Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blogger is awful

I always type up my posts in Word, like any reasonable person would do, but for some reason Blogspot/Blogger/whatever it's called seems to rebel against this. Each time, no matter what I set the font to, it changes it as it sees fit. Really, really annoying.

On a more positive note, I downloaded the NY Times logo font specifically to create the header of this blog. As a newspaper man, there's something amazing about that font and I can't quite put my finger on it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Moving on up

One of my many dreams has come true. On May 1, I will have my own apartment. I’ve had some bad experiences with roommates in the past, so I’ve had this dream for a while now. The studio has a separate kitchen and is fairly spacious, quite beautiful, and best of all, entirely affordable. There are hardwood floors and a poor man’s balcony in the form of a fire escape.

The thing is that’s in a rough part of Bridgeport. According to some, it’s an extremely bad part of Bridgeport and I’m going to die. For some reason I’m not concerned.

Some residents of the city I work with said I’m immediately going to be a target since I’m white. They say I’ll get jumped going from my car to the apartment (a 20 foot walk). Many people said they will never visit me because of the location. Sure, some of these people might know more than me, but it all sounds over the top. It’s not like I’ll be strolling the streets in my tailored suit with a wad of cash.

Some of the reactions I get really bother me, as if the area is some sort of war zone. Cops are there all the time, and the realtor told me there are dealers around. That doesn’t mean I’m going to die. It just means I’ll actually be living. I’d report in Iraq without hesitation if I had the chance. Same with war zones in Afghanistan, Africa and anywhere else in the world. My street and those places can’t even be compared.

I also want to report in a city with lots of problems. Where people have a right to be mad as hell, and corruption and dysfunction are prevalent. That’s Bridgeport. Working in Westport makes for some great experience, but living in the type of city I want to one day report in is invaluable.

I have no illusions about the neighborhood. It isn’t paradise. The streets are filthy and I see police there often. I might be one of the few white guys there, but what does it matter? I’ve got an awesome apartment and I’m becoming a better reporter just by living there. I can’t do that anywhere else. Then again, I can’t even afford an apartment anywhere else.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


So I'm sitting here and watching a town meeting online for a story I'll be working on tomorrow. Normally I attend these in person, but I felt like lounging around in pajamas in the comfort of my room.

I've been an extremely lazy creative writer, and I've been using this word a lot lately, but it's been shameful. I started doing random exercises, much like when I was a naive freshmen, in order to get back into the groove. I'm going to try to write scenes (with very little dialogue) of memorable places I've been to. They're not all going to be interesting, but it will at least be fun for me since I'm selfish.

Los Angeles, California

The line for the guys’ bathroom stretched out of the makeshift trailer to the edge of the shrubbery. For once, girls had it easy, provided there were any in attendance. Their line was non-existent.

The men were made of patchy beards, pale skin and tight t-shirts with quirky references. I had shaved my patchy beard before I left for L.A in attempt at respectability. My sandals and cargo shorts didn’t help the cause. At least I was wearing a Lacoste polo. A knock-off Lacotse polo, although nobody could tell.

All of us had just sat through an insufferable press conference on the latest video games from a major publisher. The games themselves looked decent enough, but the presentation was insulting. So much effort was put into making the presenters look cool, hip and irreverent. Most shameful of all was when the president of the company pronounced the name of a classic game wrong.

Video game journalists are picky about that type of thing.

I finally got inside the bathroom and relieved myself from the numerous beers I took advantage of at the open bar. This was my first real “party” at E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo to the square people) and I needed the drinks. My brain was fried from one video game demonstration after the other. I don’t even like games too much. Occasionally one blows me away, but most are absolute drivel. I just know so much about them from my younger years that I find writing about them to be comforting.

Outside of the bathroom, the party was getting started. An all male party, aside from the sexy servers, but a party nonetheless. Fancy purple lights flew around the posh garden outside the club. Nobody was talking about video games. It was the second day of the conference, and most people would be leaving since all the big events were over. The third and final day is often subdued and pleasantly empty.

The weather was perfect and so was the mashed potato bar. It’s essentially a salad bar, only with delicious, steaming mashed potatoes and fixin’s aplenty. Bacon. Chili. Cheese. Onions. Bacon. There were others, but I focused on those select few.

