Saturday, January 26, 2013

After -30- Banquets, What?

There are any number of imaginative theories about how the use of the numerals 30 came to be the journalism equivalent of The End or End or # at the end of stories, signifying there was no more material to come.  Suffice it to say thirty in any of its written or spoken iterations--that's thirty for now--mean the end, done, a thing is over.

At one point, when you worked at the Associated Press night office located in the Los Angeles Times building, you ended a story with roman numerals XXX, which occasioned one of the older telegrapher-typists to A) call you a smart ass and B) speculate that back in his day, handwritten manuscripts had an X at the end of each paragraph, an XX at the end of each page, and a final X at the end of the story, thus XXX, which is in fact Roman numerals for thirty and perhaps the very cause of the thirty.


A patient editor at the now defunct Hollywood Citizen-News, where you contributed a column about the doings of your high school, instructed you off the # you'd been taught in your journalism class, adding that if you were to get anywhere in journalism, you'd eschew your fondness for adverbs and focus on ending your pieces with -30-.  You remember leaving the building liking the sound of the word eschew.  Journalism was by no means all bad, even when you were fired from one job for reporting a speech that was never given.  The fact that you replied, "This is what he'd have said if the speech were given," caused this editor to make a suggestion you still value.  "You'll find a more sympathetic reception, I believe, in fiction."

The being fired was after a long, happy association with journalism in near perfect conditions, the five-times-a-week Daily Bruin of your UCLA days, where you three 30s around with what seemed reckless abandon until, sated with the sight of your by-line, you strived to write stories that contained their own documentation, allowing them to run as straight news pieces.  Your journalism days provided you enough income to have enough for the beef-and-cheese sandwiches at the snack stand adjacent the Janss Steps where, on a clear day, you could in fact see Catalina, for pitchers of beer at The Rack on Pico Boulevard in West Los Angeles, and the occasional bottled beer at Dude's, a barbecue in Westwood Village.

Your experiences with the Daily Bruin allowed you a splendid, unfettered range, which you were only last night reminiscing about with another DB alum of the day, Marty McReynolds, who is in  a real sense the inspiration of these vagrant paragraphs because he'd sent you 30 notices for two former DBers.

Every year, at the end of the Spring Semester, shortly before graduation, the Friday, in fact, of the last edition of Daily Bruin until the Summer session and a new round of officers and staff, there was a -30- Banquet, commemorating the departure of the "old" editorial staff and graduating seniors.

The year of your own departure and thus your -30-Banquet of record, came with the simultaneous departure of a remarkable person you'd begun to think of as your future mother-in-law.  Her -30- editorial bore a title you teased one another about for the next ten or so years.  "After Graduation, What?"  There were no enormous student loans then, nothing more ominous on the horizon than the forthcoming Barry Goldwater heralding of the so-called Conservative Revolution.  There was the after graduation innocence of uncertainty, some rumblings about the Korean War, much to be done about social issues and civil rights, much uncertainty about careers, books to be written, certainly books to be read, lives to be lived, explorations to be launched, travels to be undertaken.

As things worked out for you, things were not as uncertain as they ought to have been, which is to say you were not that all apprehensive about where and how you would evolve into the evolution you'd hoped for.

Your first published novel was written on a red portable Olivetti typewriter, the gift of your former editor and anticipated mother-in-law.  Your second was written on an electric typewriter in a boathouse on Lake Washington, your third on an island in the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  But nearly all these events and certainly all subsequent ones were driven by the most important energy to drive a person--uncertainty.

Nothing has changed in that regard.  Nothing.


She whom you'd have had as mother-in-law was not in fact your mother-in-law.  She whom you'd have had as your wife was not and one cold, blustery night between the classes you gave every Tuesday night at the University of Southern California, you learned from him who you'd have had as brother-in-law of the 30 Banquet for she whom you'd wished to marry.

Last year, the 30 Banquet of a great, long-time chum, one of two at the tip of the triangle in terms of that remarkable chemistry of respect, love, intimacy, and empathy.

Now, you are attending a 30 Banquet for the other of the two, thankful it still has many courses to be served, many commendations and reminiscences yet to recount.

The laugh lines on your chin have become more pronounced, your eyebrows bushier, as if in mitigation of your hairline growing thinner.  You reminded two persons today for whom you autographed copies of your book of the actor James Whitmore, a stirring flattery, reminding you you are very bit as overconfident today as you were at your Daily Bruin Thirty Banquet.

-30- the end of one story and a purposeful stride into the beginning of a next.

-30- Banquet.  The reminiscences and commemoration of friendships and working lives.

You have heard it said that living in the present is the most adventurous way to proceed, that looking back too often tends to distract one from the invariable uncertainties in the road ahead. You have had grand companions to this point in the road, there are two books in the works and two more at least rumbling around, genies stuck in their bottles, offering you blandishments and willingness to grant you wishes, were you to let them out.

After writing -30- to a number of stories, you come to understand how, in the best of all possible worlds, you will not be around to get all your anticipated stories underway nor indeed effect all your anticipated, hoped for results.  Rather, you thrill in the absolute wonder of the process in which there will always be more stories and relationships and -30- Banquets than you can possibly attend,

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