I started writing for The Oracle like how many start a bad habit. I asked an older friend if she knew anything about it, and she passed some info my way. If you can imagine, it was a very “I know a guy,” type of conversation. Like that, I took the information she gave me and spent about a day and a half questioning whether it was a good decision.
My shaky legs carried me up four flights of the Student Union Building. Breathless, I walked into a room with blindingly vibrant walls, and about 10 or so kids cramped at a cluttered table. Almost instantly, their eyes snapped in my direction and I felt as though my lungs gave out.
With some mumbling, I was able to explain that I had emailed then-EIC Kristen Warfield about possibly getting involved. As a group, they immediately relaxed and a poised blonde began walking my way- this was Kristen.
I gathered that because she was in college, she was only a few years older than me, but I was still struck by the way she held herself; she was easily the most put-together young adult I had met thus far.
After a brief introduction with Kristen, I met Jack O’Brien. Amiable and dignified, Jack went out of his way to shake my hand, which struck me as funny at the time. Before Jack, first impressions were something I rarely thought about. That day I began thinking about how I addressed people, and how I would begin to treat people as human beings; I would start with shaking their hands. I also began thinking about the power in wearing cardigans. You do you, Jack.
Jack and Kristen ushered me over to then-A&E Editor Sam Manzella. Adorned with tattoos, a shaved head and one of the brightest smiles I had ever encountered, Sam would easily become the sole achiever of everything awesome in New Paltz. Badassery was the game and Sam was her name. She assigned me my first story, she also made it increasingly evident that kindness costs you nothing, as she was so generous to give it out.
Still shaken with nerves, I ran out of there like a bat out of Hell, not paying too much attention to the story I was given.
I got back to my dorm and had a nervous breakdown after reading about the exhibit I would have to cover. My first assignment for The Oracle was about decorative spoons. No, I am not shitting you.
Two weeks later, Jack emailed me, asking me to come to a production night. I had no idea what the hell that was but he signed his email off with “Best, Jack,” so I was in no position to say no.
I found myself in a similar state of panic that fateful Wednesday night, only this time I was greeted by the copy editors.
Rachael, Michael, Jess, Jackson, Anthony, Briana and Erica. It took me about 45 seconds to remember all of your names.
Rachael Purtell, who I would later learn was my co-copy editor, was glowing. Blonde tresses, tan skin and bright white teeth, she was incredibly intimidating in her impressive glory. She also had just come from a soccer practice, so I think that says enough about the glowing. (I’m only slightly kidding.) A two sport athlete and a double major, Rachael would soon teach me that there truly ain’t no rest for the wicked. (Or, in her case, the incredibly motivated.)
Michael Rosen, who had almost immediately informed me he was Asian, was bickering with Rachael. Michael slowly but surely would be the only person who understood my musical theatre references, although I didn’t know it at the time. With a pressed button down, matching tie and coiffed hair, Michael was here to show everyone that even in times of adversity, you have to get out of bed and move on with your day; life goes on.
I sat next to Erica Ascher, who had eagerly shown me everything there was to know about copy-editing, emanated a warmth that you simply cannot replicate. She loved to laugh and in turn make people laugh. I liked her instantly.
Jess Napp and Jackson Shrout, sitting on the couch, both seemed lost in their reading while simultaneously achieving a level of cool I could only aspire to be, as they listened to what I assumed was a band I didn’t know the name of.
Briana Bonfiglio, petite and gentle, was a master of her trade. She got through copy after copy like rapid fire. She was something of an enigma: sweet face and beautiful blue eyes, paired with an edgy eyebrow ring- something immediately told me that she was not just what meets the eye.
Then there was Anthony. If there was something that struck me about this wonderful human being, it was how at ease he was in the office. It became evident to me in seconds that Anthony Beautiful Blue Eyes Mitthauer Orza had a genuine soul destined to live a peaceful life, loved by all who know him. The funny thing is, I got this all from a smile and a laugh.
Throughout the night I was introduced to more page editors: Melissa, Amanda and “Mell.” (Remember when there were two l’s?)
Melissa Kramer was quick to welcome me, giving me a nickname within seconds. Unfortunately Melissa, “Nutmeg” was short lived; your kindness wasn’t.
The incomparable Amanda was trés chic and an undeniable sweetheart, proving almost immediately that her and Jack went together like peas and carrots. Amanda Copkov, please know that if I had the funds, I would jump on the soonest flight to eat a croissant with you in Besançon.
To be honest, I’m not going to write about my encounter with Mell on that particular night, because the next interaction is one I think about more frequently. I had officially been on The Oracle for a week which meant I had begun to pull more weight which meant I needed to learn how to fact check which meant I would have to sit down with Mell. Almost immediately as I stepped foot in the office, she stole my pen. I bit my tongue. I wanted Mell to like me. The more and more she spoke, the brighter the room became. Mell was wholly enamored with journalism and suddenly I began seeking out ways to impress the curly-cued News enthusiast. I can safely say now, that Mel Zerah’s ascent from News to EIC became my motivation for deploring a stronger work ethic.
As leaves and snow fell, I began finding home in orange walls and clutter. I began finding family. With time passing, the family dynamic began changing.
I met Rob Piersall at the end of my first semester. A boisterous laugh constantly filling the air, Rob was immediately welcomed to the staff- making his way into our hearts while blasting some questionable music.
With Rob came Brandon Doerrer. He, like Michael, dressed to the nines. He also had an unassuming wit that found me on some of the most stressful days. Brandon, you’re truly the best sport.
Natalie Aguilar and Madalyn Alfonso’s entrance kind of shook my little Oracle absorbed brain. I had so often longed to find someone in my year to know the wonderful chaos- thank you both for making the shared experiences so spirited. I look forward to seeing what kickass content you two produce in the future.
Matt Ferremi, despite not knowing we went to the same high school, I’m grateful to have met in such a high energy environment. The News section is an awful, terrible, beautiful gift. From one East Islip alum to another: pressure makes diamonds and I’ll be damned if you don’t make it out with at least a couple of karats.
My intent with this reflection was to introduce each and every one of these lovely Oracle humans exactly how I met them. To do this accurately for the last staff member, I have to go back three years and almost four months.
It was hot and my thighs were sticking to the stiff, wooden bleachers. Only the second day of the 11th grade, and I was already fed up by the time gym class came around. While attendance was being called, I was hit in the head with a crumpled up paper ball. I whipped my head around, ready to pounce. I was greeted by a boy with jeans that were just as tight as my own, and curly black hair. Apparently, we had our next two classes together- I immediately did not like him.
Christopher Sumano was by far way too smart for his own good and the bastard knew it. By the time ninth period journalism came around, I had had ENOUGH. Day by day, he would come in and criticize my poor taste in music and every goddamn day, he was right.
Unfortunately for my uppity younger self, Chris was a natural when it came to understanding the importance of good journalism. He wrote pieces that were far beyond the caliber of other students and he always made it a point to read my articles as well. I conceded and shortly after we were friends.
It’s three years, two publications and many issues later, and I’m not sure if there has ever been a person I was so excited to watch grow. As a friend, as a co-worker, as your BOSS, I’m grateful for the vaping and the smell of mangoes. Thank you for putting up with me and when your head gets a little too big, just remember I’m only a phone call away.
I close this reflection as I picture a cluttered, orange office and know that these small glimpses into who this wonderful paper is made up of is only a portion of the chaos that be, is only half of the beauty that awaits the next unsuspecting copy editor. Through these people, I have found my words. May you find yours as well.