Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Netflix special

Norm Macdonald is the latest comedian to have an original stand up comedy special on Netflix. Above is the trailer. He tells his joke about the irregularity about the abbreviation of "ID" for identification.

I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but a lot of people have been tweeting @normmacdonald about it, and he's been sharing a lot of the compliments he's received.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Unpublished PNC article: Trump lawsuit

Recently on Facebook, I posted an article from the Washington Post about constituents of Congressman Bob Goodlatte being angry at him for his lack of visits to the areas he represents. I posted it because I had been a reporter at the Page News and Courier in part of Goodlatte's district -- Page County -- and I had firsthand knowledge of that anger, and I had previously suggested it as a story idea for the PNC.

The reason why I had that firsthand knowledge was after meeting with a lady in Page County who had been planning a lawsuit against the Trump administration. Here's the short story: I spoke with her, went and interviewed her, wrote an article about her, then it all fell apart and we never printed the article.

Note: I'm not mentioning her name in any of this. She asked for anonymity after the fact. From a journalistic standpoint, I don't have to give her that. She gave me information in an on-the-record interview and I have every right to print everything she said. But, I'm not for two reasons: 1) She mentioned that all of this publicity was causing issues with her son getting bullied in school and 2) She is "out there" to put it nicely and her ideas don't need any more publicity. 

There was the short story. Here's the long story:

In early February of 2017, I was told by my editor, Randy, that he had received an email from a lady saying she was planning a lawsuit against the Trump administration. She lived in Page County. He forwarded me the email and told me to check into it -- see if she was credible and had something worth looking into.

The basis for her lawsuit was kind of a stretch, but I could see where she was going with it. It all started with the Trump administration's first attempt at the "Muslim Ban" legislation. An article in Politico noted that the Trump admin used members of the House Judiciary Committee to help craft the legislation. The members then signed a nondisclosure agreement saying that they would not talk about their work with the ban. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee is Bob Goodlatte, the Congressman for Virginia's 6th District. The 6th District includes Page County, where that lady lives. She was basing her suit on the fact that Goodlatte cannot answer certain questions about the Muslim Ban because his committee members signed those NDA's and he cannot properly serve as her congressman because of that.

Here is a copy of the email. It's actually written to the writers of the Politico article, but she forwarded it to us like that. I made a few highlights and wrote some notes on there.

So, I read that and tried to figure things out. Then I called and talked to her for a few minutes one Friday afternoon. She was very happy that a media representative was reaching out to her and very eager to talk to me. We agreed to meet on Monday morning during Congressman Goodlatte's "Open House" event at the Luray Town Office. 

A couple times a month, Congressman Goodlatte has a representative from his office show up in Luray and take questions and concerns from residents. Goodlatte never shows up to these. It's never a big deal and nobody ever goes. The way she was talking about it, she was implying that Goodlatte was going to be there. So, I figured that would be interesting.

Monday comes and I show up outside the town office, where we agreed to meet. I sit outside for about 15 minutes before I walk inside and find her already at the meeting. Oddly enough, there are like 20 people there. Of course, Bob Goodlatte is not there. It's a representative from his office, who seems very overwhelmed with the amount of angry people there.

She repeatedly tells them that she cannot answer any questions, nor can she speak for Goodlatte. All she was sent there to do was to take down questions and concerns and she will bring them to Goodlatte. The people there are asking when Goodlatte will make an appearance in Luray. She keeps sending them to his Facebook and website for his list of upcoming events. That's not enough for them. The lady I'm there to meet says that the group needs to decide on a date and if Goodlatte isn't there by then, they will go to his office and protest. Another lady randomly says March 15 -- aka the "Ides Of March" -- and that becomes the official "protest date."

At one point, I noticed an older couple got up and left. Shortly after, the police chief Bow Cook came into the room. He's very personable, and a cool guy, but I noticed his hello wasn't as "friendly" this time and he was acting a little differently. He was "being a cop." Those people who left had gone and said something about the "hostile environment" in there or something.

After the meeting is over, I try to speak to the representative. She won't comment on the record, but directs me to Beth Breeding, Goodlatte's director of communications, or whatever her official title is. I'm very familiar with her, as I get her weekly "Here's what Goodlatte has done lately" PR emails, and I've occasionally talked to her.

