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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Wii are family

My 13-year-old son just got the Nintendo Wii system. (Bought it with his own money, too!)

Now I'll never get any sleep at night ... not because he's up late playing it; because I'm up late playing it.

I haven't had a video game addiction since my college days -- the era of Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders and Missile Command. But I feel another one coming on.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Senator's mixed message

U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, was arrested in a Minnesota airport because he allegedly solicited a sexual act from an undercover police officer in a restroom. And Craig pleaded guilty to “disorderly conduct,” which amounted to an admission of criminal wrongdoing that stopped short of acknowledging he committed the specific illegal act of which he was accused.

Why, then, did the senator feel compelled to stress, above all else, during his press conference on Tuesday that “I am not gay. I never have been gay”? And why did he “ask the people of Idaho for their forgiveness” immediately after contending that he was “not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport”?

Craig's emphasis on sexual preference and his subsequent request for forgiveness made it appear he believes being gay, rather than his action in the airport restroom, is the alleged offense in this case.

Being homosexual isn’t a crime, Senator. Soliciting a sexual act – gay or straight – in a public place is. It’s disturbing that you apparently believe otherwise.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Post-vacation observations

Upon returning from a weeklong vacation on Cape Cod, it’s worth noting:

* The weather during our trip was generally pleasant, but the forecasters out there should be fired. It was sunny when they said it would be cloudy; it was cloudy when then said it would be sunny; when they predicted rain, none came; and the one rainfall that we did have wasn’t predicted. What’s the point of telling people what the weather will be if you’re going to be wrong most of the time?

* I’m pleasantly surprised to see gas prices have fallen several cents in the Kingston area. The station closest to my house is down to $2.83 per gallon. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the service areas we passed Sunday afternoon on the Massachusetts Turnpike were charging about $2.70.

* I’m unpleasantly surprised to see campaign signs have begun to sprout like weeds on local lawns. First of all, it’s way too early -- the election is still 10 weeks away, for heaven’s sake! More importantly, though, do these signs serve any purpose, other than to pollute the landscape? I mean I truly doubt voters are swayed to pick a candidate simply because they see the person’s name on a lawn sign. Or, if people do cast their votes based on lawn signs, perhaps they should rethink whether they have the intellectual capacity to vote at all.

* Checking the Freeman’s Web site a couple of times while on Cape Cod, I noticed that both Publisher Ira Fusfeld and Sports Editor Ron Rosner complained in their blogs about the Angels’ continued dominance of the Yankees. Sorry, but as long-suffering fan of the Angels (who have won a grand total of one World Series in their 47 years of existence), I find it hard to shed any tears for the Bombers and their 26 World Series titles. You can’t win every year, guys. Actually, come to think of it, since 2000, you can’t win any year. (Insert rimshot here.)

* You might have noticed in my profile that the phrase “Schiffres, 43” has been replaced with “Schiffres, 44.” Alas, I returned from Cape Cod a year older than when I left. (My birthday was last Monday). The silver lining, though, is this: My age is now the same as the jersey number of legitimate home run king Hank Aaron.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blog break

My blog is going on hiatus for a week.
My next post will be on Monday, August 27.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Music by the megabyte

Rock music critics -- a group to which I once belonged -- often write about the 10 albums they’d like to have with them if stranded on a desert island.

Well, I’m on my way Cape Cod, not a desert island. And I won’t actually be taking any albums; I’ll be carrying an MP3 player instead. But here, in alphabetical order by artist, are the 10 albums I’ve just loaded into said player:

* “Running on Empty,” Jackson Browne
Possibly the best “road” album ever made. And for those of you who love fun facts: The third track on the album, “Rosie,” was recorded in a backstage rehearsal room at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

* “Black Eyed Man,” Cowboy Junkies
Laid back, luscious and just a little bit spooky. And, anyway, I have to like these guys -- I ate dinner at the table next to them at The Little Bear in Woodstock in 1992.

* “American Beauty,” Grateful Dead
Required listening for every music fan, Deadhead or not.

* “Appetite For Destruction,” Guns N’ Roses
Is this album really 20 years old? Ouch! No matter; it still rocks.

* “Point of Know Return,” Kansas
I spent many days during my sophomore and junior years in high school listening to this album at my best friend Craig’s house -- which is to say I enjoy the album more for the memories than for the music.

* “Bargainville,” Moxy Fruvous
A smart and clever album from Canada’s coolest and funniest band.

