Back in 1990-something, I had a personal caricature taped to my newsroom computer monitor. The caricature, sketched by the husband of a colleague, was quite good. It presented an image of me, smiling toothily and proudly toting my pen and notebook. 

“Wicked excited,” the caption read, “about crime!” 

On a wall above my desk appeared the word “Crime,” in red, dripping letters. A little something I had clipped out of a magazine. 

There were crime scene photos and composite sketches tacked up on the walls. There was yellow crime scene tape dangling from a shelf, and there were spent shell casings, grabbed from one crime scene or another, standing in a weird little row next to my telephone. 

Wicked excited, that was me, all right. My motto in those days was: “I don’t want bad things to happen. I just wanna be there when they do.” And I meant it utterly. 

I came across some of these old souvenirs, most of them crinkled and faded with years, while cleaning out my newsroom desk. For a long while, I just frowned over them, trying to recapture the sense of exuberance they inspired back in the good old days of home invasions and shootouts in the street. 

But there was no exuberance; not even a trace. Instead, these trinkets educed a tired sense of dismay. Not disgust, mind you. I harbor no shame over that thirst for crime and mayhem that used to drive me. Crime reporters HAVE to love the beat, otherwise they would be no damned good at it.

If you do not have a twisted sense of lust for chaos, you might as well hand the beat off to someone who does and then go cover city hall or the schools. (You will have to learn how to knot a tie and to stay awake while people are droning about property tax rates, employee contracts and other somniferous matters.) 

No, I am not disgusted by the morbid mentality of my past self, but those old souvenirs made me uneasy, nonetheless. And since the day I discovered this fact, I have been trying to figure out why it is so. 

Maybe it is that after a certain point, crime news becomes redundant. 

How many crimes did I cover, I wonder, that were truly unique? How many bona fide mysteries were there? How many whodunnit-style capers? 

Not many, frankly. There were some gems in there, no question, but in the final tally, the vast bulk of it has been just small variations of the same old things: drunken brawls, drug dealers heaping violence on other drug dealers, domestic ugliness. 

That is not exciting, broheim. After a while, it is just depressing. 

When bullets were reported flying last week on Bartlett Street in Lewiston, I went racing off as fast as I could, not because I was “wicked excited about crime,” but because it is what I have to do these days to get a paycheck. I knew what the plot was going to be long before I came skidding to a halt at the scene of the crime. I have seen that particular movie a few thousand times. 

Maybe it is that in the age of Twitter, Facebook and as-it-happens news alerts, reporting just is not as fun as it used to be. Spend all day deep diving into the elements of a murder or bank heist? Not on your life, kid. We need something for the web in 10 minutes. 

Maybe I just grew out of it, the way a kid will grow out of the toys he used to think were the most-awesome things in the world.  

Or maybe the sad fact is it is hard to get “wicked excited about crime” these days because the whole world feels like one giant crime scene, and every one of us is the victim of ongoing corruption so sprawling and complex we cannot see the form it takes. 

I guess I mean to say — with apologies to my past self — there are heaping helpings of misery in the world of late that make getting worked up over things like gunfire or knife fights seem superfluous and perhaps a little bit unhinged. 

The taglines below my news stories do not identify me as a “crime reporter” like they used to. When people ask me what I do, I don’t identify myself that way,  which is sad, in its way, because I used to say it with such pride and gusto. 

I’m still a reporter and I still cover crime now and then, but these days it’s more incidental than anything else. It no longer feels like part of my DNA. 

I guess if someone wants to sketch a caricature of me these days, they can still write “wicked excited,” but they will have to leave out the second part of the old motto.

Which is just fine with me, really. It leaves a little something, that way, to the imagination. 


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