In today’s bloggy post, we’re going to take a trip back in time! (Cue Huey Lewis & the News…”Gonna go back in tiiime!”).
Join me as we journey to March break, 1992. I was eleven. My brother, my mom and I had schlepped eastward to Ottawa. And that meant one thing: family time. And THAT meant projects. Namely, JAKE News.
What was JAKE News, you ask? Let me explain:
Jess = me
And = and
Ken = my brother
Emma = my cousin
We didn’t put a second “and” before Emma and after Ken because it would spell JAKAE and that’s a stupid name. (Sorry if your grandma’s name is JAKAE. It’s a great name for her. It really captures her…essence.)
Normally, JAKE was the name of our fake resort. We’d run it in the summer when we’d visit O-town. To clarify, the “resort” was actually my grandparents’ garage with a lawn chair and side table inside. Sometimes we’d sweep and neaten up the screws and nails that littered the floor. Depends on how fancy we wanted to get. Think “Have-A-Nap” motel on Kingston road.* Now take it down, like, twenty-five steps. JAKE Resort.
Since March break was ridonculously cold in O-dot, we decided to keep the resort on hiatus until summertime. Thus, JAKE News was born. (It also helped that my poppa had a billion cool things in his basement, all necessary for the creation of a newspaper. What kinds of things? A binding machine – you punched holes in a stack of paper and then threaded in a piece of plastic that had these little curly teeth. A typewriter – this was the early nineties, people. Sometimes you still used a typewriter. ANNNND, the best thing ever, a photocopier. In his basement. That we used. Frequently. To photocopy our hands.)
In order to make our newspaper THE BEST (one that was printed at my grandparents’ house), we decided to make it thorough. And by thorough, I mean “we packed it full of as many things as we could possibly think of.” (With the glaring omission of a sports section. Did I mention I was the editor? ‘Nuff said.)
A cover page. Random facts sell! Colors sell! Especially colored highlighters. You’d buy our paper. Don’t act like you’re too good for JAKE News.
A table of contents. Gotta know what kind of quality reporting you’re about to read.
A top story. OK, so this was my domain. In this specific issue, I discussed what a travesty it was that Jeff Hyslop (of “Today’s Special manikin Jeff” fame) was playing the Phantom of the Opera. I found out this awesome tidbit of information from my grandmother. She was on the cutting edge of off-Broadway gossip, apparently. For your reading pleasure, here is the original article:
Phantom – or is he?
Of all the people in this world to play Phantom of the Opera, I would least expect it to be a character from a children’s program. Thanks to gramma’s big mouth -oops, did I say that? – we learn that Phantom is a fraud! He is going to be played by Jeff Hyslop. (Name ring a bell?) It seems that every child has, at some point or another, watched the show “Today’s Special.” Remember the manikin? Yeah. That’s Jeff. What is this world coming to?
I was pissed. Even then, I was a theatre-goer and musical lover. To think that JEFF HYSLOP of all people would be singing the role of the Phantom kind of broke my eleven-year-old brain.
Did I mention I was a gigantic nerd? You figured that one out already? Super. Moving on.
Comics: Kenneth and Emma drew these. I wasn’t so much into comic drawing as I was into creating world’s worst coloring pages and crosswords, but I won’t get ahead of myself.
Kenneth liked to draw a character called “Gus” (which, coincidentally, is also what Emma used to call me when she was little. The name of the fat mouse from Cinderella. Ahem.). Gus had all kinds of hilarious mishaps and usually came through them relatively unscathed.
Emma liked to draw animals, so her comics featured birds and bunnies and the like.
It was probably the best section of the paper, looking back. There was only one teeny-tiny, itty-bitty error…there was an ‘around the world with JAKE comics’ strip and “India” was drawn in one of the panels. It featured a teepee and a dude in a feathered headdress. Bawhoops. Not quite.
Coupons: Why not? Coupons are useful. Everyone likes them. Hell, if I could get a million dollars off of a pair of diamond earrings, you best believe I would.
Terrible crossword: Let me just reproduce the nightmare that was my kerning skills. Ch-ch-check it out:
Seriously. What the hell, little Jess? Had you never seen a crossword in real life before? USE A RULER! (Side note: the number of teachers who have said the same thing is pretty much every single one I’ve ever had. What’s that all about? I dunno. I just can’t be bothered to use a ruler, mostly.)
