The cover letter I would like to write

Dear Editor,
I’d love to accept the job you are offering. I see your newspaper is located in an idyllic small town. You are looking for a editor. But also a reporter. Someone who can be a photographer. And in simple terms, someone to do it all. I am able to fill all these roles. And would be thrilled by the challenge.

You see I love news. But more than this, I love local news. Being a part of a small community means a lot to me. I grew up in a small town. And my heart feels at home in small towns. Where the people and their government are close. Where the paper becomes a voice in the debates. Where we can help people to make better choices. And to better understand their options.

I’ve worked and lived in small towns in Nebraska, California and Colorado. And I know I would love your town. I can send you clips from previous news jobs. They show my strong news skills. I have shown an ability to tell all sides in a fair way. And can talk to many people. I am a strong reporter. A good photographer. And able in many other areas.

But, and this is a big problem. While I dream of writing in a small town. And I dream of living in a small town. What I don’t dream about is being poor. And sadly your wages are poverty level. It is a sad state news is in today. And I know you may want to offer more income. And maybe you can’t. But I can’t imagine leaving a solid job in retail. Just to take up life in a small town, and be poor.

I can be and am poor where I am now. But this job, while not my dream, is secure. How can anyone dream of accepting a job. When they know full well it will barely cover the basics. The rents appear to be around a third of the offered wages. I’m sorry, but I’d love to work for you. But I also would love to be able to afford a decent place to live. To be able to afford more than the basics of life. Nothing rich, but enough to not be strung from pay-check to pay-check.

So, good luck finding your next hire. Because until you offer more money. It isn’t going to be me. I wish it could be different for us both.

The Hot and Cold Land

I left North Platte in a dark mood. I didn’t have friends to leave. But it was still a lonely move. I drove down first for the interview. And I met my new boss.
In Lubbock I stayed in the hotel. During the visit I met my editor. And the editor-in-chief. They were friendly. And it felt like it was a good move for me. Like it was the right move for me. Before coming back I called about a place to live. And met a nice woman about an apartment. It was a two bedroom in duplex. The unit was old and run down. But it was cheap.

Driving back to Nebraska I went through Colorado. It was out of the way. But my main goal was my storage unit in Wyoming. And I love Colorado. In Wyoming I had to wait for the storage office to open. I’d had the unit so long I’d lost the key. But there was a key in the office. Because past me knew the way future me would keep track of keys.

All my things were stuffed in my car. My poor cat could barely move for hours. It wasn’t a long drive. But much longer than I would have liked to have been trapped without a bathroom. But my poor kitty was good. Getting into Lubbock it was late. I went into the empty apartment and slept on the cold hard floor with my kitty.

But soon I found a place to get a mattress. And the next day I was moved into our new home. It was big, too big for me alone. But for the time being it worked for me. The job started soon after I got to town. My job was going to be working the night shift. The hours were never really the problem.

It had been a while since I did real reporting. And I had some doubts of myself. But within a few days I was running again. A couple of the first stories were a fire and an traffic accident. They were not major stories, but I had the night cop and fire beat. In some ways it was a boring job. I spent hours waiting and listening for something on the radio. And then it would happen and I would have to figure out what and where.

I also had a blog hosted on the newspaper site. I remember early on having a hard period. Depression was deep and dark for me as winter started. I was alone in a town which I didn’t know. And no one got me. It was the same as Nebraska. But I felt even more alone. Because I didn’t have Sage. The relationship with my editor started good. But went wrong at some point. I didn’t have a friend at work.

There were two main problems with the job itself over time. One was the stories were not important. And I know news value is so fluid. But I went to so many stories with so little value. A traffic accident with no injuries. The news editor wanted anything the TV news station covered. One time they had a story about a pedestrian getting hit by a car. I hadn’t been on when it happened. When I did follow-up it turned out the pedestrian wasn’t badly hurt. Though an ambulance was called, it wasn’t needed.

