I was in high school and still entertained the pernicious
delusion that I was going to college, I decided to
"flesh out" my resume by joining the staff of the
school newspaper as - surprise - the staff cartoonist.
Easy A, english credit, great. Unfortunately, my position
as class clown and irrepressible raconteur led me
into a lot of trouble, almost got me suspended twice,
and caused a good deal of pain to people who didn't
deserve it. Here's a story from that period.
times a year, the Association for High School Journalism
holds conferences for the staffs of newspapers at
schools across the country to get together, get some
pointers from "pros", exchange papers, surreptitiously
fornicate, and generally despise each other. A couple
months after one such conference, we noticed a paper
from Gig Harbor, a small town to the northwest of
Seattle, that bore more than a passing resemblance
to our paper. The offending issue was on the subject
of "stress" - just like an issue that one of our editors
had given one of their editors at the conference.
The cover image was "The Scream," by Munch. Just like
our cover image. Obviously, they had plagiarized our
asses off, and I for one was cranky.
had a substitute teacher for Journalism that day,
the geriatric and dissasocciative Mr. Hall (about
whom a whole other chapter can and will be written...),
so I had free reign of the classroom, and used it
to dash off a very insulting letter describing Gig
Harbor and it's residents as "inbred pig-fuckers"
and questioning their need for a newspaper at all,
given that the most exciting thing that could ever
happen in Gig Harbor would be, "what, somebody steps
on the end of a rake and the handle hits them in the
face?" I signed and mailed the letter, on official
stationery, in an official Garfield H.S. Messenger
envelope, and promptly forgot about it. Cut to three
weeks later. I'm called out of Physics by a very cranky
vice principal, Mr. Clarence Acox (who is also, by
coincidence, a crack jazz musician and arranger).
Acox had hated my pewling guts for at least two years
now, and I smelled a problem in the wind. Mr. Ehrich,
the journalism teacher, was also in his office.
beaded on the back of my neck.
brandished a copy of the offending letter, veins on
his forehead standing in frightening, Frankenstinian
relief. Ehrich sighed and looked at me. I fidgeted
and coughed into my hand, and asked in a hopefully
nonchalant but more likely guilt-affirming way, "So
didn't even need to be proven - I'd signed my name
to the damned thing. Apparently, the girl editor of
the Gig Harbor paper who had been unlucky enough to
be on the receiving end of my missive had opened it,
read it and collapsed into tears on her desk. The
rest of their journalism class was equally sad or
angry. Which, I tried to explain, didn't really bother
me. I mean, they plagiarized us! I had a right! I
was defending our honor and school spirit! You guys
are always busting my hump abot not having any spirit
- here I am doing my darnedest to defend the sancticity
of our creative efforts against some honkies from
the sticks and I was getting beat down by the Man
for it! Is that justice?
I had to not only write a pathetic, crawling-for-forgiveness
letter, stating that of course I didn't mean that
you guys were a bunch of plagiarist pig-fuckers or
anything, I was just carried away and on drugs and
didn't know what I was saying, and I'm sorry and I'm
sorry and I'm sorry, but also I had to call the girl
who had opened the vitriolic letter in the first place
and personally apologize to her.
was hard to refrain from asking her for a date.