The sky was equal parts gray and blue when Koko and I went out walking in a world seemingly populated only by birds, and happy, exuberant ones at that. The clouds bore unusual lines, like parted hair, as they drifted southwest, clearing the way for a showy dawn.
It began with a pink smear that deepened into coral, then shifted to orange and grew, soon staining the entire northeastern sky, casting the pastures and cinder cones and shrouded mountains in shades of soft, shimmery salmon, creating alpenglow in the trees and leaving jewel-like triangles and squares of rich light upon the ground.
And then it was gone.
My tenure with MidWeek newspapers was also short-lived. Just as the premiere Kauai issue was being distributed, I was being told they wished to “sever our professional relationship,” which was the only relationship we had.
It wasn’t me, since I’d already been lauded for my “professionalism and enthusiasm,” or my work, which was termed “outstanding,” but this blog, or more accurately, a critical observation I made about the debut of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, which is owned by the same man who owns MidWeek.
“You shouldn’t have called the paper manure,” the messenger told me.
I didn’t. I called it “the hybrid of the two mediocre Honolulu dailies,” which it arguably is. The manure reference was to the lead editorial, or more specifically, a few lines in it:
We will strive mightily to be on the side of angels. We will work constantly to do, and shout, the noble thing.
And as I pointed out to the messenger, their reaction to my comment was proving me true.
But the decision had already made, by “higher ups,” the messenger said
“How high?” I asked.
“All the way to the top,” I was told.
It seems they feared my comment “could affect the paper’s profitability.”
“It really took me by surprise,” I told a friend later.
“Why, because the retribution was so quick?”
“No, that they find me so threatening.”
Besides, I told the messenger, I used to criticize The Advertiser all the time when I wrote for Kauai People, which Tiser published, and they never said a peep.
“Well, this is a whole new order,” I was told.
Apparently. And it got me wondering, if that sort of fealty is required of a lowly freelancer on the Kauai MidWeek, what sort of line-toeing and suck-upping will be expected of the reporters in the Star-Advertiser city room?
After the messenger and I said goodbye, I went out onto the grounds of the low-income rental housing where I work part-time. A resident quickly flagged me down. Her smile was wide and bright, a sharp contrast to the last time I’d seen her, when she’d been anxious and crying, worrying how she would pay her rent. I’d listened, given her Kleenex and a hug and directed her to a place that could assist until her unemployment benefits got sorted out.
“You helped me so much,” she was now saying. “I was so worried and stressed out, it was making me sick. I’d been in a funk for months. I was spiraling down. Getting that month of free rent took all the pressure off. I got my car fixed. A friend came over to help me clean my house and I realized it'd been eight months since I dusted, I was so depressed. What can I ever do to repay you?”
“You just have,” I said, and gave her hug.
Walking away, I recalled the words of the messenger: “This is business, Joan,” I was told. “This is the real world.”
No, I thought. This is the real world.