There were a few bad accidents. And a few times I joined other news crews covering events. One night I got to an accident scene before most the police. And before the rest of the media. I got there soon enough to be on the inside of the yellow tape. It was a bad accident: someone died. Just one of a couple accidents on a bad night. Another time I was listening to the radio about a shooting. I went to the area and waited in my car. But then I realized I was sitting across the street from the house. I moved.

But I have never cared about fender-benders. These are stories for the radio and maybe TV news. Because those are the instant mediums. Yes, we could and did post online. But few people stuck in traffic will think to read the newspaper website. Even after they’ve gotten home, the instinct is to turn on the TV. And the next day in the paper, few people even care.

The other problem was no one would talk to me. It was hard to obtain the basic information for a story. On the scene the officers who could give me information avoided me at times. One night I spent a long time waiting for someone to give me information. The person came and left and it was only when I asked much later did they tell me. I felt like I was wasting my time, talents and energy. I wasn’t happy with the job and my bosses weren’t happy with my performance. I was later told I was almost fired.

But I was moved to a different spot in the paper. I lost some pay because of the move. But I kept my job. The best part of this job was it was covering small towns. As a journalist I have always loved the idea of covering small town news. The hard part was the driving. Though the paper covered my mileage. This money came with my paycheck. One week I had to tell my news editor I could only cover one event in person. She wasn’t happy. She pointed out I would get paid for the mileage. But I told her it wouldn’t help my current shortage. But I did some great stories.

One was about a company laying off workers. It was a large employer in a small town. Another was about the Lesser Prairie Chicken. And one about a judge who had died. I still love local news. It is what I miss the most. The small businesses. The firehouses and schools. Another story was about a sign. One school district had put up a huge sign. In the middle of the neighboring district.

At the core of the issue was school choice. Parents could take their kids to any school. But where the kids went, so did funding. The sign was put up by a small district. The district the sign was placed it felt it was an ad. An attempt to pull money from their schools. In Nebraska this was also an issue. One school would send buses to the boundary of the other. Where the kids go, so does the money.

Towards the end I got a roommate. I had hoped it would help me. She was an artist. And she was a good person. But also a bit crazy. One day she broke into the apartment. She was next door when I came and went. I had locked her out by mistake. And didn’t understand I was coming to open the door. But it was a lot of issues. At one point she accused me of working for the police.

At the end I couldn’t think of a good reason to stay. My job sucked. There had been a meeting with my boss not long before. The office environment was loud. It was a space hard to heat and cool. This meant in the summer they would place large fans in the office. It created a noise which drove me insane.

During the winter it was too cold. There was a no hat policy in the office. But, it also applied to scarfs. I’ve never been a person to call in to work. I would rather be at work and making money. Even if I have sick time, which I did at this job. But it got to the point where I would wake up in the morning. I would look at my phone. If it was too cold I would just call in to work: I’m not coming in.

One of the last stories I did was meeting the secretary of agriculture. He was visiting a small farmer and I was invited to go along. I was the only reporter invited. But I couldn’t drive myself. If I went, I would have to ride with staffers of the secretary. I thought I had made this clear. But my editor called me and tried to get me to return to the office. I explained I couldn’t. She wasn’t happy. But I think I was giving up at this time. And I didn’t care.

The office itself was in turmoil. The News Editor which hired me left, with one of the executive editors. Several of the reporters had left thier jobs. The new News Editor was leaving soon before I gave my notice. It was a dramatic change in the office. One like I have never known. The fill-in News Editor was a person with whom I didn’t get along.

And then I went to Roswell. I guess the trip was more than just taking a break from town. More than getting away. I knew my time in Texas was getting short. And I wanted to visit the famous UFO town since it was so close. It was an amazing trip. I met a strange girl who had been living at Walmart. She was young.

One morning I met her at the store. She was with a guy. We walked across to the mall. And then the two of them went to his place. Later I saw her downtown, she came and sat next to me. “Can you get pregnant by swallowing,” she asked me. I was shocked, but yes, she was asking me about oral sex.

