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High School Hijinks

It's 1965 and photographer Scot Sothern is driving to St. Louis with his high school to see a basketball game. He downs a pint of rum and ends up naked in a hotel lobby at four in the morning.

by Scot Sothern
Jan 5 2015, 6:25pm

Photos courtesy of the author

I fucking hate high school from my first day in 1963 on. I've got behavioral issues and don't live up to my potential. My sophomore year, the varsity basketball team is number one, and Friday-morning rallies take up the time I could be sleeping in English class.

I get to school an hour late one Friday morning, and a bunch of kids are leaving at noon, driving or busing up to St. Louis for a big championship game. I guess I haven't been paying attention, because this is all a surprise to me. I have less than a dollar and spend a dime to call my parents and tell them I won't be home for dinner. I bum a ride 215 miles in a car full of idiots with a bottle of scotch.

St. Louis is kind of scary, but in a good way. Everyone is booked into the same hotel. It's a big party. Kids go in together—two, three, four to a room. I bounce from room to room, keeping an eye out for uneaten food and alcoholic beverages. Early in the evening, a glee-club girl has an epileptic seizure in the lobby and a little crowd stands there, watching. I go out and take a walk around the block to look around. The city vibrates like an onset of nerves. The people are cooler and the shadows are darker and I feel lost.

Back at the hotel, nothing is happening and people start going to bed. The party is over by ten. I finagle my way into a room with three guys I know and a couple of St. Louis girls. I'm not sure why the St. Louis girls are here, but they have blankets on the floor and look to be unattached. I introduce myself and climb under the cutest girl's blanket. She's got really big hair and smells like roses and mud. We start kissing and she puts her tongue in my mouth and keeps it there, the whole thing. It feels like it's flexed. When we break she tells me I'm a horrible kisser so I go and get under the other girl's blanket.

Around midnight the lights are low and people are sleeping. I'm telling the girl under the blanket how cool I am when a guy I know named Tommy shouts for me to shut the fuck up so he can go to sleep. I tell him to suck my butthole and he gets up and turns on the light and tells me he's going to shut me up. Tommy's about my size and a year younger. We hang with a lot of the same people. Once, when I was playing around with a pocket knife I accidentally stabbed him in the arm. I like him OK, but I don't think he likes me very much.

He takes a swing and misses and I take a swing and miss and then he pops me in the jaw. I say, "OK, fine. This is boring anyway." I borrow a pint of Bacardi rum from a guy who is sound asleep and go out and cruise the hallways, knocking on doors.

I drink the pint and go into a blackout with little sparks of memory. I wake up late in the afternoon, naked on the floor of a room with a headache and a hard-on and a couple of school friends who find me amusing. They tell me I rode the elevator down to the lobby naked at 4 AM. I don't know if they're telling the truth or not, but I'm going to claim it as my own and add it to the legend.

In the hotel restaurant I go from table to table mooching nutrients. A group of girls tell me that a couple of hours ago my friend Bruce fell out of a sixth-floor window and landed on the roof of the building next door. Bruce and I have been friends since kindergarten. He's an honor-roll student and not generally one to rattle the cage. I'm thinking falling out a window is a bigger deal than taking a naked elevator ride, so I'm kind of envious.

Bruce is in bed in his room and pretty scraped up and battered. He tells me he didn't fall but snuck out the window to hide by holding onto the ledge because, in his drunken state, he thought the police were coming in to search the room. When he couldn't pull himself back inside he let go, hoping to land on the air conditioner on the next floor down. Instead he landed on the roof next door. I tell him that's pretty funny and I'm glad he's OK and can I borrow five bucks because I'm fucking starving.

The big game is half over when I get there. I don't know what the score is, but my school loses and it feels pretty good. A team member, a kid who used to live across the street from me, is crying like a baby. I don't like him very much and even less after this display. I can't play basketball, but at least I know how to lose.

Back at the hotel, a girl who I've been falling in love with, Suzy, shows up with a friend and her friend's boyfriend, who drove them up for the game. They're driving back, so I go with them. He's driving a station wagon, so Suzy and I put down blankets in the back and get serious for the next four hours.

On Monday I learn that after the game on Saturday night, a bunch of sore losers got way too drunk and trashed a couple of rooms and a hallway at the hotel. It sounds like great fun and I'm sorry I missed it, but it's 1965 and I've got a future of riots and restlessness to look forward to. My time between the blankets with Suzy, however––motor running, radio playing the Beatles and the Stones, car lights passing by—that's once in a lifetime.

Scot's first book, Lowlife, was released in 2011, and his memoir, Curb Service, is out now. You can find more information on his website.