It was either Abraham Lincoln, or Mark Twain, who said "A lot of smart young men come from Indiana. And the smarter they were, the sooner they left". Rich was one of those young men. Although his ultimate destination, Wichita, Kansas, makes me question his intelligence. "Wichita", I think, is old Indian for "Hey, let's settle here in the middle of a goddamn semi-arid continent with fat-broiling summers and bone-chilling winters. It'll be just like Siberia but without the swamps!"
The result of talking to Rich was release of a whole flood of fun memories. True, vague and semi-detached memories sampled from cannabinoid damaged brain circuits, but fun ones nonetheless. I can't recall what grade, but he moved into town when we were going to Thomas Jefferson Jr. High (now Middle School). Rich was a goofy looking kid with thick glasses and even thicker wiry hair. (To be fair, it wasn't that Rich alone was goofy looking, at that age we all were, with different body parts growing at different rates).
He liked to call me "moron" a lot, but it was more like "MOR-ron!" I never took offense, as I'm sure I called him a lot worse, given my early and ongoing fascination with creative profanity. The only time I took offense was when he called me an "ambisexual moron". I think I took offense because he knew a word I didn't, and I had to go look "ambisexual" up.
I think I met him in band. We both played trombone. For a time, there was a healthy rivalry at who would be First Chair. (At a recent party, my brother mentioned to a woman that I played First Chair in band. She looked me up and down like I was a slack-jawed meatslapper, which at the time I was, since I'd had a few beers. "You're. Kidding." was her response.)
In Junior High, I was First Chair with no real competition. Rich supplied that. We swapped first chair position a few times, and then I discovered Dope. So much for the competitive spirit and musical ambitions. Actually, band was a fun time. It was easy to make Rich laugh, and I always enjoyed the rictus of panic that would strike his face when I got the band director pissed off at us (well, at me, but Rich was seated next to me and feared guilt by association).
The band director and I had an intense mutual dislike for each other. He considered me undisciplined and slovenly - a slacker (which I was). I considered him an authoritarian prick (which he was). I think he's dead now.
I had a dream about the band director once. He said to me in the dream "John, I apologize for being a prick. But I did it for your own good".
I replied "I accept your apology, you fucking prick".
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