In late 1997, I had an informational phone interview with Tom Scocca regarding Stuff@Night magazine. This was two months after I married my wife at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville, Md., hopped in my car and drove with her up to Boston, completely disoriented and overwhelmed. I still feel that way. Maybe it was the food we ate at the James Fenimore Cooper rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike. That was our first meal as a married couple.
Scocca worked for the Boston Phoenix at the time I spoke with him. Now he lives in Beijing but still manages to write for The New York Observer. He did not mince words with me about Stuff or the people running it. I got his name from a woman who edited MSN’s now-defunct Washington Sidewalk, for which I contributed club reviews. She worked with Scocca at the Baltimore CityPaper. I got her name, which I can’t remember, from this guy named Chip Py, who lived in the Georgian Towers apartment complex in Silver Spring, Md., when I lived there. He wrote for the Montgomery Journal. He also went to the same junior high as me. I thought he was a jerk as a kid, but when I met him again, he actually seemed like a cool guy. A very cool guy, as a matter of fact.
In March of 1997, I lost my job at a newsletter publisher in Silver Spring, and so I was looking for freelance work. I remember I told Chip Py my hard-luck story, and he said not to worry. One time when he was a kid, he told me, his dad came home and said, “I just lost my job. Don’t worry—I’m gonna write a book.”
I remember once in gym class we had a test on first aid. We had to name the two kinds of shock. The correct answer was “physical and mental.” Somehow, I ended up getting Chip’s copy of the test. We must’ve had to grade each other’s papers. His answer to the first question, “Name the two kinds of shock,” was, “Bad, and not-so-bad.”
I eventually got an interview at Stuff, but blew it after I told the interviewer, some guy named Ahern, or Ahearn, that I hadn’t gone to the clubs I reviewed for Washington Sidewalk before I wrote my articles. If he had let me finish before he threw me out, I would have told him that the Sidewalk editor asked me to review clubs I had already been to, to save money. I tried calling him about a half-dozen times to explain. I got his voicemail and left a message each time, but he never returned my calls. So, that was my first job-hunting experience in Boston.
It didn’t improve much after that. In 1998, I got a nine-month contract job with a state agency to write pollution prevention manuals as part of a toxics use reduction program. I liked that job. In fact, I hoped the state would renew my contract. Instead, the legislature up on Beacon Hill killed the funding for the program at the behest of the chemical lobby, which had little enthusiasm for pollution prevention. My boss said she felt like someone had kicked her in the stomach.
I really did go to all the clubs I reviewed. Hell, I even played at a couple of them.