Reflection: Zan Strumfeld

Zan Strumfeld
Zan Strumfeld

It’s taken me a really long time to figure out how I’m going to start this reflection. OK, now I can move on.

I’ve been on The New Paltz Oracle for a really — no, really — long time. Except for the first two weeks of college back in the fall of 2008, I don’t know what life is like without the Oracle. Somehow I’ve formed this co-dependent relationship with an inanimate object that never stops talking — do you know how loud newspapers can be? But, like all relationships (at least in my life), it must come to a brutal end.

Yet I won’t give up without at least a fight.

So, like all of my columns have been for the past eight semesters, I will rant for the next 1,000 words or so and somehow twist and turn it enough to make it come full circle. I can say I’m pretty proud at how I’ve become a master bullshitter of filling space.

Let me start with right off the bat: if you’re looking for sentimentality, you’re not going to get it here.


When I first started writing this column, I cried.

Maybe it’s the stress of a 16-page-paper hovering over my head. Maybe it’s the fact that I finished my last class of undergrad, and probably of any school. Maybe it’s because it’s probably that time of month pretty soon.

But I think it’s because I don’t know how to say goodbye to something that I love so much. Something that has torn me apart and reshaped me into what I can say, ego aside, has made me an awesome writer and person.

I’m trying to make this not corny. I hate corn, unless it’s on the cob.

Fuck it.

I do not know what I’m going to do with myself after this final issue.

It’s really funny. Over the years I’ve watched many (too many) people on the Editorial Board fall apart. Many of them quit. A few walked out during elections. It disappointed me because they couldn’t see the larger picture: The Oracle wasn’t about them. It’s not about me. It’s about the paper as a whole. It’s about the people together, like a pseudo-family that might actually be closer than anyone biologically related to you. It’s about writing strong articles so they don’t make you look good, but to make the newspaper an overarching umbrella of greatness. It took me some time to figure this out. But for anyone that’s planning on trekking on for a few more semesters, or trying to out-run my world record, you must always keep this in mind.

Wait, I wasn’t supposed to give advice yet. Hold on, I need to rewind for a second.

To say it in the nicest terms, I hated the Oracle when I first started. The editor-in-chief was a complete nutcase and treated everyone like slaves. I heard she even kept a list of our class schedules, so she always knew where we were. The next few chiefs weren’t any better; one would leave in the middle of production night for an hour or so with her boyfriend and come back with lipstick smeared all over her face. We all knew what you were doing, you might as well have just done it in front of us. Not to mention, most importantly, the paper looked terrible. It was boring, filled with lame layouts and nothing that made it special like it should’ve been.

A few people changed everything. I will stroke their, um, hands a little now.

Maxim Alter, although you sexually harassed me on a daily basis, I will always admire how your lack of a social life helped produce some of the most amazing layouts, the website and overall changes to the paper. You brought us back to life and although I will never admit on paper that we should’ve gotten married a long time ago, I will visit you in Florida and you will design my music website soon. Also, I never came up with good comebacks. You smell.

Pierce “Lightning” Lydon. You asshole. You made me cry on multiple production nights because you thought you were funny, which you’re not, and made me look like a fool. I will always hate you for that. You also listen to some really bad music. But. You took over as editor-in-chief after a slew of semi-Hitlers and calmed everyone down. You were one of the main reasons I stayed on the Oracle. You knew that we needed to make drastic changes to the paper and how we all treated each other, and it worked. Pat yourself on your goddamn bony back for that. Somehow I know I’ll always want to stay in touch with you, even when you wear high heels.

Julie fucking Mansmann. There really isn’t anything to say because there’s too much to say. Every day I am in awe of you. How the hell do you put up with people always nagging at you, latching onto your ridiculously long skirts and making you do everything for them (myself included)? I think I’ve only seen you break down two, maybe three times from all the stress. I know you’ve done it a thousand more times, but the fact that you’ve kept your composure even in front of me shows how amazing you are. You are what holds this paper together. I don’t think anyone has given you enough credit because they don’t know how to. You are one of the strongest writers I have ever read, and your organizational skills and everything you do is just unreal for a 21-year-old. You should not be this good. I will miss you too much. I can’t believe we’ve finally finished.

I really shouldn’t talk about anyone else. It’ll take up too much space.

OK, maybe just a couple more.

Pete Thompson, remember when you were sports editor? It still cracks me up. Thanks for being my beer pong partner at all those frat parties freshman year. Pam Vivanco, you’re the only spice I’d add to my food. Rachel Freeman, I could never forget you. Well, I did, but you’re off in acid-laced Spain. Find me this summer. Justin McCarthy, Jesus Christ, you’re just a beautiful person. Thanks for the deodorant and your curls. James Legatte, your laugh is the funniest thing in the world. I still dream about it sometimes. Maeve Halliday, I miss you.

