Sunday, October 25, 2009

Part 15: Hunting Parties

"Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs"
~William Shakespeare

"I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That's the thing about girls. Every time they do something fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are"
~J.D. Salinger

January brought sunshine, much cooler weather and the sweet scent of smoke. Pine logs popped and crackled in every building around campus and we would jostle for a warm spot in front of the fireplace in the mornings before breakfast.

Mornings were especially hard, crawling from my toasty bed, hopping across the icy concrete floor of the bathroom, teeth chattering as I quickly got dressed and hurried off for some warm breakfast. The reverse process, taking off the warm clothes and climbing in between cold sheets at night was equally tough.

The gray skies now were blue, the air crisp and clean. We could be outdoors all the time now, taking advantage of Brent's forested campus, sliding down the steep hills on pieces of cardboard, playing Capture the Flag in the valley behind our dorm.

Like "The Neutral", "The Valley" was another one of those places at Brent where the moniker connotated so much more than the ordinary, undeveloped parcels of real estate that they were.
It was wonderful mysterious place, the pine trees so thick that it seemed to go on forever.

Here lovers had their trysts, here upperclassmen consumed copious amounts of assorted contraband, here we ran wild and free. We knew that somewhere out there to the east, were the houses and roads of settled areas, but in our imaginations it was thousands of miles away.

In the Valley, just below main building, maybe a hundred feet or so, was the entrance to a cave.
It was supposed to have been dug by the Japanese during the war and led to a secret entrance under the stairs of Ogilby Hall. The cave had been partially filled in to keep kids out, but that didn't stop us from crawling into it as far as we could go. Old timers among the staff told us that at one time all the old buildings had been linked by tunnels. They would regale us with their stories, nodding knowingly about secret caches of WWII arms and loot buried around the campus. They filled our heads with tales of Yamashita's gold, the ingots hidden in the pasiking of the statue on Camp John Hay, the golden Bulol statue. This was exciting stuff and we wanted to be the ones to find it, so we would spend the weekend exploring the valley and crawling under every building looking for the entrance to these hidden tunnels. With all these distractions, Boy Scout expeditions, new friends and school, my days were full and I soon forgot my "Halloween Affair".

But along with the sun came the little hunting parties, usually in groups of two or three, with one acting as the bait. They'd call you over with some kind of homemade snack and chat you up. You'd think
I kind of like this girl, but it was all a trick. They were there to check you out, soften you up for some unseen friend.

Girls are a lot smarter than boys, or at least more determined. Good or bad, they have a clearer idea of what they want and then work together in packs to achieve that goal. Some boys, the ones with the hunter instincts, recognize these movements and patterns and use them to their advantage. But for the rest of us, grazing contentedly on the daily fare that was boarding school life, we were unaware of the swirling rush about us.

The little cootie catcher quizzes appeared and there would be questions: "do you like this or that?". I'd open my locker and there would be a note. "Do you like so and so?" This went on for weeks and I had no clue what was going on. Finally, the identity of the stalker was revealed, by which time I was too worn out to resist. But my hunter was patient, kind, gentle and loved to laugh. She slowly but surely navigated me through the etiquette maze of
going steady. We had been dating for a few weeks when one of her friends said "when are you going to kiss her?" I panicked. I had been kissed before but never made the first moves. What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to do it? I shouldn't have worried. She had it all under control.

So it happened one night, during a basketball game at the gym, that she took my hand and we wandered out into the blackness of the soccer field. There, in the dark she put her arms around me and then leaned forward to kiss.

At this point I need to tell you about my other family curse. I have mentioned before that the sins of the father are passed on to the son, and it is so biologically as well.

The first hole in the ozone layer was not discovered by NASA somewhere over the arctic circle, it was found directly over our house. Scientists puzzling over this anomaly discovered that incredible amounts of methane gas were being pumped into the atmosphere. This startling source of renewable energy was being produced almost single-handedly by my father. Not only was he prolific but he was musical too! No casual amateur, he took his occupation very seriously. Family lore claims that Al Hirt came up with the idea for the theme for the Green Hornet after hearing my father perform at a Chicago restaurant one night. I am a first hand witness to numerous discharges during weddings, funerals, meetings, in crowded buses and movie theaters. It took me years to figure out that a request for a moment of silence was not a request to pass gas. To this day my butt cheeks clench at the words "Let us bow our heads"... I can remember one Easter sunrise service as the minister, reading from the Gospels, reached the point where they go to the tomb and discover it is ... brrrippp! Like Joshua's trumpets toppling the walls of Jericho, the solemnity of the moment was destroyed by my father's tenor butt trumpet.

But, back to the story.
So, as our lips touched for our very first kiss, it happened.
Ah, the shame, the shame. My heart stopped and I waited for her reaction. But she didn't laugh or make a single comment. She just kissed me again.

That night I learned the meaning of true love. That night she set the bar so very high for all future girlfriends. That night I learned the most valuable trait to look for in a girl: One that doesn't mind when you fart.


  1. I laughed so hard!! Tears are running down my cheeks!!! and yes, it's sooo true!

  2. Sooo Funny!!you're I wonder who the girl was--any clue?

  3. thank heavens you were outdoors!