Aside from the UFO museum, which was neat. There was a small free zoo in town. I went during my visit, because it was free. And it made me never want to visit a zoo again. I’m sorry to those who enjoys zoos. But I don’t enjoy seeing animals in cages: no matter the size. A cage is a cage. There was also some great natural areas just outside the town. While in Roswell I talked to my friend Michelle.

Come to live with us in Washington, she said. I could live with her for free. I love her deeply as a friend. I love the Northwest. And I was unhappy where I was living and working. It wasn’t a hard choice.

North Platte

It was a cold, dark drive to Nebraska. I arrived in a snow covered parking lot. My first plan was to sleep in the car until the morning. But staff saw me and invited in the office. I met Job and Sage the first night. Sage was welcoming. “We’re glad you’re here,” she told me. And I believe she meant it. Job paid for a hotel for the night.

Before leaving Colorado I had talked to a few people about renting. At least one place felt good already. The next day I made a couple stops and moved into the house I had expected would work. The long term plan was for me to rent out a basement apartment. But it wasn’t ready. So for the short term I was in the larger part of the house. It was a big house, and just Baby Girl and I.

The landlord was a friendly couple. The man worked for the railroad. Like half the people in North Platte. But they were both involved in buying houses, fixing them up. Then selling them at a profit. At least this was their business model before the bust. After the bust prices were low. So they began renting out houses. I lived in the same place the whole time I was in Nebraska. I remember the lease was very detailed. It had Baby Girl in it, not as a cat, but by name. I couldn’t get another, and couldn’t replace her.

The apartment when I moved in was great. I stayed cool in the summer. And it wasn’t too cold in the winter. Soon people lived in the house above me. But it was never a problem. While I had my own washer and dryer. The electrical system often burned out when they were used. The space was a small kitchen, a bathroom, a small living room and a bedroom. It was just the right size. Most of all since I still didn’t have my stuff from storage.

The town of North Platte is flat. One of the nicknames of the town is Flatrock. If you’ve lived in San Francisco and Portland, it is a small town. Highway 83 ran through town. It ran from north to south. About half the route was two one-way streets. I walked on these streets with Sean. While our ride was in the hospital.

It was on these same streets we lost our ride. I lived a block from the gas station. If you recall I was going to the gathering. We stopped for gas. I went for a sandwich. After coming back the police arrested the driver. Leaving six of us without a ride to where we were going. Not a smart move.

But this time there wasn’t any of this kind of trouble. I was a reporter now. A person of some respect.

This was really only my second newspaper job. When I started I worked on the education beat. I covered a range of school issues. One of the big stories was the hiring of a new superintendent. And I met a lot of good people. I didn’t just write the news, I also took some great photos for the paper. In one case I set up a shot for the TV news. It was a story about a book drive. I took some books out of a box to use in a photo. But it didn’t work out for me. But the TV station made it work as a prop for their coverage. And didn’t even help put the books back.

Education was a great beat. And while struggling through the fog of depression made everything hard. I really liked my job. Another story was about Bobs. Some kids in a class had started making pets out of rocks. But they weren’t rocks. They were Bobs. The Bobs had names like Justin Bobier, or Selena Bobmez. But the amazing thing for me about the story was the response from the teachers. Instead of telling them, don’t play with those rocks. Or leave those dirty things outside. They embraced their play and integrated it into the classroom.

But due to my own problems the paper took me off the beat. One issue was my clothes. And this had been talked about before. There was fair ground for the criticism. And I had taken steps to improve. I even got an ironing board and used it a couple times. It really was a lack of caring on my part. Not about the job, but about life. A lack of caring about myself. But fair or not Job moved me from being a reporter to being a copy-editor. At first I would do some news coverage. But I made a few mistakes early on, and I guess he didn’t trust me.

Most of my time in North Platte was lonely. I never made any friends. Most of my time was spent alone in my apartment. Or at the library. There were times when I think back, and I don’t recall any light in my life at all. I worked to late at night a couple nights a week. I’d shop at Walmart in the middle of the night. I was just alone. I was just depressed. And I didn’t have much to live for, since all I had was my job. And for much of my time there I felt like a failure at work. It is in North Platte I started therapy on a regular basis. I have so many problems. Being in North Platte triggered most of them.

