It’s a wonderful life

I am having a wonderful life.

Sometimes, when I’m caught up in the horrible deeds that men do in the name of politics and power, I forget that.

So tonight, I hopped on my one-speed Schwinn and pedaled off into the twilight to explore the UW-L campus and to indulge in some reminiscing.

This is living on the edge, I thought. After all, it was almost dark and I might encounter lithe and athletic college students as I wobbled my way through the near-dark.

But, as has always been the story of my life, it didn’t happen. Instead, I encountered a pair of inept skateboarders who were even more wobbly on their boards than I was on my slow-moving bicycle.

And for that, I am grateful. Life has never turned out as I expect and that is a bonus.

When I decided to become a reporter in the fifth grade, I didn’t really understand what that would mean. I figured I would write and, even at that age, that is what I loved to do.

I certainly never expected that I would end up reviewing heavy metal bands, pop music, country and theater productions.

That was the bonus. And I was the least likely person I could have imagined to be doing that.

But when the director of the old Mary E. Sawyer Auditorium called over to the Tribune office one afternoon and said there was a free ticket waiting if someone would come over and review the Heart concert, I stood up and yelled, “Me, me, me.  I’ll do it.”

“You’ll have to do it on your own time,” I was told, because at that time I was doing mostly copy editing and the Tribune wasn’t about to pay anyone to hang out at a concert.

“No problem,” I told them.

The problem was that I had never been to the Mary E. Sawyer before. Fairly new to town and brand new to reviewing, I wasn’t familiar with the building.

I soon found out that management did not police the use of marijuana and joints were passed around freely, even to strangers. Though I can truthfully say I never smoked one of those joints, I must admit I inhaled because the old Mary E. had a dreadful ventilation system.

I was so sick by the time I got back to the Tribune, I could barely write. Luckily, back then we were an afternoon paper so I could take an hour to write that review.

I never looked back from that first review. When they built the La Crosse Center, the Tribune decided they needed an entertainment reporter and because I was already doing it on my own time, I got the gig.

I also covered, art, poetry, books, theater, folk music and sheep shearing. Yes, there were a few rodeos, historic home renovations, interviews with jet pilots, aerial artists, clowns and some WWF heavyweights.

And, yes, I got paid for all of this.

That’s why it felt just right to be pedaling through the UW-L campus because of all the theater, music and art I had encountered there. And because I am now older and aware of the dangers of the dark, I managed to make it home in time to watch part of the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC.

Yes, now I watch 24-hour news channels.  Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow have some pretty peppy political repartee on any given night.  Talk about a walk on the wild side. It’s not Metallica, but it’s still a pretty wonderful life.


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