Saturday, December 23, 2006

Chapter I: A man named Brian Stallcop

Since I'm unexpectedly couchbound for the night, I'll interrupt my regularly scheduled pap to begin My History with The Pilot.

I started here on March 1, 1999, but the story starts 5 years before that. I was a sophomore, systematically breaking through Northwestern's protective measures before expulsion. First there was the warning shot, probation for 1 semester; and then 1 year; and then permanent probation, which is where I believe I stand today.

I was spending way too much time at The Daily, where I was the design editor. I had really never been trained; I had chosen graphics the year before because the line was shorter than the reporting line (see previous post re: impatience) during New Student Week. God, it was romantic to be in a newsroom for the first time. AND it qualified as my work study job!

At any rate, I knew The Pilot's reputation, so when I came home to this msg I about flipped: The News Editor of The Virginian-Pilot had called for me. I must have gotten the internship!

Yeah, I hadn't. I called him back, this Brian Stallcop, and he told me that I was dead center in the stack of applicants but to keep trying and to keep in touch. After hurting my ego, it seemed really decent.

Well, I did keep in touch. Three and a half years later, Brian gave me my first job, as a copy editor and page designer at The Sun of Bremerton. One of the other copy editor/page designers had called it "Bummertown" in my interview. She was right. My car had been involved in an accident on the way out there and was held hostage by a mechanic in Wyoming for most of my 10 months there. I spent most of my time embodying everything I'd learned about depression in college: sitting in my underwear on the floor of my furnitureless appartment, eating chili out of a can with just the blue light of Homicide: Life on the Street reruns on my face at all hours of the night.

That year, we learned that my mom had cancer. Ovarian and colon. I know this is going to sound crazy, but I had no idea how serious it was. I don't know how much any of us knew. I went home to visit a few times, and interviewed for a residency in Chicago, hoping to land closer to home. My mom seemed to get better, so I cast my net a bit wider. Brian, who was by then The Sun's editor, knew about an opening at The Pilot. He got me on the phone with Denis, who asked why I hadn't applied yet. I honestly didn't think I'd get it.

The day before I was to fly out to Norfolk, I found out my mom's cancer had metastisized. I asked Denis and Brian if I should cancel my interview. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to go home. A kind, kind person at Northwest Airlines helped me through a difficult call, I'll always remember. I was just crying and crying, speaking indiscernibly and asking for a ticket home for the next day. He told me it would be some exorbitant amount, and said it would be a lot less if I waited a week or so. I kept telling him I had to get home right away. He just said to me, in the most caring voice I've ever heard from a stranger, "Who's sick?" I never took that trip. Denis and Brian convinced me to come interview. And while I was here, I decided to go home and take care of her. I told Denis on my last day here. He told me he respected my decision, and that he would keep in touch and that he wanted me to work here.

I went back to Bremerton, gave notice, and headed home. That was August, 1998.

Coming next on A Very Special Face the Music: Kicking around on a piece of ground in my hometown.

No comments: