Runnin’ Up That Hill

One of my favorite memories of my youth and adolescence came during the summer betwixt my junior and senior years of high school. Old enough to be independent, from an affluent-enough family to have my own car (though I did work twenty hours/week at my local daily newspaper) and yet not under the microscope of college admissions pressure quite yet. To be honest, I never felt that pressure; I applied only to four schools and was accepted at each. To one, I applied “Early Action” — an option that is no longer offered by said university — and received my acceptance letter before Christmas 2003, removing a great deal of the stress associated with that period of a young person’s life in contemporary America. In that sense, I was beyond fortunate.

What makes the summer of 2002 magical, though, has nothing to do with the looming college deadlines and my self-imposed fiat to win the IHSA Scholastic Bowl Tournament at all costs (we lost in OT in the sectionals, by every fault of mine, but c’est la vie); rather it was taking my slightly beat-up Nissan Sentra — resplendent in its well-traveled aquamarine four-cylinder — to Rock Cut State Park, there to climb what plateaux the Midwest could offer. A vantage point dedicated only to the sole seekers willing to brave the weeds and gnats to ascend a plateau one could then imagine looked out over the whole of history and humanity, to taste a quick breeze through teeth gritted in a youth’s hope of imminent revolution.

I found my rock, and there I read Jon Lee Anderson on Che, read Lenin, encountered Mao for the first time and learned how permeable the boundary between idealism and the will to power can be. I read Joyce and “Dubliners” for the first time, Dickens and “Bleak House,” Verlaine, Baudelaire, Rimbaud. In that solitude, I found the filaments that tie me and everyone to everyone else in this web of being, from which no disentanglement is or will ever be possible. Those were the days in which I discovered “Les Mis,” “Rent,” “Evita,” Pink Floyd, Dylan and Marley. It’s a strange thing to look back at seventeen, but sans that rock and those friends and those influences — for better or worse! — I would not be the person I am becoming.

~ by Benji on May 24, 2015.

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