Tuesday, July 1, 2008

School's Out! - Summer of '71

When I was in school, June was always a joyous month. It meant the end of the school year and I couldn't be happier about something like that. It just took a few days for the complete feeling of freedom to sink in.

1971, and the summer, in particular, was my annus mirabilis.

Here's how that summer kicked off - and by "summer" I don't mean the first official day of summer; I began counting from the first second the last bell of the semester rang.

Duane and I headed over to the Senshin Carnival. It was a popular carnival for us westsiders, particularly those in the Crenshaw area, but I had never gone there. So I was curious.

Unfortunately we went in the late afternoon and there weren't many carnival goers at that time. Duane went off one way and I went another; it was pretty boring going from booth to booth and tent to tent with hardly anyone there.

Someone called my name from one of the tents. It turned out to be a classmate from junior high that I hadn't seen in a couple of years since we wound up going to different high schools.

Well at least there's someone here I know. Charmi and I had been in the orchestra together. She and Lena sat in front of Roy and me, all of us in Mrs. Bicknell's squeaky violin section at James A. Foshay Junior High. Roy and I would sit there and philosophize, and Charmi and Roy would sit there and bicker like an old married couple. I always told them they made a perfect pair.

We laughed about the "old" days and caught up on what we and our friends were up to. And of course I couldn't resist teasing her about Roy and vice versa, her teasing me about Lena.

It was nice to see a familiar face and also to catch up on the two years since we last saw each other. Many years later I Googled various people from those days and was saddened to learn Charmi had passed away from cancer. I never saw her after the carnival that day, but nevertheless it is always sobering to find out about the passing of a classmate.

Here's a picture I found from her ten-year reunion.

That day I won the ubiquitous goldfish in a plastic bag that eventually got flushed down the toilet, but I also won a truly nice prize from one of the carnival games: Carly Simon's self-titled debut album. I love the haunting first track, "That's the Way I've Always Heard it Should Be." Hearing that song always takes me back to that mirabilis summer, especially the carnival.

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