The group of 20 has narrowed down to about 10 and they walk across the street to Gathering Grounds, the coffee shop, as the lady wants to talk to them about possibly joining this lawsuit. I come with them. As I sit down, a couple of the people in the group take a few minutes to chastise me for an error I made in a recent article, then complain about every other problem they have with the Page News and Courier.

Some of the people there are wary to speak, since the reporter for the newspaper is sitting there. The lady who brought everybody there is very adamant that I should be a part of this. Since Trump was anti-press, she wanted to be super pro-press. They were hesitant to go on the record and speak and a couple were worried about what they had already said.

To explain what was going on, and to help them relax about everything, I said "Everything we've said before is officially off the record." I pulled out my voice recorder. "I'm going to sit this here and turn it on and ask some questions. Everything during that time will be on the record, and whoever wants to speak can."

That lady was the only one who answered any questions. I took all that information and walked back to my office. The newspaper came out every Wednesday, and the deadline for the article was Tuesday, late afternoon or early evening. It was presently Monday afternoon.

I reached out to Beth Breeding, to see if Goodlatte had any comments about the lawsuit or anything that had happened at the open house meeting earlier. Then I began sifting through all of the content I had and making sense of what she said and what was happening.

Randy and I had initially thought she had already filed the lawsuit. Once I found out it was still in the planning stages, the article went from "This is happening" to "Let's talk about what could possibly happen." It was no longer as important, but still something interesting that the residents of Page County should know about.

Here's the article. I blacked out every reference to her name.

I spent most of Monday afternoon and night working on that. It wasn't much and didn't say a whole lot in terms of what was really happening, but during the writing process I realized there wasn't really a whole lot to say.

The whole point of the article was basically "Lady thinks she can sue Trump administration, talks to a group of people about it."

By early Tuesday afternoon, I was basically done with that article and working on the other things I had for that week's paper. Randy calls me and asks if I've seen the email that lady sent both of us. He tells me to take a minute and read it, then come into his office and we're going to talk about it.

Here's the email:

I spent most of my Monday talking to her and writing about her, then she emails us to say that it turns out she can't file that lawsuit she was talking about, and she doesn't want to have her name in the article.

He was reading over my article, since he hadn't seen it yet. And, I was going over this email again. We were both stumped by this lady. She was so intense about getting all of this started and wanted all of this publicity, then within a day she no longer wanted anything to do with it.

I was taking notes on the paper about what we were going to do. We initially talked about holding the article for one week, but then decided to use the term "permanently on hold" and he wanted me to make sure when I talked to her to emphasize that if we chose to run the article that we would not do so anonymously.

I called her and left a voicemail. She called me back. She was cool with the not being anonymous part, since I made sure to emphasize the "permanently on hold" part. 

We had our weekly staff meeting that Wednesday and talked more about the article. That's when we decided that we were never going to run it, because there was nothing there and it wasn't worth looking into further.

A couple weeks later, I had noticed the national trend of Republican elected officials skipping town hall events and their constituents getting upset with it. That was happening here in the 6th district. While some of those people weren't on board with that attempt at a lawsuit, they were all angry that Goodlatte wasn't showing up.

I suggested doing that as an article. I was told no. I was trying to explain that it was a national trend and this was our local tie to it. I think the thought in the room was that it would involve that lady again, and we wanted nothing to do with her.

So, the Page News and Courier didn't get to write about Goodlatte not showing up to the 6th District in February. The Washington Post wrote about it in April. 

But yeah, that was an interesting couple days with an interesting lady. I have one other "never published" Page News and Courier article. It's not as interesting of a story, but maybe I'll tell it one day.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Two months in Charleston

May 2 is the start of the 2nd month that I've worked at the Charleston Gazette-Mail newspaper. I'm still the lowest person on the totem pole there and I feel out of place 95 percent of the time, but I'm getting closer to fitting in. My assessment of my work there so far: I'm not a master of anything, but I'm getting pretty good at the stuff I do. If anybody reads the Dear Abby page of the paper each day... you've seen my work.

