7 A.M. Thursday. Sometime in 2008. I walk into a nondescript white building where I work–push my way past the doggie door to the right of the front desk, walk toward the layout room, another right, then into my office. My friend and editor, D, bloodshot eyes and all, sits behind an outdated iMac in the back of the room.
“Want a smoke, yo?” he asks.
“Let’s do this,” I say, nodding.
I throw my laptop onto my desk and we walk out into the layout room and outside through the back door. We stand outside and begin lighting up.
“Got two more, gonna send ‘em to B. I’m sure he’s gonna want some bullshit edits that add absolutely nothing.”
We were both reporters for a small weekly newspaper in South Texas. I’d been working there for a few months, D for a couple of years. We both went to the same high school, were both stellar journalism students for our UIL team, and had the same penchant for beer, cigarettes, 2pac, and college football. It was a decent job: D had hooked me up because I’d had absolutely NO plan post college and I’d just been rejected from the graduate program I’d really wanted. Our days consisted of covering whatever mundane stories happened in the Mission-La Joya-McAllen-and-sometimes-Edinburg area. I had the lovely beat of covering County Commissioners Court meetings, school board meetings, and city council meetings (of which one city council member accused me of having a vendetta against her–in a town of literally hundreds of people).
Monday’s through Wednesday’s were largely spent away from the office under the guise of “covering” our beats–often we’d stroll into work at 9, drop our stuff off and head to the neighboring coffee shop, shoot the shit and chain smoke for a couple of hours, then D would inevitably reveal that his dad had leftover fajitas at his house and it was about lunchtime. We’d head to “pop’s” house, eat, then head back to the office for a couple of hours then call it a day. The pay was crap, we had no medical or dental, but for me it was an ok stopgap until I figured out what I was gonna do with my goddamn life.
But Thursdays…holy shit. Thursday was when we went to print–invariably I would be up until 2 or 3 in the morning finishing that week’s stories, get a few hours of sleep, then head to the office at 6:45 to grind everything out. Morning panic–last minute edits, a ghost story that was “assigned” to one of us that neither of us remembered because it never fucking happened, and layout.
So again, it’s 2008–we were still literally cutting and pasting print onto a layout board. Making space for ads. Changing our ledes or headlines. It was so rushed that D and I would only take one morning smoke break as opposed to our usual 4. Double checking sources and quotes that we literally had saved onto our tape recorders but, fuck us, right?
Finally, we’d go to print sometime around 11AM or noon.
“Let’s do this.”
We’d proceed to pick up Jack in the Box, head to D’s, then start eating and drinking for the rest of the day. Friday’s were a wash where we’d get next week’s assignments from our boss while trying to keep from falling asleep, then completely check out for the rest of the day.
I think back to that point in my life with a melancholy fondness. Saudade is what it’s called in Portuguese. My family life was at peak complication for various reasons, but we were also very close. This was about the time I started really hitting the craft beers–every Saturday or Sunday we’d cook fajitas or steaks on the grill. What was once my dad’s grill was now mine after my parent’s divorce, so I took over grilling duties. It was my time to sit outside, blast my post-rock, and drink my beer. My mom would buy the meat and I’d go and buy the beer. At the time I was heavily invested in Pyramid’s Hefeweizen.
This Hi-Res brings back those memories–that sweetness that hits the front of your tongue while you look out over a sunny day. I would drive to the HEB on north Trenton because they had an excellent beer selection, then I’d drive through the surrounding neighborhoods looking at houses that I liked. Picturing myself living in them, inviting my mom and sister over on weekends, my dad on alternate weekends. Cookouts with the family are ingrained in me and it’s something I’ve sorely lacked while living in Indiana these past six years.
I still like looking at houses. I still envision a place that will actually be mine. And it’s still a warm feeling.