Recess is a well known institution; but it is one that is often taken for granted. From kindergarten through seventh grade, it was simply a fun part of the school day. However, in eighth grade something changed. Maybe it was hormones. Maybe we sensed that it was our final year of true recess, a recess where the whole grade was together. Or maybe it was Donald Grande. All I know is that we redefined what recess was all about.
Eighth grade recess started like any other year – with some classic games of football in the fall. Early on, though, we could tell something was different. Sure, there was probably a sick game-winning Hail Mary and even some sicker catches, but there is only one play we still remember – Nick D. QB sneaking for a touchdown, pump-faking defenders the entire way down the field. And, consistent with this, the remainder of the year’s recesses proved to be enormous jokes as well.
Full Blown Aids
This cast of characters varied greatly, starting with the infamous Lunch Nazi on the way out to recess. This lady was the biggest BITCH ever (honestly, if u can think of a bigger one, please tell me… and I don’t mean big like tucker-big, although she was). However, the Lunch Nazi was usually easily avoided or, if not, at least outran. Once outside, one came across characters such as Mr. Conner, the massive guy with the goatee and cowboy hat who bears a strong resemblance to Satan. This guy broke up mad fights and was just the man. And then, of course, there’s Bucci. He was already the coolest teacher ever from seventh grade reading class, and his presence at recess only added to his mystique. The glasses and the hair made us all think he was really old, but soon Ryan started stealing Bucci’s red pen right from his shirt pocket. Then, we would get to see Bucci break into a full sprint, catch Ryan, and lift him up by one arm. This proved that Bucci was not an old guy but, rather, a really cool, beastly old guy who had no problem beating up kids.
As the weather got colder and Mrs. Vespe became more boring, a crime family began to form in her Italian class. After a trip to Yorktown Boces and an encounter with the Masta-Don, the hierarchy became clearer. Nick D. and I were Dons of La Famiglia Prosciutto and soon we had consiglieres, hit-men, butchers, and more. Our enemies, under the name La Famiglia Morto, were targeted at recess. However, they were weak in numbers and the mafia craze would’ve died out soon if it wasn’t for Cheese. Cheese started out small as a resistance movement to the mafias. Eventually, their numbers grew to the point where a brawl was imminent. For a solid two weeks, recess consisted of brawling and calling hits on top members of each group. In my case, most of these brawls consisted of me scoping out Matt Newman and then the two of us charging each other and punching each other in the sides for a few minutes. After a few major players were whacked, mafia wars died out.
When recess was limited to the blacktop only, our options were significantly reduced. Some jokers tried to start real games of basketball, but the ball was always hogged by the best players, and most people had no fun watching them play. Once again, it was Nick D who came through and made recess absurd. It was in these winter games of basketball that he made famous the “nick shot” – a shot taken, often one-handed and blind, with ridiculous facial expression and pose. The only thing more ridiculous than his face was the number of these shots he actually sank. And if the “nick shot” was not enough, he further entertained us with fully clothed, but still highly skilled, pole dancing. He could make several spins around the pole while outstretched and parallel to the ground. It was this mastery that earned him the title MVP, Most Valuable Pole-dancer.
The Secret Life of Jimmy Mac
Some days, despite our efforts, recess was just boring. We couldn’t provide ourselves with entertainment, so we sought it elsewhere. Usually, this meant lining up twenty guys or more along the fence and heckling Jimmy MacWhirter and his crew, which included Erin Arden and Lally. They would ignore our taunts and continue with their game of “bounce the ball on the wall” leaving us with no option but to be assholes and steal the ball. And, then, when they would tell on us, we would go tell Mr. Conner that they weren’t letting us play… and then they had to let us play. Classic.