Navigating things is different in Charleston. It's different from what I've always known. I lived in Princeton, WV for 15 years and Luray, VA for 16 months. They were both so small that I knew where things were, but I couldn't navigate the street names. Here, I don't know where anything is, but I know the main streets in Charleston. I go to the street I need, then walk up and down it until I find what I need.

I'm trying not to use Google Maps as much. I want to make sure I actually know where things are, and that I'm not just looking at a screen telling me to turn left and right.

I don't drive much in Charleston. I'm doing a lot more walking. Which reminds me that I hate walking. But, it's a necessary evil. And, it could even wind up being healthy for me.

For those wondering, I think my next trip to Luray will potentially be sometime in the next two months. Luray does the "Summer Concert Series" things, and I've been talking to a few friends in the area, and that seems like a decent time to head out. That way, I don't have to make a lot of plans to see people -- most of them will all be in one area, and I can mingle and catch up without having to make a huge effort.

That's still in the planning stages. I'll make more of an official announcement once things come closer to fruition.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Pizza Blog: Why are we still using fax machines?

An inmate at the Southern Regional Jail, in Beaver WV, killed himself in his cell on April 13. According to a report by the Charleston Gazette-Mail, he was supposed to be released one day earlier, April 12. Why, then, was he still in jail? Apparently the fax that was to signal his release didn't go through.

The fax to signal his release didn't go through.

One more time, in case the people in the back didn't hear.

The fax to signal his release didn't go through.


The fax didn't go through.

A fax machine.

The year is 2017, by the way. And, we're using fax machines.

For those who don't know, a fax machine is basically an email without a computer. A contraption is set up next to a phone line. You put the paper in there that you want somebody else to see. The phone line sends a signal to space, that signal goes back to the other person and they get their document.

It was very popular in the late 80s and into the 90s, before high-speed internet became a thing over the last decade-plus. Anyway, I'm sure you can do a quick Google search for the rise and fall of the fax machine.

Except... there's still a large majority of people in the business world who still use fax machines. These West Virginia jail people still use it. When I was a reporter in Luray, Virginia, I inquired about a document via email. The response said "We faxed it to you." I didn't even know where the fax machine in the building was. Luckily, somebody had sat it on my desk the next day.

2017 isn't the first time I thought that fax was an outdated technology. Why, that brings me back to my days as a member of Pizza Hut management...

In 2011, there had been a shakeup in Pizza Hut management. The 2010 happy-go-lucky story of friends Bob, Mark, Chris, and Robbie running the Pizza Hut together was in for a rude awakening as Bob was out in early 2011 and we were left with Mark in charge, Chris (me, btw) trying to hold it all together as the longest-tenured employee who wasn't the 15-year server, and Robbie doing his part. All of that is a good story, and fodder for a future #PizzaBlog one day.

So, 2011 was filled with three men doing the job of four. We were all in a constant state of exhaustion. The Pizza Hut corporate management didn't care - they were happy that they didn't have to pay a fourth manager. Profits were good, the "numbers" were being reached, and they didn't have any issues with us. Again, another future #PizzaBlog, as all three of us were gone by the end of the year.

That's the state we were living in. One of our more confusing days was when our fax machine was installed. We had a Pizza Hut computer system and an email program, which really wasn't utilized that much. We had to fax documents to the old men telling us how to do our jobs. We didn't have a fax machine for the longest time, so once a week or so we would have to go to this printing place in town and fax things.

An inefficient and obsolete method made further inefficient by the fact that the manager had to drive down the street and pay 25 cents per page, when he could have sat at the computer in the back and attach a document to an email.

Two Pizza Hut fax machine stories come to mind, one professional and one personal.

We needed to order more uniforms for the employees. Mark delegated the task of filling out the forms to me. It was basically a shopping catalog full of Pizza Hut stuff. You could order from like 10 varieties of uniforms, a couple styles of hats, aprons, those bags the delivery driver puts your pizza in, etc. 

We didn't really have that many options - we were told the cooks wear this specific uniform, and the managers can do this one or that one. I asked Mark if me, him, and Robbie could get this specific one I thought was cool. He said no, that his bosses wouldn't like it. 

What I've learned in life is that it's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. So, I checked the box for the uniforms that I wanted - that we weren't supposed to have - and the other ones we were supposed to get.

