Young in Reno
Seven teens, seven voices
In mid-March, seven teens gathered at the new Holland Project headquarters on Cheney Street to talk about what’s on their minds. Be it videogames, the war in Iraq, movies, the election or the future of the world, some of them were more talkative than others, but each brought his or her own voice to the table. They don’t represent all of the teens in Reno. They represent themselves, seven teens living in Reno in the middle of March 2008.
Meet 13-year-old Deon Flesher, a student of Traner Middle School. His brother, Scottie Flesher, is a 15-year-old at Sparks High School. Jennie Villalba, 14, also attends Sparks High. Danny Auerbach, 18, is a Reno High graduate. Sixteen-year-olds Olivia Hu and Clark Demeritt and 17-year-old Isaac Rubin all attend Reno High.
What do adults think you think is cool, but it’s not?
Isaac: Going to the mall. Boy bands.
Clark: Has Myspace ever been cool?
Olivia: Adults think Myspace is cool. How many times have you had a teacher go [in singsong tone], “Don’t spend too much time on Myspace"?
Clark: How many times have you had a teacher befriend you on Myspace?
Isaac: Family vacations to somewhere exotic, like to Hawaii. I hear about a lot of kids going on family vacations and things like that, and they’re always complaining about it.
What do you think the world will be like in 25 years?
Jennie: Dead. … Global warming.
Scottie: I don’t think it’ll be dead. I think like, I don’t know.
Clark: I think it will be the same.
Scottie: Yeah, but better.
How will it be better?
Scottie: There’ll be a lot more new stuff, a lot more people being born. I just think it’ll get better.
Clark: I think it’ll still get a little worse, but as time goes on—and I have a lot of conversations with my friends about this—about how it feels almost like it’s down-spiraling.
Isaac: Everything’s just going to be too much for us. Everything’s going to be too easy. You’re going to be able to have all of your clothes laundered by the push of a button. You’ll have cars with built-in voice sensors where you can write a paper while speaking to it and driving to a conference or something.
Olivia: You won’t have to scramble your eggs anymore.
Isaac: We’ll be eating lots of cloned animals. … You’ll be able to buy pre-boiled water.
Who do you want for our next president?
Scottie: I like Clinton, too.
What do you like about Obama and Clinton?
Scottie: I just like ’em. I don’t know. [Turns to Jennie and asks,] What do you like about Clinton?
Jennie: She’s the first woman.
Isaac: I look at voting as basically one of the last things you do before the end of your childhood. So I just don’t pay attention to politics that much. Once you start voting, you can never be a kid again.
How old are you now?
Isaac: I’m 17, so I still have another year to not worry about it. So I’m just kind of avoiding it until I absolutely have to.
Olivia: Well, I’m leaning more toward Obama because when he came to Reno a few months ago, someone asked him what his plans were for students. And considering his time in office is when I’m going to be in college, he has a plan to produce student loans and make it easier to repay your college debt afterwards when you have a job. That would be really important to me, especially. That’s something that really appeals to me.
Isaac: Well, one of the times he came here, he was talking more about primary education rather than high school, or preparation for college. He was just focusing more on a really young age group rather than college.
Who all saw him speak when he came?
[Three raise their hands]
Danny: I wanted to, but I had other [commitments]. But I don’t like Hillary because … she’s ripping the entire Democratic Party apart. It’s almost like, for the sake of being the first woman president and winning, she’s willing to do anything, no matter what happens to the Democratic Party. That’s the feeling I get.
Clark: If Hillary won, it’d be like a dynasty that won’t go away.
Olivia: Yeah, like Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton for the past 20 years.
Clark: I mean, like, I don’t really want to hear about it because it’s all the same to me. Everybody’s all talking about the same types of issues, and they’re all just a little bit different from what everyone else is going to do. I just don’t like dynasties.
Danny: Then again, how little has changed over the course of politics in the last 10 or 15 years? It kind of shows what’s happening to the most recent generation of kids and teenagers. I mean, they sit, they play videogames. I guess I can point to Vegas as an example; kids from Vegas, and there’s a ton of them at UNR [where he spent the past semester], they all sit inside because it’s too hot. They either play indoor sports, like basketball and stuff, which isn’t that bad. And then they play videogames. And a generation of kids is losing a lot of the environment of what childhood was. They don’t play in the street. Like you can’t drive through a neighborhood and see children playing soccer on the streets and having to run out and get hit by a car getting the ball. I mean, I’d rather do that than sit inside, you know and die of that than like obesity or heart disease.
In the news recently was a report that 1 in 4 teenagers has an STD. Does that surprise you?
