Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Skipping school

I only skipped school twice in high school. (I think I only went to class twice in college.)

The first: I think this was in the fall of my senior year, but I’m not sure. I was driving in to school, and a bunch of fire trucks and emergency vehicles were blocking off everything. Firemen were telling us to turn around and go home because there was a bomb threat. What they meant is that we should come back in a few minutes and go about the regular school day. What that meant to me is to get the fuck out of there and do some kind of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off routine. I drove to South Bend, which was our closest mecca away from Elkhart. I went to University Park Mall, which wasn’t open yet, and slept in my car for a few hours. I bought the then-new Joe Satriani EP, walked around downtown South Bend, and then came back to school because I had to work at the theatre that night. Not much rebellion.

The second: I got a speeding ticket one night for going something like 87 in a 35. This meant a mandatory court date, and the kind officer summoned me to appear before a judge on a Friday morning. I should probably mention that the attendance office was run by someone who graduated magna cum laude from the Nazi school of administration. Every parent was called when a kind was gone. Attendance was taken every hour. The FBI crime lab was used to compare handwriting samples from sick notes. I could think of ways to break out of prison, but cutting class was another story. But going to court was a legit excuse. And I figured I would be in a waiting room all day until I got my turn. So I told the attendance office that I’d be gone all day, and they bought it.

I drove to court in South Bend, and within minutes, I was sitting there with the public defender guy and the judge in an insane plea-bargain arrangement, where I must’ve said the word “sir” 900 times in 3 minutes. I thought I was going to lose my license, and the judge made me aware that I could. Then he reduced the charge to 9MPH over the limit, and told me to pay my fine and get the fuck out of there. I budgeted and saved several hundred dollars for a reckless driving fine, but 7 minutes and $70 later, I was free. It was 10:11am, I had an excuse saying I was in court all day, and I had a bunch of money to blow.

I spent most of the day driving around South Bend, which, as I mentioned, was our mecca back in high school. I’m not saying it’s an incredible city (there are subway stations in New York that are bigger than South Bend) but it wasn’t Elkhart, and there were some unique stores and places to eat. There was also Notre Dame, and I was convinced as a high school student that there were dorms full of half-naked nymphomaniacs just waiting for an inexperienced male with a high ACT score. I guess I never thought that one through – Notre Dame is a religious school. Anyway, I spent the whole day gone and I got away with it.

Now, you ask, why the hell am I thinking about this? A new Rush live album has come out, and the last one came out around the time that the second hooky incident took place. This was just after my 18th birthday (1/20/89), a time when I knew I was going to IU, and I was just starting to step out of my shell for the first time. I was having my first disastrous experiments with dating, I didn’t have a curfew anymore, and the end of my high school career was in sight. Not only that, but I wasn’t taking any real classes, so I just had to coast for a few more months. It was one of the first times in my life I had a shred of self-confidence. The whole thing, even though I was getting ready to fuck up in so many ways before I even got out of the gate, is a very memorable era.

As for this new Rush album, I have mixed opinions. It’s not bad musically. I hate the packaging – it’s in one of those cardboard slip-case things that inevitably get worn and torn. I like that they included a third CD with a 20-year old show from the Hammersmith Odeon, and it includes a very eclectic playlist with a lot of songs they don’t play live anymore, at least not in full. (I disclaim that by saying I didn;t see them in 97 when they played two full sets, so maybe they do now.) Anyway, it’s both odd and great to have songs like Xanadu, Cygnus X-1, and Cinderella Man on a live disc.

I’ve been typing and not eating, and now my food’s cold. I better get my lunch finished.