My family and I continue to hunker down–like everyone is supposed to. Bartered beer for toilet paper with our friends/neighbors yesterday. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown finally announced a shelter in place order Monday, most likely as a response to the bozos that flooded small rural and beach towns over the weekend as their way of social distancing. We’re trying to do takeout once a week from local restaurants to help them weather this unprecedented storm. The fed and local governments better get those emergency stimulus packages passed before the natives get restless, and we have to deal with a whole new set of problems.
Mostly, I want to say thank you to my mom for approaching her boss yesterday about her concerns about continuing work at the grocery store she’s been with for years. They happily laid her off so she can collect unemployment, and sent her off with a small party and a bunch of beer and toilet paper. Thank you, mom, for taking this seriously. Happy retirement. I love you. I’ll listen to some Billy Squier and drink a beer in your honor today.
The hardest thing to hit me this week, as my gray matter continues to slosh between godlike faith in humanity and a hideous, flaming pit of despair, is when I found out the Chico News & Review was suspending publication after more than four decades.
This news came a week after The Portland Mercury and The Stranger in Seattle halted print publication and laid off most of its employees. This is a result of a massive drop in ad revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is steadily spreading and simultaneously crippling small businesses across the country. This is not good at all. First off, many of my friends and colleagues have quickly become jobless, but this also leaves massive holes in local coverage when we need it most. My biggest fear is that these publications won’t recover.
I mention these particular papers because I’ve been writing for the Mercury for a decade, and I’ve been an editor and writer for the CN&R since 2004. I know the grind of putting together a weekly paper. I also know journalists’ dedication to find the truth, and to get people’s stories out there (this may come as a shock, but we aren’t in it for the money). All of this probably sounds insane in this current reality where a reality TV president labels every news organization that doesn’t stroke his fragile ego “fake news,” but I still know many in the trenches who are doing the work, and doing it well.
Losing the Chico News & Review (along with its sister papers the Sacramento and Reno News & Review) stings especially bad. I’d been reading it probably since junior high school–sucked into the pithy columns, band profiles, and enthralled by the ads for the killer shows happening at cool, mysterious venues. I interned there while studying journalism at Chico State University. I was offered a job in February of 2004 when associate editor (and my mentor and forever friend) Devanie Angel went on maternity leave. Just a quick aside: The fact that Tom Gascoyne, Robert Speer and Devanie Angel trusted me to fill her shoes is something I will never fathom nor forget…and I’m weeping as I write this.
I also met one of my best friends, longtime arts editor Jason Cassidy, there. We played in bands. And Jason showed me that if you want make things happen, you just had to fucking do it. I took over as the arts editor in 2005 (the year The Days of Lore was born as a weekly column), and ran the section until September 2008, when I moved to Portland. Cassidy resumed his rightful spot as the voice of Chico’s art scene, and I’ve continued to write for him ever since. I played in a band with then news editor and agitator Josh Indar (along with Scott Derr from Turn! Turn! Turn!). To this day–15 years later–I still look up to Scott and Josh.
In early 2007 I lured another great friend, Melissa Daugherty, to leave her post as a righteous reporter at the daily paper and come work for the CN&R. We went to J-school together and before she came to the News & Review we both covered the happenings at the university, including a story that made national headlines about Matthew Carrington, who died from a freak hazing incident at a local fraternity in February 2005. Melissa became editor of the CN&R in 2013, the first woman to hold that position at the paper. During her time, she continued the CN&R‘s commitment to community journalism–ruffling the right feathers, while dealing with the usual sexism, stress and baggage that comes with the job. The paper continued to scoop up awards, most notably for its coverage of the Camp Fire, which all but wiped out the town of Paradise in 2018. She’s a fucking champion, and I love her (look for an interview with Melissa in the coming weeks).
I need to point out that for the CN&R‘s final issue, Daugherty wrote a moving and educational piece about her son Henry, who has Down Syndrome. It’s worth a read (keep tissues on hand). And it’s a prime example of what the town of Chico is going to be missing. Since its formation on the Chico State University campus in August 1977, the Chico News & Review has been the watchdog, not to mention opening eyes and ears to the art-makers of the town.
All of this may sound self-serving, but A), this is my fucking website, and B) the CN&R–and everyone I’ve worked with there–have helped shape me as a person and as a consumer of art. The Mercury, too. People like Robert Ham, Ned Lannamann and Aris Wales are not only friends, but writers and thinkers I respect immensely. I am a product of these institutions and these people.
