I stumbled through my late last semester at Fresno High as I suppose most people stumble through theirs, wondering what adventures lay ahead while feeling the first inklings of what we would later identify as nostalgia. (The French must have a word that means "prescient nostalgia.") That is, my future had been decided--I was moving to Berkeley for college--and everything else that mattered in school had come to a close--high school basketball, my senior romance. We were just living out the final weeks attached to our familiar cliques, performing our class duties, eating lunch at the same hangouts, everything that until then had defined us as we approached that looming, transformative (we hoped) cusp. The end game for most students revolved around the prom, who would go with whom, which parties would offer the most debauchery, boutonnieres and cumberbuns and orchid corsages and waxed cars, or maybe even a limo for the Fresno wealthy. I don't know. I didn't go.
Instead, shy as I was, I accepted an invitation from the lovely and intelligent Cristina, a talented musician, to avoid the teenage atrocity that was the prom and see George Carlin instead. It was one of the great evenings of my youth. We'd of course heard the seven words bit from Class Clown. Everybody had. The funniest thing about the bit is its pure reasonableness, its demystification of language in a way that would later help inform my move from physics to poetry in college. Cris and I laughed so hard that warm spring night that we were sure no one at the prom had an evening that approached ours. Carlin was funny and intelligent, pacing the stage, delivering his lines perfectly, varying enough so that those who'd heard the record would still be surprised. Carlin was a master, an accessible genius.
Cris and I left, tears in our eyes from the laughter, and talked for awhile about the show, about music (I remember trying to make some argument about keyboards being superior; she was into brass and had even jammed with Tower of Power. Obviously she made better points), and about the future (the cusp and all) that would take us away from Fresno and from what for me had become a wonderful but too brief friendship. But the evening remains, in all its polysemously profane glory and celebration of the language of the Angles and the Saxons, and "shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits" became a generation's mantra against fake propriety and, for me, a doorway to nostalgia of a wonderful evening. So, thanks George for your wonderful assaults on our disingenuous culture, and to you, Cristina, wherever you are and whatever you're doing. I hope your memories of that night, our little anti-prom, are as fond as mine.