The Alternative

THE ALTERNATIVE was a newspaper that I started in the 12th grade, with my friends Jeanmarie Condon and Mark Kerner because we were frustrated with the official school paper and wanted to make something better.  Something that students would WANT to read (as opposed to the main rag which trafficked in the passive voice and whose favorite phrase was “a good time was had by all.”  THE ALTERNATIVE would cover issues that (in our opinion) students REALLY were talking about — whether the administration was legally within their rights to search their lockers…why student-teacher relations were so awful…why certain sports got funded and others didn’t…what the reinstatement of the draft might mean to the student body.

Of course it was egregiously flawed, but we really did our best, and I’m proud of those teenagers we were.  We commissioned Mark’s father to design the masthead, which I still think looks cool.  We laid the whole thing out ourselves. BY HAND. Cutting out black tape to make the lines between columns and laboriously trying to make them even (and rarely succeeding.) Working with REPRO (the text of the articles printed on sticky paper that could be cut and fit into the columns.) We sold ads to make money for paper and printing.  We sold subscriptions, and then hand-sold the rest.

But before that, of course, we had to commission all the content (which we didn’t refer to generically as “content” but rather merely thought of as the stuff that would be cool to have in each issue.)  If we came up short, Jeanmarie or I (or, best of all, both of us together) would simply write up new articles, captions, etc., under our own name or assumed names.

I really think the best of our stuff came when we were manic, sleep-deprived, and desperate.  The caption to the photograph of the woman below (I don’t remember where the photo came from, but I assure you it was NOT our principal, or anyone we knew personally) STILL makes me laugh after all these years. ImageCan you read it? Or is it too small?

Just in case you can’t zoom in, here’s what it says:  “Principal Claudette Majors speaks out against juvenile delinquency. Addressing a chronic problem at Elmont Memorial, Miss Majors expressed a radically new approach, ‘It’s not that they don’t read enough or that there’s a lack of parental interest. I never went for all that intellectual baloney.  The problem is that most kids these days are simply using the wrong Creme Rinse.’  The hard-hitting Majers presented her plan for a kind of ‘mass-Sassoning of our school systems’ at a luncheon with the board of education last Friday.  Later (as shown above) she proved that the new principal practices what she preaches. Rumor has it that all next year’s chairmen will be required to get the Bo Look.*”

*For those of you who are too young to remember, the “Bo” look, was the haircut sported by model Bo Derrick in the movie “10” and it involved cornrows on people who…well let’s just say who could not carry that off.

What do I take from all this?  Maybe that it’s Creme Rinse that will keep us all from the Fiscal Cliff (though it’s way too late to help ME)?  Maybe I wonder if I still have a sense of humor buried in there somewhere, waiting for the right combination of time, pressure, and a good, funny friend to bring it out?

What’s my Alternative now?

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10 thoughts on “The Alternative

  1. Your creation of THE ALTERNATIVE instantly recreated memories of my junior high school paper, THE EXPLORER. I was its editor. My column featured Hirschfeld style caricatures (resembling famous 1960 TV characters) of the faculty and student body.
    The turbulent innocence of that era never seemed to experience cliffs other than the natural kind. Perhaps,our present day alternative is the challenge to find and create humor throughout the many seasons of our lives–to never doubt that plateaus can be reached if we are willing to climb..

  2. That caption stands the test of time, Arthur! The Bo look…let’s not talk about the Bo look. And I really like the masthead!

  3. Arthur! I was on yearbook in junior high and high school. I remember the alternative edition we published at the end of the year with the senior wills and all of the quirky and colorful stories we really wanted to put into the yearbook. I LOVED the thrill of deadlines, the smell of chemicals in the photo lab and pecking on the type writer! In junior high I was for sure destined to write for Dynamite Magazine. Remember that one? Where did it go? But true confession! In high school my dream job was to be the founding editor of the Sports Illustrated (Men’s) Swimsuit Edition. This globe trotting and camera toting was inspired by all of the many trips to the pool to photograph the water polo team and days on the sandy San Diego beaches to shoot surf heats with the surfer kids.

  4. Only proves even more what a RADICAL you are, Arthur Levine, publishing an Alternative Newspaper.
    It made me wonder why kids aren’t doing stuff like this today, when they have so many resources at their literal fingertips?
    Guess it doesn’t look good on their CVs.

      1. I think it’s tough for high school students to express themselves in an alternative paper today. Book banning by schools actually extends farther than books: it extends to what the students are allowed to write or share. As a result, instead of being engaged, students I have seen will use private internet forums of various kinds. My own experience as a kid was that my Poe style writing was embraced by my school but not so much national high school publications because “high school students weren’t supposed to have dark thoughts like that.” I think that kind of restrictiveness has now fallen, at least in public school arena, to local schools. As a result, I think K-12 students rarely write freely anymore.

  5. Wise-cracking yet innocent, mischievous yet meaningful — writing for the sake of writing and entertaining; this is the gift of the young. Although I have great respect and awe for the publishing world, our right-brains serve as the “Alternative”, as witnessed even by J.D. Salinger’s later unpublished works such as “Melody”, and this wonderful glimpse into your ingenius frivolity. Thank you for being this kind of editor and writer, Arthur Levine!

  6. I know that this was posted last year but I wandered in through your back door via Mike Jung’s blog and am so glad I found you! I won’t admit that I remember the Bo look! But I loved your stroll down memory lane and your school newspaper! And amazingly enough, it was quite good! I found a book of old poetry I wrote in my independent Poetry Class and it was horrible! So funny because I thought it was pretty good in my day.

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