By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Whatever the Highland Park Independent School District touches seems to turn to gold. Highland Park ISD families, who live in both Highland Park and University Park, had an average household income of $192,361 in the 2000 census, compared with $55,363 in DISD. A cursory look at the Highland Park ISD Web site's "Points of Pride"--gag--shows government officials and national media entities falling all over themselves to shower the district with accolades. Newsweek ranks Highland Park High School the 12th best public school in the entire country for 2005. For the seventh time in eight years, Highland Park High's chronically exceptional academic and athletic programs won the 2005 UIL 4A "Lone Star Cup," only one of which is given out for each of the five classifications, 1A through 5A. The 1,918 students who walk the halls of HPHS have just about everything going for them.
With a record like theirs, you have to believe that practically every kid, even the dorky one with the greasy hair, was cut out of the star football-player mold. While the Park Cities kids I met suffer from the same kind of adolescent angst shared by their middle-class peers farther out in the suburbs, it's tempered with a bit of perspective. For Highland Park, there is an end in sight to the ennui that comes from living with Mom and Dad and going to youth group on Wednesday nights. Scots, as they're called after the school mascot, do things like spending summers or even years in Europe. They aspire to go to Princeton and Sarah Lawrence and Berkeley with the very realistic expectation that they'll get in--on scholarship. They also have fabulous taste in footwear.
Though the prospect of hanging out with these ideal specimens of humanity was, at first, terrifying, I retained a lot of knowledge from my high school years of A-list loathing. I knew my enemy. I could fake it. Besides, I've always enjoyed a good game of dress-up. Readers should note that I've changed the names to protect the Dallas Observerfrom Park Cities parents who can sue us for all we're worth. The addresses, though, are real. My first night out was a Saturday, after the Fighting Scots football team delivered a scathing 40-14 victory against Denton Ryan High School.
Minutes later, we were flying down Hillcrest Avenue in my beloved but worn Jeep Cherokee with the perpetually flashing "Check Engine" light. If my sources were correct, all we'd have to do was drive down two or three random streets, perhaps taking a wrong turn at Euclid or Colgate, before a raging house party would rise before us like Las Vegas on the desolate Nevada horizon.
Anybody who'd spent more time in the Park Cities than I had would have known better. The place was like a tomb lined with beautiful foliage surrounding five-bedroom homes with Porsches and Volvos parked out front.
Suddenly, we heard what sounded like a roar of thunder in the distance as we crept down Lovers Lane. A jacked-up F-150 with custom exhaust pipes flew past us at a speed that could only be deemed appropriate by a 16-year-old. A blur of white shoe-polish text was scrawled on the back window. The game was over. The high schoolers were loose!
Ever the conscientious driver, I made a three-point turn and headed in the F-150's direction, but we'd lost him. I was either going to have to start driving like a teenager, inviting the wrath of the notoriously intolerant Park Cities traffic patrol, or head them off earlier.
Pulling up to the high school, we saw a slew of the most well-coiffed band nerds I'd ever seen loading and unloading their equipment from surrounding buses. The kids couldn't help the traditional, unflattering marching gear in blue and gold, but I was struck by what great heads of hair they had. Radiant shades of chestnut and auburn reflected the glow of the streetlights high above their heads, and I made the first sighting of the asymmetrical bangs I'd later see on Highland Park's population of miniature Abercrombie models.
Hundreds of kids were milling around, some walking into the surrounding neighborhood with younger siblings in tow, others hoofing it in $50 Rainbow flip-flops toward the HPHS parking garage. We could hear cars peeling out from the other side of Scots Stadium and followed suit.
Blazers and Land Rovers made sharp and unexpected turns on Preston and Hillcrest, only to disappear into the wilds of the winding streets beyond. The easy part was pinpointing which cars were filled with potential partyers. The hard part had to do with my prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that regulates the ability to assess dangerous behavior and develops later than the rest. My own maturity mocked me. Nay, it mocked the very spirit of enterprising journalism. Then we spotted a potential target: two SUVs stopped next to each other, their windows covered in the telltale white shoe polish.