Friday, March 1, 2024















MY SUITCASE OF MEMORIES: A Little Something For Daddy


A Little Something For Daddy
Al Bruno III

The problem is that the local shopping mall has no bookstores and no place that sells horror movies on DVD so when the Bruno family and I head out there I find myself bored beyond reason or worse. Both my wife and daughter get stuff on these trips but I never do, I mean I'm not greedy but it would be nice to get a little something.

The first thing you notice as you walk into the mall is one of those crane games, you know the kind where you try to free one of the twenty or so stuffed animals crammed into the thing using a metal claw with the grip strength of a geriatric on Quaaludes. My daughter is fascinated by these machines and left to her own devices I think she would sacrifice her entire college fund trying to win a misshapen replica of SpongeBob Squarepants stuffed with shredded magazines and used Chinese diapers.

This time we managed to get away with simply sacrificing one or two dollars but my daughter always voices some disappointment that I can never win one of those things for her. Truth be told I never even try. It's one of her uncles that has a real talent for those things, he can usually empty one in the course of an hour but let's be honest here it's his only marketable skill.

That obstacle bypassed we stopped for a bite to eat, the food court is clean, well lit and surprisingly rat free. Laugh all you want but over a decade ago when I worked at one of Albany's larger malls the food court had a real problem with rodents; and these being New York rats they frequently carried switchblades.

A quick sodium filled meal later we made our first stop a ladieswear store. I am not uncomfortable in such places because I spent a summer working in women's clothing... but I never really learned how to walk in high heels.

Nyuck Nyuck.

Most women's clothing stories have chairs near the changing room for the men to sit in and contemplate their lives of quiet desperation but I didn't get the chance to in one of them because I was busy chasing after my daughter as she rummaged through the spin racks full of beads and baubles near the main register. She likes to try on everything- at once. My choice is not an easy one; do I let my daughter have a good time or get a jump start on this afternoon's tantrum? Eventually I give in to the withering gaze of the clerk manning the register but not before my daughter looks like an explosion at Cyndi Lauper's house.

My wife called me over and asked for an opinion on a blouse.

"Why don't you pick whatever one you like best?" I said.

"Come on," the Missus chided me. "Your opinion matters. Do you prefer the blue or the yellow?"

I paused for a moment considering, "The blue. Yes, the blue works best I think."

The Missus held each blouse up, nodding, "No. I don't think the blue goes with any of my outfits. Yellow is more my color anyway."

"I'm just glad I was able to help." I turned back to see my daughter trying to climb onto one of the shelving units.

One blouse, two pairs of slacks and an apology later we headed for another store but this time it was so the Missus could find a new handbag. It had been over three weeks since she'd changed purses and you could tell that the strain of it was beginning to wear on her sanity. My daughter started fussing that she wanted to go to look at toys so I had her stand near the front of the store as a kind of impromptu time out. As my daughter glared sullenly at the world the Missus remarked to me that she couldn't find any purses that really caught her eye. I suggested that she just use one of the older ones she had piled up in the hall closet.

Once I was out of time out we took my daughter to the toy store so she could 'Ooh' and 'Ah' over the bits of molded plastic. These days Hanna Montana was her drug of choice but she was also starting to get into all those other tweener bands. I couldn't stand the stuff. I mean what happened to kids' music? When I was growing up we had real bands that spoke for an entire generation like The Banana Splits, Jose and the Pussycats and The Brady Kids.

Laugh if you want but do you think the Jonas Brothers could survive being lost in outer space? I think not!

The Missus and I decided to let my daughter get a new doll, after all she hadn't tried to disassemble the apartment's electrical system in almost a week. Yeah she is kinda spoiled but I want to have these moments to remember when she's a teenager and she hates my guts.

The last stop on this little excursion was the beauty salon. The girls wanted to get their hair done and that was fine, except that I knew I would find myself sitting there trying pass the time reading by Cosmo and Modern Bride. The articles were kind of OK but all the perfume ads made me want to sneeze.

The hairdressers were all young and gossipy, the salon was dead so my wife and daughter got immediate service. About halfway through her rinse the Missus suggested, "You know there's no other customer's why don't you get a haircut? You need one."

She was right that I did need a haircut, the sides and back were a ragged mess but as always the top of my head looked like a satellite photograph of the deforested areas of Brazil. Long ago all hopes of a comb-over had been lost so I had taken to shaving my head on a semi-regular basis. There is an old saying that when a balding man shaves his head its like saying "You can't fire me I quit!" So be it.

In the interests of saving money I sheared my head using the clippers we had bought for doing maintenance on our Persian cat's fluffy black fur. This was before we learned that trying to shave down a cat was about as advisable as opening a Fredrick's of Hollywood in Amish country.

"Come on." The Missus said again, "This way I won't be cleaning hair out of the bathroom sink for days."

"Sure." I said, "Why not?"

"Hi I'm Kara." A red haired Chinese girl led me to one of the chairs and asked, "You want me to trim the sides and the back?"

