Inhaling ink and machinery (…is this illegal?)

These past two weeks have been so surreal.

Four years ago in June, I graduated from high school not knowing what the hell I was going to do next with my life — and little did I know that four years later til this day I was going to be sitting at my own desk in a newsroom.

(As an intern, at least).

Just days before starting at the Reno Gazette-Journal, I was going a little batty over the littlest things because I was just so anxious to start — my lazy roommates were getting to me as well as the crazies who walked in the planetarium. I had friendships that were suddenly changing, and, ohmygosh, there was the fact that I’m graduating in six more months. But I walked into the RGJ with pride, confidence and no fear. I’d like to thank the Nevada Media Alliance for that — reporting on the legislature on a weekly basis helped me break out of my turtle shell.

I got comfortable in the newsroom the second day. The people who work there are friendly and dedicated to getting their job done. And, I absolutely adore my mentors — I already look up to them, and I know I’m going to learn so many amazing things from them. It’s nice to be finally working in a real environment, instead of one involving an overkill of bias and favoritism.

And I’m working on one of the best topics ever. Digging deeper into Reno’s recovering economy has me enthralled before I’ve even started. I’m already covering great mini topics and calendar events on local fashion shows, business openings, contests, remodeled home tours, and even about a VANS-lovin monster named Shoezilla. But my big debut comes out in Sunday’s paper on June 23, about how local vibrant charities bring a quality of life to the city — as well as a motivation to get others out there to help. This story will be posted on Reno Rebirth as well, followed by a special follow-up.

My classmate from NVMA, Natasha, is also interning at RGJ but reporting on the final and post-days of the Nevada Legislature. She’s a great reporter, too, and has made it to the front page like four times already. She sits right behind me which is pretty cool.

In the meantime, I’ve also moved into my new apartment with my best friend. It’s so perfect because I live right across the street from Wal Mart and other conveniences, and my bedroom is huge with a walk-in closet and bathroom. And I’m gladly to say that I am quite aways from the college (you know when it’s time to move away from that crowd).

The next two stories I’m working on is about the Santa Pub Crawl here in Reno, and if the increased presence of cops hurts or helps the tourist and visitors — and then, as a later story, how Burning Man influences the hip art of Reno.

I hope to live a happier and healthier life from here. I think I’m off to a good start aside the sore back from carrying desks up a flight of stairs.

 

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The Next Chapter

It’s about time I experienced a semi-decent semester at the University of Nevada, Reno – I got to do some REAL journalism work, and I expanded my mind to classes that I hate and will never have to take again.

I got two perfect A’s in Nevada Media Alliance and Data journalism. My KNPB package I worked on with Stephanie turned out wonderfully – I even got an official copy of the episode on a special DVD. You can watch it online at the NVMA siteStephanie, the audio/video maven, narrated the episode as I interviewed our sources about all-day kindergarten in Nevada. I think we both kicked ass on writing the script as well.

Here’s a photo I took of when my team and I toured the KNPB station. On screen, you’ll see our episode getting ready to air! This was on April 19th:

NVMA is a permanent and new addition to the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. I’m debating whether I want to do it again or not, and I’m thinking I’m should. I’m graduating in December and I would be taking about 18 credits if I joined again, and only 2 or 3 original members who reported on the legislature would return. The topic to report next semester is the reinventing or the rebirth of Reno’s economy. I discovered that covering this topic would benefit me in many ways:

I recently got hired as an intern at the Reno Gazette-Journal to report on their new blog called Reno Rebirth, which covers the recovery of the city’s economy and community. I’m incredibly excited because I’ve been wanting this internship for so long, and this blog allows VOICE in the reporting. I also get to expand my knowledge on Reno’s economy. I officially begin June 4th and I already have some decent story ideas down. Oh, and Brent Boynton, the news director of KNPB said that he would like me and the RGJ to contribute our Reno Rebirth work with KNPB! I’m kicking my feet up in the air as if I were a child who just found out that they’re going to Disneyland for the weekend; I’m so damn excited to be a part of this.

