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Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Good To Be the King!

Here we are at the end of another school year, a little older and hopefully a little wiser.  Memories were made and friends may be displaced as students disperse for the summer to their various summer activities.  Graduating seniors will either be faced with the real world as they move on from Academia to the Job Market.  Those that have not secured post school employment may find themselves moving back in with Mom and Dad for the summer or even longer.  Taking a look at their resume they study their achievements, deciding which will best serve them in the search for gainful employment.  Perhaps it would be best to remove the mention of membership in Who's Who Among American High School Students.  After all, recognition of that accolade is more about selling a big book of names than it is achieving any greatness and most schools could care less about it.  What about perfect attendance?  Is that a worthy mention on a resume?  While it's an achievement in not slacking or getting ill, it really doesn't hold a lot of water in the realm of job interviews.  I had 12 years of perfect attendance.  That's right; yours truly went all 12 years of primary and secondary education without missing a day.  Was I nuts for doing it?  Well, considering that the recognition for such a feat was a gold plated ruler etched with my name and years of attendance and those who had just one year got the same bauble, yeah, maybe I was.   Oooh, here's one.  PROM KING!  Now there is something that stands out on a resume to any perspective employer.  It says a lot about the person.  This person was involved in many school activities such as sports or class offices.  This person was chosen above all other students to represent his prom as a royal dignitary. This honor holds itself in such high regards that can only be matched by the amount of real power the Queen of England has or the winner of the 2000 US Presidential Election's popular vote.  In other words, it's a title, but it doesn’t get you a free ride on the subway.

I could have been Prom King.   That's right, I said me.  Ok, I wasn't the most popular or athletic.  I didn't participate in any sports and no one made sure to invite me to the big parties on the weekends, but that doesn't mean I didn't do a lot for my school.  Frankly, I joined the prom committee my junior year to try and meet and impress girls.  Call me Lucas, if you want, but I committed my time and helped put together two proms in my high school tenure.  In fact, my senior year, I helped pull off our prom theme with only $50 and an imagination.

Whether it is Enchantment Under the Sea or A Night to Remember, prom themes are tradition in indecision and tacky mylar cracked ice streamery.  Prom committees sit around like fantasy football enthusiasts with a catalog of Prom Theme Kits ranging anywhere from $100 to $1000 in prom committee dollars.  Those come from car washes and bake sales and whatever might be left over from the previous year.  My senior year the prom committee had decided on a New York style black and white classic theme with windows and lights and skylines.  Unfortunately, the kit we had agreed upon was $500 and would nearly eat up our entire budget.  It had a large stairway that led up to a white window frame with lights shining through on a blackened background.  Silhouetted city skylines with twinkle lights adorned the back of the scene as a shiny mylar runway split the main area for a grand march where a lighted column of fabric book ended the runway.  Being a drama/band person I looked at the catalog and laughed.   "Hell, I could pull that off for $50 and what we have backstage in the auditorium."  I proclaimed.  Soon eyes lit up and heads turned towards my direction.  Someone actually believed me and asked, "Really?"  Looking at the design it was rather simple.  There wasn't much to it.  The fact that they wanted to charge $500 was ridiculous.   I went on, "Yeah.  Look, the skyline is cardboard.  We can get a bunch of refrigerator boxes and spray paint them.  We have TWO staircases left over from the musical that we can cover with that extra black cloth and all the twinkle lights you could ask for.  All we need to do is buy mylar, gossamer, and spray paint.  All of that should cost us $50."  Soon I was thrust into the middle of a planning session.  I asked for the help of my stage crew friends to construct my bold promise.  We were going to use the backstage area to assemble all of the components and outside would be our painting area.  We contacted the local appliance store in town for old cardboard boxes from various large appliances.  We found two huge clam shells that we stuck in the gossamer to give it a round shape and put flood lamps on the floor in the gossamer columns.  I figured with the kit we would get enough to decorate a small portion of the stage and maybe a staging area.  Our plan involved going beyond what was on the page.  We went on to borrow a white wicker couch to have in between two columns against a lit background for pictures.  Since we were doing it for less, why not explore the possibilities.  We went nuts transforming the cafeteria and stage of the auditorium.   The capper?  One of our stage crew guys suggested enlisting someone to play a grand piano on stage right during the grand march.  It was the perfect marriage of ingenuity and existing resources.

