"Thank God for film archivist Dennis Nyback. If not for his encyclopedic knowledge of rare films and his tenacity for acquiring them, we would never have the privilege to view some astounding works of cinema." Kim Morgan


Dennis Nyback takes his films around the world. Find out how to book a show, what programs are available, how to arrange for custom programming, and just about anything you would like to know about Dennis Nyback.

Historical Perspective Measure 67

I first started buying films, in the days before home video, because I loved history. Looking at the 20th Century is something that can be easily done. On the current ballot in Oregon is a citizen’s initiative: Measure 67. A tremendous number of op ed pieces have been written, pro and con. I am stunned that one perspective on the issue has not been addressed. Boiled down, those for the tax increase claim that the money is critically needed and it won’t hurt the average man financially. Those against the measure claim it would be a job killer with as many as 70,00 jobs going down the toilet and would start a stampede of businesses leaving the state. Various wrinkles have been added by various writers, but that’s the gist of it. The specific item in the measure that is raising the most ruckus is the 1500 percent hike on the minimum tax for C-corporations. That would be a raise from the current $10 minimum to a $150 minimum. In the fine print of some of the articles you might have seen that the current $10 minimum corporate tax was set over 75 years ago. What has been missing in these arguments is anyone taking an historical perspective. Just what was the situation 75 years ago when the $10. minimum was established? Just for argument, lets go back to January of 1934. Then, as now, a Democrat had been inaugurated as president less than a year earlier. One oddity is that back then Franklin Roosevelt had served a little over 9 months. President Obama has been in office almost a year. The 1933 Constitutional Amendment moved the inauguration up from March 4 to January 20. Oh, enough with Constitutional Amendment minutia. Most school kids, I really do hope, could tell you the Great Depression was in full swing at the time. What we will look at here is just what would ten bucks buy back then. For starters let’s fill up the car with gas. At a dime a gallon, and a ten gallon tank, you could fill it up ten times. Today you wouldn’t get a single fill-up. You’d be lucky to get 4 gallons. Let’s see, 4 gallons now, against 100 gallons then. Any school kid (here’s hoping), using simple arithmetic, arriving at a ratio of 25 to 1, could fairly raise the ten dollar minimum to $250. How about groceries? A loaf of bread in 1934 sold for 8 cents. Today the average price is $2.79. Using the same simple calculation the minimum tax could be raised to $350. Now let’s drive home and park in front of our new house. In 1934 the average price of a new house was $5,970. Last November in the US the average price was $279,000. From that we could raise the minimum to $460. Oh, I did mention we drove to the house. Back then a brand new Ford V8 sedan could be bought for $535. Right now I don’t think you can get an eight cylinder engine in any Ford sedan. You can get one in an F-150 pickup or a Mustang GT. For out comparison let’s look at the truck. The V8 150 is a mere $35,000. With our instant calculation we now have the minimum raised up to $650. Dispensing with how things cost, we now will look at what people earned. To cut this short we will look at just one wage earner: school teachers. Back then the average yearly pay was $1,227. Right now the median is just about fifty grand. Ah, we find that school teacher pay has grown at a slower rate than housing or autos. That would drop the minimum back down to $400. I It would seem from these examples, and believe me, there are many more, that raising it up to $150 is imminently justified. If anything, it is a very conservative raise. Just for comparison, the minimum in California is $800. Aha, you say! Back then it was the Great Depression. Things were different. Oh? If things were that tough we could assume the minimum was consequently set low. With that argument the logical result is that the rate of ten dollars should have been raised several times during the last 75 years. As you can see, just about everything else
has.

A slightly different version of this was published by the Oregonian on line.

Terrorism Light and Dark

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Here is another trailer for a film show I will take around America. It examines how we Americans viewed terrorism before 9/11. It contains short films and clips 1922 to 1980. It seems there were two very different ways. One was to view terrorism in a thoughtful and serious way. Another was to make a joke out of it. Oh, it was also used for political gain. Examples of all are in this show. Can we learn from history? I sure hope so. It should be double featured with I Know Why You’re Afraid. Send me an email.

I Know Why You’re Afraid

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This is a trailer is for one of the film programs I will take around the US in April and May. Contact me if you’d like me to show the program at your venue. The feature length program consists of educational films that should not have been shown to impressionable children. Instead millions saw them. Could they have warped formative minds for life? Could it explain paranoia in our culture? The trailer was edited by Howard Brotine. The film transfer from 16mm to digital was done by Gary Lacher. Send me an email.

