Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book 38: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I took an AP English class senior year. We read "Moby Dick". The real irony is that our teacher was a short drunk Scotsman named Mr. Dick.

I am not lying.

He looked like the Burl Ives snowman from Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer after he'd spent a winter drinking hot toddies and eating nothing but beef. His mustache blurted out of his upper lip like Play-Doh through a screen.

He loved "Moby Dick".

He was a bit of a joke to all of us but the amazing thing was that he somehow got the whole class INTO it. He would shriek about it, arms above his head in astonishment, reeking of Scotch, saying things like, "The entire chapter is about the penis! The flaccid penis of the whale!"

He retired not long after I graduated.

I can't really go into the specifics of why I am including it on this list, mostly because I read it over 20 years ago and don't remember much aside from what everyone knows. (White whale, crazy Ahab, Ishmael, etc.)

Any book that is too heavy to be carried in a backpack but still manages to grab the attention of a classroom of horny teenagers must be a classic is all I'm saying.

This story is really about me and my friend Tom DeVincke. And my other friend Justin Brady.

By the time senior year rolled around, Tom, Justin Brady and I were a drummerless punk powerhouse called Fecund Youth. We spent most of our time playing basketball and cutting each other down. I don't talk to Tom as much as I talk to Justin but I still consider him to be a best friend.

There are two parts to the story...

Part 1

Mr. Dick doesn't seem to care that I pull my desk up to the front of my row to sit with Tom. No one else seems to be allowed to switch seats or move but somehow we've escaped scrutiny. We must be exceptionally well-behaved, you surmise. Uh, no. We talk openly about Minor Threat, The Replacements, 7 Seconds, Dead Kennedys, and our own future as leaders in the punk movement. We snap rubber bands at testicles. We draw X-rated cartoons on textbooks. We are incorrigible.

Mr. Dick says nothing. For months and months. Both of us are A students but we are most likely ruining the class for everyone else. As well as posing a fire hazard should anyone have to get out the top of the row of desks.

Somehow we exhaust the patience of our saintly inebriated English teacher.

He looks over at us (Tom and Brendan). We are talking away. He snaps...

"Tim and Brian! Shut up!"

Part 2

I am moving out of the condo in Brooklyn that I'd shortly shared with my wife. We are going to be divorced. I need help moving. I haven't seen Tom in a couple of years.

But he made the trek to Brooklyn from Rhode Island to help me haul my things out, to help me get my life back on track. And Justin lent me the money to get the apartment.

So the next time you see a couple of teenagers being rude and disrespectful to everything and everyone around them, the next time you judge three young hoodlums loitering outside of your local supermarket drinking grape soda and popping zits...

Just know they may need each other down the line.


Kim C said...

Love this. I think I may have had you two in one my classes. Brian and Roger. Notorious for stealing my stuff and making me crazy. Brian also stole the "baby Jesus" one Christmas from a local church display and proceeded to put it on a leash and drag it around the school. I'm sorry: I still think it's funny, and yes, I was raised as an Irish Catholic, as you know. How hard it was to stifle laughter as I disciplined those two... Criminny -- wonder where are they now?
And I think I'll need some "special" additive for my water bottle, like Mr. Dick, if I ever get my butt a job again...Oh and I refuse to teach Moby Dick. Sorry. :) Now, The Scarlet Letter, no problem...

Tim Ramick said...

Hmm. As terrific as your Great Gatsby review was, this one is unterrific, even disterrific, despite the charming anecdotes of puerile averageness, not worthy of The Mahoneys' band leader or the sui generis genius of "Lean Hard Ghost" fame...

Brendan O'Malley said...

Dear Mr. Ramick,

I only allow those who have known me at least 18 years to make comments like that. And despite the fact that your son has a beard and is in Scotland, you have not yet reached the aforementioned allotted time quota.


Tim Ramick said...

Well, let it be told, let it known, that even if banished to my corner of probationary wishfulness, I'll be watching from here on out (especially while I'm unemployed), every step of this gruesome march, all the way to the bitter zenith (or nadir) of your particular literary tastes. Make me mad. Make be proud.

I also recently saw The Wizard of Oz on the big screen (outdoors, under a high desert sky, with stars peering down, with a train sliding by), and it was indeed the holy moliest...

PS Master Revere is now at NMSU in Las Cruces (beard and attitude intact).