When I joined the staff of the Long Island Press in the fall of 2002 (then The New Island Ear), it was a year after the Twin Towers fell, and after 12 months of growing a beard and watching CNN, I—like so many other New Yorkers—was just finally emerging from a gloomy existential crisis. After witnessing the casual death of so many NY brethren I desperately, almost frantically, needed to feel like the work I was doing somehow mattered in the world, and in a moment of sheer serendipity the Press came along and offered a chance to carve a new identity for myself in paper and ink, every single week, 52 issues per year. I had no idea of the adventure I was embarking on, or how it would deeply change my life in so many ways.
Getting a spot on the Press staff back in 2002 was like being recruited for the Navy SEALs of Long Island journalism—We were young, we were hungry, we were brash, and we were going to take on the world—and under the leadership of the ever-steady Robbie Woliver and at times hyperkinetic Bill Jensen, that’s exactly what we did. Whether we were duking it out with Newsday, exposing organized crime, glorifying hockey violence or aiming to be the smartest food and arts critics around, everything was intended for maximum effect, a kind of media shock and awe, and to show Long Islanders that we had a better way of telling the story than what was being presented by others before us. Looking back now, I still stand behind that belief.
Of course, nothing new and glorious can emerge from the fiery forge of creativity without a little blood and carnage, but my own personal positive memories of working at the Press far outweigh the negative ones. I could fill an entire tome with random recollections, like the time I crawled through a swamp with Chris Twarowski to discover a Newsday dumping ground, or going with Dave Gil de Rubio to meet a source at their place of business—an adult video store and peep show—or canvassing an Islip street with Chris to confirm a story that author Sander Hicks was being hunted by Feds (which he was).
There were the meals—all our office pilgrimages for delicacies like Golden Krust and All-American Burger, and all the countless food adventures in the name of “Chris’ Lunchbox”—all the sports (I covered the Islanders during their brief resurgence at the millennium) and of course, the music.
Covering Long Island music in 2002 was like being in Seattle for the breakout of grunge; Four years later, I was writing about those same Long Island bands for Alternative Press, the Rolling Stone of the emo generation, and it all started in a cramped newsroom in Garden City.
In fact, living each day in the “Old Newsroom” as we called it—a big rectangle with a dingy carpet but a whole wall of windows that we’d arranged with a desk in each corner, one for myself, and others for Chris, Mike Nelson and Lauren Hill—is one of my fondest memories of all. I spent so many hours in that office, surrounded by those wonderfully gifted, inspiring people, that I can’t imagine the person I would be today if I’d never taken the job. I’ll always be proud, and extremely grateful, of what we achieved together within those walls.