Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

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Shooting an air torpedo aboard the USS New York City

THE WORLD WAS MY WORKPLACE
By David Allen

I was asked about my workplace
What was it like?

Well, there were desks and file cabinets,
Reporter cubicles in lines,
copy editors grouped in a circle.
Typedancing was the newsroom music,
Metal keys slapping rubber platens
With the constant clickity clack background music
Coming from the wire room, created by machines
Spinning out the national news.
Years later, silence descended when computers took over;
A serenity broken only when a reporter cursed loudly
At his phone when a key source clammed up.

But there were other workplaces for me
So many  more …

There was speeding down a narrow Thailand road
On the way to the Bridge over the River Kwai,
Dodging rundown buses taking up most of both lanes
As “Highway to Hell” blared from my car’s speakers.

And there was the USS New York City,
A submarine where I pressed the button
Discharging air torpedoes at
Phantom enemy shipping.

And I can’t forget circling on the only road in Nauru,
Where I noted the island’s center
Was the richest mine of bird guano in the world.
That was on my way to Tarawa, where my workspace
Was a sandy beach next to a rusting tank
Sunken in the ground for 50 years.

Once my workplace was another beach,
Drinking rum from a coconut on Peleliu
As the children paddled to collect presents
Dropped by Santa from an Air Force plane.

Another island workplace was Guam
Where a scared photographer declared
My driving was “Vehicular Bungee Jumping”
As we rumbled along mountain trails
Searching for the cave where a Japanese soldier hid for decades.
Guam, where my family survived an 8.1 magnitude earthquake
And I was absent for a week covering the damaged buildings and lives.

There was also that day in Northern Indiana
Where my workplace was a diner booth
Chatting about White Pride with a neo-Nazi skinhead,
Getting him to trust me so I could join his Aryan Christian Church
And take notes for a future front page expose.

In the same city my workplace was a walk
Around the county courthouse listening to a police spokesman
Tell me a woman recently murdered had collected evidence
That threatened the careers of his boss and the mayor.

Much earlier in my career
My workplace was a Virginia border town
Where I interviewed descendants
Of the Hatfields and McCoys,
Noting the West Virginia families
Lived in rundown trailers with
Huge satellite TV antennas in the yards

Today my workplace is my Indiana home
In an office crammed with books,
File cabinets, plastic boxes of old newsclips,
Piles of notebooks filled with scrawled poems,
And photos of the other days
When I trawled the world for news.

 

 

 

NEwsroom

Newsrooms, Petersburg (Va.)Progress-Index, 1978.

ON DEADLINE
By David Allen

The one thing I miss the most
about those busy newspaper days
is the energy rush responding
to calls on the police radio;
racing to beat the ambulances
and squad cars to the scene
of accidents and crimes.
Yeah, I was a disaster junky.
“Hey, Allen, we got two hours!”
an editor once shouted
as I left the noisy newsroom
to chase down a missing child report.
“You want a two or three hanky story?”
I yelled back, stuffing a notebook into
my back pocket as I scurried away.
I usually got to view the bodies
before the police tape went up
and interviewed families
before the news horde arrived.
My newsmates dubbed me “Dr. Death”
and my cubicle was roped off
by yellow police tape.
A sign above my desk read:
“Deadlines Amuse Me.”
The police radio always played
in the background – at work,
at play, and beside my bed at night.

Late in my career, in the Far East
as a Bureau Chief for Stars and Stripes,
the police radio was replaced
by emergency broadcasts
warning of typhoons, tsunamis,
earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

I never examined why I was drawn
to the darker side of life
until I retired and pondered
about the emptiness I felt
when sirens wailed in the distance
and I didn’t have to go.
I loved chasing the news
because that’s when I felt alive.
And I told the stories better
than anybody else.

The Reporter 1979 (2)

Cop reporter at the Petersburg (Va.) Progress Index 1978.

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D Allen - self

The Young Writer
By David Allen

He was always jotting something down
in an old school notebook,
sitting on the front stoop
of his family’s apartment
while his friends ran by him
to play a game of stickball
in the housing project’s parking lot.
When older, the other teens,
who bragged of their JD cards,
stole cars for joy rides,
while he buried himself
in books by Henry Miller, Dos Passos,
Frost, Whitman, Ginsberg and Poe.

There was always something different about him.
Oh, he wasn’t some antisocial angelic dweeb.
He played war with sticks and mud clods
on the hill behind the Rec Center.
And he also shoplifted his share of candy
and trolled the backstreets and alleys
for soda bottles to deposit at the local deli.

