Purple Cape

Posted on November 8, 2008Filed Under stories, Teaching | Leave a Comment

A while back on my daily skate around town, I watched a police car make a quick u-turn in the middle of the street and then pull over to the side of the road in front of me. The driver did the cop wave for me to come to the passenger window, which was rolling down. I peered in warily.

I first got pulled over in seventh grade. I was a little late getting to school, and I rode my bike the wrong way down the street, and I ran the red light at the nearby intersection. The cop stopped me in front of the whole school assembled outside for the flag salute. I haven’t had much better luck since, on a bike or on skates.

So I was quickly reviewing the previous 5 minutes in my head as I approached. Nobody cursed at, no whacks on car hoods, I’m on the sidewalk where I belong. Nothing I can think of that would make a police officer interested in me. There was a smile below the cop shades. Good sign. Still…

“Hey Mr. Coward. You remember me?”

Phew. Just another former student. This one from my first year of junior high. You veteran teachers know what I mean. They turn up as your server at the restaurant or the guy on TV that owns a local auto repair hut or the guy driving the Mercedes that almost hits you in the crosswalk because he’s so excited to see you. I live in a fairly small town (45K), and I can’t go 3 blocks without hearing, Hey Mr. Coward, Mistah C, or more usually a screamed, MISTEEEER COWWWWAAAAARRRRRRD!

My friend was up recently from SmellA, where he works for a well-known, family-owned, music accessory and guitar company. Before I started teaching, I worked there for six years when they were located here in town, and I knew the owner and his son. The son, who had taken over the business by the time I was teaching, had a couple of boys go through our school, and I had one of them in my class. He was going through a Jimi Hendrix phase at the time (he played guitar), and for a while, he wore a purple velvet cape to school. He actually carried it off pretty well, but he still took a little pun for it.

My friend said, “Hey guess who just took over the company? He’s my new boss.”

“Not ‘Bernie’?!”


“Ask him if he’s still got the purple cape.”

So I wrote a song for the band. All the references are to kids I really had, and things they’re really doing. Maybe, once we get it down tight, I can post a recording of it. I don’t have a title yet. “Purple Cape” maybe?

You might hang with rock stars,
Or you might be a cop.
I hope you remember me,
If you pull my car to a stop.

I heard you are an artist,
You dance the ballet;
Two of you are the boss of my friends,
I knew you’d go far someday.

But I remember when,
You weren’t all that cool;
Got an F on every spelling test,
And wore a purple cape to school.

So no matter how far you go,
Or how long it takes,
To me you’ll always be that kid that I had…

In seventh grade.

You might be be pitchin’ sliders,
You might be pitchin’ woo.
I saw you on Monday Night Football,
I thought that was pretty cool.

You’re working for a senator,
Writing for the Trib.
I saw you in the baby aisle at the store,
Buying diapers and bibs.

But way back in the day,
You were shorter than the girls,
Practically peed when it was your turn to read,
And speeches made you want to hurl.

So no matter how far you go,
Or how long it takes,
To me you’ll always be that kid that I had…

In seventh grade.


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