Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Most Embarrassing Day. . .And the Most Exciting Day

Listening to an old song, it brought back a crazy memory from tenth grade. I was listening to this song while staring at my Flickr photos, one of which was a cartoon-ized Joel Graham. His cartoon image helped to bring back this crazy memory:

The wonderful fall of 2006. One day, I had a chaotic, backwards math class. I didn't get anything we were doing, I was having a lot of trouble, and I didn't understand anything and felt bad. I came to gym class in this state feeling hopeless and depressed. My teacher, Joel Graham, noticed this and felt bad for me, letting me sit out while the rest of the class had to run laps down the basement hallways. He approached me and said that he'll do something to cheer me up. I'd explained my problem to him and he had an idea that would make me feel better. I spent the rest of class that day talking to him while he coached a basement game of floor hockey, feeling better. He was a good friend.

Months later, around either January or February, Graham's pick-me-up finally occurred. It was nuts.

Being my friend I'd told him many things, among them my crazy, almost fanatical interest in Madness. He knew what I liked about them, which of their songs I liked, everything. That morning in January or February, Graham's idea of making me feel better started. You see, in the morning, between bells, the school played songs on the intercom. Songs from anywhere, old and new. From musicals. From the nineties, even the eighties sometimes. That morning, the co-president of the school came on the intercom to say his usual words - and then this: "This song is a special one from Mr. Graham, and it's dedicated to Justin Campbell." I almost bent over in humiliation - he'd said my name!! It was DEDICATED to me!

And then the song came on - the song that had catalyzed my fanaticism in that British band - their one hit wonder here in North America, their great number 7 hit single "Our House."

I was in Kevin Mellow's room at that time. I was there. The first thing I saw after hearing the guitar fade in the song's introduction on the intercom was him, with a diabolical smile on his face, bouncing back and forth in dance. Another student I knew, Matt, was watching him with amusement. I ran out of there. I raced down the halls to my locker. I banged my head on it as I got to it. Behind me, one of the teachers I was friends with from the spec. ed. department approached me and started asking about the song. I got to science, and the teachers I was also friends with there were smiling appreciatively at the general room in particular. They knew it was one of my favorites. They knew I liked this stuff. They were talking about it as I entered the room. Talking about the impact of the song and what it was like when it came out in 1983.

My math teacher (yes, this was second semester and I'd obviously failed math the first semester) noticed the connection when I came in second period. I'd proclaimed it was the most embarrassing day of my life.

Nowadays I think it was just one of the most embarrassing days of high school. It was so sudden. It was so nuts. My name, the dedication, it was broadcast to every room in every building of the school. Except in the gym and the large auto tech. workshop where it would be too echoed to be heard properly, everyone had heard it.

In later years (grade 12) I would find out that Mr. Graham had downloaded a small amount of that band's singles onto the gym computer. He could at will choose to play the songs in the gym office (or the entire gym) whenever he wanted, and he often played music in the gym during game play in gym classes.

As well as that, the song itself was evidently kept by the office or the student council who played the songs. Around April or May of this year, in my final year of high school, they played 'Our House' again one morning. I was surprised and delighted that they'd kept the song. They'd come around to it again. It took them two years but they did. Only difference was I wasn't embarrassed, a different person put it on, and it had nothing to do with me. Besides, most people, specifically those who knew me and knew I liked the song/band, they didn't realize it was playing again. Only my good friend Doug Elliot noticed what was playing on the speakers that morning. Mellow didn't notice it enough to break into a dance all over again.

But I won't disagree that that day, when I first head it, was one of the most exhilerating, exciting days of high school for me. That song was played. People heard it. Everyone got to hear the wonderful sound of that band. I don't know if they actually listened or cared or knew it, but they still at least heard it. Joel Graham had kept his promise. He delivered on it. Now the song is kept in the school's records, to be played again and again every few years. It's like a legacy. The proof that I attended that school is the fact that they now have that song in their library. That it was played, for my benefit. That I was the reason it ever made it onto the intercom (or the fact I had a hard time with math). My legacy is that one 1 hit wonder by Madness.

It was the song I was listening to this night (the instrumental version). It brought back that great memory. A funny coincidence is that of all the student councils that ran the school during my time there, the councils that ran when I was in grade ten and grade twelve were my favorite ones. I don't know. The co-presidents in grade ten were fun and brought a nice variety to the table. The morning announcements were fun with them saying it. And in grade 12, the co-presidents and majority of students in that council were in my grade, my generation, and they had the most ideas and fun filled activities. I've always thought that the people in my generation had the best fun ideas and tricks up their sleeves. They proved that this past year. With the hand-printed tree in the cafeteria where the grads including myself got to put their hand prints on the wall with our names. That was their idea. It was just fun. The fact that both councils played 'Our House' barely had anything to do with it, but it contributed. The other councils in grade nine and eleven didn't really do it for me (especially the grade 11 one).

Summing it up, that day was a great day and a horrible day in terms of my name and dedication being broadcast to the school. The thing was, a lot of people knew I liked the song, and a lot of them knew I'd liked the song for a long time now. My fear was that they'd be going "shouldn't he have moved on to a different favorite song by now? He's been going on about this one song for years!" Of course I shouldn't worry about what people think about me but it was that self-consciousness that helped fuel my embarrassment.

Good memories to think about though at least.

-Justin C.

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