* “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” Sinead O’Connor
One of only three albums to receive a five-star rating from me when I was writing music reviews for the Freeman from 1988-92. The other two were Joe Jackson’s “Blaze of Glory” and Elvis Costello’s “Spike.”

* “Planet Earth,” Prince
It’s no “Purple Rain,” but the artist formerly known as a question mark still sizzles on this new release.

* “Breakfast in America,” Supertramp
This album got me across the country and back during the summer of ’79, and it’s been a constant companion ever since.

* “Beauty and Crime,” Suzanne Vega
One of the most gifted singer/songwriters of her generation -- or any other. This newly released album, her seventh, is every bit as good as the first six.

A pretty eclectic mix -- perhaps reminiscent of my music critic days, when I had to listen to, and comment on, albums by a wide variety of artists. I guess old habits, indeed, die hard.


Friday, August 17, 2007

Snow job

White House spokesman Tony Snow says he'll leave his job before the end of President Bush's term because he needs to make more money.

"I'm not going to be able to go the distance ... primarily for financial reasons," Snow told a radio talk show host this week. "When my money runs out, then I've got to go."

His government salary: $168,000 per year.

That's $132,000 above the national average, Tony. How is it that you can't live on that?


'Roid rage

Here’s how to get steroids out of Major League Baseball, once and for all:

Tell the players -- all of them -- that they have to submit a urine sample every day of the season, and if they test positive for a banned substance even once, they’re done. Out of the game. Forever.

What could be simpler?

And if the players’ union objects, shut down the league. Forever. Having no baseball games at all would be far better than having games in which every accomplishment has become suspect.

But no. Instead, we live in a world where Jason Giambi, one of the league’s few admitted steroid users, has just been let off the hook by the commissioner. Unbelievable.

No wonder baseball’s popularity is plunging.

Seven weeks until hockey season. Thank God!


Thursday, August 16, 2007


I’m too young to remember Elvis Presley in his prime. His first appearance on Ed Sullivan’s show, in 1956, was seven years before I was born. And I was only about 6 when his career last drew any serious attention in the late 1960s. But as a lifelong music fan, and a journalist who has written professionally about the recording industry, I am keenly aware of Elvis’ influence and of how virtually all popular music made during the past 50 years can be traced back to him.

And, of course, I remember where I was when I learned about his death 30 years ago today. I was just shy of my 14th birthday and was spending the summer at a camp a couple of hours of north of Toronto. We were on a field trip that day in the bustling metropolis of Gravenurst, Ontario (population: one horse), and as we got back on the bus after seeing a movie, the driver was listening to a report about Elvis’ demise on a portable radio that was standing on the dashboard.

I remember that I wasn’t particularly saddened by the news, but I also remember understanding, immediately, the gravity of what had happened -- and what The King’s passing would mean to his fans, to the music world and to society as a whole.

In the years afterward, there would be other deaths at too young an age among some of music’s giants – John Lennon and Jerry Garcia chief among them – but none would have quite the impact of Elvis’ passing at age 42 on Aug. 16, 1977. And I doubt that any future celebrity death will cut to the bone quite the way Elvis’ did.

That is, most certainly, a testament to who Elvis Presley was and to what his talents meant to his fans, to the music world and to society as a whole.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

All the candidates' books

I was in Barnes & Noble in Ulster on Tuesday, looking for a book to bring on vacation next week, and I wandered over to the biography/autobiography section. (I enjoy non-fiction; call it an occupational hazard.)

With 2008 being a quadrennial election year, I wasn’t surprised to find an area of that section devoted to books by or about the current presidential candidates. What did surprise me was that no less than eight of the candidates had books on the shelves – allegedly self-penned, though I’m sure some of them were scribed by ghost writers.

I knew Hillary Clinton had two books (“Living History” and “It Takes a Village…”). And I knew there was a Barack Obama book (it turns out there are three). But I had no idea there also were books by Rudy Giuliani, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Bill Richardson and John Edwards – all, of course, sharing their “vision for America,” or some such cliché.

The cover price for each? About 25 bucks.

No thanks. I’ll wait for the TV commercials.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A six pack of what's on my mind

* I notice the world’s oldest person died on Monday. That seems to happen a lot.

