Prom, weddings, and graduations

accomplishment ceremony education graduation

I went to prom by myself years ago. Had a dance with a classmate’s date who pulled me onto the floor. I wish I had shown her more interest almost two years after that prom. I was more fidgety at that time and less cleaned up and had less going for myself than I had when we first met. Her date had some issues from what I can tell online still does and not to talk about him, but he was considered special ed so something was going on.

Anyway it was an unusual period and my classmates – well I was never very popular with them – were somewhat impressed with how I cleaned up. I wore a tux with a green vest not very flashy, but not very plain either. A friend of mine Cecil had a date arranged by one of our teachers, he skipped out on her before the night was out. His date probably ticked him off and he angers easily something I learned the hard way during the course of my senior year of high school.

girl prom

Took a pic with another classmate although I paid for a solo pic by myself. I had her in class a few times, but at least the photo op was more interesting with a girl in it. She also cleaned up nice – well we all clean up nice for our senior year prom. The girl in question was something of a loud mouth who had something smart to say to our teachers though she seemed to have had a nervous breakdown at one point in a class we had together.

Of course not a whole lot of note happened on that particular night. When it was time I called my mother to pick me up went home and with my brother we went to our family’s southern hometown. Cousin Natalie was getting married on that particular weekend – Memorial Day weekend. So I handed my tux to my uncle’s wife so she can bring it to the rental place and we took off for the south. Yeah no rest in my own bed on this particular evening.

I feel as if weddings bring out the weirdness in women. If I recall Natalie and my mother were relatively close and so I’m sure she didn’t want to miss this wedding. I had bought a new neck tie for my own graduation and wanting to preserve the packaging it came with my mother deciding she needed to help me get ready tore it open. That irked me, but she decided she needed to help me.

Some lipstick got onto my toiletries case and we both scrambled to clean it up. It seemed what triggered her was me saying you don’t have to do this and she says “No, I do have to do this. Look I’ll do it, I’ll take care of it”. Hmmm why can’t I clean my own toiletry case? At this point we were in a hotel getting ready for this wedding and at that point I had just gotten out of the shower. And I think my mother was trying to hustle me along so that we can get to this wedding, I’m not sure why she was stressing other than this was Natalie who at this point had also just got her nursing degree from a nearby college.

We went to the wedding and my mother was disappointed because in her haste to keep me moving I still forget to bring the camera to the wedding. She wanted pics from this and no such luck from yours truly. One of my uncles probably had photos and video and we saw some footage of Nat & Nate’s wedding years later at one of our family reunions. Oh yeah I forgot to mention we went from our family’s hometown to Nate’s hometown. Then eventually back to the family’s homestead where my grandmother lived at that time.

couple under garden arch surrounded with flowers

And again nothing of great note happened especially with this brief jaunt to our southern hometown. However next month she did pay a visit to Chicago celebrating here sister Tasha’s graduation from high school. And I just so happened to have tagged along for a trip to an “Old Country Buffet” restaurant. Then later that summer a trip to DC for my aunt Claudine who was about to retire from the military. Then make a quick decision about what next because I made very few plans for life after high school.

Because my mother bragged about the flukish good grades I made in high school the expectations of my family was to go to college. And being 18 years old and nothing better coming along I just went with it. Sometimes I feel that was a mistake, but it is what it is. Sometimes I wonder, what if I just chose to take another route into the real world. Was a college classroom the best way to enter adulthood? I was going to find out the hard way.



by september i hope to talk a little bit about my senior year of high school. i’ve grown to realize it was a period of great disappointment in a variety of ways. at the same time it sets the tone for how life has been at this point. it’s hard to believe it’s close to 20 years since graduating from high school.

before i talk about senior year how did i get there. well the story really starts when i leave the 8th grade. perhaps this is where i could’ve started to peak but found myself intimidated by a number of things.

to start, i will admit i didn’t go to a good high school in a large urban district as we have here in chicago. my mother was more concerned about safety going to and from school than the caliber of school. she figured there was no big difference whether a magnet school or a neighborhood school. me on the other hand i didn’t work very hard to assure a different result.

