Sunday, October 29, 2006

Clipped Past ...

The ink on my hands is more than 10 years old.

This morning, I started out sorting through books, thinning my shelves, making room for what I want to read. But that made me remember that I had more books stashed behind the doors at the base of my bookshelves. So I started to pull those out and pile them on the coffee table. And then I thought I should pull everything out and vacuum. Grouped the games together. Hauled out the handle bag full of boxes of matches that I doctored up as a handout for a conference presentation that was aborted long ago.

And then I came upon my bag of clips.

Back when I worked for the Tribune, I saved the sections in which my words appeared. I don't rightly know why I'm keeping them. (Not that I've really thought about them since I stuffed them in the cabinet when I moved into the house.) They're really of no use to me now. But it's evidence of something I've done in my life and it feels strange to relegate those years to my recycle bin. I've decided to keep select clips, and truly clip them. I don't need the entire section, just my bit of ink and pulp.

But in flipping through all the sections - and there were a lot of them - I took a wayback trip to that time in my life when I worked in those hallowed halls. (The fact that those halls are on the block continues to stun me. The Tribune? Sold? I never thought I'd see the day. I'm sure those who still work there never did, either.)

A lot of the clips, though, weren't mine. I kept a lot of the stories written by Rick Kogan. I've always admired his talent as a writer. Rick and I were friends, back in the day. I logged a lot of hours at the Billy Goat with him. My tolerance for alcohol was never as high as it was when Rick and I hung out. He's the reason I drink my vodka on the rocks. Mixers had no place in Kogan's world. I suspect that's still true.

I ran across a Tribune magazine with Mancow on the cover. Rick and I were at the Goat one day while he was working on that story. He went to use the pay phone to call him (I worked at the Trib when cell phones weren't pervasive) and returned to the table and gave me his number. "You should call him," Rick said. I should call Mancow? Why? Rick seemed to think we'd get along well. Like on a date? Yep.

Today, Mancow's married with kids. I missed my chance to vie for the title of Mrs. Mancow. Alas. Though I always wondered what made Rick think that we'd be a good match. Not that Mancow the man is the same as Mancow. I've seen him on TV locally and some surprisingly thoughtful things have come out of his mouth. Surprising, I say, because I've never had high expectations for a man whose sidekick is named Turd.

But back to the clips: One December day in 1995, right before Christmas, Rick and I had lunch. From there, he was going to go shopping. I had to go back to work. I had the day's paper with me, and I was reading it as I walked back to the Tower. Rick had a story on the front page that day about outdoor Christmas decorations. Reading while walking probably isn't the smartest of activities (when I worked in the newsroom, one of the copy boys would distribute dummies without ever looking up from his book; I marveled at that) but I read two words - two little words - in Rick's piece and I literally stopped in my tracks. I just ran across that section. " ... seasonal Cezanne" were the words that brought me to a halt. I still think they're pretty fabulous together.

And I still write for newspapers from time to time, but I never see the actual printed sections. Content That Works, the client I write for, sells stories and sections to newspapers across North America, so my name pops up in unexpected places (somewhere in Canada, Hawaii) but the only reason I know that is because of Google.

Some days, I miss the daily deadlines of a newspaper. But mostly, I miss the Goat.

Amusingly, Rick's just published a book, "A Chicago Tavern: a Goat, a Curse, and the American Dream." I guess I'll have to pick up a copy and add it to my newly created shelf of books to read. And, for kicks, maybe head to his book reading and signing on Saturday.

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