Movie Trailers

Here are two trailers for film programs I will take on the road.   Gary Lacher transferred the films to DVD.  I used a Mac with imovie at Marylhurst to select ten minutes of scenes from each program.  The very talented editor  Howard Brotine made the trailers.

Press Release for my 2007 Summer of Love Anniversary Show

Have a Psychedelic Summer 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love Film Festival
Friday – Thursday September 7-14
The Grand Illusion Cinema
1403 NE 50th Seattle Wa 98105
206 523 3935

It was forty years ago that young people from around the United States flocked to the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco for the Summer of Love. Media coverage took what had been brewing in Haight-Ashbury for a couple of years and exposed Hippies to the national audience.  The Summer of Love lasted  only that one summer, but flower children returning to their homes spread the hippie counterculture across the nation. Two years later Woodstock helped define the generation and Altamont helped end it.

Friday September 7 7:00 and 9:00  The Hippie Temptation 16mm

In 1967 CBS sent reporter Harry Reasoner to San Francisco to report on the Summer of Love.  The report that aired on Tuesday August 22, 1967 was titled THE HIPPIE TEMPTATION.  It opens with Harry Reasoner walking down the street in Haight Ashbury saying “This Harry Reasoner reporting from San Francisco without flowers in his hair.”  The sets stage for his frowning look at what he finds. He found lots of young kids loitering on the streets and in the parks.  He visits the house of the Grateful Dead.  He attends a concert and light show featuring the group Canned Heat. He visits Dr. Dave and the Haight Free Clinic. He attends a street party with the Grateful Dead playing.   He also spends time interviewing a doctor who shows examples of the chromosome damage caused by using LSD. Oops, that last one wasn’t exactly factual reporting. CBS was the station of Walter Cronkite and was a trus ted source for the news. With only three national television stations and Tuesday being a slow night, it is probable that 50 percent of the viewing public tuned into the report. One year later CBS would premiere 60 Minutes, with Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace as the first hosts.  The Hippie Temptation is 50 minutes long.  It will be preceded by a program of two 1960’s anti-war shorts.  The first is the earliest American anti-war film of the sixties “Toys On a Field Of Blue” which was made by the actor Richard Evans in 1961 when he was 26. Mr. Evans went on to be a prolific television actor. The second is “Vari?ci?k egy t?m?ra” (Variations On a Theme) made in 1961 in Hungary by Istvan Szabo. Mr. Szabo later won the Oscar for best foreign film of 1981 with his “Mephisto.”

Saturday September 8  7:00  LSD and Other Drug Scare Films 16mm

This program of educational scare films will conclude with a send up of them done in Portland, Oregon in 1972 by a couple of high school kids.  That film is Drugs Killers or Dillers? It was made by Tim Smith and Matt Groening. Yes, that Matt Groening.  It will be preceded by Beyond LSD, LSD Trip or Trap (made by Sid Davis),  The Day I Died, and All My Tomorrows.  All of these are great, but All My Tomorrows is particularly effective.  The last time I showed it in Seattle it started a a discussion at Internet Archive Forums Drugs Killers or Dillers is a wonderful film and even better when seen in the context of when it was made.

Saturday September 8  9:00  Wild In the Streets 35mm

Wow!  Cranked into production during the Summer of Love and released early in 1968, this American International Pictures teen epic is the ultimate LSD nightmare.  It is about a rock star who becomes president of the United States and puts everyone over the age of 30 into concentration camps where they are force fed LSD.  The rock star is played by Christopher Jones.  Richard Pryor is a member of his cabinet.  Shelley Winters is his mom.  She doesn’t just get sent to the over thirty concentration camp, she is killed there attempting to escape.  Just another of the great examples of Shelley dying on screen.  The hit song (Nothing Can Change The) Shape of Things to Come was written by Cynthia Weil and Barry Man.  Les Baxter, the “King of Exotica” did the soundtrack music.

Sunday September 9  7:00  and  9:00   Defining the 60’s Through Classic Commercials 16mm

100 commercials from the 60’s, many in glorious black and white. See the hair, cars, cosmetics, medicine, underwear, food, toothpaste, and more.  Many featuring performers you will recognize including Lily Tomlin (a very funny laundry detergent ad),  Ron Howard,  Tony Randall and  Anita Bryant, Pat  Pauslen, and others.  This is also a chance to see classic ads for the the product that was banned from Television advertisements in 1971, Cigarettes.  The commercials will be seen in their respective groups preceded by intertitles.  As Norman Douglas said “You can tell the ideals of a nation by their advertisements.”

