The newspaper game

HERE’S HOW I got into the glamorous newspaper business.

It was 1969, and I needed a job. I had no newspaper training, not a single journalism class to my name. I was married. I had a kid. I was 24. I had little money.

My father had been in the newspaper business. He had retired early at age 49. He knew the managing editor of the New Orleans States-Item, and I was living in New Orleans. Dad put in a good word for me, and I got hired as a reporter. I was a piss-poor reporter.

Old fedora felt hat with a press cardHere’s how my reporting career came to a quick halt. It was gruesome. And I had only been a reporter for a few weeks.

There was a police scanner in the newsroom. One day we heard that a kid had drowned in Lake Pontchartrain. The city editor told me to head to the boy’s house and request a photo to run in the paper with the story of his death.

I drove quickly to the home. I don’t recall how we got the address. I walked to the front door, rang the bell, and a woman appeared. She was smiling. Uh-oh, I said to myself. I had arrived before the police. No one had yet informed the family.

I told her I was from the newspaper and asked if the boy was home. No, she replied, he’s at school, confirming my suspicion. Why? she asked. There must be a mistake, I replied, backing down the sidewalk, wanting to flee as soon as possible.

Here you see what separates wusses from hard-bitten reporters. Geraldo Rivera would have told her that her boy had drowned, watched her collapse screaming to the sidewalk, and he would have returned to the newsroom to write a “color” story.

But I’m not Geraldo Rivera. I skedaddled to my car, as she followed, getting concerned now, asking why I was there. I drove off. I knew at that moment that I had no business being a newspaper reporter. I lacked the stomach for it.

Plus, I did not like wearing ties and dealing with people.

I requested a transfer to the copy desk the next day. I became a copyeditor, and I stayed one for 30 years with the occasional detour into short-termed occupational lunacies.

Even now, so many years later, just thinking of those moments at that door makes me cringe a bit. I don’t know how real reporters do it, the heartless bastards.

And I still have never taken a journalism class.

* * * *

(Note 1: For a more in-depth look at my checkered newspaper career, go here.)

(Note 2: When I retired in December of 1999, the mainstream media were still mostly honest, unbiased and principled. With some exceptions, mostly independent and online, they aren’t now. They are corrupt shills for the Democrat Party.)

The winning hand

THIS MORNING WAS cold, so I stayed beneath the goose-down comforter even though I was awake, and it was almost 7 a.m., time to begin the day.

My child bride had not said a word, usually an indicator that she’s asleep because if she’s awake, she’s talking. No matter. I reached over and held her hand.

She has sleek, soft, beautiful hands. It’s one of her finest features, and she has lots of lovely features. Her skin is like silk. I made a mental comparison right then and there between the hand I was holding and the hand of my previous wife.

55438_hand_lgThough, oddly, I do not recall the first time I held my child bride’s hand, I do remember the first time I held the hand of my last wife, the second ex, over 40 years ago. We were walking down Esplanade Avenue in New Orleans.

It’s a big step the first time you hold the hand of a person you’re “seeing.” I remember thinking that faraway afternoon on Esplanade Avenue that her hand was a bit pudgy, which was unusual because she was not pudgy at all. Quite the contrary.

It was not unpleasant, but it was slightly pudgy. I’m guessing it’s a European genetic carryover she brings from St. Louis, Missouri, and, even further back, rural ancestors in Alsace-Lorraine. She was a pretty woman, and she had a spectacular butt, which is likely what caught my attention in the first place.

Men are like that.

But my child bride wins, hands down, in the hands department. She also has beautiful legs. I always wanted to be married to a woman with gorgeous gams, and now I am, even though she’s 59 years old. Legs are the last thing to go, she’s told me.

She has slightly Oriental eyes too, which is not rare in Mexico. Probably has to do with those long-ago Chinamen who crossed the Bering Strait, heading south to better beaches.

But I could not see her slanty eyes this morning in the chill, near-dawn darkness under the goose-down comforter. I could only feel that hand, sleek and smooth.

It was so nice.

A night in Santo Domingo

sunrise

I’VE BEEN IN lots of brothels: Port-au-Prince, Haiti. San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nuevo Laredo and Matamoros, Mexico. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Barcelona, Spain.*

But I’ve never purchased the principal product, just the secondary, alcohol. I came close once,  however. A booze-fueled, Caribbean night in Santo Domingo.

I related this story years ago on a former website, but it’s vanished. If you remember, be aware that some details may differ. It’s been a long time.

Some things are fun to repeat, and I’m a fun fellow.

It started one morning at the airport bar in New Orleans. My traveling companion was an old French friend from years earlier. We’d met in the Air Force in California.

(Trivia: Sitting two stools down from me at the airport bar was Kris Kristofferson, but I pretended not to notice him. I was cool like that.)

We continued drinking on the plane, and by the time we landed in Santo Domingo we were well-oiled. We rented a car and drove to a downtown hotel. As night fell, we hired a taxi driver to take us to the brothel zone, which he did.

(More trivia: Dominican hookers were the most beautiful I ever saw, far outstripping the international competition from my experience. Just so you know.)

