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Monthly Archives: November 2012


Image Source: Illustrators Journal

My greatest claim to high school infamy? (Cover your ears, mom) I actually smoked a bowl in English class. Not going to lie: I’m still pretty amazed at this little bit of bad-assery.

How did I get away with toking up in a classroom in the middle of a school day, you ask? Perfect storm of happenstance.

1. My class was in a trailer, and I sat by the um, “living room” door, which was open on a warm day.
2. No wind.
3. This class was lead by Ms. Grant, who was, shall we say, a little slow on the uptake.

Conditions were perfect.

My “chum” Ryan, a metalhead stoner with a mullet and bad teen mustache combo and about 500 functioning brain cells, sat next to me on the other side of the open door, and he produced the pipe from his jean jacket. We both figured – okay, I was the brains of this operation, so I figured – that with the door open and Ms. Grant at the helm, we could probably get away with it. He leaned out first and blazed up, to the tittering amazement of the rest of the class. My turn!

I took the hot metal bowl, leaned out and got a good solid hit, then passed it back. The feeling of the weed spreading through my body and the amazement of the rest of my class was magic. Most heads were craned in my direction, and there were a few audible snorts and titters, but overall it was like nothing was happening.

At one point the (exploding plastic) inevitable happened: Ms. Grant looked up from whatever she was teaching, twitched her nose and said, “Class, do you smell something funny?” Of course nobody smelled a damn thing. Nothing to see here, folks. I think Ryan was holding the bowl in his hand under the desk as we both stared straight ahead, a couple of red-eyed church mice. We both barely stifled a hyperventilating-laugh, because of course, this was the funniest thing ever. And that was it: back to the pipe we went, with total impunity.

I’m still amazed that I pulled this one off. Not only for the brazenness of the crime, but also because I was such a paranoid straight-and-narrow kid. I knew that if I ever tried to pull something like this off, I would get caught, and all of my co-conspirators would skate. But knowing Ms. Grant, I just knew I’d be able to pull it off that day. And isn’t that really what high school is all about? Leaving your comfort zone and taking risks?

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Image Source: Lewiston Sun Journal

As we’ve seen, the 1988-1989 Lisbon Maine High School Band was not exactly a font of discipline and professionalism. But the Memorial Day parade officially cemented our status as irredeemable reprobates.

It was a hot one that year. The band, under the tutelage of Ed “Bluto” Judd, had been put through its paces, marching daily throughout the blazing days of May. We were ready, or as ready as we would ever be.

The plan was to march in the parade, then take a bus for a VFW picnic. Fine. Somehow we got my bass amp/wheelbarrow/generator rig in place, and the band set up, sunglasses added to our red polyester/black nylon/plume wardrobe. We were mostly well-behaved: I think one of our drummers started out the parade with a smoke, but otherwise, all business. And we were relatively tight and together. Relatively.

There is a little park/memorial-type thing on a hill adjacent to Rt. 196, directly across from the Worumbo Mill and the Kennebec Fruit Company, both recently and not so recently immortalized by Stephen King. It’s a little strip of grass, with a fairly steep slope down to 196. The bus set up here, and the band started mingling with our brave vets.

This is where things got interesting.

The VFW had set out several coolers, some filled with beers for the vets, and some filled with sodas for the kids. Which coolers do you think we started raiding?

At some point cheap cigars appeared, and the level of merriment increased as the afternoon progressed. We must have been pretty good at hiding our degeneracy, because nobody said anything and we kept up our low-rent pirate act with impunity.

I don’t remember where Judd was throughout this mayhem. But I do remember him suddenly appearing at the end.

Somehow or other, the bass drum, which had been parked at the top of the park/memorial-type thing, started rolling down the slope. Directly toward Rt. 196 traffic. Was it pushed? Was it attempting suicide? To this day I have no idea (and even if I did, I wouldn’t be saying). But I will take to my grave the image of Ed “Bluto” Judd lunging – literally lunging – to stop the bass drum at the bottom of the hill, moments before certain disaster. Picture Belushi doing back-flips down the aisle of the Triple Rock, and you get the visual.

I don’t remember the rest of the day, nor the bitch-slap that inevitably followed at our next band practice. But what I do remember is more than enough for a lifetime.

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There may have been more pathetic high school bands than the band that represented Lisbon Maine High School in 1988-1989. But I wasn’t in any of those other bands.

Picture red polyester jackets and black vinyl plume hats. Try to imagine a set list that included, in addition to the usual fight songs, gems like “Iron Man”, “Paranoid”, “Smoke On The Water” and “Frankenstein.” Listen in your head to a band that never practiced individually and had no sense of collective timing or tune, and a drummer whose snare-roll petered down to nothing well before the first half of the National Anthem was over. That was us. Check, please.

The Lisbon band was lead by Ed Judd. He was a great guy, and especially since I was something of a prodigy, a great nurturer. But he was a hapless leader of boys and girls. Judd was hefty, with greasy black curls and a thick, curly goatee. We called him “Bluto” because of the resemblance, and when he wasn’t around we called him “Hot Lips” for the obvious juvenile reasons. Judd was perpetually nervous, judging by the sweat-stains that would begin in the pits of his vintage ‘70s shirts in the morning and continue to grow throughout the day, and perpetually on the verge of a temper-tantrum due to the musical prowess of the band. The latter was entirely justified.

There were two practice rooms with upright pianos in the cafeteria. During band class in the caf, my bud, trombonist Mark “Cube” Koza and I could often be found chipping away at the insulation foam in the practice rooms in order to get that sulfur fart smell wafting through the caf. Or we could be found crawling up into the ceiling and over the math class next door a’la Bender in The Breakfast Club. This was when we weren’t found galloping like Monty Python heavy-metal steeds up and down the corridor with our guitar and bass.

Football games were even worse.

I had a guy carry my bass amp in a wheelbarrow with a generator. I would be perched next to the risers, amp/generator/wheelbarrow in tow, while the rest of the band ostensibly held up the risers. After crapping out the National Anthem, most of the rest of the band would scatter, off to the snack-bar, into the woods to smoke butts or cop a feel, or off to Mark’s to buy more butts. This was fine, until a sudden Lisbon interception turned into a sudden Lisbon touchdown, at which time Judd would call for the fight song and then a few measures of “Paranoid” or…whatever. Often these quirk plays would be received by a shell of a band, and that shell was still out of tune and often behind the beat. There really was no winning with the collection of derelicts.

Saturday afternoon catastrophes were always followed by Monday morning bitchslaps. Judd was once so pissed off that after delivering his hopeless ass-kicking and tuning the band, he literally lost a button on his shirt: I’ll never forget, in the silence after tuning, seeing the clear plastic button letting loose from his shirt, flying with great force across the cafeteria and hitting the far wall with an audible “PING”. But it never took. The 1988-1989 Lisbon High Band was headed for disaster, and I was along for the ride.

BUT, out of this band came Simon & Schuster author Stephanie Doyon. And as we’ve already established, a fella named Stephen King also went to Lisbon. These things happen in threes, right?!?

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