Monday, April 30, 2012

That Time of Year

            I could talk about gender inequality for pages on end, but I think most guys are willing to admit: we generally have it easier in high school. Girls come to school every day and are forced to operate under a harsh and unforgiving set of social pressures—pressures that aren’t always obvious to a third party. For 90% of the time, this remains the case.  But for a few weeks every year, there arrives a time when the roles reverse.
Come spring, just as the leaves of budding trees begin to bloom, junior and senior prom proposals start to sprout up all over the school. At peak interval, it’s fairly common to witness two, even three public proposals a day. Most of the time, you only hear about the successful ones: massive posters, creative messages, etc. But what go often unnoticed by the general populous are the failed attempts. Let’s face it, unless you’re in a relationship with someone, finding a prom date is stressful. When you ask someone to prom, you’re making that person commit to you and only you. But what if that person has another date in mind? Side note, for all the women who prefer to do the asking themselves, don’t think I’m forgetting about you; it’s equally as stressful. Prom is an inveterate tradition from the past that modern society hasn’t been able to shake yet. So for the time-being, we just have to deal.
To add to the burden, there’s a universal presumption that if it’s a prom proposal, it obviously has to be an inspired spectacle, and even a public spectacle in many instances. Originality is crucial. There’s nothing worse than someone who is clearly underwhelmed by a proposal. Your prom proposal is, in some respect, a direct representation of your confidence. If it’s disarrayed and unimaginative, your potential date will probably feel like you don’t care enough about him or her to put in a courageous effort.  
On a fundamental level, prom is nothing more than an overdramatized photo shoot with an often mediocre dance that follows. Yet we’ve exaggerated its significance to the point where students spend weeks worrying about who they’re gonna take and how they’re gonna ask. It seems almost frivolous, but it is what it is. Prom isn’t going anywhere for a while, and in the meantime, kids have no choice but to play the game. It’s an intrinsic part of the high school experience; a rite of passage for all students. And at that, fuck it. Isabel Rickman, will you go to prom with me?

What should she say?

Friday, April 27, 2012


            Not being able to fall asleep is one of the most frustrating feelings I’ve ever experienced. It’s 5:08 a.m. right now, and I’m writing a blog post about insomnia in an attempt to aid my own sleeplessness. Although I know this is probably happening to me because of the four-hour nap I took this afternoon, I can’t help but allow a plethora of other explanations flush into my head. Every time I try to lay my head down on the pillow and close my eyes, my brain goes haywire with absurdly random thoughts, as evidenced by my tweet at 4:16 a.m.: “I wonder if anyone has ever died in a snuggie.” My heart begins to race as I realize that I can’t relax my body enough to the point where it realizes I want it to rest. More strange thoughts. When’s the last time I’ve had crab legs? I go downstairs and selfishly snatch my long-haired Chihuahua from her dog bed. Maybe she will calm me down, I reason. Ephemeral relief; next idea. How about music? Getting progressively more agitated. Every song seems to ignite past memories. What. The. Fuck. Wondering why my brain isn’t this active during school. I’m starting to regret watching all of those TED talks. The multiverse, printing organs—too much to think about. Please, God, let me fall asleep before the sun comes out. Air conditioning feels nice. I remember something my science teacher told me about computer and TV screens confusing our brains into thinking it’s still daytime out. Was that…a bird chirping? 5:33 a.m. Some people are waking up for work right now; I haven’t even fallen asleep. Infomercials have ended. Real TV is about to start. 2 people on Facebook Chat. Considering running a few laps around the house. Don’t think I’m that desperate. Yet. Did I change tenses while writing this? How about I put off sleep for today. Can you do that? The one crooked blind on my window is letting me know that the sky is no longer black. Wow, I’m really hungry. When is it OK to eat breakfast?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Summer To-Do List: Adult Edition

            For those of you who read Jake’s PG list of must-do summer activities, you might have been left feeling slightly unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I wish I could stay a kid forever, catching butterflies and shit all day long. Time, however, is like a shark; it can’t stop moving or else it’ll drown or something. I’m a teenager, and I wanna do teenage stuff this summer. So here’s to my fellow teenagers: five activities that you can’t go wrong with.
      1.     Concerts.
I was sort of terrified of concerts for most of my life. I heard my older sisters describing them: massive mobs of people, in suffocating proximity, ebbing with the eardrum-shattering bassline of industrial speakers. It always sounded more like a trial of survival than a fun night. But man, was I wrong. After my first one, I was addicted. It’s a purely invigorating experience. I guess it’s slightly dependent on what kind of concert you go to, but I think no matter what the genre of music, it’s still a great way to spend a few hours.

