De' fliengde Vuogtlänn'r

Observations, rants, etc. from a guy who really gets around.


Going Batty

(Hat tip to Chris for making me think of this.)

In the summer of '65, my family moved from Hamden out toward Yale Heights, where my stepfather had gotten a job managing Mount Olivet Cemetery (the second-oldest cemetery in the city of Baltimore; you can see the slate roof and the bell tower in the center background of the picture). Needless to say, my new abode raised a few eyebrows among my contemporaries. All thru high school and beyond, I was known as the guy who lived in the graveyard.

I must admit, it had its advantages. For one thing, we had the quietest neighbors in town. :-) It was also a great place for a summer job. Not only did I start at the top, but it was a very responsible position -- I had thousands of men under me. Working outside in the fresh air and sunshine was a real plus, too.

But I digress.

The house itself sat on th eedge of the grounds, facing Frederick Avenue. There was a small "waiting room" connected to the main part of the house by an arch. At the top of the arch was a small room -- my bedroom. We had no air conditioning in those days, so the only way to cool the room in the hot weather was by opening all four windows -- two on the north side (facing into the cemetery) and two on the south side (facing Frederick Ave.). To help keep the bugs out, the windows were equipped with those old-fashioned removable sliding screens.

One particularly warm night, I had removed the screens in order to maximize the air flow. But it only helped a little. I sat up late that evening, watching some stupid vampire movie on TV until o-dark-thirty. (Possibly not the smartest thing to do when one lives in a cemetery, but I had not had nightmares since before we moved into that house.)

At any rate, the movie ended, I turned off the TV, and trudged off upstairs to my room, which was at the end of a long hallway and up three steps. I got to my room, opened the door, and switched on the light. And there, circling the light, was... a bat. I kid you not.

Without even switching off the light, I set a land speed record returning downstairs to the living room where I called the police, animal control, the fire department, and possibly even the Boy Scouts. No one wanted to come get that bat out of my room. I do believe some of them thought I was trying to prank them.

So, I spent the rest of the night on the sofa. Next morning (or, more accurately, later that morning), I took a stick and headed up to my room. With typical German thoroughness, I poked thru everything in that room until I was satisfied that the bat was gone.

Then I put the screens back in the windows and never took them out again.


"Is It Time Yet?"

If you were to ask any of the approximately 250 members of my high school graduating class who the class clown was, about 240 of them would give you the same answer – "Jahn!". I might not have been popular, but I was notorious. It still boggles my mind how I got away with some of my antics.

In my sophomore year, I was finally able to join the band, despite an experience in my freshman year. The school was run by an order of Catholic "brothers" (kind of like male nuns) known as the Marianists. (It's now run by the Christian Brothers, of wine fame. How fitting.) The brand new band director was a Bro. Frank DeMonaco, originally from New York. (I think he had taught at Chaminade High School previously.)

We really gave Frank a rough time of it, and I suppose I'm single-handedly responsible for most of the grey hairs he had by the time I graduated. But he was a good sport. My best friend, Joe, was the Band Secretary and I was the Quartermaster. So we pretty much had the run of the place. When school was not in session, all we had to do was go over to the Faculty House and pick up the key and we could get in and do all manner of mischief work.

One particular afternoon, we put thumbtacks in the felt striker heads of the piano, making it sound like a honky-tonk piano. We thought it was totally hilarious, but a couple of the purists in the band were absolutely convinced we had "ruined" it. Frank took it in stride, although he did admit later that he should have fried us for it.

In my senior year, I had my driver's license. On occasion, Frank and I would drive about a half a mile down the road to Dunkin' Donuts (despite the closed-campus policy) and have coffee and donuts and just shoot the breeze. On more than one occasion, I'd breeze into the band room and ask "Is it time yet?". I really should have waited until I could at least see who was in the office, but I wasn't that cunning. On one particular afternoon, the newly chosen Assistant Band Director was in there with Frank. As I turned the corner into the office with my usual "Is it time yet?", he asked "Time for what?".

"Uh…… time for my music lesson." Uh-huh. A little fancy footwork, and I was off the hook for the time being.

Several days later, I went over to the Faculty House to pick up the key so I could practice. As was customary, I was met at the door by one of the Brothers and stated my business. I waited outside while he got on the PA system to page Frank. I learned later that his announcement included "Jahn's here. He wants to know if it's time yet." Soon, everyone in the place was asking Frank what that was all about. Including (unbeknownst to me) the principal. Oopsi.

Some time after that, I had occasion to go to the Principal's Office (but not for anything of a disciplinary nature; I was crazy, but not stupid). Seeing me coming in the door, he asked "Is it time yet?". I can't remember what I said, but it probably wasn't very articulate.

We had to lie low for a while after that.

After I graduated, I heard thru the grapevine that Frank had left the Order and moved back to NYC. Never heard anything more from or about him, which is a pity. I hope things turned out well for him. He was one of my better teachers. Of course, if I ever do hear from him, I know what my first question will be:

"Is it time yet?"