Tag Archives: George Carter Middle School

Story of the Day: 2-22-11


My family never really went to church, but for as long as I can remember, we’ve been religious about one thing: Saturday Night Live. As soon as we got a VCR, we started taping Saturday Night Live every Saturday night and watching it together as a family Sunday morning.

The first season I remember watching was the year Eddie Murphy joined the cast. There have been far better casts than the Eddie Murphy cast, there have been years where the writing was a lot stronger, but for my money, no one has ever been as good on SNL as Eddie Murphy. He dominated that show. During the opening credits, the audience would clap politely for the other cast members and go wild for Murphy. To this day, when you watch the old episodes, it is impossible to take your eyes off of him. He was the coolest guy I’d ever seen.

I was in sixth grade when Murphy’s concert film Raw came out. I didn’t see it until the following year, when it came out on video. Jeff Rosenberg and I were spending the night at Brian Fairweather’s house, and we managed to convince Brian’s mom to rent it for us. She watched about 15 minutes with us before leaving in disgust. If you have never seen Raw, know this: it is DIRTY. Not the sort of thing you want to watch with your mom when you’re 12. To her credit, she let us finish it. And then we watched it again immediately afterwards. I haven’t seen it since and can’t tell you if it’s actually funny or if it’s 12-year-old boy funny … I know it contains a wealth of homophobic jokes that the adult me would probably find offensive. But at the time, it felt like the pinnacle of human achievement.

Sometime after that, I was at the leather store in the mall with my mom, looking for a new jacket. And there, on the rack, was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen: an Eddie Murphy Raw tour jacket. It had black leather sleeves and a fuzzy torso and splashed across the back, in giant letters, was the word “Raw.” I just knew that if I had that jacket, my popularity would go through the roof. “Wow,” kids would say, “I thought Dinsmore was kinda milquetoast, but he’s got edge! Just look at that boss Raw jacket! He must really love dirty comedy!” In my fantasies, kids used words like “boss” and “milquetoast.” Probably a good sign that I was not destined to be cool.

I begged and begged my mom to get me that jacket and finally, on my birthday, there it was, waiting under the birthday tree. I had never been so excited about a piece of clothing. I just knew this was the one thing that was going to finally get me noticed.

It got me noticed, all right. The first day I wore the Raw jacket, I sauntered onto the schoolbus like a proud peacock, waiting for the kudos to come rolling in. I especially wanted to impress the eighth graders who sat in the back of the bus and made my life a living hell. Once they knew how big a Murphy fan I was, they’d surely invite me to join their cool bus club. “I bet that kid could really make fun of some other kids with us,” they’d say. “No nerd would ever wear a jacket that cool.”

Needless to say, I had severely miscalculated the effect that a jacket with the words “Raw” written in giant lettering across the back would have on my peers. Minutes after sitting down, the catcalls began. “Hey Raw!” they shouted. And “Eat me raw!” I slunk down in my seat, pretending not to hear them. It was no use. They kept it up all the way to school. At the end of the day, their bloodlust still was not satisfied. “Hey everybody, it’s raw!” they shouted, the minute I got on the bus. It was all I could do to keep from leaping out the window.

Have you ever seen that episode of Freaks and Geeks where Sam wears the leisure suit to school? He walks into school with his head held high, thinking he’s on the cutting edge of fashion. Within a few seconds, he realizes that everyone is looking at him, not because they’re impressed, but because he looks like a complete jackass. That is exactly how I suddenly felt in the Raw jacket. Every day, all the way to and from school, it was the same thing. “Hey, it’s raw!” they’d shout, the minute I stepped on the bus. The raw jokes would continue ad nauseum until I got off the bus. Or, “jokes,” I guess, is maybe not the correct word … the banter basically consisted of them coughing into their hands while saying “raw” under their breaths. The minute we got to school, I would bolt into the aisle and shove my way off the bus for fear that they were going to jump me for having the poor sense to wear a jacket with a silly word on the back.

