Claremont was a small town with only one high school, a school that required two years of PE (Physical Education). I'd taken year one my freshman year, and was so scarred by the experience of muscle cramps and asthmatic panting, I avoided doing the final required year until my last year of high school. I had to do it to graduate, so I took the one PE class that didn't require running around chasing a ball. Weightlifting.
Seventeen year-old, skinny me. In a weightlifting class. With the entire football team. Woody Allen didn't have material like this. Most days I was lucky to make it out of class without bleeding. But today I was about to learn something I didn't know – Coach Keiser, the teacher of weightlifting class, subscribed to the Pomona Daily Bulletin.
It was during the usual roll call that it happened. We all had to stand on these numbers, painted on the cement, for a military-style roll call. One by one the calls of "present" rang out, as I stood there dreading the next mispronunciation of my last name.
"Pazowack!" he called.
"Present," I murmured. But the next name didn't come. Instead, I looked up to see Coach Keiser staring at me.
"Did I see you in the paper?" he asked. "Protesting?"
The entire Claremont High football team was staring at me now. The beady eyes of beefed-up, adrenaline-fueled jocks with Republican parents were all on me. Waiting.
"Yes," I said. "You did."
I don't really remember what came after that, and not because it was beaten out of me. There was probably some murmuring and vague threats, but that was nothing out of the ordinary. I don't remember anything that came after that because nothing else mattered. I'd had my moment, my 60s, my time to stand up for what I believed in, and I believed in peace more than my own safety. I was against war enough to make enemies out of an entire football team.
I went to other protests after that. I took the microphone and told stories, held my hands up high. Later I'd go to college and see huge protests. I'd shoot photos for the local papers and cover the protests. I saw violence. Pepper spray and handcuffs. I stopped traffic. I told the stories.