      2.     Artscape
If you’re from Baltimore and you’ve never been to Artscape, fuck you. Our city hosts the country’s biggest arts festival, and it’s free. The dates are July 20th – 22nd this summer, and it’s gonna be awesome. Walk around the streets of Charm City, check out some bizarre art vendors, buy a massive snocone in a plastic flower goblet, and listen to the free music. So call up some friends, and have your parents drop you off for a solid day of fun. They’re posting the concert lineup next month; be sure to check the website.

      3.     OC
The funny thing about being on the east coast is that everyone freaks the fuck out over beaches. Droves of pedestrians flock to the eastern shore in the summer months to do their best west coast impression, and this makes for an environment majorly conducive to teenage folly. There’s a reason Ocean City is such a prime destination for senior week. The cool part about it is that it’s a relatively short drive for most of us—as in, daytrip material. You can leave in the morning, chill at the beach while the sun is still out, and then gallivant on the boardwalk for hours at night.

      4.     Visit Your Local Dealership
This one is definitely not for everyone, but can be tremendously enjoyable if you’ve got the dedication. Pick out a classy outfit from your closet, and invent your rich playboy/girl persona. Then head over to your local luxury car dealership and pretend that you’re interested in purchasing a new vehicle. Test drive to your heart’s desire.

*Age requirements vary among dealers

      5.     Fine Dining
Nothing quite says ‘adulthood’ like making reservations at an elegant dining establishment. It may cost you a week’s paycheck, but hey, that lobster tastes so much better when you’ve earned it. Ask to borrow your dad's Zagat guide to make your restaurant selection easier. Guys, depending on how OK you are with a solo dinner, you might want to bring a date. And ladies, maybe you can score a free meal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

To My Favorite Coach Of All Time

            I’ve sat a lot of bench.  Soccer.  Basketball.  Baseball.  Wins.  Losses.  Even ties.  I know just about every zone defense like the palm of my hand, I’m fluent in statistics, and I’m pretty sure I keep the cleanest book in the history of high school baseball.  I’ve watched two championships from front row seats.  But this post isn’t about me.
            From little league to varsity baseball I’ve had dozens of coaches.  Some were good; some were bad (I’ll refrain from commenting on my beloved father’s Wellwood baseball coaching tactics).  The question that always seems to resurface for me is what makes a good coach?
            Of course, there are many ways to approach this.  The simplest comes down to the hard facts, namely, wins and losses.  Yet, there are so many variables at hand that it really can’t be that simple.  Talent pool, as well as resources, needs to be taken into account when deciding what makes a great coach.  After all, anyone could coach the New York Yankees and win at least a few games, but the same manager probably wouldn’t stand a chance with the Bad News Bears.
            Most would agree that a good coach demands a certain respect from his players.  However, I would argue that respect alone is not enough.  How a coach earns his respect has an immense effect on the success of his team.  A coach who runs his players to death when they make a mistake very well may earn some respect from his players, but I think it is the coach who leads by example that gets the most out of his team.
            A good coach must be honest with his players.  Every player should know why they’re sitting the bench, and perhaps more importantly, why they’re playing.  Players can only improve if they know what to strive for.  Unpredictable playing time is the easiest way to kill a player’s confidence and from there they are sure to decline rather than improve.
            I’ve had a lot of bad coaches in my time.  It wasn’t until the ninth grade that I met a coach whom I quickly grew to love.  For four years my basketball coach not only made me into a better player than I ever could have imagined, but he made me into a better individual in the most general sense.  I wasn’t a superstar on his teams, even though I did have a few good games.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that with him as a coach I grew as a player and as a young man.
            He hardly ever yelled at us or made us run.  In fact, when we did run, everyone saw it coming.  We only ran when we really deserved it.  He created a system that we all bought into.  He worked hard for us and we worked hard for him.  We knew what it took to win games, and we did what we had to do.  We busted our butts in practice working on fundamentals, learning the plays, and scrimmaging.  Everyone got better; not just the best kids, or the worst.  Everyone.  Under him we were a team—one unit, and we were unstoppable.  In four years we lost just 9 games.
            I sat just as much bench in basketball as I did in any other sport.  The thing about basketball was that I enjoyed it.  I didn’t need to be the star, I just wanted to be part of the team, and I was.  In practice, our coach bred a sense of companionship and trust that resembled family more than anything else.
            So, when my 3-8 baseball team took a knee at the pitcher’s mound today, after another humiliating loss, I couldn’t help but chuckle as the coach berated us for a lack of enthusiasm and dedication.  A good coach doesn’t have to beg for dedication, they earn it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Summer To-Do List

