The next couple of posts in our on going series, Throwback Summer, will feature multiple photos that cover major events from my past. First up, Prom Night. The Super Bowl of High School. A teenager hears about Prom a million times before it actually arrives. Whether from movies, primetime teen soaps, the news, or just constant conversations amongst friends forecasting how awesome it is going to be. It is built up to be this magical night where all your dreams come true and you’ll be telling your grandkids about it. Any time expectations are raised to an astronomically high level typically only disappointment follows. Not only was Prom not the best night of my life, it doesn’t even crack the top 100, in fact it actually kind of sucked.
As it turns out, teenagers are not the only ones who hear about Prom a millions of times, their parents do as well. Only they do not respond with the giddy excitement of anticipation, but rather dreadful fear. Fear that their kids will ruin their future, by getting arrested, pregnant, or worse. They have the date marked on their calendars to prepare for battle. And our parents were the equivalent of going up against America in a World War. The odds were stacked against us.
We knew that we needed to come up with ultimate plan in order to secure a fun Prom after party and we thought that we’d done it. The party was scheduled to take place at my family’s lake house in Lake Geneva, WI. Chicago’s Big Bear Lake for all my LA readers. We knew that the parents would check our overnight bags before we got on the bus to take us north. It would’ve been a fool’s errand to try to pack any contraband in them. They would’ve thrown it out immediately and raised the red flags. And they were sure to vet our bus driver, plus pay him extra to not pick up any alcohol on our way. So what to do? It appeared we had run out of ideas, until brilliance struck. We could drive alcohol up the weekend before and hide it at my lake house to have it waiting there for us. It was only a hour and half ride, three hours round trip, we wouldn’t be home too late to raise our parents’ suspicions.
We had a plan, so the Saturday before Prom, Billy, Joe Daly, and I drove up. I know Bill drove up, I only think Joe was with us. As I remember there were three of us and if it was someone other than Joe I apologize. Please forgive my terrible memory, I mean no offense. I knew where the spare key was hidden and the alarm codes, so we were covered there. The only thing left to decide was where to hide it, but luckily using my knowledge of the location I already knew the perfect spot – the crawl space on the lower level. It was the perfect spot, hidden, plenty of space, and located where we would want to party in the house. Boom-diggity! We were all set. The operation went off without a hitch. All that was left to do was wait to get to the house and then let the festivities commence. It was perfect.
Unfortunately, life is not meant to be perfect and our plan did not play out as we expected. There were two things that we overlooked. First, was how diligent and awake the parents in charge of watching us at the house were going to be. I spent my entire senior year and the summer before college coming home hours after curfew because I had never seen my parents awake past 10pm. I guess they chose Prom as the night to introduce themselves to cocaine because they were awake and alert till past 5am. The second issue came from the fact that we were beer drinkers in high school, which was both the worst alcohol to leave in a crawl space for a week and to hide discreetly in another drink. Coke and beer is surprisingly not a tasty combination.
The night was ruined, but not because of our parents vigilance, but rather by expectations to throw a huge rager in order to have a good time on Prom night. It should be about the people, not the activities. If you’re with people you love, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. I wish I could go back in time, not to execute a better plan, but to convince myself that it is stupid to have these unrealistic expectations of what Prom should be. Our night was ruined because we were unable to get over our failure and the disappointment that we weren’t partying our faces off like some of our classmates. Damn you expectations, damn you to hell. Alright, now it is picture time.
Here is my lovely date, Colleen Kearney. Another big expectation of Prom is that it is a chance to make an proclamation of love to the girl you’ve been pining for since freshman year, or at the very least get laid. Colleen and I did not fall into that former category. I found her very attractive and we did hang out peripherally over all of high school, more so the last two years, so I also liked hanging out with her, but there were not any hidden sparks that came flying out that night. As for the latter, the getting laid part, well…absolutely not. I’m not sure if I’ve properly expressed how much of a loser I was in high school when it came to girls, but let me sum it up this way, I couldn’t have gotten laid in a whorehouse with a $1,000 dollars in my pocket.
