March Madness

I like to think of myself as of a survivor of LAUSD’s low expectations. There is a mandatory and fairly demeaning class they make you take in high school called “Life Skills” where they teach you things like how to apply for jobs at the mall, how to waste tens of thousands of dollars at Devry and how to wash your hands. For the curious, the second semester was “Health” where they showed us a lot of pictures of warty penises and had a lady come in and attempt to preach the power of abstinence. She had a power point presentation that compared her old life as a sexual deviant to how it must feel to be a used thrift store dresser at the end of the line. I was somehow the only person who didn’t take an abstinence ring from her, I guess free things triumph over values for a lot of people.

Life Skills was held in Mr. Wagner’s bungalow, which smelled of canned tuna and decades-old nickels, leaving you to wonder whether he had the same awful lunch everyday or if he was just unfortunate. I sat in the back right hand corner of the room, not necessarily by choice, but by nature of having a last name at the end of the alphabet. The class was filled with the kinds of students who were pregnant by senior year and/or still felt such a crippling pressure when they were asked to read aloud that they shook and stuttered when attempting to read at a 6th grade level. The kid in front of me orchestrated drug deals via text message in full view of the teacher, who didn’t give a fuck. Mr. Wagner is a brooding 6’5″ Β but was formerly hulking college basketball player whose month of glory consisted of sitting on the bench during a final four game, but never getting to participate in the joy of drenching his coach in lemon lime gatorade.

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57 thoughts on “March Madness

  1. wordofexcellence says:

    Seems more like terminal madness than March madness and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a warty penis, nor do I think it would be anything I’d want to see.

    You’re a delight, Ashley.

  2. thelastsongiheard says:

    LOL I’m curious to know more… I particularly liked the following…

    Life Skills was held in Mr. Wagner’s bungalow, which smelled of canned tuna and decades-old nickels, leaving you to wonder whether he had the same awful lunch everyday or if he was just unfortunate.


  3. Angel D. Vargas says:

    Now that is a very apt description.

    My health classes consisted of a gym coach who could barely say the word penis without blushing, and a bunch of giggling, spoiled rich kids who didn’t give a damn.

    I like your post πŸ˜‰ Made me laugh!

  4. angelsail says:

    We never had that class in my high school. Unfortunate enough, I would have loved to laugh at the presentation of the material. Our health class was always paired with Driver’s Ed. I guess they figured we’re more likely to die of driving stupidly than from warty penises.

  5. Marc Phillippe Babineau says:

    Hmmm, in Canada, when i was in high school, the boys had to take wood shop and the girls home economics (cooking, scheduling, child care, contraceptive use, etc). Now they all have to take the Life Skills course… you’re not alone.

  6. roadwax says:

    “…a used thrift store dresser at the end of the line…”


    Ashley, where is the rest of this post? I wanna know what happened NEXT…!

  7. nelle says:

    Rendered with such passion, and bravo on not taking the ring. And to think we worried over teaching abstinence only. Now we face debate over removing coverage for contraception.

  8. stephenedwards425 says:

    Your writing here is brilliant…the line about “decades old nickels” reminded me of a line from an old TV show Ten Speed and Brown Shoe. “Her laughter was like loose change falling on an empty bar room floor”…priceless.

    Be encouraged!

  9. kriskkaria says:

    Lovely characters and descriptions, as usual. I’d like to narrate a few of your blogs on my podcast. Here is the link, Its on the same theme as my blog, Does This Happen to You, but in audio. I’d link to your blog on my podcast page and make sure everyone knows you’re the writer. Part of my goal to get great stories on my theme in audio. Let me know what you think.

  10. New Author Publishing says:

    As a nurse reading your line, “warty penises,” I didn’t really have to try and conjure up a mental picture, as I have several real life mental pictures that I can only hope will die with dementia! Thanks for the flashbacks. LOL. And, by the way, I know all the well the smell of decadeds-old nickels…it is actually a very very bad smell that us nurses who work with GI bleeders can attest to. Again, thanks for the flashback!
    All fooling aside, that was a great read, because it was relatable. Who doesn’t remember the horrors of Health, and as a mother of two kids who have taken Life Skills, I have heard some of the horror stories of the LAUSD program. (insert standing ovation)

  11. John says:

    This was good reading. School isn’t what it used to be, being a product of the public skewl system from the seventies, it’s easy for me to see the differences today. I always enjoy your blog! πŸ™‚

  12. kristobaldude says:

    I enjoyed your metaphors and visual imagery about the “decades old nickles” … wtf? Who knows what that smells like? lol. But it sure conjures up some visions of musty, dank and decay.

    Lot’s of people write interesting posts but the line about “leaving you to wonder whether he had the same awful lunch everyday or if he was just unfortunate. ” actually made me laugh out loud. I think you have a really great point of view that makes your posts engaging and easily consumable. It really reminds me of this exotic dancer I used to date — she had a really similar way of looking at things and describing the human condition. Then she would do No-Shame improv, get half naked, and do skits about smoking weed. She was definitely a fascinating creature. And she was one of the few who actually was paying her way through college with her earnings. πŸ˜‰

      1. kristobaldude says:

        Thanks. Keep up the good work then — I know you have talent and will go far … Just remember: as you augment your greatness and success, don’t forget to increase your kindness to others. We know you will do this.

  13. Alex Les says:

    You mean you didn’t play MASH all period like the rest of us? I’m pretty sure Mr. Wagner thought that was a reliable way to plot out our future. And booo…health.

  14. Curmudgeon-at-Large says:

    Enjoyed March Madness. The comment “decades-old nickels” sent me wheezing off to my coin collection until I remembered that I had sold it to buy liquor. In high school, our “life skills” consisted of learning about sex from borrowed, dog-eared books in French (complete with pictures of naked breasts and warty penises) and avoiding the terror of the Myers’ twins so we didn’t get the crap beat out of us.

  15. vmessiah says:

    Wow, school life sounds very different over there from what it is here. We don’t have lifeskills class at all.

  16. ro says:

    Oh wow, I was in a class like that. But we were all deviants, they taught us about supply and demand using films on the production of cocaine, from coca leaf to cocaine. He also played us an SNL clip every monday morning, and showed us pictures of his missionary journey with his wife to Calcutta. It was the most pleasing environment for the stoned high school student…I miss that class.

  17. lostnchina says:

    “She had a power point presentation that compared her old life as a sexual deviant to how it must feel to be a used thrift store dresser at the end of the line.”

    Great line.

  18. Rachael Black says:

    dear god your description of your high school teachers had me LITERALLY laughing out loud. Damn how true.
    The High School Experience (read: hell) did help make us the twisted humorous people we are today though. Not that I’ve ever attended a HS reunion -shudder-.
    Loved you descriptions of the classes and teachers heheheheheh

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