I gave it to Mark the next day to fax, since I didn't know how to use the fax machine, and if we're being honest, he really didn't either. He sent it. We waited for the confirmation. It didn't go through. He got the original sheet and looked at it again, at which point he noticed the improper uniforms and changed the order.

Around the same time, I had a court matter. A minor traffic ticket turned into a big deal and I ultimately do a bunch of stuff before it was ultimately dropped. One thing I had to do to finalize it all was fax a paper to the DMV. I went to Pizza Hut on my day off and used their fax machine to send the document. It took a while, since I wasn't really sure what I was doing. After a few tries, a piece of paper printed out that looked like a confirmation sheet. I went home.

About a month later, I'm driving on Stafford Drive in Princeton, which is sort of the main street in the area. I had just gotten some food from Sheetz and was preparing for a long night. I had an essay to write for a college class.

Not knowing a lot about how these things work, I looked in my rear view mirror and thought "That's odd, that cop is following me really closely." Then he turned his lights on and pulled me over.

"Do you know what the speed limit is on this street?"

At that moment, I realized I had no idea and told him so. I had been speeding and didn't realize it. He was cool and accepted that. He took my license and walked back to his car. He came back a couple minutes later.

"Do you know your license is revoked?"

To make a super long story slightly less long, the fax didn't go through. So, the DMV never got confirmation that my minor issue was fixed, and as such, my license was revoked without my realization.

He was understanding and told me I could call somebody for a ride home. I called my mom. She drove over a couple minutes later, and parked at the opposite end of the parking lot the cop and I were sitting in. My phone rang.

Mom: "Where are you at? I don't see you?"

Me: "Look to your right. Do you see the police lights?"

I still don't know how she missed that. She gave me a ride home and told me that tomorrow she would come get me and we would go get all of that fixed. I waited a couple minutes until she was gone, then I made the 20-minute walk back to my car and discreetly drove it home. Then I sent that fax the next day again and made sure it went through.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The slowest day at Pizza Hut ever

Spring 2009. I'm a 22-year-old 5th year senior at Concord University. I have long hair, which is usually in a bun because I'm too lazy to really have long hair. I had been working at Pizza Hut off and on since 2005. At this point, I'm working during the school year, on Saturday and Sunday, the opening shift - 9:30 until 4-ish.

It's about a half hour drive from Concord to Pizza Hut. I live my life in a perpetual daze, especially when I have to get up early. So, it's around 9:15 a.m. and I'm driving to Pizza Hut one Sunday morning. I pass a church and notice it's packed. I pass another one, and notice the same. And, so on. So on, and so on. There are a lot of churches in Princeton.

By the sixth overflow church parking lot, I realize that it's Easter Sunday. That's never been a holiday that's meant much to me, so I never really celebrated it. 

When I was younger, we would do the egg hunt stuff at my grandpa's house. Me and my two cousins would color eggs the night before. I both liked and hated it; I enjoyed the creativity of it, but hated the smell because vinegar was involved in the coloring process. This was back before Google, so I couldn't search "Ways to color eggs that don't smell like absolute shit," so I just had to take my grandpa's word that it was the best way. 

I show up to work and it's the first time I'm working with Tommy, the new manager. He had been a delivery driver for the longest time before. He was a huge stoner and really didn't know what he was doing. I was still 6 months away from becoming a manager myself, but just from being around it, I had an idea of how things worked, so I helped him do his opening stuff; counting money and computer work and whatnot.

Sunday was always a busy day. It was the only time during the weekend that there was a buffet. And, it was very popular with the church crowd. We wondered to ourselves how the holiday would affect things. There was a possibility that it would make things a lot busier - there are more people at church today, so more people could come to the buffet. Or, it could go a little slower - it's a special day, so maybe some of those people have other plans.

Pizza Hut opens at 11, and the buffet starts at 12. The server shows up at 10, and delivery driver shows up at 11. And, usually right when we open there are a couple orders immediately. By the time the buffet starts, there are usually 10 orders. A busy buffet shift could see 40 tables in a 90-minute span. For a small Sunday crew, that's an overwhelming, hate-yourself-during-it shift.

How did Easter affect us in 2009?

