My best friends at that age were Richard de la Pena* and Betsy Matteis, with whom I had gone to school in elementary, junior high, high school, and on to community college. Richard and I still hang out every so often; he visits when he has a day off and we watch movies on the DVD player and talk about the "old days" of the early 1980s and women.
Betsy used to hang out with us until a few years ago, when she dropped out of sight. I am still very fond of her, not only because she's very smart and was instrumental in my early success in college, but because she has the distinction of being the first woman to French kiss me.
As for the "most interesting fun" part of the question, I don't recall anything particularly memorable, except maybe Betsy's 18th birthday party, which was when we played "Spin the Bottle" and I got to French kiss her.
I actually was a very gregarious fellow, if you exclude dating-wise. I made friends easily, and I seem to have made fairly good impressions on people....at least that's what I can assume from all the inscriptions on my three yearbooks from high school.
2. What was your favorite food? Have you outgrown your fondness for it? Was this food involved in a food fight?
I guess that at 17 my favorite food was GOOD Chinese food (or what Americans consider "Chinese," which it's certainly not). I have not outgrown my fondness for it, though the quality of "Chinese" restaurants in Miami has deteriorated quite a bit. (It seems that some restaurants hire Latino cooks who use way too much garlic and other spices common in Cuban and other Latin American cuisines...or they employ careless cooks who use old fat to fry egg rolls.) Of course, I liked Pizza Hut fare and Tex-Mex fast food, too. And no...no food fights!
3. Did you have a pet- real or imaginary? Were you the teacher's pet. Maybe you were the animal- fess up!
No, I didn't have a pet at that age. Pets came a bit later.
In school I got along with almost all my teachers, maybe because I was shy with girls my age and could talk to older people with more aplomb than with my peers, but I don't think I was a "teacher's pet." In my junior year, I DID fall passionately in love/lust with Ms. Jehl, my 31-year-old fifth period English teacher; nothing happened, but does that count?
4. What was your most memorable, life changing moment- in school or out. Did it involve any psychedelics?
My most memorable, life changing moment?
Being placed in a journalism class without my knowledge. I was befuddled as hell, since it was an elective and not a mandatory class, but being in Special Ed at the time (1980) gave counselors and teachers more control over my destiny than people realize. I had no choice over which school to attend (in 9th grade, supposedly "frosh" year but in those days part of junior high, the Special Ed students who would have attended Southwest High were transferred to South Miami High, separating me from most of the friends I had made when I was "mainstreamed" into regular classes....) or which electives to choose, at least for my first semester. All I was told by my 9th grade home room teacher was that at South Miami I'd be taking a writing class of some kind. He did NOT elaborate.
Imagine my surprise, then, when (very late on my first morning at South Miami) the powers-that-be finally find my schedule and I see Beginning Journalism A - Newspaper Reporting and Editing on the fourth period slot. I was scared, sure, but I fell in love with newspaper writing, stuck it out and went on to study journalism until my learning disability derailed my college career. (I'm an Epinions reviewer now in part because I learned how to write reviews in that class.)
5. Were you still a virgin at 17? Are you still?
Oh, I so badly wanted to get laid at 17! I even considered a proposition from my then-ex to have sex IF I would agree to be her boyfriend again after having been apart for three years. I really gave it a lot of thought, and we even started planning the when and where parts of a tryst, but I had been badly hurt by this girl a few times, so I thought better of it and we called it off. I did not lose my virginity until I was in my late 30s.
6. What was the most wicked thing you did? Did anyone find out? Were you grounded or just thrown in jail?
At 17, the most wicked thing I did was to drink a beer with another underage fellow to celebrate my first performance as a singer in the South Miami High chorus. I haven't told anyone...until now.
7. How many guys or girls did you date when you were 17? Do you still keep in touch with them? Is your current mate jealous?
Uh. I was a dateless wonder at that age. My ex wanted me back for some reason, but I always resisted. I had lots of crushes on other women, but I was too insecure to tell them, or they'd be already taken.
8. What was your favorite subject in school? Or are you a high school drop out? Did you get to skip a grade because you are a genius?
My favorite course was journalism, followed very closely by chorus. I am NOT a high school drop-out, and I was actually HELD BACK because I was in Special Ed. (They had a stupid rule that you had to be either 14 or very proficient in classwork to be promoted to junior high if you were in Special Ed.)
9. What was the make and the condition of the car you drove. Were you guilty of any traffic violations or worse? Were you randy?
I don't drive.
Was I randy? As in "horny?" Not 24/7, mind you, but sex was on my mind a lot. But...even though I had to wait till I was almost 37 to lose my virginity, I think it was worth the wait.
10. Did you know what you wanted to do with your life? Did you aspire to be a beauty queen, fireman or a Dentist? Or just be plain old brilliant and discover...
I wanted to be a world-famous writer, believe it or not.
11. Where did you live? The city, rural America, suburbia, out of this country... or in your own private, little world?
I lived where I still live, the outlying suburban sprawl of Miami. Same house since junior high.
12. Sisters and brothers are, were, still are.....
How many? Were you an only child? Do you wish you were an only child? Did you see to it that you were?
I have an older half-sister. We don't get along very well, even at our ages. In fact, we barely tolerate each other's existence, so maybe I do wish I were an only child.
13. Did you get into the college of your choice? Were you college bound? Did you end up with a great job flipping burgers? Are you famous now because of the choice you made then?
I wasn't exactly sure if I could get into college. At 17, I was not even thinking about college. I did, eventually, go to Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus for a while, became a Dean's List student for many semesters, climbed the ranks of the student paper from Staff Writer to Managing Editor, then dropped out when I flunked remedial math...twice.
14. What was your favorite music, group, singer at 17? Do you listen to them today? Did your parents ever break your records? Did you play an instrument or in a group?
I was, and still am, an odd duck. I liked classical music and film scores. I'm sure my poor mom got sick of hearing the music from Star Wars so much, and even though I still listen to that every so often, my taste has become a bit more varied. As for performing, I never did play any instruments, but I did join the school choir. Surely that counts for something.
15. Tell us about your prom... Theme, date, outfit. What dance was popular then. What was your "after the prom" fun. I dare you to post a picture of yourself, your date.
I had promised myself that I would only go to my prom IF I had a girlfriend. That was something I had sworn the moment I stepped inside South Miami High. My ex did try to get me to go in 1983, but since we were not dating, I did not go.
16. Did you belong to any after school clubs or sports? Were you ever in the newspaper because of these activities?
I was a geek, so my only after-school activities were the TV Club (I was among the first members of Cobra Media Productions) and (when I had rides home) I stayed after school to help with newspaper production chores that could not be done in class time.
I was also a singer in the school chorus, and even though most of our practice time was during our regularly scheduled class period, we did have to stay after school on the afternoon before a night-time performance.
17. The biggie and final question... Would you ever do it all over again if you could? Remember the drama and the hormones and the angst before you answer.
* Updated on February 18, 2017: My friend Richard passed away in June 2007, after a brief but valiant battle with cancer. I had originally written this in 2004 for Epinions, when he was still alive. When I posted this to my blog six years ago, I forgot to make an appropriate edit.
© 2012 Alex Diaz-Granados. All Rights Reserved