Monday September 10  7:00  The Young Animals (aka Born Wild, 1968) 35mm

Another A.I.P teen epic rushed into production in 1967 and premiered early the next year. It was directed by Maury Dexter and written by James Gordon White. Mr. Dexter had a long career starting with low budget trash that culminated with his 1968 trifecta of Maryjane, The Mini-Skirt Mob, and The Young Animals. After that he worked with Michael Landon on Little House on the Prairie and Highway To Heaven. After the death of Michael Landon, Mr. Dexter retired. The writer James Gordon White specialized in racial and class conflict in his screenplays. His first writing credit was for The Hellcats (aka Biker Babes, 1967). He really hit his stride the next year with The Glory Stompers. His final screenplay was for the amazing The Thing With Two Heads (1972) starring Ray Milland and Rosy Grier as the black and white heads on one man’s body. As hard as it may be to believe, that was the follow up to his The Amazing Two Headed Transplant (1971).

The psychedelic rock bands Orphan Egg and The American Revolution both perform. Orphan Egg does the song In Big Letters. For unknown reasons you can find Orphan Egg on the Grateful Dead Family Discography http://www.deaddisc.com/GDFD_Orphan_Egg.htm. The American Revolution does the song Love Has Got Me Down. They produced one LP in 1968.

The Young Animals examines racial conflict and violence between white and Chicano students at a California high school. It is a much better film than one would expect. Surprisingly, quality actors lead the way. Tom Nardini (Cat Ballou) and Patty McCormick (The Bad Seed) are both excellent. David Macklin is also very good as a Mexican hating wasp psychopath.

Monday September 10  9:00   She Devils on Wheels 1968  35mm

This double feature examines parental fears of parents during the Summer of Love.  They didn’t have just LSD and Hippies to contend with.  They also had to worry about biker gangs and racial strife.   She Devils on Wheels is a Herschell Gordon Lewis biker chick flick. It was distributed by A.I.P.  The theme song “Get Off the Road” was performed by the Florida garage band Faded Blue.  It was later covered by The Cramps.  The plot concerns a female biker club called The Maneaters and their domination of male bikers.   Herschell Gordon Lewis went from being a exploitation film maker to the being the guru of direct marketing. Wow, talk about joining the establishment.

Tuesday  September 11 7:00  The Viet Nam War and How We Got There 16mm

This program features the  CBS Special Report from 1967 PULL THE HOUSE DOWN.  It features Harry Reasoner and his son Stuart.  The general issue is the generation gap.  The specific issue is Viet Nam. It has great footage of events and good dialogue between Harry and Stuart.  It ends with John Sebastian singing his song Younger Generation.  It starts with the Department of Defense film The US Soldier (c1962) showing “advisers in SE Asia and touting our ability to hit the enemy with a “nuclear” punch.  The second film is the US Government film The Only War We Seek (1963) which is about The US Agency for International Development.  It is an amazing at foreign aid at this pivotal time and never once claims to be “spreading democracy.”

Tuesday September 11 9:00    Examining 60’s Teenage Angst 16mm

The National Film Board of Canada allowed film makers to make films on topics ignored in America. This programs examines the roots of youth dissatisfaction with the establishment.    No Reason to Stay  is a film made in 1966 about a teenage boy who decides to drop out of high school. It is an amazing film.  Also in the program is the NFB film ” The Summer We Moved to Elm Street “.  It is story of a young girl and her alcoholic  father.  It is one of my very favorite films.  The third film is ” The Game ” made in 1966 by George Kaczender. It concerns boy teens who have a garage band and their introduction to sex.   All three films will floor you with their willingness to to tackle subjects seriously that were ignored in America.

Wednesday  September 12  7:00 and 9:00  Setting the Music Stage:  Scopitone A Go Go 16mm

Most people know what Psychedelic Music is.  This program will help show what immediately pre-ceded it.  Specifically it covers the Pop music scene that existed before the Beatles and the British Invasion.  This will be an all American Scopitone show featuring Procol Harum, Bobby Vee, Dick and Dee Dee, Joi Lansing,  Danny Whitten, Paul Anka, Jody Miller, Debbie Reynolds, and many more.  It will similar to my famous Scoptione a Go-Go which I did in NYC and that was covered on MTV in 1997.

