Saturday, September 19, 2009

English Lessons from Sting

Just recently, I was downloading some Police songs to my Ipod. One of the songs reminded me of a day in my high school English class. I believe it was my freshman year and we were assigned to write a poem about anything we wanted.

So, on the morning of the day the poem was due, I asked my locker mate if his poem was ready for English class. My locker neighbor, who was a character to put it mildly, flashed a sly grin and replied, "Guess what?"

My reaction of 'What' was answered by my friend with an explanation of his 'plan' for English class.

He explained that he didn't want to write a poem last night, so he got an inspiring idea to copy a couple of verses from one of his favorite songs.

With incredulity, I blurted, "No way!"

He said, "Yeah, why not? She's not going to know the difference."

We both thought this was the best idea in the world. The song he picked was very new at the time and was just starting to get popular. But who cares? Teachers don't listen to popular music.

The song he chose was Wrapped Around Your Finger, by the Police. And he chose the first two verses from that song for his 'poem'.

To refresh your memory, the lyrics are as follows:

You consider me your young apprentice

Caught between the Scylla and Charibdes.

Hypnotized by you if I should linger

Staring at the ring around your finger.



I have only come here seeking knowledge,

Things they would not teach me of in college.

I can see the destiny you sold

turned into a shining band of gold.

As you can see, he picked a very poetic lyric. This should be an easy 'A'.

So we arrived at English class and settled into our desks and prepared to hand in our poems. Our teacher had another idea, though. She stood in front of the class and announced, "Who wants to be the first one to read their poem in front of the class?"

A low groan could be heard rippling through the room.

After a little added prompting by the teacher, someone volunteered. She read her poem and we all sat in stony silence. Our teacher then threw us another curve ball. She started asking questions, of us, about our poems. Questions like, "What made you choose those words?" , and "What does that symbolize?". Questions that high school freshman are incapable of fathoming.

The rest of the class time was taken up in this manner. Student after student would slouch their way to front of the room, sheepishly read their poem and then shrug their shoulders to the teacher's questions. Every once in a while someone would agree with whatever the teacher thought our poems meant.

At the end of the hour, our class was asked, "Is there anyone who has not read their poem yet?"

That's when I remembered my locker neighbor had not read his 'poem' yet. I then realized that our assignment involved more than just handing in an innocent piece of paper. I also realized that my friend was going to be unable to explain anything about his thought process or creative inspiration. How could he answer why he chose the words, Scylla and Charibdes? How could he even define those words? I don't think Sting could even answer those questions.

As I said, class was just about to end and our poet laureate had yet to recite. Our teacher looked at the clock and determined we had just enough time for one more poem if we hurried.

I can remember my friend dragging his feet to the front of the room and bowing his head to read his wrinkly page of college ruled notebook paper with torn fringes on one side from the spiral edge. I can remember feeling uncomfortable for him, as he hurriedly rushed through his lyrics in a language slightly above a mumble.

When he was finished, I don't think he even looked up, as if hoping that everyone would forget he was there. His head bowed as if praying for a miracle.

And a miracle was granted. The class bell rang before our teacher could ask any questions. My friend rapidly handed in his paper and darted out under the cover of noisy desks and freshmen.

I'm not sure if our English teacher knew the truth or not. I didn't ask my friend what kind of grade he got and we never talked about it again.

Until now, that is.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh I do hope your locker mate will post a comment and let us know the grade he received. Such a funny post LB. I was laughing reading this.

Kathy at Stingfieldcom said...

Loved this story, thanks for sharing. I would really like to know what happened to your locker mate!

Anonymous said...

With the creation of the many different global social networking websites comes the reconnection of old friends after 26 years. Yes ladies and gentlemen I am the protagonist of Loren’s story. I am said locker mate and friend and I still believe The Police are the greatest band ever! Sorry, I just had to throw that out there.

Now I could use the old “imitation is the greatest form of flattery” line as an excuse for what I did back then but let’s face it, quite frankly, I was a young na├»ve punk of a kid who would do stuff just to see if he could get away with it. Thankfully I pulled my head out of the southern region of my anatomy and outgrew that phase of my life shortly thereafter. After our freshman year I moved away to a different town to live with my Dad. A different town meant a different school and different friends. Unfortunately, as is the case most of the time when young kids move away, I lost touch with all my old friends (Loren included) until 26 years later when we reconnected on Facebook and I’m glad we did!!! Well, at least I was until he opened up this old scar… JOKING!!!

To this day Sting (among others) remains a musical influence to me. In the early 90’s I began writing music and lyrics (yes, my OWN music and lyrics) and learned how to play the bass guitar as a form of therapy to unwind from the day to day stresses life brings. In 2003 I purchased a Limited Edition Fender Sting Signature P-Bass Reissue to add my growing collection of bass guitars which I know doesn’t make up for stealing his lyrics during freshman year English but I’m sure Sting got his take from that purchase.

I know you all wondering what grade I got for that “poem”. I hate to disappoint everyone but for the life of me I honestly can’t remember. I vaguely remembered the incident at all until last night when, unlike me in 1983, Loren actually asked me if it was ok to use this material before he posted it. I have a hard enough time trying to remember what I had for breakfast this morning and he asks me about a grade I got 26 years ago??? Man I wish I had his capacity to remember stuff!!!

Sting, if you are reading this blog I most humbly apologize for using your lyrics without your permission. I would also like to apologize to our 9th grade English teacher as well. What I did was wrong and I hope you gave me a bad grade on the project.

PS – Loren, please don’t tell anyone about the time I hit your neighbor’s car with my parent’s station wagon and took off!!! That I DO remember!!!

What can I say; I told you all I was a rotten kid!!! LOL

Corrie Howe said...

Great story and follow up. Wish I could remember my high school years, let alone funny stories from it.

James (SeattleDad) said...

Great story. Obviously, said friend didn't get an F due to copying the lyrics so it didn't turn out all bad.

Anonymous said...

Now I want to hear the station wagon story...... please, don't leave us hangin'

Anonymous said...

That's not much of a story. I was simply stating there was actually something from that era that I did remember. I had just gotten my learner's permit and had went to Loren's house to visit. I was backing out of his driveway and hit his neighbors car. With a combination of freaking out and not thinking I did any damage to it I left. There was some damage but I don't think it was too much. It was me leaving the scene which made them unhappy.

Maria said...

I, too, wish I could remember all the stories from those years. Since you were there, I'm just going to enjoy remembering vicariously through you! Don't tell all the secrets of the HHS Class of '87, though...

Are the lockermate's initials DB?

Anonymous said...

Noooooooooo Maria, not as far as you know!!! LOL

Dad Stuff said...

You are a sharp one Maria.

urbandaddy said...

Fantastic story. Well told. I was thrilled to see your old locker mate respond, but I had to read all the posts to see if the real question was answered...

From wikipedia;
Scylla and Charybdis are two sea monsters of Greek mythology who were situated on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina between Sicily and Calabria, in Italy. They were located in close enough proximity to each other that they posed an inescapable threat to passing sailors; avoiding Charybdis meant passing too closely to Scylla and vice versa.

Now I know what that lyric meant! I remember mumbling those lyrics...

Dad Stuff said...

Now I've learned something. Thanks Urbandad.

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.