I'm not going to say Arlo Guthrie's 18+ minute song off his debut album changed my life. I was kind of kidding. That would be a gross exaggeration. But it did change the way I looked at things. But all that is navel-gazing gobbeldygook, and you don't want to read it, so instead, I'll tell you about the one time I was a plagiarist.
The year was 1989, and I was a wee lad of 12 or 13 (depending on which part of the year this happened, and I can't remember) and my English teacher assigned a story-writing exercise to the class. He had broken us up into groups, and there were two other people in mine—whose names shall remain hidden. Part of the assignment was to write good definitions for a set of words, and the rest of the assignment was to place these words into a story in such a way as that they were used correctly.
I went to junior high/high school in a place called Roma, Texas, along the border of Mexico on the Rio Grande. I don't want to say the place was backwards, but it certainly seemed divorced from the rest of civilization. The closest shopping mall was 50 miles away, and to a brand-new teenager, that was the goddamn moon.
So, with this backwoodsian idea in my head, I thought for sure no one there would have heard "Alice's Restaurant." How could they have?! I only heard it while we were living in San Antonio the year before, a place that might also have been the moon. Armed with that surety, I wrote out the first half of the song's narrative—the bit with the garbage and the cops and the jail and the trial—and found spots where I could substitute vocabulary words, or found other places to further embellish the story so that I might add the required words.
Oh, my God. I was so slick.
I think I wore a self-satisfied smirk all that day. My partners were relieved that I had taken it upon myself to do the writing bit of the assignment, but they had no idea what I was up to. Nobody did. It was the crime of the century! When the teacher began to read the assignments, I sat back in my chair, arms crossed, ankles crossed, smirking. I was coated in Teflon and K-Y. Authorial ninja. Before Sam Fisher, I was Sam Fisher with a pencil.
And then he took his glasses off and looked up at me.
You can all guess what came next. I exonerated my partners and took all the blame for my wrongdoing, but it opened my eyes to how much wider the world was, to how much further widespread things were than I'd thought. Pop culture was more than I knew, and everything was much less... insular.
That's all for this post, really. Have a happy Thanksgiving, and next time, I'd like to talk about the Kindle.