I moved and worked closer with Sage. It is hard to explain how I felt about Sage. She is such an amazing person. One of those people who seem to have their own cloud around them. She was a great designer, an amazing editor, a photographer, reporter and friend. She could do it all. And it was all amazing. At some level I was in love with her. But she was also like a rock star, because I was in such awe of her. I learned to both fear and trust her. There were times she made me want to cry. Times she made me want to fly. I’ve known very few people in my life with such raw power. She’s not perfect by a long shot. But there was a magic in her being I have always wanted for myself. I’ve met so many people in my life who try hard. But Sage never seemed to have to try at all. She was also stunningly beautiful. All these things were just a part of who she was a person. Like a thunder storm on the plains. You love the feeling of the rain. But fear the spark of the lightning. I miss Sage still in ways I have never missed anyone else. Now she is on her own path, not with the newspaper. She had the bold courage to start her own business.

Working as a copy editor wasn’t easy. When I started there was two of us, plus Sage. But later the second person quit and I had a lot more work. Laying out pages and pages of text, copy editing and working images. There was another meeting in the winter. It was a dark period in my life. And maybe I should have talked to someone at work. But while I wasn’t comfortable. So, they told me I had to shape up or get fired. And I did. I got the job done, not on time. But they didn’t know how many hours I spent working off the clock. Over time I was making fewer and fewer mistakes. I even started to feel good about the job I was doing. But I knew it wasn’t the right job for me. I had plans to look for something else.

Then I got fired. Job blamed it on my using my phone at work. But, I think it is more complex. Working with Job himself was never easy. He had the annoying habit of sending an email from the next room. Emails I would often ignore because it felt rude to me. He would also push a lot of his work off on Sage. He was at heart a lazy man. And he got away with it. In the end their was no notice. They didn’t tell Sage what was planned. They just fired me one day. I was shocked, upset and lost. I was also very along because the only people I knew were at the job. Once I left, it felt like none of them cared about me at all. With the exception of one person: not Sage. Now, of course this is just my perception. I know it is hard when you work with someone and they leave. You may miss them, but at the same time you are very busy. I’m sure Sage had even more work pushed onto her shoulders.

I’d been looking for a job. And found one working for a newspaper in Texas. I drove down to meet the staff and interview. It went well, the job was a better fit in many ways. And I was making more money. It really was a win for me. Even if the new job wasn’t perfect. And not long after I was fired, Sage quit. I don’t ever imagine being able to work with her again. I’m not sure I have the skills. But I would do it in a heartbeat.

In Colorado

The job in Colorado was a news job. But it wasn’t real news. And it wasn’t a real job. Okay, it was and wasn’t.

The job was part-time. And the part-time I worked was mostly doing unethical coping of news from other sources. The publisher liked to make jokes about the news. So, the biggest and worst part of my job was doing news clips. He would send a list of links to the editor. Along with the list were funny headlines. The paper paid for AP news, so I was supposed to look for an AP source. But often I couldn’t find one. In which case, I cheated. I would copy most of the story and put in limited attribution. In my mind this is plagiarism. But no one cared what I thought.

And for the most part he was not really funny. When there was a long traffic jam in China. His headline compared it to local traffic. The freeway from Denver was often jammed. But I was also a reporter. And in this role I wrote about the traffic.

The reporter job was freelance. I was paid by the word. I covered mostly the small towns in the valley. This is the same area where Kobe Bryant was put on trial. But I moved to the valley a few years after. The news I did cover was county government. I also did a couple stories about local schools. And a range of people stories. From art to new businesses it was all in the mix.

While covering the county I got a tour of the local jail. It was an interesting experience. I have never been, and hope to never spent a night in jail. It reminded me in some ways like a hospital. Like a hospital, you are monitored. But it is harder to get out. The county commissioners were being given a tour. And I asked if I could join them: they agreed.

