In high school I authored and distributed an underground newspaper. I believe this was a step towards becoming a blogger.
My friend Darren and I had the idea of starting a literary magazine, but we needed funding for printing and the pizza parties that were required for every school club. We asked the administration for help, but the entire arts budget had been spent on glitter. So we took our operations underground.
The first thing we did was pick pseudonyms. Darren chose “A. Hamilton” because he wanted to express his belief in liberty and the nobility of the fourth estate. I chose “Zack Morris.”
Then we had to name our paper. Our high school mascot was the eagle, and so we decided on The Eagle’s Nest. Had I known that Adolf Hitler’s World War II bunker complex was also called the Eagle’s Nest, we might have chosen something else. But these are the quirks of history.
We gave The Eagle’s Nest a serious tone to appeal to a higher class of reader. We wrote articles about the quality of the school lunch, the demeanor of the custodians, and the girth of the cafeteria monitors. We wrote editorials protesting the archaic practice of running during gym class. We wrote fake interviews with teachers and students. We crafted syllabi for classes that did not exist. And at top of the issue, in a little box, was our journalistic creed:
If it’s not in here, we don’t give a s#!%.
We wrote the first issue on Darren’s computer one Saturday afternoon. I had the more trusting of parents, and thus the copying job fell to me. On Sunday night I asked my mother to drive me to Kinko’s.
“Of course, my pumpkin pie,” she said. “What do you need?”
“Oh, uh, nothing,” I said, curling a manila folder.
I made her sit in the car while I made the copies. It took only ten minutes. I came back home with a box under my arm, went upstairs to my room, closed the door, and thought about the meaning of freedom.
And then we received a call from Darren’s mother. “Do you know what they’re doing?” I could hear from the receiver that my mother held a few inches away from her head. “They are going to be handing something out to the kids at school! Something with bad words in it! They are going to get expelled and won’t get into college! We have to stop them!”
I tried to imagine how Darren’s mother found out. I pictured a deposit of laundry, a neglected computer screen, and a long interrogation.
Although my mother did not confiscate the copies and put them on top of her armoire next to my slingshot and BB gun, she persuaded me to seek administrative approval for my subversion. Darren and I agreed, through intermediaries, to postpone distribution, and the next day my father took me to the local law library to read and copy First Amendment cases. It was not my idea of radicalism. At least we went for ice cream afterwards
After a flurry of letters with the school’s lawyers, citing cases that involved Vietnam-era black armbands, Vietnam-era anti-draft t-shirts, and students who wanted to wear tissue boxes on their feet, a deal was struck with the principal. We would show him the paper we wished to distribute, and he would make “suggestions.” A memo went out to all teachers advising that Darren and I would be distributing an underground newspaper in between classes. The arrangement was not what we’d had in mind. We were not really fighting the establishment, and we were not really hiding our identities.
But when that first issue of The Eagle’s Nest was out there at last, and I saw my peers reading my “Elegy for Tater Tots” and laughing out loud, I thought to myself, “I like this.”
How about you? Was there an earlier moment in your life that led to blogging?