I actually sent this IM to my ex-, well, still-sorta boss the other day:
"If I were sitting next to you, I might hug you."
And he didn't take offense.
For the first time in a year, the man at the desk in New Orleans was my boss again. And, a day later, for the first time in a year my name was back on the sports page again.
It's been a very long 12 months since two men in ties sat me down in a coffee shop (without even offering to buy me a cup) and broke my heart by telling me that I was no longer what I was, no longer who I was, and would no longer be doing what I had been doing for the last 24 years.
No longer a sports writer, covering the games young people play -- yes, even soccer. Now I would be a receptionist, answering phones, writing receipts, trying like hell to make correct change for a 20 and ordering toilet paper.
And instead of writing wonderful features on the stars of tomorrow, I would be covering crime -- murders and armed robbery and battery and rape. The things nightmares are made of.
It's the new reality for journalists these days. We learn new words, like "buyout" and "furlough." We recalculate our insurance premiums. We spend hours of company time filling out health questionnaires and reaffirming that we are contemplating starting a diet and exercise program.
And female sports writers get turned into receptionist/crime reporters.
My first week on the new job I spent hours with a bunch of Sheriff's deputies waiting out a man who had shot his girlfriend in the head, left her body in a car in a hospital parking lot and then barricaded himself in his shed-turned-house. He came out with a self-inflicted bullet in his head. Last I heard, he was still on life-support.
Since last summer I've covered a teenager who was brutally murdered in her home, an elderly double-amputee who died in a fire that was deliberately set in her home, two more murder-suicides, a string of drug-related murders in one tiny neighborhood and countless robberies and assaults.
Yes, the stuff nightmares are made of.
But my name still appeared on every sports writing award last year. As the current president of the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, my name appears on every certificate handed out this year and next.
But then a dream came true. Someone, somehow, for some reason decided I was missed. Or needed. Or both. Or something. They opened the door to the sports section and let me walk in.
Or at least put a toe.
I'm allowed to write features and game advances. No games. No stats. No capsules. Just stories. (Not a bad gig, actually!)
And it was good.
So last week, for the first time in a year, I got to go talk to a coach. About a game plan. About offense, not offenses. About defense and not defensive wounds. About football.
And I got to interview a hard-working, well-spoken quarterback determined to bring his team back to glory and write a fine story about him. (You can read it here).
Strangely enough, my byline also appeared on the front page of the paper that day, on a story about the recovery of the body of a murder suspect who leaped to his death from atop a Mississippi River bridge the week before.
"You're back in the saddle," said one of the coaches I used to call on a regular basis.
"Well, sort of," I replied. "I'm kind of side saddle."
"Hey. It's better than nothing," he replied.
Linked up with Erica and friends at FreeFringes.