Original Release: The Dream of the Blue Turtles
Definitive Version: None
It’s a funny thing how the mind works sometimes. For a while this year, I had a run of dreams about working at the News-Dispatch in Michigan City. I was more or less working my current job, but it was in the N-D building. I don’t know what it was that tapped into this part of my memory banks.
I suppose it might have to do with the fact that the memories from that place run deep. I talked about my office, but the newspaper building itself was distinct. It was not far from Lake Michigan at the north end of the city and looked like your typical Seventies Tudor style building—dark woods and sharp sloping angles on the otherwise cropped roof.
When you entered from the parking lot to the west (the main entrance was to the south), you passed the time card station and the ad director’s office in a narrow hallway. The entire building was open except for the offices that ringed the interior—all the desks and workstations were on the main floor. Advertising was closest to the parking lot.
To the left was the paste-up shop, which we called, appropriately enough, the back shop, because it was in the back. You followed the carpeting track past the bathrooms before turning to the right around the ad department past the front of the back shop to the “news room,” which was on the east side of the building.
My office was along this pathway, and when I sat at my desk and looked out the door, I could see all the way to the front door and the entire news area, starting with the top editors, the copy desk, the reporters (to the left), the sports department (to the right), business and finally the editorial assistants and typists—jobs that long since have been dispensed with in the newspaper business. The editorial writer’s office was next to mine.
Past his office another hallway to the back led to the break room, where I watched the Dodgers stun Dwight Gooden and the Mets in Game 5 of the 1988 NLCS. Next to that to the front was the photo developing room, the morgue (the library) and finally the editor and publishers’ offices.
The newsroom was divided from advertising—the separation of church and state—by a chest-high row of cabinets and shelves that held notebooks, reference books and old copies of the News-Dispatch as well as Harbor Country News. (I had my own complete collection of HCNs in my office.) The room had a vaulted ceiling about 15, maybe 20, feet off the floor. It wasn’t too high to get a sharpened pencil stuck in the tiles a la David Letterman, as I discovered early one morning, but high enough so you couldn’t do it with any regularity.
I spent a lot of time in this building in 1988. Harbor Country News went out at 11 a.m. Wednesday, which meant my workweek was front-loaded. I probably could have made things a bit easier on myself by doing more advance work on, say, Friday, but I wouldn’t get feature stories from my correspondents till after the weekend, and most of the time, government meetings were Monday nights. Besides, I didn’t get page layouts till Monday anyway, so I really couldn’t start putting the paper together any sooner than that.
So I almost never went in to the office on Thursdays or Fridays. That isn’t to say I didn’t work those days, well, most of those days, but what work I did, I did out in the field. Then, I’d come in on Sunday night and work almost nonstop till the paper went out.
It was in this building that my friendship with Jim, which continues to this day, flourished. Unlike with Dave, I don’t remember a particular event that demarcated from us going from knowing each other to being friends. It was more organic. During down time, we shared our great love of baseball, politics, complaining about overwork, not making mistakes in the paper and music—particularly music.
One time, I effusively told Jim about how great my latest weekend with Melanie had been—undoubtedly babbling like a schoolgirl—and he smiled and walked away singing “Love is the seventh wave. I say love is the seventh wave …”