Monday, June 16, 2008

Bride and Prejudice

Most of you know about the vexed relationship I have with my hometown, Alamo Heights. It's this weird thing where I had a totally great high school experience, and yet I continually badmouth the high school itself. A combination of superiority and guilt rolled into one that I can never quite figure out: especially since a lot of people there - including the people I knew in high school - are really nice. (Also: artist/musician/WRITER cred is 10x stronger if you hated high school.)

But anyway, one of the reasons I'm so mean about the place is because I never take the time to visit. I mean really visit. I drive to San Antonio (the large city surrounding Alamo Heights) often, to see my folks, but it's an in-and-out affair. Straight to their house and back. I don't hit up "the old hangouts" or my "alma mater" or any other "stomping grounds" per se. I see Tom and Christi, and we do movies, dinner, or just stay home and play with the kitties. The last time I went to an Alamo Heights bar, I said hi to a girl I knew from high school, and she just turned to stare at me, like she couldn't decide if I was a person, or a unicorn, or what. Then, she wheeled back to the bartender, to giggle an order for another ridiculous appletini. I was speechless.

So I've got my reasons - there are undeniably some stupid, snobby people in Alamo Heights. Sorry guys, it's true.

Anyway, one of my best friend's weddings was in Alamo Heights this weekend. The day before, I was at home all by myself, and decided to go on a run. It was really, almost illegally, hot outside - but I was hungover and needed to flush out the toxins. I laced up my shoes and went for it.

I turned the corner onto Broadway, and jogged past several churches. I ran past the beauty store that always smelled like ammonia and vanilla inside, where I bought my first hair curlers before my first formal. I ran past the ice cream place where I celebrated my first softball victory - the only sport that I sort of excelled at. I ran past my high school, and by this point, I was really exhausted. That evil sidestitch cramp thing was creeping on, so I staggered onto campus and searched for a water fountain.

It. Was. So small.

My high school was tiny! Itty bitty! I mean, I didn't really grow after high school (and if we want to get really technical, I - heh - was my personal heaviest my senior year). But I couldn't believe how small and cute it looked. Like a pretend-school specially designed for me to come play in.

There was my cafeteria, where I ate bagels and mustard (?) almost every day. There was the football field where I endured countless painful 6am practices for dance team. (And once knocked a tuba player nearly unconscious with an accidental blow to the groin. Which was really funny.) There's a shiny new coat of blue paint. There's a freshly-ironed flag run up the flagpole. There's the teacher's lounge, there's the music building, there's the stairwell to my favorite English class.

It was like every feature and facet of the school was covered with this kinder, nostalgic blanket. For once, I didn't think about how incredibly square I was in high school, or that we were all so sheltered. I just stood there and appreciated the quaint, 1950s aura around it. I went to a place where football game attendance was cool, and where newspaper and student council were enviable organizations. The annual talent show was always massively well-attended. Pep rallies were easy to sneak out of, but for some reason, people didn't.

I realize now that not everybody had this.

The next day, my friend had her wedding at the San Antonio Country Club - the same country club where I got my first job waiting tables, the same country club where I attended several proms, etc. etc. Now it is possible - even fiendishly so - to imbue old society haunts like the Country Club with inappropriate, uncouth behavior. And after getting messy drunk with my parents, high school boyfriend, husband, childhood friends, and a handful of college buddies, I feel like I've smeared out most of the mysterious bitterness I have for the place. These stodgy institutions where I always sorta faked it 'til I made it. For once, I was myself. Not a member, just a happy (alcoholic) visitor.

It's nice to meet you, Alamo Heights.


marge said...

i understand i
bad mouth heights all the time
although i cant say it was the best times of life but i had a few there
and one them was having you on the dance team to mentor me as a wrangler
ohhh the days
of AH
love you girl

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten how much I liked this story. Wonderful.