The cabinet above my desk was completely full of Weekenders when I left the Sioux City Journal offices for good last week. Every Wednesday, a handful of fresh copies would be placed on my desk, a culmination of a week’s worth of work in physical form. I’d make it a habit of thumbing through the issue in search of any glaring errors that slipped past my eyes the day before. I’d examine the colors and inks, double check the answers for the crossword and Sudoku puzzles and inspect the cover quality.
When I was finished, I’d save one issue to stack for archive purposes, placing it on that cabinet above my desk. The other copies I would throw in a pile somewhere nearby, extras in case a reader called and asked for a spare issue. I had done this ritual for nearly four years. I smiled when I saw that swollen stack of papers reach the top of the cabinet. No more room. So it seems only fitting that I pack up my belongings and end my tenure with the Weekender.
I left Sioux City June 30, and it was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever had to do. I spent eight years of my life living in this town — four years as a college student at Briar Cliff University, four years as a reporter for the Sioux City Journal. This was my home. I may not have lived in the nicest of places and I might not have been in close proximity to my girlfriend of eight years, but I can honestly say I love Sioux City wholeheartedly.
While I was in college, I never really gave this place any credit. Although I was making friends at Briar Cliff and enjoying my time atop the hill, I felt secluded from the general populace. Hamilton Boulevard, Interstate 29 and the Southern Hills Mall were the only places I knew of and felt confident I could navigate. I rarely ever ventured downtown, save for a cheap movie at the Riviera Theatre or a hangover cure feast at Da Kao with my roommate and best friend. But once I nabbed an internship at the Sioux City Journal, I was forced to learn more about the area.
When my internship concluded, I was offered a position as the Weekender writer or the cops reporter. More interested in writing features than covering crime at that time, I decided to take over Kay Kemmet’s old job. After a brief training period, I was given full reign of The Weekender under supervision from my editor and former professor, Bruce Miller. Over time, I was able to hone my skills as a writer while simultaneously covering some of the most interesting people I’ve ever met.
The people of Sioux City helped guide me and made my job a helluva lot easier. If it wasn’t for the local musicians, actors, artists, bar owners, bartenders and restaurateurs, among others, I wouldn’t have had nearly as much fun. And I was reminded of this a few days before I left town. Kelly Quinn threw me a going away party of sorts in Marty’s Tap, the bar I frequented the most after a long day of work — so much so that I kind of formed a loving adoptive family.
I was greeted with familiar faces, toasts and balloons that said “Baby Boy,” along with my usual order of “turkey and gravy.” (For those who don’t know, that is what bartender Matt Pike calls my order of Wild Turkey on the rocks and a shot of Sambuca, an admittedly awful combination of beverages, but one that always either soothed my troubles or caused more the next morning.)
I was grateful to see my friends and Weekender supporters. Local music has always been an important subject for The Weekender, and after learning about it through others’ feedback and from first-hand accounts by past Weekender staff members, I decided I would try my best to cover the scene and keep people informed about that particular topic. What I didn’t expect was how much I would love the local music scene.
Though surely that love was tested during Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City’s battle of the bands competitions. Writing recaps or reviews for Road to Vegas 2 and BAND6k was one of the scariest decisions I think I’ve ever had to make on the job. I had been writing features and essentially promoting bands for a few years, and now I was going to criticize their work and their live shows? I felt weird about it.
But I wanted to hold local bands to a higher standard of play, so I went through with it. And for the most part people were receptive of these long-winded recaps of mine. Despite their ridiculous lengths and critical nature, people still read the damn things. Writing about the battles was one of my personal high points and I’m grateful the local music scene seemed to accept my opinion even if they had a different perspective.
I made a lot of friends in Sioux City, many of which were my very own co-workers. My final night in Sioux City was spent with them. We celebrated in the usual way we send off other Journal employees: pizza and shots at Buffalo Alice. We spent a few hours there stuffing our faces with prosciutto and garlic pizza (a favorite among my journalist friends) and downing all kinds of drinks. We ended the night with a bit of live music out on the porch area of BAs before a tearful goodbye at a nearly empty Marty’s Tap.
I knew one day I would leave Northwest Iowa, but I didn’t know just how difficult it would be. So why am I leaving?
Well, as much as I love Sioux City, I want to be closer to my hometown and my family and loved ones. I also missed writing hard news. Features are no problem, but I wanted to go back to writing news stories like the ones I had written as an intern. I began applying for jobs and eventually landed a position as a city reporter for the Newton Daily News in Newton, Iowa.
I’ll be starting that new job soon. From what I hear, the Journal is looking for a new Weekender editor. I don’t know who it will be, but I hope he or she is given the same amount of love and support as I was given. I’m forever grateful to you, Sioux City. This isn’t goodbye. I’m determined to visit, be it the Barstool Open, Saturday in the Park, Sunday Phounday, a particular concert or just because. This will not be goodbye.
Thank you for everything. Let’s keep in touch, yeah?
Smell ya later, Sioux City.