When: 17 December 2004
Where: DBTI Main quad
Who: Several classmates
Weather: Cold, overcast
Book: The Martian Chronicles
On the last day of school, I opted to bring my Gamecube to the design department’s Christmas party, but the only people who ended up playing it were me and my friend Remo. And I hadn’t slept any of the previous night.
Thinking it would save time, I took an unfamiliar series of bus routes home but ended up going the wrong way. I’d been stranded a lot lately; just two weeks earlier my regular hour-late bus skipped me, and everyone was stuck out on the road until well after dark. Before long, the same situation befell me here, and my windbreaker was not enough for the near-freezing night. I don’t remember how, but eventually, late at night, I made it.
Next: God, sex, and doubt: 2005.
When: 8 December 2004
Where: DBTI Main Quad
Who: The entire faculty and student body
Weather: Overcast, about to rain
My history teacher with his own radio set was a force to be reckoned with. This was Marian Day, a massive tournament of games and sports across every grade and major. I was in the chess tournament, but lost to my good frenemy (and Barnhart chessmaster) Matt Kook. Also, we fired a cannon that the school designed and built itself.
I was starting to get tired, but as I walked across the way Ortiz was playing this on a giant speaker and it really got me going again.
Next time: The cold and the dark and Jimmy Eat World
When: November 2004
Where: Nolan Ortiz’s world history class, DBTI
Who: Several classates
Whenever he wasn’t lecturing, Mr. Ortiz wanted to expand our musical horizons, so whenever we took a test he would play us something he judged to be important. Zeppelin, KRS-One, The Doors. People really go into The Doors. To this day, Tech radio automatically plays The Doors when nobody’s DJ-ing. This wasn’t always the case. I remember laboring in Electronics lab under a tinny speaker feebly blaring the morose tune of Steely Dan.
As for “Sex Machine,” my first thought was “oh, that’s the song from the Toyota commercial.”
Next: The Marian Day Games
Where: Sierra Madre Boulevard northbound at Foothill
Who: My father
Weather: Partly cloudy
Book: Lord of the Flies
For some reason in high school my father wanted to know absolutely everything I was doing in class. It was perhaps this unhealthy interest in uninteresting things that led him to drag me around town buying groceries for seemingly no reason except to angrily interrogate me on what I was reading for English class. I told him Lord of the Flies as this song came on. The discussion of nuclear war blended well with the ominous synth bridge of the song.
Next: Fellas, I’m ready to get up and do my thang…
When: October 2004
Where: La Canada-Flintridge
Who: My mom, the band Nural, and several strangers
Weather: Cool, breezy
Last year, The AV Club asked the question, “why is music from the ’90s on classic rock radio?” A better question would have been “why is music from the ’90s on new rock radio?”
KROQ is the modern rock station in the Southland, and like almost all stations of that kind, it fell into the trap of playing less and less new music. Leaving out the 80% of the airtime devoted just to The Offspring and Sublime, you’ll mostly hear Grunge. Green Day was no spring chicken at this time, but for a few brief years it wasn’t the least bit unusual to hear this nine-minute monstrosity in your car.
Back at Bosco, Mr. Thompson was working very hard to keep the school newspaper running, and the end result was really good. One of the articles was about this very phenomenon. There was a new radio station, Indie 103.1. It was the best radio station in Southern California, characters on TV could be seen waking up to it, and KROQ was starting to play more and newer music to compete. Eventually, 103.1 folded and things went back to normal, but so long as I was in high school, this was the case.
I was in La Cañada attending a Nural concert. I was so taken with them after my 8th grade graduation party that I wanted to see what the fans were like. I have no idea why I liked them so much, they weren’t very good, but I did get to talking with some of the girls. Mostly about Xavier Lopez-Ayala, Bosco Tech’s resident artist and Youth Governor of California. We swapped NorCal band demo discs, and I returned home.
Next: Wasted hearts and nuclear war.
When: October 2004
Where: Don Bosco Technical Institute
Who: Several people
On a random Wednesday, a family friend and classmate named Elliot Cuite told me to come with him to one of the shops. It was my first meeting with Tiger TV, our school’s technologically outdated live Friday news show. Before long, I was a cameraman, and I lived for those mornings. After a while, this became our regular theme song. It was by U2, and it wasn’t horrible, so I suppose it was worth a shot.
Next: Pasadena and Los Angeles’ only new rock.
Freshman Year of High School was a serious downer. Firstly, I had an anger problem. Secondly, it seemed to be dark all the time. Thirdly, the bus. Oh, the bus.
I went to Don Bosco Technical Institute in the middle of nowhere, and as a result had an hour’s bus trip home through a poorly-maintained, perpetually gridlocked old country road. Worse, school left out at 3:30, and the bus only arrived for an hour, meaning unless we were very lucky, we wouldn’t get home until 6:00 PM.
Matt Kook and I were serious adversaries at Barnhart, and we would have our differences later, but since we were the only people at this school either of us knew, we had become partners of circumstance. On one particularly grueling traffic jam, it was only September and already dark, and I began humming a tune to myself.
Matt looked to me and said “I know the song you’re thinking of. It’s stuck in my head too.” I self-consciously stopped humming.
He reacted badly with Barnhart’s coddling approach to education, and his acidic, bullying style didn’t mesh well with my underdeveloped sense of humor. But now in catholic school we were free to be ourselves and essentially do whatever we wanted. And though we wouldn’t really hang out together, both our heads would cool with time.
Next: “Sam, meet television.”