By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
IT'S 4 O' CLOCK ON THE LAST OFFICIAL DAY OF SUMMER, AND SEVENTH grader Newman Wolf is feeling excited about returning to school. "I think it's gonna be really fun," he says from his cluttered bedroom in his mom's Studio City home.
One reason the energetic 12-year-old is enthusiastic about his return to campus life is, well, 'cause, he's one of the coolest kids in school.
"Not to sound all high and mighty, but people think I'm cool. Like, if I say, 'Hi,' people say, 'He's cool.'"
"It's true," confirms his 15-year-old cousin Taylor, from Newman's unmade bed. "He's a cool kid."
Comic books cover the floor and a drum kit from Pacific by DW is set up in the corner (Newman's played since he was 6). His desk holds a new iBook where Newman and Taylor are burning CDs.
Newman, who is currently wearing "the hat of God," a black The Nightmare Before Christmas baseball hat with Jack Skellington on the front, believes the summer has matured him.
"I'm less of a spaz. Less of a dick," the small-framed Newman explains, while simultaneously replying to an instant message. "My whole quote unquote essence."
"I can see that," says Taylor, adjusting a gray wool hunting cap from Newman's copious collection onto her head. "He really has become quite an individual. He's kind of become himself instead of a typical product -- you know, people who are produced?" Taylor doesn't watch MTV or listen to popular radio.
"And, I don't yell at my sister as much," Newman adds. "'Cause, I've come to accept that she's clinically insane." For the record, there is no hard evidence that Frankie, Newman's 10-year-old sister, who resides in the bedroom next door, is actually clinically insane.
Newman credits a few weeks at sleep-away camp, specifically an inner-tubing experience, as well as a recent trip to Vegas with his dad (where "I got to walk around on my own") and a girlfriend with his recent maturation. Taylor he credits with single-handedly saving him from a musical wasteland. "I was lost musically."
"I tried," says Taylor, who has now taken over the instant message post.
"I think if she hadn't come along, I would be totally fucked. I'd be sitting in my room singing along to Blink-182." A punk rock fate worse than death.
When did you start listening to punk, Newman?
"It wasn't that long ago," corrects Taylor matter-of-factly.
"Okay," complies Newman, with the finesse of a late-night talk show host. "The beginning of the school year. We'll say the beginning of the school year."
"What are these?" asks Taylor, opening up a box on his nightstand.
"My Chinese balls," Newman says. "Don't touch those." The two crack up.
"I used to go to a school for highly gifted kids," explains Newman, who is now emptying his backpack from Vegas: a small statue of David, a rubber finger pen, a Star Trek patch. "Now I just go to a regular school, so it's kind of been a hard transition for me. But, I like this school more, because there is not as much pressure from being around actual geniuses. Just being around normal kids."
But with normal kids come normal kids' questions. Newman rattles off a "Greatest Hits" of lame questions asked last year during science class. "Number 1: 'Are beaver dams man-made?' Number 2: 'Can you freeze fire?' And, Number 3: 'Is there oxygen on Earth?'"
Does everyone at school think you're cool?
"I don't know about everybody, 'cause there are like 300 kids at the school. But, yeah, the kids I know."
There is one girl who doesn't like Newman. She doesn't go to his school. We'll call her "Kelly."
"I met her when I was 7, and I had this huge crush on her. She hates me. She's been mad at me for like years. I don't know why she's mad at me."
Has she been mad ever since she found out you had a crush on her?
"Yeah. If I see her at my friend Zach's, she'll be like, 'Hi.' And, then 10 minutes later she'll be screaming, 'Newman is such an idiot I hate him.'"
Do you still like her?
"She's nice. She's smart. She's cool."
As noted above, Newman now has a girlfriend. Yet, for reasons having to do with his mother and her tendency to ask a lot of questions, as well as the feelings of those involved, he is understandably reluctant to go into the details. It can be stated that Newman has kissed a girl.
What about your teachers?
"Last year I had a, let's say, challenging teacher. She was just evil. I hated her even more than I hate Avril Lavigne." Which is saying a lot. Newman thinks the 17-year-old "Complicated" pop star is an "evil poseur."
"She [Lavigne] doesn't think about [punk] music or the lifestyle. She just thinks of it as a fashion statement. She wears, like, nine bracelets. She looks like Taylor, except with red hair and Canadian." All of a sudden, despite the current heat wave, a dark cloud passes over the cluttered bedroom.