Adolescent Guerilla Journalism

The rapidly approaching demise of print media and increasing usage of the word “paperless” has got me scuttling around, collecting my important documents. I wanted to make sure that I not only knew where my vital statistics, passport, etc. were, but had backup copies in case they were needed. When my sister gave birth to my niece, I asked my mother where she kept my original birth certificate. I knew that she had it in her possession because when I needed to get a copy of it for my ESL application for teaching in Seoul, she had it at her house. Of course, this was discovered after I waited my life away in the Butler County Clerk of Courts building and paid $25 (she found the actual document the day after I dropped the money). I gained possession of my actual certificate just this Easter.

While I have been scanning and saving documents just as important as my birth certificate to a USB, I remembered a long-lost publication that I haven’t thought about in years. In 1999, I was published in SPIN Magazine. As a teenager, I loved reading SPIN. One of my younger neighbors had been going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions; he caught me on a day when my parents weren’t home from work yet. When I noticed that SPIN’s subscription was $8.95- cheaper than Rolling Stone’s $15.95- I quickly relinquished the cash that I’d saved babysitting that same kid who was now peddling magazines.

I was in eighth grade and loved music. My musical taste was greatly influenced by very important people in my life. Dad’s passion for classic rock introduced me early on to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, and Fleetwood Mac. My mom’s cousin Dani was constantly listening to the newest rock and alternative, which is how and why my first CDs were the Wallflowers and Ace of Base. My half-brother got me into DJ Shadow and Beastie Boys while most girls were salivating over Tiger Beat. I nurtured my interests by keeping current with SPIN. Sure, I had to explain the need for it to my parents every once in a while, especially when scantily clad, strung out musicians donned its glossy covers.

My peers at school were not as fortunate as I was. I was musically self-aware at an early age; a snarky prepubescent who judged friends’ CD collections before playing Pogs.

I was hipster before hipster was hipster.

When Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears began topping the Billboard charts, MTV stopped playing real music videos. I know, but it’s like, my opinion, man. Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters, and Fiona Apple were replaced with bubble gum, glitter, and TRL. I needed a soapbox- I turned to SPIN. Each issue featured a selection of smaller articles submitted by readers, something like Letters to the Editor. I typed a hormonally-fueled outcry that I believed spoke for musical non-conformists like myself. I sealed it in an envelope and sent it off to New York City. Weeks later, I had completely forgotten about it, but much like my writing process, I was relieved to have the weight of the matter off of my chest.

Months went by. My friends and I celebrated as we were about to leave middle school and enter high school. We believed that we were going to get cooler, more attractive, and definitely become better people all around. At my eighth grade graduation party, Dani and John, her future husband, surprised me with a ticket to Woodstock ’99: I would be accompanying them to the festival of the decade. I remember looking at my father and seeing a gleam in his eyes, perhaps excited to live vicariously through me. When I looked at my mom, I saw uncertainty and fear.

It wasn’t until after the Woodstock that I received a response to my letter. It was undoubtedly an intern who composed the letter asking for my permission to edit and print my submission in the next issue, but I was amped. I was going to be published! When the issue arrived in my mailbox, I had begun my freshmen year of high school. The cover was perfect for the publication of my letter: an interview with Kid Rock was featured in the magazine and his white trash potency radiated, reminding me of his energetic show at Woodstock (I wasn’t exactly a fan, but his minutes long introduction into “Bawitaba” before screaming “My name is Kiiiiiddddd, Kid ROCK!” had the crowd wired in a way that I hadn’t seen at a show before).

At the time, journalists were still speculating who or what had actually incited the riots at the festival. An older wiser me would blame dehydration- people were sick of paying $7 for bottled water. Dani, John, and I left early the third day and the only destruction seemed to be on the outside walls surrounding the grounds; I took a few photos with my disposable camera as we began our drive away from Rome, NY. I will never forget arriving back home to find my parents glued to the TV. as they watched news footage of people fighting and structures being burned down. Woodstock, man.

So, without further ado, here is the Google Books scanned copy of the October 1999 issue of SPIN Magazine. Leafing through the pages incited major nostalgia and almost made me long for a seemingly simpler time. You’ll find the letter on page 40, behind the ad featuring Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra.


1 thought on “Adolescent Guerilla Journalism

  1. I enjoyed reading your blog post. It brings back many memories. As for Woodstock, my memory is of being manipulated by a cute 14 year old who sold John and I on what a great lineup it was. Then how much you would love to go and your parents would only let you go with us. Of course we fell for it and what a great experience it was for all of us. Thanks to you!!

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