Okay, time for another awkward editon of, “Can I Eat My Lunch In Here.” One place I’ve been meaning to try this out at is the Peoria Journal Star. Years ago I was told that you just don’t walk in off the street and write for the Peoria Journal Star, but I’m curious, can you just walk in off the street and eat your lunch at the Peoria Journal Star? Well, let’s go find out!
Okay, the first stop is at Alwan and Sons. They have an outdoor grill and I’ve been meaning to stop here and get a sandwich for a long time and today is the day!
There’s the grill over there, let’s go check it out...
Here’s the three gentlemen in charge of the grill, I placed my order and within seconds I had my sandwich. These guys don’t mess around! I love these grilling guys!
I also got a bag of Kitchen Cooked Pototo Chips and it’s time to head to our luncheon destination...
The Peoria Journal Star. There it is off in the distance.
And here it is close up. Let’s climb the brick stairs...
Open the doors...
And baboom, here we are at the Peoria Journal Star!
As I approached the reception area I was told to stop taking pictures and the awkwardness that always happens while doing the “Can I Eat My Lunch In Here” posts began. The receptionist was very nice, but the idea of me eating lunch in the Peoria Journal Star made her a little nervous and she told me she’d have to make some phone calls and asked me to have a seat. I sat down and the phone calls began. My hearing is horrible, but I could hear scattered portions of her conversations: “He says he has a blog...he wants to take pictures in here...he wants to eat his lunch in here...” And it went on for ten long and awkward minutes of her calling people and them calling back. People came and went as I waited and I have to tell you that the vibe in this place is kind of gloomy and really more than just a little bit doomy. Nobody was smiling and I was wondering if I had made a mistake in coming here. Minutes later this mistake was confirmed as the receptionist told me that the people in Human Resources said that I couldn’t eat my lunch in the Peoria Journal Star lunchroom. Truthfully, I was kind of glad to get out of this gloom and doom room. To the MBIP Mobile!
Okay, time to improvise! Years ago I went through a similar experience and ended up at a another newspaper...maybe we need to check that place out and see if we can eat this lunch in there. And yes, I know, I’m parked kind of shitty here. #Amber.
Sadly, we have to go over this bridge to get to our next stop, so it’s time to white-knuckle it and keep on moving!
I ended up eating the potato chips while driving to the next destination because by now I’m starving like you know who over here!
Okay, here we are at our next newspaper stop, The Pekin Daily Times. Years ago after I was told that you just don’t walk in off the street and write for the Peoria Journal Star, I ended up writing for the Pekin Daily Times, so I thought this was a fitting place to try and rebound from our last failure at trying to eat lunch at the Peoria Journal Star.
I love that Times neon sign! Let’s go inside and see if we can eat our lunch in here.
No glass windows in here and it seems a little looser than our last stop, so let’s go up and say hello to the receptionist.
This is Lisa, the friendly receptionist and she told me to go to a desk to the left and ask the editor about eating lunch in here. So it’s off we go...
Ha ha ha! Well now, this is a pleasant surprise! It’s my friend Jeanette, who’s wedding we just attended! I had no idea she was the editor here, the last I knew she was the editor of the East Peoria Times-Courier, but it turns out she’s also the editor of the Pekin Daily Times. Her official title is, “Executive Editor at Times Newspapers.” And guess what? She said we could eat our lunch in here! Yes! I love Jeanette and the Pekin Daily Times!
This hallway leads to the lunchroom...
And here we are. It’s got a nice minimalist feel to it. Let’s have a seat and let lunch begin!
As I said earlier, I was really hungry and dug right into my Alwan and Sons sandwich, which was a little cold, but still really tasty.
I got the Ribeye Steak Sandwich from Alwan and Sons lunchtime grill and as you can see, the Ribeye dwarfs the bun! The meat was juicy and tender, even after all this time in the tinfoil wrapping and the bun was bakery fresh. Great sandwich!
Mike, who does graphics for the Pekin Daily Times was taking his lunch break here and was enjoying Chinese food from the restaurant across the street.
