This is my husband. This is my husband on vacation. I offer it as photographic proof that he actually can get away from his office occasionally and relax. Like most newspaper folks and especially like most newspaper editors and doubly especially like most newspaper sports folks, he is dedicated to and enthusiastic about his job. To him, following sports stories online for six hours straight isn’t “work” — it’s just what he does. And he does it well. He also is an exceptional boss. He supports and encourages the sportswriters and copy editors he works with and never asks anybody to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. Like be at the newspaper 12, 15, 20 consecutive days. In a row. Now, he and I both are pretty independent people — having a commuter marriage for several years will do that to you — and I rarely invoke a wifely clause but sometimes I just have to insist we Get Away. Luckily, there’s a window of relative calm that comes after college baseball and before SEC Media Days when he’ll agree to sneak off for a week, provided he can take 1) his laptop, 2) his cell phone and 3) my laptop, tablet and smartphone for back-up. He even wandered out to the beach a couple of times. But at least being almost 400 miles from the newspaper prevented those “I think I’ll just run over to the office for a little bit” moments.
Husband JP and I are newspaper geeks. We met at a newspaper — Sidelines, the student newspaper at Middle Tennessee State University, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. We work for newspapers — he’s actually fortunate enough to get a regular paycheck from one. We talk and post and discuss and argue about newspapers (and also whose turn it is to clean out the cat boxes and which one of us forgot to buy beer). And we buy newspapers — you know, the old-fashioned kind made of paper — everywhere we go. When we travel, our hotel room is littered with newspapers. We take stacks into restaurants (although not the really good ones). We pile them in the back seat of the car and haul them home for additional perusal. In doing all this, we stumble across some fascinating things. Such as the fact that the May 27 edition of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press — the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend — weighed in at an incredible 2 pounds and, when folded, was 1 1/2 inches deep. This is, we calculated, about four times bigger than your average regular daily paper and seemed mainly due to an inordinately large amount of advertising inserts. Most papers, it seemed to us, had a lighter number of inserts for Memorial Day Sunday. Anyway, this is the sort of stuff that fascinates us. Just wait until you hear our discussion on Times Roman versus Times New Roman.
You know that we are a newspaper family. My husband is the sports editor at the Daily Journal in Tupelo, Miss., and even though I’m a former practitioner of
an escapee from daily-newspaper writing, I still love it when he needs my help. He’ll say, “Sweetie, what are you doing on such-and-such a day? I really could use an extra hand,” which I’m pretty sure is not how he makes assignments to DailyJournal sportswriters. But I’ll take it. Some of the things I help him with are 10K runs, such as the annual Coca-Cola Classic Corinth 10K. Even the most organized runs — which the Coke Classic is — tend toward managed chaos at the finish line. This is especially true for sports reporters as they try to identify and interview winners whose top priority is to find shade and a shower and why-are-these-folks-following-me-and-sticking-cameras-in-my-face-when-I-really-can’t-breathe? Very tricky stuff. So when my husband covers one of these races, he hires me as his assistant. And while secretly I consider it my job to keep an eye on him as he interviews attractive young women as he runs around in the Mississippi heat and humidity, at the Coke Classic he wanted me to 1) photograph winners as they crossed the finish line and 2) keep up with where they were in the finish-line crowd so he could get quotes. For this past Saturday’s Coke Classic I managed the second assignment perfectly and helped my husband get a good story. The first, as you can see, not so much.
You know how you open up the newspaper every morning (you do open up a newspaper every morning, don’t you???) and read it and then shake your head and complain, “There’s never any good news. Why don’t they print any good news?” You know news people say that this happens because “good” news isn’t news since good things happen all the time and we’re only startled by “bad” news that’s outside of the norm. But we all know that “good” news can be as rare as … well, say, a coffee shop owner remembering that he overcharged a customer on her previous business and so without asking gives her her favorite drink for free on her next visit. That just happened! To me. And I wrote about it in my weekly newspaper column. Just, you know, to sneak a little good news in.
Spring’s arrival means several things: 1) Horror as we peel off our wool socks and take a look at our feet for the first time in months — emergency pedicure! 2) All basketball all the time as March Madness takes over — although my bracket is sinking so low that it’s fallen off the listing at the online bracket-game I play. And 3) we start inexplicably hungering for such treats as fresh tender asparagus and juicy sweet strawberries. In my weekly newspaper food story, I found out when spring arrives at local farmers’ markets and previewed what to look for — and when — although we’re lucky here in northwest Alabama since we’ve got Jack O’Lantern Farms, a hydroponic farm which grows lovely fresh veggies year-round. I’ll bet there’s someplace close to you where you can get a taste of spring soon.
Have I told y’all that I’ve got a new job? Well, I use the term “job” loosely because it’s really just fun that I get paid for. And I’m using the phrase “get paid for” loosely, too. I’m the new marketing director for a local arts association that oversees an art museum and a renovated historic theatre. It’s part-time — only a few hours a week — and of course it’s non-profit, so you can see that this is not the path to great personal wealth and riches. Of the money kind, at least. Because in terms of great personal satisfaction, this job rocks. The staff offices are in the museum, so we’re surrounded by creativity, talent and general wonderfulness every day. And the folks on the staff are exactly the type of people you want to work with: Dedicated, enthusiastic, generous and fun. Plus, I get to do what I love doing: Write. My prime responsibility is writing press releases and public service announcements and getting the word out about our exhibits, theatrical productions, concerts, workshops, tours, openings, etc. I’ve been building a media-contact list, talking to artists and newspaper and magazine folks and generally learning my way around the art world — which, by the way, is a fascinating place. Fascinating. One thing I’ve been thrilled to discover is that my work clothes from two years ago when I “retired” from fulltime newspaper-newsroom room still fit — but only because all those low-waisted skirts I borrowed from my daughters now sort of hang out around my waist since there seems to be some sort of impediment in my middle zone. But it’s OK, since I now have some spare cash I can put toward a new wardrobe the electric bill. (Oh, hi, Dear Husband! I didn’t see you reading here.) Read more about tackling a new job in my latest newspaper column. And Younger Daughter sent me off to my new job in style the other morning with broiled fresh peaches served with a dollop of creamy Greek yogurt. Oh, yum.
Can you still hear the roar of cheering from Alabama as we look forward to celebrating a whole year of college football supremacy? Around here it’s always football season, whether talk focuses on recruits or practice sessions or the most recent game or the games that are coming up — which in this case is Sept. 4 at home against San Jose State with the first home SEC game on Oct. 2 against Florida. In fact, the release of the upcoming season’s schedule is eagerly awaited since nobody wants to schedule a wedding or anniversary party or other important event during an Alabama or Auburn home game — and if it’s during an away game, just be sure to have TVs handy. And since it’s all football all the time around here, I gave over my newspaper column this week to Dear Husband, a newspaper sports editor who still patiently explains to me the difference between fullbacks and linebackers. This week he’s answered questions I had about the Alabama v. Texas BCS championship game — with his own spin, of course. For example, when I asked why players jump on opposing players who are already down on the field and everybody ends up in a big pile, he said, “It’s a good chance to get off their feet for minute. Football is tiring.” Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100115/ARTICLES/1155005 — and you’ll learn a bit more about football, too.