I went to nursery school. But we didn’t learn the alphabet, we weren’t getting a jump-start, we were just socializing, granting our parents some free time.

I went to kindergarten up the street, at Fairfield Woods Elementary, but I don’t remember learning the alphabet there either, just doing art projects.

But first grade, first grade was something different.

I remember standing on the stoop, the very first day of class, discussing with Mark Levy what I was going to be when I grew up. I said I was going to be a lawyer. And that I’d probably go to Yale. I didn’t go to Yale, but I did go to law school, ah, the power of parental programming.

And at this late date I cannot remember…oops, I just did! The name of my first grade teacher was Miss Godfrey! Yup, unmarried, a lifer. Wearing a long dress every day and performing a miracle in the classroom, teaching six year olds how to read.

I loved to read. It came easy. My favorite place in the whole world prior to the Internet was the library. Just lock me up there. And I love books, but I’m even more enamored of periodicals. The first periodical I ever read was "The Weekly Reader".

There were some cool stories in it. Mostly having to do with JFK and the space program. But "The Weekly Reader" lost its luster not long after I was exposed…it was just too low brow, it was playing to the lowest common denominator. We had television, we had parents, we already knew these stories!

But in the second grade we got "Highlights". For Children!

From this distance, "Highlights" looks even lamer than "The Weekly Reader". But it didn’t feel that way in Miss Kampf’s class. It was printed on heavy stock, the pages weren’t all white, there was an attempt to stimulate one’s imagination. And without imagination, human beings can’t proceed. We’ve got to have hope to survive. "Highlights" gave me hope. To the point where I wanted my own subscription.

"Highlights" was something you saw in school. Or at the dentist’s office. Never was it seen in the wild. You had to visit it, cram all that reading in in one sitting. I wanted "Highlights" at home.

To be honest, there wasn’t that much content, it didn’t take that long to read the magazine… Sure, sometimes the dentist called me in immediately and I had little chance to peruse it, but really, I wanted the pride of ownership, I wanted my own copy.

So, I got my mother to write a check. "Highlights" was my very first magazine subscription.

It didn’t come every month. Sometimes every other month. But when it arrived in its brown paper sleeve, I slid the magazine out carefully in my room and slowly turned the pages. To find the animals hidden in the drawing. To read "Goofus and Gallant".

Yes, that’s the name. Yesterday I wrote "Goofus and Gander". That’s what my synapse said. Didn’t exactly feel right. Why would Gander be good? But who can figure out the sanitized world of children’s literature.

But then my inbox started to overflow… It wasn’t Gander, but GALLANT! Ah, made sense. But then I started to feel bad, as one person after another criticized me for making the mistake. But, I was overwhelmed at the shared experience. This wasn’t a lost cartoon, it lived on in the memories of so many. And through the collective consciousness known as the Internet, I was informed of the truth. Funny this global village we live in. Where the assembled multitude teases out the truth for all to see.

"Goofus and Gallant" is about two brothers, the good one and the bad. Goofus, of course, is the bad. Gallant is the good. No one would want to be Goofus. He was selfish. He was a brat. He was the kid in your school that no one wanted to be friends with. Whereas Gallant was nice, he was a BMOC, he was popular.

Still, even at age seven, I laughed. How ridiculous! Couldn’t there be a little nuance? Shades of gray?

But that’s children’s literature. All written for the stupid. Whereas young stimulated minds want to be thrilled! Which I ultimately was, with books like "Detectives In Togas". I see that it’s still available. But I’m worried, if I re-read it now will it have the same effect? Still, I’d be up for Homer Price and the doughnut machine. Beezus and Ramona and Homer lived in a more real world. I graduated to them shortly after I started getting "Highlights". But I kept getting "Highlights", because I liked the regularity, I liked possessing something, something that could be all mine. However my mother ultimately wouldn’t renew. She said it was time to grow up.

And I have. But I’ve never forgotten "Highlights". I make jokes about "Goofus and Gallant" all the time. But thinking back, what impresses me most is the concept of ownership. I wanted to, I needed to, own "Highlights". Just like we need to own music.

I envision renting it in the future. Just not the immediate future. Not the foreseeable future. I don’t want everything, I want a collection, that I’ve built, that’s mine. That I can remember acquiring, in bits and pieces. That I can peruse and listen to, that stimulates memories. That I can show to somebody else.

That’s what we were in the sixties and seventies, collectors. Your first stop at a new friend’s abode was his record collection. It defined him. Both in scope and content. You marveled when he had the same obscure records as you, and immediately wanted to hear albums you never bought, but desired. You made romantic connections on the same level, in the same way.

Then, we experienced monoculture. Everybody bought the same stuff exposed on MTV. We lost our individuality, but the labels loved it. Selling tonnage of a handful of titles. But now, all that’s left of that paradigm is remnants. That which can be promoted is sold as the single. Collecting is decried. To go online and use a P2P service, to scope the blogosphere, is to be a pirate, engaged in criminal activity. Really, it’s about being a diehard fan. It’s those who are constantly downloading, building their collections, who are enamored of music, who support acts live. Those buying individual tracks on iTunes are casual users. The ones with one Beatle album and Barry Manilow and the Carpenters in their collection.

History has been kind to Barry and the Carpenters. But they were never cool. They were mainstream. In an era when nobody hip wanted to be mainstream. Today everyone is hip, no one wants to be mainstream. And the mainstream media doesn’t like it. They want the eighties and nineties back. They want to dictate. Who can create, what is available, what you can own.

But now everybody’s got choice. Resulting in a chaos oldsters can’t understand. But there is a collective consciousness. And it lives online. People will tell you the new album of so and so sucks, so you won’t buy it. Same deal with movies. People are texting their analyses, hits are created and stiffs are established within hours of films opening.

Technology has changed everything. Power is now in the hands of the proletariat. The old media denizens are flummoxed. How can this be? We need control!

But control is not coming back.

And I like that.

Because I like being able to know that Goofus’ brother was Gallant. Mainstream media never writes about "Highlights". But it and its contents live on in the minds of its readers, ready to be recalled in an instant online.

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