The big 2-O

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Here's how much I pay attention to things that matter to others. Last week, on Nov. 7, my 20-year anniversary with alternative journalism in Reno came up. Twenty years ago last Thursday, my friend Mike Norris and his friend Larry Henry had a conference call with me on the telephone to hire me for the Nevada Weekly. As I recall it was a black combination telephone/answering machine. It had buttons and was attached to the wall. They offered me the princely fee of $25 a week to compile a “grid” listing all the local bars that had music.

It did not matter that I had never worked with any application but word processors—was it WriteNow?—and the grid's design required use of QuarkXPress, they figured since I was young, I'd catch on. I had the important skill, which was an intimate knowledge of the local bars. Right they were. And when our third designer quit about four months into the job, they “promoted” me to design editor. We redesigned that paper every single week. I was working about 80-100 hours a week at the paper, going to school full time, working at San Pauli's bar in the Bally's casino parking lot—and they were still paying me $25 a week. They used to occasionally give me stock options in lieu of pay raises. I think I still have about $3,000 in stock in my top dresser drawer at home. Those were some of the craziest, best days of my life. Man, we owned the Blue Lamp.

We made it about 14 months before Mike, Larry and Bill Martin sold out to Jeff vonKaenel, owner of the Sacramento News & Review, my current boss. Over the years, I've been fired. I've quit. I've told some awesome stories, and I've helped many others tell their own awesome stories.

It's never really gotten old for me. We've got it down to a science, which I guess is how I manage to stay sober and out of the loony bin most of the time. I keep waiting for someone to point out I'm not smart enough for this kind of work. Of course, if I was smarter, I probably wouldn't have celebrated two decades mostly at the same job. There certainly have been plenty of people who've offered to take it off my hands.