “I wish I had your freestyle life” – I hadn’t married yet, I was a key-club member of the Playboy Club, downtown Chicago, and had the money to go to the Playboy Resort that now no longer exists. I attended a lot of rock concerts back then, mostly with backstage tickets offered by members of the rock concert people behind the scenes. It was a great and wild time of my life, seeing things and viewing the side of life I never experienced — people with money and part of the social elite. But my best move was when I returned to the military, where I was able to extend my educational opportunities and learned self discipline and the brotherhood that only those in the combat arms can ever know.
Post High School
In reality, my high school years, while attending school, were not that much of a fond memory. At the time, our district/county had no high school we could attend, so we were bussed into another township. Of course, those living in the town treated us as the “kids from across the tracks” – and that stained my experience in high school. Even most of the teachers treated us “across the track” teenagers differently. They were always surprised when I, tagged as a “Greaser” made such good grades, when I applied myself and with classes that were not boring.
The other thing about high school was everyone was grouped into “in” and “out” – social nonsense. Those that were the snooty ones were called “socialites”. Then there were the “nerds” – real smart, but not much common sense. I always got along with them over the “socialites” — I seemed to understand them better. 
Overnight Pass, Dong Du Chon
Then, on the bottom of the social stepladder were those bussed in from another township, and if you dressed a certain way, you instantly were marked as a “greaser”. 
I guess, I was a greaser, but never fancied the social-scale thing, like the socialist politicians like to do pitting one class of society against another and at the same time gladly taking money from the “evil” class of society. 
But I wasn’t the typical stereotype Greaser the way of the film they are depicted films like American Graffitiand the hit musical Grease. I was more like the character, John, in American Graffitiwho rode around in a yellow souped-up roadster. 
My cars were 1970s big engine Monsters that were either a Ford or a Mopar. 
Along with motorcycles, I favored convertibles, but always fine tuned and worked on the engines for performance. 
My Ford Fairlane convertible, for example, had a Lincoln engine bored and stroked to 400 cubic inches with a three-barrel Holley carburetor, ported manifold, and exhaust dumps so I could bypass the muffler system and run the exhaust straight out of the engine for better performance at Saturday-night drag meets. (illegal). The wheel welded on the rear bumper was not for looks. Combined with the Hertz performance 4-speed transmission, the car literally on full acceleration at start would raise in the air like a wild mustang, partly because of the huge rear wheels. It was a street dragster. 
1972 Javelin
My Mopar had a Hemi-V8, also bored and stroked for performance with all the cool stuff like racing oil pump and electronic fuel delivery. 
Hey, Americans have always loved their automobiles.  
After selling out the waste oil business, I returned to the military and made it my career. The military and my years attending Maryland State University classes in Europe were my most memorable in terms of my days of education attendance. There wasn’t a social pecking order or snobbery like that happens in high school. Later in my career I changed my military occupation to executive administration which afforded me a Top Secret (Atomal) clearance. 
Actually, if I knew how much better college and universities are, I would have made it a point to attend sooner than I did. For you see, I was an educated “Greaser”. I was into the style, not the stereotype character. At the university, professors would look beyond your appearance, they were more interested in mind development; and several, like the late Frank Polite, became inspirations, mentors, that I appreciated.
Frank Polite, 1936-2005; poet-teacher-friend
Frank Polite was my professor, mentor, and friend. He was teaching literature classes at University of Maryland, European Chapter in Izmir, Turkey for NATO service personnel and their families. It was a great experience for him to be there, for he appreciated the history and culture there; and we would have wonderful conversations/discussions that was enlightening. He set me up to attend a Writer’s Guild when I returned to the states, but I had to cancel it because I had to attend a more important matter – the Gulf War in Saudi Arabia/Kuwait. But he encouraged me to continue writing. As a going away present, I put together a party with his students attending and presented to him a poem I had printed on parchment paper and framed. It was entitled “Poet-Teacher-Friend”. It was one of the few poems I ever wrote, but he had inspired me and provided excellent advice. He was a kind and simple person, but had insights into human character and tried to experience as much as he could in life.