Rejoining NVMA for my next (and last) semester would be definitely beneficial for me because I would I know the subject by then, and I could continue reporting on it. Also, I would get my name out even more by the time I graduate. Gosh, I’m so spoiled!

So don’t worry, I will be linking my articles from Reno Rebirth on JOURNALISchick as well as sharing my experiences working at one of Reno’s greatest news desks. I have to write experiences anyway in order to receive three credits — but I don’t mind doing that regardless.

What else has happend? On May 7th, I received the Charles H. Stout Foundation scholarship. I forgot the amount (most scholarship recipients do), but what’s so special about this scholarship is that this foundation helped supported the NVMA to purchase the amazing media tools to make the team who we are today (and obviously, you’ve seen that we’re pretty damn amazing). Although this scholarship lasts for about a year and I have one semester left, I think I might use up the remaining scholarship to take some courses to get back into my old hobbies, if it gets difficult finding a job (drawing, choir, guitar, writing…).

My project about BLMNV and the mustangs for Data journalism came out okay, but not as good as I wanted. It’s a huge topic I’d like to investigate when the topic is hot again — you can click here to check out what I’ve gathered: http://mustangsofunrnv.wordpress.com/

Other than that, my remaining grades are okay – B+ in Women & Lit, B+ in Core Humanities, and I got very lucky with a C+ in Mircoeconomics (eff that class). But it definitely brought my GPA up higher. I’m also moving out of my apartment and moving into a secluded area away from crazy party animals (I’m such an old lady about this).

Before I go, check out the Reinventing Reno website UNR students put together with business journalist, Micki Maynard! I believe this is what the next group of NVMA would be reporting on. One of the writers even earned the Steven Martarano Best Published Article Award!

Up next: 2 book reviews and another update.

The Second Book I Cried Over (and I rarely cry over books)

Image(My very first review. I’ll be learning how to write them along the way. Enjoy!)

Dani Shapiro’s Slow Motion is one of the books I’ve recently read for my Women & Lit class and this is first book in a while that’s made me cry my eyes out and pity the characters (the last time I cried over a book was during last summer, Mitch Albom’s For One More Day). My instructor is a huge fan of Shapiro; she added her on Facebook and read most of her writing. I believe that Shapiro has gained a new fan as well; her writing style inspires me.

Taken place in the mid 1980s, this is a memoir about the author herself who goes through drastic changes in her life after her parents get into a disastrous car crash, and it places both of them in the ICU. Throughout the book, 23-year-old Dani goes through many challenges such as choosing to be a father’s daughter or a mother’s daughter, her dependency towards others, how time is in “slow motion” for her, and like almost every 20-something year old, she’s struggling to find her identity.

Before the accident, Dani is living in San Diego pursuing in modeling and acting. She grew up in New Jersey under a strict Jewish household. Her father, Paul, wants Dani to be “the good, little yeshiva girl” while her mother, Irene, wants her to be “the pretty popular girl”. Throughout the book, Dani goes through reminisces of when she lived with her parents; her experiences show that she hasn’t been very close to them until the accident and feels that she has disappointed them greatly and now must find a way to make it up for them. Dani is a college drop-out and is a mistress to forty-six year old attorney, Lenny Klein.

Dani met Lenny through her best friend and roommate, Jess, while she was attending Sarah Lawrence College. Lenny happens to be Jess’s stepfather; he wasn’t afraid to tell Jess that he thought of Dani as an “angel”. Lenny continued to drop off flowers and gifts to Dani, and it helped their love grow for the next four years. However, Dani was not aware that it would bring changes between her and Jess.

After the accident occurs, Dani travels from San Diego to New Jersey to take care of her parents. But it takes forever for Dani to get there and time seems to be moving slow after she encounters her parents in the hospital. The title of the book, Slow Motion, is a constant theme  itself.