* New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera was the beneficiary on Monday of my least favorite rule in baseball -- what I call the “blow the lead but get the ‘W’ anyway” rule. Rivera entered the game in the top of ninth inning -- with the Yankees leading Baltimore, 6-5 -- and he accomplished exactly one thing: He let the Orioles tie the game. He gave up a two-out single to Baltimore’s Brian Roberts that scored Tike Redman from second base. Rivera finished the half-inning and left the mound with the score knotted at 6. The Yankees then scored a run in the bottom of the ninth for a 7-6 win, and because Rivera was the last Yankee pitcher to stand on the mound, he got credit for the win. How silly. A winning pitcher should do something to contribute to his team’s victory. All Rivera did was put the Yankees in danger of losing by giving away their lead. In games like this, there simply should be no winning pitcher.

* Not to make light of an apparent tragedy, but if there ever is a movie made about this Utah mine collapse, I sure hope they get crumudgeonly old character actor George Kennedy to play Bob Murray, the mine co-owner who seems to be on CNN about 10 times every hour. I think these guys were separated at birth.

* I see the nation’s hurricane forecasters have egg on their faces -- again. For the second consecutive year, they have, in the middle of the season, lowered their number of expected Atlantic storms because very few have formed and they realize there’s not enough time left for their original predictions to hold up. Worse, though, is that they totally botched the forecast for Hurricane Flossie, the Pacific storm now headed toward Hawaii. On Saturday and Sunday, they said Flossie would weaken from a powerful Category 4 storm to a relatively harmless Category 1 as it moved west and that it would stay well south of Hawaii’s Big Island. By Monday, realizing the error of their ways, they modified their forecast to say Flossie probably will be a Category 3 storm when it reaches the Big Island’s longitude and may get close enough to the island to do damage. Screwing up a long-range forecast three months ahead of time is one thing; but botching a hurricane prediction when the storm actually is bearing down on a populated area is downright irresponsible. People’s lives are at stake, and those people have a right to expect a reasonable amount of accuracy from professionals who are paid to understand and accurately predict the weather.

* I own more than 1,000 CDs and about 700 LPs, but I find myself listening to three of those albums more than any of the others these days, and they’re all from 1984-85: Dire Straits’ “Brothers In Arms,” Don Henely’s “Building the Perfect Beast” and Sting’s “The Dream of the Blue Turtles.” If any of these are collecting dust on a shelf in your home, I highly recommend you revisit them. And if you’ve never heard them, do yourself a favor and get your hands on them. You’ll be glad you did. The mid-1980s were a far better time for music then most critics will admit. It wasn’t all Michael Jackson and Madonna.

* And lastly, congrats to my college friends Gil and Ellen, and their son Sam, who are on the brink of buying their first house. It’s been a long time coming, and I’m so glad it’s finally happening.


Monday, August 13, 2007

When it gets to 111, CELL!

How, exactly, did we survive before cell phones?

I often wonder that in connection with my job as a newspaper editor, because cell phones make it so easy for me to contact reporters or photographers who are out in the field. And it’s impossible to deny the convenience of being able to call anyone from anywhere at any time. But today, I was reminded of how vital these little hand-held devices have become in emergencies.

I was on the Thruway this morning, driving north from Kingston to Albany, when traffic came to a dead stop about 9:20 a.m. near mile marker 111, just south of the Catskill exit. At first, I thought it was just a routine Thruway slowdown, and that we’d start creeping ahead almost immediately and then be able to pick up speed after passing the trouble spot. But it soon became clear that something was very wrong and that we were in for a long wait. Nothing was moving. At all. Drivers started to get out of the cars. Some craned their necks to look for the problem. Others walked up the shoulder a bit to see if they could find out what was going on. One guy even climbed onto the roof of his car to get a better view. Pretty soon, word started to make its way down the line that a large truck had gone onto its side and was blocking both northbound lanes.

Police, firefighters, EMTs and tow trucks had reached the scene pretty quickly (thanks to wide shoulders on that stretch of the Thruway that allowed them to bypass the standstill traffic), and they got the road open about 45 minutes after the accident. It wasn’t exactly a short wait, but it occurred to me as we started moving that authorities probably got to the scene as fast as they did because people who witnessed the accident called 911 on their cell phones. How long might we have been stuck in traffic before the proliferation of cell phones? An hour? Two? Three? And how much longer would it have taken paramedics to reach anyone who was hurt in the crash?

Cell phones often get a bad rap because of how many car accidents are caused by drivers who forget to pay attention to the road while chatting. But it occurs to me – and I believe there have been studies conducted to back this up – that the fatality rate in car accidents probably has fallen in the last decade or two because the existence of cell phones has allowed emergency responders to be notified almost immediately after an accident occurs and reach the scene much faster than in the past.

Think about that next time a cell phone user annoys you, next time you’re stuck in traffic, or – God forbid – next time you’re in a car accident.


Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Like countless other people watching TV Tuesday night, I had the sickening experience of seeing a presumed cheater steal the most coveted record in professional sports from one of the most honorable men ever to play the game of baseball.

The record books will show that Barry Bonds, shortly before 9 p.m. Pacific time on Aug. 7, 2007, hit his 756th career home run into the right-center field seats at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., eclipsing Hank Aaron's mark of 755.

The record books will show that Barry Bonds -- who testified to a federal grand jury in 2003 that he used at least two banned performance-enhancing substances (though he claimed he didn't know they were illegal) -- now holds the title of "Home Run King."

And, sadly, the record books probably will not carry the much-needed asterisk next to Bonds' name, despite sworn statements from two indicted executives of the now-infamous Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO) that Bonds' personal strength trainer, Greg Anderson, supplied the slugger with steroids.

My personal record book, however, will show that Aug. 7, 2007, was the darkest day in baseball history -- and that the career home run tally remains Aaron 755, Bonds 0.

The least surprising element of Tuesday night's "historic" moment was that Bonds, who cares about no one other than Bonds, stood at home plate, hands held high, for several seconds after hitting the home run, as if to say to all who were in the stadium and all who were watching on TV: "Salute me. Revere me. I am the greatest baseball player of all time." Indeed, his ego is the only thing bigger than his phony biceps.

The most surprising element amid all the hubbub was that Aaron -- who always played the game with dignity and humility and who has shied away from discussing Bonds' pursuit of the record, presumably because, like so many other people, he feels the accomplishment is tainted -- taped a congratulatory video message to Bonds that was shown on the scoreboard video screen at AT&T Park after Bonds did the deed. That was a real disappointment. Aaron, one of my boyhood heroes, had been showing real class this season by not publicly admonishing Bonds but also not doing anything to suggest the new record would be legitimate. Aaron's silence spoke volumes about what we all assumed was his belief that he was about to be surpassed by a man who has disgraced the national pastime. But then he turned around and validated Bonds' achievement by lauding him in a statement that probably was seen live by millions of people and surely will be replayed again and again in the coming days. I wish he had just kept his mouth shut.

I also wish for two other things: First, that Bonds is indicted, and ultimately convicted, for doing what we all suspect he did. That will give Commissioner Bud Selig and other powers-that-be in Major League Baseball all the ammunition they'll need to ban Bonds from the game and erase his statistics from the record books. And second, that someone, presumably Alex Rodriguez, breaks Bonds' home run record as soon as possible -- perhaps in the next 10 years -- so that we can put this awful period behind us and erase the painful memory of Aug. 7, 2007, the darkest day in baseball history.


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Random observations

* I read this morning that Japanese girls born last year have a life expectancy of 85.8 years. So I wonder: Who do I see about becoming a Japanese girl born last year?

* Barry Bonds went 0-for 3 with one walk last night, leaving him at 755 career home runs, one shy of breaking Hank Aaron’s record. So, naturally, ESPN devoted the first seven minutes of this morning “Sports Center” -- nearly 12 percent of the broadcast -- to Bonds. Who do I see about getting those seven minutes of my life back?

* My wife and son will tell you, and I will freely admit, that I’m an unabashed Rachael Ray fan. And I make no bones about the reason: She’s easy on the eyes. Well, she was easy on the eyes. On her Food Network shows -- “30-Minute Meals,” “$40 a Day” and “Tasty Travels” -- she had this fresh-faced, girl-next-door appeal that was impossible not to like. But ABC, for reasons unexplained, has seen fit to dye her hair nearly black and cover her face with so much makeup and eye shadow that she’s almost unrecognizable on her new network talk show. What a shame.

* Nice to see those aging rockers The Police back together after 20-plus years and sounding as tight as ever. Freeman Life Editor Ivan Lajara and I caught their show Sunday night at Giants Stadium (which is a more intimate venue than you might imagine, but still way too big for a rock concert), and I’m happy to report that Sting, Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers (the old man of the band at 64) were as good as when I saw them at the peak of their success in 1983 and 1984. And it was nice to hear them pull out a few long-forgotten chestnuts like “Truth Hits Everybody,” "Bed's Too Big Without You" and the punk rocker “Next to You.” The biggest ovation of the night was for the band’s 1981 hit “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic.” Surprisingly, though, the most lukewarm response during the 19-song set was for the band’s best-selling single, 1983’s “Every Breath You Take.” Perhaps fans finally are sick of it. I know I am.