This is a picture of every person that went to my elementary school, Faith, Hope, and Charity, that was in our Prom group. From left to right, Brian Borah whom I already covered extensively in my first TBS article, so let me just add one more thing – if he weren’t standing on a step he wouldn’t have come up to the shoulders of the girl in the gold dress. The girl in the gold dress is Rachel Murray, I really did not interact with Rachel much so I can’t really share a cool story. I apologize, but part of this exercise is realizing which people made an impact on my life and which did not. Next to Rachel, in the blue dress, is Molly Gapen. More on her in a little bit.
In the middle in the brown dress is Meghan Borah, Brian’s younger sister by one year. I write a lot sister characters in my scripts and the reason is that I always wanted a sister, preferably one older and one younger. Meghan was the closest thing I had to a sister growing up and she was a more than worthy substitute. I lost touch with her since college, which may mean that it is a good thing that I didn’t have a sister, but I’ll always appreciate her for filling that role in my life back then. Next to Meghan is Shannon Steger, whose younger brother, Kevin, is one of my brother’s best friends so I still hear about her through a third degree of separation. But she was one of the toughest and most athletic girls I knew growing up. I was afraid to play her in anything because I didn’t want to face the shame and ridicule of losing to a girl. And finally next to me on the left is Hope Holmberg, whom I also mentioned in my first TBS post. I think the smile on her face sufficiently summarize all I said about her and the way she brings joy into any room she enters.
You may have noticed that I left out a description of Molly Gapen in the last picture and thought, “Huh that is weird. Why did he do that?” I wanted to give her a picture of her own with yours truly because she represents a very important lesson I learned too late and one I will make sure any son of mine will not commit the sins of his father. See Molly and I went to school from kindergarden thru 12th grade. And as far back as I remember my father always told me that I should be talking to her as much as possible. He’d egg me on, “talk to her, she’s going to be a good one. Don’t screw this up.” For various reasons ranging from, thinking girls had cuddies to being afraid to talk to them to other kids not thinking she was cute, and also the simple fact that it was lame to do what your father tells you to, I never did talk to her much. See what I didn’t realize at the time, though I very much wish I did, was that my Mom and Molly’s Mom went to high school together and therefore my Dad had met her in college. Having seen how attractive she was back in the day and having biological knowledge that was beyond my fourth grade mind he knew that Molly would also become that attractive. And damn if it didn’t turn out exactly that way. Two days after Father’s Day I thought it was appropriate to reiterate the fact that Father Knows Best!
I may have missed out due to my stupidity, but my first best friend that I met in high school, Quinn Ford was smart enough to not only take Molly to Prom, but also date her for Senior year, which was best for everyone. Reference my earlier statement about Whorehouses, $1,000, and getting laid. I’m lucky enough to still call Quinn one of my best friends. There is no one I have an easier time talking to than him. We share a lot of life philosophies and never judge each other, no matter how weird, twisted, dark, and fucked up some of her conversations get. And they tend to get all of those at once. Hanging out with him is on my short list of things I miss most about Chicago, along with eating at Portillos and drinking on E Division Street. Oh and my family, of course. For some reason I could not find a picture of him from Prom otherwise I would add it here, but there will be one of him at some point in this series, I promise.
And for anyone who cares enough about how things turned out between him and Molly based on two paragraphs of writing about them…First off, easy there weirdos, secondly things ended before college started, which was also best for everyone as he was lucky enough to meet and date for the past 6 years, a beautiful, intelligent, funny alumnus of the best Law School in Chicago. And Molly, well actually I have no idea what’s happened to her, so maybe I can’t say for sure if it worked out best for everyone, but at least it did for Quinn.
Anyways, this is everything I learned from my memories of Prom. Remember, life isn’t about the events you attend, but the people you attend them with. Some of the best nights of my life is sitting around with my favorite and playing categories or card games, talking about how we’d fix the world’s problems, or arguing about sports. It may sound stupid to you, but it doesn’t matter cause to me they’re precious memories of spending time with the people I love.