In response to the recent spate of High School year book picture postings, I hereby offer this snapshot for your delectation and amusement.
I think this picture was actually taken in 1971, given the extraordinary amount of time it took us to pull together the senior class year book for my graduating year. In fact, we didn't receive them for another year, returning in the Spring of 1973, at which point this picture and many like it had been reduced to the merely comical.
By the time I graduated High School in 1972, my hair had finally made it's way down to my shoulders, though it remained the mess of raven curls you see here before you. Of course, in my senior year, I had it cut in a then-fashionable shag haircut, losing the curls and gaining layers. It proved to be a highly unmanageable style for me, and a challenge to my Gillette SuperMax 200 watt blowdryer, which was incapable of producing neither the heat nor the wind required for that tousled, windblown look so many of us were attempting at that time.
Yes, I am wearing overalls in my High School graduation picture; such were the times. My mother was so proud. She refused to purchase the ready-for-framing 5" x 7" or the series of wallet sized prints the school was shilling. She should have been relieved. I did not, as others did, pose with a woolly glued-on beard. Nor did I pose in the style of Veronica Lake, or submit a cartoon in place of my photograph, as some of my more clever classmates did. Our yearbook, bound in faux silver leather, resembled nothing so much as Andy Warhol's Index, all moody black and white, with second-hand camp overtones.
For the photo shoot, I merely turned up in my teen aged notion of fancy dress-up. I'd had the overalls for a while, even affixing an applique to the rear yoke of an American Beauty rose, in tribute to the Grateful Dead album of the same name. I'd conspired to team the overalls with one of my very special and favorite shirts, a pearl buttoned western model; pale cream festooned with faded yellow cabbage roses and still paler green foliage. Paired with my ubiquitous Frye harness boots, I thought I looked terrific.
The hair was the first to go. Having spent the night dancing in the sweaty basement of the Ninth Circle, I happened to catch my reflection in the window of the D train carrying me back to my mother's house in Brooklyn. The hour I'd spent with SuperMax had been all for naught, and I was horrified to note that my hair had morphed into something resembling a Jewfro. I was at the Jack's Barbershop on Brighton Beach Avenue at 9:00 AM the following day, where Jack enjoyed himself immensely as he clipped, then cut, then sheared my hair down to a close cropped buzz. When I next appeared, my friends ragged on my new look, sarcastically calling me Lou Reed. I took it as a compliment.
A bout of mononucleosis that winter took care of the baby fat, and in a couple of years, contact lenses would replace the gold-rimmed aviator glasses. The flower-sprigged shirt still resides in the back of my closet. The fabric has faded and yellowed, and it now resembles some remnant of wallpaper as one might find in an old deserted whorehouse. Tim attempted to try it on some time ago, but stopped when his muscles threatened to burst the seams and shred the fabric. I hadn't realized I was such a waif.
The Gillette Supermax rests on the top shelf of my closet in all it's orange glory; a triumph of early 70's design and a failure in every other way.
I've never understood people who claim their High School years were the best years of their lives. Mine were hell. I look at this picture and all I can see is a young boy who is just about busting to get out of the life he's been living and get on with another; any other. I sort of want to pat him on the head, and tell him to take it easy... that things will work out alright in the end.
He would have decked me.