Friday, November 25, 2011

10th Grade Spanish Done Right

10th grade at the main campus of Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines, Florida was strategy every day. There were so many students on that one campus alone, probably well over 2,000, that it's a wonder the buildings didn't bulge on all sides. It was two levels, and one stairwell to get to the second level, near the cafeteria, was so crowded between classes that you had to hold your breath just to have enough space between you and the person in front of you. If you didn't have to buy lunch in the cafeteria, then you didn't spend time there. Far too crowded, unless of course you were part of a clique that hung out there, but I wasn't, and didn't know of any since I wasn't very social, only when conversations occasionally formed around me and I was sucked in. I had a friend named Stephen, who was much the same way, and we chatted in the morning and during the day, but never hung out together outside of school. It was just that way for me: You go to school, do what's required by the system, and go home. After homework, the rest of the time is yours.

Spanish class was always in the morning, first class I think. I don't think that was why I failed, though. I dreaded it. All those phrases to learn, the different pronunciations, the sentences, and there was one assignment I remember in which you had to write an essay in Spanish. I was so inept at the assignments that I failed, and summer school was the only choice. It's ironic that I failed Spanish considering my newfound interest in Mexico, though I don't think I'll visit. I'll probably study Spanish anew because of it, but because I'm not confined within the pressures of a classroom, it'll be easier.

Mom and Dad kept on me about my grades, but failing Spanish wasn't such an issue. I'd go to summer school, hopefully get a better grade, and that was that. In previous years, I had gone to summer school voluntarily anyway to get ahead for the next school year, and it was because of this diligence that I didn't have to go to Hollywood Hills High at all for the last half of my 12th grade year. There was an arrangement made so I wasn't marked absent, and I got to stay home.

To give you an idea of when I retook Spanish, X-Men was the most hyped movie of the summer. Entertainment Weekly had a huge spread about it, from the cast to the plot to the special effects, ahead of its July 14th release. Movies played a major part in my Spanish class in summer school, since that's really all I remember about the class, and standing up for what I believed in, even when it pissed off the teacher and in turn got the class pissed off at me.

We were a good group, a few class clowns, but none that stood out to such disruptive effect. Friendly, temporary acquaintances all. The teacher liked the rhythm of the class, how lessons went by so smoothly, and I'm thinking it must have been a Friday when she decided to show a movie in lieu of doing anything else related to Spanish for the latter half of the day.

But it wasn't a good one. It was Fools Rush In, starring Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry, back when Friends got him movies and he wasn't as good a comedic actor as he is now. I had seen it a couple of years before and hated it, mainly because the director, Andy Tennant, did not and still does not know how to stage comedy. This is another example of influences previously being unknown. Part of the movie takes place in Las Vegas, which I feel can be home for me, and part of it was filmed in Taos, New Mexico, which I want to visit one day. Back then, I didn't know anything about either, and only knew about where I lived in Florida, what was around me in that area, and where I had been in Florida.

After the teacher told us that she was putting on Fools Rush In, I loudly groaned, and it was enough to make her change her mind and continue with classwork. And my classmates were ticked at me. But I didn't care. I wasn't going to sit through the same bad movie again. There are times when you should do for others, when you should bite your tongue, understand that it makes the other person happy, and just go through with it. This wasn't that time.

The last day of class arrived and the teacher decided to put on a movie since the class was over and there was nothing else to do. This time, it was The Mask of Zorro, starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Anthony Hopkins. I was much happier, especially because there were swordfights.

There are many instances in life in which you have to go through the crap to get to the treasure. That was one of them. I didn't care that my classmates were glaring at me, because even though I didn't enjoy some of the classwork, it was required in order to get a good grade. I had to do it. But even though I still had to sit in the class during a movie, I didn't want to have to suffer through what I didn't like before. Sometimes I stand up for what I believe in even if it inconveniences others. I don't do it often, only when I'm confronted by something that could threaten my wellbeing. This was also before I got heavily into reviewing movies, and saw other movies that were a lot worse, before I developed Teflon skin that could let me write a review of a bad movie and move on without being bothered further by it.

I'm most proud of not being affected by my classmates glaring at me and probably hurling a few complaints at me which have long been forgotten. One of my favorite songs is "Englishman in New York" by Sting, his tribute to raconteur and staunch individualist Quentin Crisp, who's one of my heroes. In that song is this lyric, which is one of my favorite quotes: "Be yourself, no matter what they say." I had been living it before I even knew about Quentin Crisp, and only now did I realize that I was.