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Hey, 2008 Wasn’t That Bad …

December 31st, 2008 · 8 Comments · Basketball, Beijing Olympics, Hong Kong, Lakers, LANG, Olympics, Sports Journalism, The Sun


If I’m picking up on this correctly, from the other side of the ocean, 2008 can’t be over fast enough for a lot (most all?) of people.

“People” meaning Americans. Or at least English-speakers.

Like, everyone is all fixated on this “economy” thing … Letting it get them down.

Hey, 2008 wasn’t that bad. Take it from somebody who was fired. For the first time. In 2008. Who found out far more about unemployment — I believe it technically is called the Employment Development Department, in California — for the first time.

I ought to have hated 2008. But I didn’t. Not at all.

Really, it wasn’t bad. Especially if you take it from the perspective of, “hey, how many more years do we get to throw in the trash can with a hearty adieu?” We’re not gonna be on this mortal coil forever.

What I liked about 2008 …

–The exquisite comedy of being fired by a guy and a company unworthy of me. Well, actually, unworthy of every last one of the poor drudges who have the misfortune of still working for there. I mean, this guy is still getting paid by Dean Singleton, and I’m not? Actually, if you think this through … better him than me.

I still laugh when I think about it. Really. His name is still attached to a journalistic train wreck. I don’t have to answer for any of it.

–Time off. Temporary retirement. Me time. Whatever. I always thought it was sinful to sit around and not do anything. I thought it was wrong not to have the nagging sense of a deadline about to be trashed, to be missing the urgency of having to be somewhere up the freeway five minutes ago. Well, it’s wonderful to have that gone. I mean this most sincerely.

For, what …five months? … I did almost nothing. Nothing that had to do with having to be somewhere at a given time. It was like being retired. Sure, I was making no money, but to have to do nothing? It was great. It was fabulous. I suspect most (all?) of you could get used to it.

(Maybe I should have taken all those vacation days the company eventually just paid me for.)

–The Lakers traded for Pau Gasol and made the NBA Finals. And I saw just about every home game in the playoffs, working real gigs as a stringer.

–Working as a stringer. This is a hoot. All the rush of being at the event and writing on deadline, with a fraction of the pressure.  Sometimes you just like being at a game … and you still get paid. But if you don’t want to work … you don’t.

–Moving to Long Beach. I mean, I was fine with the Inland Empire. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t have put in … Wait! I lived in the IE for 31 years?!? What was I thinking?

And now I’m  based in Long Beach, three blocks from the ocean.  Where it never gets hotter than 88 degrees all summer. Where summer is three months of long, warm nights … and not six months of scalding Saharan torment that is the IE summer. Where most of my family lives, in a city that has culture, a sense of itself and a hope of a future. And did I mention the beach?

–I did the Olympics. In Beijing. Never had been to China, and I got credentialed in the most random way. But it turned out to be a kick in the pants. The Chinese spared no expense, the venues were astonishing and Leah was able to get there, too.

I did 20-some stories for a variety of publications, from stories on yachting (an out of body experience) to also-rans in second-tier sports– which was surprisingly fun. Everyone else was fighting over tickets to Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt … and I was at women’s judo and taekwondo and shooting and Greco-Roman wrestling where a great kid named Adam Wheeler won a bronze medal and I covered it to death for the Antelope Valley Press.

By the time it was over, I’d covered my 13th Olympics and done the Forbidden City — and almost made enough money back from my stringing to break even. Nothing wrong with that.

–I got to Hong Kong. Not long after returning from three weeks in Beijing, having decided China wasn’t nearly as strange as I thought it would be, someone from the International Herald Tribune asked if Leah or I would be interested in working four months in Hong Kong — and I said, “you bet!”

So, we have been in HK for three months, making a decent wage, seeing the sights, totally immersed in the Asia experience and getting an occasional rush out of it (when we’re not worried sick that China and Asia in general are going to drink America’s milk shake) …

And now and again, every few days, it occurs to me, “Hmm, I could still be working for guys I don’t respect at a publication with no future … or I could be in Hong Kong and about a month away from another X number of months of not doing much of anything — and liking it!”

I suppose I will remember 2008 … for something basic. That from here on out, in the 21st century working world, anyone who believes they can expect to work, forever, for a certain job with a certain company is just not paying attention. It will be tumult, at times, and you have to roll with what goes on … and odds are things will workout, somehow.

Oh, and one more thing: On the last day of 2008 I discovered “30 Rock” — which I had never seen but is showing nonstop on a nine-hour marathon here on cable in Hong Kong … and is seriously clever.

Which we are watching while doing a stay-in-the-teeny-apartment NYE thing involving lots of party food and sitcoms. To wit: Dutch bleu cheese, and decent mozzarella and a camembert, with an almost legit baguette, prosciutto with melon … and Leah with sushi she just bought at the gweilo store on Queens Road. With an Australian shiraz … and we have some Veuve Cliquot we may actually have later, if we aren’t too topped off by all the other stuff.

See, 2008 was the gift that kept on giving, right up till it hit midnight of Dec. 31. Or sure looks like it. The final few minutes, we may even run outside and see if somebody sets off some fireworks — that we can see from the streets of Wan Chai.

Sure, 2008 was a little weird. But at the end, here, I have to admit it was a whole series of “didn’t see that comings” — in a good way. I liked 2008. It was good to me, and I extend my thanks.


8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chuck Hickey // Dec 31, 2008 at 7:44 AM

    Great perspective. Happy New Year to both of you.

  • 2 MMRCPA // Dec 31, 2008 at 9:03 AM

    Glad the glass is half full.
    If anyone has a doubt about your claim about your former place of employment, they need only to pick up a copy of the paper, as I am still stuck with it, and read not, news, but wire reports ad nauseum and reporting reminiscent of 6th grade.

  • 3 John Hollon // Dec 31, 2008 at 1:14 PM

    What a great perspective you have on life and the past year. You really are better off being out of the Singleton empire, such as it is. He puts out terrible newspapers run by terrible people and makes Gannett look like the New York Times. You are so much better than that — and your life after Media News is proof of it. Happy New Year and have a great 2009.

  • 4 WarpedCowgirl // Dec 31, 2008 at 3:19 PM

    Thanks for making me smile today.
    My magazine got the whack last week, and I’m back on the universal desk. Less pay, but Thank God I’m still employed. I do enjoy the work and get even more enjoyment, oddly enough, reminding myself how temporary it could be,
    Peace to all for 2009.

  • 5 Char Ham // Dec 31, 2008 at 6:07 PM

    Although I miss reading your sports column, leaving/fired from your long time job turned out to be a blessing, seeing and experience life that you and Leah would not have otherwise. What a blessing.

  • 6 Suzanne // Jan 1, 2009 at 9:17 AM

    Lovely! Great to see the loss of your job turned out to be such a blessing! Happy 2009!

  • 7 Nate Ryan // Jan 1, 2009 at 10:37 AM

    Damn. That’s a hell of a way to end Year 1 of

    Not much to say but Happy New Year and may 2009 bring as many unexpected blessings that you so eqloquently described above.

  • 8 Jacob Pomrenke // Jan 2, 2009 at 2:39 PM

    Good for you, Paul. Happy 2009!

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