Monday, April 13, 2009

Chapter 2: Lost in Paradise

After high school, I attended the University of Missouri and majored in Journalism. I wasn't exactly a stellar student.

Upon graduation, I went to work for the Mailbu Canyon News for several years. Despite what most Americans imagine, Malibu is not the exactly a glamorous and glorious utopia. The Canyon News was not the most glamorous and glorious publication. It ranked third of four newspapers that served the city. It was published weekly and made most of it's revenue from advertisements for horse and automobile trades. I spent most of my time working on those ads and transcribing local police reports.

I've never been much of a beach person. At about five foot eight and two hundred and twenty pounds, I'll never be a surfer. Be that as is may, I didn't mind Malibu too much except for the fact that I shared a double-wide mobile home with two room mates in a neighborhood called Paradise Cove. This was the only way I could afford to live in Malibu. Otherwise I'd probably have had to rent an apartment somewhere like Van Nuys and then I'd never been able to afford to drive an hour to the Canon News office every day. Most people think that Paradise Cove would be a wonderful place to live, sheltered from the freeway and only a block from the beach. But most people weren't named James Garner. Paradise Cove was the location for the 1970's TV show, the Rockford Files. Detective Jim Rockford was played by actor James Garner. I didn't know this when I moves in, otherwise I would've used my first name when I signed the lease. I've gone by James ever since kindergarten because I was thought William was too embarrassing and my mother refused to let anyone call me Billy.

I was barely eking out a living. I Hated having neighbors give me grief about being James Garner living in Rockford's trailer court. And I hated living so close to Los Angeles. Plastic, caustic, crime-ridden, smog laden, Los Angeles. So, when I found an opportunity to become the editor of a small weekly in the Midwest, I decided to try something new. I was looking through an office copy of the California Newspaper Publisher Association's monthly paper and saw an ad for an editor of a small town newspaper, the Cedar Ridge Times.

While, I as I said, I wasn't exactly top of my class at MIZZOU, I was feeling pretty bad about being just a staff member at a third place weekly, especially having graduated from such a prestigious journalism school. I was excited about the opportunity to step up to a leadership role, even if it meant having to deal with snow and cold for part of the year. How hard could it be? Like I mentioned, Malibu isn't exactly Beverly Hills. I figured rural Iowa couldn't be too much different from the ranchers and strawberry farmers of North West L.A. County. I figured the West Coast was a culture shock coming from the nurturing arms of Columbia Missouri. Really, I had no idea of what culture was, let alone culture shock.

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