We continued drinking. My French friend partook of the wares but I, as always, took a pass. Sex that way has never interested me. Going to brothels was a sociological experience and a very fascinating one. But the night wore on, and I drank more.

And, Lordy, they were lovely.

Around 3 a.m., the two of us walked out the front door to hunt another taxi. At my shoulder I noticed a cute working girl who’d tailed us. She wanted to come along. I said yes, so we three took a cab to a restaurant and ate.

After eating, we caught another cab to the hotel. Somewhere along the line, I had decided to abandon my hands-off approach. We entered the hotel lobby, the three of us, but the hotel’s security man stopped us. Not the girl, he said.

My friend headed up to the room, and my companion and I walked back outside. Habitual drinkers, which I was at the time, can reach a state in which they’re quite ambulatory, steady even, but completely plowed at the same time. I was there.

We got into the rental car, and she gave me directions to “a place I know.” It turned out to be an old, two-story, wooden hotel on the beach highway. It’s about 4 a.m.

Things get foggy now. I recall entering the hotel. The girl was walking just ahead of me up a broad stairway. Behind me was a man, a hotel employee, I suppose. I suddenly got wary of the situation, suspecting I was going to be robbed or worse.

I changed my mind.

As we entered the room, I told the girl I had left something in the car and that I’d be right back. I turned on my heel, headed out the door, bounced down the stairs and leaped into the car. But she was right behind me. She didn’t want me to leave her there.

Okay, I said. Jump in. But she had left her shoes in the room upstairs. Go get them, I said. But you’ll leave, she replied, accurately. This exchange continued for a few rounds till I started to drive off. She ran around and jumped into the car without her shoes.

We pulled out onto the moonlit highway while she yelled, My shoes! My shoes! I braked and pulled over, opened my door, walked around to the other side, opened her door and attempted to pull her out. She grabbed the steering wheel. I could not extract her painlessly, so I gave up, returned to the other side and continued down the highway.

Twenty or so minutes later, we entered a downtown plaza. There was a parked police car, and two cops stood on the sidewalk. The girl stuck her head out the window and began yelling which, of course, caught the officers’ attention.

Deciding not to make a run for it, I just pulled over.

The girl got out and spoke to the police. We ended up driving back to the hotel. The girl and I led the way, and the police car followed. When we arrived at the hotel, she walked upstairs to retrieve her shoes while I and the smiling cops waited.

She returned wearing her shoes and told me to give the police some money, which I did, not wanting trouble and thinking myself lucky so far. The officers drove off, and I did too, with my companion. I offered to take her home, an idea she liked.

Ever the gentleman. It was the least I could do.

She lived in a low-rent area, of course. As we pulled up to her humble home, she asked, still hoping for some cash, if I’d like to come in. I said no, and asked how old she was. After so many years, I forget what she told me, but it was 16 or so.

As I headed alone back to the hotel, the sun was rising.

And I remain to this day a whorehouse virgin.

* * * *

* This was unintentional. My second wife and I entered, sat at the bar and ordered drinks before it became clear where we were. We did finish the drinks.

(A Christmas Eve brothel in San Juan. Plus another romance on the road, also a true story.)

From the Village to Venice

(This is dedicated to the many young men and women today who live in their parents’ basements, staring at their smartphones.)

I STEPPED OFF the Greyhound in Manhattan, walked out the terminal door and spotted a small hotel across the street. I checked in. I’d just arrived from Los Angeles, and all my belongings, which weren’t many, were in a blue duffel bag.

I had about $2,000 to my name, and it was all in cash in my wallet.

The reason for my arrival was a girl of 18. I thought I was in love, and perhaps I was. We got together later that day, and the following morning I rented a studio apartment in Greenwich Village and found work as a painter’s helper. I was just short of 21.

busBut later that next day, it was clear the girl of 18 wouldn’t work out, so I spent another night in the hotel and caught another Greyhound the following morning to Tennessee. I  forfeited the studio deposit, and I still feel a bit bad about not helping that painter.

I moved into my parents’ apartment in Nashville. There was no basement. I found a job at a mattress factory. It was a small operation that pretended to refurbish mattresses, but what we really did was pick up the old mattress and return a newish one.

Within a couple of months I’d saved more money, so I boarded another Greyhound, back to Los Angeles. I missed California, the Golden State, which it was in those days.

I rented a studio apartment in Venice and found a job parking cars in Beverly Hills. It was fun work, sorta, and one day I parked Debra Pagets Cadillac. I owned no car myself, and the Los Angeles area was a difficult place to live with no wheels. Still is, I hear.

I had nowhere near the money to buy a car of any kind.

Oddly, what sticks in my mind about those weeks in the studio was listening to Martha and the Vandellas’ endless singing of Dancing in the Streets on the radio. The tune had just been released and was a huge hit. The girls wore wigs.

Restless, one day I packed my bag, abandoned the studio and the parking lot and boarded another Greyhound back to Tennessee. I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for a spell before returning to Nashville when my parents decided to move to New Orleans.

I hitched a ride in the rear seat of their Nash Rambler. New Orleans was like moving to Heaven, and I stayed for 18 years doing all kinds of crazy crap.

The unplanned life.

And then you wind up in the middle of Mexico.