Welcome to Chapter 6 of my blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. This chapter is called High School. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.
As we drove by my old house on Doon Way, I couldn’t help but remember…
(Play Wayne’s World Dream Sequence Music And Wavy Video Transition Here)
High School For Jesse
So I am taking full credit for Scott McKinstry getting into college. He gets zero credit whatsoever. In fact, I am literally the man who made that man what he is today. I am The Great And Powerful Oz that resides behind the curtain of whatever success he ever claims to attain… And I demand my royalties!
Let me explain with clear and perfect evidence that shall illuminate my impervious and flawless case.
It was I and me alone that suggested we actually try to get into college. During our Junior and Senior years, as all the other nearly valedictorian straight and narrow’s were padding their transcripts with AP classes, community service, essays of virtue, teacher recommendations, and whatnot, Scott and I were busily doing every strange, yet accepted extra-curricular activity weird creative kids could do.
We did everything from Jazz Choir, ASB (Scott was the president), I was editor-in-chief of our school newspaper (and did some work at the Anacortes American), Leadership class, I started a puppet club ala Jim Henson (mostly because I wanted to create a movie), Scott and I wrote the school’s constitution, Scott wrote and directed a musical of Lord of the Flies, and then directed his father’s musical called Bumble’s Garden, as mentioned we created our own classes with Independent Reach, including one where we had to read and analyze ancient greek plays, and I did the morning announcements like a radio show.
There were many highlights in the drama program, and other than Scott’s original shows, Mr. Burnett also had us do cutting edge plays and dramas of social significance that got some press. My personal favorite, however, was when he let Scott and I be The Odd Couple our Senior year. I got to play Oscar, and Scott was Felix. It was perfect. We got a lot of laughs, and it wasn’t just my family cackling in the front row who enjoyed it. Every night I got to throw a plate of spaghetti off the stage into a sheet two of our crew members held up. One night, I missed and the stain is still on the walls of Brodniak.
On another occasion, when a can of aerosol that I was supposed to spray around Scott while he ate disappeared from the cabinet beside him, I took his plate of spaghetti and put it on his head instead. He rolled right along with it and we have been improvising life ever since.
Perhaps the greatest acting we ever did was in the high school cafeteria with Mike Matson. We would pick fights with each other that we tried very hard to make look as real as possible, even though in reality we were just trying not to crack up. As soon as two of us would start mouthing off, the third one would be the catalyst for violence. Mike was able to pick us up and throw us around the room, much to the amusement of the kids and to the shock of the lunch ladies.
One time, we got so aggressive and testosterone enraged, that Mike threw us on top of tables, which would then roll on their caster wheels. I hit a table so hard that it skated across the room and slammed into a wall, lodging itself into the railing and cracking in half, and I ended up on the ground. This was also the season when I would do somersaults all the way down the middle aisle of the auditorium and crash into the brick wall there and Scott used to do cartwheels down the aisle and ended up with a rug burn on his face.
We were always bruised and injured, but all it did was the fuel the fire for better and better stunts and bigger laughs. We did this regardless of who was around but were particularly satisfied with ourselves if we perplexed a teacher or scared an underclassman. Such are the lengths adolescent boys will go to rock the boat and destroy the status quo. We knew it was considered dumb, but it was so dumb that it was smart, and doing something stupid and spontaneous while lucid and having a full sense of self-awareness brings with it a burst of vitality and satisfaction few other things can bring. Rattling cages is a young person’s source of impish inspiration and creativity, and we always felt it was a civic duty, like a community service.
The Morning Announcements now make me pause with particular interest. Looking back, I realize now how improbable that was then and how it probably would be impossible today. I literally talked them into letting me “read the bulletin” over the PA, under the pretense that it would be better received coming from a student than an office staff person, and that I could make it a little more dramatic, which would be fun for everyone. I also made a case for saving them time and effort so they could be more productive doing other things.
The idea came because the announcements were so boring and I secretly wanted to be a radio announcer. As soon as I started doing it, I had a wonderful volunteer approach me with the idea of helping to write material. I am so grateful for Jason Mann, who was at the time an avid fan of David Letterman and watched nearly every episode (as he says, “before he got mean.”). The minute we started brainstorming, I knew I had met a kindred spirit who later became a good friend.
Slowly and mischievously, we weaved little jokes and one-liners into my script. Now, it was probably pretty corny most of the time, but we were always trying to push the limits as much as we could without being shut down. Jason was particularly good at “top ten” lists that he would write the night before and then we would spend hours revising and going over with a fine-toothed comb in search of comedy gold. Some of them were home runs.
