Archive for August, 2006

Responsibility is freedom

Thursday, August 31st, 2006
Tyler Murphy

I’ve been an employee for about 72 hours now and I’m already positive I made the right decision in taking this job over my old one.

I used to work as a sample lab/receiving technician. The job had a some perks like benefits and probably one of the higher hourly wages around. I left it practically running. I found the environment deeply corporate. I would describe it like this: imagine standing atop a hill, a display laid before you … a green valley long ago sheared out by immense glaciers, peering hard in the infinite leaves and other lush foliage. Your experience subtly enhanced by the sound of birds, insects, and distant conversation. It’s the feeling you get in the back of your heart, unleashing a rare and primal appreciation for the masterpiece of Mother Nature. All the creations, constant changes, people and then you’re struck by a sharp realization that you are truly free and apart from anything in this world. Upon glancing down beneath your feet is the hot, dark, man made manufactured and patented black top. Black fragments of black debris anchored together by an even darker tar. Around this empty parking lot are gum wrappers, cigarette butts and faded soda cans, a car cruises by and the smell of carbon dioxide fills your breath. You begin to gain a feeling of desolation and detachment; the world may not be so open as the first view initially condoned.

I appreciate personal growth and a never-ending need to be educated. I find personal joy in interpersonal reactions and in order to grow one must change. I did not find this sort of environment in my old job. Factory work may be for some, but I swear I’ll never work in a place without windows again (both literally and metaphorically). Perhaps this is why this job held so much appeal – never the same day, always meeting a new person, always forced to learn.

One month down…

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

Now that my first month at The Evening Sun is coming to an end, I feel comfortable telling you that at first I was terrified. I looked ahead to the day when both Jeff Morse and Mike Maguire would be absent from the office with a feeling of dread. As long as they remained, I had a safety net, but once they were gone, I was walking that tight rope alone.
Well, the time has passed and so far I’ve been able to balance on my own. (Even if I am a little unsteady.) I’m even getting over that niggling fear that disaster is about to strike. To be honest, I am actually enjoying this job.
I’ve met more people in this first month, than the entire population of the small town in which I grew up. Most of them have been very friendly and open. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg, as I am meeting more and more people daily. I hope my sleep deprived brain will be able to match the faces to the names.
So far I have covered stories about bull riding, campaign stops, and everything in between. I have no idea what may come next, but I look forward to it whatever it may be.

Military Recall

Thursday, August 24th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

While reading the paper today, I came across an article of personal interest to me. Marine troops are being recalled to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan on an involuntary basis. While this is a new process for the Marines, the article states that the Army has been recalling their troops for some time.

This astounds me. Personal opinions about the war put aside, I think about the families of these soldiers. They believe that their son/daughter/husband is finally safe from this threat, only to have the rug pulled from under them.

I find myself wondering what a better solution would be. Our troops are spread thin. It’s a painful reality. Enlistment numbers are down, and the military has raised the age limit and loosened requirements to combat the problem, but is it enough? Obviously if they must recall troops on an involuntary basis, it is not.

Now a US General is pointing the finger at Iran, saying that the country is training the Iraqi Insurgents, and I can’t help but wonder if even more of our troops will be deployed.

So what is the solution? I definitely would not want the troops already overseas to be put at greater risk by spreading them even thinner, but I wonder if anyone thought this a likely possibility when enlisting.

Maybe they did, and this post is no more than the ramblings of my paranoid mind. I am no expert and I have no solutions, but I do know that earlier this year the administration said its goal was to decrease the number of troops serving in Iraq to 100,000 by years end. With this latest military recall, I have to doubt that possibility.

Post haste

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006
Jeff Genung

Perhaps inspired by my publisher’s love of The New York Post, my design for the front page of Tuesday’s Evening Sun had a decidedly tabloid-esque flair.

My inspiration, of course, was the inherently salacious tale of fallen pastor Lewis Lee, who ran away with a teenage member of his flock last spring, and who was sentenced in Chenango County court Monday afternoon on seven counts of rape.

