I'm back from Baltimore.
You know, for a town that I think of as being pretty sketchy, I walked around last night in the touristy area after 10:00 PM, and it was actually really nice. Found an area with a strip of local bars and went in with some A-level beer snobs to try some locals. Discovered there's something called "sour beer". As I asked them: How is it I've lived on this Earth for 37 years and nobody ever mentioned sour beer to me before?
I didn't love it, it was fine, but... seriously, I feel let down by humanity.
The meeting was interesting, but I wouldn't describe it as "fun". Dinner and then the bar was all right, but maybe less the governance talks regarding a semi-formal open source organization. Still, I felt like I learned a lot, and that's always a good thing.
Tomorrow I pack it up and head to Spring, TX for roughly 24 hours of seeing former high school classmates at the conspicuously-named-but-no-turns-out-there's-no innuendo-there-after-all, "Bareback Bar".
Ah, Spring, Texas. You never stop giving who you are, and I wouldn't want it otherwise.
High School was not the nightmare factory for me that it seems to have been for a lot of folks, but it was also far from the idea/ best time of my life.* I only did three years at that school, but I did have folks who were my friends, and I did manage to have a good time of it, but as I moved my sophomore year, I always felt like I was counting down to moving on. Sort of always had my eye on the door, even as we were all supposed to be entranced by what was happening on stage.
I had been a sports-guy my freshman year and gave it a go for six games of the 1990-1991 season of JV basketball. But I thought the coaches were terrible, I only liked two guys between both squads, and I just wasn't wired right to care about basketball by the time we hit winter of that first season. So, in what would become a bit of a pattern, I just decided I wasn't going to do the supposedly great thing I was privileged to do. The coaches were mostly confused, and I felt a little bad because within a week three other guys also quit the team.
I tried out for a play, got to be an understudy, and spent that winter and spring working on a show.
Drama was good to me. I got to play with power tools, hang lights, read and learn plays, kiss girls who weren't my girlfriend in full view of anyone who paid the $5 admission... I wasn't a good actor, but I was 6'4" and mostly remembered my lines, so I got some roles. It was a good outlet for me as I needed something to keep me busy once basketball was gone, and art class wasn't really an activity after the last bell rang. We spent enough time on stage, back stage, working on sets, etc... that it was a little clannish (a lot clannish), but it felt like a lovely, dysfunctional family all here to put on a damn show.
Later I'd come to appreciate that standing up in front of 400 people in a pilgrim suit fumbling their way through a small part in The Crucible is the therapy one needs to get over stage fright, and that's helped me out at work over the years. As has the ability to keep smiling on stage even when you know this is going poorly right in front of live humans who know better. We all wound up reading, going to shows and getting exposed to Edward Albee, Thornton Wilder, Samuel Beckett and a lot of other stuff I'm not sure I'd have come across otherwise.
Really, though, being asked to get in a character's shoes, even in the rudimentary world of high school theater, and try to understand and unlock their motivations as something other than words on a page - that's served me well, I think. It's not a perfect system, but always asking "what do they want?" and understanding that nobody sees themselves as bad, or what they're doing as bad (well, you know, you do occasionally have your Green River Killer or whatever, but you know what I mean), and that's pretty important in trying to get along in your personal life or your professional life or even understanding the news.
Empathy and sympathy are not something they teach in history or math or english (especially english, where you have to read Cliffs Notes to get what the hell these adult characters are on about that your suburban, cartoon-addled brain is just not processing without being spoon-fed the information). But I got those first real lessons in a form beyong "free to be you and me" in high school drama, and I'm grateful for the perspective.
Anyway, no, it was not at all like Glee. There were no slushies in faces. Drama, band and choir were all pretty normal things to do. Even "Color Guard", the flag-waving stuff at football games, was all just stuff kids did who lived in the burbs and whose parents wanted to see them keeping busy but knew they weren't going to be earning a sports scholarship.
So, tomorrow, I'm catching up with some of those folks and my old high school director. I'll report out.
*that was the time I ate a whole extra large pizza by myself