"No." I explained, "Just shave it all off."

"What?" She draped the vinyl cape over me and around my neck.

"Just take a pair of clippers and shear my head down until its like a GI JOE doll."

She looked at me like I was crazy, "You want your hair like an action figure?"

There was a brief moment where I sobbed with the realization of how old I was but then I gathered myself up again and explained, "Just take a pair of clippers and take it all off maybe leave half and inch or so."

"Oh OK."

"You have done this kind of thing before right?" I asked.

"Well your only my third or fourth customer since I got out of beauty school." She explained.

The clippers buzzed to life, I took one last mournful look at the curves of my ears and she got to work.

Thankfully my beautician's hands were steady and the blades of the clippers were clean and sharp.Soon enough my head looked like a farm fresh egg with a light coating of brown mold. "There you go." She ran her fingers along my scalp, "It feels nice."

"Thanks." I said uncertainly, "You do good work."

"Hey Kristy! Kitty!" She called over to one of the other girls, "Come here and feel this!"

My wife and daughter were freshly coiffured and waiting at the register while three college aged hotties took turns rubbing the top of my head telling me how much I looked like that Private Pyle guy from that old movie. However it didn't take long for their amusement to wear off and they all headed off for a collective cigarette break. Kara pulled the cutting cape from around me and announced, "Ok you can get up now."

"No," I said, "No I can't."

A little something indeed.

MY SUITCASE OF MEMORIES: Fully Employed But Half Awake

Fully Employed But Half Awake


Al Bruno III



This is not simply a blog entry, oh no.

This is part of today's struggle a delaying tactic if you will.

I am still at work and about to fall asleep at my desk.

mmmmmmm... sleep....

It wasn't that I stayed up to late, I am nothing if not responsible. It's just that I was awoken by the sensation of my face being furiously licked and sadly the culprit was not Jessica Alba or Judge Marilyn Milian but my big eyed dog Jake. I patted Jake on the head and ushered him away. Then I tried to get back to sleep but it was no use, I had been awoken. I checked the clock radio, it was three AM. I groaned audibly and pounded my fist against the mattress. The minor commotion disturbed my wife and half-awake she grumbled "You're supposed to do that in your office."


So now here I am, struggling to stay conscious as the workday ticks by slowly... numbingly... soothingly... so soothingly...

just a few minutes... I'll just close my eyes for a few minutes...

But no! I can't do that. That's the trap, I know that if I close my eyes for what I promise yourself will just be a moment the next thing I know I'll find myself waking up from lying face first on my keyboard, my face slicked with my own drool. I drool a lot when I sleep, I drool like Paris Hilton at a rich douchebag convention. Besides I know the minute I nod off my boss or any number of corporate underlings will come wandering into my cubicle for one reason or another.

So I sit here typing away, pausing only for the occasional blackou-

mustn't... black... out...

...or steal dialogue from Frank Miller comic books.

I'm no stranger to falling asleep at work, it doesn't matter what the job I had I feel asleep there at least once. I once fell asleep while manning a cash register in the middle of an afternoon rush. All I know is that I started to get drowsy at 1:30 and the next thing I knew it was 2:45- I still have no idea what happened during that missing hour and fifteen minutes but oddly enough my cash drawer was perfectly even that day. I rare occurrence for me.

When I worked in an office supply store I would frequently drowse off in an office furniture display while 'straightening it'- I guess it was kind of practice for now eh kids?

and my dreams, brief and disturbing... am at home dreaming of my job or at my job dreaming of home?

And I really do dream of work an awful lot really, maybe that's why I'm so comfortable sleeping here. Maybe its just getting even, maybe its just a sign of old but where I once dreamed I was a character in a particularly Freudian episode of Doctor Who or the X-Files I now dream that I'm on a quest to figure out where the latest productivity meeting is. Where I once dreamed of banging away on Cindy Crawford or Angela Lansbury I now find my dream self trying to bang a toner cartridge into a dirty photocopier- a dirty dirty photocopier. Where I once dreamed I was a long haired Adonis I now dream that I am a long haired Adonis with a clip on tie.

why is it the more tired I get the more offensive and surreal my material gets, like a tiny Nazi riding on a mule wearing a spangled turban...

It is an amazing and cruel thing to be perfectly awake at 3 AM watching infomercials and dead to the world at 3PM when you are supposed to be enhancing shareholder value. I try to give my energy a boost by having sugary snack, there are no shortage of sugary snacks around my workplace. I believe it is an insidious plan by my corporate masters to make us too bloated to leave our cubicles. I can almost see my future self so bloated that he cannot move from his ergonomic chair, kept alive and working via a company that pays us in insulin. Of course we will passing the savings on to our customers.

barely awake now... dreaming of Nutty Buddy bars...

I promise myself that when I get home I'll go straight to bed but that's a lie; dogs need to be walked, then re-walked, my daughter needs to be made to do her homework - reason is rarely effective , the threat of waterboarding has been a rousing success, my wife will most likely yell at me for gently mocking her on the Internet. And really I shouldn't mock her because of all the women I have made love to she is the only one that never shouted "What the HELL are you doing?"

