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Clinton, South Carolina, Wednesday, May 25, 2016, 10:13 a.m.
I’m not much of a fan of banquets and awards ceremonies. Three Winston Cup marathons at the Waldorf-Astoria, sitting uncomfortably in rented formal attire while watching a skit in which Dale Jarrett encountered rappers in the streets of Gotham, were enough to founder me on the whole process.
For years afterward, when the season would end, a colleague would say, “Well, see you in the Big Apple,” and I’d reply, “You won’t see me. I’d rather spend the time butchering a hog.”
Not that I actually did that while the banquet was on TV.
It’s obvious that I am mostly alone. Some people like to dress up. I like to dress down, and even at Clinton High School’s Spring Sports Awards Ceremony, which I was assigned to catalogue for the ages, how to dress is a tough call, if for no other reason than people dress every possible way.
The last time I went to a high school banquet, I was astonished at how informal it had become. When I was in high school, people dressed “to the nines,” whatever that means. People rented tuxes. Some of my teammates dressed like they were Sammy Davis Jr., who, I note as a means of pointing out how old I am, died in 1990, which was well before any of the CHS athletes were born.
Davis was prone to the garish in dress.
Back in the early 1990s, in nearby Laurens, it had become fashionable to wear a blazer with shorts. Now bowties are popular. I hate bowties. When I was growing up, only a few people wore bowties, but those people wore them all the time. Accounting professors. Economists. But, if I were eighteen now, and everyone wore bowties, I would probably wear one, too. It’s an impressionable age. I might still wear them. Once impressionable age is over, people become set in their ways.
I guess my ways never got set. I put on the dress shoes I’ve owned since the 1980s. I’ve been dieting, so I made the affair the latest edition of that popular game show, “Let’s Pull Something Out of the Closet I Haven’t Worn in a Decade and See if It Fits.”
I wore a two-tone, buttoned-up, short-sleeved shirt that made me look like a cross between Biff in Back to the Future and a Puerto Rican baseball scout.
In my defense, I didn’t care.
There were lots of names. I felt uneasy any time an award was given to an athlete whose name did not appear in the program. This is an age in which John Smith might possibly be spelled J’D’Quan Sm’yth and Becky Johnson might be Bekkii Jonssyn. The story took much longer than expected because I kept looking up high school kids on Facebook. Fortunately, they all have a page, usually one with a mischievous nickname and another “for real.” Even more so with Twitter.
The ceremony took place in the gymnasium. Letters, bars, certificates, and plaques were arrayed on a table. All-region selections, MVPs, Hustlers, Coaches of the Year, and state-tournament qualifiers were recognized, and for those who didn’t recognize them, introduced. Then all – one side of the grandstands was about half full of athletes, parents, and interested others such as I — received invitations to the reception up the hall in what I assume was the cafeteria, which, when I was going to the school’s previous incarnation, was the lunchroom. College had a dining hall.
This was the best part because I enjoy trading quips with people, and coaches and athletes always have quips to trade. It was roughly the same as trading marbles or bubble-gum cards in grade school, only slightly more adult.
Also, I enjoyed the pimiento cheese in the cafeteria more than the beautiful food served at the Waldorf-Astoria. In direct violation of my diet, I sipped two cups of carbonated pineapple punch and obediently dipped my chicken strips in the honey mustard.
There I found the fun stuff. The stuff that decorum prevented me from writing. The anecdotes. The war stories. The one-liners.
Some of the kids I’m going to miss. I grew attached to the baseball team, which won 23 of its 26 games and barely lost the other three. It won its region and its district but fell agonizingly shy — twice! — in the Upstate pool, which has no water if one overlooks the tears.
Sipping the punch and nibbling at the tiny sandwiches with the crust sliced off, I found the relief, satisfaction, angst, and uncertainty that comes with the end of school for both eighteen-year-old seniors and exasperated administrators.
Kids are excited at the uncertainty that lies ahead. Adults have been there, done it. They’re just looking forward to a break.
Most of my books can be found on Amazon here. Three are available — and signed — here in Clinton at L&L Office Supply, 114 North Main Street. The links below are all for the print versions.
Denny Frawley is an ambitious prosecutor whose ambition, private life, and family are all spiraling out of control. Hal Kinley knows he must be stopped in Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
I’ve written lots of songs. Over time, I turned eleven of them into short stories. That’s how my collection, Longer Songs, came to be.
Chance Benford is crazy at the beginning of aptly titled Crazy of Natural Causes. He learns to cope with the world’s absurdity in a variety of ways.
The Intangibles was inspired by growing up during the tumultuous sixties and seventies. It’s a tale of civil rights, bigotry, cultural exchange, and, most importantly, high school football.
Riley Mansfield is the most likable character I’ve created. He’s a pot-smoking songwriter with a stubborn streak and the hero of The Audacity of Dope.
Look me up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+ and other painstaking means of circulation that don’t occur to me now. I’m easy to find.