Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Edited Out of Existence

The person I have random conversations with at work called today, and he was talking about editing writers’ articles for a journal and how they never noticed. That reminded me of the worst time I was ever edited:

Paris, 1997. I was part of a delegation of pilgrims from our parish going to World Youth Day to see the Pope, and our diocesan newspaper asked us to write an account of our journeys. Each pilgrim wrote a description of a day on our sojourn, and I got the day of the Papal Mass, a.k.a. World Youth Day. I wrote a long, involved, and (I thought) colorful and entertaining description of the day, but when we got back to the US and saw the diocesan paper, while almost everyone else’s account was printed verbatim, mine was trimmed to a two-sentence blurb about the Papal Mass that wasn’t even anything like what I’d written. This was a real blow to me, since I considered myself a great writer, and certainly far superior to the other pilgrims in my writing skills, but obviously the diocesan newspaper editor did not think so. For your amusement, I have copied the text of my original description, which Richard Bonomo has helpfully posted on the internet:

August 24th, World Youth Day! I had not spent the night at Longchamp, suffering as I was from a bad cold (the French word for which I cannot pronounce without sounding like Inspector Clouseau). The pilgrims were just starting their day with a nutritious breakfast of cold cereal, irradiated milk, and a candy bar. It was breathtaking to see so many separatist flags in one place. There was a Basque flag and a Spanish flag sharing the same pole peacefully. The most intriguing flag by far looked like ours in black and white, only the black objects on a white field weren’t stars but pine trees with crosses on them. It was the flag of Brittany in NW France. The Mass commenced at 10:00 and the Gospel was sung with an eerie beauty by a deacon who, at 39, was younger than some of the “youths” in our group. Even before the Mass was over, groups began retreating, trailing behind their standards like the losers of some medieval battle. The mood was festive, with everyone singing and chanting. Then we had a prepacked picnic lunch and I must say that the catering firm of Sodexho outdid themselves this time. Lunch consisted of a tuna and lentil concoction that resembled top-shelf catfood, a cakelike object, and crackers. Then Ethel and I went to the Cluny, which is actually called La Musee Nationale des Arts du Moyen Age, where we saw lovely stained glass and unicorn tapestries. Afterwards we people-watched and little gypsy kids kept approaching us and asking for change. The first was a pro with his low, sad voice, his downcast eyes and his empty coin cup, and as the finale of his performance, he stroked Ethel’s hand gently. The other kids were not so suave -- one spit in front of me and then shook his coin cup in my face. I went to St. Denis after that and was stopped just before the door by a pair of West Indies girls who were so friendly that I was sure they wanted to pick my pocket. I had found a small Canadian flag, and they asked if I were a Quebecoise, then they wanted to take my photo. They said, “We just love meeting people from JMJ because they have so much faith. Most people in France say God is dead.” Then they asked if I spoke Spanish and when I said “Sí, un poco”, they handed me a pamphlet entitled Un Libro por Todo el Mundo and I knew I’d been JW’ed [that is, approached by a member of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society -- the "Jehovah's Witnesses" – Richard Bonomo]. I finally got to St. Denis just before it closed, so I got to see Charlemagne’s tomb, only his name was spelled “Kaelomagnus” or something. Then another girl and I went on a boat ride down the Seine, which was very beautiful - it was twilight as we pulled out, and when we returned it was dark. The Japanese tourists on the boat hollered and yodeled under every bridge as if they’d never heard an echo in Japan. And these were middle aged men. Then suddenly they stampeded to one side of the boat, and when the dust cleared, they were all madly snapping photos of the Eiffel Tower. When we told a certain parish priest (who will remain nameless) about this incident, he made a remark which will not be repeated as it could be interpreted as jingoistic and perhaps rather xenophobic. Suffice it to say the remark involved God and World War II. All in all, I’d say World Youth Day was a richly spiritual experience that left us with many warm memories and neat souvenirs.

So I’m sure you can see why this was edited. Unfortunately, I cannot find the edited version for you to compare and contrast. Still, nobody else’s account got edited basically out of existence, perhaps because they weren’t as snarky. Only Ethel’s account got edited at all, and I’m afraid that may have been due to my influence, since she wrote her account the day after I wrote mine, and she thought mine was hilarious. It probably isn’t what I would have written today, but alas, I am no longer a youth who would be welcomed at World Youth Day.

Famous Hat


Travalon said...

Sounds like a really fascinating trip you took to France back then, lots of interesting fellow travelers you encountered too. The Brittany and Normandy regions would be great to see someday.

Famous Hat said...

We did see part of Normandy on that trip - the capital, Rouen, which I cannot pronounce.