True story: My senior yearbook quote was, “Everything I know, I learned from Paul McLeod.” I used to embarrass him at the microphone during school lunches on his birthday, but since I don’t have that anymore, I’ll just write a blog post about him on his gajillionith birthday.
I first met Paul when I was 13 or 14, and touring the grounds of the Conserve School campus. I remember he wore a flannel shirt and talked about forming an Explorer's Post at Conserve. I knew we’d get along great. We lived in the same building and we saw each other often. I was in his geology class (and possibly something else?) I was also on the quiz bowl team, and he was the coach. I liked to make the joke that he was “the winningest coach in Conserve School history.” It’s funny because the three things Paul knows nothing about are: the Bible, Shakespeare, and sports.
The time I really realized that Paul McLeod was cool was when he let a group of us who were leaving for Thanksgiving break on Saturday instead of Friday night watch “Beavis and Butthead Do America.” He even watched it with us. I remember thinking, “Should we be watching this?” But then I thought, “He he’s an adult. We’re good.” That’s when I learned about the “Beavis and Butthead Principle” which states that some things are so bad that they’re good, like Beavis and Butthead.
Even in his old age, Paul is still a curious guy, which is something I seriously respect about him. He’s always traveling or scoping out old graveyards. He’s a movie buff and a fan of Hank Williams, things we talk about regularly. I still ask him for movie suggestions every so often.
Paul also once crashed on my couch during my senior year of college. Seriously. I had to explain to all my roommates that while he was my teacher, he was still a really cool guy.
Paul could also be serious. He gave the “final” Conserve School commencement speech. I try to watch it at least once a year. It’s just so perfect. He’s understated in his skewering of who needed to be skewered, yet he’s also hopeful. I still repeat the line “jewels in a handkerchief” to myself every so often.
I’ve also become friends with basically all of Paul’s family. I stayed with his sister Marie when I studied abroad in South Africa. I visited his brother Robert and wife Teri when they lived 20 minutes from me in Maryland. I’d escape to his other brother Bruce and his wife Lara’ house to play with their kids and then drink Oban with the grown ups late into the night. It was so funny to explain to friends that I’d be hanging out with “My former teacher’s brother’s family” for the evening. At one point I joked with Paul’s parents that I had spent more holidays with them then I had with my own parents.
I haven’t kept in constant touch with many of my high school classmates, unfortunately. However, I’ve kept up pretty regular correspondence with Paul ever since I graduated from high school. I’ve been very lucky to call Paul a teacher and a mentor, and it’s been even more of a privilege to call Paul a friend.
Raising a glass of Oban to you, Paul.