Monday, June 02, 2014

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 117

The Time Mookie Laughed His Ass Off At Graduation

Ah yes, the graduation season. The point in one's life where one chapter ends and a new one begins. No matter if it's a high school or college graduation, it's a nice milestone in one's life and that piece of paper you receive will help you remember you achieved it.

At some point during your formative years, your teachers and parents may have told (or will tell) you that your high school graduation is one of those days in your life that you will never forget. Unfortunately for me that isn't totally true. I can only recall small snippets of things that happened during my high school graduation, and they aren't even that memorable. The things I am probably supposed to remember like walking across the stage to receive my diploma, and what our student-elected speakers said during their speeches are totally LOST in my recollection of things. It's extra odd I don't remember either of these things because I actually did receive my diploma, and because I was in the same house where the student speakers wrote and practiced their speeches before commencement. I mean I actually heard this speech 2 or 3 times prior to graduation. I don't remember any of it.

What I do remember about my graduation day are these 3 things:
1. My friend "Rick's*" parents were sitting up next to the stage and took a close-up picture of me waiting in line to walk up and receive my diploma. I gave a smart-ass smile, and to this day it is one of my favorite pictures taken of me.

2. My Mom cried. She was proud, and that's what proud Mom's do. And;

3. I ended up hysterically laughing (as did my friend Rick) during one of the speakers that addressed the crowd for something that wasn't even supposed to be funny. Why did I laugh? Because of the curmudgeon giving it, that's why.

"Mr. Ray Cowherd*" was a person in our community that EVERYONE knew. He had been a member of the high school faculty for many years, an instructor of the summer Driver's Ed program for many years, and a community volunteer for various organizations. Ray was from the "old school" way of doing things, and it should be remembered that he once lost his job over being this way. During his employ in the local school district, he once asked a smart-mouthed kid to do something - to which the smart-mouth kid told him to "fuck off" or something like that. Old Ray didn't take kindly to that - and slapped the kid across the face. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that it didn't take long for the school board to fire his ass over this. However, for some reason that is still lost on me today, virtually the entire high school student body skipped school one day and marched down to the school superintendent's office and protested that Ray be given his job back. The administration caught wind of the pending protest prior to it happening and threatened detention/suspension if anyone skipped school to partake. It didn't work, and the administrative offices had 400 kids chanting and yelling outside their windows to give Ray his job back. I don't recall the circumstances, but they amazingly relented and re-hired Ray to his former position. I don't know how that happened then, and it sure as hell wouldn't happen nowadays.

You would think this set-back in the community's eyes would make Ray change his ways - but it didn't. If you had him as an instructor for Driver's Ed, you knew him as someone that would fall asleep on long highway drives, and if the kids were getting out of hand during classroom instruction - he was not shy about calling the kids "A-holes." Rick would tell me everyday about how Ray would talk to them like a sailor and call certain kids "A-holes" all the time. Granted these kids were being A-holes, but that is beside the point. The best part wasn't so much his colorful language, it was the delivery and intonation of his statements. Like every old guy in the history of the world, he had his own little sayings and euphemisms that were lost on everyone but himself. While this did nothing to stop the kids from doing whatever they were doing, what it did do was facilitate a bunch of kids to do an impression of Ray Cowherd. EVERYONE had an impression of Ray Cowherd, and no matter how bad or good it was - it was comic gold. It was so good that people would often do their Ray Cowherd impersonation to Ray Cowherd, and half the time he didn't even catch on to it. If he did finally figure it out, he'd call them "an A-hole" or probably something else a teacher should never say to a student.

For years we did this impression. You know how if you do something enough that it gets to be hilarious without even trying to be? That was the Ray Cowherd impression - Hilarious from beginning to end. The only thing funnier than hearing a Ray Cowherd impression was listening to the real Ray Cowherd.

That brings us to graduation day.

We were all seated and listening to everyone give their speeches when the moment occurred. They had a segment in the proceedings where they were announcing the winners of scholarships from various local organizations. It was then that they announced that Ray Cowherd, the spokesperson for "Dollars for Scholars" would be awarding their scholarship. I still remember thinking to myself "Oh my God. They are going to actually let him talk."

Ray stepped to the podium, and in classic "Ray" form (think of an old man who yammers on when he talks) he addressed the gymnasium.

"DOLLARS FOR SCHOLARS! Who are we? We're uhhhm. An organization..."

That is all I remember because I LOST IT. Rick, who wasn't even sitting next to me - HE LOST IT. I remember sitting there laughing so hard I had tears coming out of my eyes. Ray continued on and awarded his $100 scholarship to someone deserving I'm sure, but I have no idea who or what happened. What I do know is that I have seen 3 different videos of my high school graduation, and in every single one of them the students are all laughing during the Ray Cowherd address. If you look extra closely, you can see two particular graduation caps bowed forward and moving as though their wearers are laughing a bit too hard at something. On one side is me, and the one up a few rows is Rick. I'm pretty sure you can see us looking over at one another during the proceedings and visibly laughing. When Ray finished his award presentation, normalcy returned and the rest of graduation was as I said before: Unmemorable.

I do not remember actually receiving my diploma, and I do not remember even saying "goodbye" to any of my classmates that day. However what I do remember and will never forget are the stammering 10 words Ray Cowherd delivered before I laughed uncontrollably during my graduation commencement.

It continues to make me laugh, even to this day. Yes I'm weird. But if you know me or read this blog regularly...you know this.

Congrats Class of 2014. I hope your day is a memorable and forgetful as my graduation was.


(*) - Names changed to protect the guilty/innocent

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