We did not have a single order until 2:30! TWO THIRTY! THREE HOURS AND THIRTY MINUTES AFTER WE OPENED! 

What were those church people doing? Who knows... they certainly weren't eating pizza.

Interesting note: Tommy didn't stick around long after that. One day his till came up $50 short. When questioned about it - not even in an accusatory manner - he got defensive and quit on the spot.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Newspaper Awards

I'm still getting settled into my new life in Charleston. Before I started working at the newspaper here, I had only ever been to the mall or the hospital in Charleston. I still don't know where a lot of things are, but I'm slowly learning and finding my way around.

One of the reporters at the newspaper won a Pulitzer Prize recently for his investigation into over-prescription of pills in the state. That's so crazy to fathom. It is the first for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and only the 2nd West Virginia newspaper to receive a Pulitzer. That was in 1976 and had something to do with school textbooks. 

I haven't asked around, but one would assume that the 1976 Pulitzer winner is deceased. I feel like there would be a comment from him or a feature looking back at his work, or something to commemorate his moment in relation to this moment. 

* * *

While on a much, much, much smaller scale, I can also say that I am now an award-winning journalist. I picked up a couple 2nd place certificates at the Virginia Press Association awards ceremony for my work with the Page News and Courier.

Feels good to be rewarded in some fashion for my work there. I had a mostly-good 16-month run at the PNC. The PNC also won something called "Grand Sweepstakes." That basically means we did a really good job overall.

* * *

I don't miss the Page News and Courier at all. Some people have asked me about that recently. I had decided in January that it was time to move on, and I did that. It was no longer a beneficial position for me to have, so I looked for one that was.

It was time to move to a bigger challenge, and I did that.  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Unfinished Works: Pizza Blogging

For the most part, I think people know that I spent a good part of my early "adult" years working as a cook, then manager at Pizza Hut. I started there in 2005 at 18 and worked in various capacities until 2013. 

I really enjoyed it in the beginning and thought I was doing something really important. I literally felt a sense of pride when I was 18 putting on my Pizza Hut uniform. That pride didn't last long, as I grew to become very disenfranchised with a corporate pizza world. 

I knew how to do everything involved with running a Pizza Hut, and I have said often that had nothing else in my life worked out, being a General Manager of a Pizza Hut would have been a profitable way to make a living. I think the funny thing is that I actually make less money as a journalist than I would have as a GM. But, anyway...

I do think running an independent pizza store that catered to the area it was located in would be a fun way to waste some time if I ever came into an abundance of start-up money and free time. That's another story for another time, though.

I enjoy niche journalism. USA Today, the New York Times, etc... that's the mainstream stuff that everybody can pick up and read. Pro Wrestling Illustrated is just for wrestling fans. High Times magazine is just for 420 enthusiasts. Car magazines. Baby-care magazines. Cat magazines. I'm sure by now you get the idea and don't need me to keep going. Golf Digest?

Anyway... Pizza Hut had a subscription to "PMQ," which used to stand for Pizza Magazine Quarterly, but since it's not quarterly anymore they just call it the Pizza Magazine. I don't know why Pizza Hut had the subscription -- it's a trade magazine that a corporate entity doesn't need. If you're starting up a pizza place, you could buy an oven through them, you could do uniform stuff, etc... Pizza Hut does all of their stuff in-house, so they don't need it. 

PMQ also had feature articles that were related to pizza. A winter issue would have something like best ski resort pizza places. Gene Simmons opened a pizza place or something once and was interviewed there. Best Chicago slices. And, the like.

I enjoyed it. I read it every month. Most of my co-workers made fun of me for being excited when the latest PMQ came in. But, most of the Pizza Hut employees I worked with weren't exactly what we could call "readers."

They especially made fun of me when PMQ called Pizza Hut while I was the manager and asked if I wanted to renew the subscription. They asked what name I wanted it under. So, every month, the latest PMQ was delivered to Chris Slater c/o Pizza Hut.

Much like a dream of mine as a wrestling fan was to one day write for a wrestling magazine, I thought a cool way to meld my love of journalism with my knowledge of the pizza industry was to write for PMQ. I looked up their site, followed their twitter, and started trying to understand how it all worked.