After lunch I took a little stroll around and here’s a shot of the newsroom.
This is a picture of the old newsroom on the wall from back in the days when I was writing for this newspaper. Memories!
This wall of old Pekin Daily Times front pages is great and it’s fun to look at the pages from yesteryear.
Lots more memories here as I scan these front pages from years gone by.
As I was getting ready to hit the road, I found Jeanette in this fancy-schmancy office and thanked her for letting me eat my lunch in the Pekin Daily Times! Nice to revisit this place and it brought back some nice memories of the first place that ever paid me to write stories!
I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling 'bout half past dead,
I just need some place where I can lay my head,
“Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?”
He just grinned and shook my hand, "No" was all he said.
You Just Don’t Walk In Off The Street And Write For The Peoria Journal Star!
Back in 1989 I had the crazy idea to publish, edit and write my own magazine which I was going to call, “People of Peoria.” My idea was to do a local entertainment and humor publication which would have the sensibilities of three of my favorite magazines, People, National Lampoon and Mad magazine.
It was kind of a lofty idea and most people I told about this notion for a local magazine said it was kind of a nutty idea. And they were right, it was kind of a nutty idea. I had never written a feature article in my life, but I had done some projects like a game called, “Trivial Trivia, The Idiot Edition,” which had been a pretty big success and it landed me and my friend, Greg Owens that I did it with on The Today Show. We followed that up with a few joke books that weren’t as big of a success, but it did get me interested in writing and I thought that doing this magazine could be the next step in starting some sort of a writing career. I decided to try and write a humor piece that would fit into such a publication and I ended up writing a humorous column about compact discs, which had just started coming out that year.
Shortly after I had the idea to do my own magazine, the Peoria Journal Star started an entertainment supplement called, Cue. I decided that instead of pouring my own money into a magazine, maybe I could do some freelance writing for Cue that might lead to some sort of a writing career.
I called the Peoria Journal Star and found out that the editor of Cue was a person named Christine McNeil and I asked to speak to her. They rang her line, she answered her phone and I told her that I had written a humorous column about compact discs and would like to show it to her for the Cue section. She was a little frosty on the phone and said they didn’t use much freelance writing. I persisted and asked if I could just meet with her to show her the article and she reluctantly agreed to meet me the next afternoon.
The next afternoon came along as most afternoons have a tendency to do and I excitedly drove to the Peoria Journal Star for what I thought might be the start of a new chapter of my life. I was hoping it was to be the next phase of my life: Marty Wombacher—Writer!
I drove into the parking lot of the Peoria Journal Star, walked into the lobby and over to the glass lined reception area and told the receptionist I had an appointment with Christine McNeil. I was really excited and my adrenaline was pumping big time.
The receptionist picked up the phone and called Christine. She then hung up the phone and told me to take a seat and that Christine would be down to meet me shortly.
I took my seat and waited and within a few minutes Christine walked into the lobby and over to me.
She introduced herself and I said hi and thanked her for meeting with me. She asked to see what it was I had brought, so I handed her my compact disc humor column and she took it and held it by two fingers, briefly scanned it, and then looked up at me and sharply said, “What is it you want to do here?”
I told her I wanted to do some freelance humor columns for Cue and she asked me if I had any experience writing for newspapers.
I explained to her I had none, but I had done the Idiot Trivia game and written some joke books. I told her I was pretty sure she knew who I was because the Peoria Journal Star had done feature articles about all those past projects.
“Yeah, I know who you are and those things you’ve done aren’t writing,” she sniffed at me in a very cuntish manner, which, to tell you the absolute truth, I really didn’t appreciate at all!
“Where did you go to school?” She asked with her eyes narrowing at me.
I told her if she was talking about college that I had only went one year and had kind of flunked out after spending most of the year drinking a ton and doing lots of drugs. I confessed I was a little mixed up about life and things back then, but assured her that I was really excited about doing some writing projects for Cue.
Then it happened.
