Late in March, the honorable Sir Michael of Bennet, Superintendent of Denver Public Schools, met with a ragtag group of young civic boosters known as Leadership Denver's Class of 2006, with one goal in mind: winning the state leadership softball classic. Every year at about this time, all the bizarre leadership councils that no one knows exist gather for a softball tournament at Lake Susquahanny, where they battle for bragging rights for the entire off-season. And those arrogant bastards from Leadership Eagle County have won the tourney the past three years in a row.
"Now, fellas," Bennet told the troops. "It's no secret that we haven't always been the best-looking softball team out there. Our uniforms don't match, our equipment is taped together. Christ, look at Burnsy. I mean, the guy's got a hook for a hand. And a hand for a hook! No, sir, we've never been the prettiest squad, I'll be the first to admit that. But I'll be goddamned if we haven't shown more heart, more gumption, more stick-to-it-ive-ness than any other team in the league. I'll be goddamned if when the odds were stacked against us, we didn't find a way to win, be it with a cheap shot to the groin or arsenic to the other team's water cooler. And look where it has gotten us: to the championship! Now I want you to go out on that field today and show those rich pricks from Eagle how Denver plays ball!"
With that, the team charged and proceeded to play nine innings of flawless softball, capturing the state title in the process. Plus, in the sixth inning, one of the fatter campers from Leadership Eagle County fell in the lake while chasing after a foul ball.
Denver Public Schools
Sadly, none of that actually happened. When Bennet met with Leadership Denver, he asked the Class of 2006 how they could improve the DPS. Burn down all the schools and start over, they said. No can do, Bennet replied. What else you got? Well, seeing as our high schools really blow, hows about we encourage the alumni to come back to their schools and help out in any way possible? And thus was born Denver's Homecoming -- Come Back to Class, a project that kicked off May 9 with a citywide rally urging DPS alums to rah, rah, rah, be true to their school. Love that DPS efficiency. To get alumni to contribute, let's not solicit them, let's not send out an e-mail, let's have hot dogs and potato chips and futility pie! That'll bring them in droves.
Some people talk, and some people do, and What's So Funny is a doer. Or is that addicted to Dewar's? I'm not sure, but for one reason or another -- maybe I was motivated, maybe I woke up confused after a six-day Dewar's bender and thought I was still in high school -- last week I found myself seated on a stool at East High School, my alma mater, talking to twenty or so fresh faces about, get this, journalism! Me! Truth be told, I was invited by East's journalism teacher to speak to the class, but that still didn't make me feel any more qualified. So I prepared for my appearance the same way I did for any test when I was a student there: five minutes of actually thinking about the task at hand, then banking on my superior bullshitting skills to take over while in my head I worked on a screenplay about a robot who starts to feel. With a hand for a hook!
But the miraculous thing was, I never even needed to bullshit. Those little East High Angel journalists seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, god bless 'em. And after reminding myself that any clandestine relations with the young women in the class were forbidden, I was able to engage the students legally for the entire 45-minute period. Of course, my efforts were aided by the fact that the class's previous speaker was John Temple, editor/publisher/president of the Rocky Mountain News -- who, oddly enough, I want to play the lead in my robot script.
After my brief spiel, the students fired off questions, one after another, and I responded like a seasoned pro.
What's your favorite part about writing for Westword? They let me swear.
When you wrote about you and your friends vandalizing that one time, was that true? You bet your TI-85 it was, Tonto.
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When you interviewed that alleged Crip for that one story, were you scared? So scared that I sharted.
The class flew by, and when the bell rang and the students shuffled off, I felt good about giving back to the school that reared me and that I love so much. But I also felt that things had come full circle, that this was how it was supposed to be: me in front of a class of kids who were just like me seven years ago, sharing all that I had learned. And when I walked down the hallway afterwards and was violently slammed into a locker, collapsing into a helpless heap on the floor as two gang members made off with my wallet, cell phone and inhaler, I couldn't help but feel a camaraderie with them, too.
All of us are Angels.