Riots on the Streets of Somers Middle School
Once spring rolled around there was no stopping us. We all had the disease – we were infected with second degree senioritis. At the head of our rebellion was none other than Aaron Daniels. It was his creation of the high intensity sport of bush diving that started the revolution. If the appeal of throwing yourself onto a bush and being flung back wasn’t enough, which it was, we still would’ve done it – just to disobey the aids, who for some reason banned the activity. Soon, the chaotic insubordination grew into unified revolt. On the tenth anniversary of the Rodney King riots, Daniels led us in protest, running around the aids chanting “No Justice, No Peace!!!” Of course, when the end of recess bell rang, we were too excited to just enter the building quietly. We charged into the gym entrance creating a huge traffic jam. Vinnie Monaco started screaming “MOSH PIT,” while people pushed and shoved and toppled over the garbage can scattering waste everywhere. This was such a pleasurable experience for all of us that the “end of recess mosh/knock over the garbage” became tradition for the remainder of the school year.
When the spring sport seasons began, the lacrosse players found it necessary to bring their three hundred dollar sticks to recess everyday and throw around a lacrosse ball. What’s the fuckin’ deal with that?! You didn’t see the baseball players bringing in gloves and bats and playing at recess, because that’s not what recess was for. You played your sport everyday after school at practice. And the lacrosse players didn’t even do it for practice. They wanted to show off that they played lacrosse and brag about their new heads and shafts. The baseball players, and baseball supporters, eventually had enough of this shit. We would line up on the fence overlooking the lower field, insult the lacrosse players, and then drown out their whining with chants. The aids tried to solve this problem by sitting us on the curb, but, when Daniels started running up and down the line high-fiving us, we got louder than before. Not knowing how to handle the situation, Mr. Wanderlingh told us all to sit on the curb, even though we were already there (amazing). For the majority of recess, the war was a verbal one. However, in the end of recess mosh pits at the gym entrance, baseball and lacrosse kids would mix and mad brawls would break out. Oh yeah, and by the way, Novosel, even though you hung around with us during this time, you were still a lax tool.
World Cup Soccer
This was the last major movement of eighth grade recess. With the introduction of soccer balls to recess and the real World Cup getting into full swing, we had little other choice. It was an every-man-for-himself rumble with a soccer ball in the middle. The goal was the baseball backstop, which sounds easy enough but, in reality, the ball was on the other side of the field most of the time, because bringing it any closer meant getting the shit tackled out of you. This is an amazing game, and we need to bring it back this year.
MAY 10, 2002 – ETHAN KAMER DAY
Kickball was a common recess pastime the entire year, but on one fateful day in May it became so much more. It was a clear day… a good day for kickball. We actually had some trouble starting our game, because so many girls were laying around in right field. We told them to leave, but they just gave us looks and ignored us. We began the game, anyway, and, for the most part, they didn’t interfere. That is until there were about five minutes left in the period. Ethan Kamer, a lefty, comes to the plate for his team, which is down by a significant margin. While he stands ready for the pitch, Laura Williams and her friends are walking in right field towards the parking lot. Ethan makes contact. He sends a sky-high shot into right, hard to judge at first, but as the ball descends it becomes clearer and clearer where it is headed. Everyone holds their breath until “DOINK!” Laura Williams is down. We all erupt in laughter and applause, and Ethan is given a legend’s welcome at home plate by both teams (heroes get remembered but legends never die). For a second, there is dispute over the call, but John Vegliante acting as umpire quickly calls an automatic win. The cheers are beginning to die down when someone points out that Laura is still on the ground. Not only this, but she is surrounded by her friends and not moving…. A second round of praise explodes! Ethan is hoisted upon our shoulders. Finally, the nurse comes out and, with the friends, helps Laura up and into the school. As recess ends and we head into the school, Laura’s friends pass by and call Ethan a jerk for what he did. This prompts round three of congratulations from all those around. And, then, it is stated that, henceforth, the tenth of May shall officially be named Ethan Kamer Day in honor of his truly extraordinary deed.
So there you have it. Eighth grade was the year that we redefined the meaning of recess… but it was also the year that recess defined us. It defined our class as we were then. Do any of you remember the very end of that school year? One of the last few days of school, a half-day I think, they handed out some shitty visors that apparently were chosen to be the eighth grade graduation gift. Beyond this I don’t remember much, except that they gave us a complimentary recess afterwards. And during this final recess of middle school what did we all do?… kickball, kid.