Sunday, April 14, 2013

"England's not the mythical land of Madame George and roses/ It's the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds"

I've been really enjoying this week's lively discussions of Thatcherism.  This piece from NPR on music in the Thatcher Era was fun, although I wish it had been longer.  My childhood, my real name even, represented the dying days of Irish-American Irish nationalism in my family.  That political identity meshed well with the anglo political rock of the 80s, followed by good doses of Stuart Hall and E. P. Thompson in the 90s and 00s.  It's always interesting to think about how those cultural bits and pieces that you pick up throughout life form a self.

In my 80s youth in the barely middle class, I went to a mediocre public high school in a larger New England town, or maybe it would be a very small city.  It was the only high school in the area, and, thus, attempted to educate students of all kinds in a John Hughes-erific manner.  While the education I received was intellectually uninspiring, socially brutal, and ethically challenged, the teachers and administrators did offer us some surprisingly forthright life lessons.

A friend posted this article about a terrible motivational speaker for high school students (abstinence type), and so many memories came flooding back.

1) Wet Brain.  A visiting speaker warned us about the dangers of drinking hard liquor directly from the bottle because if you drink a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time, your body doesn't have time to send out distress signals like vomiting or passing out and you could get alcohol poisoning and die or be permanently injured.  The solution we were offered: always use a shot glass.

2) Never lie down in the snow when drunk.  You will feel very warm, fall asleep, and die of exposure. As I remember it, this lesson came from one of the popular kids who got really drunk on a school-sponsored ski trip to Canada and passed out in a snowbank.  I think he had to give the talk as part of his punishment.  Having snoozed in many a snowbank while drunk, I found his presentation a bit overwrought, but point taken.

3) "Drop a Dime." I thought this phrase was generally recognizable, but B teases me mercilessly every time I use it.  I think there were "Drop a Dime" commercials in the 80s, but there was also an officer of the law who came to our high school to tell us how much money we could make as police informants (narc!).  Maybe they were trying to build on the success of 21 Jump Street?

4) "Crack is Whack."  The version of these PSAs that played in 80s New England did not feature rap or break dancing, rather, we got three white boys with heavy Boston accents in a hospital room.  The crack smoker was unconscious, and his friends warned us of the dangers.

5) "Stop laughing-statistically two people in this room are gay." So said my driver's ed teacher to some kids making gay jokes.  I still don't have a driver's license, but he was a nice man.

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