my dad was around but he wasn’t that engaged in the process. he might have had the same mind as my mother as far as these city schools there is no huge difference between them. now he had been an employee of the school system but it’s not like he did much interactions with school teachers and administrators.

also i never concerned myself with how the system worked at that point. for example could i have gone around my 8th grade teacher? was there a possibility that i could have gone over his head to the school counselor or perhaps the school’s assistant principal who was formerly my third grade teacher. my mind only runs about that, but no idea as this was a course never pursued.

my 8th grade teacher i’ve concluded was a man who at least towards me never had anything nice to say to me. the last time i ever saw him he essentially ignored me and i never tried to keep his attention and remind him who i am. he showed attention to another former student who he got along with much better. it’s safe to say he didn’t care for me that much and didn’t mind threatening me with holding me back a grade.

only reason he gave to not go to the neighborhood high school where my parents wanted me to attend was – i’m going to get messed with and they’ll take my lunch money. i was standing right there and he told my parents this. it was never he could do much better than this high school. just absolutely negative to the core, then again what did i show him?

so either way whatever he tried to convince my parents of it didn’t matter. to the neighborhood school i go instead of anywhere more safer much better academically. no concern about commute between home and school and any weird thing that was going to happen in between.

to set this up by my freshman year of high school my mother would be laid off from her job at a bank in downtown chicago. she didn’t know this was going to happen in the 8th grade so therefore if she was working downtown and i was on my way to school or on my way home she had little piece of mind. it was just the overriding concern for her more than i could’ve gone to a better school.

she also thought my dad could eventually find a job close to what he had around the time i was born. he had worked in manufacturing before becoming a grave-yard shift worker for the public schools. she hoped he could find such a job again although by the time i came around those jobs were disappearing. with no high school diploma and his inability to stay focused to get a GED the clock was ticking on doing better than he had been.

the lesson here that i should’ve learned back then is that sometimes while your parents should have your best interests at heart they sometimes don’t. sometimes it’s all up to you as far as what you want to do. as with a lot of things – and possibly not knowing – i left my future up to others. at least as a grown man now i can at least determine my future.

in the meanwhile soon it’ll be time to start talking about my senior year in high school. perhaps in general my time in high school.

the off-year

jack v meets a man who has a movie based on his story during a year of nothing…

quick note i intended to post this immediately before the taking shape post. somehow this got posted way before i started off this recent series with chronicles.

the next year was a much more relaxed year no pressures although yes for most of that year i was unemployed. i used that experience at the college bookstore to apply for other retail stores in the area, but no use they still weren’t calling. not until that august when i got an e-mail from another college bookstore in the downtown area. at this point i knew what to target for a quick job and even better at this other store another young lady gave me a tip to get another job.

i had plenty of time and some money to sign up for an AOL account – yeah how old am I? – and at that to use a laptop which allowed me to suspend my internet activities because it alerted me to when someone was calling the house. btw, another thing that shows my age this was still the tail end of the dial-up era and broadband was still expensive then. likely i didn’t do many applications online then i pounded pavements to my other haunts in downtown chicago.

as an aside it never occurred to me to look for a job at movie theaters near the downtown area or at least the one i would later interview to become a manager –  not once! i wasn’t as smart about job hunting then as i had when it was time to do so after graduating college.

my mother one day set up a meeting with a local celebrity. and i’ll give you a hint he was the subject of a film “pursuit of happyness”. i was willing to give it a try and hopefully net a job lead through him, but it felt like a disaster. my mother didn’t mind letting me know this.

if you judge from the movie he was far more determined to raise his son and get out of homelessness than i was at that time to get back on the track that i wanted to be on. that was a very disheartening year to just have very little to do and no prospects as far as school or jobs. and the ones who supported me they were giving me a hardtime about it also.

