Pink’s Progress?

My beloved New York Observer may be going up for sale.

Once upon a time, when I was even younger and more foolish, I made the five hour trek through a gorgeous New York winter’s morning, the snow clinging to every barren branch, the sun making everything melty and sparkling – down from Ye Olde Hometown to The City, there to meet with an August Personage, the sort who gets his photo run next to his weekly column in a national magazine. Turns out this particular August Personage knew my father back in the day (Dad used to run an underground newspaper at Siena college), and Dad had been willing to make a phone call on my behalf. See, I wanted to break into the Big Time. I wanted to write for a New York media outlet. I wanted to head back east and make a name for myself – or something. Maybe I just wanted to head back east.

August Personage was not terribly helpful. His advice: 1. Don’t start as the mail boy in a newsroom. You’ll always be seen as the mail boy. Got it. 2. Hang around the grad lectures at Columbia Journalism School. Not so easy when you live in San Diego. 3. Get noticed. Ah, yes, get noticed. “I mean, I could call Pete Hamill at the Daily News…” YES YES YES CALL PETE HAMILL! “…but I don’t know if it would do any good. I really don’t know many people any more.” Well thanks, pal. Glad I could drive ten hours round trip to hear all this. (It didn’t help that I had sat in a puddle on a concrete bench and so doused my backside with icewater. I was grumpy.)

He did give me something, however – Anne Roiphe’s phone number. At the time, Anne Roiphe was writing a regular column for the Observer, and at the time, the Observer was my very favorite publication. Oh, the witty joys of snark. (Where have you gone, Michael M. Thomas?) I told August Personage how much I loved the paper, that it would be a dream job, and he smiled. Lots of good people got a start there, he said, writing down Roiphe’s number. I headed down from his office, found a pay phone, called the number, and bam, I was talking to Anne Roiphe. She was very gracious, talking to a total stranger from San Diego, of all places. But sadly, it was Tuesday, and the paper was closing its issue. No one would be around to talk to me. If I wanted a shot, I should write to the Editor.

I smiled with twice my usual dose of rue – yeah, the Editor would be dying to hire some punk sending his two years’ worth of clips from Southern California. After all, there aren’t many wannabe writers or journalists in New York. I found my brother, who had oh-so-kindly made the drive with me, and we headed north to Cortland. And that was that. Thank God.

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