Friday, October 05, 2007

COLUMN: Assembly

A friend of mine and I were joking the other day about how I should use my column as leverage to go to places in town that I've always wanted to check out -- you know, exotic locales where the general public isn't allowed, like the top of the Kone tower, or a security camera room aboard one of the casinos, or even the creepy old house that sits atop the 25th St. hill in Rock Island. Those are places I've always wanted to see first-hand (and wouldn't say no if the opportunity presented itself *cough*).

Yet even without the help of my column, I still occasionally find myself in the oddest of places. Take last Friday, for example, when I went somewhere I never thought I'd go again: high school.

Not MY high school, mind you. That's all the way down in Galesburg, and trust me, there's enough bad adolescent karma there to crush my soul and re-open the wounds of puberty seven-fold. But I DID, however, get to pop in to Rock Island High's fieldhouse for their homecoming assembly last week.

You guys know that I moonlight as a DJ on the side, right? Well, the Rocky High cheerleaders came to me a few weeks ago all sad-puppy-eyed and desperate, and asked if I'd mix the music for their homecoming routine. All of this in exchange for some homemade cookies. I'm such a sucker. Plus I'm still waiting for those cookies (*double cough* Am I getting sick?)

Since I knew a few of the adults on-hand, I figured I'd pop my head in and see for myself exactly what I'd spent the last few weeks soundtracking. And right off the bat, it was odd.

Arriving early, I walked in to a near-empty gymnasium and found some of my age-appropriate friends already staking out prime bleacher real estate. I clumsily plopped down next to them, and instantly started worrying about how NOT to lose a car key out of my pocket and into the dark recesses of Bleacher Netherland. Man, I'm becoming an old fuddy-duddy.

Then a bell rang and it happened. Students began filing in out of nowhere like livestock, and it hit me. Every high school neurosis I had ever had. Wham. Sherman and Mr. Peabody had set the wayback machine to 1987. Years may change, but high school pep assemblies remain the same.

There was the slightly befuddled yet clearly respected principal type, asking over and over again for the kids to quiet down. There were the ragged-looking teachers, who were obviously not having the time of their lives shepherding their classrooms into some form of organized seating.

There was gossip. In case you care, from what I heard over my right shoulder, someone named Keisha is totally getting played by someone named Dre, who is "straight trippin' even though he fiiiine."

Then there was the Rocky alma mater song. Okay, YES I know that I'm sure it's a sacred tradition I should respect, and YES it was probably written by some famous historical Rock Islander who was a great person, and YES the Rocky choir did a fantastic job tackling it. But MAN, what a downer of a tune.

I couldn't quite make out the lyrics, partly due to the gym acoustics, partly due to the continuing saga of Keisha and Dre, but I'm pretty sure it was something like: "Alma mater, alma mater, we mourn this dirge for thee/In crimson and gold we drape our dead/Hi de li de dee."

Okay, I'm just kidding. Please don't send me hate mail. It had real words which were probably touching and poetic. But at a pep assembly, I just wanted something, well, peppy. Maybe it could be reworked to the music of "Hey Hey We're the Monkees" or something. I'm just sayin'. All I know is that when a kid behind me spiced it up with a little beatboxing to the chuckles of his fellow students, I had to stifle a laugh myself.

But on the whole it was a great assembly. It was neat to see the Rocky cheerleaders do their thing to music I helped make. And it was neat to see such fantastic school spirit from the whole student body. It turned out we were sitting in the sophomore section, and the sophomores went on to win the spirit contest at the expense of the remaining shards of my eardrum.

"School spirit" is a weird concept, isn't it? When we're IN school, we're told that it's important to have. But why? Does it translate to the real world? Has anyone ever gone, "Well, you got a 10 on your ACT and you've got a 1.2 GPA, but you've got school spirit so WELCOME TO HARVARD!" But maybe it IS important to have spirit in everything you do. Maybe we need pep assemblies in the real world, like here at the paper. Our publisher could tell us all to quiet down, then we could have a spirit contest between the writers and the sales staff, and I could finally be elected Homepaper King!

Or maybe I'm just an old no-fun-nik and it's NOT 1987 all over again. After all, I scanned the seats but never saw MY high school clique anyplace: the outcasts. Where were the kids in black turtlenecks and Joy Division t-shirts making crass comments about lack of individualism and people behaving like sheep? I saw not ONE kid sticking it to The Man. I just saw a school full of spirit and having a blast.

Maybe that's what pep assemblies are all about. All I know is that -- even though I remain a Silver Streak by birthright -- I high-fived a stranger when I saw on the news that the Rocks crushed Quincy in the big game.


Socialist Christian Hippie said...

Talk about wandering into spooky territory.

Your in my place, where I was in 1987.

The Rock Island alma mater was ripped off by Augustana and is also the tune of Augustana's "alma mater".

I can give you the "Rocky" words if you want, but why dull up the blog.

Alma mater's (I've sung three or four of them over the years)
aren't really meant to be happy, peppy things, but things that get you all weepy and nostalgic for the miserable places. I actually wrote one myself. Then I through it in the middle of a piece for my electronic music course and kind of blew it apart.

It was cathartic, what can I say.

Go Rocks!

Socialist Christian Hippie said...

sorry, "You're in my place."

Rocky did teach english well.

Anonymous said...

When you say "creepy house on top of the 25th St hill" are you referring to Penny Woolworth's house?

-shane- said...

Dunno whose house it is... it's the one on the hill tucked away in the trees on the west side of 25th St. in the middle of a HUGE wooded estate.

I don't even know if it's necessarily creepy, since you can't get close to it at all.

I just live in the neighborhood and have always been fascinated by the place. I've always wanted to see it up close! :)

Anonymous said...

That house was owned (and possibly built) by notorious R.I. gangster John Looney.

Anonymous said...

No, wait. That's 20th bad...I'm not aware of the 25th St. house.

Anonymous said...

It is Penny Woolworth's house and it's currently for sale if you have a cool $1,000,000.00 just lying around.
My mom has been to her home. She has these hugh crystals in her yard and one was 4x4 in diameter! It's actually a very nice home and the view is unbelieveable. I think the lot is 10 acres. I live on 24 1/2 street and this past weekend she was moving out so maybe they sold the place. It's been on the market for almost 2 years.