Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Career Began in Northern California

Ten years ago this month I was assigned to The Modesto (Calif.) Bee as a copy editing intern. It's a great newspaper. And I loved it there.

My assignment to Modesto came as a quirk. Having gone to school at New Mexico State, the decisions committee at the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund slated me for the Tucson Citizen.

I still remember the phone call clearly (but probably not as well as I think). Dr. Bill Tillinghast called to offer me the job. I trembled with excitement as I heard the news. I wanted that internship more than anything I ever wanted in life.

Dr. Tillinghast explained that I would attend the center for editing excellence at San Jose State for two weeks (read about a related memory) before heading back to Tucson.

I'm still not sure what came over me. I told Dr. Tillinghast that I might never leave the Bay Area once they got me out there.

He paused.

"We have an opening in Modesto, " he said.

"Where is Modesto?" I asked.

"About 90 miles east of San Francisco," he said.

"I'll take it," I said, pumping my fist in the air.

Life took a left turn in that moment. My love affair with the Bay Area only grew. In 1997, the goal of living in the Bay Area nearly consumed me.

So off I went.

Things went well. My dad drove out with me. We visited San Francisco together. It was amazing.

Dad flew home. I went through boot camp with Dow Jones (the greatest educational experience of my life), and I moved to my apartment in Modesto. My wife, Emily, joined me in Modesto after her summer class.

I had an interview with the Contra Costa Times, an east Bay paper. Life was awesome.

My wife became pregnant about that time. Although I had finished my degree at NMSU, she had a year left. There was no way that I was going to be apart from my first born. Life took another left turn.

So I picked up the phone. I called Harold Cousland at the Las Cruces Sun-News. I asked Harold for a job. Ten weeks before I competed with his paper as the editor of the NMSU student newspaper, the Round Up. That day I wanted a job.

Luckily Harold had a job for me.

So on August 31, 1997, I loaded all of my belongings into my white Pontiac Sunbird, and I headed south on Highway 99.

I left Northern California in the rear-view mirror that day, and I have not been back since.

In the interim, a decade went by. I tired of journalism's long hours and low pay. I wound up with a Ph.D. and three daughters.

In two more days, I'll fly into San Francisco again. In many ways, it will be as if the decade never passed by.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand your fascination/obsession with SF, you authority hater, you closet hippie, you.

6:39 PM  

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