The PMQ site has a blog section. I had an idea to write blog posts from the viewpoint of a former "corporate" pizza employee and share my thoughts on a variety of pizza-related experiences. I wrote a "demo" post -- a piece about how I had lost my passion for the pizza industry and sent it to a lady from the PMQ site who looked like the one to go through.

I got an email back from her saying that wasn't her area and she told me to email another guy. I don't remember who, and I'm sure I still have the emails somewhere if I really want to go searching for them. To make that long story short, I emailed him asking if I could contribute to the site's blog a few years ago and never heard back from him.

It wasn't something I felt too strongly about pursuing, so I left it at that and moved on from that idea.

* * *

That brings us to why we're here -- the 8th installment of my old "Unfinished Works" series. I have a lot of ideas in my head. I have a lot of things I want to write. My old "B-Sides" book is about stuff I never finished writing or released in any way. Side note: the pizza piece I wrote to PMQ is going into volume 02 of that book. That's still happening.

The unfinished works posts are a series where I look at some notes I wrote and never got around to finishing. The past entries can be found here:

- Led Zeppelin -

- Lance Armstrong -

- Thought Catalog -

- Music with meaning -

- Beatles on iTunes -

- Raven's Redemption -

- Random ideas -

I have tons of stuff like this sitting around. Maybe actually writing them instead of writing about them would be more interesting. I don't know. In that email I sent to the pizza people, I included some ideas about stuff I could write about in the future. They are in the sheet that is part of this edition of "unfinished works," since I never actually wrote any of them.

Enclosed is the sheet of paper. I don't remember why I started doodling on the paper, but I do remember that I was sitting at Starbucks while I was doing it. I'll list each point and give a couple sentences about it; a synopsis of the full post I was going to write.

First job at 18 ... Summer of 2005, I was 18 and sitting around every day watching Maury Povich and the Price is Right. My mom suggested I get a job. My Pizza Hut interview consisted of three main questions: Do I have reliable transportation? (I didn't have a car, but I lived down the street). Do I get sick a lot? (I couldn't remember the last time). Was I okay with shaving my goatee and sideburns? (Not really, but I said yes).

First time being around dropouts, "losers," etc ... I had always learned that you go to high school, then college, then you get a good job. That was the first time I had ever been around peers who weren't living that lifestyle.

Being "seasonal" and transitioning to full time ... My first couple years, I just worked during the summer. After a couple years, I noticed that their lives never changed. They did the same thing constantly and I popped in for a few months. My fun job for extra money was their life. And, then it became my life.

Making "work friends" ... They start out as your co-workers and then you're eventually friends. Is it a real connection that brings you together? Or, as I reason, most of them are miserable together and are drawn together because of that. How many former co-workers do you really keep up with once you no longer work together?

Romance at work starting & ending ... Those two could either be the same post or separate. Again, is it a real connection? Or, do you both just need somebody to hold at night? I would tell the funny story of how the manager found out that myself and a fellow employee were becoming "friendly."

Becoming a member of management ... I resisted it for so long, but eventually I got tired of being a "cook" and I wanted more: more money and recognition. I got a little more money, but not much of the other one, which transitions into...

Dealing with corporate ... A multi-million dollar corporation is heartless. They look at the bottom line -- if it makes dollars and cents, it doesn't have to make sense. Good wordplay, eh? They manage with instruction books and not their minds. I would tell the story about how one of the higher-ups came into the restaurant and rearranged a bunch of things because his flowchart told him it was more effective. I held out the flowchart and said "The oven is here on this paper. Our oven is over here. This doesn't work for us."

The time the bathroom roof caved in ... Now, that was a crazy day. Again, going to the corporate mentality -- they didn't want to fix a small leak, because a small leak wasn't an issue. You can put a bucket down and catch it and not spend any money. Well, the leak was a lot worse than we thought, and when the roof caved in one morning when it was only me and the cook, Dylan, that became the fodder for a hilarious story. The response I got from corporate became a running joke between me and the other managers. Anytime we needed a shocked response, we used what he said to me when I called him: "You've gotta be shitting me!"

