I don't know what I enjoy most about this photo-booth portrait. Is it the Hawaiian print shirt with the plunging V-collar, or the pencil lead-thin moustache, trimmed off the Cupid's bow to match the fashion of my Hispanic high schoool friends? Is it the stoner eyelids (I've never been able to keep my eyes open for a flash), the full head of hair? No, man. It's the 'tude. July, 1977: you're catching me between my Sophomore and Junior years. I had not yet hooked up with GFv1.0, which means you're looking at one very depressed, lonely adolescent. Yeah, yeah. Aren't they all. You're also looking at a chameleon. Here I am in stoner mode. I could also be a brainiac among brainiacs, a cholo among cholos, a stoner among stoners. Many of the stoners I hung with had more wits about them than the brainiacs. They were well fumigated wits, but still. I didn't smoke much pot in high school. My best friend Sophomore year, he smoked a bushel, and I chose to learn from his example. Besides. I didn't enjoy smoking pot, and if I could fit in with the stoners without doing so, I did. They didn't mind if I passed -- more for them -- and they never challenged my credentials for hanging with them. Sure, they knew I took Advanced Placement classes, but they didn't care. They didn't pay attention to social status; they didn't pay attention to much of anything. I think that's why I liked them so much. It felt good to belong, and they made it easy. What made me unique, I think, was my ability to shift from one group to another. In P.E.*, I learned how to blend in with the Hispanic gangstas and the Asian ninja-wannabes. Having the right friends made bully-avoidance much easier. (And yes, Sis, the fact that Marvin had a crush on you helped, too.) But don't get the idea that self-preservation was my primary goal. I liked these guys. As far as I was concerned, for the 55 minutes we spent together in the weight room every day, they were my people. And then the bell would ring, and I would find myself in Trig with the smart kids who were supposed to be my peers but wanted nothing to do with me . . . with one exception. I sat behind a Junior, a Japanese girl who didn't seem to mind if I slid forward in my chair and gouged my knee into her ever-cushy butt cheek. Ah, forbidden love. I was a Sophomore, she was a Junior, and a cheerleader to boot. We never said a single word to each other. No matter how many times I revisit these memories, I can't get over it. Trig, Calculus, AP English and American History, Chemistry and Physics -- that's when I felt truly discombobulated. I looked at the other bright kids as though they were extraterrestrials. Sure, I had a few friends in those classes, but it was difficult. I was their competition, and they were my competition. But even that is too simplistic. My chameleon skills failed me. Somehow, the only type of kid I couldn't imitate was the kind I actually was. You would think, wouldn't you, that adulthood had frozen my mutability; but it hasn't. I see it happening with every patient who enters my exam room. My vocal inflections, diction, and mannerisms change. I suppose this makes me a more effective clinician, but it is far from intentional. There are times when I would dearly love to suppress it. Just ask my staff how I get when some needy depressive darkens my office. (We call 'em brainsuckers.) Like any photo-booth picture, the one you see above is part of a trio. Wouldn't you know it? I'm someone different in all three.
It's Borges, the other one, that things happen to. -- Jorge Luis Borges, "Borges and I"D. *Physical education -- do non-Americans call it P.E.?