Oh yeah. She's a keeper.

My daughter's homework is a major stumbling block as well, I don't remember my homework being quite so intricate when I was nine years old. Then again I did have to take my classes in the boiler room with the other 'creative' students. Now once my daughter gets focused she does great but getting her to that point seems to take a long exhausting time. Before I know it it's 8:30 and time to take out the garbage and maybe clean the catbox, sure it might make more sense to do those chores in reverse but that's just not how I roll.

Before I can go to bed however I first spend some time with the missus then try to add a write a few pages. It could be anything, my blog, my writing, my ever growing enemies list.

You bastards know who you are.

Then I go to bed but I know I won't make it through the night, something will wake me up at 3 AM even if it is the sound of my own snoring.

waking up now ...I can think again...

Well I managed to stay awake, the brain activity involved in working on this little project is just what I needed.

Of course now that you're read this there is a good chance I've put YOU to sleep.

HIGH ADVENTURE AND LOW HUMOR: L'amour Looks Something Like You



Al Bruno III 


The bed was too small, the room was too warm and her clothes were too tight but in a matter of moments one of those problems would be solved for her. Kate felt his hands snake up along her back and take hold of the zipper on the back of her black dress.

She couldn’t believe she was doing this! He was half her age, half her age and beautiful. He still lived with his parents but he was undressing her like an old pro.

The dress fell away and Kate felt a flush of uncertainty, these weren’t the perky breasts of a college hottie, these weren’t the hips of a girl flush with the promise of youth. Her shape was still lovely enough to catch a man’s eye but she knew her body had been marked by the passage of time; there were stretch marks and a tattoo that had seemed like such a good idea at the time.

What would she do if he flinched away from the sight of her? She would die, she would just die.

He didn’t look away and a little smile pulled at the corners of his mouth, an appreciative smile. Then he was pulling her close and closer still.

There was stubble on his chin, his breath smelled like gum and his kisses were like candy. His name was

Robbie. He was a valet and he had flirted with her as she dropped off her car and headed into the grand old hotel for the wedding reception. She was sure he gave the eye to all the middle aged broads that crossed his path, but he’d walked off the job to be with her hadn't he? Walked off the job with a breezy laugh of “They won't fire me.”

What was it her old friend Debbie had said about cougars and cubs? Debbie was always one for smutty little remarks. She’d even made them when she was in hospice, trying to make the orderlies blush while she’s still had the strength to speak.

What would Debbie say if she could see her now?

Robbie had stripped Kate down to her plain cotton underwear. The panties of a woman with no expectations. His touch skirted the old scar that marked the place where the doctors had gone in to remove her cancerous womb. Did he know what that scar meant? Or was he too busy kissing just below her navel and working his way down?

In spite of everything Kate giggled when those kisses reached their goal and he made himself busy. No one had done that in a while!

Or with such thoroughness.

It had been the wedding of a daughter of an old acquaintance, someone she had lost touch with since college and then found again thanks to the dubious miracle of Facebook. Kate decided to go on a whim, thinking it might be fun to see her old home town again. To see what had changed and what hadn’t. Maybe she would even rekindle an old friendship or two.

She had avoided the actual ceremony however, wedding ceremonies left a bad taste in her mouth. She had been burned twice and that was enough, the only thing more expensive than her weddings had been her divorces.

Now it was her turn to undress him. The terrain of his body was familiar but there were surprises. A pierced nipple, washboard abs and he was more than a handful in all the right places; and he was ready to go! No purple pills and pregnant pauses here.


There was a word she didn’t like crossing her mind. Especially considering what she had lost at such a young age, even more so when she realized who else was at the reception.

Of course she should have guessed. Hadn’t the invitation come from an old and mutual friend? Kate was civil enough when Scott her old fiancee called out her name and told her it was long time no see. He hugged her in a way that showed he still didn’t have the slightest idea how much he had hurt her way back when.

He had smiled and told her she hadn’t changed a bit. He bragged that he was the manager of this hotel and he had charged the bride’s family half price for the affair. Then he had introduced his wife and offered to show her his wallet full of kids. The need for those kids was the reason he had left her within months after the hysterectomy.

It was a clumsy move but she had excused herself by pretending her cell phone was on vibrate and there was an important call coming in. She made a show of talking

to someone that wasn't there and made as dignified a run for the exit as she could.

She hadn’t even known that she was crying until the handsome valet had asked her if she was all right. This was not the distracted concern of a well- trained employee but the tentative reaching out of a would-be friend. Ordinarily she would never have gone off with some stranger but Kate already felt like she knew him.

It had been good to have someone to talk to, better than good, they found a booth in a little diner and talked for hours.

Then he brought her home sneaking her into the house like they were a pair of horny teenagers. With the door closed behind them there hadn’t been the need for small talk.

