FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2002 - How do you spell "likelihood"?
This weekend I'm in Maryland visiting my family. It looks like I'm going to have a permanent address in Brooklyn starting on Monday. I just need to ink some paperwork on the apartment I found Thursday. It meets my high standards of not being next to (a) a crack house, (b) a ship yard, (c) an ammonia factory, or (d) a place where they test ambulance sirens. This is a good thing. Oh yeah, I have one job prospect that looks strong. I'll keep you updated on both these developments during the next few days.
Now a totally unrelated topic. If you have time to read a good story, you should see the L.A. Times investigation into Tupac Shakur's murder, which was six years ago Saturday. (Click here to go to the article; you may have to register, which is free.) If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the bottom line: Biggie did it. The Times reporter, Chuck Philips, pieced the story together using gang members who declined to be named for fear of retribution -- not exactly reliable sources of information. There's no explantion of why he trusted these sources, but Philips must be a good journalist to be able to sort the truth from the lies. I bet this must have been incredibly hard. Sometimes there's no scientific way to get to the truth, you just have to trust people. That's the most infuriating thing about journalism. In all likelihood, I won't be a reporter in New York. While I learned a lot about the world works by reporting, why not try something new?
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2002 - Sex, drugs and real estate
My buddy Brian, a regular reader, implies that I may be omiting certain details from this web
site. He asked me to e-mail him the "Too hot for Daryllang.com" summary of my New York
adventure. Indeed, I have left out some parts of this story, including my new addiction to
painkillers, my drunken fights with my manager, the out-of-control backstage orgies, and
the time I trashed a hotel room in a fit of drug-induced rage.
Actually, none of those things happened, but most of my story so far has been boring.
I haven't wanted to write about my nightmarish dealings with real estate brokers. Let me
tell you... You wouldn't usually associate orders like this -- "Meet me at the corner of
8th avenue and 15th street. I'll be in a black Chrysler Concorde. Bring cash." -- with
renting an apartment. That's par in New York. This is scary stuff, and it's stressing me
out. But Monday things should be finalized. I found a nice one-bedroom apartment on 21st
street in Brooklyn for a reasonable rent. It's in a nice neighborhood, but not on the best
street. In other words, it's the same thing I had in Carlisle, but I'll pay twice as much for it
here. You should see the places I rejected.
Looks like I'm heading back to Pennsylvania tonight, then to Maryland for the weekend, and back
to Brooklyn Monday. Shout-outs to Cheryl and Lauren for letting me stay at their
place a few days, and to Kelly for helping me get a job interview.
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2002 - Take the A Train
Day two. One solid job possibility (more on that later this week). Another apartment
option that looks like it won't work out. The New York adventure continues Thursday.
There's little to write about New York that hasn't already been written, but here's one of
my impressions anyway. The city bustle forces patience. Consider the subway. It's confusing, crowded, and vital
for practically everyone. Today I was on an A train that was supposed to be an express
to Brooklyn, but became a local-stop train for a mysterious reason, announced as "due
to a sick passenger." At one stop, and a vague announcement suggested that people get off
the train and board the train across the platform for an express to Brooklyn. We passengers
hesitated, since the doors on that other train were closed. Some got out. Some stayed on.
But nearly everybody laughed, just at the situation. People here don't
sweat the little problems. Amid all this diversity, that seems to be a universal quality
of New York -- go-with-the-flowness.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2002 - America, in September 2000
A morning on the New Jersey Turnpike, from Baltimore to New York. Lunch at Roy Rogers at
the James Fenimore Cooper rest area. I found a nice apartment in Brooklyn today, and need to
finalize it with my roommate and get the paperwork under control. You'll read more about
that soon. We just watched a download of last week's episode of "Sex and the City"
with my friends here on their computer. Now the grand finale of "American Idol" is on, and
we're rooting for Kelly. I polished my shoes for my interview tomorrow, at a certain major
New York company that sells houseware products. More on that later as well. Stay tuned.
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2002 - Happy Labor Day
Nothing profound to say today. I'm in Maryland for the weekend. It's Labor Day, that strange holiday that sounds the death knell of summer. I'm off on a bike ride. Probably going to see some friends later today. It's a little gray at this moment, but it's a cool, high-level cloud cover and feels crisp. It's nice to spend the weekend in a house where there's a cat. I'd post a photo, but I'm not hooked up to do that here. Tomorrow's a big day -- traveling to New York. Like I said, nothing profound, just summertime. - Daryl
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002 - Always on the sunny side
I'm in Maryland for the weekend.
