With the dawn of the new year (1983), I had one goal: April Celebrations.
Despite my success sneaking out to Center meetings twice a week for the last few months, I couldn’t disappear for two weeks unnoticed. I had to get dad’s permission if I were going to go to New York over spring break. Even before asking him, though, I knew what his answer would be: you can go to New York if your grades are good.
Fat chance. My grades wouldn’t be good. They sucked. Just look at my first semester grades above! I wasn’t cutting classes like I used to. I wasn’t smoking dope or getting drunk anymore. But neither was I studying outside of class; I never did homework. True, I wasn't technically flunking out, but could I be any closer?
A few factors were in my favor, though. The April Celebrations that year would take place before our mid-term progress reports issued at school, so in order to prove my grades worthy, I’d have to ask my teachers to issue tentative progress reports early. In other words, the progress reports would be issued before my grades sank to their lowest point.
Also, my class load wasn’t the most demanding. It was my last semester of high school. I was taking: American government, wood shop, math, creative writing, and Spanish. I felt good about wood shop. Also, I liked my government teacher and my Spanish teacher. Math and creative writing, however, would be the sticking point.
Finally, I would probably be the beneficiary of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” My grades were so low on such a consistent basis that expectations for me were way low. I didn’t have to score straight As. All I probably had to do was show dad that I was nowhere near failing (no easy task). So it was that I approached my teachers at the end of each class and asked for the progress reports. Then, I had nothing to do but wait.
As I recall, I got the progress reports back about a week later. As I’d suspected, I did great in wood shop (A), American government (B-), and Spanish (B). All good grades – especially for me. They wouldn’t be good enough, however, to rescue me from anything lower than a C in either math or creative writing.
In math, I got a C-. Not good. In light of that grade, I didn’t think a C in English would suffice. That C- alone in math was probably enough to tank my chances of going to Celebrations. So, I was pretty heavy hearted going into English class that day to get my grade. After class, the teacher asked me up to her desk and handed me the progress report. “Congratulations, Joe,” she said. “You’re doing much better than expected.” B-. She chatted away for a few more minutes, but I wasn’t listening. I had a B- in English. No way!
I was in. Even with the C- in math, I knew dad couldn’t deny me. Of all my historic bad grades, math had always been the worst. I was no math whiz and in light of my other grades, which were actually pretty good, he wouldn’t fault me. When I presented dad with the progress reports that afternoon, he was pleasantly surprised. While he reminded me that I’d have to put in some extra work in the math department, he said he was pleased and I could go to New York .
Score! I felt like I was getting away with something. I was going to New York! Now, there was only one thing left for me to do: find a way around the rule that forced new disciples like me to stay at that out of town hotel during Celebrations. Whether Ashrita liked it or not -- come hell or high water -- I was going to stay locally in New York .