And now here she was holding him while he made love to her, running her nails along his wide back until he shivered. When she climaxed she cried out blissfully, carelessly.

That cry brought Robbie's parents running into the room. Covering herself quickly Kate said the only thing she could think of, “Hi Scott, long time no see!"



This is Channel Ab3 Episode Nine: L'amour Looks Something Like You

A middle-aged woman takes a chance on a handsome young valet.

It was read and produced by Linnea

This episode's music was 'Moment' by Serge Quadrado

Our unpaid scientific advisor is Adam J Thaxton

The Channel Ab3 theme was written and performed by Rachel F Williams

Channel Ab3 logo was designed by Antonio G 

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Monday, February 26, 2024


Al Bruno

On this rainy day, I found myself at Guido's place. He was running another game of Dungeons & Dragons. For those of you unfamiliar with Dungeons & Dragons, the best way to explain it is to imagine a Fantasy Football league crossed with the Lord of the Rings trilogy with all the arguments of a game of Monopoly added in for spice.
So it came to pass that the dwarf, the elf, the ranger, and the wizard arrived at the ruins of the temple of Fructose, the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits...
"Woah woah here," I interrupted by putting my thumb against my forehead and waggling my fingers, "Fructose? Where the Hell did you get that name."
"Research," Guido said as he looked up from the back of his soda bottle.
"You're not making this up as you're going along, aren't you?" Gordon asked as he copied my gesture.
"I'm offended."
"Hey guys!" a voice, "Hellraiser II is on!"
Guido turned in his seat, "Goddamnit Harry get back in here!"
The cries of ravens filled the air, and the ragged remains of previous adventuring parties littered the ground.
The three heroes started walking again, then doubled back to drag the near-comatose Wizard With No Name along with them. The doorway that led to the cursed inner chambers of Fructose the High's temple hung open but showed only darkness.
They stood there in silence for a time, especially the Wizard With No Name. Bruce spoke first, "We need to establish a marching order."
"The dwarf goes first," Chemlar snorted, "he's got the best Armor Class..."

"You know better than to break character without doing the hand sign," Guido said, "that will cost you 1000 experience points."
"No fucking way!" Daniel said, "And those hand signs are stupid."
"You want to lose another 1000 experience points?"
Daniel sighed with resignation and put his thumb against his forehead, "I think the dwarf should go first. He has the best armor class." His finger waggling was half-hearted at best
The four heroes marched into the ruined temple, tunnels had been carved into the walls. "These were made by Kobolds," Thad observed. His dwarven vision allowed him to see perfectly in the dark. There was nothing the shadowed tunnels could hide from him.
Bruce lit a torch, temporarily blinding the dwarf. The dwarf blundered backward into the wizard. The Wizard With No Name panicked and cast a magic missile down the Kobold tunnel.
Before the thief could stop laughing, dozens of Kobolds charged out of the mouth of the tunnel. The ranger cursed, the dwarf called upon Odin to guide his still-blinded eyes, and the thief tried to take cover. The wizard said, "Just a minute, I have to go to the bathroom..."

Everyone else immediately raised thumbs to their foreheads and started waggling away. Gordon said, "That's gonna cost you 1,000 experience points dude."
"Whatever," Harry shrugged as he stood.
"Should we just go on without him?" I asked once he was gone.
Guido shook his head, "Nope. This is a scenario designed with four players in mind."
"Designed?" I said, "You can't really expect me to believe you aren't making this up as you're going along."
"What are you talking about?"
"First - you're pulling the names out of your ass; otherwise, why would Princess Solo be asking us to travel to retrieve the Graven Eye of Timor from the temple of Fructose, the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits?"
Guido said, "Sounds like a standard D&D campaign to me."
"Sadly, you're right."
Guido looked around, "Where the Hell is Harry?"
We took a vote and sent Daniel to the bathroom to find our fourth player. He wasn't there, a brief search revealed his car was gone
Undaunted by the wizard's strange disappearance, the three heroes engaged the kobold hordes in battle and made short work of them.the passageways of the temple ruins were becoming clogged with bodies. The dirt floor was swampy with kobold blood.
Chemlar the elf announced, "I see a glow up ahead."
The cries of yet another kobold war party filled the air. "Here we go again," the dwarf said.
The kobold horde drew closer, and the pale silver glow became brighter and brighter. "What are they carrying?" Bruce asked, "Lanterns?"
Chemlar narrowed his eyes, "They're too sharp-looking to be lanterns, and that glow is magical"
"Magical?" Thad croaked, "are those vorpal blades?"
Bruce staggered in shock, "One hundred and twenty kobolds wielding vorpal blades?"
The dwarf cast an angry glare to the heavens, "It is almost as though the very gods themselves are trying to kill us out of spite..."

