I read Maureen Dowd’s requiem for newsrooms in The Times recently with interest. Indeed, the thrill has gone, though there has been an attempt here to revive the communal spirit somewhat: For the first time in three years, we had the other day a face-to-face editorial meeting that attracted more staff members than usually are present on a day-to-day basis, and which was followed, wonderful to tell, with a Smokin’ Wolf lunch fit to write home about.
When it came to leftovers I was slow on the uptake, but saw on returning to my office that someone had bequeathed me a plastic cupful of chocolate chip cookies and two brownies.
Later that afternoon, there came a rapping at my closed door, causing me to call out in Walter Matthau fashion, “Entah!” and then, when nothing happened, “Pase!” before opening it myself. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a bevy of middle school students, the first such group I’d seen here in I don’t know how long. One of their teachers explained that they’d always wondered who that old guy was now standing before them in the sagging flesh.
So perhaps things will pick up a bit — a meet time, it occurs to me, for such a revival given the greening of everything around us. Though I think the arrival of computers years ago sucked out a good amount of energy from the newsroom. There was music in typewriter carriages being slung back and forth, bells ringing, and paper being torn out and wadded up, not to mention the clunking and tinkling of the Linotype machine that only Dick Rodriguez could operate without molten lead spitting forth.
As for working in an office, I’ve always preferred face-to-face rather than remote contact with co-workers, and with the people I write about, especially given the fact that I’m largely deaf, which I’ve learned is not so disadvantageous in this profession. It’s all the more dismaying, then, to recall that Steve Bromley Sr. once said I was the best rewrite man he’d ever known. And that was before I knew what a rewrite man was, and before I asked him how many rewrite men he knew.
And people in those days, about a half-century ago, didn’t always grind their axes in epistolary fashion, or anonymously on the internet: A prominent member of East Hampton society made a trip down here to tell me to my face — and to Ev Rattray’s too — that I should be fired posthaste. I forget the reason why. I look back on that confrontation almost fondly. What Ev’s answer was you can guess.
Ah, those were the days. In homage, I guess, to the sense of urgency that used to infuse them, I’m still scribbling notes that I can’t read.
Yes, it was nice to convene again with my fellow laborers in the vineyard, and as for the middle schoolers, they were my “host of golden daffodils.”