For some reason I always expected to read, and
never (finding myself doing so easily) said to myself,
"Wow! I'm reading!" Kindergarten was a place
where, one day, my Mom said, "This nice lady
is Miss James," and left me there. I didn't know enough
to say, "Wow! I'm in school!" And when I skipped
first grade (because I could read) and found myself
in second, I wasn't sure I was there yet. (Nor, seven years
earlier, did I think, "Wow! This is it! Birth!" or even
"Not this again!"
No, the first time I remember thinking, "Wow!
This is it! I'm..." was, one day walking home
(I remember the concrete wall that held the
playground fence with its rusting metal lozenges,
the wall diminishing or I rising above it
as I walked) -- and I thought, "Wow! I'm
really in third grade!" I have no idea now
what was so exciting about being in third grade --
third graders must have seemed to me to be
"the big kids" when I was in second grade --
but I remember, can feel, the excitement
almost like "I'm a grown-up!" Or that Bar-Mitzvah
chestnut, "Today, my son, you are a man" --
a 13-year-old nerd -- had I even jacked off yet?
Maybe it's just exciting to be here with
all the others who've decided to be here (think
of all the games we can play!), so we seize upon
any excuse to express our joy at being here:
"Good to have you here, Dean." "Good to
be here, Jay, David, Johnny." "Thank you
for joining us here at the..." Thank you
for welcoming the Dean Blehert Memorial
Talkathon into your living room.
Note: I guess in first and second grade, I'd thought of third
graders as "the big kids", so suddenly I realized I was
a big kid. Also, I was probably feeling a bit safe in third grade,
since the previous teachers had been a bit crabby, but Mrs. Anderson
was nice. Also, I had the realization ("Wow! I'm in third grade!")
while walking past a wall with a tornado fence on top of it, and
the wall was increasing in height as I walked down hill, catching
up to me, an experience (diminishing and rising walls as one walks)
that brings to awareness one's own changes.
In stanza 3, the banal "good to be here" talk is often
addressed to talk-show hosts, like Jay (Leno), David (man of letters
that is, Letterman) and, over a decade ago, Johnny (Carson).