Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Out of Control on Memory Lane

Since creating a Facebook account several months ago, I have been traveling back and forth through my past, reconnecting at least superficially with people I knew and worked with in my other life as a television reporter and later news producer.

I have found people from various places I worked: Rapid City, SD; Lafayette, LA; Kalispell, MT; Huntsville, AL. It has been an amazing journey down memory lane, but there are time it seems I am traveling a bit out of control. Tonight was one of those nights.

While checking in on Facebook tonight, I came across a Facebook group created for people who work or worked at KEVN-TV in Rapid City, my first news job. While looking through the photo album posted, I came across some very familiar faces from my time there in the 1980s.

Commenting on some of the photos, I said that time was one of the happiest in my life, even though I was working for a fairly low salary. (I started in 1983 at the princely sum of $9,200 a year.) Filtered through the time span of 25 years, I remember those days fondly. Looking at the photos also brought back some not so good memories.

In those days, I had a hard time making real friends and getting close to people. I suppose you could say I lacked the skill or the knack. I'm sure I alternated between trying to hard to make people like me and trying hard to act like I didn't care whether they liked me.

Part of it, I think, at least in those days, was a sense that I didn't really fit in with the rest of the staff. I don't know if any other members of the news staff felt the same way, but I felt at times unqualified and like an impostor. I had no college degree and no real background or training in journalism.

I got into television news because I liked to write and wanted to do so professionally. That is also the reason I eventually moved behind the camera as a news producer and the reason I left the business in 1993, after other facets of the job began to dominate the writing aspect.

Despite the personal difficulties I had in those days, I have very fond memories of Rapid City and of the people I worked with. I remember having a Fiat Strada with plastic interior door handles that broke off one winter because it was so cold.

I remember trying to get back up to the TV station one snowy December day and having to help push the car through a snow drift. I also remember a certain co-worked getting up on the table in a bar after his first experience (several glasses in the making) with a Long Island Ice Tea.

I remember doing a story on the still unfinished Crazy Horse monument, hanging off the side of the mountain by a rope, with only the guide's strength of grip between me and death. The whole time, I remember worrying not about dying but about dropping and breaking the then-new camera I had been allowed to use to shoot the story. The camera got back safely.

Most of all, I remember the great people I worked with and feel a deep sadness that I did not try harder to do a better job of staying in touch with them. I find myself wondering where they are now and hoping they might remember those days as fondly as I do.

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