And I have that spring back in my step. Through friends, I've landed a job interview next week and have lined up a probable roommate for living in New York. I spent tonight out in Georgetown with some cool people, enjoying myself in a part of Washington where I certainly don't fit in (as I have neither fashion sense nor political affiliation). It's been a well-rounded weekend so far, with a good mix of family and friends, responsibility and reckless abandon. I feel good about New York. The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. - Daryl
SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, 2002 - Skee for all
I'm in Maryland for the weekend.
Near the top of any list of summertime activites should be Skee-Ball, that arcade game where you bowl nine little wooden balls up the ramp and try to sink them in plastic concentric circles. Skee-Ball dates back to 1909. That's according to the web site for the Skee-Ball company, based in Chalfont, Pa. It's easy to believe the game is that old if you've ever played a creaky red-and-yellow Skee-Ball machine in a rusty beach arcade. The old games charge a quarter for nine balls. Never versions, like Skee-Ball Lignthing, show up in Gillian's-type places, where a game costs 490 points off your card, which works out to roughly three games for $5. With the newer games, scoring has suffered from inflation -- the hole that was worth 50 on the old games is now worth 50,000. Apart from that, Skee-Ball is still the same old game. If you sink a ball in the middle ring, the machine blinks a red light, sounds a cheerful little dity of computer tones, and spits out a ribbon of paper tickets. Put a whole row of Skee-Ball machines together and they have a distinct sound, like a bowling alley without the pins falling. Young children love the game. Skilled older folks can master it. Even God played Skee-Ball in the movie "Dogma." My favorite part of the game is the tickets. You can trade them in at the arcade counter for a plastic spider ring, a temporary tattoo, or some hard candy. Or, do what I do -- give them away to little kids standing in line. That's part of the fun. - Daryl
FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2002 - Carlisle in my rear view mirror
It's all over. Not the baseball season, happily, but my time in Carlisle. Now I can say I spent a full year as a newspaper reporter in a small town. I feel this was a worthwhile experience. I learned a bit about reporting, got to see life in the micro level and proved to myself that I can survive on my own. I met a lot of kind people. Like any place I've been, I hope I'm able to retain the good things from it (values, generosity, pride in your town, patriotism) and not the bad things (racism, homophobia, ignorance, lack of ambition). I can be fairly sure this is not where I want to end up. The time is right to move on to another adventure.
Hope you have a good Labor Day weekend. I'll be in Maryland. - Daryl
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 2002 - "Between jobs," as they say
Tomorrow is my last day of work at The Sentinel. I will be spending Labor Day weekend with my family and then going to New York next week to continue my search for an apartment and pursue some job leads. I am becoming an expert at various job-board web sites. I can tell you that HotJobs is a quality service, Monster is messy but usable, and CareerBuilder is so clogged with junk as to be borderline worthless. It's proof that some web sites pay attention to the quality of their product, and others just copy a formula and hope the money comes in. - Daryl
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2002 - So long, it's been good to know ya.
What's the appropriate way to say goodbye to someone who you won't ever speak to again? Nearing my last day of work in Carlisle (Friday), I encounter this situation quite a bit. There are a lot of people in town, news sources, with whom I've worked on a professional basis. Friendly, but not close. I want to say "See you later," or "I'll be in touch," or "I'll let you know what I find in New York." But that's not really genuine. I've been saying things such as "I've enjoyed working with you. Good luck with the rest of the school year." Shake hands. Smile. That seems to work, but it's still a little bit awkward. Our language doesn't give us a courteous way to say "I want to convey an interest in your future, I wish you well, but you and I both know we won't ever talk again, and that's fine." - Daryl
TUESDAY, AUGUST 27, 2002 - Candy everybody wants
As I write today, I'm enjoying a delicious Archway Dutch Cocoa cookie. Chocolate is the king of sweets, not just a tasty snack but a euphoric experience. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Word in the papers this week is that Nestlé wants to spend $11.5 billion-with-a-B to buy Hershey Foods. This move has won no kisses around here, where Hershey is a home-town favorite and Nestl$eacute; is a big conglomerate from the land of cheese, watches, bank accounts and army knives. I find it heart-warming that people are so loyal to their candy company. Yeah, Hershey's is pretty low-grade chocolate, but the company makes some truly sublime candies with peppermint or peanut butter. Despite the theme park and silly Chocolate World ride, Hershey still has a hint of mystique and feels like a part of Americana. I can't drive past the big HERSHEY smokestacks without imagining them labeled with the word WONKA. I'd hate to see some other company paint a new name over them. Pennsylvania deserves some credit for years of hard work to be sure there are interruptions to our nation's chocolate supply.
MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2002 - Morning, the audio track
Loud beeps. Bed squeaks. Rustle of sheets.
Water running. Splashes in a tub. Sputter of a showerhead. Whine of hot water pipes. Foam from a shaving cream container. Clack of coat hangers. Zipper. Belt buckle.
Footsteps of socks on a flight of creaky stairs. Rustling of a plastic newspaper bag. Crinkle of newsprint pages.
Sound of granola falling from a plastic bag into a ceramic bowl. Splash of milk. Crunching.
Man's voice: At 7 o'clock, it's 62 degrees in Harrisburg. Highs today near 85.
Tooth brushing. Loud click of an old door latch. Footsteps of rubber-soled shoes on creaky stairs.
Crickets. Birds. Car door opens, slams shut. Key in ignition, start of a car engine.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2002 - A Carlisle Saturday night
We were in some smoky dive with two pool tables and lot of NASCAR fans. The sports reporter and I (both of us are about to leave Carlisle) were in a good-natured political debate. Could have been about anything, but I think we were talking about hitting kids. He's for it, I'm not. While we were arguing, a familiar voice interrupted. "I grew up dreamin' of being a cowboy. And loving the cowboy ways." It was Willie. God bless him. "I learned all the ways of a modern day drifter. Don't you hold on to nothing too long." That voice is a balm, like a healing aura from the jukebox. Chicken soup for the ears. We set aside our differences and sang. "My heroes have always been cowboys. And they still are it seems. Sadly in search of, and one step in back of, themselves and their stolen dreams." - Daryl
SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, 2002 - Need a tip?
Here's a fun movie I rented recently: Amélie.
Here's a catchy rock song from a few years back most people don't remember: "Someone Who is Cool" by The Odds.
Here's a cheap, bare-bones Internet provider that works pretty well: Sysmatrix.net.
Here's a web site that will tell you if your phone number spells anything: Phonespell.
Here's a nasty bubble-gum-like soft drink you should avoid at all costs: Pepsi Blue.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2002 - Close to pickles
Today I have the perfect example of something every creative person fears: What happens when somebody else has your idea? Look no further than your nearest funny page. (No, I'm not obsessed with the comics, just always looking for connections.)
Exhibit A: In today's strip of "Close to Home," a man gazes at a magazine he is holding with his toes. A woman next to him says, "For heaven's sake, will you just give it up and admit that you need reading glasses."
Exhibit B: In today's strip of "Pickles," a man gazes at a magazine he is holding with his toes. A woman next to him says, "If you say you don't need new glasses then fine, have it your way."
Two strips. Two different artists (John McPherson and Brian Crane, respectively). Two different syndicates (Universal Press and Washington Post). And yet, on the same day, they carry the same lame gag. Comics are typically done at least three weeks in advance and nowadays are prepared and sent to newspapers digitally. Seems to me there's little chance one of these cartoonists would have copied the other. Either they coordinated these strips as an inside joke, or it's totally random luck. If a million chimps constantly pound a million typewriters, eventually two of them will type the same corny joke about eyeglasses.
Or maybe it's a conspiracy and the comics are a way to send coded instructions to secret agents. Like I said, I'm always looking for connections. Helps to have good eyes.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 22, 2002 - You decide.
I'm working on a new design for my home page, which will launch as soon as I establish an address in New York (probably in the first half of September). I'd welcome your suggestions for how I can make the new page as good as can be. One feature I'm testing is a message board. I think it could be a fun place for people with mutual interests (ie. this home page) to meet one another. Technically, the message board seems to work fairly well. But it's only gotten just a few postings. What to do? Inspired by the Fox News Channel, I figure I'll draw a bigger audience if I offer a divisive, oversimplified political question for debate.
Topic: President Bush is considering a war against Iraq for the purpose of ousting Iraqi president Saddam Hussein, who is feared to have weapons of mass destruction. Is it worth the certain loss of American lives and a painful strain on global relations to remove one well-entrenched dictator from power, in the interests of stable oil prices and political capital? Discuss.