The road stories were also fun. And they were fun in way most people might not find fun. It was a lot of reading of reports. I had to catch up on different ideas. After reading and talking to a few experts one person mistook me for a local. It was an infrastructure story. There were a number of ideas on how to solve traffic. One idea was light rail. Then there was the idea of a bus service. The last main idea was more road space. A couple plans mixed ideas from these three. Most people seemed to agree a mix was needed. They agreed more freeway wasn’t a enough of a plan.

When not working I spent a lot of time outside. This is Colorado. I would drive for hours along dirt roads. Then sometimes I would hike for hours. There was a large mountain by my house. One of the first things I did was climb to the top and look around. I miss the mountains still. Nature is so grand and amazing.

But one night I got in trouble. I drove and parked. Then followed a path and a dirt road. I had looked at the map. And I had a plan. But it was taking me longer than I had projected. And it was getting dark. I called 911 and told them I was lost. Stay where you are, but they didn’t know where I was when I called. On the map the road was mislabled. I didn’t know this until later. And my phone was dying. So I kept walking. Through the dark and chilly night. I found a house with an open garage eventually. I walked up and asked for help. I told them the story and they called the Sheriff. Who came out and gave me a ride back to my car. It was a bit embarrassing.

While in Colorado I saw my family in New York. It was the death of my dad’s sister. Yes, I know, but I never really knew her enough to have a relationship. So I refer to his relationship. My dad paid for me to fly out of the Denver Airport (which is halfway to New York anyway). It was a good short trip. And it was a chance to connect with family I hadn’t seen in years. Family which wasn’t really family in my mind.

While in Colorado I lived in the town of Gypsum. This was the low end of the valley. Vail was at the high end. There were a number of towns in between. One of which was Eagle, where Bryant was in court. The town – or area – I worked was Edwards. My roommate was an older woman. She was a nutty person.

Well, she was still using AOL dialup. She watch The Notebook everyday. I’ve never sat down and watched it from start to end. But I have seen the whole movie. I saw it at her house just as I would pass through. Or linger to chat with her.

I found the place through Craig’s List. And I am grateful for her renting to me. She had a cat of her own. And her cat was not friendly to mine. Later she also got a small dog. She was a good person. And looking back I don’t think I was an easy roommate. But she was patient and always friendly. While I was away in New York she took care of Baby Girl for me.

There were a number of problems. The drive to work was almost 30 miles. It was a beautiful drive. But a long drive. Also, the money I was making wasn’t enough. I was working part-time and freelance. But my pay was $10 an hour. And the freelance wasn’t much money. I was barely making it, and barely eating. I knew I had to get out.

But I am glad to have lived in Colorado. I never regret anything in my life. Because all these moments have made me rich. And maybe if this book sells well, I will be cash-rich. I left Colorado when I found a job in Nebraska. I put Baby Girl and all my stuff in the car and headed east. Of course, I still had things in storage I hadn’t been able to retrieve.

After I left Colorado the paper went under. It was a free paper and the money wasn’t coming in for ads. My editor now works for the other town newspaper. He is still a good friend.

Ramblings

You start with nothing. Write nothing. And it is all born.
What can I tell you about living my life. I wake up too early. Sleep too much. Eat too little and work.

This morning the air was cool and fresh. The light filling the sky. Morning comes on slow. My life is slow. I feel like I am going no where. Stuck in traffic. Asleep at the wheel. I sat for an hour on the freeway in traffic. But is this my life. Is this really my life?

I nap when it is hot. And then I nap when it is cold. When I’m not at work. I nap. The cat soft against me, or resting on my lap. Netflix playing to an empty room. How many times have I had to revisit scenes missed as I napped. The only time I don’t sleep enough is at night. Can there ever be too much napping in this world?

When I spend too much time at work. I’m not sure what to do when I am at home. I’m not reading a book. Or writing. So I take a nap. What a failure. Anyone can nap their lives away. Maybe I should go to the gym. Maybe I should go to the store. I’ve thought about the girl at the gas station every day. And I am no closer to going back. The car wash was bad. I can’t pretend to buy something as reason to see her again.

