Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ryan Laurentano in 1984

My friend Ryan Laurentano was one of those military nerds who totally ran the fireworks scene come Fourth of July. He wore that same Airborne shirt every day, and usually a bandana - either in standard camo or the Japanese kind that Karate Kid wears. He had the biggest collection of plastic guns on the block.  He was a little older than the rest of us, so he'd organize our battles.  Mostly he was big on running covert ops simulations, but if we wanted to do a POW or straight in-the-shit Vietnam campaign, he'd honk for that too.  This is when uzis were on full blast, so we'd have to doggie-doggie-diamond over who got to be uzi-guy.  Since I had a martial-arts connection out in Corona, my enormous throwing star collection usually saw me play resident ninja (there could be only one) but being the ninja sucked cuz you didn't get a gun.  We all agreed that ninjas could basically dodge bullets, which was a plus, but in the end I feel like Ryan would always figure out a way to sneak up behind me and shoot me close range in the head.  I'd fake the death fall, and he'd alway put two more bullets in my guts to make sure.  That one summer all we did was kill each other, like forty thousand times.

Ryan Laurentano
Ryan was a unique fellow for a few other stand-out reasons.  He lived with his mom who was divorced from his dad, a guy Ryan never saw, who was supposedly a bad guy.  At the height of gossip, the rumor mill put him in jail for pushing coke for the mafia.  At that time, there weren't any divorces in any of my friend's lives, except on TV and in Kramer Vs. Kramer.

Instead of a dad, Ryan had WHT, a cable box competitor to HBO (that lost), and a fridge full of RC Cola six-packs.  One afternoon, Ryan showed me Fast Times At Ridgemont High while his mom was at work.  It was my first gape at movie nudity without my mom throwing pocketbook blockers over my view.  When I had questions about what went down with Damone and Stacy on the couch of the poolhouse, Ryan explained it to me with blue ballpoint pen illustrations he'd already made in his steno notebook for Math class.

Still, Ryan was probably most famous for his keen developments in the area of cheating on tests.  He was extremely proud of this and shared his findings with great generosity. The most incredible cheat was his most simple - he wrote all the answers he needed directly on the yellow paint of the Number 2 pencils you were often supposed to use on your tests, especially multiple choice.


From the feedback I've gotten over the years, no teacher has ever suspected or noticed that the seemingly harmless pencil, the most law-abiding pop-quiz utensil, was actually the key to cracking the whole Scantron thing wide open.

Scantron Test

Ryan's other cheating method sounded even better to us when he described it.  It involved making a little scroll of graph paper (for some reason he insisted that it should be graph paper), and tying it to the underbelly of your watch using a string or a rubber band.

The little scroll would stay hid until you needed the answers.  It kept hid better with a long sleeve shirt.

When it was time you just yanked on the scroll and pulled out answers as you needed them.  Unlike the pencil approach, you had to reveal what was essentially a crib note at some point during the exam. 

Calculator Watch by Casio

The official stance of this blog is "Don't cheat", but if you do cheat, please use the pencil method.  Cheating is bad, but getting caught cheating is way worse.

Ryan moved away maybe a year after that photo was taken. He moved to Jackson Heights, which was only one neighborhood away from us, but he might as well have moved to Fresno. I never saw him again, but this one kid Sal told me that he heard Ryan got in trouble in High School for throwing a chair out of a window which made a car crash into a Chinese Food take-out guy riding a bicycle.  There was supposed Chicken Lo Mein all over the place.  Sal was such a liar.