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Andrew Beaujon, the managing editor of Washington City Paper, sat at a computer in his Warwick Village rental home on Wednesday night. He was reading about ducklings. Old-house dust, the result of a tussle that evening with some new kitchen cabinets in a 1940s rowhouse he is renovating nearby, ringed his cuticles.
“These ‘Had to Be There’ stories are really interfering with my plans to write a morning roundup,” he said, finding only his cat was paying attention. (Ewa Beaujon, his wife of 11 years, was preoccupied with the British police drama she was streaming from Netflix via the couple’s Wii.) “I understand the ambition to write ‘Talk of the Town-style pieces,’” Beaujon, whose obsession with the Style section has comprised, over the years, two unsuccessful attempts to join its staff, continued out loud, making no headway with the household’s other awake biped. “But these feel…forced. Like that Haiti benefit when Justin Timberlake covered Leonard Cohen.”
That morning, Beaujon had read Dan Zak‘s piece about the Skee-Ball “set” at the Iron Horse Tap Room, and he’d generally liked its color and tone. Still he was bothered that Skee-Ball, Inc. uses capital letters and a hyphen and that a Post copy editor must have approved Zak’s use of “skeeball.” Has it gone generic? Beaujon wondered, searching the International Trade Association’s Trademark Checklist for clarity and finding none.
And so began 90 minutes of constructing riffs for the following morning’s roundup. You can tell Monica Hesse is itching to hit the “wacky” button but mostly holds off, he thought, scanning her duckling piece for the moment she could no longer restrain herself:
After dismissing several single males as parental candidates, they spotted two mallards that appeared to be a couple, though you never can tell with ducks. “Maybe they were enjoying being single,” Levy says. They worried about suddenly saddling these unsuspecting ducks with 10 children; just look at what happened to Jon and Kate Gosselin when their family exploded.
He set those words as a blockquote in his paper’s blogging application and admired the small details Hesse used to advance her slice-of-life narrative. His wife asked him to add Season 4 of Wire in the Blood to their Netflix Instant Queue.
Zak, he thought, brings his hand down much faster.
Zip, pop, plunk, woooh!
Zip, pop, plunk, woooh!
More thoughts while writing the blog post: Should I do that riff about the Phillies owing 57.1 percent of their wins to the Nationals? Would anyone chuckle at that Crocs-comeback story I read earlier? Should I mention that the top Google result for “Had to Be There” is still comfortably owned by a Jimmy Buffett live album? Say something about tax day?
Beaujon’s wife gasped in surprise at a twist in the plot. It was 12:18 a.m. “Bed?” he offered. “I’m just waiting for you,” she said.