Lincoln Nebraska: The Forgotten Ghetto
(The Suggestion For This Post Was: Glue)
I was a senior in high school at Lincoln High. The absolute most ghetto school ever. In Lincoln, Nebraska. So take it as you will. I think when people in Lincoln called it ghetto what they actually meant was, “The high school where the blacks go”. Which, in spite of its racist undertones, is a true statement. Most of the black kids in Lincoln went there for 10th through 12th. There were some rich kids from the highlands but it was predominantly poorer, blue collar types.
I think it’s important to point out that I am the opposite of black. If someone said “Go find a, like, really white dude that doesn’t tan. Ever. He should have reddish hair, an attitude problem and oh yeah, make sure he threw up gang signs outside of his mom’s house to intimidate other white kids when he was 16 because he learned about them by watching the music video “regulators” on MTV.” I would be the guy that they found, with braids in his hair because it was too thin for cornrows.
I’m not sure why I think that’s an important detail but I do.
I had a creative writing teacher, Miss McGinn, Deborah if you’re nasty. She made us write a book of poetry to pass her class. We had to read it in front of the other students and pass it around so everyone could look at it. We filled them with pictures and poems and quotes we liked. I think I still have it somewhere. We had to name it and then explain to the class why we chose the name that we chose. I named my book, “Condoms and Glue” because “I liked safety and togetherness”. That wasn’t the total truth. The long answer was because I didn’t always feel safe and my friends looked out for each other and I felt safer around them. I was scared sometimes, like when we buried Mike Schmader and Brandon Pickinpaugh.
I was kind of an annoying kid. I was that loud, obnoxious, shit talking kid you hated. That’s probably why I like Eminem so much. He co-signed on my attitude problem. It was like, “See, I’m not obnoxious. I’m just ahead of my time, like this guy who raps about raping pit bulls”. I also loved to write, another thing I had in common with Mr. Mathers. Between writing and acting, I often found myself escaping my almost debilitating self doubt.
It’s weird looking back on yourself with more knowledge than you once had and realizing that you were a shit head at times. What’s worse is when you realize that you still do some of those same things. Often times for reasons you can’t explain. Other times, you look back and feel misunderstood and then realize that today that feeling still applies. A sense of humor can be so subjective… It’s all fun and games until someone wants to choke the shit of you. Which is why I often felt unliked and leaned on my friends in a possibly co-dependant sort of way. I’ve still got the same buddies from high school actually. Isau, Nic and Matt. Probably, the funniest people I’ve ever known. At some point in our lives, we all did theatre, wrote, made music, danced or drew. I think we kept each other in check. They definitely kept me humble, kept me from turning into another Hollywood wanna be with nothing to explain what made me so cocky.
Which brings me back to Lincoln High. The ghetto school. We were called the Lincoln High links; our mascot was a chain. It might as well have been a broken bottle, that’s what it felt like sometimes. Hopeless. Angry. Violent. On other days it felt like every kid was just dreaming of something; music, poetry, art, theatre. The best art comes from hopelessness, I think. That and pain. There’s an honesty when art is your escape that doesn’t exist when it’s your party theme. There’s a different kind of intelligence too, a different way your brain works.
When I go back to visit my old highschool now, it hasn’t changed much. Still diverse, still mostly poor and still full of art. A lot of those kids will stay in the circle that their parents are in. Many will get out and be bankers or some other job where they make a lot of money. But some will be artists. Those are the ones I can’t wait to see later. Their brains work different and they aren’t afraid because there’s nothing you can do that they haven’t already seen. They’ll challenge authority, they’ll mock the things you say they shouldn’t, they’ll take the staus quo and make it scared to be against them.
Ironically, just like the other kids, they may find their own circle. A continuous loop of shit talking, stirring up trouble and self doubt. Then, they’ll get older – they’ll slow down. Hopefully, they will remember what it was like to be young, mad and unrelenting and cheer for those kids as they watch them take over where they left off. I want those kids to scream as loud as they can. I want them to never take no for an answer, never be afraid to say fuck you and always find time to go back to where they came from. That’s where the good stuff is. That’s where you find the art, the music, the humor. I feel very privileged to have gone to the school I did and find the friends that have grown into family. I sincerely hope that all the new Links keep looking forward and find the truth about who they are and what they can achieve. I want them to succeed.
I also want them to write a rap song about raping pit bulls.