zen shit

more readings from the tao of col

In 1st grade I won a statewide poetry contest with my poem “Flowers Have Powers.”

Flowers have powers to smell
I love them, I love them so much
I love to climb so high
I love to climb so high in the sky
My flowers and I

The judges were impressed with my grasp of the metaphor, I was later told by my Mom, the English teacher. Governor Bill Bradley sent me a letter. They gave me an award at the school assembly. They even took a picture of me with Mr. Sands, our principal, and put it in the newspaper. I was proud, and it made me even more confident with language.


In 2nd grade our teacher, Mrs. Lolk, read Charlotte’s Web to us. We absolutely loved it. She came across the word “manure” and asked if anyone knew what that was. Jacob Kono raised his hand and said, “A big pile of shit.” The class cracked up. Jacob turned bright red and may have shed a tear. He wasn’t trying to be a wiseass ─ he had liberal parents who thought nothing of their 8 year old swearing.

In 5th grade I made the boys’ traveling soccer team. They didn’t have a girls’ traveling team at that point, and all the coaches thought I needed to develop my talent. I didn’t get much playing time, but I got to hang out with a lot of boys I had huge crushes on.

In 6th grade I was named co-captain of the Safety Patrol. I wore a white belt while all the other patrollers wore an orange belt. My big leadership moment came during an early dismissal due to a snowstorm. Parents were coming to pick up their kids during lunch and the Patrol had to maintain order in the otherwise chaotic cafeteria of Ann Blanch Smith School.


In 7th grade I won a Memorial Day speechwriting contest and was invited to march in the parade and read my speech in the Hillsdale town center. Being 13, this was the uncoolest thing ever and I tried to get out of it. My Mom tricked me into it – she said I just had to read the speech and didn’t have to march. When I got there, I learned otherwise. I marched through the entire town with my Sun-ined hair, braces, and Keds, trying to look aloof.

In 9th grade I got my first job other than newspaper girl and babysitter (which I had started with around age 10) as a “phone girl” at Marcy’s Ristorante in Park Ridge, NJ. It was a highly trafficked family-style pizza place, restaurant and bar. The phones rang off the hook and I worked on the busiest night ─ Saturday as well as Tuesday and fill in. Several of my cool older cousins and their friends worked there. I smoked Parliament lights in the bathroom. I got paid five bucks and hour in cash, off the books, plus tips. I LOVED that job. It enabled me to buy my first television and my 1991 Ford Probe, also known as Probey-Wan Kenobi which carried me all the way through college and grad school and is the only car I’ve ever owned.

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  • Jacob Kono

    OK, now you’re just being polite. Thanks for that, but sometimes “and” is more appropriate than “or”. Either way, great stuff. I’m glad I found your post, it’s gotten me to remember some stuff I haven’t thought about in a long time.

  • jake — come to think of it your comic ilk was less waka waka waka, more seinfeldian.

    your sensibility was always ahead of its time which either makes one wise or a huge nerd.

  • Jacob Kono

    Catskills like Shecky Green/Borsht Belt humor? I don’t see that, but I agree with your earlier comment, my sense of humor was always designed for an older crowd. Still is, in fact only people in their 70’s laugh at my jokes these days. Da dum dum….Take my wife, please…

  • jake, sara was right … you belong in the catskills! i am delighted that you appreciate your col’s blog fame. do you still have those sweet stickers?

  • Jacob Kono

    In a moment of narcissistic boredom, I googled my name and found that your story of me saying shit in second grade constitutes my entire e-footprint (I am not the same Jacob Kono recently found guilty of negligent homicide). Thank you for committing that to eternity. To return the favor, here’s another piece of your early work, taken from the 1986 Ann Blanch Smith poetry journal:

    I had a friend named Jeanie
    But at me he threw a zucchini
    I threw a fit
    And started to hit
    So instead he threw linguini

  • If I had to guess the first picture contains frm left to right:
    Colleen Kenny
    Christine Purcell pre vomiting cream corn on Mr. Herman’s door. I would also have accepted Christine Purcell pre having her hand slammed in the door by Miss Suess
    Nicole Santoro
    Pattie Demarco
    Unidentifiable Girl

    Sorry for the butchered spellings of names. I don’t have my Ann Blanche Smith school roster in front of me.

  • You are sooo cute!

  • MsMamma! Thanks for introducing yourself. I enjoyed my visit to your blog too — a cool blend of art and life — and will totes visit again! Also really dig the quote on your masthead. And your little Snowflake.


  • MsMamma

    Hi Col- I was reading your blog the other day(hopped over from NWO or Gem), and I loved this post. I like your little bakery, very tasty. And thanks for stopping by my little hovel. I’m a brownie, too.

  • oh man, in fact the meadowbrook kids were the cool ones to me. i thought george white was “tough” while meadowbrook was “cool” and smith was “nerds-r-us”. funny to think of these things.

  • sbr929

    kono was definitely meant for the catskills… good stuff.

    what always blows me away these days whenever i come in contact with highschoolers (rare but it happens) is how over committed they are and how they are all trying so hard to achieve. i remember trying so hard not to achieve. i was so misguided and regret so much of it.

    thanks for id-ing the pictures. amazing. and yes, i believe we first met at stokes! my dad was a chaperone. and i remember thinking how cool all the kids from smith were.

  • oh bri you are, and always have been, a superstar big brother!

    and yes, bill bradley was a senator, der. thomas kean was the governor. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Kean

    i’m still not sure who sent me the letter. i’ll ask ma.

    love you!

  • Bro Bri

    Good stuff.

    Bill Bradley was a Senator, FYI.


    your underachieving brother

  • hey sara. i just updated our facebook connection to say i know you from MIDDLE school rather than high school. cause that’s more accurate … in fact we prob. first met at stokes forest in 5th grade.

    jacob kono was HILARIOUS. he was a 24-7 comedy routine, except most of the kids didn’t get the jokes back then.

    yes, we did come of age at the tail end of the “smart kids are nerds” era. now it’s nerds are COOL … a veritable revenge of the nerds …

    it’s a weird thing with overachievers … it’s like we’re constantly outdoing ourselves, trying to find love thru achievements. but what SAT score ever kept someone warm at night? my parents were emotionally distant, but over the years i’ve come to understand why, and the fact that they were doing the best they could. it was a different time.

    okay first picture left to right:

    me, chris purcell, nicole santoro, patti de marco, erica hager.

  • sbr929

    loved reading this…especially the names i haven’t thought about in ages (kono!). desperately trying to pick out the people in that first picture.

    i was always excelling in Meadowbrook, yet always being told that i didn’t live up to my potential, and always afraid of being the dork for it all. it definitely harmed me in high school and college for that matter. if i ever have kids i hope to mirror your parents rather than my own experience. (and it doesn’t hurt that my husband is a consumate over achiever).

  • hey pandorasblog. thanks for the comment. i feel very lucky to have had so much encouragement from my parents and from all the great educators i’ve encountered over the years. and for the spiral perms, curled bangs, and fashion trends which taught me that you never look as great as you think you do, so just enjoy it.

    i was one of the lucky kids whose parents valued education, and also taught me the value of working hard and being independent. being a mother looks like the toughest job in the world, but also, in this observer’s opinion, the most rewarding.

  • pandorasblog

    that made me feel warm and smoky. its been a while since i thought about the awards we would get in elementary school. i don’t think i thought they were important until i became a mother. they will be even more important if my kids don’t get any. thank you for the sun-in reference. it been awhile since i had thought of my spiral perm.

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