Our favorite thing to do was poke fun at teachers or the administration, and whenever we could sneak something subtle by we would squirm with glee. It was more fun for us than anyone else. We really were ecstatic if we could work in a zinger and the teacher would have to have other teachers explain it to them. I felt like Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam. In fact, I used to say, “Good Morning Anacortes High School!” in a way that resembled him in that movie.
Now, were we successful at getting more people to listen to the announcements? I think so. I think a lot of people ignored it anyway, but we did not care! Our real mission was being accomplished every day and most people were completely oblivious!
My hat goes off to you Mr. Mann. Well done. Well done.
Can you imagine such a thing even being allowed in today’s over-administrated, bureaucratic, red-taped, politically correct school system? …There’s not a chance in the world.
On another tangent (which will come into play later), and in a strange twist of fate in my junior year of high school, I had decided the ballroom dancers on channel nine were absolutely breathtaking and I thought it would be ultimate cool to be the guy that could dance with a woman at that level. There was something about the music and the sensual movement that caught my fancy. I enrolled in ballroom dance classes that year.
Now back to our program…
Before the very end of Senior year, Scott and I were so “busy,” that we were completely missing the point (or so it is conventionally thought) about college. It turns out, those serious about college normally prepare beforehand. Oh! That’s how it works! Wow.
I think we were told that repeatedly, but we somehow just ignored it since we didn’t think it was going to pertain to us. Scott and I thought we might go to Harvard or Yale perhaps. We never applied to those schools, but we thought we might just go there. Maybe they would just call us and award us a full four-year scholarship simply on the merit of our awesomeness.
The funniest thing was when we were considering attending the Maharishi School Of Management in Fairfield, Iowa because it promised extreme learning conditions for people who either wanted to be the CEO of a fortune 500 company, or who wanted to meditate naked on the top of Mount Everest for a few years. We ordered the information packet, which included a VHS tape we watched at my house.
The advertisement talked about high-level business concepts, combined with transcendental meditation. We knew it might be a little different when it showed a clip of the students doing Yogic Flying (seriously, they are bounding through a gymnasium on mats, flying from a sitting position). As much as I wanted to be like Dhalsim in Street Fighter II for the Super Nintendo, we ended up not following through with the application since we had to get back to doing some school assembly skit and I wanted an Everything Salad and Great Balls of Garlic from Village Pizza.
Many of the other seniors had already taken the SAT’s and the ACT’s and whatever other standardized three-letter acronym test they could find, multiple times to get the best score possible. They were taking courses to prepare and starting early. Scott and I did not only not start early, we waited until literally the last possible day to take the test. I’m not sure if it was the SAT or the ACT, but my mom had to drive us in the snow and ice out to Arlington in her Ford Aerostar, passing several car accidents and spun-out vehicles, since we had already missed all the other test dates in our immediate area. If we did not take the test right then and there on that Saturday morning, we would have to wait another year. I knew that if I waited another year, I probably wouldn’t ever go.
Now I am not saying Scott had to look at my paper to pass, but I did send some serious positive transcendental brain waves his way to help him answer questions. We both scored very high on the SAT’s, and I think Scott almost got a perfect score. The score on my paper was slightly lower than Scott’s, but I can easily explain that by pointing out the fact that in essence I was taking two tests simultaneously, and therefore had twice the workload. Besides, if I had done better, someone might have accused Scott of cheating, since it would not be conceivable that he cheated if he did better than the person he copied from.
Finally, there is nothing expressly written in the SAT’s rules and regulations that explicitly state one cannot use super powers like telepathy or mentalism. Lastly, finally, and thusly, I am a man of honor and chivalry, and therefore follow a gentlemanly code of conduct and would never force a good friend into a position that would belittle his manhood.
Therefore, as the jury can plainly see, I Jesse Stoddard, take full credit for creating the man and reputation of said Scott McKinstry, being the chief cause of his success. I rest my case.
I have no idea how, but I ended up walking a Valedictorian at commencement, and was ridiculously decorated like a 12-star general with all my medals and ribbons. It looked like I was either the most decorated student ever to graduate, or I was the school mascot. I couldn’t help but think that all the teachers were just looking at me as if I was an anomaly and that with all those accolades from my bazillion extra-curricular projects, I better amount to something or the whole school system was doomed.
Next time, we get a glimpse of the life of Jill Testerman.
Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?