GETTING MORE TALE #858: School Days
Did anybody really enjoy doing speeches in school? I dreaded them year after year. Pick a subject, write a speech, memorize it, time it right, and then it’s showtime. My first speech was an award winner. In was in grade three, and I wrote a speech about falling into the Athabasca glacier on my summer vacation. It was a hit. But that didn’t get me off the hook. Year after year, you had to keep coming up with new speeches.
Grade five was Pac-Man, and it didn’t do as well. Not that I minded. I wanted to do just well enough, not so well that I had to do it again in a semi-finals. I was obsessed with Pac-Man that year. I truly had Pac-Man fever. In my speech I discussed sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, and how the Atari 2600 version was such a disappointment.
In eighth grade I changed things up considerably and did my speech on Kiss. I can tell you that the teacher Mrs. Powers visibly reacted every time I said the words Hotter Than Hell. My speech was like a condensed version of Kisstory, a predecessor perhaps to what I like to do today. It was actually really good although it was mostly off the cuff. I knew I wasn’t going to get a good grade because of the subject matter, and I knew a speech about Kiss wasn’t going to make it to any kind of semi-finals, and I really knew they didn’t like the word “hell”. Name dropping Mick Jagger didn’t help. But it was really good, natural sounding and I only stumbled a couple of times.
The teachers didn’t really want you to do a speech about rock bands, but I was determined to express myself. I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about, I dunno, making steak sandwiches. I could have whipped up an easy speech on Antarctic exploration or World War II, and gotten a better mark. The more I look back, I guess I was a teeny tiny bit of a rebel. But it was the teachers who gave me shit about my Judas Priest shirt that brought it on.
In grade nine I did my speech about Iron Maiden. I should have diversified. I could have spoken about nuclear power, Baron Von Richthofen, or Wrestlemania. To my credit I was always good at telling a story, and I made them interesting. I just tried to squeeze music into my schoolwork any chance I could. If the jocks could do a speech about baseball, I should be able to do one about heavy metal. I do remember one guy had a really well written comedic speech about a blind date. If I knew fiction was a category I would have tried a hand at that!
In later years I did more expansive independent studies on other subjects, but still managed to work in music. I did it for a sociology project and a few English ones. And why not? I couldn’t do that in algebra, physics, chemistry, or calculus.
These little acts of rock and roll rebellion didn’t get me an A, but I did well enough to be admitted to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1991. So: no regrets. I can still write about Manfred von Richthofen if I want, and I’m fortunate enough that you would probably still read it. I’ve written about history (tied into music) here a number of times. I’m sure I’ll do it again. And why not? It’s easy to tie this stuff to music; Iced Earth have a song about Richthofen. Queen have a song about Robert Falcon Scott. Iron Maiden have songs about everything that ever happened. The field is wide open.