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. Can 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?