Guido was happily rolling critical hits, "Ab3 your character loses his shield arm at the elbow and the elf loses both his ears."
"What?" Daniel held his forehead, "What's the point of playing an elf without pointy ears?"
"What did I miss?" Harry walked back into the room.
"Where the Hell were you?" we all asked.
"I went to get something to eat," Harry sat down and picked up his dice, "Let's kill something!"
And just when everything seemed lost the Wizard With No Name charged into the chamber. His exhausted and partially dismembered companions looked up at him. The kobold army paused, uncertain what to make of this new stranger.
The wizard paused dramatically, "Uhm I cast I cast FIREBALL!"
"A fireball?" The ranger shouted, "Did you read about the dangers of casting fireball in an enclosed chamber?"
"You fool!" the elf cried, "Even if I make my save, I don't have enough hit points to soak that kind of damage."
"Damnit!" the dwarf cursed, "You do not know how to roleplay."
In the half-second before the ruins of the temple of Fructose the High Lord of the Reverse Hobbits was consumed in a mushroom of mystical hellfire each of the heroes grabbed their chests with the pain of losing another thousand experience points...

Sunday, February 25, 2024

MY SUITCASE OF MEMORIES: The Best Worst Day Of My Life

Al Bruno III

Fall 1981

Let me take you back to the nostalgically idealized decade of the 80's. The year 1981, to be precise. I was fifteen years old and about to begin the first day of my second time through the ninth grade. That's right, I failed the ninth grade. Let me share a little background so you'll understand how.

From a young age, I spent more time reading and creating stories than hanging out with other kids. Constantly spending time with adults left me with a sense of humor and vocabulary about two grades ahead of the other kids. In other words, when I started kindergarten and started talking, the other students looked at me like I was from another planet. And a very loquacious and verbose planet at that, but still.

Couple that with the problem of my Kindergarten teacher. She knew my Mom was divorced and believed that children of divorce had behavioral problems, so she actively campaigned to have me removed from her class, and when she couldn't make that happen, she treated me awful. One time, she grabbed me by the back of my hair and dragged me across the classroom; another time, she had all my classmates scold me for her. And let's not forget the time she threatened to pull strings and have Santa Claus skip my house.

Charles Dickens had nothing on the Albany School System in the 1970s.

But what does all this have to do with me failing ninth grade? Maybe everything, maybe nothing. All I know is that from age five, I was marked, by staff and students alike, as a loser, an outsider, a subversive element. What followed was ten-plus years of varying misery. Sure, sometimes I would get a teacher who delighted in my presence. Sometimes, I would find a friend out on the fringes of the playground, but the older I got, the less interested the school system became in dealing with bullying and the more interested the bullies became in kidney punches and sharp objects.

Eighth grade was when it all got to be too much. I reached a point where I'd start feeling depressed and anxious on Saturday nights, knowing school was just one sleep away. So, at the end of that academic year, my parents—Mother, Father, and Stepfather—moved Heaven and Earth to get me into a fancy schmancy parochial school with strict academic standards and a stricter dress code. My family and I were convinced that this would be a chance to begin all over.

What no one in my family or I seemed to realize is that an oddball outsider trying to escape his problems is still an oddball outsider. The scenery changed, but the story stayed the same. But by November, I found myself back in the familiar territory of being treated the way I had always been. Except now, instead of exasperating underpaid civil servants, I was exasperating members of the clergy. Instead of trying to protect my dental work from middle-class kids, I was being tormented by snotty rich kids who dutifully said the Lord's Prayer in Homeroom every day before heading out to pummel me in gym class.

Despite all that, maybe things could have worked out; at the end of the second semester, some of the kids who had openly disliked me for most of the year started being genuinely nice. Unfortunately, I was done in by my own intellectual shortcomings. See, I wasn't a dumb kid, but I wasn't smart. I was clever.

Clever enough to coast through the public school system with a solid B minus average but not smart enough to realize this simply would not fly with my fancy schmancy new school. I crashed and burned. I crashed and burned so hard that I set records that still stand decades later.

In fact, I crashed and burned so hard that in August of 1981, my parents got a letter telling them I flunked out, not just out of the grade but right out of the school as well.

It was a painful and valuable lesson, painful to my smug little ego and valuable to my parents because they had spent a minor fortune to see their son end up right back where he'd started- Walking through the big ugly doorway of Dirt Lake Junior High.

No, that isn't really the name of the school. In fact, before we go further, I want to inform you that the names of every institution and person mentioned in this story have been changed so no one gets offended or confused. And while some characters and events may have been altered for dramatic effect, the heart of what I am telling you is true. As true as any memory can be anyway.

I don't know how it worked with other school systems, but in Albany, the eighth and ninth-grade students were warehoused in an L-shaped structure that had all the charm of a Russian tenement house while the tenth to twelfth graders occupied the building across the street, that was larger, better equipped and looked like an actual high school.

Familiar faces started noticing me as I walked through the building. On one hand, the teachers and administrators were looking at me with a mixture of amusement and pity; on the other hand were the students I had gone to school with for most of my life, who were now a year ahead of me.

