Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sit Here

Vol I, Issue I

Everything seemed simple enough. I was supposed to arrive at the Missourian, my new job for the next six months, and sit at the front desk-- play receptionist for eight hours. Except, as I got to the building I realized I was the only one in the entire office on a Saturday. My job, I was told, was to collect the day's news and present it to the editors -- at least that is what the little sheet of paper on the front desk said when I arrived. Well, there were no editors and the room seemed pretty quiet. Check, objective one done.

Part of the whole learning process to become a journalist appears to also mean bitch work as a secretary when no one wants to actually do the job themselves. In short, I learned that four 5 days in the next month I will have to sit for nine hours and answer the main phone, take message, run errands and sort mail -- and I am the one paying $1,500 a semester for this crap.

As the day went on I found other little notes across the desk. Do this, don't do this, try this but don't cry to us if it does not work. I was being taught how to work in this office via notes that people from the past had scrawled to remind future receptionists what to do.

Nothing happened for five hours. I just sat there and read up on just about every online newspaper in the country. I was not until about 4 p.m. (deadline) that an editor suddenly appeared.

"Where is my report?" he asked.

"There is nothing to report," was all I could say.

I had never seen this guy before and he obviously had never seen me. But he seemed OK with that. When I finally told him I did not know what to do, he did not seemed shocked or even angry. He just handed me another note -- this time two pages long and typed with all my tasks that I should have been doing that day. Apparently, the past receptionists did not get this memo.

Obituaries, Calendar of Events, news briefs from across the wires. All of this was supposed to complied for the 4 p.m. editor -- who had promptly arrived at 4:30. With a new sense of purpose I then asked, "where do I get these things?"

"Oh, well the fax machine is in the editors' office," the editor said.

The editors office was locked. It had to be unlocked by, get this, an editor. Apparently who ever this guy was, was not a full-time editor, so he did not have a key. Thank god the janitor did.

With the calendar of events out of the way, I moved on to the Obits - life stories for our younger readers. But with only two people actually staffing the newsroom on a Saturday (myself and my partner on the calendar desk) We still had to go through four different editors to get our six-inch obits in print.

We started with our assigning editor (the guy who arrived at 4:30). We then had to take the obit to the city editor. He looked over the six-inch piece I produced in five minutes and marked it up and down, adding comments like, "give me more detail, find the meaning behind this, etc. It then went to the supervising Night editor (guy, I presume, who will be there all night). It finally ended up on the desk of the executive editor. This whole process did not include the copy editor, copy chief and production manager that it went through after I left. By the time it was finished it was, get this, the exact same obit that I re-typed from the fax sent by the funeral home.

I feel like I just ran a marathon only to realize I had gone about five feet. By the end of this stint, my legs are going to be too tired to even attempt to kick someone in the ass.

Friday, September 03, 2004

The 'Berg is Back!!!<---note the extra !s

That is right. The greatest tradition, I think, on this whole freaking campus is back in business.

On Thursday, after returning from St. Louis, my roommates barged in while I was finishing my shower at about 10 p.m. and announced that we need to go drinking at the 'Berg's opening night. It was like Christmas had come to Columbia early.

After burning to the ground from an electrical fire about a year ago, The owners of the campus pub swore that the Berg would return. The anticipation nearly killed everyone who would walk by the construction site everyday going to class or work. How could not, it had been an icon of drunken debautchery for nearly 40 years.

So, Thursday we all geared up (fake ID and all) and walked on over to the new Old Heidelberg. The place looked amazing. Although some aspects of the place had been updated and made more trendy, It was still the Heidelberg. It literally looked like all they had done was change the light fixtures and cleaned the originally building. It was amazing. I sat with my roommates and a group of other people we had met there and began to consume some of the greatest Killian's ever - Killian's was the first beer I drank at the Heidelberg when I was a freshman here.

It only took a couple of pitchers for the four of us to start to get into the swing of the 'berg's atmosphere. Singing along with the jukebox and joking with the waitress as if we were already regulars.

As we continued to drink, we noticed not but 15 feet away from us, someone was getting their serious make-out on. Obviously drunk and extremely under dressed, this girl was sitting on a guy lap and apparently acting out her favorite soft-core porn right there in the middle of the pub. We all started staring and making lewd comments to see if we could get their attention. One of the guys sitting at our table even threw a French fry at the guys head.

