GOOD TIME TO
CHANGE YOUR FRIENDS

    There has been much debate over the years about converting to a year-round school calendar, with two weeks vacation here and two weeks vacation there, rather than the traditional three month summer vacation.
    In fact, some school districts have gone that route, thereby assuring that their students will go through their entire adolescence without ever changing.
   Two weeks? No one comes back to school from Christmas vacation with a different personality. But three months---now thatís where the boy becomes a man, the girl becomes a woman, and the shy, bespectacled introvert turns into a tattooed, body-pierced, leather-clad hell-raiser. Or vice versa.
   Thatís what "back to school" is all about, at least after 8th grade, when the hormones and brains of adolescence are raging out of control. Three months is easily long enough to shape a brand new personality and alienate all your old friends.
   I remember going back to school at Lowell High, in San Francisco, in the early 70ís. They were tumultuous times, very political, and everyone was very serious. We would say goodbye in June, some of us pledging to overthrow the government during summer vacation, others merely hoping the sexual revolution would continue for at least one more summer.
     I claimed to be somewhere in the middle, but I was secretly pulling for the sexual revolution. I kind of liked the way things were going, and while I wanted some changes, I was pretty happy bouncing a basketball and hoping the war would be over before I turned 18.
    When September rolled around, after three long months of political turmoil, we would all arrive back to school and quickly survey who changed and who did not.
    Some changes were fairly harmless. One close friend, solid as a rock, went to England for five weeks and came back sporting an English accent. "It was a bloody dashing summer," she would say, and we would immediately write her off as a terrific phony and never speak to her again.
    But other changes were far more serious. At Lowell, there was an area about 100 feet below the classrooms, near the football field, which was called "The Pit."
    It was very secluded, nestled in a bunch of trees and bushes, and it was very late Ď60ís, early Ď70ís.
    To this day, I do not know what went on in The Pit, primarily because I was never invited to go down there. But I heard the rumors about rampant marijuana use and couples frollicking naked on the grass and I eagerly believed them to be true. Besides, we could quite often hear guitar music coming from The Pit from our perches behind the Boyís Gym, and we all knew what went hand in hand with guitar music.
    So come September, the big question when we all came back to school was which of our friends transformed over the summer into a Pit-dweller. Given the times, it was inevitable that we would lose a few each year, and we did. We would sit on the back lawn on the first day of school and assess the damage.
    "What about Dave?" I would say. "Have you seen him?"
    "Full bellbottoms and a leather vest with no shirt," a friend would answer. "Heís gone."
    "Rebecca?"
    "Last seen blowing bubbles. History."
      It was painful. Once they entered The Pit, we would never see them again. They apparently surfaced from time to time to attend class but they must have come in late, sat in the back row, and left early, returning to The Pit to do whatever they did down there.
     A check with some current Lowell students reveals that The Pit, at least in name, doesnít exist anymore. No one seems to know when it was phased out, and it certainly wonít help to ask anyone who ever dwelled there.
    But at Lowell, and in other high schools, September brings its own version of "The Pit." The friends of June disappear into another world, be it good or bad or neither, that developed over the long, sometimes tortuous adolescent summer vacation.
    The more I think of it, maybe year-round school isnít such a bad idea.
 

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