Actually, here's the real topic: I need a new IM screen name. The limit is 16 characters. Suggestions? Let's have 'em.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 21, 2002 - $252 million is not enough
Once you have money, you keep wanting more. Examples: Major league baseball players and owners, record company executives, the cast of "Friends." Let's discuss these first two. Baseball players are threatening to strike because they're unhappy with their financial terms with the team owners. This means the baseball season might stop because both sides are fighting over money. Record company executives (or their supporters) are beginning to sabotage LimeWire and the other music sharing technologies to keep people from pirating music. This means they are attacking a vast pool of potential customers, people who love music but won't pay for it unless it's really good. Most folks would agree that the baseball players and owners are being a little greedy, but the music situation is less clear. On the scale of right and wrong, copying copyrighted music falls somewhere between parking illegally and sharing a book with a friend. Considering you can already hear free music on your radio, it's hard to feel guilty about hearing free music on your computer. But record execs see their sales plummeting and say music swapping -- a hobby for millions of music fans -- must stop. (Maybe more of us would buy CDs if they made it easier to find the good stuff, instead of over-promoting their catchy one-song dance groups and scrunge bands like Linkin Park and Incubus. Sorry, off the topic.) Both cases: The people spoiling the party are the ones who already have lots of money. Because they want more.
- Daryl (Thanks to Tom for today's idea.)
TUESDAY, AUGUST 20, 2002 - Up, up and away
Do you know anything about Clinton, New Jersey? Until Saturday, I knew it only as a highway exit between Harrisburg and New York City. As someone who likes to pump my own gas, I usually avoid stopping in Jersey at any cost. That changed Saturday on my drive home. As I rode west into sunset on 78, I saw three hot air balloons float through the sky above Clinton. They hovered just above a Citgo station, so I pulled off the Interstate for a pit stop. While the attendent filled up my car, I walked around and took some pictures (including the one you see at right; click on it for a wallpaper-sized version). There were a few other travelers at the gas station, and we stood together watching as three more balloons blew by directly overhead. They were close enough you could hear the hiss of the flames. As it turns out, Clinton is a hot-air balloon haven, where pilots will take you and your sweetie up into the sky for a couple hundred bucks a ride. They launch these colorful, graceful aircraft every evening. I bet it's a joy to be up there. And it's even nice to watch from a Jersey Citgo while some stranger puts gas in your car. - Daryl
MONDAY, AUGUST 19, 2002 - Abort, retry, fail?
As of tonight, I still have not heard back from the person who seemed interested in renting me a room in Brooklyn. I last spoke with her Sunday night, at which point she said she needed more time to decide. I have abandoned hope. Plan B is to find a place on my own, roommate-free. Costlier, yes, but a safer bet. This will wait until September, once I'm done with work and have some weekdays off. Note the modified calender at left. Of course, my cell phone could ring at any second and reset the entire process. Meanwhile, I still have 9 more days of work in Carlisle, plus some New York job leads to follow. I am stressed and hot.
On another note, I attended my last school board meeting for work tonight. Some of you loyal readers might recall my previous words of bad feelings about school boards. Well, the board tonight is one of the ones I so despise as a waste of time and an example of small government mismanagement. But tonight, they paused their meeting, announced I was leaving, told me I had done a good job, and called me up to the front to give me a school T-shirt and a book about local history. At first I was embarassed. "I'm not really supposed to accept gifts, but what are they going to do, fire me?" I said. "Thank you very much." Then I sat down. It wasn't until later that the guilt started to sink in. This board for which I had nothing but resentment, about which I had written harsh (but fair) stories to document their missteps, had given me two totally undeserved farewell gifts. Now I'm stressed, hot, and filled with an odd sort of sentimental guilt.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 18, 2002 - Let it hang all out
I don't have a decision yet on whether I'll get the apartment I want in Brooklyn. Details to follow tomorrow... I hope.
And the heat just won't stop. It won't, man. It seems like we get a brutal heat wave every year, but usually it lasts only a week -- not two months. I said at the beginning of the season, "Hey, I'm living in Pennsylania, in the mountains, why do I need air conditioning?" I'm such a cheapskate. Of course, I didn't know this was going to be the summer of sweat, probably the hottest once since at least 1988, and maybe the hottest since 1941. (Remember that one? No?) It's no wonder the big song this summer has a chorus that goes: "It's getting hot in here! So take off all your clothes!"
SATURDAY, AUGUST 17, 2002 - Stop and smell the roses
I just got back from apartment hunting in Brooklyn today. The one room I thought was a sure-fire deal turned out to be a bust. It just wasn't a nice place. Bad vibes. Two of the other places hold promise. There's one deal that I think will come together shortly. Or will it? Tune in Sunday evening to find out.