Both sides of the family also strike differences and conflicts between each other in the novel. Dani realizes that she doesn’t fit in with her family well at all because she chose modeling and acting over a degree. She wears fancy, brand name clothes that Lenny bought her, with fur coats and heels. She’s quite alluring. However, her half-sister from her dad’s side, Susie, has a PHD in psychology, about 10 years older than Dani and helps clients almost everyday. Dani feels like a dependent child compared to Susie and feels out of place when she acts differently towards her.

I would go more into detail about the book, but then I would be spoiling it big time. Most of the  details come into place right away, about the end of chapter 2 or beginning of of 3. Also, Shapiro also goes really in depth of what actually happened during her parents’ accident in her one of her recent books called Devotion since there’s not too much juice about the accident in Slow Motion.

My Evaluation: 

Many of my classmates did not find this book believable or found Dani’s tone to be way too whiney and annoying. I’d like to beg the differ.

Dani definitely grows throughout the novel. As you read it, pay attention to the tone and how it changes later in the novel because she starts to mature in her writing.

I do agree that Dani can become annoying because it seems that she complains a lot about what she’s going through. It’s simply one of the themes about this book, though; her complaints and sadness represent her isolation and dependency on her parents, Lenny, and alcohol and drug abuse. She also doesn’t fit in well, like I’ve said before; her looks are appealing and she makes the wrong decisions, and she’s a college dropout. Things just got worse for her because her parents are now in an unstable condition; her father is in a coma and her mother’s body is 80% broken.

Also, you may be able to relate to Dani in your own personal ways. I’m definitely able to relate with her when it comes to loving your family and realizing how much time is left to make the best out of things you’ve done wrong. I cried hard at one part in particular (which I vowed not spoil!) because it reminded me of a tragic day my family and I had to go through; back in August, a week before the fall semester started for me, my father had an embolism episode and survived because he was so healthy. He spent 3 days in ICU and 4 more in regular rooms. He’s doing great and is now 60 years old, still going to the gym and working. But I think that was the “Dani Day” for me when I realized how much time I felt like I had to fix things I needed to fix (I was quite the shitty teenager and I moved out at 19 – those were the 9 years I spent with my family that I put the most stress on them).

For a first review, I’m sorry I couldn’t describe too much. I mean, I would be pretty pissed if someone spoiled the climax and other juicy details of a story in a review before I even read the book.

It’s a quick read, but I suggest taking your time with it; it’s one of those depressing books that just drain the hell out of you if you spend too much time with it.

4/5 Stars, and it belongs on the favorites shelf (for me).

Recommendations: 

I read Slow Motion on Kobo eBooks for my desktop at the price of $11.99. To download on the desktop is free, unless you have the Kobo eReader. A couple negative things about this purchase – this program has no page numbers and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the settings. If you scroll, you move halfway through the book – it’s a sensitive program. I definitely don’t recommend this program for classroom purchases – even my instructor agrees.

Slow Motion was published on Oct. 21, 1999 by Mariner Books. Prices vary: $4.94 – $11.99

Click here for more ratings and reviews on this book on Goodreads

Click here to visit Dani Shapiro’s website. 

Where I’ve Been:

I get that you can’t forgive me for this, but I think I have pretty legit excuses.

For the past Mondays and Wednesdays, I’ve been reporting like crazy at the legislature. If you’ve been following our blog, you can see that we post as much as we can four days a week. 

I’ve been learning something new about Nevada’s politics each day, even from my teammate’s articles. Wednesdays are usually the busiest days for me because I have two classes back-to-back from each other once I return to Reno. I insist on dressing nice and looking good, too, so that takes up some time.

I also work seven hours on Tuesdays after two other back-to-back classes. Nobody memorable has walked in or called the Planetarium these days. Lately, it’s been quiet and normal (and really boring).

I’ve made a few new friends, so I’d like to spend time with them as well, especially since I have a lot in common with one of them! We’re hoping to start a band since she plays the bass and sings, too (except, I’m the guitarist).