I corresponded with him from time after he left Turkey, but life got in the way for both of us, each attending to what needs to be done and what we want to do; and, sadly, when I had ran across his website, I found that he has passed away in 2005. Threads of the Spiderwoman website tells of her experience in meeting Frank Polite as well as his poems from Letters of Transit. The artist posts a great tribute to Frank, and it seems she has had the wanderlust that Frank had and that alone is an endearment because I have always been a wanderer wanting to experience something on the other side of the hill. It is why I tried to serve overseas assignments as often as the Army would allow. I knew I would not be able to afford to do that in civilian life, so I grabbed the opportunity. He received an award in 2004, just before he died at the age of 69. The award was for his poem Darkening Wood.
As a gift before Frank, left the European Chapter of the University of Maryland and going back to Youngston, Ohio, he gave me a copy of Letters of Transit, which he signed. It is one of my most treasured collections in my personal library. It was out of print, but I found a place where you can get one incredibly cheap. It is good prose, I recommend you add it to your library if you like good poetry. A good article about Frank Polite’s wife, Charlene, an actress, is HERE. Another good source about Frank Polite is at Fallen City Writers, that is presently undergoing website changes, but check back now and then, it is worth it.
You can read some of his works on the Internet: The Manservant, Image at Thirty, Small Craft Warnings, From the Puritan Cookbook. Also read The Japanese Consulate. Frank was a director at Fallen City Writers in Ohio for several years in the 1970s. He returned to Ohio after his stint in Izmir, Turkey.
Hey, just had these thoughts and started typing. That is what “Reflections” are for. 
I am sure this story would raise a few memories of your own. … 
On another note concerning education, fast forwarding to the present …
Derek Hunter wrote an excellent article discussing what graduates are facing today in this messed up economy entitled Dear Graduates: You’re Screwed
It’s graduation season, and prominent political and media figures are making the rounds to give commencement speeches at colleges across the country. The president, administration officials, progressive members of Congress, left-wing television talking heads, liberal columnists, etc., are spewing so many feel-good platitudes that you’d think doing so was an Olympic event and they were training for the gold in London. The one thing missing from these speeches is reality. … After the hangovers from your graduation parties fade away, the hangover of reality will set in. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you rely on the mainstream media for your information, you probably haven’t heard this – you’re screwed.
In addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in student loans you now owe, your share of the national debt as a citizen is more than $50,000. Once you find a job and become one of the elite 53 percent of Americans who pay taxes, your share will jump to $138,000. But don’t think about that number just yet; it won’t apply to about half of you for some time. You see, in President Obama’s economy about half of you won’t find full-time employment – or any job – for quite some time. … To those who went into practical fields of study, such as physical and computer sciences, you’ll probably be all right. … Those of you with a degree in Caribbean Pygmy, Eskimo Gender or theater studies…Yeah, that wasn’t a smart move. … For the record, when we run into each other in the future, to make that interaction less awkward – yes, I would like fries with that.
Some of you will go on to accomplish great things, live amazing lives and enjoy tremendous success. With a little luck and a lot of hard work, you may even become successful enough to become the type of people many of your fellow students, professors and even our president demonize on a daily basis. … On the other hand, if government keeps spending the way it is, it’s unlikely you’ll ever obtain the level of success government would like to deny you. But I’m not talking about the end of the world here – only the end of the civilized world. That’s because, just as much of our past comes from Greece, our future lies there too … Since we now live in a culture that rewards stupidity with reality shows and everyone gets a participation ribbon, maybe the key to our economic future is to be the world’s cautionary tale. I hope not. … The path paved with freebees is always the most alluring because who doesn’t like free stuff? But remember – Democrats have promised you that path your whole life. And now that you’ve graduated college, many of you will realize it’s only led you into debt and back to your parent’s basement. If that’s your version of Utopia…you misread the book. …
So, for those young voters attending institutions of “higher education”, you might want to remember this when you go to the local voting polling place to elect the next President of the United States or whether or not to keep a senator or representative in Congress to continue “business as usual” in Washington.
Your future depends upon who runs our country, from the White House, to Congress, and up the steps of the Supreme Court. It is time, no it is past the time, to insist that those who are supposed to be operating OUR government for US start operating as it was created: a constitutional republic.
Otherwise, as Hunter pointed out, we will become an historical footnote in human history; a great civilization that failed.