Survey of the day: Reproduced for your approval:
“Question: Does anyone pay attention to the kissing scenes in soap operas?”
Gramma: “No, I fast-forward them!”
Mom: “Yes, I love that stuff!”
Poppa: “I hate soap operas!”
There you have it. Cutting-edge reporting at its finest.
Subscription page: Welp, if we’re going to have a newspaper, we might as well get paid for it, amirite? Of course I am. And, actually, it was a pretty amazing deal. $2.00 for a yearly subscription? Sign me up!
Coloring page: Yeah. I drew this horrid page. Apparently there was a prize for whomever colored it best. Unsurprisingly, no one did. I think the prize was a pack of gum. I recall eating it. I felt I deserved it, being the editor and all.
What’s cool: (Apparently short skirts and heels.) Disclaimer: I had absolutely no business telling anyone at all what was in or out. This was me at age 11:
And I’m not a whole lot more qualified now. I’m a writer, dammit. A mismatched, poorly dressed writer. If you want to know what’s “in” or “cool,” you should just do the exact opposite of what I do. That’s probably the best advice I can give you, fashion-wise.
Interestingly, this was not the last “newspaper” I ever worked for. I use the quotations because I’ve never worked for a “real” newspaper. But I was the editor for “Smoke Signals,” my high school paper. I also wrote the advice column as “Auntie Esmerelda.” Auntie Esmerelda mostly answered letters I made up, but her final advice column was actually pretty awesome. I wish I could post it (I will update this in the future, promise), but right now the yearbook it’s featured in (the year AFTER I graduated, because it didn’t make it into my graduating yearbook) is somewhere in my basement. In a box. There are a billion identical boxes in my basement because we had a minor flood earlier this year (one day before Lily was born!), and the disaster recovery team came and packed all our stuff away while the floor was redone. So, long story short, it’s like final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark down there.
The most recent “newspaper” I wrote for was Webkinz Newz. I did a lot of the newspaper content writing while I was at Webkinz, but my favorite section (by a long shot) was Plumpy the Advice Hippo. Yes, I was a hippo. A blue hippo. And it was outstanding.**
Ah, but it wasn’t all badly drawn crosswords and blue hippos and overblown stories about Canadian children’s television stars. There were some bad newspaper-related times, too.
Specifically: the time I was too ugly to be in the newspaper. Yes, you can laugh. I can kind of maybe laugh about it a little now.
OK, laughing time is over.
Anyway, I was about ten. My mother was giving blood at Scarborough Town Centre (they used to have blood drives there before it got all ghetto and shoot-y in the mid-nineties and then all nice and kind of generic in the aughts). Kenneth and I were sitting next to the cot where Mom was reclining. We were reading books to pass the time and to avoid casting our gazes upon the blood bag (so, so gross).
A photographer from The Sun came up and asked if he could take our picture. My mother said, ‘sure’. He then said, “Well, not all of you. Just the boy and you (my mother).” Rather than say, “No! It’s all of us or none of us!” my mother said, “Sure, that sounds fine.” I said, “Where should I go?” He said, “Just come with me.” My mother told me to go with the nice stranger and help him take the picture. So I did. I stood next to the photographer and Kenneth posed cutely with mom. It was on page two of The Sun the next day. I did not receive a photo credit for helping, by the way.
My parents bought, like, ten copies of the paper and send them around to the family.
No one asked where I was.
But I’m not bitter. Not at all.
Oh wait, yes. Yes I am.
*For non-Scarberians, the “Hav-a-Nap” was a motel that charged by-the-hour rates. It was…sketchy. Really, really sketchy.
**Once, when we had a focus group at work on a weekend, a little kid asked to see where Plumpy sat. I took her to my desk and she was mesmerized (I had a TON of pictures of Plumpy and a lot of random cool stuff). The only thing that threw her off was the size of my keyboard. Plumpy didn’t have ‘fingers,’ per say. She had stubbly paws. How, then, could she type on a normal sized keyboard? Er…I kind of coughed and suggested we go and get some cookies from the snack table. Problem solved! It’s that kind of quick thinking that makes me an awesome advice-giver. Or something.