None of them said a word to me, nor did I say a thing to them. What would I have said anyway? "Hey, you remember me? The kid that said it would be a cold day in Hell before you ever saw him again?"

Turns out it wasn't a cold day in Hell, in fact, that September morning was positively balmy. That morning in September, I felt humiliated, defeated, and hopeless.

I spent the first ten minutes of the morning struggling with my locker. Despite years of practice, I always forgot how to use them over the summer. Was it left, right, then two turns to the left, or was it two turns to the right, then left? Sometimes, I suspected they changed the pattern every summer just to mess with us.


Suddenly, I was on the floor, seeing stars. Someone had come up from behind me and body-checked me into my locker. Who had done it? A jock? A stoner? A mean girl? A rogue hall monitor with something to prove? I never found out, but thanks to them, I stumbled into Homeroom with a padlock-shaped indentation on my forehead and a fresh new headache. I made it to my assigned seat just as the bell rang.

Homeroom itself was a relatively quiet affair, except for the fact the teacher was the same Homeroom teacher I'd had from 1979 to 1980, and she freaked out a little at the sight of me. As I waited to be dismissed, I checked over my schedule. It was all basic high school freshman stuff except for the second to last class. I had taken an elective.

Do they still have electives these days? Just in case they don't, please allow me to explain.

Electives were these special classes that weren't reading, writing, arithmetic… gym… or industrial arts. Some of the classes covered home economics or different types of literature or typing. There was even a class on camping! Obviously, some classes were there to prepare us for the workplace or being a homemaker, and I'm sure that some of them probably rounded out a high school transcript very nicely. Other classes were a little useless.

"I signed up for Drama, one of the useless classes. Why? Because I was convinced I was going to be either the next John Belushi or the next Frankenstein Monster. Hell, maybe both. My first-period class was math with Mr. Crok. Normally, the first day of class should be devoted to the teacher outlining what material would be covered and what his expectations for us would be. Mr. Crok, however, spent the first forty minutes of our relationship regaling us with stories of his experiences in the Vietnam War. Riveting stuff, to be sure, but what I really needed to know was what kind of school supplies my parents needed to buy, not how to properly arm a claymore in enemy territory.

Speaking of enemy territory, the second period was gym class.

Ah, gym class in the 1980s, one part Lord of the Flies, one part dodgeball with just a little bit of rope burn thrown in for good measure. It was here that I first crossed paths with the Terrible Trio - Chuckles, NoNeck, and Stabby. Chuckles, the son of a state trooper, was gifted with the looks of a college student and mild fascist tendencies. NoNeck was the jockiest jock in the ninth grade; he did track, he did football and he seemed to believe that basic human empathy was dangerously high in caloric content. And Stabby? Stabby was a ticking time bomb in so many ways.

But more on him later someday, so much more.

While the rest of the students in the class were plodding through a game of kickball, the Terrible Trio were sizing everyone up, deciding who might be worthy to join the ranks of their followers.

It should be no surprise to any of you that I was not asked to be one of their followers. It should also be no surprise to you that the gym teacher did nothing when kickballs suddenly started flying at my head. But I wasn't alone in this spherical assault; there was another kid running for his life. He was skinny with white-blonde hair and tinted horn-rimmed glasses. Like any good nerd, he was also pale-skinned from lack of sunlight. Put it all together, and he looked kind of like an albino Roy Orbison.

You people still know who Roy Orbison is, right? Just in case you don't go listen to him, your ears will thank me later.

Anyway, after gym class, I introduced myself to the kid. "Hi," I said, "my name is Ab3."

“I’m Guido,” he said,  “Guido Jones. Are you new here?"

I shrugged as we walked together into the hallway, "Yes and no."

"Do you play D&D?"

"I've got the books," I said, "I dabble."

And by dabbling I meant that I spent many a lonely Saturday afternoon rolling up characters and then having them fight random encounters as they made their way across a randomly generated map. I'm not sure, but I might have invented open-world gaming years early.

"You gonna be in AV Club?" He asked as we huffed and puffed our way up the stairs to the second floor.

"What's AV club?"

And in the precious few moments before English class, Guido explained that not only was AV Club a great way to escape the doldrums and occasional terrors of Study Hall, but it was also a great place to learn how to use film projectors, audio equipment, and the school's slowly growing collection of VCRs and Video Cameras.

We promised to talk more later.

It was obvious we had made a connection. We both knew we had found a kindred spirit, someone more interested in Action Comics than AFL football, someone who preferred curling up with a good book over physical activity., someone who knew what it felt like to weep at the end credits of the Empire Strikes Back.

I made it to my next class in the nick of time. It was English class and was taught by a tiny and cranky woman by the name of Miss Lattrex. As she explained her plans for the first part of the semester, I realized I was going to have to study SE Hinton's The Outsiders all over again. My heart leaped because I realized that I still had the essay I wrote at my previous school somewhere in my room. It was a good one and had earned me a rare B minus.

Was I going to rewrite it and hand it back in again in a few weeks? Hell yes!