I work for about 4-5 hours on weekends, and I’m usually exhausted by the end of the day. I don’t get to really rest or rejuvenate until Monday hits (surprisingly) because it’s the only day I can allow myself to sleep past 10 am! I used to go to Carson on Mondays but we decided to switch things up (and this ended up being a good idea).

So it’s obvious that I’ve found time to write a freakin’ post; it’s one of the most wonderful things about Spring Break. I have a list of ideas that I’ll be blogging about this whole week in order to make up however many weeks I’ve missed: I have a couple of books I’d like to attempt to write reviews on and I now have the power and confidence to write an article I’ve been meaning to write (you’ll see).

Here in peaceful little Fallon, behind me my mother is baking cake pops that are colored green, white and orange for St. Patrick’s Day tomorrow (her side of the family is Irish, which makes me Irish, so we’ll be celebrating). My father is doing well and is outside trying to get the power hose to work. The dogs are anxiously waiting for him to get it to work so they can bite the jet stream of water. And as for my brother…he’s just being the teenage boy that he is, hanging out in his room.

Hopefully, I’ll get to see some old friends while I’m at it. I’m getting my hair dyed and cut professionally for the first time in over a year on Friday, too. And now, I can’t help but enjoy myself by eating sour apple flavored licorice that my mother is using to decorate the cake pops with. We’re both kind of having a hard time trying to shape them as clovers to put on top of the icing. Here’s how they look so far:

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Because it’s Spring Break, I also have the time to get back to my projects. I’m working on a short story to submit to a fiction class I want to take next semester. On top of it, I’ll just work on my other two novels as well — why the hell not?

It’s really nice to get away from Reno for a week — it’s much needed. Lately, it’s been the same old routine everyday socially, academically and emotionally. I’m actually getting sick of college because I’m ready to move on and focus on just writing and journalism. I was walking through campus last week and thinking, Man, I’m just getting too old for this (however, I’m only 21. Ha. Ha.).

Doing the same old routines in college reminds me of breaking up with a boy I fell hard for in high school; I couldn’t move past him because I was focusing on him so much and it took me two years to stop caring about him. My constant focus on him was holding me back from a lot of things. I feel like something’s holding me back from graduating, even though there really isn’t. And luckily, this feeling is under good circumstances. I guess I could call it slow motion with the way I’m feelin’.

I’ll be back tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s one blog post you could read that I had a chance to write, for NVMA: http://nvmediaalliance.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/achievement-unlocked-report-the-first-month-of-77th-session/

Investigative Reporting Tips from Vanity Fair’s Suzanna Andrews

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My data and narrative journalism professor, Alan Deutschman, introduces some really amazing and inspiring journalists to the university. I mean, these people work for big time papers and magazines.

The guest he brought to us this week grabbed my full attention and is probably my favorite guest he’s brought so far. It was Suzanna Andrews, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, who writes features and investigative articles on business, politics, culture and crime — in her definition, her theme of writing is “abuse of power”.

She’s also written for other numerous publications such as The New York Times, GQ, Rolling Stone, and Reader’s Digest. She was also a story consultant to ABC’s “20/20”. She’s won a couple of Front Page awards for her features on Vanity Fair.

As a class assignment and in order to prepare to ask her questions, we were required to read two of her most impacting articles, Murder Most Yale and Arthur Miller’s Missing Act (I suggest you read both of them — they’re really good).

Both feature stories required so much investigation, stalking, credible information, and main sources. How did she do it all? Andrews shares her helpful investigative tips to the class and especially her experiences while writing these stories.

Murder Most Yale is a feature investigative article by Andrews based on the murder of Yale student, Suzanne Jovin, in 1998. It’s a case that is still under investigation today; they say it’s the “college version” of the Jon Benet Ramsey case. Andrews focuses the timeline of the night of the murder in her story, but mainly focuses on the people that surrounded Jovin’s life to find more information on the case.