Eventually, the couple could not take it anymore and decided to leave. On their exit, our entire table decided it was a grand idea to give them a standing ovation. It did not take long for the entire place to realize who we were cheering for and it, too began cheering as if we had just witnessed celebrities enter the building. Both gave a short bow and left a little redder in the face.

The night took off when Billy Joel's bar classic Piano Man came blaring over the speakers. Not only did our table insist on shouting the tune as loud as we could after about five pitchers, but for the final chorus, we all stood on our chairs and sang to our audience of the packed Heidelberg. The place went nuts.

The night ended with one of the manager standing on the bar and leading the entire place in a toast to the new Heidelberg. Drinking from a beer bottle that survived the original fire, the bartender saluted every person there that night and gave a few words of encouragement to anyone who later finds themself at the Berg.

Of course, with the Heidelberg, the night never actually ends in the pub itself. As we closed down the bar and they raised the lights on us, we all stumbled home and began the long walk to our Anthony apartment.

As we passed the Campus Bar and Grill, Pierson (one of my roommates) noticed another drunk guy attempting to skateboard past us. Pierson made few comments about how the guy sucked at skateboarding and the guy thought Pierson (all 50 lbs of him) was trying to pick a fight. This guy was pissed. It seemed as if he was gathering a small group to try and kill all of us (Me, Coulter, Abby and Pierson - Poon was the only sober one and he knew to get the hell out of there).

Luckily, being drunk helped our situation as we laughed it off and began walking toward the car that Poon had driven over.

As we laughed about the crazy guy on his skateboard, Pierson spotted him as we were driving home. Pierson, begin a complete dumbass, yelled at the guy expecting that we would continue driving and not stop. The guy started chasing after the car we all had piled into.

The only was I can really explain how frightening this was, is to compare it to the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex chases after the little jeep. You could see this guy running as fast as he could right to the back of our car ready to kill someone.

Thank god we are alive today.

Once home, the good times continued with the breaking of Pierson's guitar by Coulter, the molestation of my Ketchup bottle by Abby and the fact that I still wrote two papers and finished a cross-cultural assignment while drunk at 3 a.m.

Good Bless you Heidelberg. We welcome you back into loving arms.

Of all the things that I remember that night, the coolest was when I was leaving the bathroom. I noticed in the hall way leading to the restroom and kitchen, the owners had hanged news articles from when the 'berg burned down in 2003. Articled from the Missourian, Kansas City Star and Tribune were proudly framed and placed along the wall.

But the one that caught my eye was a familiar new article entitled The Mourning After. Easily the largest framed work, it was a two page spread from the Maneater that I had written for the first issue of the newspaper my sophomore year. It was, essentially, a eulogy to the Heidelberg.

Yes, I did feel a little emotional seeing my work in the Heidelberg (I'm sure it was the alcohol). Still, It makes me truly feel like I am now part of a tradition that, despite fire and destruction, will never die on this campus.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

My ass hurts

So, I bought a new bike on Saturday.

This was quite the accomplishment for me because my bike riding experience goes back about as far as my freshman year in college (two years ago).

Imagine my surprise when I walk into the bike warehouse in Columbia to discover that the price of an average bike was about $800. There were even bike going for as much as $1,300. What the hell? Who spends that much on a bike...I sure as hell was not going to, but I did purchase a bike. And what a monster of a bike it is.

The saleswoman, who quickly sized me up as a sucker who knew nothing about bikes, held my hand and took me through the whole sizing and testing process of about five different bikes. It was not until she finally realized she was in was over her head and got another sales person to help. There is nothing more wired than having two sales people try to sell you something that you know nothing about.

Between the two of them and their "expert" knowledge of bikes, they determined I was going going to need a bike with an extended frame and 26-inch wheels (Typically, a normal person would ride a bike with wheels between 19 and 22 inches).

My only input the whole time was, "I need a soft seat," and, "I want it too look cool." This was followed by a serious eye-roll from both salespeople.

FLASHBACK - My first bike (when I was a freshman) was something that my mom had found in an apartment that my grandparents own. It was piece of crap. Bright orange, racing handle bars, and the whole serious racing bike look - except it was a rusted bucket of bolts. Oh, did I mention it was also a girl's bike. Yes, the sales guy determined I had previously owned a girl's bike when I pointed to a bike that looked similar to my old one. This was followed by another eye-roll and a slight laugh. Yes, just write sucker on my forehead.

