NEW RIDGEMONT HIGH VIGNETTES, VOL. 1, CONT’D.
September 23, 2020, 1:00pm, PST.
Location: The student lounge, at the western edge of the main building. Myron Freelander, Ben Gibbs, and Charlie Smith are break-dancing to Run DMC’s “Rock Box,” which is blaring out of a large cassette deck. Mitch Bennett is filming the action with a camcorder.
Mitch: That’s amazing. I don’t know how you guys do that, without hurting yourselves.
Myron: [Getting up off the floor, laughing] No kidding. Every time I do this shit, I hear “Protect Ya’ Neck” in my head.
Ben: Now you know that’s not period, Myron.
Charlie: Yeah, we’ve got responsibilities here.
Myron: Why you illin, Charlie?
Ben: There you go.
Charlie: It is hard though – I’m ashamed to admit it – I mean, little kids used to do this.
Ben: Try the spin again.
Charlie falls back to the floor and begins to spin on his back.
Myron: Wow? Wow?! If there was a picture for “white” in the dictionary, you’d be it. [mimics Mitch’s voice] “Gosh golly, Charlie, that’s extra-ordinary!”
Mitch: Sorry! Right, ’80’s rap, uh, oh yeah: Fresh! Funky fresh! Pump up the Jam!
Myron: [His face in his hands] Oh God, no.
Ben: Yeah, don’t do that, Mitchie. Stick with “Wow.” It’s not your fault you’re a honky.
Mitch: [Cracking up] Honky?!
Myron: Hey, it beats “cracker!”
Ben: [Slapping Mitch on the back]: You’re alright!
Myron and Charlie start break-dancing again. Randy Dixon comes into the lounge.
Randy: What are you boys up to?
Ben: Just bustin’ some moves.
Randy: I can see that. [Gestures at Mitch] Who’s Alfred E. Newman?
Ben: This is Mitch Bennett.
Mitch: [Waves] Hey, man!
Ben: We’re trying to help Mitchie chill. Loosen him up. Teach him how to speak properly.
Mitch: I appreciate it, really. I need a serious coolness injection.
Randy: What brings you to the Lounge, Mitch?
Mitch: Myron’s in my Advanced Calculus class, and we talk a lot. Turns out we both love old Kung-Fu movies. He’s been trying to get me to hang out for a few weeks now.
Randy: What’s up with the camera?
Mitch: Well, I’m in AV, and I was thinking that all we do is deliver and set up equipment for classes and assemblies. Every now and then, we’re called somewhere to fix something. What a waste, right? I mean, we should put some of this great vintage tech to use? I’ve been filming as many kids as I can, talking to ‘em, hanging out with ‘em, and once I can get enough of it together, I’m gonna’ talk with Dr. Friedman; see if I can work with him. I’m really interested in the theory he used to create the school.
Randy: You trust him? Friedman?
Mitch: I think I do. Don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely a little strange. And intense. He’s almost like a teenager trapped in a grownup’s body. But I believe he really cares.
Charlie: You know he recruited us, right? Literally, “straight out of Compton.”
Mitch: No, I didn’t know that.
Ben: But we’ve known each other way longer than that. We all grew up on the same block.
Myron: Friedman met with us and with our parents. It was at your house, wasn’t it Charlie?
Charlie: It was. My mom made those wack hors d’oeuvres she always makes.
Ben: I kinda’ like ‘em.
Charlie: You would. There’s nothing you won’t eat.
Mitch: So, is it just you four?
Myron: No, he invited the entire Compton Honors society. There’s about ten Compton alums altogether.
Randy: There should be a lot more than that. Plenty of smart kids in the hood. They just won’t spend the money. Not on us.
Charlie: That ain’t Friedman, man.
Randy: So why just the Honors Society?
Myron: He said that he was still testing the model; that he had to start with the best possible conditions.
Mitch: I read something about that. I’ve been going through his papers, and there was one that was all about the implementation of the project. He thinks the theory will work in the tougher environments, but he’s not sure if it’ll work in the same way. That’s why he wanted the first school to be with an easy group; to work out all the kinks, before he tried it in a more challenging situation.
Randy: Maybe. I’ll believe it when I see New Compton High.
Mitch: That’s fair enough.
Randy: So, you dig Kung Fu movies, Mitch Bennett?
