My writing quest goes back to the days of the ditto machine.
It was the eighth grade.
I loved sports. I tried out for the junior high basketball team. I made it to the final cut before Coach Herb Friedman did not call out my name. We lived in a big school district on Long Island, so I only felt bad for a little while.
My friends that did make the team, though, they knew how much I loved the sport. All sports, really. I was a playground regular for hoops and street hockey. I’d tuck my mitt under my arm and bike to the park for pickup baseball in the summer sun, and watch the steam come out of our mouths while we played no-equipment tackle into the fall nights, after swearing to our parents that we’d only play touch.
And they knew that I loved to read newspapers. I’d ask them if they saw a story the night before. Yeah, nerdish, but I did find others with a curiosity for the big world with that question.
One of them put two-and-two together. Jim Colabufo was a star running back and linebacker on the junior high football team. Some teacher or advisor made him the sports editor of the school newspaper, too.
I use the term newspaper loosely.
At Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School, the news was spread by student writing via a monthly handout of ditto pages.
Jim told me that I was going to cover the school basketball team. He didn’t ask, Mr. Star RB/LB. I would have said yes anyway.
The game before ditto day was at another school. Players got push. Parents were shouting a bit. Referees calmed everybody down. Some more words were mumbled from both sides as the team walked to the bus. Murphy won.
I wrote my game account and a headline that read something along the lines of Boys Basketball: Undefeated and Still No Scars.
The homeroom teacher passed out the freshly minted ditto pile that was the newspaper.
All the kids picked it up and took a deep sniff. Yes, that scene from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” is true for the ditto generation.
They read the sports page. My friends all smiled at me. For the rest of the day, I heard how much they liked my story.
I was hooked.
I’ve been writing ever since, and still.
Ward Melville High School Patriot. SUNY Morrisville Chimes. University of Maryland Diamondback. The Washington Post. The Prince George’s Journal. The Syracuse Post-Standard. The Syracuse New Times.
And all of it leads to this blog, where the last 13 months of writing about whatever I want have deepened my love affair with words and ideas even more.
Thank you to Jason Cushman, WordPress’ Opinionated Man from the Harsh Reality blog, for issuing the challenge to write about a defining writing moment.
Here’s the source for the ditto machine advertisement.
Did you write for your school newspaper? Did your friends think that was cool? Did you ever sniff fresh dittoes?