In his previous article, Victor discussed his new video game design project in some detail. I teased the announcement in my September month-in-review post, and I very much look forward to seeing how his interesting game develops and assisting him however I can.

But this article is not about the game, for I cannot introduce it any better than Victor did himself, this article is about Victor’s stating that my leadership of The New Leaf Journal “resembles something out of 1940s Germany.” While I have no idea of that of which he speaks – did something happen in Germany in the 1940s? – it certainly sounds somewhat pejorative. Now, I could sit here and rebut his ill-explained charges, for example by noting that we had planned to post his first article about the game on Sunday, October 4, 2020, and I only found out on the afternoon of October 3 that he would be on some sort of foreign adventure for several days, and I had yet to see a draft article in our cloud storage. When I make promises here at The New Leaf Journal – such as saying that we would publish at least one article every day in September – I work to keep them. Nevertheless, the article went up on October 5.

That story, however, would not be interesting. Instead, I invite you to gather around the campfire and join me for a story from many years ago – May, 2006, to be precise.

Some School Paper Context

In one article, I alluded to the fact that, many years ago, Victor was the senior editor of our high school newspaper and I was effectively the next in rank, being one year his junior. The next year, after Victor graduated and moved on to the more brutal world that was college, I took over as senior editor and made the paper more aesthetic by implementing TI-89 graphing calculator title cards. But I digress. This is not about the aesthetics of the newspaper during our respective tenures as senior editor – although I would remind Victor that aesthetics are more important than the number of issues released – but is rather the year before either one of us was in charge.

Meeting Victor

I must concede that I do not actually know all that much about the school newspaper in 2005-06. I was busy with other things, such as chess club, playing video games, and not studying in the comfort of my own home. For whatever it is worth, I barely even knew Victor – I never talked to him until that spring, when we were for some reason both present while a fellow student helped another student install a second video card in his computer, something that neither of us had anything at all to do with. Although I can build computers now, I was one year removed from using a Windows 95 at that point, so computer building was still in my distant future.

The Graduation Issue Crisis at the 2006 High School Newspaper

Since I was not actually a member of the school newspaper, I cannot offer any insight into the events that led to the newspaper club’s being in a crunch to produce a final issue for the outgoing senior editor before her graduation in 2006. Victor would probably be the better candidate to explain how that situation came to pass. In any event, someone involved with the paper must have convinced me to stay after school in the classroom where the newspaper club’s bi-weekly meeting meeting took place. I was not the only victim – a friend of mine was also roped in.

There, I was made to understand that they wanted, desperately needed, to finish a final issue before graduation. Was it just because the senior editor wanted one for her graduation? Was it because they needed one more issue to set the new record? I do not remember, but it was probably one of those two things. My friend was bludgeoned into contributing one article, and I offered to write several. This was apparently satisfactory to the paper’s student editing staff, Victor (the senior editor-in-waiting) included, although I do not think they were in position to be picky.

Picture of a brown lemming from "Mammals of Mount McKinley Park, Alaska."
The highlight of my articles was “March of the Lemmings.” Perhaps it will make a reappearance? Photo clipped from Mammals of Mount McKinely Park Alaska

Victor’s Latent Tyrannical Tendencies Awaken

To begin, I would like to make clear that I committed myself to writing four articles to help a club that I was not a member of that was led by students who I barely knew produce a final issue of the paper for the year on very short notice. Allow me to add further context. The club meeting took place immediately after school, and these articles were requested on the same day.

The meeting took place on our school’s second floor. My actual homeroom, unlike my classes, was on the third floor, not the second. The third floor, like the second floor, hosted a small computer lab, amenable to writing articles for a school newspaper. What’s more, the third floor was quiet, whereas the second floor was haunted by the high-strung staff of the school newspaper. For these reasons, I proceeded to the third floor to engage in the art of content production.

Was there a problem? I did not think so. But the then-senior editor wanted all of the minions in one place – the second floor computer room – under the strict supervision of the her, Victor, and another member of the club who they sought to empower with a proverbial whip. Victor, on her behalf, came up to the third floor to demand repeatedly that I work on the second floor where they could keep tabs on me along with everyone else. The other whip-wielding hench-woman undertook similar actions. But let it be said that Victor was not merely “just following orders” – the senior editor designate was relishing the taste of the power that he would have after a brief summer vacation.

Photograph of Victor V. Gurbo smiling while holding his pet orange cat, Pumpkin, who stares off into the distance.
Victor’s beloved kitty, Pumpkin, may or may not be deaf, but she knows what this man is capable of.

In any event, I kindly advised Victor and the nice girl who they had turned into a brutal authoritarian that they were behaving like – as Victor today would say – “something out of 1940s Germany” – whatever that may be.

All’s Well That Ends Well

After a good 10-15 minutes of their aggressively whining at me, I was finally able to work in piece on the third floor, away from the closed-air prison on the second floor. I wrote the four articles that I promised before going home, and all four articles were published in the final issue for the year, which was happily handed out by Victor and the rest of the actual newspaper staff at the graduation ceremony. Victor and his then-overlord certainly deserve most of the credit for producing the issue on a tight deadline, but I did my small part to ensure that they had enough content for a full-length issue.

While I do not want to overstate what happened, I would say that I took a courageous stand for freedom against German-style authoritarianism that day. There I was, roped into a newspaper meeting by a group of manic, stressed-out high school students from a club I was not actually a member of, offering to write four articles to ensure that they would have a newspaper to hand out on graduation day. This, my dear readers, is what we call “doing a favor.” Furthermore, I was quite clearly the only student in the building – possibly in the school – who could write four presentable articles (by high school newspaper standards, granted) on such short notice. I expected no praise or plaudits other than the byline on my own content, but could I expect to do the work in my preferred computer lab on my own floor of the school in piece? Was that too much to ask? I think now as I thought then: No!

History May Not Repeat Itself; But History Resembles Itself

As senior editor Victor’s graduation approached the next year, I worked hard following his lead to ensure that we completed one last issue of the paper to hand out at his graduation – the issue that would break the record he helped to set the previous year. We again succeeded, although on that occasion I spent more time editing articles than writing them. As thanks for my efforts, I carried the box of newspapers from the school to the graduation ceremony on the morning of graduation day – taking the subway because I did not have any more affinity then for cars and most other moving vehicles than I do now. Victor had his final newspaper triumph, and he announced that I was officially the next senior editor. While that graduation issue was more physically taxing on me – especially since I wore a sweater vest when it was more than 80 degrees outside, lacking a jacket on that day for some reason – I can confidently say that it was less emotionally taxing than being whined at over an extended period about working in one computer room instead of an almost identical computer room.