Thursday September 12  7:00 and 9:00   The Psychedelic Music Show

Great and rare late sixties performance films featuring Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, John Lennon, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and more.  The Complete Psychedelic Music Show list:

CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL, LOOKING OUT MY BACKDOOR, 1970.  Creedence was a Bay Area band getting lots of SF gigs in 1967 before going wide in 1968.
JANIS, Trailer for the 1974 documentary film about Janis Joplin.
JANIS JOPLIN, with THE COSMIC BLUES BAND, does TRY (“just a little bit harder”). She is introduced by David Steinberg, host of The Music Scene Show television show.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE sing LIFE, a really great music video, color, 1968.
JIMI HENDRIX performs FOXY LADY, an exceptional film by Charlatan Production.
DOORS ON MT. TAM do a  long version of LIGHT MY FIRE, color, 1968.
JOHN LENNON, BED-IN FILM shot 6/1/69 with Tim Leary, Smothers Brothers, Murry the K. and Alan Ginsberg watching John and Yoko stay in bed for peace. The music track is COLD TURKEY, Color.
JOHN LENNON, SLIPPING AND SLIDING from Rock and Roll album session, Harry Nillson on piano, color,
INSTANT KARMA, John Lennon and Yoko Ono TV event called People For Peace “lets all shine on…” 1970, color, ROLLING STONES’ LADY JANE, 1966, with footage of young girls attacking a young Mick.
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE at the Fillmore with light show. They sing Its No Secret (Signe Anderson is the singer – before Grace). The co-stars on the program were The Dead. Also shows the Airplane rehearsing at the Matrix. 1968.  Great footage of the Fillmore and the crowd coming to the show.
ANIMALS, SAN FRANCISCO NIGHTS, 1967, color.
RICK NELSON as a hippie in striped pants singing DON’T MAKE PROMISES, film produced by Charatan Productions, color.
1910 FRUIT GUM COMPANY perform TAKE A GIANT STEP and SIMON SAYS, 1968, very silly images, color, Budah Records, Charlatan Productions.
BILL MEDLEY, formerly of the Righteous Brothers, sings PEACE BROTHER PEACE, 1968, part animated, color.
BEACH BOYS, TIME TO GET ALONG, a forgotten masterpiece, shows them in recording studio, color.
SAM THE SHAM, BOOGEY FARMER (Sam is now the Reverend Sam Samudial), color, 3m.  Check out Sam the Sham a very cool guy.
MYSTERY PERFORMER   The end for the show, a performer who  really shows how inclusive Hippie music could be.  He performed at the Moneterey Pop Festival

Karl Rove Fesitval

This is my press release from a film series I did early in 2004.  I guess I should have waited until Karl Rove was a little better known.  It sure didn’t draw a crowd.  I did it again in Seattle a month later to similar results.

Dennis Nyback and The Clinton Street Theater Present The Karl Rove Paranoia Film Festival

