the write stuff

When I was a kid, I used to sit at the kitchen table with my mom, gram and other assorted relatives and just listen. It was never racy stuff about the sorts of things people do that warrant whispers and hushed tones. More often than not it was random comments on the mundane existence of one member or other of my extended family. Yet I always found it interesting.I have to wonder if my early fly-on-the-wall behavior was a precursor to my adult eavesdropping tendencies. Were I a different person, I suppose I’d have headed off for the Hollywood Hills ages ago to nab a gig telling on the famous for some trash rag or other.Fortunately for all the Britneys out there, I’ve turned my attention to everyone around me, which, I think, is even more fun. Well, maybe not for the person sitting behind me on the subway.

Hell, not even always for me, as I don’t really want to know half the things people feel more than comfortable blurting out in public. But, thanks to the electronic leashes we are perpetually yammering into like a horde of banshees with advanced tourettes, I know more about many of my fellow citizens than I ever wanted to.

Yet I never know what tidbit of information I’m going to pick up on. And considering the fact that I bailed on the grey-walled cubicle farm I’d been sharecropping for two years this summer and ran headlong back into journalism, I need to know what’s going on.

Any source of information is a potential story in this 24-hour news cycle we live in.

It’s been a bit slow, I’ll admit. I’ve kept my head buried up to my ears in approved quotes and PowerPoint presentations for so long sometimes I don’t even recognize the world outside. But, I’m getting my news-nose back, and sooner rather than later I should be back in full storytelling swing.

In the meantime, I’ve managed to eke out a few assorted pieces:

Grabbed a page of Men’s Health online, my first foray into the national publication fray. I’d been harassing… er… pushing my editor to let me write about MRSA, the mega bad superbug that’s been infecting otherwise healthy people like gangbusters, for a while. Finally, he relented.

Also wrote a story I’ve been dying to write for several years now. Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca, N.Y., is the epicenter of Tibetan Buddhism in the western world simply because it’s the Dalai Lama’s North American seat. The lama’s visit to the region in October, coupled with the construction of a new facility for the monastery, finally gave me a reason to write about it.

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Slackadelphia

Is it the warm, summer air… Oh, who am I kidding?

Is it the hot, humid, sticky air that makes your lungs feel like
they’re filled with honey and skin slicker than the ocean surrounding
the Exxon Valez that is making me lazy?

Or could it be something else? A lack of willpower, lack of drive,
get-up-and-go winner takes all sort of deficit that’s causing me to
stare, blindly, at my monitor while scanning craigslist for a coffee
shop job?

A-ha! Coffee shop job? Wait just a minute…

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Lazy Days of Summer? Oh Shit!

I don’t actually know what happened to her.
I’d like to say I knew, that I saw her one day on the street, passed out with a brown bagged bottle at her fingertips. But alas, I do not know.

 The way this life works she may be found somewhere else in the blogosphere, terrorizing another poor, delicate soul with her angry shriekings and bipolar demands for the unreasonable. But alas, I do not know what has happened to the Shrill.

But I do know that she is gone, no longer darkening CorpraCo’s hallways. Whether it was her own doing, really, is unsure, but I can certainly speculate.

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Monday Morning

Today we had the unique pleasure of participating in an all-day meeting. None of us knew why we were there, not even the Tsumommy. Never mind that she’d called the meeting.

I took half a Xanax. I’d learned from hard experience – accompanied by the occasional errant mid-meeting yoyo of drool – that a slow, steady buzz is preferable to losing control of one’s facilities in front of the coworkers.

I can’t say I’ve ever loved my job – a failing economy coupled with my wanderlust means I have no choice but to be okay with any gig that’s even mildly creative, pays the bills and doesn’t give me a bleeding ulcer.

And things were cool until the bloated bigwigs who’d hired the Tsumommy got so many complaints about her they were forced to notice. In classic bait-and-switch intimidation style they fired up the smoke machines and stepped away from admiring themselves in the mirrors of their Lexus and BMWs long enough to take out one of their own.

Unfortunately, the fall guy was my boss, and now the Tsumommy is my keeper.

Friday Existential Angst

So a nice, relaxing night at home just turned into absolute chaos, complete with nearly a dozen axe-wielding firefighters, poised, ready to hack into anything that could potentially face a hazard … any hazard at all.

 

It was a bit disturbing, to be honest.

 

But soothing, considering the fact that there were eardrum piercing alarms wailing throughout the entire building along with smoke billowing from downstairs.

 

And, half an hour later the culprit – an overfilled dryer hose – was disabled and all was well…

 

Except for my clothes.

 

Thankfully, mine were not the scorched ones laying smoldering in the dryer, but the ones spinning around in the washer, waiting to get warm.

 

And alas, the inside of my apartment is about to resemble the ghetto, complete with underwear hanging from every surface.

 

At least this time there was something to report. I passed the time outside with my neighbors on both sides of my brick and mortar slice of toast regaling them with tales of my last Philly 9-1-1 call, complete with hulking police goon promising to return to the scene of the alleged crime for “a poke.”

 

Yeah, hard to forget the time Rachel and I convinced ourselves a scary criminal had infiltrated the (locked windows of) the Netherhouse. But, in West Philly, anything can happen, and as we stood, panicked, outside the door waiting for the cavalry, that reality literally hit close to home.

 

Or so we thought. As the nine officers combed every nook, cranny, closet and drawer of our massive 7-bedroom abode, the fact that I’d chosen a poker and Rachel, I think, a stick, to protect ourselves with dawned on us: were it the real deal, oh yeah, we’d be so dead.

