Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Speakeasies in Highschool?

Late Friday afternoon our 15-year-old announces that there is a "speakeasy" at his highschool that evening and that he'd like to attend it. Initially that troubles us since our only frame of reference is the speakeasies we frequented in the 1920's during prohibition (those were the days! Actually my grandfather Culver Nichols did used to tell me stories of driving his Model A Ford around the hills of Santa Cruz looking for stills while he was in college at Stanford).

"Will there be cheap gin and cheap women?" we ask our son. He glares at us and maintains his interest in going.

I drop him off without being granted license to come in and inspect the den of iniquity to which I am consigning our first born. When I come back though, he isn't in front of the school and can't stop me from coming to get him. I sneak into the back of the speakeasy hoping to be undetected as I witness the shameful scene.

The bright voice of an English teacher greets me, "come in! we've only got 5 minutes left!" That should have been a clue to me that something was dreadfully wrong.

I sit as my eyes slowly take in the dark room with tables and covered lamps. I detect rhythmic speaking and the sound of boisterous teenage laughter. I get a sick feeling in my throat. If anything, I must have underestimated the level of depravity here.

I take a closer look and listen as a young man in the front of the room gets our attention. He is reading aloud from a book. "What's this?" I ask myself. "What in tarnation is going on here?" (vain attempt at prohibition speak)

It turns out that the whole darn thing is a poetry reading! 15-18 year-olds, male and female, are tumbling all over themselves to get up to the front of the room to read poetry aloud to the group. The rest of them are spread all over the room pouring over poetry tomes searching for the next one to read.

Truth be told, this was just about the sweetest scene I have ever stumbled upon. In 2010, right here in Sacramento, teen-aged kids having the time of their lives fighting to get up on the stool to read.

To celebrate, I think I'll pour myself a tall glass of cheap gin, put on some jazz and do the Charleston.

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