Monday, April 8, 2013

No. 423 – Texas Flood

Performer: Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble
Songwriters: Larry Davis, Joseph Wade Scott
Original Release: Texas Flood
Year: 1983
Definitive Version: none

Most of the time when I’ve gotten a job, it came out of nowhere. That was how I got the gig at The Flint Journal, and that’s how I got my next job.

As I mentioned, the summer of 1990 was depressing, but by the time fall rolled around, I was OK. Dave and I were doing a lot of stuff together, the Reds won the World Series, and it was getting dark earlier. I wasn’t looking to move.

Now, when I said I was almost the first person at the newspaper in the morning, that wasn’t to say no one else was in the building. The guys who put together the sports section were there, getting that section out first before news.

I liked this, because when I went to the backshop to check my early zoned pages, I could read all the sports news and box scores before the paper came out. That’s how I got to know the two copy editors—Dan and John. Back then, both of them worked at night, and one of them would work solo from about 3 to finish up the section. Of the two, Dan always seemed to be the most harried in the morning.

One morning that fall, I noticed in a Lions game story that one a player was misidentified. Well, we’re all part of The Journal team, aren’t we? I grabbed Dan and told him, hey, in the Lions story, so-and-so (I can’t remember the name now) isn’t a defensive tackle, he’s a linebacker. You need to fix that.

He said he’d look into it (obviously wanting to verify what I knew to be correct), and about 15 minutes later, he came over to me at my news-room desk and thanked me profusely for catching the mistake. That would have been really stupid if we had gone out with that. No problem, I said.

Well, one morning in December, John was chatting with Sandy, who ran the back shop, saying that the sports editor decided that sports should have two full-timers working the full overnight shift, so he needed to hire another copy editor. Oh?

I immediately told John I was interested. John knew I knew about sports, so he told me a little about the job: You’re going to have to work third shift, you know. I didn’t see the downside. First, my shift differential would be bumped to 15 percent. Second, I’d have evenings free, so I actually could do more things. John said I should speak to Dave, the sports editor, when he came in. I did.

Dave and I went down to the break room for an “interview,” but mostly it consisted of Dave briefly asking about my background and me telling him that Randy and Sue—whom he was friends with—could vouch for my skill. He said the most important thing was he would need clearance from the news desk, because it wasn’t good form to be poach people across departments.

I wasn’t concerned. As luck would have it, a perfect solution manifested itself: My friend Dave’s wife just happened to be a part-time copy editor looking for a full-time slot. If I went to sports, she could move into my position on the news desk.

And that’s exactly what happened. I don’t remember whether the announcement was made as quickly as the next day, but it seemed like it. I remember specifically Dan coming over to my desk and congratulating me on either getting the job or all but getting it. He recalled my catch on the Lions story, and he said he told Dave about that. I had advocates all around me.

The week before Christmas 1990, I moved to sports at The Journal. My first week was a training week, and the job duties were easy to master. The difficult part was building up my stamina to stay up all night. Obviously, my sleep pattern would have to change.

One thing that definitely changed was now I had regular weekend activities. The first weekend I worked in sports was after the holidays in January 1991, and Dan told me all about the White Horse. Of course, I would join everyone there. I was part of the sports team now, wasn’t I?

That meant, of course, that I was introduced to the White Horse jukebox. I mentioned La Grange, but I would bet that with that possible exception, no song was played more by The Journal sports crew than this song. Dan played it that first night, and I loved it right away. As the late, great Stevie Ray blazed away in the background, we drank and ate and chatted and joked, and for the first time since maybe Wabash, I felt as though I had found a home.

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