I’m not getting my job done at work. At maybe this will change as people are hired. But I feel like I should be doing more. And doing it faster. I can’t get it done on time. And I wonder if this is the right choice for me. Or I am the right choice for this. Next week will be better. The sun will come out tomorrow.

A short vision exercise

This is set a few years down the road. I included some of my friends too.

======================

The sun slips through the rain clouds. Spring smells drift through the downtown air. Dante rolls over to hit the snooze button. Sure, he might be late. But people are used to him being late on his day off. Baby Girl stirred as he rose and went to sleep in the window.

In the other room She is reading her novel. A cup of warm tea waiting for him on the table. She had an hour before leaving for work. When Dante’s sleepy brain remembers this fact he rolls out of bed and into some clothes.

“Good morning,” he greets Her.

“How was work last night,” She asks him as he picks up the green tea.

“Thank you for the tea,” he tries to wake up. But gratitude is always the most important thing. As he sips he explains the previous day at the store. Being an assistant manager isn’t as easy as some made it appear. There are a lot of problems people could solve themselves. People who try to do too much, and people who try to do too little. But last night was a good night. The store was busy, but he had a good team.

With a kiss She popped out of her chair. Well time for work. Dante motioned to the fridge. “You see your lunch?”

“Aww, lunch, thank you,” She gushed. Clearly also understanding the value of appreciation. “What are your plans for today?”

“Well it is my hiking day,” Dante said. “Me and Rhonda are going to hike Mount Hamilton. It has been a couple weeks since I’ve been to the summit. One of the best views in the area.”

“And how is Rhonda doing at her new store,” She asked.

The move for Rhonda was a good one, it got her closer to her home. And it put her into a department manager position. Dante explained how she was enjoying her new store and co-workers. But the move was also triggered by his own promotion, to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

“Are we still on for the art show later this week,” She asked getting dressed. He couldn’t help but sneak a peek. She was amazing, a breath taking image he hardly believed to be real on some days.

“Yes, and she’ll bring the kids too. I think Michelle will also be going: it is going to be a fun night,” Dante told Her.

“I’m glad your friends are going to be there to support your art,” She said. “I know it means a lot to you, and so do they.”

“Kara said she would try and make it along, but since I got the night off she might have to close,” Dante explained. Kara still worked in the same store with him. She was also an assistant manager now. It has been fun he would think to himself to grow at Walmart with his friends. Even if for some of them the growth took them to other stores.

On the table his phone buzzed. It was Rhonda messaging him to see how late he would be today. They had planned to meet at Fisher’s Landing. It was an easy drive for her from Ridgefield. Her new house was just down the street from where Bobby used to live. Of course Bobby was now a department manager in Longview.

Quickly he finished his tea. Then gave Her a hug on her way out the door. Getting dressed, he sent a reply saying he was almost ready. Since he was driving against traffic he imagined it would be a smooth ride. Of course driving was easier in his new car. The Hyundai Tucson was a good car.

The car had been his first purchase with the money from his book deal. Some days he still didn’t know how he ever found the time to write the novel of his life. But he wondered more about the courage. Where did he find enough to have it published. Was it really such an interesting life. A publisher picked it up, and sales have been good. Not A Million Little Pieces good. But he also wouldn’t have to go on Oprah and explain why he lied.

His next novel was due out next year. Still in the writing process, it would be tales of travel. Something like On The Road, but not as boring. There had been many tales left out of his first book. The girls in Burlington and the pizza too. There were so many friends on his path. When he did a reading at Powell’s for his first book people asked about the next book. It felt good to be read. For so long he felt like his words were just there. And now his words had a new life. And his life has new meaning. His publisher suggested a third book based on his short life as a journalist.

But now he had gotten lost in thought and was going to be even later. Lets get moving he snapped to himself and picked up his keys. The Planet Fitness membership card struck the door as he locked up.

My name tag

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