September 28, 2006

True to Your School


That's the cafeteria of Capuchino HIgh School in San Bruno, where I did an "author event" last night organized by those swell gals of Books, Inc./NYMBC in concert with a student reading group called "You Say Read, We Say Party." (Food provided by the "catering class," who had little chefs outfits.)

I was really amazed at how many kids showed up - around 150, believe it or not. The kids got extra credit for attending, which partly explains it maybe, though that probably wouldn't have tempted me when I was in high school, I have to say. A handful of students had me sign charming little scribbled "forms" saying "I went to that dork thing" so they could prove to their teachers they had been there. (It wasn't a sure bet though: when one kid asked a kind of smart-ass question, I could hear a teacher say "he's not getting extra credit...." in the background.)

The teachers are in the midst of a contract dispute and (if I have this right) are withholding their participation in extra-curricular activities, so the ones who showed up were either really dedicated or risking some kind of "scab" situation. Sadly, this meant that the faculty rock band (yes, that's right) that was scheduled to open the show with one or more King Dork songs didn't show up. Several of the teachers who were there did stand up and read their favorite bits, though. The assistant principal read a Mr. Teone excerpt with considerable enthusiasm.

For my part, I simply played a few songs, as usual, and answered questions. It was great talking to the kids, a pretty good cross-section of high school society overall: geeky guys, semi-nerd girls, some not-at-all nerd-in-any-way girls, quite a few nice normal-looking kids, a hip-hoppy dude who called me "blood," the athletic types clustered in the back. As usual, I recognized most of the "types" even from my own high school experience so long ago. I even got a few of my favorite kind of comment from teens, the one that goes "you really get it, this is exactly what high school is like." There are those who believe that contemporary kids could not possibly relate to King Dork, and it's always nice to know that some of them actually do. I also got what is perhaps the saddest question of them all: "can I get your records in stores?" Sigh.

They did buy quite a few books, too, which kind of surprised me:


The "You Say Read, We Say Party" girls made that sign.

One thing really has changed since I was in high school, though: there was this unbelievable amount of "school spirit." I went to Mills HIgh School, which is down the road from "Cap," and the two schools are allegedly locked in a fierce rivalry. I crossed out that "allegedly" because when, in answer to a question, I said I went to Mills, the entire room erupted in booing and catcalls. Back in my day, that wouldn't have happened: everyone was too stoned to care about anything, maybe. And as for me, I always thought of my own school as the enemy, which it pretty much was. That school spirit stuff (e.g. where there's this other school somewhere for which you have a bitter hatred and whose football team you really, really, really want to lose) always seemed fake and manufactured by teachers with the image of Ronald Reagan in his yearbook photo vaguely in mind. Granted, in my day, no one would have shown up to this event, either.

To indicate something of my background: the last time I was at Cap, it was late one night in order to use a sharpie to cover a doorway with graffiti in Elvish. Last week. No, actually it was around twenty-five years ago. Time flies.

Posted by Dr. Frank at September 28, 2006 05:20 PM | TrackBack

It's a self selected group of people willing to some after school for extra credit. I doubt you would have seen such spirit in the general population.

Posted by: josh at September 28, 2006 06:19 PM

I don't know,my highschool(does a little over ten years ago count as recently) was kind of a mix of feelings. I wouldn't say most people really cared that much,but there seemed to be sort of whispered rivalries,if that makes any sense.
Certainly,while I didn't care too much,I did get caught up in the "spirit days" because when there was school spirit there WAS certainly school spirit. It was strange,I guess that's what I still think of it as..strange.

Posted by: just me at September 28, 2006 08:13 PM

I'm about 10 years your junior, Frank and had similar experiences as you. The school I attended was so strict and academic that it was nearly private-school status and everybody hated it. Seriously they even considered uniforms. Anyway, I digress now I live far away from there and there is quite a bit of school spirit and rivalries from schools in the vicinity of where I live. I guess it boils down to whether your school experience was/is a pleasant one or a prison camp.

Posted by: Zaphod at September 28, 2006 09:28 PM

by the by may i say that sign is absolutely precious. only the cool kids got to make signs.:)

Posted by: just me at September 28, 2006 09:48 PM

Dude! You went to Mills? That's so sad.

Posted by: MT at September 28, 2006 11:01 PM

in my very limited contact with you, frank (i wrote stories about you for "the stranger" and the "seattle weekly" a decade ago), the thing i remember most was thinking, "this guy should either be a high school teacher or should somehow dedicate himself to making teenagers' lives better." 10 years later, it's kind of working out that way. i'm not surprised.

Posted by: lefty at September 29, 2006 08:34 PM

In my school, other grades seemed to be really into the whole school spirit thing, but my grade definitely wasn't. When we would have those things before games...I don't know what they were...and the cheerleaders would go through each grade to try to get everyone hyped up, my grade would always sit in silence and then get yelled at after the assembly. At least the couple I actually went to went like that. I usually used those things as an easy way to leave school early.

Posted by: Amy 80 at September 29, 2006 08:38 PM


You know I was at Cap when you were at Mills.

The way I remember it, Mills was proud of its Drama Dept., and Capuchino was known for its Marching Band. [Was that just the Drama kids and Band kids?] It was near-impossible to bait Mills kids into arguing about whose school was better... or the importance of marching in step. Mills did have the better jazz band.

I suspect Cap kids bought more high-school rings, while Mills kids collected more college sweatshirts.

Posted by: FF at October 2, 2006 06:58 AM

there used to be some pretty serious "rumbles" after football games in that border area between the schools...funny almost everyone I became friends with after Mills was from...Cap!

Cap also has more Fullbright Scholars than Mills...

Posted by: greg dewar at October 5, 2006 10:33 PM