The ripple-effects of this pandemic will likely be worse than we think, and will be felt for some time. The future of these publications is uncertain. That’s scary to me. And it’s startling that these local papers are in such dire straits in the year 2020 that they need to ask for donations. But you know what? They’re worth it. Even if you don’t always agree with what they say.
Donate to the Chico News & Reviewhere. And the Portland Mercuryhere.
Or is it day 3? Anyway, Tuesday was a roller coaster, as I’m sure the days will continue to be. Before you know it it’s 9 o’clock at night, and you’re deciding between going to bed or having another cocktail(s), or perhaps…yes, cocktail it is.
I will say this–our family has been good about hanging out and being present (although I’m still working on fighting the urge to read the news, or scroll social media). We’re even implementing some of our son’s school activities (like journaling, sharing, and storytime) at home. I hope at the very least this time together will bring us closer. And I sincerely mean that. That said, I found out that our kid will be home from school for at least a month, and my wife, who’s a teacher, will be out until April 28. We’re going to fucking kill each other. And I’m sure I will be the first to go…I hope my family will have the decency to let me choose my fate.
I’m not panicking, but I do worry people still aren’t taking this seriously…mostly because I just read that as the virus continues to spread, fewer people (mostly those who think science and math are dumb) view it as a serious threat. Yes, true to form, Americans will not learn their lesson until someone close to them dies on a tower of Charmin Ultra Strong (only $38.88 for 24 rolls on eBay).
Others’ stupidity frightens me more than the pandemic steadily consuming our country. Get your shit together! Stay home and stress-drink like a responsible American! Think about it: To keep yourself and others safe, all you have to do is practice being a lazy American. For chrissakes we can’t even get that right.
Since we’re all (hopefully) practicing “social distancing” I thought I might try and do a semi-daily report from TDoL HQ. Maybe every day if it doesn’t become too monotonous, which I assume at some point it will. I’ll try and keep it light, but no promises. And certain posts might focus on specific things, rather than a blow-by-blow. Ugh…I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.
I’m not gonna lie, today wore me down a little. A lot of people out of work (myself included), the fear that some businesses may not recover, a looming recession–it’s left me feeling a little scared. Even the interviews I had scheduled this week, small bright spots in all of this, were postponed (understandably) due to the effects of this pandemic.
I went shopping early in the day, and the Trader Joe’s in Clackamas wasn’t too insane–about the typical traffic for a weekday, and shelves were well-stocked, save for toilet paper and paper towels. To that I say, “What the fuck is wrong with people?” Through normal shopping trips we have plenty of TP. And if we run out and don’t have access to more, I will take my dump and jump in the shower and scrub my ass like a normal person. Although, look at my dumb ass: Later in the day I panic-purchased more alcohol after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the closure of all bars and restaurants (except takeout orders) for four weeks. Priorities.
We made the best of the day, hanging out in the sun, playing with the kids and drinking beer–if we’re going to be isolated, we might as well make the best of it, right? My mother-in-law came over, which I advised against since she falls in the category of having a compromised immune system. I hope we don’t regret this decision.
I also hope in the coming weeks we have a clearer picture of what we’re dealing with…or we’re all going to run out of kids activities or, more importantly, booze. Hang in there, friends. Take care of each other. Hopefully a return to levity tomorrow.
To say we’re living in crazy times is an understatement at this point. Aside from the usual day-to-day political madness, we are dealing with an escalating pandemic. Now I’m not here to add to the hysteria around COVID-19, but we should take the precautions seriously. Especially for those most susceptible to getting sick.
Personally, I’m trying to not be overly paranoid, but I also don’t want to be flippant about the severity of the virus. And because the information on the Coronavirus is changing so quickly, I’m really relying on basic common sense–avoiding large crowds when possible (this is, of course, has essentially been mandated in some states), working on not touching my face, and washing my hands more often. This will help alleviate the spread of the virus.
If we’re not smart about it now this will affect more and more people, even those who are young and healthy. It’s already affecting people’s livelihoods, and the financial harm will likely wreak more havoc than the virus itself. Be smart. Be compassionate toward others. Listen to your doctor. Listen to your local government. Read trusted news sources (while keeping in mind that the information available is constantly changing). And stay strong.