May

2000

Journalism Class II

Journalism class, part two. When the National High School Journalism Association announced that it was going to have it’s annual conference in Portland, OR, a mere four hours drive from Seattle, we were hyped to go and whip some hick ass with our freaky ghetto paper. So, a fearless posse consisting of our crack photographer, a completely ignorant “reporter,” an editor, and of course myself piled into the Garfield High School biology van and hit the highway.

We got to the house we were staying at; kindly put up by a relative of a staff member and her incredibly degeneratively retarded home-care patient. I have an innate fear of the retarded, stemming in part from attending a Lutheran camp in which there were a disproportionate number of them and partially from being beaten up by a particularily mongoloid boy at the West Seattle YMCA as a youth. Anyway, there she was, wheelchair-bound and salivating. I inwardly shuddered. So we spent the night, four high-school kids and a balding ex-college radio DJ journalism teacher. I hid in a small nook in the attic, sleeping with my Walkman headphones on, oblivious.

I was scheduled to attend a series of six seminars taught by some cartoon freak named Chip Beck, “the official cartoonist of Operation Desert Storm.” All my fears were justified – Chip made Ziggy look edgy, with incredibly lame, crapulous advice about “hitting it big” in the exciting world of cartooning. He had many of his gloriously inept paintings of military machinery on display, to demonstrate to us that you could draw cartoons and be a “fine artist” too. I hated him on sight.

Chip asked for a volunteer to draw a cartoon to be critiqued by him. The herd of sheeplike art nerds in the room sat there, silenced. I raised my hand and ina sickening ass-kiss voice said “Sure, Mr. Beck – I’lldraw something for you!”

I sidled up to the newsprint and whipped off a shitty gag sketch with the caption “Jesus & Butt-Head.” The desired reaction was achieved. It was too bad I hadn’t the guts to do something really pornographic, but this worked.

Chip retained his composure. He just said he didn’t “get” it, tore of the newsprint, and asked for another volunteer. I had a couple other seminars on my list, but decided to skip all of them and focus exclusively on tormenting Chip. I was particularily excited to discover that he’d be conducting portfolio reviews on the last day of the conference.

I spent most of the rest of the conference wandering the streets of Portland, shoplifting. I stole tapes from a record store, pens and paper from a stationery store, and grazed the bulk bins at Safeway. As a crowning touch, I swiped a magnetic Men’s Warehouse sign in front of theother members of the class, nonchalantly stuffing it into my backpack. Chip gave us a lecture during the third seminar about persistance. He went into this big long schpeil about sending stuff to art directors constantly, never taking no for an answer, etc…

“But what if you suck?” I piped in. “I mean, what if you’re just not a very good cartoonist? Like – there’s some kids in this room – I’m not naming names, mind you – who arejust not that good, and to tell them to constantly send stuff to art directors is just cruel to them. Don’t you have an obligation to teach us right?”

Chip didn’t like me. Most of the other cartoonist kids didn’t like me either, but the ones who did I talked into giving me money for copies of my ‘zine that I’d never send them.

I stole books from a bookstore, towels and signs from the hotel the conference was in, and the heart of the retarded woman – just kidding.

Finally, the time came for our portfolio reviews. I had mine scheduled for 4:30, and I had a whole bunch of vile, sick cartoons with names like “Herb, the Hollywood Colostomy Bag,” “Fuckin’ Deformed Freak,” and “Fred, the Real Estate Agent with Tourette’s Syndrome,” all drawn in the spastic kindergartener style that I had made so famous. I couldn’t wait to watch Chip freak out at me. Life was good. I spent the day in a bubbling fog, even consenting to go to Niketown with my classmates. 4:30 came, and I was in front of the room clicking my heels in delight. I was finally going to get Chip Beck face-to-face with my work, and to the victor go the spoils. And Chip never showed up. From what I heard, he left Portland at 4:00 that day.

I suppose I could infer a victory in my campaign from his craven retreat, but I wasn’t having any of it. My opportunity for a face-off was gone. He’d obviously seen what I’d been up to and was a step ahead of me the whole time. I’d been suckered by the offical cartoonist of Operation Desert Storm. And our paper came in fourth place, after a whole bunch of hicks.