Jovin’s story was first published in the New York Times — and Andrews said that this story “needed a lot of play”

Finding Personal Recommendations

As you may have noticed in the article, the police weren’t as involved. Andrews said with most crime stories, there will be slim chances that a reporter will get information from the police. Instead of constant calls and emails to set up interviews, Andrews recommends following them instead.

As a semi-experienced reporter, I find it difficult how to contact the main sources I need to talk to for my stories. Some connections may not always lead you to that significant source, but apparently the ones you’d never think who would have any contact with them might actually do! Andrews said during her investigation to find Jovin’s closest friends to interview them, she gotten from a word-of-mouth that a restaurant owner nearby Yale was pretty popular among the students — they loved him. When Andrews approached him, he was able to connect her with Jovin’s friends.

Andrews said each story has source circles; you have to work your way into the hub. You start interviewing those on the outside of the circle: Aquaintinces –> Close friends –> Parents –> Suzanne.

“It gives me time to think about the story and what to collect,” Andrews said. “When I get to the center of the story, I feel like I know the story as much as they do, or better.”

If you get enough attention, your sources might come to you

Andrews said she had a difficult time getting a hold of Jovin’s parents for an interview. After attempts with a few phone calls with them, she had to end up emailing them the interview instead. During the phone calls, the mother could not stop sobbing and the father refused to talk.

“I was horrified calling the parents,” Andrews said. “It was clear to me that they were grief stricken and angry.”

Andrews said you can’t always fire questions; sometimes its best to play it off as a conversation.

“There’s that element of authenticity, too,” Andrews said. “You want to get people to talk.”

However, Jovin’s younger sister approached Andrews with a phone called and accepted an interview. Somehow, she found Andrews.

Andrews said getting in contact with James Van de Velde was one of the most difficult parts writing the story. Van de Velde was Jovin’s professor and thesis adviser, and is a suspect of her murder. Andrews said she could only get a hold of Van de Velde’s emissaries or friends. One emissary of Van de Velde’s that Andrews got to interview was a woman. Like the rest of Van de Velde’s friends, it was expected that this woman would say nothing but good words about the professor. However, Andrews said the woman had different thoughts about Van de Velde and saw him the night of the killing.

“(The story) consumed my life,” Andrews said. “It’s a psychological rage.”

Andrews said during the time of writing this feature, she played out possible scenarios in her head and timed the driving and distances within the area of where Jovin’s body was found.

Does Andrews think Van de Velde killed Jovin? She said yes, but she doesn’t have an exact reason why she was so drawn to write this story.

“I kind of wondered that myself,” Andrews said. “I felt like I was lead to it. I didn’t feel like I was going to nail the professor, but the story latches on to you.”

Andrews’ Arthur Miller’s Missing Act is based on playwright, Arthur Miller (Death Of A Salesman, The Crucible, A View From the Bridge and ex-husband of Marilyn Monroe) and the abandonment of his son, Daniel Miller, who was diagnosed with down-syndrome as an infant.    Miller cut Daniel out of his life immediately and never mentioned him when he brought up his children in books, interviews and even at his wife’s funeral. For 40 years, Daniel was kept as a secret. When Miller died in 2005, it was known to the public that he did not leave a will, but he actually did, and left Daniel a good portion of his money to last him for the rest of his lifetime.

Andrews said it was almost a possibility that Vanity Fair didn’t run article due to the intense emotion of the story and that it could offend those who have a child of down-syndrome of their own. But everyone knew it was a story that deserved attention.

Rebecca Miller, Daniel’s sister and a daughter of Miller’s, is now a close member of her family. Rebecca didn’t allow Andrews to speak to Daniel. In fact, Rebecca and her husband, Daniel Day-Lewis, were disgusted by Andrews’ story. Andrews said she thinks Rebecca was afraid for the safety of her brother.

“This story was fought very hard by Arthur Miller’s family,” Andrews said.

