On my newsroom desk at 104 Park St. sat a giant foam vulture whose head eventually disintegrated over the 15 or 20 years he’s been squatting there. Where the vulture’s head used to be is now just a bunch of foam being vomited out of the dried out latex that once was its neck. Even without the head, I think he still has a certain gritty charisma. 

Mark LaFlamme and his newsroom stick, good for poking people when you need their attention. Submitted photo

The ungainly bird sits next to a big fat rat that once stared menacingly across the newsroom until a form of latex leprosy took away most of his face. Now he just sits there oozing foam and probably begging somebody to put him out of his misery. 

Maybe somebody did put him out of his misery, but it sure wasn’t me. When all was said and done, these were the two items I just could not bear to move as I packed up and moved out of 104 Park St. 

I did what I could. When it came time to pack up all my newsroom trinkets and treasures, I dutifully filled up six boxes and loaded them into my truck. If I’m involved in any kind of horrific wreck over the next few days, the investigating officers will have a puzzle on their hands with all the strange loot that comes tumbling out of those boxes. 

Skulls of various shapes strewn across the street. Rats, too. And bats and lizards and skeletons. 

Here’s an alien in a jar that lights up for spooky effect. Here’s an old wind-up ice cream truck, sent to me by a hilaaaaarious reader two decades ago after I wrote a column describing my fear of the Good Humor man. 


Here’s a fuzzy yellow creature on the end of a string. Mr. Fuzzy makes a delightful BOINNNGG sound if you hit it just right. This was a gift from a long-ago reader, too, although I forget the circumstances. 

Coils of barbed wire, various hats with various logos on them, a box full of balls: racket balls, baseballs and fat rubber balls that come out of storefront vending machines; two thongs, one black, one white, that were sent in by a reader for reasons I don’t quite recall and I wouldn’t tell you if I did. 

All of those weird little gizmos and gadgets are precious to me for a variety of reasons. But the most valued item of all that I took out of 104 is a simple stick, about 16 inches long and long ago denuded of its bark. It’s just a thin little thing, this stick, less than half the thickness of a pencil, but it’s been with me since March of 1994 when I found it on a Park Street sidewalk my very first day on this newspapering job. 

“Check out this stick,” I said to my new colleagues, all the editors, reporters and photographers who would become my family. “I mean, look how straight and neat it is. Why, it’s a perfect stick for poking people when you need to get their attention. Yup. This stick and I are going to have a long and happy friendship.” 

Seriously. It’s a wonder they hired me instead of calling for the men in the white coats. 

So, that was it, a boy and his stick walking out of 104 Park St. for the very last time on a cold night in late November. Did I cry like an itty-bitty baby on my way out? Wouldn’t tell you if I did. 


For weeks following that sad departure, my colleagues kept imploring me to come check out the new digs on Lisbon Street.

“Lots of improvements down here,” they said. “You’re really going to like it.” 

The heathens. 

It would be several weeks before I took them up on it, and then only because I needed to fetch my mail. 

I went in through an entrance off Dufresne Plaza, hating myself for thinking that this was a pretty cool spot for a newspaper; hating myself for looking around seeing all the easy access to the downtown alleys, which have been like convenient highways for me for so many years. 

Upstairs, I found a neat space occupied by reporters, photographers and (blech) editors at the center of the room with associated departments close enough to hit with a spitball. Back at 104 Park St. over the years, all of the departments had become spread out so that you never saw many of your buddies unless you were specifically looking for them. It was hell on the spitball game. But now we’re all back together and, wouldn’t you know it, I hated myself for thinking that. 


The new space has a long, bright conference room with big windows overlooking the business end of Lisbon Street. Why from there, you could see people stomping into 8th District Court day after day and then watch them stomp out all red-faced after paying their fines. 

There’s a cozy all-purpose room where a reporter might conduct interviews, collect his thoughts or conspire to overthrow the unholy editor army. The room is full of old card files with news dating back to the 1800s, along with copies of the most current editions of the newspaper. 

I hated myself for liking that spot, went into the employee lounge and hated myself for liking that, too. There’s a nice outdoor deck and it even has a brick wall where a word-snarled writer might bounce a racketball while he clears his thoughts. 

More appreciation, more self-loathing. 

In the final analysis, I had to acknowledge that this spiffy new space on Lisbon Street has plenty that the Park Street newsroom did not, including clean bathrooms and floorboards that don’t whine and groan like kicked dogs when you tread upon them. And not a hint of “Brady Bunch”-era paneling in sight. 

I guess my plan to handcuff myself to a radiator at 104 Park St. is officially dead. You know how it is. The older we get, the more the changes that will be imposed upon us. New bosses, new rules, new faces and new ways of doing things. . . . One either submits and adapts to the changes or resigns himself to the tar pits of history where he will whine and complain daily about the glories of the olden times until somebody finally moves him into a home somewhere. 


It happened to a guy I know. 

I likely won’t move all my rats and bats and things that go BOINNNGG to the sparkling new newsroom at 64 Lisbon St. The new digs don’t have the same shabby ambiance as 104 Park St. and all those skulls, dead aliens and coils of plastic barbed wire would look woefully out of place there. I’ll just pack all those trinkets away so that somewhere down the line, when I’m old, toothless and feeling nostalgic, I can haul them all out and bore people with the stories behind them — much like I’ve bored you here today, I reckon.

That stick, though? That 16-inch model of nature’s perfection? That sucker’s coming with me. After 28 years of unflagging man-stick camaraderie, I frankly don’t know if I could properly do this job without it. Know what I mean? 

Know what I mean? 


Are you even listening to me anymore? 

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