so anyway he sensed my uncertainty and feel as if he attacked me. to be fair i may not have conducted myself in the best way in his eyes. he belives in praying before we eat, i generally don’t so in his words he’ll do it for me. perhaps i could’ve said do the honors please. he had something to say when i didn’t get my mother her jacket.

all that happened during this meeting i remembered then and now that he pulled himself out of homelessness back then. he was able to turn his life around from one extreme to the other. he definitely was uncompromising in his beliefs and to this day i still say “ouch” about this meeting.

i almost got mugged on my way home that year. a couple of guys walked by me i greeted them and thinking they were walking away i somehow figured out that one of them was running back towards me. i turned around just as one of them leaped into the air as if to drop kick me only to drop back down on his feet to grab me and throw a punch. i got away though as i wanted to punch back i thought better of it and ran off breaking free.

he gave chase back across the street as i was lucky to not have been hit by any traffic. my street wasn’t particularly busy, however, there was traffic. and what cut this off was i rang the doorbell of a retired police officer who never came to the door. thankfully they cut off their chase and went back the direction they were going in the first place.

that summer i did a number of interesting things. to start we had a family reunion in indianapolis that we went to. later that summer i took on another college bookstore job and paid my first visit to the liberal arts college to register really but got some valuable info about financial aid for later. also my mother and i paid a visit with her sister and my cousin to my grandmother’s southern hometown.

suddenly the off year was coming to a close and things were starting to take some semblance of shape. the celebrity i met that spring wanted to know when i was going to know about whether or not i was going back to school. i had no answer for him at the time to be honest, but little did i know then that the path was becoming clearer and clearer.



taking shape

jack v before he is able to return to that liberal arts college…

i had started this year off with no clear plans. no job for that time although before the year was over i’d held three jobs. did two trips of out town to indiana and the south. and then two more one-nights to the liberal arts school in georgia.

after i left the second job of the year i went to the school to attempt to register. i sent an e-mail to cover my bases although i waited a minute before i made a move. it was almost the end of extended late registration and the financial aid counselor told me i won’t likely finish the process in time. she suggested i get in touch with them later that fall and work things out with them so i could return the next term.

since i had been out for over a year i had to re-apply and had been accepted. so it was a matter of getting my affairs in order so that i can finish what i started. when you think about it, it was inconceivable at the start of the year that this was possible. still my eventual return to the college in spite of my pessimism was in the future and there were some other steps to achieve before then.

during the course of that fall i was still looking for another job. i feel as if during that period it was easier to not put some effort into the search, but during this period i had gained some valuable information. still my experience was spotty in the worst way and i’d have a tough sell on my hands.

after leaving a store filling an application i ran into an old friend from high school who shall be called cecil. he was walking down the street and i went over to him when i saw him. he was on his way to work at a local entertainment center with a short order kitchen, games and rides. i followed him there after some updates on what we’ve been doing since graduation. he suggested i put in an application which i did before leaving.

before they called me instead of calling the liberal arts college, i again took the bus down to georgia to talk to the financial aid counselor. which after a few stumbles i accomplished getting financial aid before leaving the campus again that evening. with a little income earned the previous year i still had to take out some loans, however, i got some grants to play with. i had actually accomplished the unthinkable at this time and the path was cleared for me to return to school in the new year.

meanwhile the next month i got a call from that place where cecil worked. had two interviews with them one manager was more in charge of hosting as this place hosted parties. another manager would interview me the next day for a different role and that was who hired me.

as the month went on it seemed like a miserable time and something that i wouldn’t see again until time went on at “the show”. thing is i only worked there a month as it was time for me to go back to school and restart that process. the money and hours weren’t good but one milestone was that this was the first non-temporary job i held and i didn’t last long.

what happened here was that the young people i worked with took advantage of this idea of seniority. one young man irritated me engaging in some form of managerial behavior on my last day there he tried to say i needed to come in on saturday. funny thing was i already handed my notice to one of the managers that i wasn’t coming back after that friday. i never reported in on his word at all.

