Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Storming the Fourth Estate

When I was in high school, I wasn’t super popular, but I was well-known, I suppose. That comes with the territory when your mom is a teacher in the district and your older sister was captain of the cheerleading squad. My circle of friends was an interesting bunch. Among the five of us were the yearbook editor (John), the president of NHS (Giac), a football stud (Larry), the most uniquely creative person in school (Gary), and the editor of the school newspaper (me).

Ethics weren’t high on my list of things to strive towards, and I leveraged the hell out of that newspaper editor position for personal gain, including giving my best friend his own column – Scribblings by John Booth. My favorite of his columns was one that chronicled our trip to the Akron-Canton Airport to cover then-Vice President Geor
ge H.W. Bush’s 1988 campaign stop.

There was a lot going on around the whole rally. John and I used to play racquetball on a regular basis (The physical resiliency of youth is amazing. Consider this: at 18 I had a pack-a-day cigarette habit, but played racquetball weekly. Ah, to be young and stupid.), and on one particular outing we had either picked the press passes up just before pl
aying or received them earlier in the day. We stopped at the mall after racquetball for smoothies as we sometimes did and had the passes with us. We were giddy and amazed that we, two high school kids, had been issued press credentials for a presidential rally. I stepped away from the table for something and when I returned, John informed me that the two girls at the next table were asking about me and for my name. John, inspired by the press passes in front of him, told them my name was “George.” And, according to John, their response was to coo “Georgie.”

More scheming went into just getting to go to the rally, let alone not have to ride with the band on their bus. The faculty newspaper advisor gave me a l
ot of leeway with things – to my ultimate detriment, I suppose – and I was able to sell her on the idea that both John and I needed to attend this event. I’m sure part of our reasoning was that our high school’s marching band was selected to perform at the rally. Of course, the only coverage we actually gave the band in the paper was some passing mentions in John’s column. There was also a lot of effort behind convincing the principal to let us take my car. I was initially surprised rereading John’s account of things to learn we didn’t pull that off until the day of the event. But in retrospect, I think we planned it that way to not give the administration much time to debate our reasoning – we were taking one of our parents’ good cameras and we certainly couldn’t take that on the bus with the band and risk it getting broken. (wink, wink!) I was also surprised at how much of our shenanigans John alluded to in his column that I allowed published. I mean, in theory we could have gotten into trouble for some of the scamming we did if the administration wanted to pursue it.

We froze our bits off in the hangar waiting for the Vice President, but I have very fond memories of everything about that day, including going over to John’s house immediately afterward to heat up leftover beef stroganoff and peas and watch those old episodes of Mission: Impossible and chatter away about how cool the whole experience was and
that we had honest-to-goodness press passes and how about those Secret Service agents and, man, did you see how hot that national news chick was and can you believe we talked the principal into letting us take my car and it was your job to remember where we parked and, holy cow, was it ever cold!

A week later I voted for the first time in a presidential election, but that’s not what I remember about politics in the Fall of 1988. It was the heady experien
ce of a high school senior and his best buddy at a presidential campaign stop posing as journalists; no matter how much of a sham it all was on our part.

And I can still corroborate John’s assessment of that national news chick. It may have been cold that fall Ohio day, but she was hot.

(click to enlarge)

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