Finally, I selected a bike that looked both cool and comfortable. This thing is a monster. When sitting on my desk, the seat and handle bars are about 7 inches taller than the railing that goes around it. My friend, Cozette, is 5-foot 3-inches, and the seat sits at about her neck. I sit twice as high on my bike than I do in my car.

In the end, though, It is a wonderful bike and it quite fun to ride. I made the mistake of riding it home right out of the store. After weaving in the road and teaching myself how to ride a bike with gears again, I got home and realized how out of shape I really was. Both my leg and ass muscles hurt like hell. Macke, a bike-riding friend of mine, said he go on a bike ride with me. This might take some time. Seeing as I just now upgraded to a men's bike, I think I need some time to get used to that before I hit the trails.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Sexy Election

Carole Iles, a Republican candidate for the Missouri Legislature, conceded defeat Tuesday night to Republican Ed Robb after garnering only 39 percent of the vote in a primary election that had a record number of people go to the polls in Boone County – 54 percent of registered voters cast their ballot.

But that was not the only upset. Democrat candidate Claire McCaskill took 51 percent in the Democrat gubernatorial primary beating incumbent Bob Holden, who received 42 percent of a state total of 1.4 million votes, a new record for ballots cast in a primary. Holden told supporters in Jefferson City that the Democratic Party now needs to unify to keep a democrat in office.

"I want all of you to know we are all Democrats, and we will work to elect this Democratic ticket in November 2004," Holden said. McCaskill will now face Republican candidate Matt Blunt who took 94 percent of the vote for his party.

In her hometown, Ashland, Iles was with friends and family at Woody’s Pub and Grub after hearing of the election results. Iles said she did not know what she was going to next, but did not regret running for the Republican nomination.

“It is really been great experience and has been very positive for me,” Iles said. “I have a lot of really good friends who have helped me every stop of the way.”

Robb, an economist from the University of Missouri-Columbia who gained 2,405 votes Tuesday, will now face Democrat candidate Travis Ballenger for the 24 district seat in the legislature.

Ballenger took an early lead Tuesday beating retired professor of political science Greg Casey.
Ballenger took 54 percent of the vote with 3,488 votes.

“Right now we are going to just enjoy the night,”? Ballenger said after the final return had been counted by the County Clerk. “It has been a wonderful turnout and we appreciate all the voters who came today.”

During the primary campaign, both Casey and Ballenger said they would support the candidate who won. Casey and Ballenger will meet today to begin informal strategy meetings, Ballenger said, and discuss what the two can do for each other as they head into the November election,

When the final vote was announced, Casey said he called Ballenger and announced that he would definitely endorse the Columbia businessman.

“He is a really nice guy and it was really pairing between the two of us,” Casey said of Ballenger. “He ran a good campaign and he will be the best for our district.”

But Casey was not only disappointed with the turn-out of his own race. The winner of the republican primary between Robb and Iles, he said, was something he did not expect.

“I felt badly for Iles going down in such defeat,” Casey “I really liked her and thought she ran a great campaign. I was really impressed with what a good person she was.”

The highly contentious race for the democrat nomination for Boone County Sheriff came to an end early in the night when candidate Dwayne Carey gained 60 percent of the vote with candidate O.J. Stone, deputy sheriff to current sheriff Ted Boehm, in a distant second with only 20 percent.

“Right now we feel good,” Carey said of his supporters. “All the hard work and dedication paid off. We will take a few days off and then get back to work.”

Ken Kriegh gained only 18 percent. Carey will now face Republican candidate for sheriff Mick Covington.
Democrat candidates for State Senate Tim Harlan and Chuck Graham battled most the evening with Graham winning by 698 votes when the final tally was recorded.

Graham will now face Republican candidate Mike Ditmore, who ran unopposed.

Residents of Rockaway Beach lost in their effort to amend the Missouri Constitution to allow gambling along the White River in the region. The measure lost 815,396 votes to 642,816. Supporters of the referendum said it would have created much needed jobs. Resistance to the measure, which began to build steam in the past two weeks, was spurred on by business owners and chamber of commerce of Branson – a family oriented tourist destination.

Voters, though, did approve a measure to amend the Missouri Constitution to define marriage in the state as being only between a man and woman. The amendment, which won 1.03 million to 427,472, effectively bans any possibility of allowing same-sex marriage, unless repealed in later elections, and even gives the state the authority to deny same-sex marriage licenses from other states.

