Tag Archives: Keith Nagel

Throwback Thursday: Longwood High School’s International Student Organization

Some of my fondest memories of Longwood High School are of the International Student Organization (ISO).  I met a hell of a lot of my best friends in life there (or joined the after-school club at about the same time that they did): Tim Gatto, Carrie Harbach, Shoaib Kamal, Sabir Naseer, Rich Schulz, Ahmad Butt, Julianne Whitehead, Keith Nagel and a whole gang of other great people.

It was a terrific idea for a club at Longwood.  Suburban New York wasn’t as diverse as New York City, but our school had a disproportionate number of international students.  This was partly because Longwood was less than a mile from Brookhaven National Laboratory, which drew employees from throughout the world.  (I was surprised during my freshman year at a Southern college when people asked about it — Brookhaven actually is well known elsewhere in the country.)

The ISO was a club for both international students and their American friends.  It was a hell of a fun time, and a recreational way to learn about other countries and their cultures.  We took a lot of field trips to Manhattan — more so than any other LHS club, I think.  (The credit for that goes to Gerda Barber, who was an outstanding faculty advisor.)  The atmosphere was fantastic, and, as I said above, I made lifelong friends there.

Carrie allowed me to swipe the below photos from her Facebook.  Thanks, Bud!  I THINK they are all of ISO activities.  (My memory is not so hot.)  That one shot of me in the 70’s-tastic red Adidas shirt has GOT to be one that was taken earlier than high school.  Because I look … nine.  (Either that or I was so sullen because everybody else had beaten me to puberty; I’m not sure.)  [EDIT: Carrie just told me that the red Adidas shirt pic was from JUNIOR high!!!]

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Throwback Thursday: the 1972 Plymouth Duster

I had one.  Did you?

No … I was not driving in 1972.  I was given the car by a kindly aunt when I was a senior at Longwood High School in 1989.  It had an 8-cylinder V8 engine instead of the less powerful Slant-6, and it kicked ass.  I loved that V8 engine far more than I loved the “V8” vegetable “drink,” which I once drank on a dare in high school and threw up all over the street in front of my house.  Really flooring that Duster on Sunrise Highway (on a weekday night, when there was no beach country weekend traffic) was an experience I’ll never forget.

Only weird guys named their cars, despite what Holllywood tells us; those that did gave them the names of girls.  But I was a really, REALLY weird guy, so I named mine “Bucephalus,” after the war horse of Alexander the Great.

I loved being able to drive my friends Keith Nagel, Carrie Harbach, Ahmad Butt and Julianne Whitehead to school.  They rather appreciated it too, I think.  But if they were sitting in the back seat, they had to remember to be careful where they put their feet.

You see, a car manufactured in 1972 actually was already a bit old by the time 1989 rolled around, and my mighty war horse had a rust problem.  It existed primarily in the car’s floor.  Portions were eaten away entirely, making my Bucephalus a hell of a lot like the Flintstones’ car.  You could watch Route 25 and Longwood Road just speed and blur along beneath you if you rode with me.  It was fun!  Or not, I dunno — I was in the driver’s seat where the floor was intact.

Vroom.

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Throwback Thursday: the Commodore 64

[WARNING: THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR “TERMINATOR SALVATION” (2009).  (NO, SERIOUSLY.)]

Pictured below is the Commodore 64, which was the most popular brand of personal computer in the 1980’s.  My mother bought me one, and I still feel guilty about it.  Because it cost more than $600 and, frankly, I can’t remember successfully accomplishing any conceivable  purpose with it, ever.

Let me explain.  I think maybe a lot of people were in my position.  The advent of PC’s was a strange phenomenon among average American households.  Advertising promised us that computers represented “the future” or an opportunity to “discover new worlds.”

One of the greatest lessons life has taught me is that, when people employ only vague and abstract language when they speak, it usually means that they have no facts or concrete information to support their message.  And retrospect strongly suggests that at least some of those ads were simply false advertising.

Look at the one in the third picture below.  The ad ambitiously advises parents that if they want their “child” to “get into a good college,” the Commodore 64 could help them “rack up points on … the SAT test.”  And, for this actionable information, we could thank that trusted standby, “a recent study.”

Well, first of all, the copywriters for this ad sound pretty unfamiliar with “the SAT test,” because there was no “SAT test.”  It was simply the “Scholastic Aptitude Test,” or “SAT.”  If you called it “the SAT test,” that meant you were too stupid to recognize a simple redundancy, and that might actually prevent you from “getting into a good college.”