We live in a paranoid age.  This festival is dedicated to Karl Rove king of the fear mongers.  The often used phrase The War On Terror could also be called The Campaign For Fear. President Roosevelt addressed the problem when he said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Karl Rove would tell GWH “The only thing we have to sell is fear itself.”  The opening program will be I Know Why You’re Afraid.  It will feature  eight educational films that should have never been shown to children.  Could it be that our climate of fear was fostered by injudicious educational films being shown to children at an impressionable age, warping them for life?   Fear is sold in this country like any other commodity. It is used to sell home security systems,  car alarms,  guns, and most of all, right wing politicians.  The last program in the festival will be Fuck the Republican Party:  Secrets from Their Own Propaganda Films.  The first film in that program was made in 1940 to promote Wendell Wilkie against Franklin Roosevelt.  All of the ideas in it were used by George W Bush in 2000.  They warned America that the Democrats had failed to fund the military, thus weakening our defense against attack;  claimed that eight years was enough for the current administration which had lead America down the wrong road; and used imagery of thirty percent of a poor woman’s bread being seized by a monster’s hand to illustrate taxes on the poor.  Have there been no new ideas in the last sixty years?  Who needs new ideas when fear can be used to better effect.  A few years ago Ken Smith wrote the book Mental Hygiene.  He toured the country with educational films and did a show at the Guild.  His show was on a video. Several films  he showed on Video are in my film shows. This will be the real deal with films shown as they should be.  The educational film maker Sid Davis will be featured.  With funding from John Wayne he decided to revolutionize educational films by terrifying school kids to keep them safe.  I’m sure Karl Rove saw his films when he was growing up. Sid is still active.  Selling fear made him multi-millionaire. Friday March 12  I Know Why Your’re AfraidDeath Zones (1974);  I’m Feeling Scared 1978);  Strangers by Sid Davis (1959);   The Story of Menstruation (1946);  Head Lice (1970);   Girls Beware by  Sid Davis (1968);   Live and Learn by Sid Davis (1951);    Mechanized Death (Excerpt 1961);   Caught In  A Rip-Off (1974).  When I first showed this program a woman thanked me  for including The Story of Menstruation.  She said it had terrified her when she saw it in sixth grade.  It is possibly the most seen educational ever made, being shown from 1946 into the early 70’s. Jack Stevenson told me that seeing Mechanized Death in driver training class did not make it want to be a safe driver, it made him never want to get into an automobile again. Death Zones has to be seen to be believed.  Sid Davis used his own daughter as a victim in Live and Learn. She learns not to run with scissors.  When I showed Caught in a Rip-off in Seattle a guy told me he would bring thirty friends to see it if I ever showed it again. I wish I had his phone number. Saturday  March 13  The Parallax View  (1974)A comment about this film on the Internet Movie Data Base says “Movies like this are really scary, because they seem so plausible, and not ridiculous like some guy in a hockey mask that can’t be killed. This film is very convincing in the way it shows that sinister powers may be at work in society, without anyone being able to uncover them. The film sequence, part of the testing to see if Beatty is fit to join Parallax, is really SCARY, and to my memory, is more effective than the similar film sequences in ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘The Game’. An excellent political/thriller which surpasses the classic ‘Manchurian Candidate’.”  It was made by Alan J Pakula in 1974 starring Warren Beatty.  It was shot in Seattle and uses the Space Needle to great effect. Sunday March 14  Drug and Booze Educationals LSD  Trip or Trap  Sid Davis (1968);   PCP  You Never Know (1978);   Drugs and Booze (1974);    All My Tomorrows (1969);   The Day I Died  (1966);  The Last Date  (1949).  All My Tomorrows is one of the most creepy educationals ever made. The Day I Died is an all time classic.  The Last Date stars Dick York as a doomed hot rod high schooler many years before he became Samantha’s husband on Bewitched.  LSD Trip or Trap is the greatest LSD film ever made.  All of the other LSD classics (Trip To Where, Insight or Insanity,  LSD-25, etc. ) feature white coated MDs who lecture about chromosome damage and deformed babies.  Sid doesn’t stop there.  He actually shows deformed dead babies and claims LSD was the cause.  I am including an essay at the bottom of this by a person who saw Trip or Trap in the classroom. Monday March 15  Little Murders  1971This film was way ahead of its time.  It was written by Jules Feiffer and directed by Alan Arkin.  It shows a paranoid society so afraid that every one has a gun and all homes are barricaded fortresses.  People kill people randomly.  Alan Arkin, Donald Sutherland, and Elliott Gould are the stars.  It is a comedy. Tuesday March 16 The Day the Fish Came OutThis is being shown on thrifty Tuesday (all seats four bucks) because it really isn’t worth six.  That said, it has its fans and this will be the only time anyone will ever be able to see it on the big screen.  Here is a comment from the IMDB: “I’ve even tried to contact Candice Bergen to get this movie. It was the dancing scene that did me in. Everybody was dancing in sandals, Leather Roman type with one strap around the big toe types. The dance, the beat to the music, it seemed so futuristic. Who can I contact to set the wheels in motion to get this motion picture? I’ll even take 8 mm.” Wednesday  March 17  Is that a Bomb in Your Pants, Or are You Just Glad to See Me?This program could also be called Terrorism Light and Dark, or even Terrorism Can Be Fun.  Three of the films in the program use terrorism as a joke.  Two more are meant to be serious but one comes off as laughable and the other makes valid points.  One of them is truly sobering.  The sobering one is Japanese Relocation.  It was made by the US Government in 1942 to explain to the public how American citizens can be rounded up and put in concentration camps without being charged with a crime.  The successful serious one is What You Need to Know about Biological Warfare (1952). The laughable serious one is The Challenge of Ideas (1960).  They were both made by the US Government when Communism was the big menace.  The others are:  Cops (1919), featuring Buster Keaton as a man mistakenly believed to be a terrorist who is then chased by every cop in New York City;  The Blow Out (1936), Porky Pig gets the better of a mad bomber who is terrorizing a city;  and Ali Baba Bound (1937), again with Porky Pig, but this time battling Arabs including one suicide bomber. Thursday  March 18  Fuck the Republican Party:  Secrets from their own propaganda filmsWhat is curious about these films is how little the ideas have changed from 1940 till today.  The final film in the program is Attack On America (1980).  It was made to put forth the idea that Jimmy Carter had allowed Fidel Castro to arm all of Central America and that only Ronald Reagan could stop them from being invading us.  The first film is from 1940.  The 1974 film The Day Business Died  is a masterpiece of paranoia.  It is about a man who wakes up one morning to find there is no electricity, water, television or radio.  The only thing that works is his car and that is because it runs on gas.  This is too great a film for me to tell you anything more.  You have to come to the Clinton to find out the rest of the story. The Clinton Street Theater7:00 and 9:00Standard admission $6.00  Tuesday  $4.00 Fred’s Dreams