During one of our final meetings before the prom the discussion turned towards nominating and electing a queen and king.  Our selections would be based not on popularity alone but who demonstrated superior commitment to pulling off the prom and dedication to the cause.  I was one of three male members on the prom committee and even though, in my opinion, I may have done a lot to help further things along, very few wanted to come forward and say it when it came down to it.  I just wasn't the perfect choice.  I wasn't a sports star.  I wasn't the hot guy.  I wasn't the most popular or had the most money.  I was just the guy who saw a problem and did his best to help fix it the best way he knew how.  One of the guys did come forward and say. "Hey, what about him?  He did the most."  Of course, I don't know whether he was being sarcastic and demeaning but I wasn't about to kiss anyone's ass for the recognition.  I knew what I did and deep down, everyone did as we got a lot of compliments on how everything turned out.   I would just have to wait and see what happens come the announcement of king and queen during the prom.

We gathered in the cafeteria for hors d'oeuvres and then filed onto coach busses for our trip down to the Gateway Clipper ship.  As the night went on, I spent my time with my date and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  It was our senior year and a celebration of friendship and accomplishment for our previous 12 years of schooling.  It wasn't time to worry about trivial things like titles.   That is, until it came time to huddle around the dance floor as the coronation was about to get underway.  One of our committee members grabbed the microphone and announced that this year was going to be a little different in terms of deciding on who was going to get the crown.  Suddenly, I unwittingly gave into the warm feeling in my stomach.  "Perhaps, they did decide to make me King?"  I thought.  "Maybe, this was the unorthodox choice that was made."  I continued to get drunk on the feeling that I was about to become the big winner in all of this.  My dedication and commitment were about to pay off in spades.   I was Charlie Brown and I was about to finally kick that football.

"This year we decided to go untraditional and chose TWO QUEENS!" Cheers flooded the dance floor as they called up both Queens up to be crowned.  The silent sound of me screaming as I fly into the air after the football is pulled away fills my brain.  I think to myself, "God, I hope I didn't look like I was expecting to be named."  That was the decision, two Queens instead of a King.  Granted, if I had been playing Blackjack, I would have at least got my money back but this went more towards the disintegration of whatever dignity I had as a high school senior who got a chance to play with the cool kids.  I was reminded of my social status and put back into my place at the back of the cool bus.  The lesson learned was that no matter how much you try to fit in, no matter how well you think you've saved the day, in the end you are still you and they are still them.   Detention for The Breakfast Club is over and come Monday at school Andy doesn't associate with Brian and Claire doesn't hold hands with Bender.  This is not a John Hughes movie and you do not get popular from making a hot girl with your computer.  You are David Silver from season one of 90210, not season three.  You are Arnie Cunningham before the Plymouth Fury.  Consider yourself a Neo-Maxi-Zoom-Dweebie.  For you youngsters out there, that's Seth, Evan, and McLovin all rolled into one.

15 years later at least I can find humor in it.  In fact, maybe I should write a self help book for those whose shoulders held those who stood upon them to reach the crown.  I could fill volumes of how I have always been three seconds late to greatness.  I guess there are some people who still hold onto those little tiaras and crowns as a keepsake or reminder of when they were the pinnacle of high school existence.  Some have probably traded a crown for a paper hat.  In that I find comfort that I didn't base my entire life's success on one little footnote in the yearbook right next to National Honor Society and Honor Role 1,2,3.  After all, it was high school and it's not like I was kept from a high profile and prestigious job just because I could not include Prom King on my resume.  In fact, as time has gone on, the end of my resume has become like the vertical scrolling screens in Contra.  As I add more things to the top everything at the bottom falls below sight and dies as it slides off the screen.  Gone are the accomplishments from high school and the new training and educational achievements have taken their place.  In fact, I struggle to remember what I did in high school as some online applications have drop downs and fields to fill in information from those days.  Did anyone ever have another course of study other than Academic in high school?  In the end, it doesn't really matter what I did in high school as long as I had fun, which I did.  I consider high school one of those frozen in moment times where I was old enough to make some of my own decisions but young enough to not be responsible for them when they blew up in my face.  And as far as others perception of who I was, they see me as they want to see me, In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a jock...

and an outsider,

and a drama nerd,

a rich kid,

and a Prom King.

Does that answer your question?  Sincerely yours, Mongo.

Just for laughs, here are a couple of YouTube vids of our 1993 Prom. Remember, this was 15 years ago. There was no Internet or digital video. And don't ask me about the lightning bolt. I have no clue, either.

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