Gangly. Moody. Horny. Maybe. But not stupid.
It wasn't that long ago that you were popping zits, wacking off into a gym sock and diluting the contents of your parents' liquor cabinet. Not so many years have passed since your average Tuesday consisted of choking down bologna sandwiches, tenderizing your brain with third-period trig, soiling yourself whenever Toni Collins (amateur goddess) floated by or retrieving your Trapper Keeper after Chuck the Neanderthal threw it into the girls' locker room.
Now you're all grown up. You oversleep for work. You eat cold microwave pizza. You fantasize about retrieving anything from the girls' locker room. Your brain is a soft, lifeless victim of too many keg stands and too much Fox programming. Toni has two kids, stretch marks, a mortgage and a mechanic husband named Chuck. You fear bologna. And you think kids are stupid.
Why else would you try something like "Generation Relevant"?
The question occurred to me as I sat in the auditorium of Olathe Northwest High School on a recent sunny morning. I had been summoned to the school for the unveiling of a revolutionary breakthrough in the art of the school assembly. Generation Relevant is a nebulous entity that aspires to host inspirational assemblies across the nation. This one featured the Kansas City band Lipriddle and promised to be the Rosetta Stone for energizing lethargic youth. It would be the Alpha Male of all school assemblies, beside which the "Crack Is Wack," "Just Say No," "No Does Not Mean Yes" and "Timmy Has a Burning Sensation" assemblies of my youth would flounder with helpless impotence.
I wanted to keep an open mind. This was a tough crowd. It takes a lot of guts to get in front of an auditorium packed with malicious little shits, let alone to try to bring them an inspirational message. Generation Relevant was innocent until proven guilty. Then the lights went out. And the prosecution rested.
"Low Rider" began cha-cha-cha-cha-ing out of the sound system as a diminutive woman strutted onstage shouting the usual "Come on, make some noise" and "I can't hear you" hyperventilations. The woman was Nicole Chavez-Circello, and the premise of the assembly was a faux talk show with Lipriddle as the musical guest. The band would play a short set, then answer some inane questions from Chavez-Circello -- weaving in the "Eight Fundamentals of Relevance" -- before delivering an encore that would leave us all sweaty and inspired.
But first ... a word from our sponsors.
Without any explanation of why the hell everyone was missing fourth period for this, Chavez-Circello began chirping about "our friends" at Olathe Family Dentistry and Costco.
People love their 5-gallon drums of mayonnaise, but the assembly was effectively over. You want to do something good for the kids? Great. You want to provide an inspirational message? Super. Volunteer your time. Keep it pure. Otherwise what you're left with is Martin Luther King Jr. 's "I Have a Dream" speech sponsored by QuikTrip, or Mahatma Gandhi's hunger strike brought to you without commercial interruption by Schlitz Malt Liquor and the new Ford F-150.
The assembly nonetheless continued. What followed was a mix of shameless self-promotion, blatant pandering and a well-meaning but incoherent attempt to deliver a positive message to indifferent teenagers. Lipriddle put in a short, energetic set that was better than you might expect from a band whose claim to fame includes opening for Dokken. The teens sat stone-faced, but they were at least paying attention.
It was the "interview" session after Lipriddle's performance that sealed their fate. A point never really emerged from the "unscripted" banter, which consisted of Chavez-Circello panting about the "phenomenally talented" Lipriddle amid thinly disguised anecdotes about goal-setting, teamwork and discipline. The message was that by using the fundamentals of relevance, you, too, could aspire to be a middle-aged, midlevel Midwestern band playing dingy bars and the occasional school assembly.
Chavez-Circello then thanked the teachers and students profusely for allowing Generation Relevant and Lipriddle to come to Olathe Northwest. "On your way out, you can pick up coupons for great discounts at Costco."
The whole thing was a publicity stunt. A large public-relations campaign touting Lipriddle and Generation Relevant had accompanied the event, and the press had dutifully showed up. In fact, TV crews might have captured the assembly's only genuine moment. After Lipriddle finished the assembly with an encore performance, a small group of clearly enthralled girls stood at the edge of the stage, talking with the band. Cameras swarmed, reducing the entire scene to a ten-second sound bite.