Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Reporter girl: memoir 12

The wooden staircase was narrow with peeling paint. As I climbed to the second floor of the Gardena Valley News, the clacking of typewriters grew louder. Nervous, I slowed down, my hand on a railing sticky with grime. Dressed in a peasant blouse and knee-length skirt, a tie-dye bag over my shoulder, I gulped a few breaths.
     I was twenty-seven now, a California girl fresh off the beach. I mean literally. That morning I'd jogged in the shallow waves between the Hermosa and Manhattan Beach piers, a mile each way, then had gone swimming in the cool salt water. My hair was long and sun-bleached.   
always a beach girl
     The newsroom was hazy from smoke with the stink of a cigar in the mix. In 1978 it seemed that everyone smoked. Desks crowded the area cluttered with papers and file folders, upright typewriters, black telephones ringing. Two reporters in rumpled shirts and day-old beards looked like they'd been up all night. The city editor, John, according to his name-plate, was in his 50s. He squinted at me through the smoke of his cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth.
     "What is it?" he shouted over the noise.
     Still nervous, I walked over to his desk. A Teletype machine on a nearby table chugged like an engine, so loud, I yelled, "I want to be a reporter!"
     John's fingers were stained with nicotine, his hands shaky. "So what's your experience?"
     "None, really. Well, I like people."
     He looked at me in disbelief while I jabbered about my journalism class and blabiddyblabla how all my life I'd wanted to write stories.
     I was still blathering when he turned to his typewriter. Without looking at me he said, "There's a parade Saturday, downtown Gardena. Bring me a story. If it's printable, you'll get ten bucks and a byline."
     Ten dollars? And my name would be in the paper? I would nail this!

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

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