If you were wise, and did want to “rack up points” on “the SAT test,” you took the PSAT for practice.  Then you got a hold of that “Princeton Review” study guide.  Whether the “study guide” helped you to simply beat the test, or give you an unfair advantage, is a tangential issue that I won’t explore here.  I will tell you that it sure as hell boosted my score, and I was no goddam Copernicus, especially back in those days.  But never once did I hear about anyone using a home computer to boost their score.

So, in 1985 or so, this slightly befuddled junior high school student wasn’t too clear about what I was supposed to do with a computer.  I knew it was a status symbol in some circles, yet a social liability in others.  (“Nerd!”)  I knew that I should be thankful for being the recipient of such a pricey toy, and I was aware that its presence vaguely suggested that I would eventually be college bound, as my siblings had been.

Every kid back then wanted to know if computers could be used to change their grades remotely, as Matthew Broderick had done in 1983’s “War Games.”  Well, I certainly never approached the task, as we did not have a modem.  My far smarter friend on the next street, Keith Nagel, actually DID have a modem, but if he ever penetrated either the Longwood School District or the Defense Department, he never told me about it.  (Yes, kids, back then, modems, “monitors,” and “disk drives” were all things that were purchased separately — beyond that $600 you paid for the “computer,” which was housed in the bulky keyboard itself.)

I learned all of this in Mr. Anderson’s “Computer Literacy” class via the Longwood School District.  Forget website design or online marketing — when I was a kid, computers were so new that we endeavored merely to be “literate” about them.  The curriculum included helpful black and white illustrations of modems, monitors and disk drives, so that we knew the differences among them.  If you wanted to sound especially computer savvy, then you referred to a monitor as a “C.R.T.,” or “cathode ray tube.”  We were actually tested on such illustrations.

For some reason, the difference between ROM (Read Only Memory) and RAM (Random Access Memory) was considered crucial to “computer literacy.”  We also learned how to write a simple “loop” program in … Basic, I think.

True to form for teachers in the Longwood School District, Mr. Anderson was a terrific educator.  That didn’t stop various efforts by students to traumatize him and make him regret certain choices in life.

The “burnout kids” (metal-heads, in the more modern parlance) were a group I rarely mixed with, and they were a junior high subculture not known for academic excellence.  But when it came time to master the rudimentary 80’s-era text-to-speech program, they REALLY applied themselves.

Making a computer talk, and say whatever you wanted, was considered pretty cool back then. Turns out the burnouts were a hell of a lot smarter than anyone gave them credit for, because they mastered it quickly — far faster than I did.  Of course they programmed it to taunt the teacher.

“WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING, MR. ANDERSON?!”  I can still hear that electronic voice, and then the burnouts mimicking it ad infinitum.  Mr. Anderson got pissed and had to tell them to knock it off.  It was beautiful.  It is almost EXACTLY what the HAL 9000 said to Dave Bowman on the doomed Jupiter mission, even though I’m pretty sure nobody in that class (including me) had yet seen Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  Maybe those burnout kids made fun of me once in a while, but the nascent subversive in me just had to admire that handiwork.

Wait … I … might have succeeded in running a really cool PC game called “Impossible Mission” on the Commodore once.  (See the second photo.)  That was until I got dust on the disk or something, and the game malfunctioned.  (All the tunnels and elevators disappeared, and my guy kept running around in this gray … space or purgatory or something.)

By the time I entered college, I had swapped out my Commodore for an “electronic typewriter.”  That, kids, was a sort of hybrid between a computer and a typewriter.  Think of the the “Terminator Salvation” character, Marcus Wright.  (Or … y’know, think about Bryce Dallas Howareyadarlin’ as Kate Connor, because that’s far more pleasant.  Just don’t think about the movie’s script.)

You could carry an electronic typewriter.  Also … it felt right.  By the time I reached 18, I already dreamed of being the next Stephen King.  And a traditional typewriter seemed somehow emblematic of that.

I even took that typewriter with me to Mary Washington College’s Bushnell Hall in the Fall of 1990.  I kinda never used it, though.  I was having far too fine a time as a first-semester college freshman to turn in any typewritten papers, if memory serves.  My class attendance rate was maybe … 80 percent?  Eighty-five percent?

I wound up on “academic probation.”  My typewriter wound up at the bottom of my closet.

Oh, well.  At least I had gotten “into a good college.”

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This makes me think of Shawn Degnan, Jason Huhn and Adam Huhn, and telling ghost stories under the porch.

Not to mention Peter Hughes and Keith Nagel, who loved the movies as I did.

Also Michael Wagner.  (We won’t call him “Mikey” here, because he eventually grew to hate that.)  If you can somehow read this, Michael, then know that you still inhabit the fine summer memories of this kid from the old neighborhood.

All the kids explored the woods.  You left the path ahead of us, and are now finding the places that the rest of us can only guess about.  Rest easy, Fellow Adventurer.

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