Walking down S. 4th St. last night, I watched the neon light from the Little Palace Restaurant, two blocks away, reflecting off the windows of nearby shops and passing cars.
The dark city street reminded me of my earliest days at the newspaper, back when I covered the night cops beat, back when the romance of blood pooling in the street and a hard deadline looming -- and a byline, oh God that byline -- was still new.
I'd been drinking, sure, but just beer -- "lite" beer at that. It wasn't a night to splurge at the bar.
The staff was being edited. One out of four newsroom employees would be gone, like deleted paragraphs from an overset column. The news would go out in e-mails that night: Who was out, who remained.
I felt something important draining from the city, washing into the gutters and down the storm sewer and into the Scioto River, to be diluted with the muck and murk and transformed, somewhere south of Circleville, into impotent, homeopathic nothingness.
I sometimes wonder if anyone loves my city any more than I do. It seems, on the surface, an unlovable place -- bland, white collar, white bread.
But I've seen the proof of life. I've seen blood pooling on streets; walked quiet, broken-glass covered alleys; heard the nearby shots that made even the cops jump; camped in brushy outcroppings in the shadow of skyscrapers with bums like Joe and Shorty (who wouldn't mind me calling them bums, for that's what they were and they were honest, in their way).
And if you love a city, you must love (and, sure, hate) its newspaper. Those are the rules. At least they were.
But times change.
And another kind of deadline is looming.