This is stressful business. At each apartment, not only must I decide if I want to live there, but I also have to convince the person renting it that I'd be the perfect roommate. There's a fine line when I see a place that I don't really love, but that I could probably be happy with. Amid all that pressure, I had a couple hours of a break, so I walked to the famous Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, paid my $3 and walked around. It's a beautiful place. Any stresses you might have will drain away at the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden. If it's hot out, or raining, there's refuge inside the conservatory. Did I mention the rose garden? Stop. Smell. Aaaaah.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2002 - Gone in 60 seconds
Things happen fast in the New York apartment market. Excuse me for rambling today, but my head is beginning to spin. I'm trying to find somebody seeking a roommate in a nice neighborhood with a tolerable space with a reasonable rent. No prob, right? There's dozens of places like this. Well, yeah, but somebody else is always a step ahead. You can figure that any listing more than a day old on the New York Times or the Village Voice is already gone. (And lots of them require a fee, often as high as twice your monthly rent, in addition to a security deposit.) The listings on Craigslist are a better bet, but get flooded with e-mails fast. There's some pay sites, many of which appear to be shady. Some, like RoommateService.com and TheSublet.com, sell a quality service, but have somewhat limited listings. And there's a good chance the places listed on the pay sites will eventually end up on a free site and get swarmed. Such is the power of advertising. I think I'll have something solid by tomorrow. Gotta move quickly. - Daryl
THURSDAY, AUGUST 15, 2002 - A senior moment
I like to think I'm free of prejudices. If only I were that perfect. But I admit that once in a while, despite my best efforts to be open-minded, I find myself growing angry at the elderly. These are the folks who call the newspaper with non-stop complaints, who get mad at kids who skateboard in the park, who drive slow in the fast lane, who say life would be better if we went back to stringing up all the crooks in the town square. Oooooh man that gets me steamed! When I start to feel that way, I try to think about my grandparents. They're good people. Last week my grandmother gave me a giant bag of fresh cucumbers. My grandmother said she's been getting way too many cucumbers from her neighbor, more than she and my grandfather can possibly eat. She gave me the bag covertly, to avoid the risk that her neighbor would see and be offended. I asked why she doesn't simply ask her neighbor not to give her so many cucumbers? She leaned in close. "Because then she won't bring me any tomatoes from her garden when they're ripe," she whispered. I think I've learned a lot from my grandparents -- and other older folks -- about how to appreciate simple things. This is a good step. - Daryl
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2002 - Lies, damn lies
When was the last time somebody lied to you? Probably quite recently if you've checked your e-mail ("Increase your bust size!") or surfed the web ("You win! Click here!") in the past few minutes. It's astonishing how often we run into lies. I'm not even talking about gray areas like mildly deceptive sales pitches ("Let me see if my manager will let me knock off a few bucks") or carefully worded denials ("I did not have sexual relations with that woman"). I'm talking about in-your-face, no-two-ways-about-it, bald-faced lies, so plain that even the person saying it must have made a conscious decision to lie. My mom sometimes tells me about how students in her middle school art class tell stunningly stupid lies when they're caught red-handed in some classroom crime, like throwing things or hitting other students ("I didn't do it!"). But those are children. I think you ought to have outgrown that phase by the time you're, say, old enough to be the CEO of a major energy company. The best thing about the news business is that we have an obligation to tell the truth. If the newspaper tells a lie and our readers and advertisers find out, that's it, game over. Which is not to say reporters sometimes don't act shifty when reporting a story, but it's for a greater good. People pay us to be honest. That's a nice feeling. - Daryl
TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2002 - Do you really need a reason?
I was looking over some Census figures today (no, wait, keep reading!) and saw something interesting. In Carlisle, the fastest growing age group is people 45-54. The fastest shrinking age group is people age 20-24. Why? The Census doesn't explain, but I think it's probably because people like me pack up and move to New York City. - Daryl
MONDAY, AUGUST 12, 2002 - Coincidence? I think so.
