Sitting out in the back of my parents’ yard, in Torrance, California, is a bird bath.
It’s old, as birdbaths go. Over 40 years, at least. How do I know that?
You’d have to go back to my junior year at Torrance High School, when I decided it would be fun to run for senior class president.
As the elections approached, I had the usual posters around the school (all with the seal from the poster committee to show approval)—“Vote for Tim!”, “Hunter for President!” and so forth.
But the hallways and buildings became a sea of neon-colored poster paints and felt marker art. The artistic folks like Mark Hollis drew posters that would have made Peter Max look proud and commanded much attention. Mine tended to look like all the rest.
But then came speech day and that’s when I’d make myself known.
The speech I wrote up was a series of gags and really, the first live-performance comedy I ever executed. I had several friends scattered throughout the audience, who were instructed to yell out or do things after a certain line. It was quite daring and I wasn’t sure what the results would be, but at least we were having fun.
The co-conspirators that come to mind are Guy “Ding” Oling, Greg “Tank” Lucas and Mark “Mark” Lebeck. All of those who I forgot, bite me—I’m 57 years old and forget things.
If memory serves, my two opponents were Jan Karr and Steve Smith. I commended them on their candidacy and complimented them. “There’s Jan Karr, who has the face of a saint.” At that point, someone yelled out from the audience, “Yeah, a St. Bernard!” The audience erupted. As it died down, I went for line #2. “Of course, Steve has a face that would grow on you!” to which a heckler responded, “If it grew on me, I’d chop it off!”
I remember the “I demand change!” line, followed by a bunch of pennies hitting the stage and that’s about it. The bottom line, I began my senior year as class president and one of my first projects was to clean up the legendary “Senior Pond”.
The pond was a tiled fountain in the middle of a square that only seniors could be on. I don’t know what happened if you wandered out there as an underclassmen. Rumor had it those people were never seen again.
But over the years, it had suffered neglect. It was slimy and the bottom was dirty and cracked. So, we held a “Clean the pond” Party during the summer, so that we could start the year with a clean place to hang out.
The bottom of the pond needed to be painted and so, I went to a hardware store and bought some cement paint that was a sky blue color. After draining, cleaning and painting the pond, I gotta admit, it looked pretty nice. But not that much paint was needed, so we barely put a dent in that gallon can.
The result was a can of paint that found its way to my house and my father, the Prince of Practical, saw it as a source of freshening up the above-mentioned bird bath in our backyard.
That was almost 40 years ago. Today, every time I wander into the backyard with him, it’s among the first things he points out. “Remember that can of paint from your high school?” “Yeah, sure do, dad.” “I’m still using it!”
There’s a paint commercial somewhere there.
As I approach my 40th class reunion next year, I look forward to seeing a lot of the folks that made up that pivotal part of my life. My only hope is that they’ve held up as well as that can of paint that still sits out in our garage.
If the Torrance High School class of 1973 wants to hold another Pond Party this summer, just let me know. I’ve got the paint.