Seems like yesterday, but it was long ago, as rocker Bob Seger once noted about the passing of time in a young man’s life..
How long ago was it, you ask? And what exactly is “it”?
More in a minute on both of those questions.
First, let me say that in the PW office it’s easy to lose track of time, which really does fly from one edition to the next. Why, no sooner is the Rose Parade over than we’re gearing up for Summer Guide, then July Fourth, and then Best of Pasadena before Christmas rolls around.
Just last month I started building a new pile of issues which I dutifully stack on the edge of my desk, moving the existing pile of last year’s newspapers — each a time capsule of a particular week — to two now-empty desks across from me in the office.
These work stations are time pieces in their own right, each once occupied by reporters but now serving as a makeshift storage area for a collection of papers dating back to 2006. I occasionally walk over there to leaf through the old papers. In my mind, I can still hear the room buzzing with the workings of full and part-time reporters and a slew of interns. Our arts editor even had an assistant back then. Like most print publications, though, our ranks have thinned considerably since those days, as has the paper itself.
It was the opportunity to freelance that brought me to PW in mid-1996, when Jim and Margie Laris owned the paper. I was already working for the now-defunct LA Reader, plus a few other local publications. I seemed to always need two or three writing gigs to pay the bills, and that was true of my time with City News Service in the early to mid-1990s. I was overnight editor there for a time, writing early morning drive-time headlines for area radio deejays to rip and read at 5 a.m. The OJ Simpson murder trial was the big news of those days. The challenge for me was describing a near-decapitation without causing people to throw up in their coffee.
Even when I had a full-time job at a daily paper I freelanced with The Reader. This was true not only with CNS but also when I was covering earthquakes, the Altadena wildfires, police shootings, racial and gender inequities, the Rodney King beating and subsequent fallout, the LA Riots and assorted financial, sexual and racially charged scandals at Pasadena City Hall for the Star-News from 1990 to 1994. Same went for the LA Times the following year. I also penned a few stories for The Reader between 1986 and 1990, while covering Ventura County government and uncovering its hinky cops and racist politicians for the Simi Valley Enterprise. I was still writing for The Reader when it folded in August 1996.
I actually started my journalism career in 1984 while working as a copyboy at the LA Daily News when it was in Van Nuys, shortly after it changed its name from the Valley News. Before getting a job as a copyboy, I worked as a truck driver for the paper while attending Valley College, also in Van Nuys. There I wrote for the campus paper, the Valley Star. It was at Valley that I met my soon to be ex-wife, with whom I had a son. Shortly after moving into editorial, I penned two cover features for the paper’s Sunday magazine — the first stories for which I was paid.
That really was long ago. And now you know the “it” — journalism. So what does it all add up to?
What I do know is there’s something happening here, to quote Stephen Stills, another favorite of my youth. Not only was last week my 60th birthday, but it also marked my 1,000th edition of PW as editor. In addition, on March 5, I’ll have been in LA 40 years, arriving in Sherman Oaks a few days after turning 20 in 1979. Then, the second week of December will mark 20 years as editor.
But wait, there’s more. This summer we will commemorate the 35th year of the Pasadena Weekly, just as I will celebrate 35 years as a working journalist, and the 35th year in the life of my son, who is now himself a proud husband and father. And finally, as this somewhat odd but welcome Year of the Pig celestial alignment would have it, this year marks 25 years with my significant other.
At the moment, all I can say is thank you, Pasadena Weekly fans. Much of the above might not have ever happened without your many years of support, for which I am forever in your debt.
Just know that yes, I am older now, to complete Mr. Seger’s thought, and still running against the wind.