Olivia: Yeah, it does, actually.
Clark: Yeah, a little bit.
Isaac: That’s so gross. So wait, 1, 2, 3 [counts the teens at the table] … All but two of us now have the clap.
Olivia: That’s pretty surprising because a lot of the people from my school district have a lot of consciousness with sex lately, like, using protection is really important nowadays. When we were growing up, I think they were just starting to introduce all of education to really instill the idea that it’s really important to use protection, and now it’s really becoming true, like this is the result of it. If people say, “Oh we were having sex, and we didn’t use a condom,” everyone would be like “Whoa, that’s not OK, that’s not a good idea, you should go get Plan B [Ed note: Plan B does not prevent STDs] just in case. They really take the steps to take care of themselves nowadays. One in four, that’s a lot, and it makes me visualize people in my classrooms, and I don’t …
What music are you guys listening to right now?
Scottie: I like a lot of rap. Tupac. I like Lil’ Wayne.
Deon: I like 50 Cent, LL Kool J. Lil’ Wayne, like him. Mostly like, some old school records like Tupac, Eazy E.
Jennie: Metal is scary. I like R&B.
Isaac: Do you like TLC?
Jennie: Who’s TLC?
Isaac: “Who’s TLC?!” That song “Scrubs” or “Waterfalls"—[sings] “don’t go chasin’ waterfalls …” What about Salt-n-Pepa?
Scottie: Hmm, mmm, I like Salt-n-Pepa.
Isaac: Thelonious Monk.
Really? How’d you get into Thelonious Monk?
Clark: Because he’s a snob. [Mocking voice]: “I listen to jazz. It’s good, very technical.”
Isaac: I drink black coffee but … Actually, I did WOLF, that online school, so I spent a lot of time walking around downtown, and I’d go to the library and pick out jazz CDs. So I kind of randomly got into Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Milt Jackson.
Danny: I listen to a lot of house music. … I like Velvet Underground, hip hop, NWA …
Clark: You like a lot of that indie stuff.
Danny: Yeah, like New Pornographers.
Olivia: “Indie” is such a weird term now. It’s the best way to describe my taste in music because I like listening to Pavement and bands like that, but …
Isaac: It’s like saying, “I like to listening to rock ‘n’ roll or hip hop.” It’s too broad of a genre now.
Olivia: It was more defined in the ‘90s or late ‘80s. It’s short for …
Clark: Independent music.
Olivia: Yeah, for really, really small record labels. But each label was looking for a specific sound that was more eclectic.
Isaac: But now you’ve got bands like Modest Mouse, or like, Interpol headlining …
Olivia: To have such a big name. Like the White Stripes having an intro riff that’s all over malls, it’s confusing to be terming it “indie.”
Isaac: Yeah, and bands having, like, hip-hop on Target commercials. … They want their bands to stay small forever and be starving musicians. But once their band gets big and famous, everyone calls them sell-outs. They can’t be cool anymore because everyone listens to them. Indie kids are kind of an elitist group.
Clark: I feel like that’s just a small group of people, you can’t just group everybody together. That’s just like taking the most negative and making them the most stereotypical.
Isaac: Stereotypes are the most negative.
Clark: I have a friend that looks like a typical indie kid, but he hates all that, you know? If you looked at him you’d think he would be, but [he’s not].
What is good about Reno?
Isaac: It’s close to the Bay.
Olivia: You can go anywhere from here. You can go to Tahoe or San Francisco or …
Isaac: The middle of the desert or the middle of the forest.
Scottie: You can go in the mountains.
Danny: You can go hunting, you can go mountain biking, you can go skiing, all in the same day.
Olivia: You can go to Burning Man.
Clark: I like that it’s a small town that’s kind of getting bigger but it’s not quite like an impersonal town yet. For me, sometimes I rank cities by how big of a band destination it is. Like, San Francisco would be this giant monster that every band goes to and I’m totally envious of. But here, I’m actually surprised, we get some pretty good stuff. That’s what I like to do on my weekends.
Deon: They got a cool college here. That UNR.
Isaac: If you think about it, there aren’t that many cities that are 24-hour cities. We can go to Awful Awful at the Little Nugget or the Gold-N-Silver and just have coffee until like 3 in the morning and hang out. So, it is mostly a 21-and-over city where kids can do things in the middle of the night. Like, if you go to Oakland in the middle of the night, you’re not going to be able to find a 24-hour Jack in the Box. And now, we have 24-hour Starbucks'.
Danny: Is that what being a teen boils down to, is going to fast food restaurants at 3 a.m.?
