Journal entry: January 23, 1987 (age 17)
Earlier tonight, the talent show at Seton Catholic Central High School was filled with singing, dancing, and, in the case of the act my friends and I put together, high drama. Near the end of the evening, Pat McCormack, Jim Root, and I ascended the stage with an air of grim gravitas. Unlike the rest of the acts, we chose not to relax the dress code we had been required to wear during the school day. If anything, our button-up shirts, ties, dress pants, and shoes were crisper and sharper than usual. To heighten the effect, we added dinner jackets.
As Pat and I walked toward a hulking, wooden podium downstage, Jim split off behind us, where, from the huge black case he was carrying, he produced an electronic keyboard and a stand to place it on. Then he pulled a pair of dark sunglasses from his breast pocket, put them on, and stood motionless behind the synthesizer. With his head down and his hands clasped in front of him, he looked like a new breed of ecclesiastical beatnik. At the podium, Pat opened a slim, red-orange volume that had been placed there, and glared at the audience just long enough to slide across the line between dramatic pause and awkward silence. He cleared his throat, exchanged a blinking nod with me, and began to speak.
Pat’s eyes scanned the audience for a full 10 seconds before he stepped away from the podium. I stepped in to replace him – my face a study in stoicism – and addressed the crowd with the same words. “I am Sam.” Then Pat joined me at the microphone, and together we intoned, “Sam I am.”
Our dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham continued to the end of the book, with Pat and me trading passages in iambic tetrameter. Occasionally, one of us stopped in mid-sentence, visibly overcome with the raw power of our Seussian muse. The other quickly picked up the narrative thread, expressing contempt for eating the titular items in a box or a house, with or without a fox or a mouse.
Throughout the proceedings, Jim played incidental music on the keyboard. Periodically, his freeform, baroque noodlings overpowered the text. At those points, either Pat would stop reading and glare at Jim, or I would leave the podium to take Jim aside for a whispered conference. When neither tack worked, Pat and I double-teamed Jim in a stage-pummeling of epic proportions. We had agreed ahead of time that this display of violence would nicely juxtapose the book’s “happy” ending, in which the narrator comes around to the mob-approved niceness of green eggs and ham.
Unexpectedly, the audience liked us. I would like to say that we gained the attention of nubile groupies, but we had to settle for two chuckling nuns, who approached afterwards to ask us to reprise our act at their grammar schools.
Journal Addendum: September 29, 1991
The Reverend Jesse Jackson just appeared on Saturday Night Live, where he performed…a dramatic reading of Green Eggs and Ham. There was no mention of three innovative high-schoolers from Binghamton, despite the fact that Sam we were first.