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How did I get here, again?

by Joe Murphy

 

Here I am, again. Facing a blank screen while the editors of this fine publication wait for me to meet my deadline.

 

Why did I do this again?

Parsing through my e-mail inbox there are some clues. I inquired via e-mail about an internship at YES! Weekly last April. A few weeks later, Brian invited me to come into the office for an interview that afternoon following my last exam of the semester.

But, as is want to happen, something went wrong. After handing in the exam — at the last minute of course — and already running late, my ’95 Nissan Maxima stalled out in a parking deck, as it is want to do. I called the YES! office in a tizzy of frustration — here it was, my chance to get published at a paper that doesn’t have “university” in the title vanishing before my eyes because I put off changing the oil a day too long.

“Calm down, man,” Brian reassured over the phone. “Where are you at right now?” We arranged to meet on Tate Street about an hour later. When I met with Brian at a coffee shop I tried to express my eagerness to write and get published even without a paycheck attached. I wanted to write without training wheels. The fact that I acknowledged my ignorance and inexperience, I think, impressed him at the time.

After slurping down our iced coffees Brian asked if I smoked. I said I was down to my last one. He said something to the effect of “I’m trying to quit; give me your last one.” (I later found out that Brian not only resembles Lt. Marimot in Season 4 of “The Wire” in appearance, but occasionally demeanor as well.) We stood outside and talked a little more about journalists and writers we admired while Brian puffed my last Marlboro and I anxiously fidgeted, this time from lack of nicotine.

Two weeks passed and I didn’t hear a thing — aside from Brian’s column about an intern applicant whose references didn’t check out — and I assumed that I’d been passed over. I had been through this process before the previous summer when dozens of newspapers around the nation received a manila envelope with a cover letter, résumé and what I perceived was my best work at the time and heard nothing back aside from a curt and polite note from the Contra Costa Times indicating that I wasn’t picked.

I had given up and turned my sights to summer school. But I still had one sliver of hope, I thought. I gave Brian my last cigarette; the man at least owed me a smoke.

A few more days passed and one morning when I checked my e-mail, there was a message from Mr. Clarey. “You still want an internship?” was all it said. So I replied with, “Yeah.”

I wanted to write without training wheels, and I got the opportunity to do that and a lot more. And I greatly appreciate the opportunity that the YES! staff and readers gave me. All the people that I’ve met and interviewed (especially the news staff) I thank for helping me shape my work and hone my craft. You know by now that I’m not that creative and hence couldn’t have done it without y’all.

Beyond a briefcase full of newspapers with stories bearing my name and a catalog of clips online I got the opportunity to meet people and interact with the community in a new and enlightening way. In my time in Greensboro I had rarely ventured over the Forsyth County line to experience the Trey. Now I can tell you the best place to get coffee downtown (Krankies), where the best beef brisket around is (Blue Smoke) and the best place for a pint and some scotch eggs after work (Finnigan’s Wake). I also learned about the concerns of voters in rural Forsyth County by conducting exit polls, the history of the Happy Hill neighborhood in Winston-Salem and Greensboro’s mill community origins. But I still can’t get back onto Interstate 40 from downtown Winston to save my life.

The truth is, this internship at YES! Weekly was far more educational and rewarding than any class I’ve taken or paid job I’ve had, and I would encourage any other eager, young journalist-to-be in the Triad area to apply.

But for now, this is where we part ways. I’m off for greener pastures and paychecks with more green. If things work out, maybe I’ll catch you a little farther down the trail.

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