When I was a senior in high school I used to go into the theater at North Pole High School and sing my favorite version (Rattle and Hum) of U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."
I would stand in the center of the stage, wearing my black leather jacket, my hair unkempt, high tops covering my feet and sing. The class around me would ignore me - I think they expected me to do this sort of thing or frankly just thought I was weird.
Eventually, and always before the song came to an end, my best friend Jeremy Coll-Goss would holler at me from the light booth and break my performance.
Reality would set in. No longer a rock star I would return to the here and now and go about my business. Usually I would sing quietly to myself as I performed whatever tasks needed to be done for class or production.
When I was in high school the stage, and the theater in general, is where I felt safe. No one picked on me, no one bugged me, my friends were there and I was accepted.
It was a different story when I crossed the threshold of the fine arts hall into the rest of the school. But let's not go there today.
My brother had a friend, Angela Brown, who once told him her favorite song by Billie Joel was And So It Goes. I listened to the song soon after learning this and quickly understood why. The first line, "In every heart there is a room, a sanctuary safe and strong…" struck me. It struck me because it was true. My sanctuary was the theater.
I have fond memories of that stage: Damian Dodson cramming cheese into his ears during As You Like It; the Jets locked in mortal combat with the Sharks in West Side Story, wearing a full-body cat costume made by Julia McCarthy's mom for Cinderella, playing Puck in a Midsummer's Night Dream, Lil Abner and singing about our druthers, gambling it all away for love in Guys and Dolls, watching Rob Boyer slip off the ladder during Phantom of the Opera, the list goes on.
I often say I have no fond memories of high school. Such a lie. It's just too easy to remember the bad ones.
If I close my eyes I can still see it. The seats, the catwalk, the set room, the costume room, the flight system, the grid. Oh the grid! What fun we had there!
"Patrick!," says Mrs. Packee, "grab a couplel of people and set up mics in the grid for Jeremy."
If I am not mistaken it was me, Larry Terch, Casey Gorrod, Brandy Coelho and a couple others who climbed the ladders up to the grid that day. And, as we worked our way out to set the mics the power went out.
There we were several dozen feet above the stage, trapped in the dark. Casey, another senior in the class, and I did our best to calm everyone down and get them off the grid and to safety. Of course I wasn't laughing then. Eventually the lights came on and we all safely touched ground.
One of these days I will make it back to NPHS. One of these days I will see that theater again.