Finally, at the end of the week, I’d had enough. The raw coughs were flying fast and furious as I got up to leave the bus. As soon as the door opened, I turned around and raised a shaking middle finger. “Why don’t you just fuck off?” I shouted, red-faced and teary-eyed. The entire bus exploded with laughter. “Rawwwwww!” the eighth graders shouted, as I fled from the bus and into the safety of my house.

That was the last time I ever wore the Raw jacket. Thankfully, the nickname didn’t stick.


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Story of the Day: 2-18-11

How I Missed the Pixies

If you know anything about me, you know that my favorite band in the entire world is the Pixies. I have loved the Pixies since I was in 8th grade. I was not the first person in the known universe to love the Pixies, but I was definitely the first person at George R. Carter middle school in Clio, Michigan to love the Pixies.

I was part of a tiny contingent of people in my class who really liked music. I mean, I’m sure there were other people who really liked music. But we were the music snobs. It was hard to be a music snob in Clio in 1989. The only radio stations that played interesting music were in far-off cities like Detroit and Ann Arbor. We didn’t have cable so I couldn’t watch MTV. There was a music video show on the local PBS station that I watched rabidly, but it was only 1/2 an hour a week. My friend Rion, another music snob, would sometimes tape 120 Minutes for me, but he also had a tendency to get mad at me for hard-to-understand reasons and show up at school with bags of candy and give candy to all of the rest of our friends and none to me.

I mainly learned what was new and cool by reading Spin and Rolling Spin. That was where I first heard of the Pixies second album, Doolittle. It initially caught my eye because my 5th & 6th grade band teacher was named Mr. Doolittle, and I thought it would be cool to buy it for him as a gift, even though we weren’t particularly close and I hadn’t been his student for two years. That should give you an indication of what kind of student I was. The kind that fantasized about buying gifts for his old teachers.

But before buying it for Mr. Doolittle, I bought it for myself to give it a test run. So I biked to Manufacturers Market Place outlet mall in Birch Run with Brian Fairweather to buy Doolittle on cassette.

The first time I listened to it, I knew this album was something special. I immediately became obsessed and spent the next 10 years of my life seeking out every piece of music the Pixies had ever recorded. Which wasn’t very much; they only released four albums, an EP, and a handful of B sides. Today you could buy those 10 years of my life for about $40 on iTunes.

I only managed to see the Pixies live once before they broke up, on the Trompe le Monde tour. They hated each other and seemed to just be going through the motions. Plus it was in a seated venue and we were kind of far away. After the show, my friends and I waited behind the venue for an hour in the hopes that they’d notice us as they were walking out to their tour bus and say, “you high school kids look pretty cool. Let’s hang out.” We did see them come out of the venue, but when we tried to say hi to Black Francis, he said, “fuck off, man.” It was still pretty cool that he talked to us.

A few years later, when Don and I lived at 21-20, Rion came to stay with us. That was a total disaster for reasons that will be discussed in tomorrow’s story. While he was crashing on our couch, he let slip that he’d gone to see the Pixies on the Doolittle tour, back in 1989 when they were young and they weren’t just playing the role of greatest band in the universe, they actually were the greatest band in the universe.

“What?” I asked. “I am the biggest Pixies fan in the history of Clio. You and I went to shows together constantly when we were growing up, and if I’d known you were going to see the Pixies, I would have gone to see the Pixies. Why was I not at this show?”

“I was mad at you,” he answered. “The week before I asked you to see Sinead with me and you said no.”

“And so you blocked me out of seeing my favorite band of all time when they were touring behind my favorite album of all time?”

“Yeah,” he said. “It was general admission, too. And they were awesome.”

It’s difficult to fathom how upsetting this was. Imagine your favorite album is Sgt. Pepper, and you had the opportunity to see The Beatles playing that album in a small club, but your friend didn’t tell you about it because you had refused to go see the Electric Prunes with him the week before. That is how Rion’s admission felt to me.

Shortly after that, Rion and I stopped speaking. I didn’t see him again until the week before I moved to Los Angeles. It wasn’t the Pixies incident that severed our relationship; it was the incident that occurred at 21-20. But to this day, it remains one of the biggest missed opportunities of my life. I really, really should have gone to that Sinead O’ Connor show.

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