These are the thoughts of a Texas transplant in West Michigan who makes his living as a newspaper reporter by evening, and a struggling novelist by day.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

a new era

and so it is that today is the last day of work at the newspaper. yesterday was my six-year anniversary there. i thought i wouldn't make it to that point.

i put in my notice three weeks and two days ago on a monday. did it come as a surprise? perhaps it did. i kept it hushed for a week before i did it. i went in and presented it to p. afterward i went and talked with mark privately. he took the news very badly. but after a long talk it was good. when i came out of that meeting, everyone in teh newsroom knew. later on FB i saw i had a message from a former coworker. he sent me a message 40 min. after i turned my letter of resignation. crazy how it happens.

six years. six long years. it's been a crazy time, mostly at night. i started there as the weekday night reporter in 2003. it was hard adjusting to working second shift in a new job, in a new state and with new people. we were living in evie's basement then. crazy to even move up there as winter was taking over. so unprepared for it.

i still remember my first assignment and story. i went to a saugatuck school board meeting. it was held in the douglas hall. i was so green, trying to fit in and remember faces and names. the story had to do with saugatuck passinga no discrimiation policy against gay students, i believe. i cahtted with the super and a board member, recording the conversation with my trusty recorder. and that began my career there.

as night reporter i went everywhere, covered everything and met a lot of people all over the coverage area. township meeting? sure, i'll go. school board? sure. crap! there'a crash or fire. sure, i'll go. last moment holland city council meeting? sure, why not. it helped me out because as a proofer, i knew names, titles and places, so could point them out when others got them wrong. it was the best training i could have had for what would come later.

my first fire was a mobile home fire in leisure estates in holland township. it was awkward since i'd never covered a fire in that fashion at night. it was cold, the fire engine's lights blinded me and it was hard talking to people. i even got the name of the fire dept. wrong. i asked if it was holland city. what a joke. fast forward to a few sundays ago. call came in about a mobile home fire. fully involved. this time it was zeeland township. dawn drove me as she had six years ago to that first fire. it wasn't as cold, but i was stil blinded by the lights. however, i eased myway in with confidence and asked for the fire chief. he chatted with me for a bit and i got what i needed. then after moving around, i found a neighbor and chatted him up, too. easy. came back and wrote a short story. that first fire ended up being a brief ( knew no better).

and there's been numerous other fires and crashes and drownings over the six years. all sad circumstances.

there's been humour incidents, too. in december 2004 the police were called to the holland museum to investigate this man in a dark jacket and cap who was "pretending" to interview little kids after the sinterklaas parade. people in the office heard it over the scanner and called my cell. i should have left but i needed to get another interview. it was a bit embarrassing to have a cop car pull up and then talk to you. i wish i'd seen the douche who'd called the cops. years later that story is funny and still told.

there was my two experiences with a certain holland cop. i went to the scene of an armed robbery at a wendy's. i got too close and he yelled at me to get off the property because i was going to screw up the scent for the k-9 unit. a second time there was a drive-by shooting. i went over and started chatting with someone who turned out to be a witness. the same cop came up to me, pulled me aside, and said i had to stop interfering with crime scenes. after those two times, though, he ended up being cool with me. about a month ago, i had to call the sgt. on duty and it ended up being him. he gave me the info. and he was pleasant to me.

and along the way i got to meet a lot of good people in the community in different organizations. these people ended up being my friends. that is one of the better things the newspaper has done for me; it allowed me to be exposed to the community and it saw who i was, the new kid in town. now i've got a nice network of friends.

i got linked to the latino community right off the bat. and over the six years, i know the names and faces of the latino community in town. these peole have been great to work with and i will continue to work with them even after the newspaper. buena gente.

and i've made great friends at the newspaper, most of this core group is still there. when i arrived and started working there, mark, dan and krista were there. i formed great bonds with these people, who were my fellow night shift folks. we ended up forming a poker group and playing regularly for about four years. those were fun times, with mark or dan winning most hands. as years went by we became tighter. in 2007 mark and i went to see the old van halen group at the palace. that was awesome. thanks markie! dan and i are, as dan puts it, "olive-skinned brothers." he's italian and i'm latino. dan's a good guy. the calm voice of reason in a sometimes nutty environment.

we've had great parties where we've gotten toasted. there was one party where mark was so out of it we got him to start cursing in spanish. we all had a good chuckle. "good form," dan would say.

and i end with other good friends, laura and mel, fellow night shifters. it seems that is where i mostly bonded with the group. perhaps it was because we were always seen as cast offs, ignored most of the time. as they say, shit rolls downhill. and we saw our fair share of shit rolled our way.

and there has been other stuff and other people, but there's too much, countless to go into in a blog entry.

suffice it to say, it's been real.