Thursday, February 25, 2021


Ever since I returned from Las Vegas I’ve come to recognize that I need to lose some weight.  Not in the conventional sense. I don’t have problems with that kind of weight. What I need to purge is the weight I’ve accrued by justifying behavior that I knew was not right at the time I behaved as I did. That sort of thing, even when it is minor, can create an unhealthy foundation.  One extra jelly doughnut, okay not such a problem. But there is a cumulative effect. After a while you stop noticing that you are knocking back the jelly doughnuts. And it becomes difficult to maneuver around this life with the extra pounds.

I’ve done some rationalizing in my day. Since Las Vegas events are surfacing.

Sixth grade.  Early months of 1961.  I’m a newcomer to the neighborhood having moved into town less than a year ago.  I’m still learning the ropes of the new hood, making friends, doing okay in that regard, but most of the kids in my class have been at this school since they were in kindergarten.

There is a hot television show which is now in its second season. The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.  It features Dobie, his beatnik friend Maynard G. Krebs, Dobie’s mom and dad, and assorted young women that Dobie would like to meet. He has limited success.  

The kids in my sixth-grade class are crazy about Dobie Gillis.  This enthusiasm is encouraged by our teacher who also claims to be a fan of the program.  On the show, Maynard is regularly referring to Dobie as “good buddy” as in “how you doing good buddy”.  Our teacher Mr. Hatfield likes the “good buddy” handle and so do we.  

What happens is that a group of the cool boys in the class form what they call the GBA, the Good Buddy Association.  This is a male only club, and it consists of charter members who regularly refer to each other as Good Buddy Jim or Good Buddy Joe.  About eight fellows in the GBA. It’s all in good fun.  I don’t feel particularly like an outcast because I am not in the GBA and the teacher is not fostering any kind of in crowd out crowd.  

We are often asked to go to the front of the class and solve math problems. Mr. Hatfield will call on four students to go up to the board, stand strides away from each other and, for example, divide 2121 by 11.  Each kid would then write their name on the board and proceed to do the long division.

The GBA group affiliation ratchets up when a really good kid, who went on to be a solid citizen as an adult, goes up to the board and writes his name, Bill, but above it writes GBA.  The teacher gets a charge out of this, so whenever a GBA kid goes up to the board they write GBA Joe or GBA Jack before solving the problem.  Again, all in good fun.

One day I get called to the board and decide to be a wise guy.  I write my name on the board, but next to it write, Anti-GBA.  Hatfield really gets a kick out of this.  I was probably a little ahead of the curve so the teacher has to explain to some of the others what I’d done.  Well, I created a following. Every kid not in the GBA, goes up to the board and writes Anti GBA Charlie or whatever when it is their turn.  There are now two groups in the class. The GBA and the Anti-GBA. The GBA, the cooler group for sure. The anti-GBA is a loose confederacy of newcomers, iconoclasts, pariahs, stinkers, and several fledgling delinquents, one of whom grew up to be a bona fide nogoodnik and has even spent some time in the slammer.

In gym and at recess when we would play games it was the GBA against the Anti-GBA.  We’d come back to class after one of these contests and Mr. Hatfield would ask about the score. There would be a running tally of how the GBA was doing against the anti-GBA on the blackboard.

I caught a break with the jock genes.  Pretty decent all-around athlete. One thing I was particularly good at was catching things. In touch football I was terrific at judging where the ball would come and could catch passes easily and also intercept them. But what I truly excelled at was little kid Dodgeball.  The way we played two sides competed by throwing a ball or several such balls at the opponents. If you hit someone that someone was out.  Or if you caught a pass thrown by an opponent, the person who threw the ball would be out.  Once a team was out of players, the opponent was the victor.  

Well, I was an asset to the Anti-GBA in most athletic contests, but in Dodgeball I was a killer.  Not so much in throwing the ball, but in catching the balls.  My teammates might get eliminated but I had a knack for catching most everything that was thrown my way.  We were playing Dodgeball regularly in gym, and the misfits who were the anti-GBA were dancing through the halls and could not wait to tell Hatfield that we had beaten the GBA again.

One morning we were lining up by what passed for artwork that was taped to the walls of the school. This was a daily drill. Lining up by class before being led to our classroom to begin the day.  I was tall for my age then, so I was at the back of the line when a GBA fellow came to pay a visit.  He wanted to know if I wanted to be in the GBA

This was flattering but startling at the same time. I was the face of the enemy contingent having started the whole Anti-GBA thing. I thought, they must really like me, respect my courage, and leadership. I must no longer be the outsider. The GBA was cool. They had already organized a trip to Yankee Stadium and were going to a game in April. To be sure, the Anti-GBA probably could not organize a trip at lunchtime to the vending machines in the front of the cafeteria.   

Still, would it be right to abandon the anti-GBA? I knew I was the glue to the anti-GBA.  Without me the anti GBA would become not much of anything. I told the kid I would have to think about it.  The emissary said okay and walked back to the front of the line.

I started to consider the offer.    

I was going back and forth in my head, when less than a minute later the GBA kid returned to where I was standing in line.  “Look,” he said, “We need you to make up your mind, now”

“Right now? Why do I have to tell you now?”

“We need you for Dodgeball at recess.”

Oh boy. Well, that was it. Charm was not my ticket.  The GBA had not gotten together and mused that I would be a valuable character to add to the group.  Nothing like that. I was good in Dodgeball.

Maybe this was not a big deal, but I knew they were asking me to join for the wrong reasons. I should have told them to hold on to their GBA invitation.

But they were going to Yankee Stadium. And they were way cooler than the Anti-GBA. One of the girls had come over to the GBA lunch table and dropped off tootsie rolls. There were perks.

By the time we were led into our classroom that morning I was a member of the GBA.

One of my first jelly doughnuts. A small one, but a start.

Have to lose some weight.  If you get really heavy, you're probably capable of justifying anything.

In a few minutes I'm headed to a meeting where we intend to discuss the department's values.  We will be posting a value statement on the college website.  I know this is all for the optics.  I feel like I'm on line waiting to get into the all you can eat buffet.


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