Ah, the elementary school journal. This is where I first learned the art of bullshitting, although I probably wouldn't have called it that at the time. I actually didn't swear much until middle school; in third grade, my concerned friends forced me to undergo recess "Swearing Lessons," of which they were the instructors. But I digress.
Anyway, the way it worked was that at the beginning of Language Arts (that's what Reading/English was called at our elementary school—and I so hope that it still is), the teacher would write a topic on the board and you would spend 10 minutes or so writing down pretty much whatever you could pull out of your ass. Seriously, check out these topics and my "essays" on them. The first couple are presidential-themed, because, hey, that seems topical.
Journal topic: "A bottle on the beach"
So I immediately run home and ask my dad what I should do. He takes me to the mayor. I show him the message and the bottle. He is amazed.
Uh, what does the message SAY? That probably would have been a good jumping-off point.
He ships it off to Washington D.C. The president wants to meet me. I buy a new dress and I'm still nervous. What is he going to tell me?
If you think it will be something that gives us a clue as to the message's content, you are shit out of luck.
"This message is historical." he says. "We are putting it in the museum. Your name will appear next to the words 'founded by'. Here." he hands me a fifty dollar bill. I'm at a loss for words!
You could buy kids off pretty cheap in the '80s. Today, I could have sold that bad boy on eBay. Founded by, schmounded by...
I see the message in the museum. It's pretty boring. My name is next to the words 'founded by'. I always forget what the message is about when I leave. Well, at least I got fifty dollars.
So you see, the historical message wasn't at all important because it was BORING. History? Zzzzzzz... Oh, sorry. What were talking about? Huh... I don't remember, but I think I got 50 bucks. Sweet!
Journal topic: Washington D.C.
I'd never known what to say to the president. I hadn't thought about it until then. The class was pushed forward into the president's "chambers," as they said.
Nobody really knew what to say. Most of us just stood there, akwardly shifting from one foot to the other. "The levy isn't fair." someone spoke up. "Yeah!," and then, "All we'll get to do is work." "I hate work." someone yelled.
The levy was always of great concern to us in elementary school, as every year they threatened to take away Art, Music, and all the other fun stuff unless everybody ponied up.
Ronald Reagan was stunned. He thought we'd stand there for 15 minutes and then leave. WRONG! "Ahem," he said, clearing his throat, "I really can't do anything about that." We were all disappointed. "Yes you can!" someone piped up. "You're the president." We all nodded. "No, children, I can't. I have to eat lunch." Children! Lunch is better than us! I should've known. Well, at least we'd told him what we thought. That counts.
My, I was a cynical child. However, it's true that Reagan would not have been able to rig our levy for us. (Though the lunch bit is a nice touch.)
As you can see, I was not fond of Reagan. In first grade, I had voted against him in our school-wide "election" in favor of Mondale (or, to be honest, mostly Ferraro, because she was a girl), and in fifth grade I would pick Dukakis over him as well. Neither of my parents were registered to vote (for an embarrassingly long amount of time, actually; they were finally badgered into it once we, their children, neared adulthood) and they were generally disinterested in politics, so I think the anti-Reagan thing may have been all me.
But lest you think I was preoccupied with school levies and couldn't see the big picture, I bring you Journal Entry #3 (still political, but blessedly Reagan-free)...
Journal topic: If you had the power, what would you wish
I would be rich. I would have a mansion, expensive cars, a big pool out back, and giant rooms in my house. I have animals to care for at my house, too.
Hi, it was the '80s. Did you guys play MASH like we did? It stood for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House and was a kind of crude fortune-telling "game" that would predict your future mate, abode, vehicle, and number of offspring (and sometimes career—I believe we added that in a later version). For every facet of your grown-up life you had to list four options—and in our rules, at least one of those options had to be crappy (i.e., along the lines of "shack"). Basically, you really wanted to end up living in a mansion with Kirk Cameron, driving your three children around in your Porsche. Worst-case scenario: You lived in a shack with some dorky boy from your class, drove a Yugo, and had 13 kids.
In my house there is so much room and I have so much money so, I let the poor come in. There I give them a place to sleep, clothing, and food. If they are sick, they are taken to a doctor. That kind of stuff is important.
Even at age 10, I could see the need for universal healthcare.
At my house it is like a zoo, with all the animals I own. I let people come and see my animals for free. My animals are tame so, people can pet them. The kids love it!
I like when I talk about kids as if I'm not actually one of them.
I am so powerful that I can make world peace. There will never be another war again! I travel all over the world telling everyone why peace is so important. Some people know what I mean while there are some I have to convince. Soon the world is peaceful.
That IS powerful. But note the clear '80s message that money can buy you power. And also turn your mansion into a lovely homeless shelter!
But I was 10, so it was obviously not ALL about passing the school levy and saving the world...
Journal topic: Free choice
Most of my "free choice" journal entries detailed my exciting weekends of ice skating, sleepovers, and watching films of questionable merit (e.g., Harry and the Hendersons or The Secret of My Success, which I claimed was "a good movie"). This one, for instance, is devoted to discussing the Crocodile Dundee sequel:
On Saturday night I went to the movies with my whole family—my mom, Halle, my dad, Chuck, my sister, Genie, and my brother, Will, and me. We saw "Crocodile" DUNDEE II. Here's what I thought:
All right, Crocodile Dundee returns! This time he's living in New York with his girlfriend, Sue. Her x-husband sends her some photos in the mail and—WHAM-O. These cocaine dealers are kidnapping her. This adventure takes them out of the state, out of the country, out of the continent, into Austrailia! See this movie!
My dad said it was as good as the first movie. I agree with him! They are both great movies, funny, full of adventure, and sometimes suspenseful. See these movies.
WHAM-O! I was going to make a joke about how you should never trust a 10-year-old's taste in movies, but honestly? Now I kind of want to rewatch the Crocodiles Dundee. Is it wrong?
Okay, yes, it's wrong.
NEXT TIME: Our first guest author, also known as my sister! Her untitled fourth grade masterpiece is possibly one of the funniest things I've ever read. Also, maybe this will guilt her into reading my blog more often.
9 months ago