As I do far too often, I was thinking about high school the other day. It's a cliche to say that life is like high school. And maybe it isn't even true.
All I know is that my two favorite adult emotions -- envy and self-pity -- are forged in the crucible of the American high school.
No anthropologist studying a primitive tribe or geologist studying layers of invertebrate-laden sediment is as adept at taxonomy as an American teenager parsing the tiniest sociocultural differences among his or her peers. It follows that every high school student also knows precisely where he or she falls on the continuum of coolness, popularity and desirability, and where he or she would like to fit.
When I was a student at Rockville High School I belonged to the "Twinbrook" crowd. This was because I lived in the Twinbrook neighborhood -- right on Twinbrook Parkway, in fact -- in a modest house that my mother rented.
Among the other geographically distinct kids who attended Rockville were the "Bauer" kids, who lived near the Bauer Recreation Center, and the kids from Flower Valley, which is a development near Bauer. If Bauer was perceived as an order of magnitude "better" than Twinbrook -- and it was: richer, cooler, its citizens sleeker and more handsome -- then Flower Valley was beyond even Bauer.
The name says it all, doesn't it? "Flower Valley." Whenever I thought of Flower Valley, I envisioned a verdant paradise where every boy was given a brand-new Camaro on his 16th birthday and every girl had a rainbow assortment of alligator-festooned Izod shirts neatly folded in her dresser.
I went on a date with a Flower Valley girl once. We played putt-putt. How much different my life would be, I sometimes used to think, if we had been able to bridge the Twinbrook/Flower Valley divide. Surely I'd be spending my weekdays working at her father's law firm and my weekends relaxing at the country club.
Not too long ago I had occasion to be in my old neighborhood. I drove past my house. I drove past Rockville High School.
And then I drove along the road that runs between Bauer and Flower Valley.
At first I thought I was lost. Where was the perfumed air? Where were the songbirds that twittered in the trees? Where were the Kennedy-esque families playing touch football on their neatly manicured front lawns, the gleam from their perfect white teeth reflecting brightly off the solid-gold lawn jockeys?
Could it really be that the communities that were the objects of so much of my aspirational thinking as a pimply 16-year-old were, in reality, merely typical little suburban enclaves? Was it possible that all my yearning and longing were wasted, and that the energy I expended fretting over my house, my clothes, my skin, my haircut, my friends and which table I sat at in the cafeteria might have been better spent on learning trigonometry or mastering the French pluperfect?
Don't answer that.
We had our first substantial snowfall this week and that meant we saw the first appearance of that classic Washington beast, the rolling igloo.
Surely you've seen it. It's a mound-shaped, snow-covered apparition that creeps down side streets and then, seemingly gaining confidence, speeds up on major roads. At the front is a tiny porthole, often no bigger than a pie plate.
The rolling igloo is sort of like a frozen chrysalis, for as it warms it starts shedding huge chunks of ice and snow. Crack goes the carapace. If you are lucky enough to be following a rolling igloo, you can watch with wonder and delight as a massive shard explodes across the hood or windshield of your car.
Clean all the snow off your %&*@ vehicle, would you?
Party for a Cause
Wednesday saw me making my annual visit to Hoffman, Wasson & Gitler, a patent law firm in Crystal City. I was the guest of Marty Hoffman, who more than 30 years ago first told friends and colleagues that he was throwing a little holiday shindig, and he'd appreciate that any money invitees would have spent on gifts instead be donated to Children's Hospital. At last year's event he collected close to $15,000.
Imagine if every law firm in the Washington area did the same thing. We'd make our goal for Children's Hospital in no time.
Our goal by Jan. 20: $600,000.
Our total so far: $37,591.31.
There are three easy ways to donate:
Make a check or money order payable to "Children's Hospital" and mail it to Washington Post Campaign, P.O. Box 17390, Baltimore, Md. 21297-1390.
Go online, to www.washingtonpost.com/childrenshospital and click on "Make a Donation."
To contribute by Visa or MasterCard by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions.
Give Me Drugs
I met a few people at the party who specialize in pharmaceutical patents. It reminded me that I saw one of those drug ads on TV that said, "Ask your doctor if [insert drug name here] is right for you."
I forget what the drug was for exactly. It might have been heart disease. Or lethargy. Or lassitude. Or toenail fungus. It pretty much guaranteed to do something pretty useful.
I think the drug might be right for me, and maybe I should ask my doctor. The thing is, I can't remember what it's called.
Maybe it was for memory.
Remember to join me at 1 p.m. today for my online chat. Go to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.