Excerpts: Part 1

June 6, 1997 Regrets, I've had a few. Maybe one of the biggest is being banned from my senior prom—and I still think the PTA overreacted. It's not like I had a date lined up or anything; it's just always nice having the option of being able to attend. So I can hardly resist the offer as I drive through Fullerton on a Friday night and see a sign that's practically a personal invitation: "The Spring Field Banquet Center invites Mark Keppel High School to their senior prom."

I rush home, cancel my date for the evening (you can never use the "My editor's on my ass about this deadline" excuse too much), dust off the tux and replenish the flask.

The hardest part is trying to get past the chaperones, but "I'm one of the busboys" works like a voodoo charm. Within seconds, I'm rubbing elbows with tipsy, postpubescent teens—17 going on 27. It's like MTV's Singled Out, except for the disturbing dinner.

I meet a junior version of Liz Phair, temporarily forget all California state laws, and immediately fall in love. "Let's go get my limo driver to buy us some beer," she whispers. "He's cool about it."

Of course, the thought of drinking lager with junior Liz is tempting, but I have bigger plans, and that means I have to spill the beans: "I should probably tell you that I'm 26 years old —I snuck into your prom," I say sheepishly.

"No shit," she snaps. "Why do you think I ditched my friends?"

Can someone say sassy?

Michael Alarcon, Boy About Town

July 18, 1997 In my humble estimation, cool was born when the first plantation nigga figured out how to make animal innards—massa's garbage —taste good enough to eat. Hog maws and chitlins became good enough to cherish and long for wistfully. That inclination to make something out of nothing—to devise from being dumped on—and then to make that something special, articulated itself first in the work hymns that slaves sang in the fields and then in the songs at the center of their secondhand worship. A mature version of the vibe would later reveal itself in the music made from cast-off Civil War marching-band instruments (jazz); physical exercise turned to spectacle by powerful, balletic enterprise (sports); and (my favorite) street-life styling, from the pimp's silky handshake to the crack dealer's sag. In time, an amalgam of all of this and so much more would arrive in the form of hip-hop culture. Cool is all about trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents.

Donnell Alexander, "Are Black People Cooler Than White People?"

Sept. 5, 1997 Leonard Peikoff predicts the rise of vicious unreason of the sort you see every night on TV—street riots, burning buildings, rubble piles, young women raped, store clerks shot, children murdered, students executed, soldiers in tanks, Hutu/Tutsi, Serb/Croat, Arab/Israeli, Protestant/Catholic death-squad victims rotting on bloody streets. All those bloody streets lead, he predicts, to religious dictatorship and mandatory blood, urine and lie-detector tests. Contraception, abortion, drugs and gambling banned. "With liberty and justice for all" replaced by St. Paul's "Slaves, obey your masters." Total obedience demanded from everyone and death sentences in a globe-spanning string of gulags for those who disobey. And then—fuck the slow pace of genocide!—the Hiroshima of every major city on the planet. This time, even Zurich and Geneva get it.

The end.

Ned Madden, "Selling Selfishness: Leonard Peikoff keeps Ayn Rand alive"

Oct. 3, 1997 "Sideshow Bob" Dornan arrived at the Anaheim Marriott convention site in time to make a grand entrance during former Vice President Dan Quayle's speech to 850 delegates. When party officials caught wind of the thunder stealer, they squirreled Dornan away in a room for 90 minutes. As a result, more than 700 people had left by the time Dornan sashayed in. Incidentally, the faint thumping audible during Dornan's speech originated from 700 people outside the Marriott trying to beat a Dan Quayle speech out of their heads.

Matt Coker, A Clockwork Orange

Oct. 10, 1997 To be honest, I was never suited for those games—never strong enough for football, never coordinated enough for basketball, never bored enough for baseball. There was that little experiment with tennis, but that was during the days when the rackets were wooden with faces as small as vanity mirrors. I'm too hands-on for wrestling, too footloose for surfing, too deep for swimming. I don't tan well enough for volleyball. I'm not bad enough for badminton —that is, I can't bring myself to say "shuttlecock" in mixed company.

So I'm trying to hitch a ride out of the badlands of my childhood sports fantasies, hoping to find some real-world athletic satisfaction in the green pastures of the future—and you can't say "out to pasture" any better than on the lawn-bowling green.

Yep, I'm going to Leisure World.

Dave Wielenga, "Is Lawn Bowling Ready for the Next Generation?"

Nov. 21, 1997 There's a program in Santa Ana for gang members to have their tattoos removed for free, but they don't have any such program for single moms in their late 30s; she's 38 and just trying to get by. Maybe the book will provide that extra bump in income to allow her to finally have the thing removed. The book has been out since September, and the buzz has steadily grown. It's gone from being carried only at Martinez Bookstore in Santa Ana to being stocked on the shelves of Borders and Barnes & Noble. She's been interviewed on the Today Show and on MSNBC. There's talk of a movie deal. It's all so attractive, this story of a girl gangbanger becoming a cop. It's a great story. There's just one problem: it's not Ruiz's story. Her story involves a lot more than that. Yes, she was in a gang. Yes, she became a cop. But, she'll tell you, she wasn't the first gang member to join the force. Her book, Two Badges: The Lives of Mona Ruiz, is really the story of a woman's fierce resolve to succeed in a man's world seemingly designed to crush her: the gangs who put her in the line of fire and laughed while she was beaten by her husband; the police who tried to ignore the beatings and occasionally read insolence in her determination. The first thing her training officer said upon meeting her was not that gang members should not be cops, but that women don't belong in the field. Even the tattoo, supposedly the very symbol of her gang life, is nothing of the sort. Yes, it's on the book's cover and is the reason for the title. But the flaming heart with a sword running through it (which Ruiz designed) was to show her devotion to Frank Ruiz, the gang member she would marry and with whom she would have three children. It was a devotion that caused her father to disown her and that drew beatings so savage from Frank that long sleeves and makeup couldn't hide the damage. What she intended as a declaration of undying love now says something about what women of all backgrounds—Santa Ana gangbangers who

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