There’s certain moments in life that can define and shape your life forever. Moments that you think about over and over. And over and over. And if you’re like me you think about them over and over and over and over until it seems like you can’t obsess or dwell over them anymore or your head will explode seven ways from Sunday. And then you think about them some more even though you don’t really want to.
And then you have a ham and cheese sandwich, wash that down with a beer, maybe take an Advil or three and then have twelve more beers and then you think about that moment again. And then again. It just doesn’t end and eventually you surrender to the fact that you’re going to think about this for every day for the rest of your stinking life! It’s your destiny and you just sinkingly surrender to it. Some people have normal lives and you have this. It’s just the way that the cookie crumbles and you should forget about it and just be grateful for that ham and cheese sandwich and for the beers that forever follow it.
Well, this was my time. My life defining moment. For better or for worse.
After I told Christine that I didn’t really go to college, she cocked her head to the left somewhat, looked at me with a bit of a scowl and uttered the following life-changing words: “Well, you know you don’t just walk in off the street and write for the Peoria Journal Star.”
Then she spun around and walked through the glass doors back to her editorial land and I was left in the lobby with my head spinning counter-clockwise after being told this.
“What a fucking cunt!” I said out loud and then looked over at the receptionist who was looking at me kind of horrified.
“Oh...sorry!” I said to her and then tried to gather my stuff up in the most professional way I could muster and went to my car. Once inside of my car, I sat in the driver’s seat and started banging on the steering wheel while repeating a mantra of, “That fucking cunt,” over and over. About twelve minutes later I drove to my apartment. Later that night I went out to dinner with my girlfriend, Lynda and I couldn’t stop repeating the story and how she told me that, “You just don’t walk in off the street and write for The Peoria Journal Star.”
Three days later I was still babbling on about it and Lynda finally snapped and said, “When is this going to end?”
“What are you talking about?” I innocently asked her.
“This Peoria Journal Star thing. It’s all you’ve talked about for the last three days, when are you going to let it go?” She asked while looking at me like I was a mental patient waiting to be fitted for a straitjacket.
“I’ll never let it go,” I told her, with the silky-smooth confidence of a man just insane enough to utter such words. “I’m going to do my magazine and it’ll be a really big deal and she’ll be sorry and I’ll never stop talking about this shit. Fuck her!”
I think it was about two weeks later that Lynda and I finally broke up. I’m pretty sure it was her decision.
And yeah, I’m still talking about this!
Postscript: Lynda ended up marrying some guy she worked with at the Arthritis Foundation. They moved to California and bought a house, had some kids and I’m really happy for her. I’m even happier that I never did anything like that in my life! Ha ha ha! I ended up doing my magazine, People of Peoria from 1990 to 1993 and while it drained all the money I made off of that Idiot Trivia Game it led me to write for the Pekin Daily Times which led me to New York City in 1993.
And I was able to walk in off the street while living in Manhattan and write for the NY Weekly, The Manhattan Spirit, NY Newsday, the NY Daily News, the NY Post, Time Out New York, Gadfly magazine and the NY Press. I also published a magazine for six years in New York called fishwrap, which garnered a nice cult following and was written up in the NY Daily News, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, the NY Post, Sassy magazine and Men’s Journal among other publications. I wrote two books in New York and started blogging there and now I’m back here doing this Meanwhile Back In Peoria blog. And if you’re kind enough to be reading this I thank you big time! It’s nice to have an audience and I’m humbled every day by people that come by here to read words that I’ve written. It amazes me and makes me so happy every single day!
It seems like things have come full circle in my life. All those years ago I was told that, “You just don’t walk in off the street and write for the Peoria Journal Star,” and just yesterday I learned that you can’t just walk in off the street and have lunch at the Peoria Journal Star.
And you know what? Fuck those people, they’re all just cardboard-brained, corporate screwheads and I’m just going to do what I want to do in spite of them. And maybe because of them. I guess that’s just the way life rolls. At least for me and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. So there! We’ll see you all tomorrow!
Bonus Jaws Art!
Jaws sent in this piece of art as to what may happen to me in the future with these, “Can I Eat My Lunch In Here,” posts. Ha! Thanks Jaws, great work!