About ‘Condition Oakland’
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TRACK 3 – CHAPTER 13: Welcome Back to School
The principal’s council had the meeting at St. Louis High to decide whether I would be able to return. The decision was in my favor, but only by one vote. I want to know who voted for or against me, I say jokingly, but no one will tell me. Anyways, I’m going back to STLH, right at the beginning of the second semester, and they decided that they would just take the grades from Division South and somehow convert them. I basically got all A’s, despite not doing any work. I feel hard-pressed to answer when people ask me why I even left in the first place. I try to explain that I had felt restless and needed a change, something that happens to me a lot, and I made the decision to seek out a different type of experience. It hadn’t worked out, but by going to Division South I met Lane, and Mark, and so if I hadn’t left maybe I would never have been in a band at all.
My first morning back at Louh is ridiculous. Everyone is acting like I have just gotten out of a long hospital stay or come back from some war or something. They all want to know about it. They can’t believe how negative my description is, the squalor I had seen. It’s as if they aren’t aware that they go to a much better school than most people get the chance to, which is exactly what I have learned by leaving and then coming back. It took the actual experience for me to understand the type of “education” some people are forced into. I feel like I have been some sort of spy and it had been my job to infiltrate this public school and then report back to the kids at St. Louis High. “Yes, there were more black kids than white kids. Yes, there were metal detectors. No, the lunches were not edible.”
In the morning announcements, before the prayer, the assistant principle makes an announcement: “We’d like to welcome Tim Davis back to school. Glad to have you back, Tim.” They might have been just trying to make me feel welcome, but at the time I wonder if he is trying to rub it in my face some more, or if he’s using me as pro-Louh propaganda. Like, “Let that be a lesson to the rest of you kids.” That pretty much shows you what kind of school it is. The kind of school that routinely refers to itself as a “family.” Which is somewhat true, I’m not going to say it isn’t. But it feels like a lie, sometimes. Like when they disallow certain style haircuts, “unbecoming” hair colors, or tennis shoes at the dances. Little things like that really add up, and make the school seem a little lifeless. But it’s not a bad school.
My first day back is fun, because I find out all of my classes and teachers, but it requires a major transition because all of my classes have already had one semester and I am going to have to catch up. Some teachers just tell me to sit down in any available chair and to try and follow along, but others have detailed guides for what I should study to catch up. It seems they know their curriculum is a just a little different than a public school’s. I am somewhat overwhelmed, but happy to be there.
Lunchtime is the greatest, though. I get to sit with all of the kids I used to sit with, and I realize now how much I have missed them. Seriously, I bet if some director just came and filmed us at lunch for one week, he could make a movie out of it and people would go see it. We are that funny to watch, (at least they are.) Like one day when we were sitting at the table and it was almost time to go back to class, one of the teachers on lunch duty came over and said, “You guys better start moving,” and Kevin just started dancing in his chair.
“I meant, moving back to class, Kevin.”
It’s great. Stuff like that happens every day. Sometimes we’d throw food, but not like an actual food fight, because we’d never get away with that. But sometimes someone would launch, like, one French fry at a time all the way across the cafeteria, off of a spoon or fork. And we’d watch it hit some kid in the face and then he’d look around and they’d almost never find out who did it.
So this first day back, I’m sort of just watching. Sidney is sitting next to me and we are talking about our next practice and new ideas.
“You know,” I say. “I feel sorry for Lane. Because there’s really hardly anybody to hang out with at Division. We were together all the time, and that was the only thing keeping him from going crazy. At least that’s what he said. And now it’s just him and Mark, but they don’t even have the same lunch. I feel bad about leaving him, but I know I had to. I was literally learning nothing at that school.”
I realized I was watching Mike Daley perform sexual positions with the salt and pepper shakers.
“Well, I’m glad you’re back here. You can still hang out with Lane outside of school. He’s a tough kid, I’m sure he’ll cope.”
“Yeah, but he’s expected to ‘cope’ a lot. He’s got it pretty hard. His parents could never afford a school like St. Louis High, so he just gets shafted. It’s not right; he’s a smart kid. He deserves to be here more than some of these kids.” I sort of look around the room, like I’m looking for kids to replace with Lane.
“Well, what about Mark? He seems to be doing OK. And he’s been going to that school for four years.”
“Mark I’m not worried about. He’s almost out of there. Lane’s still got another year to get through.”
We have a little lull in shows, but are still going strong in practice. We have an idea for the next Conclave activity, brought on by our recent conversations about eternal youth… If the world has been going time wise… linearly like… through time… then we need to go back in time… back to younger times… After all, there is a collective consciousness in the world… there is a collective unconscious in the world, and it has been aging. So, we set a date, and held the first ever, as far as we know, Barrage Sale.
As far as I know, and I’m pretty sure, our activities here are illegal, but it’s for a good cause… it’s like stealing manna from God to feed the desert. We go out and buy hundreds of blank CDs, organized the convergence of seven computers at a space where there is a strong wireless internet signal, and we start downloading music and culture from earlier ages… Late fifties Beat Generation jams, Sixties cultural rarities and streaming counterculture, the whole spectrum that flowed through the blood of the streets like burst rainbow bullets, Seventies collars on the night and revolution postponed to a little later in the evening, shifting on their feet… And anything else we ever wanted to miss. The real music… not just the stuff that gets played on mainstream radio… just like the real music in any time.
I was a little skeptical that we’d be able to deskepticize ourselves enough to open ourselves to this barrage of innocence relative, but this stuff made us smile, it made us weak in the knees, it made us blush. We found new homes we never knew we’d lost.
We went home with shoeboxes of dreamlife swag, fuel for fuel drunks, and a new bond that transcended time. Plus a lot to talk about.
All it takes for the world to live is for good things to happen. And all it takes for good things to happen is for good people to live.
What does that mean?