26 February 2010
In 1994 I move to Charlotte, NC to intern at The Charlotte Observer for the summer. I was 21. It was my first time away from my hometown of Baltimore and I didn't know a soul.
The pay was good and the city was filled with pretty women and good restaurants. Another reporter intern and I shared a $500 apartment in a faceless subdivision. We didn't get paid until two weeks in and, since we both blew our cash supply just to get there, we ate a lot of fried bologna sandwiches. I can remember eating one with him while watching OJ's Bronco on TV.
Yes, it was that summer.
I learned a lot that summer, a lot of which was good. My roommate was the first black kid my age I really got to know as a friend. Charlotte is an interesting city and a perfect place for a 21-year-old reporter to discover if he's got what it takes to do the job. And, as I mentioned before, there are a lot of beautiful women in that town.
On the other hand, I struggled to find a voice there. I was unsure of myself in the beginning, feeling as if I had left all my talent in a suitcase back home that I forgot to bring with me. My mentor - the staff reporter who was supposed to show me the ropes - was a tired man with little enthusiasm for shepherding a punk around the city.
And sometime in July a large, painful cyst developed on my lower back - way down on my lower back.
Yeah, right there.
I had to have the thing lanced by some doctor I had never met and then explain to my editor why I had to miss damn near a week of work because I could barely walk, much less sit in front of a computer.
Man, that sucked.
It was during this week that I ate a lot of Pizza Hut delivery pies and played the hell out of my roommate's copy of Mortal Kombat on the venerable SEGA Genesis.
I'm not much for fighting games - especially if there's any blocking involved - but I could play Mortal Kombat on the Genesis. And I did. A lot. Back then the game's gore content was literally off the charts. I remember the commercial that built up the hype for the game's home console port - some joker yelling MORTAL KOMBAT! and thousands of kids running through the streets.
I wasn't doing much running that week, but I jumped around a lot and sent fireballs into the faces of may an opponent with Liu Kang. I still play the game today - either on my Genesis or on the surprisingly good Game Gear version.
It says a lot about a game that can bring a smile to a man who is literally out on his ass.
By Victor Paul Alvarez