Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A long time between drinks

I'm going to try and revive this blog, or journal, as it were.

Back in my days as a clerk in the sports department of the New York Post, I worked a shift from roughly midnight until 8 in the morning. Around 3:30 or 4 a.m., we would get a break, somewhere between a half hour and 45 minutes, I don't think it was quite that long, it might have been 37 minutes, one of those contractual things. I wouldn't be surprised if someone with a knowledge of newspaper union history writes to correct me, the way Paul Sann's son corrected me recently about the reason his father retired from the Post after Rupert Murdoch bought it.

Getting back to that lunch break, the composing room had a separate area called "the chapel," although it had no altar and no stained glass windows. It didn't even have any pews, just some tables, and some kind soul brought in donuts and those big round jelly filled linzer tarts that were like a buck apiece, no, it had to be less, this was circa 1968, so let's say they were 50 cents.

And the composing room was full of linotype machines. I never counted them, but there were probably 15 of them, like big, clunky typewriters on steroids and man they were noisy, so it was not uncommon for hearing-impaired operators to be working them.

It being 3:30 in the morning, some workers listened to their biological clocks and went into the business department, lay down on a desk and took a nap. I even did that myself sometimes. I was going to school and working nearly full time after all. But most nights, if there was a lull in the sports department, since we didn't officially get a lunch break, that was a printers union thing, I would go into the composing room chapel and, if there was room, I would join in the poker game that was under way. I believe the stakes were ten cents and a quarter, with a three raise limit. And at least one of the hearing-impaired linotype operators was a regular in the game, I used to love the way he played cards -- if he wanted to raise, he would slam the palm of his hand on the table and then raise his hand in the air.

Another of the regulars in the game was a white-haired former sailor named Adolph Ghurka. He had a lot of tattoos and was a World War II veteran, but I wasn't terribly interested in World War II at the time, for which I could kick myself today if I weren't afraid of stubbing my toe. Adolph had some tattoos on his arms, I can't quite remember what they were of, so let's say they were tattoos. And I remember whenever he hit a dry spell in the poker game, he would say "It's been a long time between drinks."

That's what it's been here, except instead of drinks we're talking entries here, and it's not like a lot hasn't happened. I've tried in the past to write more regularly, and now I'm trying again. So please check back often, and if this entry is at the top of the page, then you'll know I didn't succeed. You and I both!

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