While i was in the marching band, I joined the school wrestling team. That didn’t last long. I wasn’t very good at it. I can skate and ride a bike well, but I’m generally pretty terrible at athletics. The assistant coach of the team, Father Howarth, was a sleazy queen who seemed like maybe he was from new england or chicago or upstate new york. He had a booming queer voice that was always talking down. None of that is why I quit, though. The amount of TIME required by these activities was staggering. Wrestling wanted you every day from 2:30, immediately after 8th (last) period let out, until about 5. Plus, once the meets started, there would be lots of saturday afternoons and weekday evenings. Add that to the situation of arriving at school at 7:30 for marching band, and spending my lunch break trying to learn how to play the sax well enough to not flunk that class(?!). What was I thinking? It wasn’t sustainable. I crashed hard after a few weeks. I didn’t even have enough time to pretend to do my homework.
One day they loaded all of us greco romans onto a bus and drove us to Cardinal Dougherty, a nearby co-ed high school, where we all lined up in a gym in our underwear with all the other wrestlers in our region, hundreds of boys, to have “skin caliper tests”. That is, determining how much of your body weight was fat. What secret arch diocesan predator cooked up this situation? I quit the team a few days later, after Steve Crummedy, a freshman who looked about 25, held me down in some real bad body odor hold at practice.
However, in that underwear line, with my buddy Eric, who I had again talked into joining something, I met Paul Green. He was a punk rocker. Eric and I were skate punks and we had prep school skater hair. Paul had kind of a devil lock a few weeks before, but he put peroxide on it or something so they made him cut it off. Now he had a crew cut. Me and him and Eric all stood in line in our briefs with our special hair, talking about music.
This was my first time meeting Paul. I didn’t have any classes with him. He was super smart. All track 1 college prep classes for Paul. However, at a school of 1700 kids, I spotted the dozen alternative ones after a few weeks and knew all their names. I wanted to meet them all and talk about music with them and learn about bands from them because there wasn’t a internet yet. The rumor was that Paul was so smart, he would cut class all the time, then show up on the days of tests, take the test, get 100 and then not come back till the next time. That’s all bullshit, I’m sure, but it’s still a good story, and it illustrates the mystique that Paul had managed to build around himself. He was larger than life. He knew all about government and politics and communism and fascism and made bold statements about them and other facets of culture and subculture.
He indicated that he was taking guitar lessons from Doug Mapp, the guy that Eric and I signed up to take bass lessons with. Dammit! Paul’s not even IN the marching band, I thought to myself. I could have just signed up for lessons without the time suck I’d gotten into with the school’s music program?!? And Doug teaches bass AND guitar?!? How did I not know that?!? I was so fuckin pissed. Like I said, Paul seemed to have it together and be a few steps ahead of me. Even there with his crew cut, mostly naked.
Another time, I ran into Paul in the cafeteria, with our mutual friend, Jerry Razzler. We all talked about music. I said that the Sex Pistols were the first punk band, cause I was a fuckin idiot who had just watched Sid & Nancy about 2 dozen times. He laughed and said ” not even close! The Velvet Underground were the first punk band.” We were both wrong. The correct answer is The Stooges, but his answer was interesting. I tried it on for a bit, but no.
Meanwhile, Eric and I had our first bass lessons with Mister Douglas Mapp. He was very cranky, but man, could he play! His fingers floated over the frets and beautiful round bottomed brilliance rumbled out of that bass amp. He showed me that to play the bass, one needed to be able to finger the 1st 4 frets (the biggest ones!) with the 4 fingers of your left hand. Quite a stretch! Totally impossible unless you gripped the neck from below. That lesson has stuck with me to this day. Every time I play guitar or bass, I come from below, like JAWS. In the lesson, I got to use the school’s bass. I don’t remember what kind it was, but it was big and beautiful.
Needless to say, I didn’t stick with my lessons. I think I was one and done. I was already totally overcommitted and hating life. If Doug was more friendly or fun or in any way encouraging, I might have stuck it out. How was I gonna practice though? I didn’t even own a bass. What a dipshit. A few years later in geometry class, Chris Wilson, a bass student of Mr. Mapp’s and one of the few black kids at my notoriously racist, overwhelmingly white high school, turned around to me and said. “Doug told me, in order to play the guitar or bass well, you need 3 things.” He pointed to them on himself as he continued, “A afro, black skin, and a ten inch dick!” We all cracked up.
Paul Green didn’t last too long at that school. I think he finished that year and moved on to a few different alternative and not so alternative public schools. Over the next bunch of years, I’d see him occasionally on south street or at punk shows, some of which he was playing. He was a great guitarist. Very technical, yet very soulful and expressive, like Frank Zappa. Great tones and all. He ended up starting The Paul Green School Of Rock and revolutionizing the way kids learn music. He’d organize them into bands. An approach that exponentially increases the speed at which players learn to sound good. Sort of a rock and roll buddy system. There’s an amazing documentary about it called Rock School. I also have to think the craptastic Jack Black vehicle, School Of Rock, must have been inspired by Paul in some way, no?