From December of 1997 to April of 2001, the Complete and Total Loser made his living by writing. Yes, it was low-level journalism for a weekly suburban newspaper, and when he tried to go beyond that he failed miserably. Still, how many can say their sole source of income came from writing about things they'd witnessed? The number gets smaller every year.
The building the Loser worked in was built in the 1930s and, when the Loser first started working there, still had printing presses on the premises, rumbling machines that could kill you, giant spools of paper delivered by truck, barrels of ink. Publishing something on the Web is fine, but when you see thousands of copies of things you wrote bundled into stacks and taken away to stores, honor boxes and driveways where they could be stared at, clipped, hung on refrigerators and put in scrapbooks, it's different. Hard copy.
The building was torn down Monday. It held memories the Loser could sense despite the ugly late-70s decor. Reporters in the 30s writing about divorces and other society scandals. The war years and hometown heroes. The 50s and 60 thick with coverage the paper in the city didn't have the personnel to cover. For years, the Loser heard, there was a payphone on the sidewalk just off the premises from which a city reporter would call his editor and relay whatever story the paper might have had worth covering.
The Loser was there for the photographer's last year at the paper, where he'd worked for 50 years. He still spent much of his time in the darkroom, even though they'd been scanning in color negatives for years. He'd tell the Loser of the days of old, hustling to get the occasional hard news story you'd get in the suburbs, shooting high school sports, fires, the first local baby of the year.
The paper still exist. It shares offices with what was once its fierce rival, a new paper with modern graphics. Of the two, the one the Loser worked for skews old. Any day now, he expects to see the two to stop publishing independently and for them to merge. His paper's name will be below the new paper's, smaller and preceded by "and." After a few years, they'll drop even that, and no one will remember.