btw, cecil started to take advantage of seniority to start telling me what to do. and even reverted to some of his high school behaviors as in slapping me upside my head. i could’ve said something to stop it, but instead i just chose to not participate. not sure if this sent a message, however, i wasn’t going to play that then. he even engaged in some of the teasing at work and i was starting to get irritated with him when he referred to me as a nerd instead of by my name.

so whatever he enjoyed after working with me for almost a month he wasn’t happy when it turned out i was leaving. when i saw him in his regular station at the kitchen he seemed to have an attitude and was distant. when i said that job blows – repeating something that he said – he turned around and said testily “find something else”. i only laughed and it took me a minute to process what was going on and went on my way asking him to “wish me luck”.

irony of ironies, this was the one job i got away with a no call/no show. for a while as i worked i didn’t get paid and so when i saw one of the managers i made sure he got a note of those days i worked with the times that i never got paid. it may have explained why one weekend i just decided not to show up for work. plus it helped that it snowed heavily that weekend. either way it was funny when the manager told me i can come back on my breaks from school. alas i never took him up on this offer and the last two shifts i worked there was never paid.

so after i new years i left that place for good and i have little idea what happened to cecil after that. for all i know he may have moved on to the next job and to be honest he didn’t strike me as ambitious. for his behavior that brief time other than working he never wanted to advance beyond adolescence. perhaps one day i’ll find out what became of him.

the place itself is no longer open. the owner had closed this place down for good and sold via auction all of the equipment. this occurred no more than two years after i had left. so the many young characters i left behind who knows where they went if they stayed there through closing. perhaps they went to college or found new jobs who knows.

what i know is that after this i moved on to the college again where i had a longer and year rough stay. after this period i had a much longer period of unemployment. school would take up most of my time.

there will be more devoted to my time as a 20ish male virgin.



of jack v who returns home after one term away and had to come up with plan B…

at the start of 2002 i went away to that private liberal arts college. again i had no plan for that at least financially i expected my mother help pay my way but tuition was expensive she would later determine that she would never borrow any more money to send me to school – in effect i was on my own.

funny thing is i never graduated from the community college. at that point i saw no point in getting an associate’s degree i was just ready to move on for my bachelor’s. i chose this school for it’s history and the all-girl’s school across the street. it was a great school and had the prestige i craved and figured i may not have succeeded in the ivy league at least.

either way what didn’t help my position was i didn’t do so well away from home. had some freedom but my grades were terrible and even worse had very little of my own money at the time. when i came home that summer my mother was already on my case about getting a job.

it was a tall order at the time. i had attempted to find a job while in community college no takers but to be honest i was not that serious. i wanted what i wanted which was a bank or retail job. also remember many employers had paper applications back then…soooo i still have to go to these places and ask for a paper application. not sure if i was smart enough to look for any website that would allow me to apply for more jobs.

there were a precious few hits during the course of the year. my expectation was to go back to school and that’s what blew my first opportunity at a retail store for a museum at navy pier. then i had group interviews the rest of the way and none of them netted me a job even for the holidays.

my mother started having me sit down and we plan for job hunting. to be honest i didn’t want to hear it on the other hand she’s doing this because she didn’t see much progress. this is what she wanted and my options weren’t getting better. i took a temp assignment working on election day as a precinct worker helping voters but that was all until the end of the holidays when it was time for back to school at one of the local universities downtown. it was temporary, but it helped me get some needed job experience to place on my resume. never being employed in the first place was a huge problem.

of course this wasn’t the only problem, my mother still wanted her associate’s degree. while i had little plan beyond returning to the liberal arts school my mother insisted that i go back to finish the associates degree. in fact two of my aunts brought it up in conversation. i tried to offer a bullshit answer, but i realized they’re bringing it up because mother told them about it. it really was her expectation that i would finally graduate with an associate’s.

ultimately in a fit of stubbornness – for which she said very little – i registered but only for just enough classes where i still would be short. she knew what i was doing she later told me, but decided to choose her battles. ultimately she never got the associate’s degree and i continued to rack up debt until i finally-finally-finally got my bachelor’s.

in the meanwhile as i finally found something even if temporary i still had another year with no clear plans. this story is coming up next.


