It was lunch at Nixon Elementary. Seagulls called as younger kids – of first, second and third grade – gamboled happily about the field and play-structure. Looking past the handball walls and everlasting chases, one could see the fifth graders lounging about the lunch tables; some eating, most dabbling in the complexities of lunch-time bartering.
While some enjoyed paninis, fresh off the grill from Dregar’s, and others inhaled last night’s left-over pizza, it was school lunches that my friends and I ate with bland excitement. As if Mondays didn’t suck enough, Nixon Elementary thought it smart for the day to be deemed hot dog day. Looking down upon my stick of “meat,” wrapped in bread with the taste of cardboard and consistency of saw dust made my spelling test after lunch seem a distant paradise. Yet, with post-basketball hunger mounting a steady siege on my stomach, I was left with no choice but to eat what would make a billy goat regurgitate. My comrades and I sat around the table – jaws clenched, angst building wildly – and we decided to consume the poison together.
We slowly lifted the so-called hot dogs to our maws. Sweat beading on my forehead and fingers trembling in torture, I took a slow and steady bite. Saw dust swashed through my mouth and clung to its deepest crevices as I uneasily broke down the wood I had just consumed. Before I could grasp the grotesque flavors of the dog, my friend called out: “These thing taste like they’re eighty percent runner!”
The claim lit a flame within. I carefully extracted sausage from woody bun and grasped it between my thumb and index fingers. As if I stood a top a dartboard, I flung the dog to the concrete with the force and precision a ninja uses with his star. Not really to any of our surprise, the thing bounced like a super-ball fresh out of a Round Table Pizza arcade game. Hysteric laughter swept through the group. It was not humor that pulsed in my mind, though – my consumption of rubber churned the gears of anger within my brain. I would not lie down to the school and let this chum rest destructively in my belly – my rebellious nature cried for action. Moldy sandwiches and frozen milk could be dealt with, rubber hot dogs was too much.
Aided by my closest peers – also veterans of hot dog Mondays – I started cleaving a school newspaper. Our aim was not to insult or demean the school, but only to spread awareness to the students and teachers and administrators of the corruption, the deceit, the harm that was taking place on that campus supposedly for learning and nurturing. With flaming pens and motivated minds we flung out article after article, issue after issue. The Nixon news quickly became an anticipated release by its wide spread readers.
Our own administrators – those who claimed to be our mentors, our leaders, our guides – were the ones who battled the success of our exploits. The system could not tolerate our revolutionary visions, even if only of improved lunch quality; Thomas Payne would have been proud. After numerous meetings with our perfume-drenched principal and her Puritan-stiff colleagues, the Nixon News lost its steep up hill battle. We were ordered its production halted.
The paper’s death was not the end of its greater message though. The spirit of the Nixon News – one of truth and renegade – will live on within forever.