September 30, 1976
On September 30 each year, for some reason I can't get through the day without, at some point, remembering September 30, 1976. That was the year, 30 years ago yesterday, that I got to school and something was weird.
I was 11 years old and starting sixth grade at La Veta Elementary school in Orange. We'd moved from Clarks Green, Pennsylvania six months earlier, resulting in a sea change that my sisters and I are probably still adjusting to. I'd been dropped into a grade school in Anaheim where even the girls traveled in gangs, and, as mentioned here once before, a bully named Ernest decided immediately upon meeting me that something about four-eyed Jewish kids with big vocabularies from Clarks Green, Pennsylvania really bothered him.
After a couple of months of playing tetherball alone at recess, then breaking land speed records running home from whomever was chasing me after school each day, I transferred to La Veta Elementary, where each day I waited with Mark Woollett for the bus to take us to a school full of wack jobs like ourselves. They called it the "ELP program," and then later "MGM." where "gifted" kids could seal themselves off from the "regulars," who, like Ernest, often wanted to beat us silly just on principle.
Sixth grade started and I found myself a like-minded wack job who sometimes comments in this blog as Dave K. Together we created an alternate universe made up of skateboarding, cartoons, theatrical rock and roll bands and making reel-to-reel tape shows based on Monty Python skits. This lasted until the evil Annie Zatlin and Diane Rader interrupted our self-contained world, then kicked us to the curb to remind us that freaks like us had no business feeding pomagranites after school to upper-class sixth grade society girls like them.
On September 30, 1976, none of this had yet happened. Dave and I were becoming fast friends, though I did find it strange when he'd worn a paper Groucho Marx moustache and eyebrows to the last day of fifth grade.
On September 30, we both arrived at school with the vague but uncanny idea that something awful or strange was going to happen. For the entire day, we sat on fences and stood apart from everyone else, convinced that the world might end on September 30, 1976. I remember that I was wearing my yellow baseball sleeves and my Garanimals jeans, and that the ground could have opened up and swallowed Orange, California whole that day and it wouldn't have surprised us one bit.
There was a strange noise in the background all day, too. Sounded like jets coming from far away, and it was there the entire time. Dave K. and I couldn't figure out what was going to happen, just that we were certain something was going to happen. Everyone else thought we were crazy. Crazier than they were, which is saying something. As I learned many years later, when we had a reunion for all of the kids who were in the ELP program that year, we were quite an eccentric bunch.
The day ended, Dave and I went got on our buses and went home to our respective houses. Nobody chased me home, thank God, though by the end of the year Tino Younger had identified me as his archenemy, and continued to think so right up to our 10th high school reunion in 1993.
The next day, October 1, Dave K. came charging up to me. "There was an earthquake yesterday," he boomed. It had registered something like 3.1 on the Richter scale, so we hadn't felt it. But knowing that something out of the ordinary had happened, some act of God however minor, proved to us that our experience from the day before was proof of intuition, not lunacy.
I later learned that composter Louis Fourtestier died that day, so maybe we were assigned to share some of the oddness that his family must have felt. James Dean died on September 30, 1955, and on September 30, 1659, Peter Stuyvesant decreed that no tennis shall be played during religious services, and in 1935 "Porgy and Bess" premiered in Boston.
So you can look at it a few ways. Dave and I got caught in some kind of "Twilight Zone" seam that day, and it made enough of an impact that I remember it still. Did we waste an entire day of our 11-year-old lives worrying about a disaster that never came? Or did we identify each other as kids who were wired a little bit differently, but enough the same to catch the same weird vibe simultaneously?