Andrews had the chance to speak to one of Daniel’s caregivers, however. Andrews said she was on the web for days just to find connections between Miller and Daniel. She ended up on a Vietnam Veteran chatroom and spoke to a member who saw Daniel at a party. The member she spoke to in the chat room ended up being the husband of Daniel’s caregiver.

Andrews said when she called up the caregiver for an interview, the caregiver said, “It’s about time.”

After Andrews’ lecture, I feel that I can be more confident in expanding my choices when writing a hard or feature story. So I think I have until tomorrow to meet one-on-one with Andrews in Professor Deutschman’s office until she has to go back to her home in New York City. I would love to see if I have time  to have coffee with her for a more personal talk, but even just a handshake and a short conversation might do well — whatever the outcome is, it’s worth it, right?

Follow Suzanna Andrews on Twitter!: https://twitter.com/AndrewsSuzanna

Nevada Legislature is firing up

Last Friday, my media alliance and I got the chance to tour our newsrooms in Carson City and Legislative buildings! I’m so happy that I’m going to be learning about local politics, since it’s something my brain desperately needs to learn (I know that sounds super dramatic, but it’s true!). It’s such a great and new fresh start to my journalism career, and I think this project will be much better organized. I can already feel the guilt and nasty spirits from last semester slowly (but surely) departing from my body.

For the past week, we’ve been preparing ourselves to become superstar legislative reporters. I believe tomorrow we’re going to figure out mini groups to go to Carson together, so we all have a chance to cover something each week. We just launched our website Monday and some of us have assigned stories already, like me.

I’m hoping to (and still trying to) cover Assembly bill no. 42 by the end of this week. AB42 establishes the Nevada Cyber Institute throughout the Nevada System of Higher Education. The NCI will provide courses that is going to practice techniques of cyber security. If this bill passes, this institute will be offered throughout most universities, community and state colleges in Nevada.

Since it’s uncertain that this bill is going to pass and since the Nevada Legislature is getting ready to start on February 4th, everybody in the State offices are running around like nuts (or, more appropiately, traveling to cities back and fourth and preapring as well). Therefore, it’s very difficult to get a hold of people for interviews, on top of classes which one of them requires me to read a 39 chapter book by Kate Chopin before Monday. However, my data journalism class is my perfect companion for this project since I’ll be learning how to hardcore stalk and access information. My first assignment a few weeks ago was to acess personal information about a local public figure (our professor purchased an Intelius report for each student in the class!).

So I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps right now, possibly feeling a hint of failure because I was unable to speak to my sources before the end of this week. However, I will put a band-aid on this temporary fail, and see what the hell I can do about it tomorrow.

Since I’m back into the swing of things with writing essays and serious objective articles, my mind is trying to resist to use my voice in my writing since it’s, like, FORBIDDEN in most school work…

I’m just sitting here on the thrid floor of the library, taking glances at my phone, hoping  somebody will at least return one of my calls. I’m sitting in between two people who are studying, possibly annoying them with my loud typing skills. So with the weekend coming up, I have so many plans and so many things to complete and cover. Eventually, I get where I want to be with this blog. No way am I giving up!

-Molly

Tour of the Morgue and Free Food: Brings back childhood mems.

Remember back in elementary and high school you would take field trips that were out of town or state? Even going to a local museum was a treat.

One of my most memorable field trips in my primary schooling years is when I went fishing in Tahoe for a day in second grade. I accidentally smacked my fishing pole on my teacher’s cheek; I wanted to ask her something, and I happen to bring the fishing pole with me as I turned around. She blew up a fume about it. After that, I silently sat in a little corner, crying as I was fishing by myself…

Okay, that wasn’t really memorable in a good way.

I also remember going to the San Francisco Aquarium in fourth grade (that was one whole day, from Fallon to there and back!). During that trip, we also went to this beach that we could touch all the sea sponges and shells. That day was the first day I used my under water camera, and during that time, I felt like I was the best photographer in the world.