Mitch: Yeah! I love ‘em!
Randy: Jet Li?
Mitch: Shaolin Temple!
Randy: Shaw Brothers?
Mitch: Five Deadly Venoms!
Randy: Sonny Chiba?
Mitch: Street Fighter!
Myron: He’s got you, D. Boy knows his shit.
Ben: You gotta come hang out sometime. We have Hong Kong weekends. Chinese boxing, 40 oz bullets, and fine females.
Mitch: I’ll leave out the last parts when I ask my mom.
Randy: [Laughs] Want me to teach you something, Mitch? A little Wing-Chun?
Mitch: I want to say ‘yes’, but next period’s gonna’ start in a minute. We’ve got Calc, Myron.
Myron: Skip it, man. I am. It’s just a review for the test that’s coming. Ms. Stark said it was optional.
Mitch: I don’t know…
Randy: You’ve gotta’ decide what’s important, Mitch.
Ben: You said you were interested in Doc F’s research. You should do a little research of your own! A deep investigation into Chinese martial arts.
Mitch: I should, shouldn’t I?
Charlie: Yeah, man, you can trust us!
September 26, 2020, 12:00pm, PST.
Location: The streets outside New Ridgemont High. David Weber and Lee Lindberg are walking to Tony’s Pizzeria.
Lee: Should we be doing this? We’ve got a shitload of work back at school.
David: Gotta’ eat, man. Plus, I’m addicted to Defender.
Lee: Why are these games so hard? I mean, I can beat Dark Souls’ Insane mode, but I can’t even make it past the third wave in Defender.
David: Dunno’, but you’re right. These games are a bitch.
Lee: Maybe it’s ‘cause there’s so little range of movement. You can go up and down and accelerate, but that’s it, and they’re coming at you from every direction.
David: It’s also one-shot central. You get hit once and you’re dead. Thankfully it’s only a quarter, or I’d be in the poorhouse. Think there’ll be any girls at Tony’s?
Lee: I hope so, but probably not. At least not the hot ones. They always go to the New Galleria. I wish I had a car.
David: You’re not old enough to drive.
Lee: Well, then I wish your older brother had a car. You just can’t look cool, getting off a school bus. All the action starts in the parking lot, before school, and we’re missing it.
David: And what “action” do you think you’d be getting, if you drove to school?
Lee: Jaime Cohen. God, she is smoking.
David: Jaime Cohen wouldn’t notice you if you pulled up in a Maserati. Be realistic, man. You don’t exist as far as she’s concerned. This is New Ridgemont High, not Revenge of the Nerds.
Lee: Why you messing with the fantasy, man? We know the reality.
David: I prefer to pursue more attainable goals, like Laurie Pence.
Lee: Well, that’s great for you, but what about the rest of us? She’s the only girl who works in the computer room.
David: Not all the nerdy girls are into computers. There are others on campus.
Lee: Ugh. You do what you want. I’m maintaining my high standards, in the hope that the nerds will rise again.
David: To rise again, you have to have risen once already.
Lee: We’ll see.
David: Anyway, Vanessa’ll probably be there. She’s pretty and not nerdy. Nice too. Why don’t you ask her out?
Lee: I would, only I feel bad. Her dad owns the place. You can’t hit on someone in front of her dad.
David: You’re just making excuses.
David: Well, there’s an argument.
Lee: Double Pfft.
The boys arrive at Tony’s, which is packed with students. Tony is at the counter.
Tony: What’ll it be, Lee? David?
David: Special, Mr. Bruno. With a Coke.
Lee: Same here.
Tony: [Slides four slices of pizza onto paper plates and fills two paper cups with Coke.] Two Specials. Two-fifty.
David: [Hands over some crumpled bills and change] Is Vanessa around? Lee wanted to ask her something.
Lee elbows David in the ribs and hisses something inaudible. David laughs and punches him in the arm.
Tony: [Smiling] She’s staying on campus today, studying for a history test. But I’ll be sure to let her know that you were looking for her, Lee.
Lee: Cool, uh, thanks.
The boys take their slices and drinks and make their way over to the arcade games.
David: Crap! Louis must have three dollars in quarters piled up on Defender…we’ll never get to play in time.
Lee: I’m gonna’ kill you, man. What’d you do that for?!
