An exciting career in the food preparation industry serving the after bar crowd at The Mill Inn, Lakeside’s legendary late-night greasy spoon, proved to be perfect preparation for the quirky personalities, strange hours and fast pace of newspaper work.
By day a Lit major at Muskegon Community College (Thank you Richard Ford for pointing me in the right direction more times than I can count) and later Grand Valley State, at night I became a sportswriter, one of the ink-stained wretches of a now by-gone era.
Really. When I started we still used typewriters, clunky black plastic dial telephones and could smoke like chimneys in the newsroom (one crusty old editor even kept a bottle in his desk drawer).
I planned on working there forever.
The brutal recession of the late 1970s dictated otherwise. Listening to MSU J-school grad and fellow sports part-timer Bill Murray (No, the other one) spin tales of a Golden Future in The Far West over countless pitchers of watery draft beer at Visconti’s, I decided that what Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Herb Caen called, “That Tense and Troubled City of Love by the Bay” (San Francisco) was where my future lay (lie?) was.
It took 13 years in the transportation and banking industries (and many interesting extra-curricular adventures we won’t go into here) before I woke up to the realization I was desperately unhappy that I wasn’t writing. Thanks to good friend and columnist extraordinaire Susan Harrison I got the chance to return to my roots at the Chronicle.
Nearly 20 years later I was an award-winning journalist myself when the economic model which had sustained the newspaper industry since dinosaurs roamed the earth (well, mastodons, maybe. OK, Hiawatha, certainly) took a serious plunge into the toilet, flushed by the medium you’re reading this on now.
The Mill Inn Restaurant and Visconti’s Bar are now both vacant lots. The mill the restaurant was named for, S.D. Warren Paper Co., founded at the end of the Lumber Era in the late 1800s, is being demolished as we speak.
So this is where you find me – midway into a full leap into a new future.