As for this semester’s E-board, you guys have some work ahead of you. Copy editors, I hope as assistant managing editor (I refuse to call myself Zan-Zan-The-Ass-Man) that I really hope I’ve made you into copy editing protégés. I can see the fire burning in many of you. Also, I hope you didn’t think I was bitch. You really shouldn’t, since I brought you cookies. But I have to give all of you props for squeezing on that table — the most copy editors we’ve ever had is five (I think), so eight is AWESOME — and showing that most of you really give a shit about this paper. That’s all I could ask for. Always remember your AP style and grammar and that I am, by far, the best Copy Editing and Layout teacher there is in New Paltz. Oops.

Julie Gundersen. That is all.

Page editors. You’ve blown me away this semester. I’ve been doing this a long time (alright Zan, they get it), but seriously, the layouts and writing have just been SOLID.

Cat Tacopina, you are the craziest swan I know. Remember when we used to fight a lot? It’s because we’re both strong, independent women…you just take more Women’s Studies classes. But seriously (with a little help from Andrew), you’ve turned that sports section into a beautiful piece of art. I say art because, come on, who reads the sports section? Also, I’m sorry I didn’t write a sports article. You said I couldn’t on hacky-sacking.

Katie Speller, my Gunk counterpart, you are literally the only features editor I’ve ever seen (and I was features editor for one semester) that knows what the hell you’re doing. You’ve made it come alive. Also you picked up on inDesign like the beautiful fetus that you are. We will play music together this summer and talk about our love for Laura Marling.

John Brandi, who the hell are you? Remember when you never talked? And now you’re one of the funniest people I know. Remember how I laid out your section almost every production night? Remember how you said you don’t care about the Oracle? We all know how much it really means to you…you can stop pretending now. Sorry we didn’t get to work at NPR or National Geographic together. Also, sorry that most of my news stories are haunting the halls of the Student Union and never made it to your section.

Andrew Wyrich, I don’t know how you handle all the stress of being editor-in-chief. Maybe you can show me next week, like after finals are over. You’ve got big shoes to fill, and I think you’re doing quite a fine job…for someone who loves pop-punk. Seriously though, the fact that you deal with mostly women all day long…that alone baffles me. Keep doing what you do. Remember how we were supposed to be top two together? I think that would have been the most unproductive, disastrous team ever. But we would’ve had a lot of fun. See you on your porch this summer.

Carolyn Quimby and Suzy Berkowitz, you guys renewed my hope for arts writers and lovers. You’re an incredible team and I couldn’t have asked for cooler dudes to finish off my time with. Suzy, it’s theater. Please record all of your Bev anecdotes. Carolyn, do not have a panic attack. I have so much faith in you, probably because you are a mini-me (are you taller?). I am so happy to hand over the A&E section to you. Call me anytime next semester.

Sam Schwartz, what the hell am I going to do without you? You are my other half and even though I try to be funnier, you are the funniest.

I guess I’ll end this with a few fragments of advice.

I’ve wanted to say so many things to the Journalism Department for so long. I have to admit that as a minor I didn’t take that many journalism classes. But seriously, I can’t believe it took winning national awards for you to finally recognize the Oracle as one of the best assets to SUNY New Paltz. Some of you still don’t respect us. We’re not elitists, but we sure as hell should be.

As for journalism students: you really need help. It’s sort of embarrassing that you want to be writers but you don’t write. Why wouldn’t you be frequently submitting articles to us? You do realize you need a portfolio when you graduate. Also, you won’t understand deadlines. Sometimes I write three articles in five hours. You have the entire semester to write one article for a class. Also, read more. Clearly most of you have never seen what an article looks like. I seriously worry.

As for the future of the Oracle, I’m really not worried. It’s going to be strange to just step aside and watch from a far, but I think we’ve made too much progression for it to all fall to pieces.

I can’t believe I’m finally done. I’ve been a copy editor, features editor, arts & entertainment editor and tried to be the best ass-man possible. I mean, fuck, they invented the job for me.

I will miss my dusty corner in the office and the radiation from the microwave. I will miss scrambling to find a Musician of the Week. I’ll even miss how all of my friends ask me why the hell I’m on the Oracle if I’m always complaining and always threatening to quit.

It’s ‘cause I love this shit. Or, loved. No. Always love.

1 Comment

  1. awesome Zan.  this one gave me a funny vicarious nostalgia feeling, and I don’t even know any of these people!

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