David: Well, you’ll never have the guts to, so I figured I’d help you out.
Lee: Please don’t help me. I’m fine with an imaginary Jaime Cohen.
David: That’s just sad, man. Choosing a hopeless dream over a flesh and blood girl.
Lee: Well, I think you’re being too pessimistic. I mean, what about Mitch?
David: What about him?
Lee: He’s one of us, and he’s got the hottest girl in the entire school.
David: He hasn’t “got” her. He and Chloe are just friends.
Lee: No one’s just “friends” with a girl that good looking.
David: Well, Mitch is. Anyway, I’m not sure how “one of us” he is. Yeah, he’s into computers and AV and stuff, but he’s a little too cool.
Lee: What’s that supposed to mean? I’m cool.
David: Lee, ‘cool’ and you should never be mentioned in the same sentence. All I’m saying is that if Mitch is a nerd, then he’s King of the nerds. It’s not just Chloe. I’ve seen him talking with the Sportos, the Star Crew, even with your precious Jaime Cohen.
Lee: That’s just ‘cause he’s doing that video project. Everyone wants to be in it.
David: Exactly. He’s got something that every single good looking girl in the school wants. Too bad you didn’t think of it, huh?
Lee: [Crosses his arm and sulks] Humph.
David: [Laughs] He’s meeting us back at the computer room, you know. There’s something he wants to talk to us about.
Lee: [In a mocking voice] Well, we should rush back, then, shouldn’t we? I mean he is the King, after all.
David: Don’t be jealous Lee. It just adds to your uncoolness. But we should go. It’ll take us ten minutes to walk back.
The boys crumple up their empty paper plates and head to the door.
September 26, 2020, 1:00pm, PST.
Location: The computer room, a half hour later. Lee is messing around with several 1980’s era telephone modems, some of which he’s taken apart. David and Laurie Pence are at one of the computers.
David: Lee, I want to try it again. Is the modem working now?
Lee: I think so. Give it another go.
David: [Types several sequences and a number of squealing sounds follow.] We’re on!
David: Here we go: “Caltech Bitnet project. Dr. Sergei Kolov, Project Director.”
Laurie: Caltech? Bitnet? Are you serious?
David: I know, right? Dr. Friedman isn’t messing around. He’s got every major university in California in on this thing. They actually rebuilt the goddamned Bitnet network. There’s even talk of CUNY getting in on it. I mean, that’s where the thing started.
Laurie: Amazing. I feel like I’m in “Wargames” or something.
David: Yeah, except there’s no ARPAnet anymore, so we can’t hack into the Department of Defense and start a nuclear war.
Laurie: [Laughs] You would, wouldn’t you? You guys are fucking crazy.
Lee: [Sighs] The good old days, when the nerds ruled the world, in secret.
David: I’ll just send a message over to Dr. Kolov and let them know that we’re set up here.
Laurie: Wasn’t “Kolov” one of the Klingons in Star Trek?
David: No, that was “Koloth.”
Laurie: I’m still getting my TOS lore down.
Lee: So, what’s on the agenda today?
David: Well, now that this is done, we may as well unload the rest of the IIe’s that just came in from Apple. The computer classes are swamped and kids are working three on a computer.
Lee: Where are they?
David: In those boxes, piled up in the hall.
Lee: I’ll start bringing ‘em in.
Laurie: Is that it?
David: No, we’re waiting for Mitch Bennett. He wants to talk to us about something.
Laurie: You know, I haven’t actually met him yet. I keep hearing his name, though.
David: Yeah, he’s definitely juiced in. Kid works fast.
Lee: [Carrying a computer box into the room] What do you expect? He’s got the Chloe Gold Public Relations machine behind him.
David: Jeez, man, you just can’t stand it, can you? Let it go.
Lee: [Opens the box, grumbling. Lifts a brand new Apple IIe out and sets it on the table. Stacks two disk drives next to it.]
David: Look at that. It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
Lee: That it is.
Laurie: How many new machines do we have?
David: Twenty or so. They’ll send more if there’s demand and I suspect there will be.
Laurie: Fuck, yeah. There’re thirty kids in my Fortran class.
Lee: My Pascal class has twenty-five.
David: Well, this is the first time anyone’s gotten to do actual programming, instead of just learning to use existing software and applications, so I’m not surprised the classes are popular. People graduating from this school are going to know a shitload more about computers than anyone else in the county.
