Monday, May 03, 2010

Urban Life

So here we are in the city. Granted, Lebanon, New Hampshire, (population 12,568) isn't much of a city, but if you figure that Zee and I have lived for the most part in farm houses and lakeside cottages, it's pretty exciting stuff.

The slightly darker brick building in the left background is the post office; the lighter-colored brick building directly at the back is the library. They both front on the green, which is the center of town and home to all sorts of festivals in the summer. I can walk not only to my mail and to books, but to my bank, to a grocery store and to a couple of different restaurants, yet I'm a block removed from whatever hub-bub might be generated on a town square that looks like something out of "Back to the Future."

And, today, the wolf-killer and the lion-hunter finally met.

My landlord lives in the front half of the building, and his dog is a Kangal, which is a huge (35 inches tall, 170 pound) Turkish shepherd, noted for its ability to protect sheep in the wilds of Anatolia. My dog is a well-muscled but much smaller 80 pound dog noted for bringing lions to bay in South Africa. What would happen when they came face-to-face?

Well, they're both farm dogs with good judgment. They looked each other over, came somewhat close to touching noses and said, "Yes? What?"

I suppose if some threat came along that was neither a wolf nor a lion, they might have some discussion over who should save the household, but, barring that, they don't seem very interested in talking about turf issues. That's Zee enjoying the sunshine, that's Battal's fenced area in the background, though we've only seen him in there once. And Zee didn't much care then, nor did he.

Meanwhile, I'm working for the Denver Post, editing their once-a-week children's supplement. Here's the front page of a recent issue, chosen not-at-random because it includes an interview with Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney. I think you can get a better look by clicking on the image.

The concept is for the piece to be youth-written and we have so far done a pretty good job. In this issue, both Page One stories were written by eighth graders; in the current issue, three of the six stories are written by kids. What I find most encouraging is that I do very little editing; less than I have done with professional journalists at my last two "straight" editing jobs. These kids are talented!

What I find a little scary is that most of the stories are by eighth graders, who will become ineligible to participate in September, when they become ninth graders and thus too old. However, since the publication has flourished for five years, I'm not going to panic. I have a very good boss-and-collaborator in Denver who has a grip on the system.

This is not a high paying gig, and, in fact, it's basically a part-time gig. But I'm happy with a beans-and-rice existence, and this sure beats heck out of shifting deck chairs on the Titanic, which seems to be the journalistic alternative these days.

Besides, I don't have to worry about wolves OR lions anymore. And I can, by long experience, handle the jackals myself.


Sherwood Harrington said...

You're probably safe from Kurdish or ZAPU insurgents, too. I certainly wouldn't try to burgle that house.

The kids' supplement looks great! How long have you been editing that? What an age we live in -- to be able to live where you do and work on deadline for a newspaper thousands of miles away has certainly been possible in past decades, but I imagine it's easier in this one than ever before.

Brian Fies said...

Well! An interview with ol' Jeff Kinney! Good ol' Jeff Kinney....yes, sir! Good ol' Jeff Kinney... How I hate him!

Mike said...

Sherwood, I went up to Watertown, NY, a few weeks ago to speak at a teacher workshop and then do author appearances at a couple of schools. In years past, I'd be out of pocket during that period, but I realized that, if I had my cell phone and my laptop, nobody even had to know that I wasn't sitting at home. I have no landline and my laptop is wireless-capable and more powerful than any tower I've ever owned.

Le bureau, c'est moi.

And Brian, the movie version was sharing sign space with "Death at a Funeral" so that the sign read "Wimpy Funeral." I meant to get a shot for you, but then that bomb left town and the film is now sharing space with "Furry Vengeance." Not so funny, since "Wimpy Furry" simply seems, I dunno, redundant??

ronnie said...

Glad to get the update, Mike. I really like the feature you're editing.

Days ago I was walking off a beach in Cuba when I passed a woman with a boy of about nine, headed towards the beach. At the top of her beach bag was a copy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid". It's one of those moments when you want to say, "Hey! I know someone who knows the guy who wrote that book!" Fortunately I stopped before I seriously embarrassed myself. But I wonder if Jeff Kinney knows he's been to Cuba?

Mike said...

ronnie, I friended a Montrealer on Facebook the other day and it turns out she hangs out in Cuba, too. I'm thinking of rewriting Jon Wing's line:
"Canadians are just unarmed Americans with health care ... and great tans!"

Anonymous said...

Best luck with this going forward, Mike! Jeff Kinney is a great subject, and it's to your credit that you chose him. Perhaps the reality is that Jeff came your way, but even if so, you showed great editorial sense by proceeding to write what you did. I always think that finding the right topic or title is the better half of creating a great article, and in this case, you had that plus a great follow-through. Good luck, and have fun!

Ted Kerin