Leaving Reno

Editor’s note: Thanks for all the great columns and stories, Deidre. We’ll miss you around here.

“Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a postscript.” –Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night

1994. Dressed in my Sunday best, I sat in an empty newsroom, waiting for the staff of the Nevada Weekly to return from lunch. I was a UNR journalism student—a conservative, God-fearing Republican—hoping for a freelance writing gig with the godless far-left press. My journalism mentor, then Reynolds School of Journalism dean Jimmy Gentry, assured me I would not go to hell for writing for the alt weekly.

Gentry set up my interview with Nevada Weekly’s founder Mike Norris, a disgruntled former Reno Gazette-Journal employee. I wore pressed tan pants and a sweater patterned with pale roses. I arrived on time. The West First Street offices, a stone’s throw from the Truckee River, were vacant.

I waited. The first staffer back was a tall pierced guy with shaved head, the compiler of nightclub listings. He wore a T-shirt patterned with nude demons and demonettes coupling—maybe tripling?—with carnal inventiveness.

I considered slipping out. Crossing my legs, recrossing my legs, perspiring. Norris arrived, read my story clips, and grunted, “You can write a sentence.”

My first assignment was reviewing local plays for arts editor Larry Henry, another disgruntled former RGJ-er. Henry instructed me to watch for dramatic epiphanies. “In theater,” he said, “the characters change. Watch for it.”

My first editorial argument occurred over the gender of God, a character in a Reno Little Theater production. In my review, I referred to God as “he.” Henry changed it to “she.” I bristled at this. I kept writing.

The Nevada Weekly became the Reno News & Review. Editors came and went. I worked as news editor in 1997. In 1998, I finished my journalism degree and landed a job at the Reno Gazette-Journal. I covered business and technology, writing front-page news. When I left to attend grad school, I returned to the RN&R. Readers called to ask where I’d been.

I was RN&R editor for a year—the paper’s first and, to date, only female editor. I quit and Jeff vonKaenel, RN&R publisher, hired the pierced guy with shaved head. D. Brian Burghart has kept Reno’s metro newsweekly a paragon of brutal honesty for nine years, growing readership to around 47,000 per week.

Nostalgia. I’m up to my swollen eyeballs in it. In August, I leave Nevada for Hawai’i, where I’ve been hired as an assistant journalism professor. It’s a tenure-track job. I rented a condo in a Honolulu high-rise. From my lanai or balcony, I’ll be able to see the Pacific Ocean.

But bittersweet. I’ve lived in Reno for 18 years and biggest little runs in my veins. This place, the people here, the profession I chose, all have impacted me deeply.

I’ve written about the epiphanous day I quit the Republican Party after covering a hearing at the Nevada Legislature. Actually, the shift rose over years of analytical thinking, reporting, observing manipulative lobbyists and writing about all of the above.

By the time George W. Bush ran for president, I was a livid non-partisan. I became a Democrat in 2008 to caucus for Barack Obama.

Now, I’ve been teaching writing and journalism for 11 years. Last year, I completed a doctoral degree, becoming Dr. Pike. Last month, I finished a book about green themes in animated film and television called Enviro-Toons, to be published next year.

Plenty has happened since 1993. The 20-something me would not likely approve of the 40-something me. I am still punctual.

This will be my last View from the Fray, though I’ve said that before. I’m writing a blog for friends and family called View from the Lanai. Stop by online and say hi. There will be photos. (http://open.salon.com/blog/view_from_the_lanai )

Who can predict what the future holds in her grubby hands? I only know that the characters change. Watch for it.