Annoying people always come up to me asking:
“Doug, how come you godless newsmongers focus on the negative things kids do, but you never write about the positive?”
To which I respond, “What story would you read, pal - ‘Eagle Scout Takes Hatchet to Sleeping Webelos’ or ‘Teen Nabs Top Tri-County 4-H Sheep Award’?”
But the critics have a point. Many, many unsung youths do indeed deserve to be recognized.
Youths like Ferris sophomore Paul Spangler.
Paul, 16, has no visions of being valedictorian. He harbors no hopes of setting any all-state sports records.
It’s a shorts record this lad chases.
The Spokane student is on a quest to wear the same shorts every day throughout his entire high school career.
If only all American youth shared Paul’s discipline and commitment.
It should be made clear that we are talking about garish green Levis, not a mold-stained pair of Jockeys or Hanes. There may be a teenager somewhere who is out to splatter the continuous-use underwear record, but fortunately for you readers he hasn’t come to my attention.
Green is normally considered a color of tranquility and beauty. We think of lush grass. Rich emeralds….
Paul’s fashion statement gives green a bad name. These putrid things look like they emerged from a Hanford waste tank.
I was asked to unravel this sartorial oddity by my daughter, Emily, and her pal, Ginny Coble. The two have been mystified by Paul’s green cottony monotony since they began high school last fall.
They wondered: Can Paul’s shorts-wearing be some kind of search for religious atonement through self-abuse? Did he lose a bet?
Even Paul can’t fully explain the love at first zip he felt when he bought the shorts in a mall during the summer of 1993. “They are soooo comfortable,” he says, “and it sure makes it easy to decide what to wear to school.”
He became “Green Shorts Boy” at Sacajawea Middle School. To the puzzlement of all, Paul wore the things every day during his 8th-grade year.
During a run for Sac student president, Paul’s campaign posters featured a stick figure wearing you know what. Although he lost the election, the shorts beat Dole in the New Hampshire primary.
“My shorts are more popular than I am,” muses Paul, now 2-1/2 years into this bizarre attempt at dubious distinction.
You’d think Friday’s snowstorm would cool Paul’s shorts passion. Hardly. When the temperature drops, Green Shorts Boy slips them on over a pair of long gray underwear.
“I just hope they can stay together,” he says. “I’d like to retire them at Ferris after my senior year.”
Paul’s Dad, Phil, assures me the shorts are washed on weekends and that his son’s weird marathon is “not for any lack of ability to buy him a new pair of pants.”
Teens, of course, have expressed their independence through clothes ever since James Dean made blue jeans a symbol of youthful angst.
I once came to Ferris wearing my big brother’s yellow Playboy sweatshirt. I felt pretty dang cool until a thuggish vice principal named Skip grabbed me by the bunny logo and slammed me into a locker.
“If I see that trash again I’ll expel you,” he growled while I nearly piddled my freshman pants.
Paul’s shorts obsession hasn’t created any ill will. On the contrary, an informal fan club has formed to cheer him on. “He can do it,” says Josh Fejeran. “He’s done it this long, I know he can.”
Paul, however, knows danger lurks everywhere: A growth spurt. A rusty nail. An out-of-control police dog named Spike….
So many things could split the seat right out of Paul Spangler’s ambition.
Then he would no longer be Green Shorts Boy. Paul would be just another kid, wandering through life on the Street of Broken Seams.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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