I begin with a caveat: this has nothing to do with my research, my views on the world… OK, it has nothing to do with anything. It is, rather, a brief memoir.
I went to the mall today to go to Johnny Rockets for a burger and malt. (One of the reasons I love [re]starting diets is the day-before blowout.) I rarely make it to the mall (the Walden Galleria, which my California readers would not even recognize as a member of the “mall” species, despite its being the bi-weekly meeting spot for the Buffalo Rocket Society) on a Saturday. When did 10-year-olds develop such a fashion sense? Sorry, that’s a bit of a tangent, but for whatever reason there were a lot of young girls that had put together outfits that were really stylish and attractive, and they were walking around with their frumpy or fashion victim parents and older sibs; very strange.
Anyway, on the way out we stopped at DSW Shoes. Now, DSW isn’t as fun as some of the deep discount sales at Saks or Barneys or even the Nordstrom Rack mother ship in Seattle, but they do tend to get some decent shoes in, once in a while, at reasonable discount. Anyway, we ducked in to get Jamie a yet-to-be-determined pair of brown oxfords that she has been seeking for months. Strangely, it seems that wooden clogs made a comeback sometime last year, so there were a few pairs scattered here and their in the store. Which led me to think of peasant and serf revolts.
The connection may not be entirely clear, so allow me to elaborate. I tended not to be the most reliable student, and so teachers often gave me peripheral roles in their grander productions. For example, when I was in 8th grade at Judson (before being kicked out), I was cast as the butler in the annual mock trial. I was pretty pleased about this, in fact, until I was called in to the office of the headmaster (Mr. Bass) for a meeting with all of my teachers. They seemed to think I wasn’t trying hard enough. It was further their opinion that I could have been cast as the judge, if I had just been a bit more active in my studies. This was really a wake up call for me, since I thought I was doing a pretty decent job of tolerating their inane textbook assignments and prison-like scheduling. The last thing I wanted, at this point, was what they now informed me was the plum position of judge, which had gone to Vijay (who was always good at school and everything else, as I recall).
So I plotted my revenge. The rules required me to give the testimony provided, but they also allowed me to go beyond these facts, which I did. I claimed that the prosecuting attorney had paid me to lie, something I never would have done except that my son was in a Turkish prison and I need the money to bust him out. Half the class was pretty upset that I had “cheated,” and it became clear that the teacher (was his name Lux?–one wonders why he ever even considered teaching) was also not happy about this. But the judges, drawn from the upper school faculty, gave us the clear win. This cemented my earlier view, that any attempt to get into their good graces was worthless.
This was not without precedent. In the fifth grade, I was lucky enough to attend (until kicked out) the Far Brook School, the best school of the many I spent time in. The school was fairly performing arts-oriented, and our teacher had planned a “medieval dinner,” with various royals, entertainers, and the lot. I was cast as a serf. Having a princely self-image, I was less than happy about being a serf. I wanted to revolt. Since I had a decent relationship with my teacher — she may have been the only person to have ever complimented my handwriting, saying it had “character” — I proposed the idea of a slave revolt. As long as it was accompanied by a short research paper on the history of serf and peasant revolts, she was fine with the idea.
I showed up in costume, which was a burlap sack, cinched at the waist with a length of rope, and my mother’s wooden clogs. After serving the meal to the royals and their parents, many of them suburban yuppies who fell far too easily into the role, I and my compatriots seized control, took the crown, and forced the royals to give up their arms and clear the tables. Seeing the clogs at the DSW brought these joyful memories rushing back in.
I bought a pair of black leather steel-toed Timberland boots, at a very good price indeed, because you never know when you might be called upon to lead an uprising and need a pair of sturdy boots.