Stay Gold Miss Lattrex.

Fourth period was social studies. To my complete lack of surprise and interest, I found out that we would be studying American History from Plymouth Rock to the Election of Ronald Reagan. Covering all that in two semesters may sound ambitious, but back in the 1980s, we really streamlined things by just focusing on white guys. Don't get me wrong, we would cover topics like women's suffrage and slavery, but just in the context of how they impacted white guys.

And wouldn't you know it? This teacher assigned us homework, complete with chapters to read and questions to answer. For God's sake, it was the first day. Was nothing sacred?

After that, it was lunch, and lunch that day was a square slice of pseudo-French Bread coated with sickly sweet tomato sauce and covered with a thick layer of processed cheese. Each serving of this treat they brazenly referred to as pizza was cooked to a state of being mouth-burningly hot on the outside yet slightly frosty on the inside.

Carrying my tray, I navigated from the bustling kitchen to the cafeteria, desperately scanning the room for a safe haven. It was too early in the year for any of the factions to have staked out any territories. All I could do was make a wild guess and sit near the most average-looking kids I could. It was the social equivalent of playing Russian roulette but there with five bullets instead of one.

I took a seat, offering polite nods to the guys on my right and the girls on my left. I didn't actually speak, I didn't dare, a Doctor Who reference or pun might fall out of my mouth and ruin everything.

Yeah, maybe I would become known as a student of few words, the suave, silent type. Was this my chance to reinvent myself? Maybe I could become known as 'the Quiet Guy.' Maybe all the girls would become enamored with my aura of mystery. Maybe the yearbook would end up voting me Most Likely To Stare Meaningfully Into The Distance. Maybe-

"Hey Kid!" The guys sitting across from me shouted, "Are you a VIRGIN?"

Suddenly, everyone was looking at me. Suddenly, a hot blush was working its way across my face. And for the record, yes, I was a virgin at the time, but I don't believe that the guy who asked wasn't either.

And that is what I should have said back. Why didn't I? Why didn't I bring his mother into it? Why didn't I insult his stupid face? Or his lousy Up With People t-shirt? Why in the name of God's green earth did the brain that had been getting me into trouble with snarky comebacks for over a decade suddenly choose that one moment to fail me?

Guess what I actually said after a long and uncomfortable silence?

"That's for me to know and you to find out."

ARGH! Even now, four decades later, it still makes me cringe.

Okay, enough. Let's go to fifth-period science class before this memory renders me catatonic. The curriculum was named Earth Sciences, and it covered every aspect of our natural environment, highlighting how profoundly our species had screwed it up. Sometimes, I would read through the materials given to us and lose myself in wonder at all the things that might kill me. Pesticides? Radiation? Biohazards? Truly, I say to you, my doomsday chalice runneth over. It was scary and sobering stuff, and I think it is a big reason why so many members of my generation abandoned the cold, unreasoning world of science for the gentle comfort of Internet conspiracy theories.

For sixth period, I left the world of science behind and entered the one class I had been looking forward to: Drama Class! If my parents had realized I was going to waste a precious hour of my day prancing around on a stage, they would not have been happy. They had spent most of the summer trying to beg, order, and bribe me into promising to be 'more normal' this year.

And as you folks can see, I tried to be normal all damn day. I tried! And what did it get me? Minor head injuries and major humiliations.

Drama class was led by Mr. Ainley, who primarily taught twelfth-grade English, so I guess this was his elective too. Despite his calm demeanor, there was a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. I think he recognized a kindred spirit in me, which meant he knew he was in for a rough ride.

The thing about high school drama class is that there are two kinds of students there, attention seekers like yours truly and kids looking for an easy grade. Mr. Ainley understood that the best way to distinguish between the two groups was to invite each of us to share something about ourselves at the front of the class. And after a brief discussion of our syllabus (there wasn't one), that is just what he did.

We went up in alphabetical order, and as my last name is the second letter of the alphabet, I got to go first. I didn't do an introduction; I did a stand-up routine. For over a minute, I rambled like Rodney Dangerfield on acid. I said things like I was born in a log cabin I built myself, and I had once tried to start a chicken farm, but I accidentally planted the chickens too close together.
My performance wasn't a complete disaster—some of the students laughed—but as my parents and so many teachers would ask, 'Were they laughing at me or with me?'

My answer would always be, "Does it really matter?"

The more they laughed, the more I continued; one minute became two. It was really obnoxious, but Fortunately, Mr. Ainley was among those laughing. He was even laughing as he shouted for me to stop talking and sit the Hell down.

Next came the other students. First, there were the two girls who had been gossiping throughout the entire class. Then, there was the boy who apparently never washed his hair, followed by the wannabe jock. Finally, the band nerd who believed Western culture had died with Benny Goodman.

Then SHE stepped to the front of the class.

There are moments in everyone's life when their world changes utterly and completely, and that's what happened the moment I saw her bright blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair. Everything changed forever.