The oldest of seven kids,
he chose early to disconnect from the family,
spending hours away from home exploring
abandoned houses, factory ruins,
drainage tunnels, and rail yards
where he learned to hop freights
But, unlike his friends, he wrote
about those adventures,
scribbling in long-lost notebooks,
paeans to the open road,
hitch-hiking across borders;
new rock ballads for lost loves;
observations in a new teen beat.

Sometimes, while delivering the daily
newspaper, he imagined his life
was a televised serial on some
alien planet and he’d looked up
at the sky and give the viewers the finger.
He knew they’d cut that scene,
but it made him smile.
Kerouac would like that gesture.
he thought, so would Miller.
Years later, while skating through
high school, he joined the Naval Reserves
and took destroyer cruises
to the Caribbean – the Tropic of Cancer,
while classmates stayed at home
and sang Noels under Christmas trees
and celebrated the rising of Christ.

He found his future in the Navy
when, at 18, on his two-year active
duty tour, he wrote about his ship
for his hometown paper
and was paid $35 for a full
tabloid page and a pic.
He caught the News Jones
and later spent nearly four decades
living as an outsider and getting paid for it,
while he scrawled poems and stories
that he was sure would also
be read one day.

 
David Allen Swabbie

The sailor, 1966
 

Like this? Then buy my books! “The Story So Far” and “(more)” are available on Amazon and by messaging me at david@davidallen.nu.

newspapers

EXILE
by David Allen

It’s tough to live this life
With no deadlines,
No assignments from the desk,
No editors screaming in my ears,
No restaurants to review,
No typhoon, tornado or terrible
Earthquake to document.

No ambulances to chase,
No next of kin to interview,
No one’s story to tell;
Left with my own,
Worried it’s not interesting enough
To keep the reader’s attention.

The tomorrow’s tally up
And the to-do lists become tomes
Of unfinished business,
Unreachable goals.
This is uncharted territory
And I am lost.

Retirement? 
Hell, this is

Exile.

Cop Reporter 1977

DAMMIT DAVID
By David Allen

“Got a comment?”
I asked the Public Affairs Officer.
“When’s your deadline?” he asked.
“Three hours,” I said.
“Dammit,” he replied.
“How do you spell that?” I asked.
“D-A-V-I-D.”

Bone scanner 2

THROUGH A SCANNER DARKLY
By David Allen

My aching bones
brought me to this
nuclear medicine lab
where a smiling nurse
filled me with a radioactive
soup that made my bones glow
for the scanner.

Lying flat on my back,
hands over my head,
the lab light darkened
as the huge metal machine
rolled over my body,
two inches above my nose,
and took pictures of my bones
as I quickly fell asleep
(it’s a talent I have).

Soon, I was in a Midwest newsroom
where I spent some eight years
as the ace crime reporter,
listening to some management geek
explain that the news staff
was to be reduced by four reporters.
A RIF, he called it, as if reduction in force
was more polite than just saying,
“Get the fuck outta here.”

I enviously eyed the computer
that sat on a small rolling table
I shared with the reporter
at the next cubicle.
I was hoping the firings would
free up some space, so I could have
the computer all to myself,
and maybe moved my pile of clips
and news releases and other paperwork
to his desk.

I was beginning to enjoy that thought
when I heard my name called.
“Allen,” the pretentious prick
of an executive editor said. “You’re lucky
we don’t kick your sorry ass outta here!
Maybe next time,” he laughed.
and the sycophants laughed along with him.

But I knew I was safe.
I knew where all the bodies were buried
and no no one else had the sources I had.

I looked around the newsroom,
smiled and wondered which one
of the faces I was gawking at
wouldn’t be there tomorrow.
I was about to start making my guesses
when I heard a faint beep
and a voice over my shoulder said,
“All right, Mr. Allen, we’re done.”
“Well, I’m not,” I thought.
But I had already opened my eyes

Man, that old newsroom was
twenty-four years in the past,
and that scene never happened.
Why’d I dream that up?

You know, you never know
why something pops up in a dream,
no matter what the dream studies say.
A car turns into a train with no
effect on the plot; sex with a beautiful woman
suddenly becomes a fight with a bear;
you lose your car in the parking lot
only to find it parked on the roof, ready to
fly you off to a new adventure.

Dreamscapes just happen.
Just like how my bones
All of a sudden, I seems,
Have just started aching with age.

 

 

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