He’s a big deal now, and he doesn’t have a lot of time for his old friends, but that’s usually the way the world works. I don’t resent him for it.
We grew up together, Ken and me. Grade school, middle school, Hebrew school, then high school. We saw less of each other after we went our separate ways – he to one of the SUNY campuses in upstate New York, me to an Ivy League school in New Jersey.
[You’re probably thinking, what kind of Ivy League guy says “Ken and me”? Fuck you, Mr. Grammar Pedant.]
The best times might have been during those late-afternoon Hebrew School classes. The class cutups used to sit in the back, out of the immediate steely gaze of Mr. Feld. Me, Bobby Spiegelman, Heshy Weitz, Jerry Kaufman, and Ken. Ken Spiderman.
When Mr. Feld wasn’t looking, Ken would climb up the back wall of the classroom and hang himself from a little web in the corner of the ceiling. It used to drive Feld nuts. “Where’s Ken?” he would ask, growing more frustrated and teed-off every time it happened…but not even once did he think to look up. And meanwhile, the rest of us would be busting blood vessels trying not to crack up.
Ken wasn’t a jock or anything in high school, although he did go out for some of the more offbeat teams. Cross country, lacrosse, tennis…never anything like football or baseball that might have earned him some respect. You always got the feeling he was holding back, that he could excel at anything physical but wanted to keep a low profile.
Jeez, was he ever deadly at handball, though, ’cause he could climb up the wall to get almost any shot. And four-wall? Forget about it. After a while, nobody would play with him – you just couldn’t score points against him. I mean, we all liked him, but it just wasn’t fun to get the crap beaten out of you every single time.
We used to shoot pictures for the school paper, and he was big-time into the yearbook. That’s where he met MJ, working on layout. They were hot and heavy for a while after that, and I guess that’s when I started seeing less of Ken.
But he was always a cool guy. Not like they say in the books. A nerd, he wasn’t. Fun to hang out with, he was, and he’d always be playing practical jokes with those web-shooters of his. I can’t tell you how often I almost pissed myself laughing at some of the stunts he’d pull.
That whole “Peter Parker” backstory, that was all bullshit. Aunt May? Uncle Ben? Complete bullshit. But I guess someone thought he needed a more interesting bio. “With great power comes great responsibility,” and all that crap. What, being a Long Island kid wasn’t “sexy” enough?
But I’ll tell you one thing, and it’s not something you’ll hear from Ken. Not these days, anyway.
I’m the one who told him to start using the hyphen.