 

And that’s when big, bad Officer Creepy uttered his poker-derived innuendo. Nowhere was safe…

 

And so I moved, but the guilt still manages to dog me, makes me wonder if maybe I’ve gone old, or weak, or soft. I’ve lived in cities around the globe and here I am running away from a neighborhood where houses regularly run in the $300,000s because of a big lug and a scary noise.

 

Yet somehow things still don’t feel quite “right”, crispy undies notwithstanding. It’s not the house, or the ‘hood, or the whole kit and caboodle. Or is it? I am uncertain, unsure, unable to decide what’s best.

 

So, for a autumn Friday I find myself asking: what next?

Newhouse: As Out of Touch as Ever

I’m unsure how to feel about Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications (full disclosure: my grad school alma mater) recent foray into the realm of media awards.

 

According to Dean David Rubin on MediaBistro.com, the school’s newly created Mirror Awards will “highlight the best media coverage of media … The idea is to hold up a mirror to the media and honor it that way.”

 

Hey, that’s great. Coming from someone who is not, and financially cannot, make a living doing the very thing she begged, borrowed and practically stole to be able to do — journalism — thanks to the bullshit surrounding the biz, I’m all for it.

 

From media consolidation to rampant ethical violations run amok, there needs to be a mirror.

 

I’m just not sure Newhouse is the place to be handing out the accolades.

 

Or perhaps not Rubin, the man who gave the least compelling commencement speech I unfortunately was forced to witness.

 

Imagine if you will:

 

Students from one of the country’s preeminent journalism schools were thrust, trial by fire’like, into the fray in the months following Sept. 11.

 

The reality of the job, and its inherent risks and responsibilities, became crystal clear that day, and every day for the rest of the semester. The reality of what happened, and the enormous task for those charged with putting it down for everyone to understand, sank in the second we watched the first tower go. None of us would ever be the same.

 

There was no escaping it, no getting back to life — we were in j-school, where current events are life. We saw the world, and the field we had yet to break into, change before our eyes. The future was tumultuous and uncertain, but we were there, learning to be a part of it.

 

With this as our educational backdrop, we sat in mid-2002 in the Carrier Dome clad in those ridiculous square hats, ready to take on the world.

 

So what words of infinite wisdom did Rubin choose to impart to us on that beautiful spring day?

 

None. His words were not for us but our parents, asking them not to be too upset about the thousands of dollars they’d shelled out for their progeny’s education, because it’s a good school with a good name and it will all work out in the end.

 

Really. No seriously. I’m not kidding…

 

Thousands of dollars, countless hours of lost sleep, two bouts of bronchitis, weeks of lectures, Kaplan’s sadistic law class and Ward’s meandering ethics class, several thousand cups of coffee and just as many AP Style Book quizzes later I found myself sitting, dumbstruck, wondering what fucking relevance this had to me. And then I realized: none.

 

With his eye on the checkbook and completely out of touch with the lives lived just under his carpeted office day in and day out, he — like media companies of today — pandered to the bottom line.

 

And Rube’s at it again, proving just how outrageously out of touch he is with the very industry he gets paid to, purportedly, understand:

 

mediabistro.com : What types of media do you consume daily?

 

Rubin : The New York Times, in print, The Wall Street Journal, in print and online, Syracuse Post Standard, NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. If I get home in time I’ll watch the CBS evening news — I’m warming up for Katie. Then later I watch MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann — he’s the best writer in broadcasting, very, very entertaining.

 

mediabistro.com : What about blogs?

 

Rubin : No. People will send me things and point me to them, but I just don’t have enough time.

 

mediabistro.com : So no RSS feeds for you?

 

Rubin : No.

Well goody then. At least I don’t have to worry about sending the dean’s office into a tizzy. And, uh, Katie fucking Couric? I can’t wait to see her take on the hard news of the day. “Massacre in Darfur, he he, Israel and Hezbollah still killling, tee he!”

 

Unfortunately, his reading list sums it up: old dinosaur media equivalent of a bran muffin and black coffee.

 

Yes, it’s important to keep up on what these pubs are doing and saying, but if you’re not looking beyond the Gray Lady and NPRs of the world at this point in the game, even just a little, you’ve already been left behind.

 

So, I’d nominate myself for a Mirror Award if it included criticism of the media peon making machine.

 

Alas, I can only look in from the outside as I slave on the dark side to make ends meet and pay the student loans Rubin was trying so hard to convince the parents were so important, and playing under the old guard’s nose via RSS feed.

How I’m Weird

Okay, I’ve been tagged by Mags at You Forgot Poland!, so I’d better get on with it … I’ve been slacking enough already!

 

So, I’m supposed to, in five answers, list how I’m weird. Lordy, where do I begin?!

 

  1. I know all the words to the Eagles song (fly, eagles, fly, on the road to victoreeeeeeeeee!!!… you get the idea…), but know next to nothing about football, despite the fact that I was a cheerleader for over a decade and the captain in high school, no less!
  2. Even though I was a cheerleader in high school, I wear black every day. Not because I’m depressed, but because I’m messy, and drop things on myself – from coffee to candy – on a regular basis. Plus, I went to Catholic school, and have no fashion sense.
  3. I must buy magazines from the back of the rack, and only if I’m convinced the pages haven’t been ruffled by browsers.
  4. I sleep with a pink stuffed pig named Gordy. I even take him camping. And on business trips. It’s pathetic, I know…
  5. I can cook elaborate cakes and pies and pastries, along with just about any dish I put my mind to, but I cannot boil an egg without blowing it up.