Trip or Trap?
by Fred Siegel

On the day the drug film was to be shown in Mr. Britchkow’s science class, I took my assigned seat at the rear center cluster of desks, directly across from a girl named Eileen. She was at least a head taller than me, with a few freckles, and long brown hair that covered most of her face. Like all the girls in my seventh grade class, she wore skirts or casual dresses over a contrasting leotard. She was not especially pretty or popular, not that I had any right to evaluate her. She never smiled, and for however many months she sat directly across from me I don’t remember us ever speaking. Her face seemed to be in a permanent scowl, and like most girls, she looked at me with pure hatred.

But as scary as Eileen was, she was nothing compared to the drug film. Even the opening credits made me nervous. The screen was filled with psychedelic colors that bubbled and whirled into each other, as if a rainbow were being cooked in a beaker atop a Bunsen burner. Then, the title of the film, LSD: Trip or Trap? appeared luridly across the screen in bold, slanted letters. Maybe it was the colors, or the typography, or perhaps the serious-looking announcer in the doctor coat, but it was clear to me that I was not going to pass this bravery test. I didn’t turn away when the young man who “thought he was God,” jumped in front of the moving car, but I did wince and look away when the doctor carved up the “LSD damaged brain” as if it were my grandmother’s pot roast.

As the carving continued, I noticed I was not the only person who found the film disturbing. Eileen, too, turned away in disgust, and even though I didn’t especially like her, it felt good to have a partner in cowardice. But the feelings of camaraderie didn’t reach their peak until the deformed babies made their appearance. Those babies made Frankenstein and the Wolf-Man look like Bambi and Thumper by comparison. As soon as I saw them, posed on a clinical-looking, white porcelain counter, I let out a feeble moan. Eileen whimpered “Oh, Jesus Christ!” and in perfect unison we turned away from the screen. In that chaotic instant, I glanced over and noticed that her nastiness had been replaced by a much more sympathetic vulnerability.

And then, in all the recoiling and flinching, our ankles touched.

My immediate impulse was to pull my foot back, but I maintained my original position. After all, the warmth of her ankle felt good through her leotard, and touching a girl was exciting, even though I didn’t especially like her. I tried to keep the touch subtle, as if it might be unintentional. If she rolled her eyes and kicked my shins, I could act indignant and pretend I wasn’t even aware of our contact. After a few seconds without an objection, however, I felt bold and I slowly rested more of my ankle upon hers. I didn’t dare to look at her directly, but I could see in my peripheral vision an ever so slight widening of her eyes as the full gravity of what was happening became clear to her. There was a moment of tension, but soon I felt her ankle surrender to mine. While infant gargoyles flickered on the screen, the ankles of two children melted together beneath cold, metal desks.

It would be nice if I could report that our passion blossomed, that we became puppy-lovers, that we have been married now for twenty years, and that our children are now in seventh grade and making their own marvelous discoveries. The truth, however, is weirder than that. Above the desks, my relationship with Eileen did not improve. She never smiled and we never spoke. Above the desks, Eileen’s hatred for me seemed as if it would bubble for eternity, like psychedelic rainbows with aneurisms.

But below the desks, it was prom night. For the remainder of seventh grade, whenever Mr. Britchkow turned out the lights to show a film about the rotation of the planets or the many uses of seaweed, two twelve year old pairs of feet escaped from their shoes to touch and dance and explore. If he had found out, Mr. Britchkow might have felt that our activities were outside of the curriculum. I would argue that we were studying anatomy. We learned that while the human foot can be surprisingly expressive, the most extraordinary organ is the human heart, a fist-sized muscle, capable of pumping blood and containing, simultaneously, the purest hatred and love.

Fred Siegel teaches in Drexel’s Department of English and Philosophy. He performs improvisational comedy with Comedysportz and does magic shows with his own gang, Fred’s Magic World.