Monday, July 14, 2008

More Temporary Preoccupations

I sometimes try to post comments on other blogs that seem like they attract a crowd I could possibly relate to, hoping also in this way to draw some attention to my site, but I can't do it. I get halfway through my comment and it occurs to me that I don't know these people, that my comment is not really that important, or does not fit into the dialogue, or is not exciting (I do not know how to be simply aimiable and ingratiating, so my only hope is to go for the spectacular impression, which comes off), so I give it up. The form of the comment is conversation, a direct response to another person, and I just have no feel for that.

I have also been perturbed by some articles I happened to read, some by, and some about a guy I went to high school with and actually spent a lot of time with, though he and I were not exactly friends, who has sort of established himself in the New York writing and film scene, though he is not especially prominent or highly regarded. He has managed to get a couple of films financed and made, though neither of these achieved a wide distribution and the first one at least got pretty brutal reviews (I have not found any reviews of the second one). This guy was a twerp in high school, not well liked, obnoxious, and a very pushing sort of fellow; he doesn't appear to have changed much. I knew him because he had a habit of forcing his company on a couple of friends of mine who were fairly popular who he wanted to get in with, and they being generally good-natured did not dismiss him outright, as he himself certainly would have done to someone in his relative position, though they made fun of him a lot. He despised me especially, I suspect because he regarded me as deadweight in the group who was both of no use to his own plans for social advancement as well as occupying a position of pretty close intimacy with the actual cool guys that he craved and considered he would be able to put to much better uses than I did (which was probably true). I will admit that he was intrepid, if usually frustrated, in his pursuits, and had asked a number of girls out on dates, many of whom had said yes, though these had only been one time deals and nothing, even kisses, had come of them. He did use to boast to me about these dates because I was the only person who geuninely impressed by his feat; the cooler guys had mocked him for taking the girls to the movies and not being able, or even tried to grope their breasts or tongue-kiss them, but I was rather floored that the likes of Melissa S and Erin K, girls of the sort I often thought I might try to talk to someday if I should happen to gain thirty pounds of muscle and made all-league in some sport before graduation, had gotten in a car and sat in a movie theater alone with this dork. Erin K later got a boyfriend at another school who was good at surfing and other aquatic activities, but Melissa S--who had a kind of ethereal, high to late-Victorian (but not pre-Raphaelite) look going on--remained out there roaming dreamily through our halls and eating her apples unmolested in window seats in the back corner of the cafeteria, apparently unappreciated by anyone except for me and my 5'6" bright orange-Jew-fro'ed rival; I could not bring myself to speak to her however. On a somewhat humorous note my enemy who is now a filmmaker always claimed to have gotten laid once by a girl at summer camp, or kibbutz, or whatever it was he went to, in Israel. As you can imagine our cooler friends had a field day with this story, which they did not accept as true for a second, and it was a cause for great sport among all of us.

What made me angry however was that my old schoolmate was very condescending of our hometown (Portland, Maine, for the record), calling it a boring place to grow up and referring to the people in one place as ignorant lunkheads. As to the boring part, compared to most places where teenagers actually have to endure living in America, Portland is not especially boring by any reasonable standing. Manhattan and San Francisco and L.A. and Miami and a few places like that aside, though I know these are the standards by which everyone measures themselves, everyone who is cool thinks their hometown was lame. But then this guy isn't cool. If he had gone to the big suburban high school outside Philadelphia that I went to my first two years he sure as hell wouldn't have been going to the movies with cute girls on the level of Erin K and Melissa S, or going to any parties, or been able to play on the tennis team. From the minute I met him I thought that all the people at this school, and growing up in this town, you buddy, are the luckiest of the bunch. Really, in Philadelphia, somebody would have tossed this joker out of a window. The lunkhead comment was especially unforgivable. Portland is an unusual city in that there is a true mixture of social classes in the high school; however the top 75-100 students in each class must rank among the top 1-2% of all public high schools in the country in terms of academic achievements. This guy was hardly Newton among the illiterate farmers as he seems to like to give out, though I know the people one meets in New York are impressive and serious and all of that and can cloud your perspective, but if this guy is supposed to be an artist, it seems to me he has written off a lot of valuable experience and potentially interesting subject matter as nothing (a movie about Melissa S's secret life would have been ten times more interesting than the nerd chasing New York career girls thing he put out; I would have paid to see it anyway.) Again, compared, to most towns in America, large parts of Portland are old, beautiful, walkable leafy neighborhoods, our school was an elegant, in some ways gorgeous 1924 structure with lots of windows in the middle of one of these picturesque neighborhoods (it is to average public high schools approximately what Wrigley Field is to average baseball stadiums), both the smart and the dumb kids were in truth much more interesting, had more individual personalities, and had better senses of humor, and the smart kids were better and more diversely read, had less anxiety and social pathologies than in typical suburban high schools. I thought overall there were at least as many cute girls, too, after the scruffy New England manner, of course, but no one agrees with me on this.

I should add that another oddity about my relationship to this person is that both of us applied, without conferring with the other beforehand to Columbia University. Needless to say he was accepted, I was not, and the rest is, to this point at least, a very small piece of history. I was not a great candidate, I did not expect to get in, and of course I ended up going to St John's College, where I probably learned more things of a fundamental intellectual nature and had a more heartfelt experience than I would have at Columbia, although I do not seem to have learned how to be really successful in a worldly sense, which everyone seems to learn at these other kinds of colleges, though perhaps this is a quality that cannot really be taught. I thought I compared favorably to this other fellow in several important areas, including certain academic measures, though obviously he was able to impress on them that he had great drive, which clearly I lack, though I did not realize this was an important factor at the time. Indeed, when the announcements came, I had to say, that if this renowned institution, having been able to examine the both of us, really preferred to have him over me (being young and stupid, of course my opinion of my charms and abilities was inflated), there was nothing more to be done, for I would never want to be like him. Yet, he lives in New York, and writes and works in the arts, directs plays and so on for a living, which is like an unfathomable fantasy world now to me, and appears to have a lot of friends there in that community who appreciate him (though it is true he is not married), while I live in complete social and intellectual isolation in the middle of nowhere. So perhaps it is I who have missed the point of everything that is valuable to cultivate in a human mind and personality. The results would certainly seem to suggest that this is so.

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