Her name was Lilly Sunshine. Well, not really, but since I'm changing everyone else's name, I might as well change hers, too. I don't remember what she said that day, but I know I was hanging on every word. I watched her intently, my whole body tingling.

When she was done, she went back to her seat. She took the long way so she could say to me, "I thought you were funny."

And my brain exploded at a million miles an hour. I stared numbly at her and said something like, "Wasavusa vasa?"

Smooth Ab3, really smooth.

The final period was study hall, but I was in too much of a daze to study anything more than the clock. I spent the whole bus ride home thinking about her and also wondering why this girl had me so bedazzled. I mean, I always liked girls, even when I was at the age when boys were supposed to think girls were gross.

On that note, here's an amusing story. Back in fourth grade, I used to tell the girls all about Harry Houdini and the amazing things he did. I claimed to know some of his escape artist tricks. Of course, they didn't believe me. So, during recess, I would dare them to get some jump ropes and tie me to the jungle gym. I know that's some pretty advanced perving for a ten-year-old. I guess I enjoyed those comics where Catwoman tied up Batman a little too much. Anyway, the teachers saw. I went to the office. My parents were called and I got a good talking to.

Trust me, you haven't lived until you've been kink-shamed in the principal's office.

Now, where was I? Ah yes, love at first sight. That's what it was, love at first sight. No, it was more than that. It was recognition, not a recognition in the sense that I knew her. It was a primal thing, mystical, spiritual, and fundamentally life-changing.

Also, she turned me on. I mean, holy cow, fifteen-year-old boys are horny in general, but I was so riled up that I think I was abusing the privilege.

About halfway through the bus ride home, a half-eaten apple came flying at my head. I ducked instinctively, but it bounced off the window and hit me on the side of the head. The bus erupted in laughter and jeering. My heart sank, my swelling went down, and suddenly, I remembered who I was. I was a loser and a dweeb, and guys like me never get the girl.

Especially not a girl like her.

The bus dropped me off right in front of my house. It was easier than dropping me off at the regular bus stop a block away with the other kids. When that happened, I would end up getting wedged and chased home. I had gone through a lot of waistbands back in 1979.

My Mom was home taking care of my brother Monty and sister Mable; he was 11, and she was 10, so they got home an hour before I did. Because of that, they already had control of the TV. I didn't complain, I already had homework, and my parents were damned if I was going to fail another grade.

I suppose I could have lied and said I didn't have any, I suppose I could have goofed off, but I was damned if I was going to fail another grade again, either.

That was my intention anyway, but for an hour, I sat in my room pondering this humiliating day and shuddering at the thought of the next ten months.

Then my thoughts turned to Lilly, and they stayed there. I couldn't stop thinking about her, even while staring intently at the opening chapter of my social studies textbook for over an hour. Maybe I didn't think girls were gross, but damn if they didn't think I was. In fact, ever since the Valentine's Day Incident of the third grade, I had resigned myself to the idea that, unless that one cute cousin of mine moved back to town, I would never have a girlfriend.

But there I sat, considering how I might be able to get a date with a girl I had just met when, only a few nights before, I had been trying to decide from which country my inevitable mail-order bride would come.

Obviously, I couldn't just come into school the next day and ask her out to the movies. I had to be patient, and I had to have a plan.

I didn't hear it when my Mom called me for dinner, and she had to send my brother to get me. I didn't react to Monty's voice or presence either, and it must have worried him a little. He knew how much stress I was feeling because he didn't slap the back of my head nearly as hard as he would on a regular day.

One fistfight later, I was at the dinner table. My stepfather immediately turned the conversation to our first day of school. Mable was very excited that her fifth-grade classroom had a hamster in it; she couldn't remember the teacher's name, but she knew everything about the hamster. Monty was excited that he had ended up in a classroom with all his friends from last year. He wasn't excited about having to write a short essay about his summer vacation. I can totally understand; how can you stretch out 'tormented my older brother' to three paragraphs?

Then, all attention at the dinner table turned to me. My stepfather wanted to know if I was going to buckle down and fly right this year, which led to me questioning how I could buckle down and fly at the same time.

My Mom brushed that little bit of sarcasm aside and cut right to the heart of the matter. "What did you learn in school today?"

I paused thoughtfully, considering that it was just the first day, and the teachers typically didn't start real teaching until the second day. However, I had learned a lot. I had learned about the combat tactics of the Vietcong, I had learned that SE Hinton's full name was Susan Eloise Hinton, and I had learned what the AV Club was.

All good stuff; however, I had learned something so much more valuable than that and couldn't wait to share it.

"I met the girl I'm going to marry," I explained.

"Her name is Lilly."

The four other people sitting at the table, with ages ranging from thirty-two to ten, all groaned. My siblings mocked me; my mother told me I was far too young to worry about girls, and my stepfather scowled and said it didn't sound like I was buckled down at all.

Well, the joke is on them. In the end, I did marry Lilly. It only took forty years for it to happen.

I admit it took a little longer than expected, but then again, so did high school.