Missouri is the first state to take such an action since Massachusetts became the first state in America to allow same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Whether voters were mostly Republican or Democrat, Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said she was pleased with “phenomenal” number of voters that came to the polls.

“We had 54 percent of our active voters come out,” Noren said. “That is literally 50 percent more than I have seen in past primary election.”

In Ashland, the county assigned an extra polling place at the Ashland Senior Center expecting an increased number of voters for this primary election.

“We have had a steady stream of people all day,” election judge Verla Campbell said. Campbell was assisting voters at the Ashland Optimist Club and predicted at 5:30 p.m. that 700 people had already voted at that location.

In Boone County, more than 25,000 people went to the polls and that, Noren said was still missing a significant portion of Columbia’s population.

“Keep in mind we are missing 20 percent of our voting population,” she said. “With school out of session and many people connected to the university out of town, we don’t have those people voting in this election.”

With preliminary totals counted, Noren said this could easily become a new county record that would contribute to what Secretary of State Matt Blunt said would new a new state record as well.

“This entire election year cycle is just gearing up,” Noren said. “People are getting fired up on both sides. We will have a record turn out in the presidential election, too.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

But everyone else is doing it.

I give up.

It seems like everyone has a weblog. I was prompted to create this specific one for a couple of reasons. First, it is 4:30 in the morning and I really have nothing else to do right now. Second, my editor at the ever popular Journal (Ashland, Mo.) told me to check on the progress of his vacation in California on his weblog that he created specifically for this vacation.

Of course, I made fun of him for a good week, but it seems to be an effective way to let many people know about what is going on in your life whether they care or not.

That is kind of cool, I will admit. So here it is the debut of The Wednesday Weekly.
I am not sure if I will update Wednesdays - as it says in the friggen title - or if I will just do it whenever I feel like it. The latter is more likely.

So, to answer the question on everyone's mind. I can't sleep for a whole array of reasons. Tomorrow morning I report to Jefferson City to take the paper I work for (The Journal) to press. We have it printed at the Jeff City News-Tribune, an afternoon paper in the state's capital. It's a small paper, but it is a respectable one too. Some of Missouri's best coverage of the State Legislature has come out of that paper. 

Anyway, my editor/publisher is on vacation for two weeks. This means I am essentially the editor/publisher of this 12-page, 3,400 cir. paper. I thought it would be fun. Run the show for two weeks. Hell, the first issue went off without a hitch.

Lead story was about the city settling with a big name developer in the area over a lawsuit (I think the city would have lost anyway). We also had coverage on new programs from the police department to reduce the number of kids playing in the streets (this is apparently a problem in small-town Missouri. It was a good paper.

The second week was not as smooth. I found out the hard way that people who advertise in newspapers are dicks. Not so much "I am particular about my ad" dick, but serious to god "scream into the phone about how important their ad is" dicks. The worst (while not a screamer was still annoying as hell) was a local politician running for the legislature in this area.  He stormed into my office and started demanding he get control of how the ad is being built. He then demanded that he get a computer to design his own ad. Keep in mind we only have two computers on which we can build ads. This posed a problem. Already being stressed about making deadline and not screwing up the spelling of some god-forsaken headline, I told him,
"Travis, we are the only newspaper in your district. So you can either back off or start buying more street signs, because we don't have to take you ad."

Realizing my mistake, I stood in kind of a frozen silence. I just yelled at an advertiser who was paying $300 to take an ad out in our paper. I was screwed. Or so I thought. He changed his tune and gave some "critical advice" on how he wanted his ad and then left. My partner in crime, Elizabeth, started laughing so hard about how funny it would have been if we got into a fight. I seem to disagree.

My editor called as he was cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge and I told him the whole story. I sort of figured I was fired. But, it turns out, he is not a big fan of political ads in his paper. He was glad I got to take my frustration out on a local politician and still keep the $300 for an ad (which I think looks damn good now).

After getting home around midnight, I thought I would get some sympathy from some of my friends here. As I was telling my story, I realized a good number of my friends this summer are advertising people (working in some capacity in the advertising department at the University of Missouri or elsewhere).
Needless to say, very little sympathy for my frustration was given. Oh well.

Tomorrow I think I will go play at the driving range while the paper is being printed rather than hang around the NT for 3 hours. Oddly enough, after four years of not playing golf, I seem to have picked up right where I left off; shooting like crap. 

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed the first edition of The Wednesday Weekly. I'm sure I will eventually figure out some of the cool functions and features, but don't count on it.