There’s a sign above the door of the building where I work. STAR-TRIBUNE. We don’t have the entire building, and it’s not really a building in the stand-alone sense. It blends and melds into a structure that includes a 50+ story skyscraper. But it’s our name over the door, and we have the lobby to display photos.
It’s a cold space. It has no presence. People pass through just to get to the escalator to go up, or to leave and smoke. The grand entrance to the big atrium is up the street. There’s another entrance around the block that gets more attention and has a better view.
We were a backwater, really.
Earlier in the day, the drapes came down and people saw this. Not many passersby knew what it was.
Once upon a time it spun, ever so slowly, in the lobby of our old building. Back when the owners decided that people should be able to apprehend the world as a whole, a series of connected entites, instead of words on a flat piece of paper. So they spent a lot of money on this.
Rand McNally did the map, and painted it by hand. The globe spun for several decades until it was removed in an ill-advised renovation, and I spent a lot of time in the basement looking for it. I'd only seen it in pictures. Where had it gone?
A barn owned by a relative of the newspaper's owners. It was in need of restoration, as you might imagine.
It was installed in a niche in our new office, truly making it feel like the StarTribune building. Nice ceremony today: the editor and I were talking about the bad grim days of the previous decade, when we were shuttering publications, shrinking staff, closing off entire wings of the sprawling building to save money.
This felt like a symbol of our rebirth, to state the obvious banal cliche. Couldn't have come at a better time:
It was our official 150th anniversary celebration, with cookies the size of Frisbees, branded swag - and our Mascot! Starry! Or Stribby! Something.
Everyone had a bounce in their step, it seemed - and then, perhaps, a bit of a sway:
||We had our own beer. Brewed by Fulton. Extra Extra.
The party was at Fulton's brewpub:
I got to be a "celebrity bartender." Until I was fired, but I'll get to that. It was great to be behind the bar again after so many years. Banter! Engage! Perform! Make it a party. Guy sits down, I ask if he wants an Extra Extra.
"No," he says. "I don't like lager, and I don't like the Star Tribune."
"Well I WORK for the StarTribune," I say, "and I do like lager, so I'll be damned if you get any beer."
He takes it in the proper spirit and says he'll have an IPA or something, can't remember what, and I hold up a can and say "One of these cans contains a coin worth a thousand dollars, and whoever wins it will be on the front page of the paper tomorrow, and it won't be you because you don't like the StarTribune."
You can tell when you're not going to get punched. Old bartender instincts. We got along famously after that and he gave me the name of three Scottish pubs in Edinburgh I have to visit. Then the bar got slammed, post-work crowd, and myself and the other Celebrity Bartender weren't just selling Strib Beer, but everything, and like I said: old instincts. Stocking, pulling cans out of the plastic. And then I started pouring beers, which compounded things because we were doubling the number of orders that had to go through the register. So the real bartenders asked us to stop helping.
I understand. But it was fun.
And I got two dollars in tips.
Later that night three buildings downtown were lit with StarTribune green.
We made it. We survived!
There was a piece in the paper this week about the increasing coarseness in our public discourse. The author was surprised that the F word was becoming common, and people felt necessary to curse to communicate Rage or Authenticity. I came up in newsrooms, so I'm used to it, in a private context. Worked for Deborah Howell, the Swearingest Boss in the history of journalism. But she never swore while giving a speech, because context is everything and public decorum is essential for a healthy, intelligent debate.
I want to give you headlines from 36 hours worth of BuzzFeed.
Why would anyone hire these people? Haven't they just announced they have no skill, no filters, no class?
As noted, I'm going through the entire Gildersleeve series this year - and there's a lot. We're now in the middle portion, post-war.
I hate this typeface so very, very much.
Pity the middle-aged person who thought he'd get some nice show tunes.
That'll do! Thanks for stopping by this week. More of the same, except completely different, on Monday. See you then.