Downtown. Ah, I still love Petula Clark 50+ years later. You could tell me she was an antifeminist, homophobic racist, and I would still love her (with some judgement — but understand, that was rhetorical, she’s as innocent as can be, as far as I know). Downtown pops up in my workout playlist at least once a week. Nowadays, the song has taken on a ‘chamber of commerce’ feel — hey, everybody, free parking after 6pm Downtown! I don’t know if I originally caught the wistful melancholy, but it’s still groovy, man.


“Just like downtown.” My high school chemistry teacher, Mr Kapriva, used to say “just like downtown,” explaining for the benefit of his young charges that it meant “cool.” Mr Kapriva liked me because I sat in the front row and wore a tie and carried a briefcase. (It was an act of rebellion, at the time — the 60s lasted until 1973.) Each day, he would acknowledge my tie. It seemed to kill him that I bought my ties at a drugstore (3 for $5). Just like downtown.


Mr Kapriva had great hopes for my academic potential but did little to enhance it, though he was kind enough to give me a medal at the end of the year. It wasn’t until college that I had serious lab experience, which taught me I love cleaning glass but hate memorizing highly structured data. (I need to build my own structure.)


Mr Kapriva’s chemistry colleague, Mr Palmer, might have been a better teacher. Certainly, their colleague, Mr Duncan, intimidated the hell out of me (which is why I never studied physics except to the extent it inevitably overlaps chemistry and math).


I liked Kapriva but my favorite teachers were able to make me feel special while insisting I prove it. Like Ms Kraft (Algebra) and Mr Kokonis (Calculus).


“Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you … You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares” Downtown. Cool.

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