THINGS THAT WERE V COOL AT MY HIGH SCHOOL
Nostalgia headtrip-inducing request from my Windward classmate @zoe, with whom I shared the v cool yearbook distinction "Most Likely To Win An Oscar."
- •The BridgeLike many a Cali campus, ours was all EXT. HIGH SCOOL - DAY. Breezeways, not hallways. The LA River (aka The Wash) sliced the campus in half, and a narrow bridge was the only way to get from one side of learnin' to the other. On rainy days the bridge offered mesmerizing views of water moving underfoot, like rapids, flowing West towards the ocean.
- •Group Art AttackThis was actually a class offered in 7th grade, that a few of us brought back years later as a club. We had a manifesto and permission to do pretty much whatever we wanted in the name of art (and extra credit). We re-enacted the storming of the Bastille on the new bridge (they built a much bigger bridge) with baguettes as weapons. We offered free bad haircuts. We listened to the Flaming Lips' Zaireeka on 4 cd-players. It was our happening, and it freaked us out.
- •B.Y.O.B. DayNot what you think. I was on student counsel for most of my time at school (which is odd in retrospect), and we were always trying to make fun shit happen (and push the envelope as much as possible while doing so). This was Bring Your Own Banana Day. Bring a banana, student council would make it into a sundae.
- •Pajama Day and Pancake BreakfastAnother student council special project. Not as cool as B.Y.O.B. Day though. I think there was also Matzo Brei available? Or maybe that was its own separate day? Regardless, Ken Asher, a golf-loving math teacher who used a faux-currency called Ken Kash in his classes, made the matzo brei.
- •Fortune Cookie DayDuring an assembly, we convinced a member of the administration to bring out a brown paper bag that had supposedly been "found" at school. Nobody would be dismissed until the person responsible for its contents came forward. After an awkward minute, the student body president Amos stood up and claimed responsibility. He opened the bag to reveal that it was full of fortune cookies. Cookies were hidden all over campus, Easter Egg stye. So dumb, but I remember the setup fooling a lot of kids.
- •We tried to get our team name changed from the Wildcats to the Fighting Shirleys.Student Council decided that we needed a new, less generic team name. Our school was founded by a poet named Shirley Windward, so we thought the Fighting Shirleys would be a fitting tribute. I remember our second choice was The Windward Walrus, singular. The Athletics department was not amused.
- •Calling teachers by their first names.It was the same in elementary school at Wildwood. It wasn't just v cool, it was the norm. Bill Joseph's wasn't Mr. Josephs, he was Bill. I think we took this for granted. But so often I talk to folks who are surprised by the familiarity.
- •Bill JosephsMath teacher who drank a lot of coffee and drove a BMW. Why did he he drive a BMW? The rumor was that he invented the ATM, but it was something more along the lines of writing the program that made the ATM run, or something. Once he was so jacked up on coffee that he slammed his finger with his BMW door, and lopped off the tip. He had so wear this absurdly big mesh bandage that looked like a plaster of Paris sausage.
- •Ken ToddStern and engaging, red-bearded History teacher. Tai Chi practitioner, expert on arcane topics such as medieval torture, the history of disease, and progressive hard rock. Has the highest tolerance for spicy food I've encountered. Would challenge students to chile pepper eating contests. Would always win. When I was a senior he invited a few of us over to his place for homemade chili at a variety of heat levels, and so he could to show off hi hi-fi. He played Rainbow. We countered with Pavement.
- •The Search For MeaningA class I took Senior year taught by the zany Tony de los Reyes, Art Department chair who made the jump to the History Department. (He was the original founder of Group Art Attack). We listened to Steve Reich, read Paul Bowles, shared what song we'd each want played at our funeral, took a field trip to try Boba, and for our final project were forced to take public transportation somewhere in the greater LA area that we'd never been before. Private school, ladies and gents.
- •Being a Schwartzman or a FujikawaJason and Robert were the apex of cool because the were in bands (Phantom Planet and Rooney) and movies. Jason came back from shooting Rushmore and they had waxed off all his arm hair. Robert had me run lines with him for his Princess Diaries audition. Michael, Danny, and Brady Fujikawa were a trio of notorious Japanese-Irish-American charmers. Each was knows as Fuji to his own grade. Probably still the case.
- •Hanging out with upperclassmenThey were the v coolest. As a freshman, I wanted to become these guys. Brian Patchett, Jarrett Bernstein, Jon Krauss, and of course Gideon Boomer. My freshman year, we were all in Little Shop together. I was the voice of the plant. Gideon was the puppeteer. Going to those theater cast-parties, riding in their cars, watching them smoke beedis in front of Cacao, me pretending to be an adult and not just an insecure wide-eyed kid... that was my Dazed and Confused.
- •Heading with a big group to see a movie after school.The Big Lebowski at the Avco. Pecker at the General Cinemas Westwood. Scream 2 at The National. Being John Malcovich at the Criterion 6 on the 3rd Street Promenade. Of course going with a super big group to see Rushmore in the old AMC Century City. Wait... none of these theaters exists any more. That's disturbing. [I also remember Amos showing a bunch of us the Pamela Anderson/Tommy Lee sex-tape before heading to Scream 2. Just a good period-specific detail.]
- •Parties at Laura Leavitt's mom's house or Matt Bauer's mom's house.Big, huge houses in Bel Air and Playa Del Rey. Parents who looked the other way. So much underage debauchery. So many firsts. So many damp bathing suits in the morning, and crooked necks from sleeping on living room couches. There's a photograph of me downing my first ever beer in Laura's basement, being cheered on by people I'd soon lose touch with.
- •Max GoldblattI'm not bragging. It's just the truth. Ask @zoe. I used to dance around school with a lunchbox full of CDs and a Discman, headphone cable emerging from within. At a certain point I started a rumor that there was never any music playing. Some people believed it.