* Lastly, expect a break in my blog later this month. I'm taking some well-deserved vacation time, and my computer access will be limited for at least part of that period. (In other words, I'm not bringing a laptop to the beach.) But fear not, once I get back to work, it’ll be full blog ahead!


Sunday, August 5, 2007

Hard work never killed anyone

When people who know me read the Freeman on a day like today (Sunday, Aug. 5, with the front-page story about the boat explosion on the Rondout Creek), they often say things like “You must have had a tough night last night” or “Gee, yesterday must have been a bear for you.”

Indeed, the workload on Saturday was both heavy and challenging -- dealing with the ever-developing story about the explosion, updating the Freeman’s Web site every 15 to 30 minutes to provide our online readers with the latest information about the incident, constantly feeding facts to the Associated Press staff in Albany so they could keep newspapers across the state abreast of the situation and, of course, tackling all the other tasks of the day that had nothing to do with the boat story but still were vital to the production of our Sunday edition.

But let’s keep some perspective here. Being the Freeman’s city editor might have been more difficult than usual on Saturday, but having to work hard while sitting in front of a computer pales in comparison to the pain experienced by Brian, Laura, Hannah, Matthew and Wyatt Dodge -- the five family members from East Fishkill who were badly burned, and easily could have been killed, in the boat explosion. And no matter how well I did my job on Saturday, I can’t hold a candle to the people who were near the explosion scene and rushed to the aid of the injured family members. I handled words, photos and Web postings; these people saved lives.

Similarly, I remember friends and relatives asking me after the 9/11 terror attacks and after the February 2005 shooting at Hudson Valley Mall near Kingston whether I was OK and whether I was drained from all the work involved in putting out the papers that featured those horrible events. Well, yeah, of course I was drained -- downright exhausted, to be more accurate -- but so what? I mean all I had to do was sit in the Freeman newsroom for more hours than usual and juggle more stories, photos and pages than I ordinarily would. It’s not like I lost a loved one in the twin towers, put my life in danger to save others on that awful September day or got shot while shopping for home electronics at Best Buy on that frightful winter afternoon.

Put simply, I got off easy -- on Sept. 11, 2001, on Feb. 13, 2005, and on Aug. 4, 2007.

Do we media types work hard when tragedy strikes? Sure. But it’s worth remembering in those situations that the people we’re covering are having a much worse day than we are.


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Bite your tongue

I’ve long maintained that newspaper readers don’t much care about what goes into putting the paper together; they simply want to see the finished product.

But Wednesday at the Freeman was weird enough to merit giving you a peek inside the process.

The afternoon was routine. Around 2:45 p.m., Managing Editor Sam Daleo and I went over the day’s news lineup, as we always do, and decided which stories and photos would go on Thursday's front page. Sam then set out to design the page, and I did the same for page A3, our main Region page. So far, so good.

Around 4:30 p.m., we got a fax from the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office informing us that the suspect in the high-profile Irma Vega Soto murder case had pleaded guilty. OK. Big story, but not tough to handle. We simply would have to juggle some stuff on the front page to make room for it at the top. Sam and I met again briefly to discuss the necessary changes, reporter Mary Fairchild was assigned to write the Vega story, and we were back on track.

The rest of the afternoon and the early evening were uneventful -- until I made a key mistake: I ordered dinner.

A take-out Caesar’s salad usually is not hazardous to one’s health, but as I was taking a bite while sitting at my desk, something happening in the newsroom caught my attention, I turned my head mid-chew, and I planted one my sharper teeth directly into my tongue. Ouch!

My tongue hurt, but I didn’t think much of it – until I realized it felt like there was a bump on it. So I went to the men’s room, looked in the mirror and saw the bite had punctured the skin and that my tongue was bleeding.

OK. Minor crisis, but not too tough to handle. I figured I’d rinse my mouth a few times, apply some pressure with a paper towel, and that would be the end of that.

That was about 7:10 p.m.

At 7:15, my tongue still was bleeding.
7:20, still bleeding.
7:25, still bleeding.
At 7:30, an “AP News Alert” informed us a highway bridge in Minneapolis had collapsed into the Mississippi River and that numerous vehicles were in the water. And my tongue was still bleeding. Now I had two problems on my hands – not to mention the fact that I was falling behind in the evening’s other tasks because it’s hard to work a computer keyboard and mouse while applying pressure to one’s tongue.

