One of the reasons I ended up in journalism (yes, ended up in) has a lot to do with story telling.
I love telling stories. My stories, other people’s stories…the whole lot, but one of the things I do the most is retell stories.
There are certain events in my life that I talk about like they were yesterday. And I’ve been talking about them like they were yesterday since they WERE yesterday. Take a second to figure out what I meant by that.
That! Is what I have decided to use my “It’s in the Vault” category for: To retell those stories that have stood the test of time.
It’s so I never forget the details I now know. It’s so you digital friends can get to know some details about my life before computers. And it’s so I can reconnect with those who, unbeknownst to them, have been characters in stories I’ve told to virtually every friend, girlfriend, waitress or rando who listened.
It may matter to only a handful of readers, or even one, or probably none! But these stories will be digitized to Alzheimer-proof my memories one way or another.
Let’s get started:
Back in 7th grade, being in the Junior Beta Club was the shit. Yeah, there was no Beta Club in high school (we had the National Honors Society) but the JBC was an elite group of middle school’s hottest and smartest. In that crop was a future Miss North Carolina contestant, a future editor-in-chief of a 12,000-circulation newspaper and a future NCPA award-winner.
Okay, those last two were me, but that’s because the JBC, as awesome as it was, had about 100 people in it from our 7th and 8th grades (a total of maaaaybe 250 students).
But the spring field trip to Washington, D.C. made the Beta Club the coolest club on campus.
The details I recall of that trip are incredible, both in their specificity and their uselessness: I remember the driver of the charter bus got pulled over at least once, maybe twice, but we eventually made it to D.C. We had our picture taken in front of some building…I think the Capitol, and then headed down the sidewalk to Hard Rock Cafe.
Austin Newcomb and I ended up at the table with Kandis Weeks (Miss Greater Wilmington 2007). We had two food options, and I had chicken. Coldplay’s Yellow music video played and we all sang the lyrics under our breath. Crazy, right? That song was popular and edgy then, haha.
We toured around D.C. Stephen, Kyle, Gentry and I joked about middle school things: Joseph Hogwood, girls, terrorism (it was pre-9/11, mind you).
I overheard one of Rosewood’s smartest asked a Secret Service officer holding a mesh bag filled with a disassembled semi-automatic weapon outside the White House what he had in the bag.
“A sandwich,” he said without hesitation.
I asked one if their Oakleys were standard issue. “Yeah. $15 on the corner,” he said, laughing. (Sidenote: I decided Secret Service officers were kinda cool that day.”
After a night of trying to find porn and Gentry’s failed juggling of a glass (“Look at the skills! Look at the skills!” SHATTER.! Shoves shards underneath the bed) and an unexplained riot that Gentry and I rode through to help our chaperones get White House tickets, Kyle and I found ourselves at the Smithsonian. This was to be the pinnacle of our time in the capital, and boy, was it.
Enter chaperone Stan LaFlamme. He mentioned there was a mall nearby. A five-minute walk he said. His daugther, Stephany, and her 8th-grade friends were going. Dominique Chester, Jessica Hill, Jessica’s dad and a few other non-billed characters were included in the posse
Kyle and I, of course, followed the older girls, assuming we would be back to explore the museum in just a bit.
So we started walking. Kyle and I talked the whole way, and kept getting left behind as our pace slackened. We would run to catch up, and be left behind again. It happened two or three times during the 25-minute walk (Yeah…it was much further than Stan thought).
Nevertheless, we made it to the mall. I remember a Godiva, a Gap the size of a studio apartment and Jessica’s dad motioning Kyle and my attention to a woman down below from the second floor of the mall, saying “There ya go: A big-breasted American woman.”
We bought nothing, of course, but it came to someone’s attention that we were running late. The bus was leaving for North Carolina soon and there was no way we could make it back in time if we walked.
Stan, who for whatever reason was still our fearless leader in this expedition, had us go underground to the monorail.
Everyone went to the kiosks and got their $1.10 tickets to ride where we wanted to go and headed toward the terminal while Kyle got his. When he was done, I put my $5 bill in and started reading through the options. Kyle, seeing we were getting left behind, punched the big, green button and out popped a ticket saying I had $3.90 credit saved on my ticket. No change.
Miffed, we took off for the train and put our ticket into the electronic turnstyle. The metalic gates split apart and receded into the posts and we passed through and got on the train.
As we changed trains at the next junction, Kyle and I noticed a sign saying “Chinatown.” Great, we said to each other, now Stan has dragged us to New York. (Who knew every major metropolis has a Chinatown?)
As we walked to our next train, Dominique said something to Kyle that led him to ball up his ticket and launch it at her. He led her too much and it floated down into the abyss among the rails.
Later, as we arrived at the stop nearest the Smithsonian, we looked ahead to the gate, where the same electronic turnstyles beckoned for tickets in exchange for passage.
Kyle looked at me and I immediately knew what he was thinking: his ticket was gone!
But before I could offer him to walk quickly behind me, he was off. He bounded up behind Jessica’s dad, who deposited his ticket and walked through the gate and lifted himself up between the two posts like a gymnast on a pummel horse. He rocked back in a hesitation I can only equate to Christian Laetner’s impossibly perfect and unbelievably stupid dribble before launching the game winner against Kentucky in 1992. In the moment, everyone must have thought he was out of his mind, but when the shot went down their rights to question him were dashed.
Regardless, Kyle pushed off with his forearms and twisted his body like a sprinter at a finish line in mid-air as he floated past the closing gates, which we would foreverafter refer to as “The Claw.” I watched his shirttail barely escape the Claw’s vice.
On the other side, we acknowledged that the Claw, had it caught him, would indeed have crushed his body.
We ran up the stairs and down the block to the waiting charter bus and found our seats across from each other again. Austin and Stephen had already gotten their Game Boys and CD players and were listening to music.
I peered out of my window on the right side of the bus and saw Darth Maul and Imperial Stormtroopers walking through the street vendors.