At any given point in my life, I think I could fashion a decent enough guess to where I was one year before that. But as I write this sentence, I can pinpoint exactly where I was a year ago, to the minute and to the inch.
I was in the visitor’s section of the bleachers at Warberg Court watching the Pendleton Buckaroos host the Hermiston Bulldogs for volleyball.
It was my first day at the East Oregonian.
So here we go, a few doses of wisdom and my favorite memories — well, maybe noteworthy is a better term — that I’ve gathered in no particular order from the last 366 days (it was a leap year, wasn’t it?) in my Eastern Oregon adventure.
Firstly and maybe most importantly: Pendleton is not how you say Pendleton. That would be too simple. A wiley old man set me straight early on with a simple prognosis:
“No, no, no. Drop the ‘D’,” he said, rolling his eyes because of course all D’s are silent.
Right, I’m the crazy one. So Penle-ton? Love it. The surest case of lazy mouth I’ve ever seen.
No. 2. People will almost always dislike you if you work for a media entity, even if you’re Superman. Now I don’t claim to be super, but it’s a good stance to live by. The best criticism I’ve gotten on a story while with the EO came during American Legion baseball season this summer. And it came as a pair.
Hermiston and Pendleton played to a now-inconsequential final and I received two angry phone calls the next day based on my coverage. The first gentleman told me I focused far too much on Pendleton, the team that won.
The second man also alleged that I was one-sided, but that I was favoriting (might not be a word) the team from Hermiston. It came with this gem:
“You must be from the east side, huh?”
To which I think I responded, “Sir, I don’t know what that means.” For folks more attuned to the Penle-ton/Hermiston rivalry, his claim may make a little more sense. But I’m not even from this state, so my bad.
Part C: AJ’s favorite game so far that didn’t involve one untimed free throw to win a girls’ basketball contest for Weston-McEwen (check my back catalog for more details there). I’d go with the trifecta of state championship games this spring provided me with a solid business trip and two first-place trophies for dry-side schools.
Pendleton and Heppner’s first state softball titles left those girls with a memory of a lifetime. But my favorite tidbit about the trip? Filing my stories from some bar with Wi-Fi in Corvallis. Made me feel like a Hemingway or something — I mean besides the Wi-Fi part.
Section 4: This would probably be a good opening for some Round-Up thoughts, but I’m still in hiding from that last column on Cowboy-land so we’ll skip the rodeo stuff and go straight for the wrap up.
Time for the lightning round!
Nicest people: Weston-McEwen. I mean seriously, what other third-place team would send a thank you card for the coverage. No, Athena, thank you.
Most interesting story I’ve worked on: Toss up. The dismissal of Condon/Wheeler’s assistant track coach for taking a boy to prom was definitely an outlier. But digging through 40 years of Title IX history for an anniversary story was probably a bit more fulfilling.
Most likely to need to speak Spanish: Me, every time I cover soccer. Those high school classes feel so long ago. So, sorry about that one futbol fans.
New favorite winter: Oregon’s. Because seriously, Oregon? Is this really winter at all? It’s awesome!
Signed: A Montana anti-snow supporter.
Now before I sign off, I’d like to include one last nugget. I’d like to offer my thanks to a special someone out there.
To the annoyed Pendleton police officer who didn’t give me a ticket when I drove a few blocks the wrong direction down an empty one-way street to avoid a train stopped on the tracks, thank you for helping me make deadline that night. I’m sorry I was in such a hurry.
But FYI, my editor told me to do it.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.