            As scary as it is, my classes end for good this Thursday.  Next Monday I start my Senior Project, and in 6 weeks I’ll be done with high school forever.  Before I go off to Atlanta in the fall, there are few things that I definitely want to do this summer.  For the first time in years, I’m going to be home for the duration of vacation.  Besides the obligatory summer job, there are five things that I want to accomplish between June and September, all of them in or around Baltimore (everything’s within a 90 minute drive):
1.  Go to an Orioles Game
            A week and a half into the season, and the Orioles are still tied for first place. I actually went to the game last week on my birthday when the O’s lost in ten innings despite having the bases loaded for Adam Jones in the bottom of the ninth. My hopes are still high for the O’s, but even if they fall into their usual cycle of loss after loss, going to the game is still a must for anyone who lives in Baltimore.  We’re lucky to have one of the nicest stadiums in baseball today, and even when they lose, it’s always nice to spend an evening eating a hot dog, sipping a coke, and watching the birds play.  If we’re lucky, they might even string some wins together.
2.  Bengie’s Drive-In
            There’s nothing quite like a drive-in movie.  As far as I know, the only one in the Baltimore area, Bengie’s offers a great deal on weekend evenings.  Where else can you pay $8 and see 3 movies?  The Friday and Saturday night triple-feature is by far the best bang for your buck in the movie business, especially these days when it costs 10 or 11 dollars to see a film in the local AMC.  Take a night and drive down to Bengie’s; buy your popcorn and a large Dr. Pepper, pump up the radio volume, and enjoy the latest summer blockbuster.  A relic of years past, Bengie’s is a unique experience that everyone should take part in.
3.  Hershey Park
            I can’t think of a better way to spend a hot summer day than at Hershey Park, or any amusement park for that matter.  Just an hour and a half up 83 North, Hershey Park offers a wide array of roller coasters and water park attractions.  Along with Great Bear, Storm Runner, and Fahrenheit, a new attraction is opening this summer: Skyrush, which will feature a 200 ft drop.  But even for non-roller coaster fans, Hershey Park has ample entertainment for everyone.  From the classic carnival games to Hershey’s Chocolate World, it is sure to be a sweet day.
4.  Camping
            Since my sleepaway camp days, I haven’t taken the initiative to go camping.  Yet, something about roasting marshmallows and sleeping in a tent is still incredibly appealing to me.  This summer, I’d definitely like to take a weekend and go camping with a few of my friends.  It’s easy; all you need is a tent, a few sleeping bags, and somewhere to sleep.  A backyard would be adequate; but for more adventurous types, there are plenty of places to go camping in Maryland.  Here’s a website with a guide to camping locally  Go buy some marshmallows, graham crackers and Hershey’s bars; you’ll be on your way.
5.  Golf
            In what other sport can you drive around in a little cart, stopping occasionally to hit a little white ball across a field to a hole?  Golf is the ultimate brosey sport.  Grab your dad’s old set, sign up for some tee time, and go have a ball.  For casual players, it’s a nice escape, and a great way to work on your tan.  If you’re looking to get good, go to the range, work on your game.  Anyone who practices enough can get good at golf.  Regardless, a quiet day on the golf course is a great way to relax, be social, and maybe even get some exercise, especially if you bypass the cart and walk instead.
            Summer’s a great time to try new things.  So instead of sitting around and playing video games all summer (of course a healthy dose of videogames is perfectly acceptable), get out there; try something new.  I’ve lived in Baltimore for 18 years, but there are so many things that I still haven’t done.  Take advantage of the time you have here, because it won’t last forever.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Senior Skip Day

