I spent my high school years in a small Texas town named Splendora. Splendora, Texas. You have to say the name that way when referring to a small town in Texas. The whole thing, town and state. Humble, Texas. Conroe, Texas. I don’t know why, you just have to.
Moving to Texas from New York City was traumatic. For a myriad of reasons, I never fit in. No need to go into that now. I’m sure you can imagine. From then on, that hybridity stayed with me.
Here is one tale that encapsulates the quality of daily life in Splendora.
I rarely cut classes. Mostly because there wasn’t much to do in the neighborhood, I didn’t have a car, and even with a car, the closest civilization was at least half an hour’s drive. On occasion, I would wrangle a good friend into going somewhere, and great adventures were to be had, typically in Houston, doing things certainly no one in Splendora High School would ever understand.
One time, two classmates and I went into Houston to the Museum of Fine Arts, and then to eat Chinese food in the tiny Houston Chinatown. We were mature, cultured, worldly, and better than everyone else. And, of course, we got caught. Our government teacher summoned us to her desk and chided us for skipping. I think she was mildly amused. Her comment was, “You three are the only ones here who would skip school to do something aesthetic.”
The next stop was the vice-principal’s office. Now here was an interesting man, a quintessential Splendora, Texas man. He went by his nickname, not a real name. He was a rangy man who wore polyester western leisure suits in all sorts of disco days colors, particularly powder blue, weirdly unnameable green, burgundy, or..ew..plaid. It was a style consistent with the era. With these suits, he wore yoked western shirts with pearl snap buttons. He accessorized the outfit with two-toned pointed-toe boots, a western belt with his nickname imprinted on the back, and a large metal belt buckle. As expected, a thick wad of keys dangled at his side and a skoal can ring bulged out of his back pocket. Oh, and let’s not forget the immaculately groomed broom of a mustache. I can appreciate the Anchorman look today.
This man made his living as the “ag teacher” of our school. He spent his days teaching young Future Farmers of America how to castrate pigs. The squealing sounds of those lessons made health class somewhat difficult.
You can see why I had a difficult time after having grown up in the ghetto. Bacon should come only from the grocery store.
So the vice-principal had all three of us delinquents sit in those hard, unyielding chairs in his office. As his job required, he scolded us. He had to confronting three good students, who had good grades, and who never caused any trouble, and whose infraction was….art appreciation. And there was also some Lowenbrau involved, to be completely honest. He attempted to shame us for our misbehavior. With a grave look, he tried to impress upon us the seriousness of the situation. He shook his head and intoned deeply, “I just can’t believe y’all cut school to go off and do something aesthetic.” He even stumbled a little over the word, probably hiding a laugh and an eyeroll. Yes, his disappointment in our aesthetic proclivities was palpable, or so I thought.
I’m not sure how we got away without suffering any consequences, but we did. The next day, I ate my Chinese food leftovers for lunch, content in believing I would leave Splendora at the first possible opportunity.