It was called the sump.
Quite a name huh?
It was this reservoir/murky water/sewage area enclosure between the big town park and the driving range. I actually didn't know it was called the sump until I got to high school. The only reason I knew it was called the sump was because apparently, that's where teenagers would go to drink and smoke and do god knows what else.
And those stories always involved the sump.
I say god knows what else because I never found out… because I never went. Just like I never went or did a lot of things in high school. Not that I was a sheltered kid. In fact I would argue I had a more robust high school experience than most people. However, my experience consisted of things that did not happen in a sump.
I was never a part of that kind of crowd. Looking back you could probably have picked out the "Sump" crowd in 4th or 5th grade.
I might have had some casual acquaintance with pre-sump people back then, but that was it. I remember hanging out with my friend Jeff one day when he ran into a couple of his slightly older, slightly more nefarious friends. Pre-sump types. The types that left at each other's jokes but seemed to never hear mine. No matter how many times I repeated them.
Well Jet and I and the pre-sumpers were just walking around one day when we all went in to the local drug store. They all bought large cans of Arizona Iced Tea. I didn't particularly want one but I figured this was what cool people did. So I bought one too.
We then walked behind the bank and sat on the curb of the closed drive through teller drinking our iced teas. Like it was illegal or something. I distinctly remember stepping outside myself to observe us sitting against the backdrop of white washed brick and thinking "Is this what being cool is about? Sitting behind the bank and drinking Iced tea?"
It was merely a foreshadowing for years later when alcohol and cigarettes would replace ice tea and tires, broken glass (and possibly sewage) would replace white washed bank walls. Teenagedom was a far cry from adolescence.
People started referring to the gathering at the sump as "Sump Parties."
It seemed a strange pairing of words even back then. Like, Manure Fiesta or Compost Celebration.
But when you are a teenager with no privacy and nowhere else to go, I suppose a sump is the equivalent of a local Tijuana.
There might have even been a donkey at the sump, who knows.
I never went to the "sump parties" for several reasons. The first was, IT WAS AT THE SUMP. The idea of lying to my parents to hop over a fence into a park, to sneak through another fence, to scramble down a disgusting trash filled hill in the pitch black of night so I could hang out around of bunch of people I couldn't see smoking cigarettes just didn't get my joy meter spinning.
I was far more interested in staying home, watching Friday night television about idealized versions of high school and cramming things like waffles, ice cream and as many sugar based toppings as possible into a bowl in a sundae that probably should have come with a full medical and dental plan.
The other reason I never went to a sump party was because, well, I was never invited.
Now I'm sure most of the people who went weren't "invited." Ninth graders aren't known for sending out hand written invitations to partake in illegal activities. I'm sure most of the people just heard from somebody who heard from somebody else. They probably didn't need to say more than "alcohol, sump, night" to spread the word.
But I had never gone to an event that I wasn't invited to. We had these "float making parties" in 7th and 8th grade where a bunch of kids would get together to fold tissue paper flowers to go on the floats. But those weren't the kinds of parties that everybody wanted to go to.
Hey guys, who wants to do some manual labor?
But there were girls there, often lots of girls. So needless to say, I went. There was usually a healthy amount of pretzels and soda and that was good enough for me.
That wasn't a real party type of party with cool kids and sketchy goings on. Those were the kinds of parties that like... moms invited to me to. In fact looking back, I'm almost positive I was invited to more social gatherings by mothers of my friends than by my actual friends.
And that formalized invitation, which expressed interest in having me partake in a social function was something significant for me. I was invited and so I attended.
This inability to understand social gatherings would follow me into my college years when people down the hall said, "Hey we're going to a frat party." And my first thought was "were you invited?" I had never really gone anywhere I wasn't directly invited before. I always thought that the only people who were supposed to show up were those directly told of the event.
I've come a long way since then considering when I plan my own birthday I usually end up telling my friends "Tell anybody who might like me they should come."
Needless to say I haven't typically had epic turnouts at my birthday.
But then again, I've never had my birthday at the sump.