Every other newspaper on the block (and pretty much every TV station, too) jumped all over the Lewis Lee case like flies on … well, this is still a family-friendly blog. While we resisted (and I still believe rightly so) the temptation to camp out with the victim’s family and plunge the story into even lower depths of shame, I couldn’t hold back any longer, front page wise, after Monday’s court appearance. Reporter Jessica Lewis did a great job with the story, straight up and by the book. But something struck my inner-muckraker fancy when I read it. During Lee’s oration to Judge Sullivan, the former man of the cloth said, “I FAILED GOD.”

If ever there was a quote crying out for Post headline and smarmy perp walk mugshot splashed across four columns, this was it.

Please forgive me if you were taken aback by my momentary lapse into the world of tabloid journalism; it will not be a recurring theme, I promise you. But every so often, it’s fun to shake things up.

And then there were …

Monday, August 21st, 2006
Jeff Genung

Astute readers have no doubt noticed changes in The Evening Sun’s byline roster over the past few weeks. Over the past 16 years with paper, I’ve seen a lot of reporters come and go, but never as many en masse as in the summer of ‘06.

The mass exodus of 75 percent of our staff writers began in July with the departure of Nicole Martinez, who left to join the staff of The Daily Item in Lynn, Mass. Next out the door was Jeff Morse, who left in mid-August to pursue a career in nursing. Last but not least was Mike McGuire (see the post below) who left Friday for the hallowed halls of SU, with the eventual goal of becoming a history teacher.

Yikes. As if I didn’t have a head full of gray hair already.

Never fear, dear readers. The Evening Sun hasn’t turned out a blank page in all its 116 years, and we’re not about to start. We’re fortunate in that the chairs vacated by Nicole, Jeff and Mike barely had time to get cold. Jill Osterhout and Jessica Lewis have been with us a few weeks now, and are well on their way to becoming valuable members of our staff. We have one more cub reporter starting Monday, and our happy newsroom will be full once again.

Pairing the newbies with our “seasoned vets” – myself, Pat Newell and Melissa deCordova, will no doubt result in some changes to The Evening Sun, as it’s always fun to see what a little new blood can do. Given the revolving door we’ve had this summer (our goodbye lunches at Bohemian Moon have become de rigeur) I’d say we’ve had a full-blown transfusion.

Smell ya later.

Friday, August 18th, 2006
Michael McGuire

My time here is at an end. The lure of Gibtown was too strong in the end for me to spend another day with The Evening Sun.

I’m currently awaiting Millie to show up with the side-car, but in the meantime I have a few thank you’s I want to get out of the way before I light the match and speed out of town.

Thank you to Jeff Genung for giving me a shot. I was fresh out of Juvenile Hall, had zero experience, and Jeff knew from viewing my torn denim jacket that any loyalty I had rested with the wind; yet he hired me anyway. My time here has made me a better person, a better writer, and given me a better understanding of my capabilities, and the courage to pursue them without fear. For that experience, I cannot thank you enough Jeff, and I guarantee the wisdom I’ve gained here will pay-off when I’m driving nails into my ears and nose as the main draw in the freak show.

I also have to thank the real boss, owner Dick Snyder, for listening to Jeff and letting him hire me despite the unfortunate switch blade incident in the Pennysaver parking-lot prior to my interview. Sorry Dick, all’s well that end’s well, hopefully.

Next I have to thank my peer mentors, Melissa deCordova, Jeff Morse, and Nicole Martinez. They showed me the ropes and cut me some slack (when necessary), but mostly they cracked the whip because I was always getting out of line. You were all honest with me, you welcomed me, you helped me, and you were kind to me. It would be hard to do a bad job working in an environment like that. It was a lot of fun. Thank you all.

Thanks to my other office cohorts, Jan “Gin” Rowe, Deb “Altamont” Deuel, “Kindergarten” Linda Green (she was literally my first teacher) and George Snyder. George, thanks for all the wonderful conversations we had about good vs. evil, I looked forward to them.

