It’s the summer of following my new “do stuff” mantra and it has landed me in the karaoke pit at 3 am on a Friday night (actually Saturday morning). Not a big fan of karaoke, in fact I have never sung karaoke till tonight but I am a fan of Irene who tirelessly took over tennis mom duties for the team this year and asked me if there was any way I would run the SVHS Grad Night karaoke area.
19 years in the district and I have never set foot at a Grad Night. I’m not against it, in fact very much for it, but by Friday of graduation week I’m usually spent. Monday was the final academic day at Creekside, Tuesday we took the school from Sonoma to Larkspur, ferried to downtown SF, Bart to the Mission, walked around the Precitia eyes murals, Bart to Chinatown, sit down meal for 50 at a little hole in the wall restaurant, shopping in Chinatown, walk back to ferry giving our leftovers to the homeless, back to Larkspur, back to Sonoma (I include the extensive itinerary for maximum sympathy). Wednesday we graduated 25, our largest class ever. Thursday BBQ, skateboarding, Frisbee, football and volleyball with students in Depot Park. And Friday I had to turn two very well used classrooms into ones that can now be used for summer school classes. Should I really be this whiney when I have the next two months off? Probably not.
The class of 2019 is not only my son’s class but in a small town it is also the class of son’s friends, class of son’s sports teams, class of son’s girlfriend (and kinda girlfriends cause this generation is not be hung up on traditional relationship definitions). Plus there are the golfers and the tennis players and well, you get the idea.
9:30I arrive half an hour late but there are no students. I didn’t want to rush celebratory graduation dinner at Cochina Volant but my lateness means I was unable to dig through the Halloween box and come up with my planned disco outfit (afro wig, silk shirt, paisley pants, it was the secret reason I volunteered for grad night). No worries, I set up my karaoke station and for some reason my MacBook Pro is not booting up. Eventually it does but I have to remember my original password from 12 years ago (is this the bane of other people’s existence as well?). I’ve had a lot of passwords in those 12 years so it takes a while to remember the right one. I have one of those moments when I think how miserable it will be to tell Irene that karaoke is not happening.
10:30still no students so I take a walk around. The space is amazing, I’m in the new gym with two bouncy courses, one has a side by side obstacle course and the second has two platforms on each side and four giant balls attached in a row that one has to walk/fall/mount to get to the other side. I try it once with a group of students, slip backwards on the first ball, splay on my back, launch face first into the second ball and realize that just cause I work with kids doesn’t make me one.
The transformation of SVHS is amazing. The library has Tarot and Fortune Tellers and Art stations. The main gym has tattoos and gambling and hairstyles and makeup and a DJ and prizes and caricatures and jewelry making and a bucking bronco plus an auxiliary room with couches and movies. Outside there is a zip line, video game truck, climbing wall and a laser shooting range. Plus Picazo’s food truck, a table full of Mary’s pizza, soft self serve ice cream and of course, the Dutch Bros energy station which I am especially excited about as I haven’t stayed up till 3am singing karaoke, well, ever.
10:40I’m having major karaoke anxiety. Not because of the singing (I have already killed The Boomtown Rats, “I Don’t Like Mondays”, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out For Summer”) but because I’m singing to an empty house. A couple of people have walked by but my little blow up lounge area remains empty. Could it be that teens don’t want to see Tuck’s dad pouring out his soul? Naawww.
I decide to pivot and pump up the jam at the Dutch Bros table. I’m curious about what these colored drinks are that the kids are often leaving in my classroom. I learn all about the Blue Rebel revolution (Dutch Bros created their own version of Red Bull). Energy drinks and flavored syrups with names like Tiger’s Blood (strawberry and coconut), Midnight Rebel (blackberry and pomegranate), Sweet Sunrise (peach, passion fruit, orange and banana), watermelon, PBR, palm tree, stoplight and unicorn blood. I go with the Iced OG Gummy Bear (pomegranate, passion fruit, watermelon, grapefruit) and wonder how many times I will return. Have we talked about my addiction issues? Sure we have.
The first year Red Bull came out a friend brought a case to a ski weekend. We combined it with various alcohols and slept very little learning the power of the little cans. But actually at 80mg per can the caffeine is about a third of a brewed cup of Peets coffee. The fruity flavored syrups make them seem almost healthy but really its just soda that knows somebody.
12:30And there it is, the answer was leaving my station and having students take over (the Iced OG Gummy Bear might also be helping). Students are terrible singers overall and the sweaty/shoes off/teenager post bouncy course smell permeating the gym is not good. But they are into it, singing and laughing and recording and posing and having a good time. I find a chair off to the side to draw and get philosophical:
Grad night is life. Many incredible opportunities, unlimited potential for fun and entertainment and you can do as much or as little as you want. Nobody fits in so everybody fits in. Karaoke separates the doers from the sitters. Except in my case as I have been a doer all my life yet this is the first (and probably last) time doing karaoke.Deep thoughts.
1:15There is a Spanish pop/calypso groove pulling me into the main gym. The scene is classic high school dance: 20 girls and two guys gyrating and creating a circle where the sweetest dance moves are shown off. A cute blond chaperone about my age comes over and starts making small talk, I lie and say I have to get back to karaoke, some people just never learn how to talk to girls.
I talk with students about how it feels to be done, talk to one of my tennis players about how great working 9/11 into his graduation speech was, find out about summer plans and college plans and how many have no plans. I know enough students to not feel too out of place.
1:45I find out who wrote my favorite line on the golf page in the yearbook, “It’s all about homeostasis” (Thanks Ali). The karaoke pit is empty so I put on a series of Billie Eilish videos (now, Billie has some sweeeeet dance moves). I start to get depressed after the third one and change to vintage videos of KC and the Sunshine band. I contemplate a second energy drink then realize it’s not really necessary.
2:30Irene comes over and tells me two kids have escaped (they have to stay from 11-5, that’s the point, a safe place for graduating students to go on a night when they traditionally do not go to safe places). She wonders if I have seen Tuck for a while which I have not (I find him asleep in the movie room). I make a plan to break down my station at 3, which I can’t believe is 30 minutes away.
The boys have taken over the karaoke area and have been belting out bad rap songs for about 45 minutes. I want no part in this and they want no part in Tuck’s dad watching this. I can hear the scene from my side chair but I’m hidden from view. Perfect.
3:00The bouncy course guys turn off the air and start cleaning immediately. Karaoke has been taken over by a group of girls who really need to do one more song. No problem I say, I watch as they do a duet that is actually kinda good. The difference is they’re owning the song, confident, animated and having fun.
The students are all in the main gym listening to live comedy and waiting for 4:45 when one of them will win a car. I walk my portable screen and projector to my classroom feeling a little strange to be on campus at 3am but very happy with how the evening went.
Grad Night is amazing (as are the many volunteers who make it possible) however I still don’t get karaoke. I did learn something about energy drinks and it was nice to spend time with students having fun, laughing, interacting, challenging themselves, and engaging.
Summer is here, go grab some unicorn blood and make some memories.