….of a 20ish virgin.

i think this will be a series of posts in no particular order. i may talk about women i’ve attempted to speak to or even the ones who tried to speak to me. especially when i was between 20 and 29. of course as happens on this blog i may get lost on other things such as work history or parental relationships for example.


my early twenties had been spent at a community college since i graduated from high school. to be honest i had no plan for life after graduation other than my family’s expectation that i should go to college.

i enrolled at one of chicago’s community colleges and basically was average. somehow  i still had been accepted to a relatively prestigious liberal-arts college in georgia with a similar all-girls school across the street. my acceptance to that school would come the next spring.

anyway there wasn’t much action on the women front. there were a precious few women i could have asked out. especially the ones i went to class with but i was unwilling to shoot my shot. precious few still gave me any attention even if i deep down wanted it.

one semester i got a phone number – a hand written note – from a young woman i’ll refer to as carrie. carrie made a presentation in our social science class about living in public housing and some of the experiences she had. one notable part of this story was that she witnessed oral sex out in the open between people at her development.

another part of the story is that she had been touched by some of the violence that occurs in public housing. for example a high profile murder occurred and she knew the mother who lost her son to the violence. i thought it sounded as if the gang was targeting the mother but instead hit her son.

well it took me a few months to shoot my shot with carrie. and i finally did at the college library. that was at the end of the semester and i had my eye on her and she knew it. for the most part i was just uncomfortable with taking my shot but i took it.

oh yes to describe carrie. she had the nicest pair of eyes and a nice smile. i learned that she had a bit of a playful side that she on occasion displayed with me and with others. i liked what i thought of as her warmth.

one problem, i blew it. we didn’t see each other often after that semester although she was there and saw her on occasion. it was the end of that next semester when i finally called her. and we did talk a little bit then sloppily suggested that we go out sometime anytime she wanted to. that spelled the end for me getting some of that perceived warmth.

near the end i saw carrie again in the computer lab we spoke and she came up with excuses such as she had papers to do – ie the semester was almost over why are you still doing papers. i called her number one more time to talk but whoever answered the phone said she call me back. i never heard from this young woman again. and it took me a year to throw her number away as i wanted another chance and thought better of it.

it’s easy to build up an image in my mind. perhaps i wanted to be that knight in shining armor. my background was much different than carrie’s as i never grew up in public housing so i may not understand it. perhaps she may not understand my background either. either way i got let down somewhat easily and this was a lesson learned. perhaps i need a better approach and i shouldn’t allow something to build in my mind.

hopefully wherever carrie is today she is very happy with where she is today.


it hits me because i haven’t thought of this name in years – Rae-Lewis Thornton. i was in high school in the 1990s when i saw her speak on two occasions. i went on a field trip to see her speak at a local community college auditorium and then another time she spoke to our high school.

then i remembered that we were disruptive to her when she was speaking to our auditorium. she definitely gave a quick STFU to the audience after they continued to chat or even spoke loudly to her. many of us didn’t want to hear what she had to say.

i listened in part all i know was that she had HIV. she somehow got infected with the virus and she dedicated herself to speaking about the disease and hopefully save lives. i was a naive kid back then but it wasn’t until high school when i realize young folks my age were having sex. there were quite a few young women who were walking around pregnant and it didn’t matter if they were freshmen or seniors.

all the same, is this a reason i’m still a virgin. a partial reason, high school was the first period that i had sex education. a rapper – Easy E – died of AIDS my freshman year of high school. a health educator gave us a talk about about that and educated us on condoms and STDs as a result. now i still wonder how many of us didn’t listen and contracted an STD not just get pregnant.

perhaps in her own way she saved my life although i had already decided on the idea of sex after marriage. one problem i still had from those days, i never really talked to the girls nor dated. which means i never figured out what to do back then.