Next, I have to thank all the bullies, liars and cheats out there. Just kidding, you don’t get a thank you.

Good luck to the new reporters, Jessica Lewis and Jill Osterhout; I feel I never knew you. Sorry for the permanent smell left behind in the Newsroom.

Finally, thanks to the public, who’s positive and negative feedback was something I was not used to on a job. It was gratifying and flattering to hear positive responses on an article, especially when people said it made them happy. Thank you for all your support. On the other hand, the negative feedback was kind of a rush sometimes. When it was justified, I apologized, when it was unjustified, it felt good to know I was rattling the cage.

Speaking of cages, I think I hear Millie’s Honda backfiring outside. That means it’s time for the big adios, or the Grande good-bye, whichever you prefer. It was fun. I hope you had fun. I hope it didn’t suck. And if it did – too bad – tell it to the next guy.

Introduction

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006
Jessica Lewis

Hello readers.  My name is Jessica Lewis, and I am the newest reporter to join the staff of the Evening Sun.  Since I can’t hear your screams of protest, I’ll tell you a little about myself.  I grew up in Otselic Valley with my parents and four sisters.  The chances are pretty good that you know at least one of them.  I went to college at Binghamton University, where I majored in english, and now I live in Norwich.  I’m married to a wonderful man, (a staff sergeant in the Army) and we have a beautiful baby boy.

I’m thrilled to be working here at The Evening Sun.  I’ve only been here for a short time, but I’ve enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to meet people in the community.
I look forward to meeting more of you.

Gibtown

Thursday, August 10th, 2006
Michael McGuire

Have you ever wondered where carnival workers go when the long stretch of county fairs are over? Yeah, me either.

Just kidding. I care about everybody, especially “carnies.” I got the chance to speak with a few at the 159th Chenango County Fair, and I have to attest; whatever they may lack in some people’s eyes, they make up for with it a cowboy-like mystique.

One carny called it Gibtown. All he could say was that it was somewhere in Florida, and that it was the place where most carnies went in the off-season because they didn’t have anywhere else to go. The carny had never been there himself, but claims Gibtown is as real as a loose bearing on the “Ring of Fire.”

“Most of them have no place to go,” said the carnie informer, we’ll call him “Piper.” “They go to Gibtown. It’s got bars, gambling – it’s got everything. It’s got anything a carny could want.”

That’s all I could squeeze out of Piper (we parted on not-so-good terms after I snagged a sweet Bowie knife from him with one supple toss of the ring).

Finishing my tour of the fair, I was mesmorized by the thought of a carny community. In my mind I pictured it to be like an old western mining camp, not all that different from HBO’s version of Deadwood. Swearing, drinking, and violence mixed in with eloquent prose would rule the day in my Gibtown.

Not the case.

Gibtown is really Gibsonton, FL., which is located near Tampa on the Gulf side of the state. It was founded in early 20th century by a circus couple who started a restaurant and bar, which then attracted other restless side show operators, freaks, and carnies, who eventually settled what is today known as Gibtown.

Here is a quote from a documentary on the carnival settlement, describing the endearing people who live there:

“The ominous undercurrent to these lovely portraits is that these people probably had nowhere else to go. ‘We were a society apart from the places that we visited,’ one explains. ‘We didn’t know anybody there, we went in there as strangers, we left as strangers, more or less, and we had to stick together in that respect.”

Gibtown is complete with midway games zoned into the actual town, alive with snakes and tigers and sideshow attractions at every turn. At one point they even had a midget police chief and a giant fire chief. Some people live their year ’round, but most come in the down time from fall to late spring.

It seems like an odd, but neat place. And it is a place that is all their own. We might think of them as weird, and they are weird, but they are people. At one time in my life I just made of fun of carnies and that was it, now I can make fun of them and know, and care, that they have a home.