July 9, 2020:

Mike and Rodney, the cool boys in third grade.

Mike taught me the meaning of the word "communist". At four square on the blacktop: "Serve the ball back to me and you're a communist." Got it.

I quickly became skilled at four square. I could spin the ball so it bounced in crazy directions, or misdirect my serve by looking at one player while serving to another. But Mike and Rodney were kings, because they played four square well, but majorly because they had the longest hair.

In hindsight I see nothing rebellious in them whatsoever. Mike even wanted to be "a fuzz". What? "A cop. A policeman." Oh. Civic commitment at approximately age eight. The hair was about identity, not revolt. They wanted to let their pre-freaks freak flags fly, before there were freaks.

The City Schools or the Principal forced them to cut it. First Mike, so that for a while Rodney was the coolest. Then Rodney, too. Leaving me the coolest, for now I had the longest hair, although I did not feel I had earned the merit.

The kids saw Mike and Rodney as martyrs, and rightly so. The single action of forcing them to cut their hair did more than any other more visible event to turn the school to disaffection. It wasn't fair, it wasn't right, and everyone knew it.

I was outraged. It was un-American. But before those sentiments had opportunity to percolate I was whisked away on wings of IQ to gifted programs far, far away.