Today I spent some time on assignment at the Cumberland County 911 center, which, like most emergency call centers, is underground. Want to talk about worst-case scenarios? These people are prepared for any disaster, natural or man-made. They even have a full-size RV ready to roll as a backup communications center in case they're forced to abandon their building. (Hey, what if someone bombs the call center?) Until last year, it was hard to imagine a situation when they might need such a thing. Now, lots of folks are worrying again as we approach Sept. 11, 2002. I had a frightening dream last night that I was watching the news and a big suspension bridge had just been attacked, sending cars and trucks plunging into the water. Then at work this morning, I saw a story that said there had been a threat that very day against the Golden Gate Bridge. Strange? Well, if you're interested in why random things sometimes seem to fit a pattern, you ought to read the cover story from yesterday's New York Times Magazine. (Here's a link to it; you might have to register for free access to the site.) The story is all about how life's coincidences -- including some creepy terrorism-related urban-legend-type stuff -- can easily explained by probability. Of course, at its extreme, this is a cold, logical and godless outlook on life. But this story is written in a way that will get you thinking. Check it out, and be sure to read all the way to the end. - Daryl
SUNDAY, AUGUST 11, 2002 - Write on.
Finally entering the 21st century, I've added a message board to my home page. Now you, dear readers, have a chance to tell the world what's on your mind. (No need to thank me.) There may be some bugs in the message board program, so let me know if it gives you any guff. I'm going to test it for the rest of this month and, if it works, I'll integrate it more tightly into the site with my redesign in September. I'll probably pick out some better colors, too. Enjoy, and thanks. - Daryl
SATURDAY, AUGUST 10, 2002 - Plant life
On my way back to Carlisle yesterday, I visited the Harley-Davidson motorcycle assembly plant in York. This is a popular stop in the "factory tour capital of the world," but I've never been because it's only open weekdays. Luck me to have a Friday morning off! Tickets for the free tours are usually given out several hours in advance, but I managed to snag the one remaining spot on the 12:50 tour. The factory tour took us right onto the assembly floor, where we dodged fork lifts while we watched the workers, robots and lasers do all sorts of sophisticated work to put these bikes together. The Harley plant has just started to make the 2003 bikes, which sport the highly coveted 100th-anniversary name plate. We saw streams of Softails, Road Kings and Dyna Glides roll down the assembly lines. We even saw the assembly of some beautiful red Firefighter Special Edition bikes that Harley sells exclusively to firefighters. As monotonous as a factory job must be, the workers in York smiled and waved at us, like they were happy to be part of something special. I left the tour feeling good about factories, good about Harley-Davidson, and good about America. Of course, some of these bikes cost more than the average new car. Shucks. I'd look silly on a Harley anyway. - Daryl
FRIDAY, AUGUST 9, 2002 - Cleaning out my closet
How did I end up with so much junk? I took my time off yesterday and today to sort through all the old camping gear, toys, books and general garbage that has piled itself in my bedroom closet at my dad's house over the last 15 years. Most of it is going to the landfill. Goodbye old sneakers. Goodbye fifth grade art projects. Goodbye broken Atari 7800. Rest in peace. Maybe there's some lesson here about stuff and nostalgia, but I'm not coming up with anything. I just want my closet space back.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 2002 - Hey, that's not funny
Like many Americans, I read the funny page every day. I'm not sure why. Most of the comics have gotten so dull that they barely muster a chuckle. It's a shame to think there are children today who have never read "Calvin and Hobbes," or even "The Far Side." They're stuck with "Zits" and "Marmaduke." The Harrisburg paper recently started running their daily comics in color, which makes them look cool, but doesn't squeeze any more humor out of them. Keeping this in mind, I really enjoyed "The Style Invitational" newspaper contest last Sunday, in which the task was to select a comic strip and re-write the punch line to make it funnier. If you're not familiar with the Style Invitational, it's a weekly Washington Post humor contest with a sick, but devoted, cadre of fans. Click here and spend a few minutes reading Sunday's contest. See if you don't laugh out loud. Or, if you don't have a few minutes and want to go right to the funniest one (in my opinion) click here. Too bad the funnnies aren't as funny every day. Maybe then people would start buying newspapers again.