I tackled the bridge situation first by working out a game plan with copy editor Lindsay Suchow in which she’d retool our main Nation/World page to accommodate the story. (We’d promote it on the front page with one of those red-headlined “teasers” across the top – unless I had to use that space to promote Barry Bonds’ 755th home run or Alex Rodriguez’s 500th, neither of which happened, thankfully.) Then I called my wife and asked her to get together some bags of ice cubes and some ice packs and bring them over to the office. I figured maybe I could stop the bleeding in my mouth by freezing the wound.

Rhona arrived shortly before 8 p.m., and I started icing my tongue. But it didn’t work. Then I went back to rinsing and applying pressure. Still no luck. Then back to icing. Still no luck. By this time, it was about 8:45, and I was falling way behind in my work. So I went back to my desk, with one ice cube against the bleeding tongue in my mouth and a bag of extra ice cubes in my hand, and started to tackle as many tasks as possible, quickly, in an effort to get caught up. I put the Ulster County Fair story on page 1, updated our daily reader poll, finished the “week ahead” promotional box at the bottom of page A3, updated the front-page index and early lottery numbers, edited the Irma Vega Soto story and put it on the front page, put the continuations of the front-page stories on page A6, kept one eye on CNN and the other on our AP wire to make sure the Minnesota death toll hadn’t suddenly jumped to 50, checked the Yankee game to see if A-Rod was going to make my night even more hectic, and so on.

By about 9:45 p.m., I was caught up on my work but – you guessed it -- still bleeding. And it was long past time to get some medical attention. So I gave Assistant City Editor Matt Spireng a rundown of what still needed to be done for Thursday’s paper, shut down my computer and had Rhona – a faithful spouse and loyal friend, if ever there was one -- drive me to the hospital.

We got to the emergency room at Benedictine about 9:55 p.m., checked in and had a seat. The waiting room crowd was mercifully small, so I was seen by the triage nurse within about 15 minutes and was in the treatment area a few minutes later. A woman with a sprained toe and a woman who had been scratched up pretty badly by a possibly infected cat were ahead of me in the treatment area, so I didn’t get attention right away. But I used the time wisely – or, rather, I had Rhona use the time wisely: She took my cell phone out to the waiting room, called Matt at the Freeman office and found out how things were going – and what the Minnesota death toll was (six at this point) and whether A-Rod or Bonds had “gone yard” (they hadn’t).

The ER doctor was shining a light into my mouth by about 10:40 p.m. – by which time most of the bleeding had stopped – and gave me my first good news of the night: I didn’t need any stitches. Because the bleeding had subsided, he said, it would be better to just let the wound heal on its own. I’d feel some discomfort and would have to be careful about what I ate, he told me, but he said stitching the wound shut would create the risk of trapping germs that could cause an infection.

I signed my hospital discharge papers about 10:55 p.m., got back into Rhona’s car and headed back to the Freeman office. Matt, Lindsay and copy editor Joe Gerace had done yeomen’s work in my absence in keeping us on schedule; I merely had to lock in the front-page “teaser” about the bridge disaster, add the late lottery numbers to the index box at the bottom of the page and send the page to the printer.

Our deadline for completing the first of our three editions is 11:30 p.m., and, somehow or other, we managed to come in under the wire.

We then had to deal with changing our front page and our main Nation/World page for the second and third editions to accommodate changes in the bridge story – most notably that the death toll had risen to seven – but that was pretty run-of-the-mill newspaper work given everything else that had happened in the previous five hours.

A late home run by Bonds in the West Coast game between the Giants and Dodgers would have thrown a major wrench into the works – because both the front page and the Sports section would have had to change for our second or third edition – but Barry was considerate enough to spend another night stuck at 754, and he was pulled for a pinch runner after an eighth-inning walk right at the 12:30 a.m. deadline for our third edition. So we were able – once and for all – to put the paper to bed.

Bed is where I’m headed now, too – at about 2:15 a.m. Thursday – but I felt I couldn’t retire my tired eyes and sore tongue for the night without first helping you understand that, at least on some days, creating the newspaper that magically appears on your doorstep each morning is anything but routine.

(A final thought: Yes, I realize the pain in my mouth and the relatively minor amount of blood I lost during tonight's episode can't, in any way, compare to the unimaginable agony experienced by the people on that Minneapolis bridge and their loved ones. It was not my intent in writing this blog to suggest my problem was somehow greater than theirs; I would never be so callous. And I grieve for all the people who died in the tragedy. My intent merely was to shed a little light on the sometimes out-of-the ordinary process of producing the Freeman.)