Back in my high school days, when a kid could still get beer delivered to them by taxi, there were three cliques for the male student population. (The girls had their own cliques but they were not as clearly defined.) For the guys, you were pretty well identified as a Jock, a Metal Head (interchangeable with ‘Rocker’ or ‘Stoner’) or a Geek.
For the sake of this dispatch, a Jock was not someone named ‘Jacques’, but was typically someone who not only played sports exceptionally well, but was someone who played every sport on every team exceptionally well. Effortless. A small minority of the Jocks were of the type portrayed in Hollywood – thuggish, members of a pecking order led by some alpha male (typically blonde) with a fast car, biceps and a mean streak. Malice for the sake of malice. Many Jocks hated Metal Heads. It was an open contempt. It was, as well, mutual.
Metal Heads were students who listened primarily to hard rock, heavy metal, and punk. Denim was the uniform. Long, straight hair was the style. They carried massive portable cassette decks, and congregated usually outside the massive Auto Shop double bay garage doors. Smoking cigarettes. Very few Rockers had vehicles unless they built it from the tires up as part of Shop Class. One guy drove a canary yellow Camaro that he re-built. It was more ‘primer rust’ than canary yellow. Most just had BMX bikes or hoofed it. The odd one did have a motorbike. They mocked Jocks, but it seldom resorted to violence. There would be the odd round of fisticuffs scheduled for “after school”, between a Jock and a Metal Head. Mostly headlocks and trash talk. Mostly posturing. No face punches. I think that’s more of a Hollywood thing. I don’t recall ever seeing anyone getting punched in the face like in them fancy big city motion pictures, but I do recall a Jock trying to punch a Metal Head but the Metal Head bobbed at the last second. The Jock only managed a glancing blow off the Metal Head’s skull. The Jock broke his thumb. He vowed some type of revenge while cradling his closed fist.
Then there were the Geeks or Nerds. They were spooky smart in math and pre-internet computing. Some did actually use pocket protectors for their pens. Some carried large plastic Texas Instrument calculators with more than the + / x — symbols and the numbers 0 through to 9. They formed a computer club. It wasn’t a Revenge of the Nerds type scenario. They were well liked and not really ostracized.
Then there were folks like myself. I didn’t belong to any of the cliques. I was not a card-carrying Jock (but I could toss a wicked Frisbee) nor did I have the patches requisite for full Metal Membership (although I sure loved me some Ramones and Motorhead). I always had to borrow calculators and sucked at math with zero interest in computers which prevented me from being fully embraced by the Geeks (in my orbit, this is not a disparaging term). I mingled effortlessly amongst the three camps, and was generally well liked. One time I was cornered in the boys’ bathroom by a Jock who was looking to start something, but I remember just saying something so cryptic and vaguely menacing that while he tried to figure out what I had said, I was able to back out slowly.
The one fellow student that really stood out was actually a bona fide ‘badass’ in the Metal camp, by all definitions. His reputation preceded him. It was hard earned. He was tough. His older brothers were tough. His younger brothers were tough. His sister was tougher than all of them. He was from a home of really tough family members. We got along well after I gave him a Led Zeppelin album. A few days later he gave me an Iron Maiden cassette. A bond forged on two genres of metal. He had all the cards stacked against him. He was the guy who re-built the Camaro. He left town after graduating, and I lost track of him. We weren’t the pen pal types. We weren’t even that close. Recently his thumbnail popped up on social media. He now lives south of the northern border, and owns a massive automotive shop where he customizes high-end motorcycles for people who can afford such services. He’s a master mechanic, welder and wicked artist. He still looks tough as nails, but in all his photos, he’s smiling. In one shot he’s standing beside a canary yellow Camaro. It was a very cool reminder that whatever your background is, it doesn’t define your future. I messaged him asking for my Led Zeppelin album back as it’s probably worth a whole lotta more money today than what I paid for it at the Kmart back in 1983. I got a blue Thumbs Up.