Hiring and disciplining friends ... Ah, the pitfalls of becoming a member of management and hiring your friends. You ultimately wind up having to discipline them. And it can get weird. Especially when they notice hypocrisy and improper treatment.

Regular customers ... I still remember the middle-aged lady who would order the medium pepperoni pan pizza, an order of breadsticks, and a 20 ounce Mtn. Dew. I remember the guy who would give me a couple dollars for making him a salad off of the salad bar with his takeout order and "loading it up" for him. You do grow attached to people. I literally watched a kid grow up. I was there for 8 years, and I saw him go through his teens, since he was there every couple weeks.

Long term employees ... Every place has that waitress who has been there forever and has no plans to leave. And this would try to shine a light into why -- why has the delivery driver been doing this job for over 10 years? Does he like it? Is it all he knows how to do? Is he happy?

Customer complaints ... Cue the eye roll emoji. And maybe that one where it looks like flames are coming out of your face because you're so angry. I've had people yell at me over a missing container of ranch dressing. I've had a guy call the cops; you should have seen the cop's reaction when he realized why he was there. I had a woman throw a pizza at me before. You see a lot when you deal with customers.

Growing up into your job ... I was 18 the first time I put on a Pizza Hut uniform. I was 27 or 28 the last time I took one off. A lot happened in that 10 years I was alive and the 8 years I worked there. I had two separate stints.

Leaving & going back ... Transition from the previous post. I left Pizza Hut after feeling more disrespected than I ever had in my life. I came back a couple years later when all of my options had run out and I had nothing else. You can't have pride when you can't pay your bills.

Getting fired by your friend ... Again, the corporate mentality comes into play. I got fired for the dumbest of reasons. And it wasn't my boss's decision. Years earlier, I had interviewed and hired her. By the time I left and came back, she had worked her way up to the top of the totem pole. Then, I did something dumb, her boss found out about it and told her to fire me.

Drinking and drugs at work ... Menial positions aren't known for producing the best mental health. By the end, I wasn't happy there. A lot of people weren't. Some turned to pot and pills. I dabbled with all of that, but that wasn't for me. My vice was the booze. It was so easy to get drunk and run a Pizza Hut. It wasn't a smart decision, but I wasn't about smart decisions back then.

Health inspections: critical vs non-critical ... I've failed several health inspections, but that doesn't mean that the food is unsafe. There are two types of issues -- critical and non-critical. Critical is the important stuff: expired products, cleaning products near food, the refrigerator not cold enough, etc. Non-critical is a crack in the counter where your register was. We didn't get that fixed for years, so we got a point deducted every month or other month the health inspector showed up. I would want to write and explain that failing a health inspection isn't really the harbinger of doom that some people think it is. Consistently failing health inspections is.

* * *

And, those were the ideas that I had for my pizza blog, or whatever my relationship with PMQ would have turned into. Obviously, it turned into nothing. I've thought about doing some of those things on my own. Or making it into a podcast kind of thing. I already have the one podcast idea I'm working on, that I've blogged about in the past, the service-industry one. Some of those same ideas could work there.

I don't know. We'll see what happens with any of those. If anybody wants me to elaborate on any of those and write about a certain topic, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Reflections: Page News and Courier articles

The "Chris is living in Luray Virginia and working at the newspaper there" experiment is over. I definitely enjoyed most of my time there. It was a nice area, nice people, and a nice place to work. What's an adjective beginning with "n" that I can use to describe my time there? Hmmmm... Nifty!

I came to the Page News and Courier in November of 2015 as a nervous, awkward person with a passion for journalism. I left as the exact same person, but the last 16 months did see a lot of personal and professional growth.

Overall, I'm glad that I made the move to Luray. I made a few friends that I'll have forever, and I made several fun acquaintances. As I posted on Facebook when I made the announcement that I was leaving, it never felt like home. But, that's not a bad thing, per se. It wasn't home, but Luray wasn't a bad place to get a career started and spend some time in.

My time in Luray started off on an ominous note -- my first apartment I had tried to rent fell through so I moved to the area without a home. After a few days at the Budget Inn, I found a spot up on the hill at West Main Street.

This is the part where the people from Luray start laughing, and the out-of-townspeople ask what's so funny.

