I love writing. I love people. I love writing about people, ergo, I love cities. I love the constant buzz of activity, the brilliant lights, the steady stream of people on sidewalks and street corners. I love knowing that even when I’m dead asleep, the world around me is whirring with life.
Chestertown is no city, and it most certainly sleeps. When Chestertown turns off its lights at 7 p.m., it collapses into a thick, dreamy sleep. While insomniac cities elsewhere dance and drink into the early morning, Chestertown snores. It’s a town on a river, so it’s always awake before dawn to greet the geese on the waterfront.
Chestertown isn’t the quintessential skyscraper-lined metropolis where most young writers dream of crafting their first great novel. It’s a tiny college town of about 5,000 residents, nestled on the Maryland Eastern Shore. It doesn’t have a shopping mall or a Wal-Mart, and its movie theater screens five films at a time.
My summer here won’t be spent in an artsy one-bedroom apartment. I don’t intend to spend my evenings at poetry readings in coffee shops or bar-hopping my way from campus to the waterfront. I’ll certainly patron the town’s single coffee shop regularly, but fully aware that it isn’t the cultural hotspot for budding young artists (although Allen Ginsberg did come to Chestertown before, so I have that going for me). And even if the town’s bars were throbbing with base music and strobe lights every weekend, I’ll keep my underage self in my free, on-campus dorm room.
This summer, I’ll be writing for Chestertown’s weekly newspaper. The Kent County News has never been nominated for a Pulitzer, and to the best of my knowledge, it hasn’t cracked open any Watergate-sized scandals recently (I say this with trepidation, however. One of my tasks for the summer may consist of finding stories from the archives, which date back to the pre-Civil War era. Chestertown may very well have its own little Watergates hidden in its back issues). My summer internship isn’t necessarily every rookie journalist’s dream gig. This isn’t the most exciting of towns even during the school year with inebriated students stumbling off campus on weekends, so I can’t imagine my summer nights will consist of much more than reading in bed. I don’t know what’s in store for me these next few months, other than lots of Royal Farm food runs and blogging about who-knows-what.
But journalism isn’t about the glory and adrenaline, is it? It isn’t swishing to work in an expensive skirt and heels on the streets of New York. It isn’t about typing out a column in a ritzy cafe, a grande mocha frappe on one side and laptop on the other. It isn’t about seeing your byline above the fold for hundreds upon thousands to pick up and scan on their way to work.
Even humble little river towns like this one have news that needs to be reported. The Chestertownians I’ll be interviewing, profiling, and living among this summer deserve just excellent a quality news source as do readers of the New York Times or the Washington Post. That’s what I love most about journalism: The little stories, the intimate and inspirational specks of life that I have the chance to record.
Sure, shadowing the crime beat reporter may not be as thrilling as it is for an intern at The Baltimore Sun. I won’t enter my senior year with stories about getting lost downtown after a wild night of barhopping. But I will finish this summer, I think, feeling pretty damn proud of being a journalist.
Tomorrow, I begin my preparations for life on the Chester River by shopping for something even the most rural of reporters needs: A working computer.