One of the sexy servers approached Wadleigh, my best friend and colleague, and I, with a plate of mini-burgers. This was before the mini-burger trend swept the nation like Pokemon did many years ago. Because of this, we treated these as exotic delicacies. We contemplated how to eat our burgers. Two bites were two much, but one bite seemed like it might be too little.

We finished them in one, like true manly game journalists would.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Upstate of Mind

I consider Podkowa Lesna, Poland home. I consider South Glens Falls, NY home. I even consider Bangkok, Thailand home. Even after six months, Connecticut isn’t home to me. I realized this after I went back to upstate NY this weekend.

I think some people around New York City think of Upstate NY as some unknown, savage land, similar to the way Africa was portrayed in The Heart of Darkness. Sure, compared to the greater NY area, Upstate isn’t particularly exciting. The horror! The horror!

There are fair share of rednecks and townies (god bless ‘em anyways). My idols at the NY Times even made my town look like a bunch of gun-toting gay-bashing rednecks in a recent article. There are ignorant people everywhere, but there’s just something inviting about the quiet area where I grew up.

I was out at a bar at home and was trying to bum drinks off of my friends. Some random person overheard and bought me one. He didn’t know me and didn’t have any weird ulterior motives. He was just cool.

Granted, it was 2 dollar drink night, but I doubt I’d ever see someone do that here in CT. My most memorable bar experience was being charged $4.50 for a Bud Light, and then the bar tender THREW BACK the change I left as a tip. I’d say more than 10 percent is a decent tip for handing someone a bottle, but some people around here tend to be snooty about money.

Another thing I loved about being home, not including friends and family, were the drivers. I trusted them. I didn’t flip any of them off since I had no reason to do so. The drivers in this area of CT are notoriously awful. So awful, in fact, that I’ve developed road rage. Some people drive with a certain sense of entitlement, as if they’re above signaling because they’re in a large SUV. I’ve even seen some people in Prius’ that shouldn’t be allowed to drive. Ever.

I also liked that I didn’t see any “Be Green” stickers on gas guzzlers when I was back home. I’ve decided to start a tally of how many of these amusing hypocrites I see while driving around here. In just a few miles today, I’ve spotted. The results are somewhat skewed since maybe I just never noticed them Upstate. After all, pick-up trucks are probably more popular common than SUVs when heading to the unexplored depths of that strange land.

Maybe I’m being a bit too harsh about CT since I’m just a little above the poverty line, and if I was back home I’d be living comfortably. Perhaps I just really love seeing my family, friends and cat (her name is Mronia, pronounced Mroon-ya. It’s sort-of Polish.) There are plenty of good things about getting by around here. The number one reason is that I’m living my dream of being a reporter. Everything else will come with time.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Way or the Thai Way

So I decided to put my creative writing degree to use and actually write something that doesn’t involve news. It’s a book review of sorts for Do Travel Writers Go To Hell? by Thomas Kohnstamm. The point of the blog that published it, which is run by the awesome professor Ira Sukrunguang, is to combine life and books to create unconventional reviews. I find them to be more interesting than the Times’ book supplement.

I drew upon my Thailand experience for the book review. . Writing about the semester I spent there has been difficult because I never knew how to approach. I wasn’t exactly a backpacker visting for a couple weeks, but I wasn’t Thai either. Either way, I get nostalgic for all my misadventures there.

Trying to strike a balance between my foreignness and my attempts at assimilation (despite looking like a freak) is something I worked on in other failed attempts at writing about the country. I think I did it fairly well in my review. I just had to remind myself that, despite my best intentions, I was often an idiot when I was there - like most other people are.

Speaking of Thailand, I often daydream about going over there and doing some freelance reporting. One of the things I’d want to do is write features about the poor manual laborers that I’d often see in makeshift shanty towns around the train tracks. The thing is that I don’t want to make it a pity piece like most writers seem to do. I don’t want to write it from the viewpoint of some rich whitey. I want to write as if it the subject was just a regular person in Westport. Just matter of factly and interesting, I suppose.

Now that the weather has warmed up in good ol’ Connecticut, hopefully I’ll stop daydreaming so much about warm places like Southeast Asia. Probably not though.