I didn’t send any words of encouragement. I didn’t want any message to be my “last” message. When the ventilator came out I held off talking to my parents for as long as possible. I didn’t want to know the odds. I didn’t want to make it real.
This is Reed we’re talking about. He’s trekked all over Europe and summited Machu Picchu. He still needs to climb the finished stairs of Sagrada Familia. Nothing could vanquish that smile, that heart.
Rather than live in regret of what I didn’t do, I’m going to celebrate what I did.
This column focuses on popular culture such as games, music, movies and anything else that fits under the umbrella term of media.
Bear with me as the scope expands a bit.
When I first entered D113 my freshman year and saw the mosaicked chessboard made of concrete I could tell the room wasn’t like anything else in the building. Almost every square inch of wall was covered by classical art, from Da Vinci to David to Dali. It was a Renaissance room for a renaissance man.
And after that first year at a new school it became my hangout for almost every lunch period. Reed encouraged it by letting anyone use his microwave. He also occasionally ordered pizza topped with sausage and green chile. Being a kid from the East Coast it was the first time I ever had it on pizza and I fell in love.
In between bells and bites a group of us would play cards. I learned hearts and spades in elementary school but it became a nice refresher course. Yet, once Reed taught us the rules, the most popular game was bridge. Everyone would try to partner up with the master to guarantee a win, but sometimes we got cocky and opted to go head-to-head.
Eventually those cards gave way to Apples to Apples, a game about matching cards with adjectives on them to noun cards. It’s like Cards Against Humanity but much more family-friendly. Winning combinations were either literal, hilarious because they made no sense, or highly inappropriate. We were high schoolers after all.
When we wanted something more challenging we’d play Trivial Pursuit and most times it became a game of everyone versus Reed. The edition was so old that it used “U.S.S.R.” instead of “Russia” but Reed was hesitant to upgrade because he would have to relearn the pop culture answers. I remember folks joking about Reed’s age, especially if the question involved dinosaurs. “You only knew that because you were alive during the Cretaceous period,” they said.
Then things got digital when Reed bought an iPad. Like gold miners we coveted it because of its shiny newness. It’s amazing that it was never severely damaged since he often trusted it people who went through a phone a month. During lunch I logged into my Netflix account and we watched the best episodes of “Saturday Night Live.” My friend Hayden reenacted Chris Farley’s motivational speaker sketch enthusiastically every chance he got.
The room became a source for entertainment after school as well. Practicing for the quiz game Knowledge Bowl wasn’t as always serious as taking a test. Inside jokes and goofs abounded between questions with the antics only increasing on road trips to regional and state competitions.
And though it wasn’t a game or show, some of my best high school memories were at “Layout Nights.” These were nights where student editors and writers put on the finishing touches to The Alamosan, the school newspaper, once a month.
My friend Toni convinced me to join the newspaper class my sophomore year to be one of her feature writers. I enjoyed it so much that I frequently finished my assignments way ahead of the deadline.
One month Maura, the editor of the opinion section, needed assistance in filling a hole in the paper and I volunteered. I was writing two articles a month from then on. By the end of the year I was the editor of the section, one of the first underclassmen to be given a seniority role.
As an editor the nights became mandatory. Though my normal duties were done I assisted others in any way possible. My byline was only on one article on one page but the quality of the paper reflected on everyone.
Yet just because it sounds like a stressful evening doesn’t mean it was nonstop work. Teenagers know how to unwind. Pizza and other junk food seemed to grow out of the wooden tables. Kids hijacked Reed’s speaker system to DJ the latest hits. One time I plugged in my iPod and the newsroom rocked out to Electric Light Orchestra’s greatest hits. I can still hear Reed belting out the chorus to “Evil Women.”
The room existed on its own plane. Whether during class, lunch or an afterschool program, time moved slowly as students learned lessons not found in textbooks. He was Plato and we were enrolled at the school of Athens.
Reed created a safe, welcoming, and loving space that was available to all students, day or night.