Isaac: I don’t go to fast food restaurants anymore, I go to Awful Awful. … In a sense there is a lack of all-ages entertainment, so a lot of kids make their own. Like, we built a fort. We found an abandoned barn, and we made this huge fort with a generator, and we had videogames and lights and everything. I don’t know how many kids in big cities are able to do that. .. They tore it down. The cops were called there a couple times for trespassing.
Clark: On the first day of school, we were really, really bored, so we ended up going to Taco Bell, and from there, a bunch of chain of events led to us making this giant, 60-foot straw out of little straws. There wasn’t anything else to do …
Olivia: I like how Reno is using a lot of arts districts from the California area to try to become Artown, even though the summer event is kind of for tourists, but it’s a step. It’s nice, though, I feel like it’s blooming when it comes to art and music, and people are starting to take more of an interest here and get more involved in the community, and going to museums and stuff is really great for us.
Isaac: The weather in Reno is nice, too, like you can stay out all night in shorts and be fine. And then in the winter, well, winters here suck. Not that much. I like that we have the mountains here, and they get lots of snow, but I don’t like it when it snows down here because everyone stays inside. It’ll be like two inches of snow, and no one wants to go anywhere.
Olivia: The city has a really bad plan for clearing snow. I went to Quebec, Canada, and they drove little cars, not like what people drive here with their SUVs and all-wheel drive, and they could get around in the snow. But here, there are all kinds of accidents …
What other sorts of things should be better in the city?
Isaac: Public transit. If you’re going anywhere in Reno, it better be on Virginia Street.
Scottie: The bus is slow. They don’t come on time sometimes.
Olivia: We also need bike lanes.
Danny: Yeah, Reno has an enormous bike culture but no bike lanes.
Deon: And they should change the gas prices.
What do you know now that you didn’t a year ago?
Isaac: How to fill out a W-2. … That we really are all doomed.
Clark: I think everybody knows that from a very young age.
Isaac: No, I don’t think they do. Next time you go to McDonald’s, go to the ball pit and ask any of those little kids if they know they’re doomed.
Danny: Man, ball pits are horrible.
Clark: What are you talking about?
Danny: They’ve got, like, needles in there. Kids got AIDs in ballpits because they were stabbed in the ball pit.
Brit Curtis, Holland Project founder: Danny, that’s not true.
Danny: That is so true!
Clark: Isn’t that one of those urban legends?
Olivia: It happened at the McDonald’s across from my house.
Danny: What were we talking about?
What you know now that you didn’t before.
Danny: Oh, what it means to have two jobs and have to pay all my bills. Like pay my rent, pay food, pay my car.
Deon: Last year, I didn’t know the Hulk movie was coming in June. And also, it’s called Iron Man, it’s coming in the summer, too.
We’ve just had the fifth year anniversary of the Iraq war. What do you think about the war?
Danny: [sarcastically] Oh, I thought we were finished with that a long time ago. I don’t know. It’s a great waste of human life.
Isaac: I think we’ve been brainwashed. We were at this game store. There were these kids, and they were having a conversation about videogames, and the kid said, “No, I don’t like the videogame because there aren’t enough people to kill.” So everyone is just numb to all the killing. You have no real idea. If you ever have one person close to you who dies, even if they’re not shot by a soldier, that’s pretty traumatizing, like seeing a dead body. Everyone is just so numb to it because of the way the media portrays it. They never show the actual results of a car bombing, they just talk about it. They show “14 civilians” were killed. They don’t even say “seven children, ages 4-6”, they don’t personify these people. There’s no intimacy. It’s really detached from the emotional aspect of death.
Olivia: I think people forget how to have empathy. Like, I always have a weird issue of watching war documentaries, especially visions of the holocaust where they would take naked corpses and huge tractors and push them off into ditches. Most people don’t think, “One of those people weren’t born any better than I am or one of my family members.” They just think “Oh, a dead body.”
Clark: I think everybody’s really traumatized by it, it’s just you forget about it. Do you have a moment every day when you think about those who are dead? I mean when you see those images of dead bodies, you’re definitely freaked out about it. But if you go on and have this huge empathy towards it, it makes life even more worthless. You just have to move through it.
Olivia: I think it puts it into perspective, though, it’s not that it’s just worthless.
Isaac: On the television, you have CNN channels right next to the Cartoon Network and Disney. So you’re flipping through it, and it’s like, “Today, 14 people were killed in a car bombing,” and then you flip again, and it’s a cartoon.
What about the rest of you? Any thoughts on the war in Iraq?
Jennie: It’s stupid.
Scottie: I think they should put an end to the war.
Deon: They can still be in the military, just don’t kill nobody.
Scottie: But you gotta kill in a war.