Mitch Bennett enters the room. He’s carrying a clipboard and has a pen stuck behind his ear.
David: Mitch! What’s happening, man?
Mitch: Heya, David! Lee.
Lee: So, where’s Chloe?
David: Why don’t you just shut up, Lee? Mitch, this is Laurie Pence. Laurie, Mitch Bennett.
Laurie: [Extends her hand] Nice to meet you, Mitch!
Mitch: [Shaking it] Same here. So, you’re working in the computer room too?
Laurie: Yeah, when Dr. Friedman asked for volunteers, I jumped on it.
Mitch: Awesome! Welcome aboard!
Lee: So what’s this all about? I feel summoned.
Mitch: I’ve got something for you guys. Something I think you’re gonna’ like.
Mitch: You know the treasure trove of retro tech we have here is being underused. We’ve talked about it.
David: So, what about it?
Mitch: Well, I’m proposing we use it.
Mitch: I want to create a multi-media Center, circa 1985. Radio and TV stations, as well as the newspaper and Yearbook.
Lee: But they didn’t have multi-media networks in the 80s. All that stuff was separate.
Mitch: No they didn’t and that’s not what I’m proposing. It’ll be multi-media in that it’ll include radio, TV, and print media, but the key point is that it will be a Center. I want a single programming, tech, and editorial team managing the whole thing, like a proto-CNN.
Mitch: There’s more.
Lee: I’ll sit down.
Mitch: I want this Center to manage both internal and external communications.
David: [Looking up] What do you mean, by “internal” and “external.”
Mitch: What I mean is that the Center won’t just produce and distribute media within New Ridgemont High, it’ll produce stuff for the city and maybe even for a statewide audience.
David: What kind of information do you want to produce for the city and the state?
Mitch: I’m not sure yet, but if New Ridgemont High really takes off, there’ll have to be some kind of external PR operation. There’s a lot of politics and money tied up with this thing. I just want to make sure that the nerds are in on it; at the ground floor.
Lee: I have a newfound respect for you, Mitch. I mean, the Gold thing is good enough – in an annoying way – but this … you’re a serious fucking player.
Mitch: [Laughing] I’m just interested in everything, that’s all. There’s more stuff I want to do than I have time for. And this place is so open to it. There’s so much freedom.
David: Not everyone is a wannabe gangster, like you, Lee. Seriously, the boy has fantasies: being a gangster and Jaime Cohen.
Lee: Don’t bullshit me, Mitch. This sudden burst of ambition has Chloe Gold written all over it. You were cool enough back at Clark, but nothing like this.
Mitch: I’ll admit, hanging out with her has been an ego-boost. I mean, the only girl who’d hang out with me at Clark was Polly, and she was fat and wore coke bottle glasses.
Lee: And she was, like, Polynesian or something.
David: You are such a fucking dick sometimes, Lee.
Lee: [Gives David the finger] How do you rate, anyway, Mitch? I mean, why the hell does some Beverly Hills runway model want to hang out with you?
Mitch: She’s not a runway model. She hates all that shit. That’s why she loves being here so much. She can start over, without all the bullshit expectations and baggage. And I don’t know why she likes me. I’m just glad she does.
Laurie: Well, I think it’s great, Lee’s reptilian instincts notwithstanding.
Laurie: Hey yourself. All we ever did our whole lives is bitch and moan about how the top-clique kids bully and make fun of us, and then when one of them is actually nice and wants to be friends, you trash her? What is that about, other than the fact that you’re obviously jealous?
Lee: [Points at Laurie] Don’t get too comfortable. You think New Ridgemont High’s gonna’ be any different? Just wait until this honeymoon “I love the 80’s” trip is over. They’ll be taping “kick me” signs to your back and stealing your lunch money.
Mitch: [Quietly] I don’t think so.
Lee: Yeah? And why not?
Mitch: ‘Cause Chloe’s gonna’ be Student Body President, and that’s not her way.
David: Also, aren’t you forgetting something, Lee?
David: Mitch’s media Center? We’re gonna’ be controlling the message. You wanted the nerds to rise again? Mitch is handing it to you on a silver platter.
Lee: You’re right.
David: Uh, yeah, duh.
Lee: Well, never mind then.