Turning my office inside-out | Bleader

Turning my office inside-out


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Chuckys back, and hes tossing out his old blue pencils.
  • Chucky's back, and he's tossing out his old blue pencils.
Packing up my office this weekend, in anticipation of the Reader’s August 1 move to 350 N. Orleans, I was forced to sift and sort through 15 years’ worth of crap, which turned out to be a real trip down memory lane—maybe not a lane, more like a back alley. Here’s some of the weird stuff I dug up:

An eight-inch rubber sperm I got in the mail as promo for the movie Seed of Chucky. The big sperm also came with a condom labeled “Get a Load of Chucky,” which I stapled to the bulletin board at one point, so it’s probably no good now.

A yellowing Section One from the old four-section Reader, with the 2001 cover story “Backstabbers” by Ben Joravsky and Richard Lindberg. Probably my favorite cover story ever, it tells the story of Paul Newey, chief investigator for the Cook County State’s Attorney, and the political repercussions of the 1960 Summerdale Scandal, when Newey uncovered a burglary ring involving eight cops and possibly many more. Do yourself a favor and read it.

An old metal pica ruler from American Type Founders with my grandfather's signature—AB Jones—etched into the surface. Art Jones spent more than 20 years as a Linotype operator for the Chicago Journal of Commerce and the local edition of the Wall Street Journal, working at Grand and State, a block north of the offices we're about to vacate.

A plastic bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup—the kind with the flip top at the base, so the ketchup will settle—inexplicably mailed to me by a reader, with the words SCUM and SAUCE scrawled on the front and back in black ink. The bottle was sealed, but for some reason I still can’t bring myself to squeeze the stuff on my hamburger.

An electric pencil sharpener unused for ten years, and a bulging file of movie capsules torn from old galleys and covered with notes in pencil and blue ink, courtesy of editor Kitry Krause and head proofreader Pat Graham. Since we switched to InCopy and InDesign a few years back, pens and pencils have largely disappeared from the editing process.

A paint can full of corn. I received this awful promo object from Warner Brothers on the occasion of Steven Soderbergh’s The Informant, and could never figure out how to dispose of it. When I wrote up the best movies of 2009, I used it as a hook, and because it was a slow week the piece wound up on the cover. I should have tried to give the can away then, or auctioned it off for charity, or something, when it was a semi-famous piece of junk. Years later, though, it’s returned to its original state, just junk.

A few choice pieces of Crazy Mail, one of the sicker perks of working for a newspaper. One was addressed to me personally, and even the envelope was lettered: “LET US DESTROY THE JEWISH STATE / Poetry / as a raid on the unarticulated / must find the Jewish State / and destroy it / as the Nazarene intended / with Nazarene Will / Israel proliferating Hell / As Hell-BOMBS / Israel is a Jewish State / to the Zionist / a Zionist State / to the anti-Zionist / who when Jewish / may be indistinguishable from Zionist.” Somehow I never got around to answering.

Multiple files bulging with moldering style sheets and style notes, most of them long since superseded by other instructions. What an incredible culture of English-language pack rats I encountered when I first arrived at the Reader. Now they’re mostly gone and I’ve gotta toss all their carefully reasoned points into the recycle bin and move on.