And for my sixth grade graduation, we went to Six Flag in Vallejo (back when it was Marine World). And since then, I’ve been going back to Vallejo and Six Flags (now Discovery Kingdom) and San Francisco for high school choir trips and sports, summer vacations, and now college football games. As much as I hated getting up at sunrise (like any other kid or young adult would) it usually turned out to be worth it.

Going out of town or even just around town to tour local museums for class trips is a blast, too. But you don’t really expect that to happen during college, unless it’s an individual assignment or for studying abroad. I guess I could say that I got lucky (and oddly, excited) when my Death, Dying and Bereavement professor announced that the class would take a field trip to Mountain View Mortuary.

As you already might (somewhat) know, I worked in a mortuary right after I graduated from high school. So I sort of already know how the process goes when working in a mortuary (you pick up the body, put it on the gurney, take it to the mortuary, put it in the freezer, dress it up, conduct the funeral, and either a burial or cremation is done. It’s that easy!).

I was incredibly excited to participate in this activity anyways because one, I love death science, two, I haven’t been on a field trip for years and three, I’ve always wanted to nose around in one of Reno’s mortuaries.

Now when we, as the class, all met up and sat in the pews of the big room, everybody was prepared with their questions. How long does it take for a body to decompose? Do you have to go to beauty school, too? When do mortuaries usually close?

In a way, I was thinking that this might be no fun after all since I know the basics. Can we get on with the tour?

One of the three morticians had been working in mortuary science for over 30 years AND he’s an embalmer (I wish I could remember his name!). One was a female, named Emily (?), whose been in the business for two years and then Richard, who just began his career there.  All three of them gave us a tour and were very kind and professional people. I think they’re definitely the perfect example for people who think they want to be involved with the business of death because they tell it like it is.

Emily said that she tends to cry with the families who are planning a funeral for a loved one. It’s comforting that way as well since you’re connecting with the family. She said that the worst death in her opinion are suicides because families are left to a mystery that will never be unsolved of why they killed themselves.

Richard said he thinks the worst death is cancer, since he watched his mother die from it. And the embalmer thinks all deaths are tough.

They gave us a tour of the casket and urn shopping rooms. Everybody was in awe when they touched the comforters and pillows inside the caskets. “Look how comfy they are!”

I was a little tempted to hop into one and test it out, as if I were shopping for a new mattress.

One of my classmates is a veteran, and she jumped when she saw the display room of a casket for a solider.

“Don’t be scared,” Richard reassured her. “It’s very peaceful here.”

“Not that room,” she replied. She immediately walked to the other side of the shop after that. It was too disturbing.

After taking a look at the viewing rooms (which wasn’t anything too special), the embalmer then said to us, “We usually don’t do this for classroom tours but we’re going to show you the prep room since it’s a good day to do it,”

(Good day as in, there are no booking or conducting funerals and no one has died yet).

I was quite impressed when he showed us the prep room. The mortuary I worked in was much smaller and cramped in. It was chilly enough for goosebumps to form onto your skin, like how a mortuary prep room should be.

It was plain looking lab, no bodies present. The freezer was in the room as well and one classmate asked if we could see a body but obviously, for legality and family respect’s sake, we couldn’t (I found this to be an oblivious question…I can just imagine her poking the body and scream after she realizes what it really is).

It’s obvious that people die every day and any time, but I was curious to see what these guys’ busiest hours were. In response to my question, the embalmer said between 5 and 6p.m. are usually the busiest.

Oh, here’s the best part; after the tour, the mortuary gave us free pizza and lemonade. We also got to stick around to ask more questions about the business in death, but I was enjoying the pizza a little too much.

Even though Mountain View Mortuary doesn’t offer any internships, job shadowing or volunteer work (huge bummer), it was still the best field trip I had in a while. You don’t go around often during good times in your life saying that you visited a mortuary for curiosity.