‘Chowder Downstairs, Boys!’

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Mom used to ask me when I was going to get my name in the paper. She wasn’t thinking of the crime blotter (necessarily) or the obituaries (hopefully) or the sports section (hah!). She was thinking that it might be cool for her—or even me—to see my name in print as the writer of an article of some sort.

I’d explain that, as an editor, I was the invisible man, the wizard behind the curtain, the brains and the poetry behind whatever byline was on there — and that this arrangement was good and profitable enough for me.

Anyway, this magazine is my other thing, a whole side life for Shop Boy that I’ve mentioned maybe once or twice in this blog. Being its editor (and main writer) is part of my job for the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

It’s a funny symmetry of life to think that my byline now appears too frequently — by my own accounting — in a publication my mom never got to read. (My sisters and Dad read it, which is cool but adds a little pressure.) Often, I will pull my name off of an article as just — yeesh — too much me.

That thing at the top there, though? That is Shop Boy as a young man, let’s call him Steven, helping to wrestle a steaming (ouch!) hot vat of clam chowder down steep stairs to a takeout window at the Rocky Point Shore Dinner Hall.

It’s a picture an artist drew of me! Imagine. The artist is Jon Marchione, a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art here in Baltimore. I was expecting maybe dancing clams  or something like that to illustrate an introduction to my little story about sense memory. But this is awesome … if I had been having an out-of-body experience or whatever, that’s really what it felt as though it would look like. The whole job was like that … crazy hard and absolutely nutso. Some of that was of course self-inflicted.

Did Shop Boy ever tell you about the day we were prepping onions? Burlap sack after sack after sack of them. Well, you get punchy doing all that kitchen prep. And Future Shop Boy decided it might be funny to tell really sad stories and see if — with all that eye-stinging onion juice in the air — I could get the whole group crying. Within 15 minutes we were an inconsolable mess, all wailing and carrying on so that the boss, Conrad Sr., heard the chorus of melancholy and came stomping into the room.

“YOU!” he thundered, pointing his finger at me. “I know you do this!”

Shop Boy busted his butt for that man. The energy and sense of humor that allowed me to work so hard did not suit him, however. We would too soon part. (His idea.)

The magazine’s out. Here’s the link again. I bust my butt for it. The full, brief Rocky Point story is there, as well as what I hope is a bunch of other stuff that might be worth a look — whether you’re a nurse or not. Heck, it’s got an image of Shop Boy.

And my byline. (OK, it’s at the end.)

So there’s that …

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