My literal first night, my boss and I went out to dinner. Afterward, he's driving me around giving me a tour of the town. As we're heading up West Main Street, he says to me, "And this... uhhhh... well, I don't call it this, but some people do... this is, uh, 'N-Word Hill.'"

He went on to explain that back in the day when the town was segregated, the black community lived on West Main Street. And, today, it's home to some of the sketchier spots in Luray.

The next week, when I was telling him where I lived, the complex didn't have an actual name, so I was trying to explain where it was.

Me: "It's up the hill there, past that gas station. It's a white building."

Randy: "The gas station past the hospital? Yeah, you should move."

I eventually did... 9 months later...

I will say, though, that I made some of my best friends in Luray over at "The Hill."

I always thought it was a weird juxtaposition -- I was the respectable newspaper reporter hobnobbing at these fancy dinners and meeting all of these important people. Then I go back to my apartment and hang out with my buddy who is 32 and has spent 6 years of his life in prison.

* * *

I got to cover a lot of fun articles. 

Probably the biggest and best thing I did on the staff was my feature looking at the controversy with the bike races -- locals hate them, but the town officials love the tourism money they bring in.

Writing about government bureaucracy holding up the replacement and construction of a new bridge on Main Street doesn't sound very exciting. But I wrote like seven articles about it. Summer 2019, the new bridge should be open for business.

Page County has so many parades, it borders on the ridiculous. All three towns have at least two major parades throughout the year. They're either really cold Christmas parades or super hot summer parades. 

I unwittingly walked most of a 5K through my work on the paper. Covering the "mudurance 5k" event, while walking around taking pictures of people, I walked 85% of the course. The quads were a little sore the next day.

I learned so much about the Blue Ridge Heritage Project and what they're doing to honor the memory of the families who were forcibly displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park in the 1930s. That's a sad story to look into, but they're trying to make it have a happy ending. Groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial sometime in April at Stanley's Ed Good Park.

Luray has Ralph Dean park. Stanley has Ed Good Park. In Shenandoah, the first time I ever heard of their park was hearing the town council speak about it. My first thought: "Who's Big Jim?" It's Big Gem Park.

The "protest march" against Donald Trump was fun to cover, in the sense that it was nice to see people out doing something. It was cool to see the group of dedicated people on the left marching for what they believed in, and it was interesting to see the meet the folks on the right with their "Trump Pence" signs and how all of that went down.

I hung out for 90 minutes one day with a 93-year-old blind lady, Anne Morrison. That was a neat article about how she was able to live her life for like 50 years, despite not being able to see. She was also the first name that I recognized in the obituary section of the newspaper. 

And the ribbon cuttings. So, so, so, so many ribbon cuttings.

* * *

There were a few leads that I tried to cover but we never got to report on it for whatever reason. 

The bookstore flooded in a huge rain that we had back in June or July, maybe. I went to interview the owner -- we were expecting the article to be about how the bookstore was gonna be closed indefinitely and how the business next door may have caused it to happen. But, the bookstore was literally open like five days later -- with a messy carpet that was eventually replaced -- and while I think the two business owners had some talk with their lawyers, nothing worth noting ever happened.

The biggest thing that went nowhere was the claim that a newly-elected town council member didn't actually live in Luray when she filed the paperwork to run -- which is a felony. As the PNC revealed a couple weeks ago, the state police are looking into that. It will likely go nowhere, but at least it's out there.

I think something to explore at a later date would be all of the article ideas that I suggested that we never reported on, for whatever reason. 

I may pop back in at a later time with some more reflections from my 16 months as a reporter with the Page News and Courier. Good stopping point for now.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee

This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" is the trailer for Norm's January appearance on Jerry Seinfeld's popular web series "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee." What is it? That's basically it. The show actually started as an extended car commercial type of deal. Then it became really popular. A deal was recently signed to begin streaming new season of the show on Netflix.

Seinfeld hangs out with a comedian and they talk about comedy. Sometimes they talk about cars. And they drink coffee. Simple premise, and the episodes are short enough to digest easily without investing a lot of time.

This is a good one. The highlight is when Seinfeld laughs way too hard at a Bill Cosby rape joke that Norm makes. And his Richard Nixon impression is great.

Here's the link to the full episode -