By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
After a few more turns around the Mockingbird Lane area, I sent my friend back to Mansfield and cuddled up on my couch with BBC America. An advertisement ran for Teen Angels, a reality show about a vicious British psychologist who straightens out pot-smoking, cider-drinking foul-mouthed teenagers. This was just ridiculous.
The next night, I'm on the verge of total surrender. I go through the motions of assuming my Park Cities identity. Slather my legs with Nivea glow-tion, a wondrous concoction that turns pasty skin a healthy shade of tan. Pull on my denim mini, complete with Dr Pepper Slurpee stain from last week. String of fake pink pearls. Black V-neck cashmere sweater. A wretched, cheap Gwen Stefani bag. In my heart, I'd given up. I don't even bother to call anyone.
I park outside the HPHS gym, watching students stream out of the homecoming dance. Girls scamper along barefoot, with expensive heels in one hand and their date's suit jacket around their shoulders, giggling as they climb into Hummer limousines. I feel icky. Depraved. Shady.
As the massive vehicles pull away, I follow. They all seem to be headed up Preston and somewhere to the east. Could they be dumping huge quantities of teenagers off at a central location at which there would be unsupervised debauchery involving prescription drugs from their clueless parents' medicine cabinets?
Could be, but aren't. The limos pull up to the same house, but the kids are running in and out carrying what look like duffel bags and camping gear. Off to the lake house. There would be no way I could get in on that without some serious questions being asked. It is approaching 12:30 a.m. I decide to swing past the school one last time.
Six or seven girls and guys stand in a driveway across from the visitor's parking lot. As I'd done so many times before, I stop a few feet away and roll down the window. The perky 90210-meets-Dora the Explorer voice is gone.
"Look, I'm a reporter. I work for the Dallas Observer," I begin. "I'm doing a story on Highland Park parties. I need to go to one or my story's dead. Is there anything going on tonight?"
"What newspaper?" a girl asks, approaching the car, carrying her cell phone. It looks like it probably does more than my blender, my laptop and my toaster combined.
"The Observer," I say, hoping beyond hope that maybe these kids pick it up for the music listings or something.
"My boyfriend is having a party," says the girl, an exotic-looking brunette.
"Hey, don't write about us!" shouts one of her friends. "We won't be able to do anything."
For a fleeting moment, I actually consider her plea. Then I remember that I hate the fact that kids are getting away with this, especially when I had such a great time in high school being self-righteous and bitter.
"Where's this kid live?" I ask, ignoring the other girl.
The brunette gives me an address on Dartmouth Avenue and a few mangled directions. She dials a number on her phone and tells the person on the other end that her "friend" Andrea, wearing pink pearls, is coming.
The house is easy to find because the street outside is lined with SUVs. I don't even need to flash my faux jewels to gain entrance.
I'm shaking in disbelief. I've made it in!
Inside, three Coors Light tallboys rest on the knees of three bored-looking teenage guys reclining on minimally comfortable, modern-style couches surrounding a giant flat-screen television. They stare ahead at the TV like drones with popped collars. Behind them, on the other side of a wall full of windows, four or five more guys sit around a patio table, lit by blue light from the swimming pool. They, too, look a little under-whelmed, the way dads and uncles do when their favorite team's just lost the big game and they've gathered out back to mope into their beers. It's 12:45 a.m. Based on the timeless examples of films like Sixteen Candles and Varsity Blues, this party is decidedly lame.
"We gotta get more people here!"
This from the kid running around screaming and slurring into his cell phone, a Motorola Razr if I'm not mistaken. He's taken it upon himself to be the guest coordinator, doing his darnedest to pack in more of his peers alongside the slick contemporary décor of the house. It's a typical two-story living room with a staircase on the right leading to a second-floor landing and a kind of indoor balcony. There's more than enough space for probably 70 kids, but right now there's only 15 or 20 within sight. Plenty of room to stumble around aimlessly, and no line for the bathroom when too much Boone's Farm sends you racing for a porcelain receptacle (though fewer people also means fewer friends to hold your hair back). The guest coordinator stops in mid-yell as the person on the other end of the line picks up.
"Dude, you have got to get over here!" he pleads into the phone, and disappears into a doorway off the main room. Amazingly, no one seems to have noticed the 21-year-old in the fake Uggs walking in with 10 or so high schoolers still half-sporting their post-homecoming-dance formalwear.