Yesterday I got my first official donation for my Boston Marathon run to support Children’s Hospital. I am tickled pink that it came from a guy I haven’t seen in 20 years, who would have no idea I was even running a marathon if it weren’t for this crazy little thing called Facebook.
His name is Gene. Back in the 90’s he was a night editor at The Middlesex News (now the Metrowest Daily News). I was a senior at BU’s J-school, chomping at the bit to practice the craft I studied. My peers partied; I asked the News if I could cover stories the real reporters didn’t want. They said OK.
On my first night as a “correspondent” I was dispatched to the ritzy suburb of Sudbury to cover a school board meeting the real reporter said “pass” to. For nine-tenths of the meeting, the beat writer seemed like he had made a most excellent choice: he was enjoying a nice dinner with the fam while I was being bored to tears with the minutiae of running a school system. But then someone mentioned Magic Johnson’s then-recent announcement that he had AIDS. Shouldn’t the Sudbury school system make condoms available in the nurse’s office?
It was mid November, but from the fireworks in Sudbury that night you’d have thought it was the Fourth of July. Bingo. Wow. I had my story.
I rushed to the New’s offices, found and pressed the let-me-in-it’s-damn-cold-out-here security buzzer as the assignment editor had instructed and waited. A guy appeared, introduced himself as Gene. He let me in, showed me to an empty computer and told me to write.
Write I did, then I watched over his shoulder as he edited. “This is really good,” he said, as I noted the surprise in his voice. “It’s pretty clean; I’m not going to have to do much. I have to do more with some of the beat writers’ stuff,” he told me. “You’re good. This might even get front page.”
Me? Good? Front-page good? I was as surprised as Gene. The girl who was notorious at BU for not being able to stay awake through a full episode of Saturday Night Live drove home in the wee hours of that morning as if she’d consumed a case of Red Bull (which of course she hadn’t; it wasn’t yet invented).
We reenacted this scene many times over the next several months. It didn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes I even got Gene’s scrunched up “is this really the best you could do?” face. I learned from Gene that which BU could not teach in the confines of the classroom.
Back in 1991 Gene made the 17-year-old me feel like she could write. Yesterday he made the 39-year-old me feel like she could raise $5k for Children’s the same way she plans to run this crazy 26.2-mile thing called a marathon: one stride at a time.
Gene, you da man. Thanks. Again.