…and he looked like Mr. Belvedere
I am not lying. My sixth-grade music teacher’s name was Gaylord Fagerland.
You would think that his real name was like Gaylen Fosterlund and it was his slur nickname, but no. Real name. On the first day of class, I remember him writing his whole name out on the board, not just Mr. Fagerland. The craziest part of this all though: HIS NAME, NUMBER, AND ADDRESS WERE ALL LISTED IN THE PHONE BOOK. I had him for whole year and I am still not sure if he was oblivious or quietly being like, “C’mon motherfuckers! Shit on my face!” by keeping himself listed. It was 1988 and by then “gay” and “fag” definitely had switched hands from meaning an old-timey good mood or an Englishman’s cigarette to negative words describing dudes that wanna smooch dudes. I mean, were talking about the Midwest here and these are 12-year-old dipshits. He had a mustache, wore sweater vests, and looked like a diddling Mr. Belvedere. It was fucking overload!
My sister is nine years older than me, my brother five. They both had him. You heard of his name in like first grade so by the time you got there, it was like making fun of a statue’s butt, I mean, how long can you do that? So you went in already prepared.
I remember he had a class talent show within the first couple weeks. You could do anything musical, whether it was actually playing an instrument, singing, or dancing to music. Ya know, pretty cool stuff like that. You could pair up, so a metal dude that I was sorta friends with asked me if I wanted to sing along to an Anthrax song with him. I just said yes. I had never listened to Anthrax at that point. No one needs to listen to Anthrax. For some reason I told him I knew the words to “I’m The Man.”
We had a week to prepare. We did nothing. He shows up with the cassette EP rewound to the start so it would play “I’m The Man”—the censored radio version instead of the one he preferred and called the “def uncensored version.” I end up just hopping around mouthing “watermelon” and then singing along when he yelled “I’m the man!” The dude was a little pissed at me afterwards because I didn’t know the lyrics, but I think I lied and said I was thinking of another Anthrax song and kind of avoided talking to him ever again.
What came of this talent show though, weirdly, was that Gaylord took kind of a shining to me. He said he liked my energy and asked if I wanted to be in his boys’ choir. Yes, Gaylord Fagerland asked me if I wanted to be in his afterschool boys’ choir. He also asked my friend Eric Odness (these names!) if he wanted to as well. We both laughed about it but then somehow ended up doing it. There were only three of us in the choir and it only lasted for two rehearsals. I think he tried to teach us some tabernacle shit and then moved on to having us sing “Pretty Woman” and then abandoned us.
The thing about getting used like this is you’re constantly wondering if you fucked up and turned off the guy or if he realized you thought he was a joke and got insulted. Did he want to fuck us and then realize we were the types who’d snitch?
To this day, I’m left wondering what I did wrong. This is why those professional pickup artist dudes do that “throwing a neg” thing. We’re all insecure and the best way to gain power over someone else is to give them a big hairy bag full of questions.