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Memory Still Serves Me Right

By Jim Belshaw
Of the Journal
    I want it noted for the record (if not my medical chart) that I pulled up Fr. Severin's name from the depths of memory all on my own.
    No prodding, no Google search, no calling the guy up in Rio Rancho who went to the same school I did back when color TV was cutting edge technology and Fr. Severin was getting us hooked on Shakespeare without benefit of the SWAT team or flash-bang grenades.
    It took a few minutes to arrive at his name, but doing it got me through breakfast without worrying too much about how my brain's plasticity might be seizing up.
    I started thinking about my freshman English teacher while reading Zsombor Peter's Journal story about last week's "gun" incident at La Cueva High School.
    The "gun" was a cardboard cutout brought to a classroom by a student for an updated study of Hamlet.
    Someone saw the kid on a security video in a hallway and soon there came 100 cops, the SWAT team, an armored car, a helicopter and flash-bang grenades.
    (What is it about "flash-bang grenade" that's so appealing? Probably the idea of blowing something up without hurting anyone. Must be a guy thing.)
    The cardboard gun was a substitute for a sword.
    The La Cueva student, the lowest ranking player in the SWAT drama, was blamed for everything that went wrong, which can happen when you don't have enough rank.
    The school told him he couldn't attend graduation ceremonies.
    A district court judge, taking a more expansive view, found plenty of blame to go around: "An awful lot of mistakes were made," she said.
    So she overturned the punishment, one small step toward a world in which misdemeanors don't require capital punishment.
    The kid's lawyer called the classroom re-enactment of the play "Hamlet in the Hood," which got me to thinking about Fr. Severin, the English teacher who got us more into "The Merchant of Venice" than any of us thought possible.
    But he didn't use a cardboard gun. He used a TV show called "77 Sunset Strip."
    It had a hepcat character named Kookie, who actually used words such as "Daddio."
    He was very, very cool, and because even I have minimal standards, I will not repeat another word of what we thought was very, very cool back then.
    Fr. Severin, an aficonado of rock 'n' roll in his own right, had each of us translate a section of the Shakespeare classic into Kookie's hepcat language.
    The assignment caused us to consider every word of the play, and the "Merchant of Venice" always conjures up the memory.
    That I was able to pull Fr. Severin's name from the mists made me feel better about something I'd read earlier in the morning, yet another hand-wringer about how people my age are beginning to lose things and forget things.
    I'd been morose because I lost my wallet twice last week and a pair of sunglasses two weeks ago that turned out to be on a chair two feet away from me every morning they were "gone."
    Because my generation can't worry enough about immortality, there are now entrepreneurs selling "brain fitness exercises" to help stave off the aging process.
    A few years ago, I read that playing cards is an excellent way to exercise the brain as one ages.
    I play poker. I like to think of it as going to the gym.
    So when a doctor says, "Are you getting regular exercise ... "
    Write to Jim Belshaw at The Albuquerque Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103; telephone— 823-3930; e-mail— jbelshaw@abqjournal.com.