Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Final Stretch

In the last few days I’ve made great progress on my book. I think I really like it. (That’s like saying I think I’m pretty.) 

I like Fairhaven too. 

I’ve unfairly drawn an unflattering picture in black and white. It’s a very pleasant town and I’ve been very comfortable in my little cottage. 

I’ll post better pictures later and leave it at that. 

Here’s an excerpt from Frats and Cats:

“For just a brief moment, my attention shifted from the drone of Mrs. Jensen’s monotone recitation of roll call to the buzzing of a horsefly that landed just inches from my Civics textbook. I was fascinated by his size. He was a fat old sucker. And he just laid back and looked at me.

“Harvey Morris?” As luck would have it Mrs. Jensen called my name just as I was pushing my textbook over the head of the fat horsefly. The book dropped right off my desk.

“Here!” I answered an octave higher than usual.

“I think we all noticed that you were, Mr. Morris.”

Giggles erupted behind me as I sunk lower into my chair with that damned horsefly still sitting in the same place, daring me into action again. I picked up my textbook and looked at the floor. 

The horsefly finally made his way back through the classroom window closest to me. It was slightly cranked open like it always was with a moss covered oak branch on the other side. The temperature inside the classroom was maybe two degrees cooler than the 85 degree temp outside. My shirt clung to my body. I felt like I was bathed in sweat and continually wiped my hands on my pants just so my pencil wouldn’t slip through my fingers. There were a/c units in some of the classrooms at Upperline High School but not that one.

Truth be told, Upperline High School could barely afford to be open. It was the worst high school in New Orleans. Actually, it was the worst high school anywhere. Even the national secondary school listing for Upperline stated that “based on test scores, dropout rates, and socioeconomic status of the students, Upperline High School is one of the worst schools in the country.” 

Sitting in my desk on the 6th day of May in 1971, I was one of the many socioeconomically and educationally impaired students in Mrs. Jensen’s Civics class to answer the roll call. That’s me. Harvey Morris … better known as R.V. Morris, a nickname given to me by my older brother Stan.

Needless to say, I learned very little throughout my high school years other than “how to leave in the middle of the day and not be missed” or “how to avoid being beat up by using the right exit doors”.  I could have chosen to study “illegal habits that could get you killed or at the very least, arrested” but stuck with the basics instead. 

I wasn’t a stellar student, not by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn’t on any superlative list and not really known for any particular great accomplishments. In fact, the only notable thing that I ever did prior to my senior year didn’t even happen at Upperline. It happened in the sixth grade at Lafayette Elementary School. The school held a talent show on a stage that was set up on the playground. For some unknown reason, my mother signed me up to perform in a clown costume, playing the ukulele while singing Dean Martin’s That’s Amore while Peggy Marchelli did a ballet dance around me in a tutu. The judge and MC that night was Dick Van Dyke who worked at the local WDSU TV station before he became THE Dick Van Dyke. Peggy Marchelli and I came in 24th out of 25. Johnny Kushner’s tuba came in 25th.  

Some of my Upperline classmates who were also classmates with me at Lafayette remember the talent show well and would often serenade me with That’s Amore in the cafeteria. Thank you, Mom.  

There were two entrances into Upperline High School. One was on the Joseph Street side and the other was on Nashville Avenue. Students who used the Joseph Street side were known as “frats”. Frats wore weejuns (Penny loafers), had button down collars (usually madras) and listened to John Fred and The Playboys at The Valencia Club on Saturday nights. 

The Nashville side was where the “cats” or  “hoods” parked their ’57 Chevys. Greased down hair for guys and teased up hair about the size of a basketball held in place by lots of hair spray for the girls. They typically spent their weekends at the LaPlace Drag Strip.”

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