            Yesterday marked the recurrence of an annual event that takes place not only at the Park School but at high schools across the country.  Yesterday was our Senior Skip Day.  It’s not a date that can be found on the Upper School calendar, and it’s not even the same day every year, but it is a tradition that has been going on for a good while.  At this point, Senior Skip Day is pretty widely accepted as a normal happening, something to be expected.
            The idea is simple; one spring day the seniors sleep in, skip class, and go do something fun together.  This year we decided to go to Oregon Ridge for a tranquil afternoon hanging out in the beautiful park.  A vast majority of the grade was in attendance, and it was a nice way to spend one of our last days together as a class.
            It was only after school hours that things began to go awry.  For most, the day went as planned; we left Oregon Ridge and continued on with our lives.  For the senior boys’ lacrosse players, it was not such a pleasant experience.  They arrived at practices promptly only to be informed that the Athletic Department had received notice of the players’ absence from classes and they would therefore be unable to partake in practice.  Moreover, the team rule is that if players fail to practice the day before a game, they are penalized by having to sit on the bench for the entire first quarter of the game the following day.
            Of course this is just one example of a Senior Skip Day mishap.  It is no secret that many faculty members have serious reservations with the annual holiday.  Some teachers have even been known to give tests or big assignments intentionally scheduled for that day.  I understand why teachers would have qualms with the tradition; however, I sometimes question how teachers portray their opinions about the day.  Many are okay with it and simply ask that students are caught up on the homework, but others take it to an extreme.
            As far as I heard, the Athletic Department’s decision to ban lacrosse players from practice was hinged on complaints from teachers who reported the absences.  Perhaps the course of action would be acceptable, except none of the other students received such treatment.  In fact, the varsity baseball players were all allowed to practice with no questions asked.  Meanwhile, seniors went off to play rehearsals and mock trial practices and not a word was said.  Yet, for some reason, the lacrosse players were punished for partaking in a class-wide event.
            In the end, Senior Skip Day is something that is going to happen no matter what the teachers, administration, or even coaches do about it.  The argument here is not about whether or not the day should take place; it is about how we deal with it.  I’d like to think that at a place like Park, teachers would look out for their students and give them the benefit of the doubt.  It seems anal to look down upon seniors for skipping a day of classes to hang out with just 2 weeks remaining in their high school career.  Sure athletes could have come into school at 1 o’clock, showed up at their last class, undoubtedly empty of students, and gone to practice, but, does that really sound more meaningful than spending a gorgeous day outside at a park with their classmates?
            So I guess my last point is really directed at the faculty; after all, you guys are the ones who make this community what it is.  Please don’t fret over Senior Skip Day.  It’s not going anywhere.  By punishing students the damage is simply twofold.  Right or wrong, it’s one day.  So let it happen, or if not, at least don’t discriminate when lashing out consequences.  As students, that’s all we can ask for.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

High School Menes

          Wow. If you haven’t been following, the internet was set ablaze last night around Maryland after students discovered a new website called High School Memes. The domain was launched on the 29th of February, 2012, but it appears to have only recently hit the masses at Park and other Baltimore County schools in the past few days. The premise of the website is that every high school has their own page, where anyone can create and post anonymous memes pertaining to that particular school using a rudimentary text overlay web-app. defines a meme as: “a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.”
High School Memes gives the user an option of 43 popular meme templates, or uploading his or her own image. Once you select a picture, you choose what words you want to place at the top and bottom of the meme, and then you’re done; it’s as simple as that. Park’s first meme went up on March 28th. On April 2nd there were about 6 pages of them— as of now, there are over 30 pages.
The website warns users, “be nice... we don't want to spoil the fun with bad posts. Flag stuff that's inappropriate. And no student names in the memes!” Yet it states nothing about teacher names. In 24 hours of my knowledge of this site, I’ve already seen numerous references and personal attacks to both teachers and students. Under the blanket of anonymity, students can brazenly post on whatever subject they please, not having to worry about the repercussions. Toms River High School in New Jersey was forced to call in local police to patrol the campus this morning after an episode of severe online bullying of students through the website last night. The Superintendent of Toms River Regional Schools said that High School Memes had "a flood of negative and abusive postings.”
What was momentarily a fun and humorous idea almost instantly turned into an anarchic and cruel forum for students to wittily chastise their faculty and peers. By the end of X block today, had already been blocked on the Park network. Even in the past 20 minutes, there’s been significant escalation on the website as more and more kids are being exposed to it. And I don’t foresee things settling down, either. The memes are going to continue to become bolder and more offensive, crossing new lines just to elicit comical reactions from their friends. Be extremely cautious if you decide to post something on this website. I can assure you, it won’t be long until the administration gets involved.