Wednesday, May 04, 2011


1962. I am in the eighth grade. Mom dropped me off one morning in the tiny Atkinson parking lot, on a warm Spring Portlandia day. I strode in my black low top converse and white socks toward the school door, and suddenly, I saw, to the right, our grade school principal, the perky and respectable Mr. Petersen, whom my mother spoke highly of. Mr. Peterson stood around 6’ tall and had a big brown styin’ haircut. “Well, Ric!”, he spoke as I passed, “just a second.” Mr. Petersen locked his car door and walked toward me, with a warm smile. “I want to talk to you Ric”, he spoke. “So it’s almost time for graduation, Ric,” Mr. P said, and stuck his hand out to shake mine, white guy style. “Ric, you’re a great kid, and it has been a real pleasure and honor being your principal these past years. Now you’re going off to high school, and you are really gonna make your mark up there. I just bet a day will come when I will hear that you are the student body president of that high school! So let’s get our day started shall we?" We walked into the school his arm over my shoulder, very warm and encouraging but not weird at all. I felt special.

So I go to high school, and I did become the vice president of the senior class, and I did run for class president once, but I was sick in the hospital, no kidding, when running for office speeches were given, and lost. But the other guy was gonna win anyway cuz he was more popular and also had the mo.

And during high school I was president of a YMCA high school club named KNIGHTZ, which I had joined almost like one joins a fraternity. I was elected president of KNIGHTZ by my peers, so I did spend some time runnin’ shit. But what I was thinking about tonight was, that each letter in KNIGHTZ stood for something. Kindness. Nobility. I cant remember. (maybe intitiative) Generosity. Humility. Tolerance. Zeal. I was driving down the road and I suddenly thought, geez, if everyone would just drive kindly, generously, with tolerance, there wouldn’t be any wrecks. Or way less, he said to the skeptics. And these words have rung true in my ears all these years, and I believe I have held these values up in my mind, and thought of them as something to live up to. Crazy. But striving to be in “KNIGHTZ, to be a member, turns out to be a really good thing. And Mr. Peterson’s kindness! Wow. What a star, makin’ a kid feel good about himself.

So I’m just sayin’ this stuff cuz it just reminds me to be kind, and generous, and tolerant, and to be nice to the kids and take a minute to tell them they’re great. I mean, so they don’t turn into Crabby Appleton. Mr. Petersen, Yo! The words you said to me that day, I dunno, I can’t remember exactly how it went. But I remember your eyes, and I remember that you told me I was doin’ good. I have remembered that moment and attempted to live up to your expectations all my life. Good move.

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