Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Budding young journalists

Halfway through the school year, my journalism teacher, Mr. S., appointed me co-editor of the school paper, Tigerism. (Yes, plenty of class clowns referred to it as Tiger Jism. How could it be otherwise?) I was a junior, and the other co-editor was a senior, a massive lad named Steve who was soft-spoken and had a Keith Moon haircut. Our interactions went pretty much as you’d expect, Steve, the senior, telling me, the junior, how it was going to go, and me accepting it. Heck, I was there to learn. I was just glad that Steve let me write music columns in which I’d review the concerts I’d been to and lambast glam rock in pretentious editorials.

Mr. S. came to us and said he had an assignment. One school day the following week (we’d receive a pass to leave the building!), the county government was holding a seminar on teen drug use. Steve would drive us out to the county administrative center and we’d cover the event like real journalists. Names of the speakers, their titles, get some quotes. We’d put the thing in perspective for the readers of Tiger Jism.

Now, I might have looked like a stoner with my long hair and granny glasses, but I was definitely not a druggy guy. And Steve, the gentle giant, was a model of responsibility, so I figured the teacher had selected us because he thought we were square enough to do a good job on the anti-drug assignment.

It was a rainy day in March or April. After the lunch period, Steve and I met at the principal’s office and got our pass signed, then headed out to Steve’s car. He gave me a sidelong look as I strapped in, asked if the Dead was okay, popped in a cassette of Wake of the Flood, and off we went. I had my reporter’s notebook in my pocket, two pens (in case one crapped out), and a building sense of anxiety over what it’d be like to waltz into an adult seminar in the county government complex and pretend to be a teen journalist when all I really wanted to do was write about music.

Before we got to the highway, Steve pulled over and said we needed to prepare for this assignment. It was important to be in the right frame of mind for a seminar on teen drug use. Grinning, he popped open the glove compartment and took out a Baggie with a joint in it the size of a plump jalapeño.

“We need to be appropriately mellow,” he said.

He lit the thing up and took a hit, passed it to me. I think I’d only seen about three joints by that time — that’s how truly square I was — but I’d never seen a fatty like that one, and taking it in my fingers reminded me of cartoon cigars smoked by dancing cats and pigs in a Merrie Melodies from the ‘30s. But, so as not to seem out of it or chicken, I took a hit too. Passed it back to him and he took a hit, and when he passed it back to me and I took another hit, the seeds in it started popping off. Just about caused me an epileptic seizure.

The thing about me and weed in those days was that apparently I didn’t do it right, so I never seemed to get high. But it was affecting Steve, I could tell. The already mellow dude was half asleep by the time we got to the county complex, and as we walked toward the entrance, though I was not high, I was definitely paranoid. Steve looked straight enough in his creased pants and button-down, but I realized I was wearing Lee bell bottoms, a tie-dyed t-shirt, and my favorite buff leather jacket with two-foot fringe. Coupled with my hair and glasses and the fact that I was probably reeking of cheap, seedy pot, I bet the security guard at the door would bust us before we could even get to the auditorium.

Bafflingly, he let us pass. We sat in the back row of theater-style seats, and shortly the adult panel began to discuss the dire state of teen drug use in our county and how best to combat it. I wasn’t even tempted to laugh, and Steve? He was cool as could be, jotting notes and nodding as if he actually got what they were saying down there.

I don’t remember anything about driving home from that, but I do remember that the article we wrote was so lame that Mr. S. asked us, “Did you guys even bother going to that thing?”

Steve said, “Yes sir, we went. And it was quite informative.”

Mr. S. looked at me for corroboration. I told him we were definitely there, but maybe the issues were a little over our heads because I wasn’t familiar with a lot of the nomenclature.

“You guys are such bullshitters,” Mr. S. said. “Next time I’ll send girls.”

Steve and I never spoke of that day again, and obviously I never thought of him as the mild-mannered moose again either. From thence forward he’s always been in my mind “the dude with the biggest joint I ever saw.”

Somehow, we both got A’s in journalism class.

6 comments on “Budding young journalists

  1. islandeditions
    March 14, 2017

    I hear that the White House is looking to bring in new members to its Press Corps. Sounds like Mr. S’s comment about the two of you might mean you have perfect qualifications for that job!

    But, then again …

    Did it ever occur to you at the time that Hunter S. Thompson could have been your role model?

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 15, 2017

      I wish I’d have discovered him at the time! I was too into Woodward and Bernstein …

      • islandeditions
        March 15, 2017

        Also good journalist role models, but coming at it from a slightly different, less drug-enhanced, direction.

  2. John W. Howell
    March 14, 2017

    I was also in Journalism. I was an asst. editor to Genny. We’d get passes and go and interview community leaders. Genny drove a 58 T-bird convertible and we smoked cigarettes the whole time. We did enjoy the year. Fun post, Kevin. Thanks, for the memory

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 15, 2017

      Good times, eh? That ’58 T sounds like a great ride.

      • John W. Howell
        March 15, 2017

        Big ole thing. Lots of fun. Ginny was fun too.

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