Apartment update: It's a swing and a miss. I'm 0 for 3 as of last night, when I learned I won't get the place in Park Slope I liked so much when I visited it Sunday. I'll go back to the city most likely on the 17th or 18th. My New York plans, seen in the calendar at left, remain unchanged. I do this not because it is easy but because it is hard.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2002 - Shear terror
The title character in the Coen brothers' movie "The Man Who Wasn't There" is a barber. A barber isn't there -- you see only his or her reflection, and hear sharp scissor snips around your tender ears. I admit it: I hate getting my hair cut. Unfortunately, it is a necessary evil. I am capable of taking care of myself, thank you, but we simply cannot cut our own hair. Anyway, I'd put off the deed long enough, so today I went to one of Carlisle's innumerable barber shops. (There are so many barber shops here that, in a year, I have never visited the same one more than twice.) A girl was cutting my hair -- snip snip -- when a newscast came on the radio. The kicker story was about a man who was caught molesting a child, so some other men burned his genitals with a hot spatula. The three stylists in the place heard the story and laughed, saying, "Serves him right." Then they went on some tangent about boys, how they're good for nothing. I kept quiet. Actually, I said something stupid like, "I ought to say something to that, but I'm out-numbered and you all have scissors." Once again, another awkward barber shop experience! Still, that beats the old-timer barbers downtown, who comb my hair like a 13-year-old kid in "A Christmas Story" and always ask the same question: "So are you married?" Maybe if I close my eyes, they won't be there. Snip snip. - Daryl
TUESDAY, AUGUST 6, 2002 - The urge for Surge
A reader named Eric e-mailed me with some information about Surge, which was mentioned in a journal entry on this site some time ago. As you remember, Surge is a sweet, fruity and strongly caffeinated ("fully loaded") soft drink. Coca-Cola bottlers sold if for a few years, just enough time to get folks like me and Eric addicted to it, and then began phasing it out. It's nearly impossible to find now. Eric runs a site called SaveSURGE.org, which aims to bring this soda back to the shelves. I actually still have the Surge promo CD he mentions on the web site. I pulled it off my shelf, blew the dust off it, and discovered I still have a coupon for a free 20-ounce Surge -- expires 10/31/97. I also am a proud owner of a Surge bucket hat, which I won from a bottle cap. I only wear it at parties. But my interest in Surge is really just a passing fancy. Eric, a fellow Carlisle resident, has taken the Surge urge to a whole other level. He even notes that Surge is available in the soda fountain at K-Mart in Carlisle. Perhaps it's time for me to re-think my opinion of the Karlisle K-Mart, the store barely alive. Maybe Surge keeps it going?
MONDAY, AUGUST 5, 2002 - Thing That Bugs Me About Journalism, No. 247
Today I was in Fort Meade, Md., to cover the arraignment of an Army officer charged with murdering his wife at the Carlisle Barracks. Here's an interesting example of how reporters run in packs. I was on a shuttle bus with maybe 10 reporters, on our way to the court building. We'd just had a briefing on the case, at which we learned many things, including that the death penalty is no longer an option in this case. Most of the reporters didn't catch that, but the AP reporter perked up because that was new information. (I considered whether to lead with that in my story. Because my deadlines are so screwy at a PM paper, I had a full 20 hours before I need to have the story filed, and it won't get to most of our readers until nearly 30 hours after the hearing actually happened.) The AP reporter had to file a story immediately. He got on his cell phone and read something quick to his editor, probably in Philadelphia, who probably typed it in and moved it on the wire in minutes. Three TV reporters overheard this conversation, and immediately called their newsrooms with the same update. Why? Because if they didn't, their news directors would see the wire report first. This way, their boss hears it from the reporter first, and it will square with the AP, which the boss always considers the definitive account. This tidbit of breaking news happened before the hearing even took place. And so on the 11 o'clock news tonight (complete with tape of our suspect doing a perp walk in his Class As) it's the same story as the AP, with a slightly confusing explanation the death penalty. This is how pack journalism happens, and it's a shame. I ended up putting the death penalty info near the top, but leading with something different. Of course, it won't hit the sidewalks until tomorrow afternoon.
If you want to hear more Things That Bug Me About Journalism, ask me about the "look-live."
