Still More Tales From a Reporter’s Notebook, or The Gastonia Connection

Now Playing: Seems Like a Long Time, by Rod Stewart “War time is only the other side of peace time, but if you’ve ever seen how wars are won, you know what it’s like, to wish peace time would come. And don’t it seem like a long time, seem like a long time, seems like a long, long time. Don’t it though, Rod.

I start this entry today with a disclaimer. Nothing that follows should be taken as making fun of Gastonia or Gastonians. I promise. I loved my four years there (and still go to a dentist there, because I trust him).

Here in the Greater Charlotte Area, Gastonia often is the butt of jokes. I’ve laughed, too, even though I’ve lived there, and really liked a lot about the city – Tony’s Ice Cream, R.O.’s barbecue, etc. We moved to Gastonia in March 1993 because I took a job as news editor at The Gaston Gazette. I also worked as sports editor (an entry for another day) and special-projects editor. Met a bunch of good folks there, including a bunch of current Facebook friends: Anna Turnage, Leslie Weaver, Shana Hefner, Heather Hay, Andy Jasner, Devin Steele (which I’ve always thought would make a great name for a hard-boiled private investigator), Bill Sheridan, Barry Smith, Barry Bridges, Jamey Reynolds and I’m sure some others. I also reconnected there with a good friend from Jacksonville, Jim Bretzius, and his wife Hunter, who’s now the editor of The Gazette.

Anyway, in addition to making a lot of good friends, I also learned a lot at The Gazette. Most of all I learned about finding the Local Angle. You know, the connection to a national news story that makes it relevant to readers. In Gastonia, I learned that there’s ALWAYS a local angle. You just have to find it.

Here’s the part where I might offend the city and its residents: You know how Sunnydale High School in Buffy the Vampire Slayer sat on a Hellmouth, the gateway to demon realms. That’s why Buffy and her pals had so many problems. Well, I think Gastonia might be sitting on another kind of portal – the gateway to weird.

Some of it is little weird. Like my boss at the Gazette, Skip. His first name was Arthur. Like me. His middle name was Frank. My dad and brother’s name. We showed up at the same party with our wives. It was the first and only time we ever met. My wife was wearing a black shirt and green khaki shorts. His wife was wearing a black shirt and green khaki shorts. And it gets better. The day I told folks at the office that Karen and I were expecting our first child, he told folks at the office that he and Dina were expecting their first child.

Some of it is BIG weird. Remember the San Diego cult that designed websites and its members committed suicide with phenobarbitol AND plastic bags tied around their heads because they were convinced that a space ship hiding behind the Hale-Bopp comet would take them to heaven. The leader, Marshall Applewhite, and some of its members had castrated themselves. Guess where Marshall once was a minister of music at a Presbyterian church?

It’s still going on, too. In the past few days, a West Virginia advocate for medically assisted suicide announced that, because North Carolina no law specifically criminalizing physician-assisted suicide, he wanted to establish a center here. And guess where he decided it should be?

Guess that’s one way to get out of town.

“Know what’s weird. Day by day, nothing seems to change. But pretty soon, everything’s different.” _ Bill Watterson (the guy who used to do Calvin & Hobbes)



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9 responses to “Still More Tales From a Reporter’s Notebook, or The Gastonia Connection

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