So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

December 19th, 2008

This marks my final Column. I’ve still got a few stories in the pipeline but tomorrow will be my last day at the News & Messenger. 

My adventures with the News & Messenger began three years ago this month during the New York Transit Authority strike.

You may remember the strike because it made national news. Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a symbolic early morning walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, showing solidarity with his constituents.

I was stranded in Brooklyn, unable to finish a 6-month internship with Marvel Comics. I was confined to my neighborhood, effectively cut off from all my friends. I ran some errands, watched some movies and scoured the Internet for jobs, applying to just about everything I found, including a posting for a features and entertainment gig at The Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger.

I mention the strike only to illustrate my struggle to even apply for this job — I had plans to travel abroad and didn’t have time to wait to send out applications. I walked about three miles to the post office and stand in line for at least an hour with everyone sending off their Christmas packages.

Totally worth it. The past (nearly) three years have been awesome. I’ve met some great people, I’ve written some fantastic stories and, I hope, I’ve grown as a writer.
For (both) of you reading this column, thank you! It’s been a blast. I’m going to miss riffing on comics, movies, music and other pop-culture.

But one of the things I love about this job is my freedom to generate my own stories. So, like a bad sitcom clips episode, here are some of my favorite — and most memorable — stories. (In the instances when I can remember the headline I’ve included them. In all other instances I’ve written what the story was about).

-“The Arcade Pyre” (spring 2006) — Investigating the dying arcade culture had been something I’d wanted to do for some time. And, what better way to spend my hours at work hanging out at a video arcade?

-Ferris Bueller turns 20 (spring 2006) — These are the kind of stories I love to read and write, dumb pop-culture think pieces, drawing meaning from the meaningless. Besides, it was fun to talk to students, principals and real-life Buellers dissecting the 80s movie hero’s relevance today.

-“A Pirate’s Life” (summer 2006)—The “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were in full effect so I had a chance to write another dumb pop-culture think piece, tracing the history of the pirate fad. This time there was a local angle, Border’s in Woodbridge was holding one of their occasional pirate days, when the employees all dress and speak like swashbucklers.

-Auditioning for a local play (winter 2006/2007) — much of covering the local entertainment scene in Prince William County involves local theater. I wanted to know what it was like to audition for a play. I should’ve done a little research: the play I auditioned for, “Same Time Next Year,” wasn’t really suited for my demographic as an actor-wannabe. Still, it was fun (and a bit weird) auditioning opposite women old enough to be my mother for a romantic drama.

-Star Wars 30th anniversary (spring 2007) — another dumb pop-culture think piece. Noticing a trend here? This time I managed to make just about everyone feel old by bringing a bunch of middle school kids into the newsroom, feeding them pizza and boring them stiff with the original “Star Wars.” They’d never seen the landmark flick. My hypothesis — which turned out to be pretty much accurate — was that it’d be dull for modern kids.

-“Fast Times at the Library of Congress” (summer 2007) — Poking around online I learned that Cameron Crowe’s non-fiction novel was out of print. I thought it should be required reading for all feature writers (Crowe went undercover at a high school for a year and serialized the story in “Playboy”). Somehow I managed to convince my (wonderful) editor that we should do a how-to article about using the Library of Congress as well as commemorate the movie’s 25th anniversary.

-Susan Orlean New Yorker seminar (fall 2007) — This wasn’t a story but I really, really appreciate the paper springing for me to attend this seminar on feature writing, with one of America’s best writers, period. Orlean is best known for having Meryl Streep play her in “Adaptation,” itself a loose adaptation of her non-fiction book “The Orchid Thief.” Besides, it didn’t hurt that Arcade Fire, one of my favorite bands, was also in New York that weekend.

-Interview with Melee (fall 2007) — If only for the fact that I got a huge kick out of hanging out backstage at the 9:30 Club with an up-and-coming band.

-Luc Sonnet (fall 2007) — I’d written about Sonnet, a local artist, earlier in the year. It was a pretty standard local artist profile, nothing terribly out of the ordinary, other than Sonnet loved to exaggerate. Boy did that turn out to be true — The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a big Sunday package on Richard Carl Grossman, an ex-con who created art under the name Luc Sonnet. Combing through my story I really only had one journalistic error, everything else was attributed. Besides, a famous Georgetown gallery was interested in his work, so how should I have known?

-32 PWSO members resign (winter 2007/2008) — I’m not much of a breaking news/daily deadline guy, but any journalist who says they don’t want to be on A1 is lying. Besides, the arts scene isn’t usually one for drama, so I appreciated the challenge of a different kind of story.

-Free Samples (summer 2008) — a story generated on the fly which turned out to be a lot of fun, investigating the free sample culture at Wegmans by trying to get a free meal.

-Interview with Ben Folds (fall 2008) — because every music writer should get a chance to nerd out with his or her favorite recording artist.

-“Befriending the Queen Bee” (fall 2008) — I lost a few brain cells in the process but it was all worth it to follow Woodbridge native Zui (real name Lauren Watts) compete for a chance to be the Hilton heiress’s new BFF.

-Any story where I profiled a local rapper (spring 2006-winter 2008) — I love you guys. Seriously. 

Soon-to-be former staff writer Josh Eiserike is off to make movies in sunny California. Send well-wishes his way at josh@josheiserike.com.

One comment to “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night”

  1. I’m surprised that the Boris adventure didn’t make the list.

    I also don’t quite understand how the nearest post office in Brooklyn was 3 miles away.

    But in any case, it’s been great having built-in content on the website… good luck with the move, and I eagerly await the future of josheiserike.com.