Here in the SF Bay, we began sheltering in place for 156 days ago. That’s more than 22 weeks of wearing masks, non-stop washing hands, worrying, and trying to focus on the bright side of things.
Yet, amid this crazy countdown, I’m observing a different “anniversary.” Forty-three years ago this week, I got my first full-time adult job. It happened on August 16, 1977, and the circumstances were uniquely unforgettable.
I had graduated from college at the age of 20 with a degree in Russia Studies — Political Science and Russian Language — from Barnard College, Columbia University in NYC. Since I was a bit on the young side, I wanted to take a break before starting graduate school.
Back at home in Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew I wanted to become a foreign correspondent. So, as the first step toward that goal, I walked into the offices of the Las Vegas SUN newspaper owned by legendary newsman “Hank” Greenspun.
Somehow, without an appointment or even benefit of a recommendation from anybody in the community, I landed a meeting with the paper’s kindly managing editor Al Kolber. Kolber, if I recall correctly was a native New Yorker and loved that I was a Columbia U grad.
Al, a diminutive fellow — almost elfish in appearance if you can picture a chain-smoking elf, in turn, called the almost 6’-tall hard-charging female city editor Chris Chrystal. Chris grilled me for a while and then nodded her approval to Al. I was hired!
But Then …
We had just started discussing my start date and salary when suddenly bells started ringing. People were running in every direction and shouting at the top of their lungs. Typewriters (yes, typewriters) started tapping. And yes, the phrase, “Stop the presses” was bellowed out.
“You start Monday, kid,” Al said, rushing out of his smoke-filled office. “Gotta go.”
What was the excitement all about? What happened on August 16, 1977? Who remembers? Why Elvis Presley died, that’s what. Big news in the Entertainment Capital of the World. Big news everywhere.
That was my introduction to my new profession — where the death of a swivel-hipped rock-n-roller can rock a newsroom and the world.
So goes Day 156 — Just a silly recollection as we bide our time, waiting for a vaccine and better days.