This is the uncut version of one of my columns that appeared a year or two ago in the West Side Newspaper, a community monthly here in Salem. Actually, the only part the publisher was afraid to print was the part about the people who advertise in his newspaper. But I think the advertisers would have loved it, and that those who might have been offended probably wouldn�t have bothered to read the column anyway. At the same time, I found it interesting that he allowed the part about the people who wrote for the paper to stand. Then again, advertisers can be hard to come by, while everyone knows writers are a dime a dozen. Quite appropriately, the piece appeared under what by then had become the column�s regular name, �Out On A Limb.� These days, I no longer contribute to the West Side. After writing several more columns, I felt the situation had finally run its course � if, indeed, it had ever been on one. So far, I know of no one who has complained.
Out On A Limb
A recent trip to the busy office of the West Side Newspaper � that bastion of integrity and intellectual thinking � showed me how little things have changed since I was in the newspaper publishing business nearly ten years ago.
Upon my arrival, the first thing that happened was that I was ignored. Expecting this kind of treatment, I took a seat on an old sofa near the desk of the editor, who was deeply involved in not answering the telephone. While examining the curious stains in the fabric, I pretended not to listen as he laughed at the person�s message about a potential news story and then calmly deleted it from the answering machine.
Finally, the editor looked at me and yawned. Taking this as my cue, I asked him if he had received my latest column, which I had sent to him by email the week before. He said he had, but that it wouldn�t do. �You�ll have to write another one,� he said. I asked him what was wrong with the first. He said there was nothing wrong with it at all. �Then why should I write another?� I said.
Before the editor could answer, the publisher of the paper cried out in anguish and slammed the door of his private office, which is located just up the hall, then joined us. Wearing a disturbed expression, he said, �I quit,� then raked the editor�s computer monitor onto the floor. He plopped down beside me. �What do you want?� he said.
Just for the fun of it, I told him I wanted more money. A lot more. Then, reaching into the pocket of my diseased sport coat, I produced a half pint of Southern Comfort, or what would have been Southern Comfort, if it weren�t for the fact that I�d finished the Southern Comfort long ago and replaced it with some very questionable moonshine. �Here,� I said. �Drink this.�
The publisher took the bottle and unscrewed the lid. Nostrils flared, he raised the bottle to his lips and swallowed some of the liquid. Immediately, his eyes began to water. His face reddened. Speechless, he handed the bottle to the editor, who repeated the operation with even less ceremony.
For the next several minutes, the publisher and editor of the West Side Newspaper � that bastion of integrity and intellectual thinking � took turns with my bottle of hooch. During that time the telephone rang twice. The first call was ignored, and the caller left no message. The second was picked up by the publisher, who yelled �West Side!� into the receiver so loudly that the caller hung up.
After this, things really got interesting. The publisher and editor kept drinking. Between swigs, they told me all sorts of things about their operation that I didn�t want to know, and made fun of each and every person who wrote for the paper, calling us all low-lifes and idiots. Then they started on the advertisers. When I told them that I knew many of these people personally and could vouch for their conduct in the community, they laughed their fool heads off.
Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, I got up to leave. I wasn�t halfway to the door when the publisher asked me if I wanted to buy the newspaper from him. I told him I did, took out my checkbook, and quickly made out a check in the amount of $50,000. �There,� I said. �That ought to cover it.�
Drooling, the publisher held the check up to the light. �Is this any good?� he said.
�Every bit as good as your newspaper,� I said.
�Then it�s a deal.�
We shook hands. I turned to the editor. �You�re fired,� I said. �I want you out of here by five o�clock.�
�I�ll drink to that,� the editor said, swilling what was left in the bottle.
Satisfied with my accomplishments, I left the office. As I said, some businesses never change. They should, but they don�t. And for that we can all be grateful.
Also by William Michaelian
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