Somewhere in high school my group of friends found Jim. Jim was...different. He made up his own nonsense language, he smoked pot whenever he had opportunity to, he joined the track team, he pulled a can of beer out and popped it open while another friend of mine was driving somewhere and laughed when we made him pour it out. He had brought some interesting phrases into our circle's lexicon, ones that still come to mind to this day, every once in a while.
He tended to use words in quirky ways--not wrong, but unusual. One such was the word "excellent", which he frequently pressed into service for a variety of favorable conditions.
He was the first person I ever voluntarily stopped associating with, because the guy lied to me three times--twice over alcohol he'd filched from my parents and my brother.
But there was this one time, something one of the M's related to me (Mike, Marcus, Mace, [m]Eric) about an incident when they wanted to have a sleepover.
After the third lie I quit associating with Jim, so he began to hang around Marcus a lot more. One evening they decided that a sleepover would be fun, and so they went through the usual rigamarole of asking parents if it was all right.
Marcus later reported that Jim said, "I sure hope your dad says 'excellent!'"
"I can just see that," Marcus said when he later recounted the episode. "'Dad, is it okay if Jim spends the night?' 'Excellent!'"
The image of Marcus' father replying to such a question in that fashion still cracks me up; Marcus' father was a blue-collar (highly skilled) tradesman--a tool and die maker for Ford--and if there was anything he wouldn't do, it's attempt to use the jargon and argot emitted by his teenaged son's weird friends.
Things change, though. Marcus finally got tired of Jim's stupidity the same way I had. It's not that Jim was stupid; it was that he was an adolescent. I can't really say that he was a bad guy or anything like that. I can only say that it would have been better for all of us if he'd been less interested in getting drunk or high and more interested in maintaining friendships--but what can you do?
As for the sleepover, I recall that they were allowed to have it, so I guess Marcus' father did--one way or another--"say 'excellent'."
* * *
There are a lot of strange and stupid stories from my adolescence, funny things like that. I remember the day John P. admitted to us that he smoked, thinking we'd rip him a new one--and we just said, "Whatever; your lungs, dude!" He ended up being a criminal; the last time anyone mentioned his name, it was in the context of his setting a fire to distract the police, then robbing a convenience store with a tire iron.
There was the time Mike B (not the Mike who was my friend) was throwing snowballs at me and a couple of my friends as we walked from our freshman classes at the high school to the junior high. Not wanting to get hit with one, I was walking backwards and watching; and I saw him throw a snowball which went wide and smacked right into the bare neck of a t-shirted senior, who was standing by his car's open passenger door drinking from a bottle of beer. Whenever I now need to imagine a murderous expression, it is that senior high schooler's face that comes to mind first. He turned around and Mike B held up his hands, eyes wide, saying, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" ...and then he turned and ran as that senior took off after him.
I wanted to stay and watch Mike B get pounded into the macadam, but my friends insisted that we'd be late if we didn't hurry to the junior high. Instant justice, and I missed it. *sigh*
* * *
These days, of course, if a kid got caught with beer on school grounds they'd lock the whole place down and call in the SWAT team. He'd be expelled and arrested and sent to jail.
In 1981 they were more likely to suspend him; a first offense probably wouldn't have resulted in much punishment. The police would be called but only so they could ask him sternly, "Where did you get that beer?" An arrest would be unlikely, and if one happened it would mainly be to scare the kid into divulging the source of his beer, and also to keep him from doing it again. (Or at least being more careful next time.)
...in 1981, having the school call the police was major juju--which is probably why the schools didn't have to call the police very damn often.
We really have lost a lot in the last three decades.
* * *
Today, while riding the motorcycle, I stopped at the gas station and--on impulse--put in the mid-grade gas instead of the cheap stuff. The "vapor recovery" nozzle sprayed fuel from the vapor recovery ports, sending a stream of fuel running down the tank to drip onto the engine and exhaust. Fortunately all that happened was that a bit of gasoline steam rose from the exhaust pipe, but for a nervous moment I was worried that there'd be a fire. Well, there wasn't, so all was well. It did mean I had to get off the bike and wipe it down, though, which was a pain.
Anyway: when I pulled out of the gas station, the bike felt...better. It felt smoother and just a bit more powerful.
...and when I consulted the manual just now, here's what I read:
Use only unleaded or low-lead type gasoline of at least 85-95 pump octane (R+M/2 method) or 89 octane or higher rated by the Research Method.89 octane. I've been using 87, because before I consulted the manual just now I would have sworn the bike used 87 octane fuel.
I was all set to talk here about how I was probably only imagining the difference, that the "ass-o-meter" is never a good way to judge these things, blah blah blah, etcetera. Well, it turns out that 89 is what I'm supposed to be putting in the thing, so that means from now on I'll be doing that. And I won't need to use the justification that, "Well, it feels better like this, and WTF it's just an extra $0.10 or $0.20 per tank anyway.")
...unless I decide to use the premium stuff, in which case that justification will work fine.
I had been intending to go home from the gas station, but the bike felt so good I took another turn around town before I went home. And yeah, it did feel smoother and--for lack of a better term--happier than it had felt before.
And maybe I was just imagining it.