Apartment search update: I really liked the apartment in Park Slope I saw Sunday afternoon. I'm waiting to hear from the guys renting it to see if I'll get it. Stay tuned.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2002 - Still haven't found what I'm looking for
BROOKLYN, NEW YORK - It's Sunday morning, in a friend's apartment in Brooklyn, still waking up after a night out in Manhattan with some Penn State people I don't really know. (Hmm, like being in State College.) Here's the update on my misadventerous apartment search. I checked out two rooms yesterday, and will be seeing a third this afternoon. The first was cheap and spacious, on a so-so street in a nice neighborhood, and it had a back yard with a garden. That place would be fine, but the person renting it gets to pick her own roommates (two rooms are available) and she says there are a lot of other people looking at it, so that could take some time. (Read: Sorry, pal.) After that, I rode the subway to Manhattan to a beautiful neighborhood in mid-town, blocks away from Central Park, to see exactly what $550-a-month will buy you there. Think of the 13-1/2 floor in the movie "Being John Malkovich." When you walk into this apartment, there's a small living room/kitchen, like the inside of an RV, and one tiny bathroom. Then there's a second level, only accessible by ladder, which is split apart into four bedrooms. These rooms are so short you can't sit up in them. No windows -- like living in a desk drawer. There's room enough for a mattress, a small TV, and a big pile of clothes. That's your bedroom. There were at least a dozen other young, frugal-looking people at the open house for this place. Most of them, like me, had looks on their faces that said, "I want an adventure. But how much pain am I willing to endure?" I told the guy thanks, but no thanks. So my search continues today. Stay tuned. - Daryl
SATURDAY, AUGUST 3, 2002 - No sleep 'til Brooklyn
On the road again, to New York City. I have appointments this weekend to look at two apartments in Park Slope and one in mid-town. Check back Sunday night for my report on how that goes.
For those who asked... My bosses and coworkers here in Carlisle were very gracious about the news that I'll be leaving them. This is a lesson learned: If you want people to tell you you're doing a good job, tell them you're about to leave. But this isn't a painful farewell. It's helpful that a news editor, another reporter and two sports editors have just left, so everyone's used to it now. I had to answer lots of questions from my coworkers this afternoon: Yes, New York City. No, I don't have a job yet. Yes, I have some friends there. No, this isn't about a girl.
To quote Homer (from last night's re-run of The Simpsons): "Stupid risks are what make life worth living."
FRIDAY, AUGUST 2, 2002 - Start spreading the news...
I am giving my notice at work today that last day will be Aug. 30. As many of you know, I'm planning to move to New York at the beginning of September. Back in January, I decided to give my job at the newspaper a full year, and if I still didn't like it in August, I'd leave. Well, it's now August, and I haven't changed my mind, even for a minute. (There are some nice folks at my office, but I don't feel much loyalty to the company. Perhaps it's because it only gave me 3 vacation days this year, or that I have to share a desk, or that my hours are totally random, or that our readership is in decline. Or maybe it's the school board meetings?) Carlisle isn't hell, but there's enough backward thinking around here that I don't really want to come back. Moving to New York City will teach me more about the world and open up many new opportunities. It's where people go when they want an adventure. No, I don't have a job yet. But I'm trusting that with a little luck and one good suit, I'll find something soon. You can follow my progress (or lack thereof) on this web site -- check out the left hand column. Of course, if you know about any good jobs in New York, please drop me a line.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 1, 2002 - Attention Target team members
Wal-Mart opens their first Carlisle store in two weeks -- it's a SuperCenter, the kind with groceries. Me, I'm a long-time Target person. I close my eyes and picture those wide aisles, refreshingly clear of obstacles, with the gleaming floors. The funky kitchen utensils and picture frames. The strange abundance of paper towel dispensers. A Target is tidy, no-nonsense, and oh so upper-Midwestern. It's commercials are funky, and some people even speak its name with a French pronounciation: "tar-SHAY." Then we have Wal-Mart. I remember seeing a bumper sticker that says: "Sprawl-Mart - Your source for cheap plastic crap." Right on. Wal-Mart has an annoying practice of stacking huge piles of 12-inch TVs or $49 computer printers in their center aisles, making it nearly impossible to squeeze through. (Perhaps you're supposed to feel obligated to buy one of those 12-inch TVs in the interest of the common good, to help make the pile go away.) Even the customers are cooler at Target. I think a typical Target guest is a single 20-something shopping for a bath mat or a energy-saving light bulb, and maybe a pair of $12 sunglasses or some Swedish Fish on an impulse. On the other hand, your typical Wal-Mart customer is 102, buying enough soap and Q-Tips to last another 30 years, ambling slowly past the plus-size ladies underwear, using a flimsy blue cart as a walker. There are some people, including friends of mine, who claim Wal-Mart is a better store. Indeed, most Wal-Marts seem to be open all night, which is a bonus if you need a plunger at 4 a.m. And just about anything is better than K-Mart, or (gasp!) Ames. But I will remain a Target person, even if I have to drive 35 minutes to Harrisburg when I want to go shopping. Come to think of it, Wal-Mart and Carlisle are probably a good match.
- Daryl (Thanks to Colleen for today's idea. *wink*)