In high school I was on the newspaper until I quit to focus on drama. I was on the editorial page. I chose that because I was too lazy to do any reporting. I just wanted to sit on my butt and bloviate. (Come to think of it, I'm still doing that!) I also wrote humor and drew cartoons, two other jobs that require no reporting.
My best friend in journalism class was another cartoonist, whom we'll call Stewart. Stewart was a skinny, long-haired stoner. Somehow that figures, doesn't it? I mean, the sports writers were all jocks. The editorial page editor was the valedictorian, a sincere girl who used words like "ramifications" and "importune." She was like Hillary Clinton, but not hideous.
But the cartoonist? Stoner.
Stewart owned an iguana, which also figures somehow. He wouldn't have anything as pedestrian as a mammal for a pet. One night I slept over at his house -- on his bedroom floor, not on anything rational like a couch or a bed -- and awoke to see this iguana staring at me a few inches from my face.
One day the journalism teacher gave Stewart and me free passes to Universal Studios amusement park. I guess the idea was that passes were given to all the high school journalism classes in Southern California in hopes that they would write a story and give the park publicity.
So Stewart and I went to Universal Studios. You could say it was the closest I ever came to doing a reporter's work, except that neither Stewart nor I ever got around to writing a story.
Somewhere in LA, as I was driving us in my father's Chevy pick-up, Stewart gave another driver the finger. Why did he do this? Because he was a teenager, a stoner and a cartoonist with an iguana. I could have stopped at teenager.
I pulled into a liquor store parking lot, probably to buy cigarettes and beer on the way to Universal Studios. This sports car screeched in beside us and a huge body builder jumped out of the car. Yes, this is the man Stewart had decided to flip off.
This guy was furious. It was either road rage or the rage you get when a teenager flips you off. Worse, he had red-rimmed eyes, like he was on something: amphetamines, coke, anything but marijuana. He grabbed Stewart through the open window and started screaming at him.
Stewart was curled up on the seat whimpering. Seriously, I think he was whimpering. I vaguely remember (this was 33 years ago) strange noises coming from throat, the kind of noises a stoned cartoonist makes when he thinks he might die. Call it whimpering.
I was very apologetic and tried to cool the man down. I think it worked because he left without killing Stewart. As soon as the attacker was gone, I kicked myself because I realized that Stewart's death would have been a front page story with my byline.
After that Universal Studios was pretty lame. The best part of the entire park was the shark from Jaws jumping out of the water, but not even that could compare to a raging muscle man on speed attacking Stewart.
I call this a pointless story, but I did learn a lesson that day: the next time Stewart does something stupid for which he might be killed, don't save his ass. Think of the great story you might get!
UPDATE: Slight change.