Writing stories is a wild ride sometimes

And sometimes it is a leap you never make

And sometimes it is a leap you never make

November 21, 2009|By TONY MULIERI

There was a time when covering an event from a first-person perspective was a popular way of telling a story.

It gave the reader an inside look from one of the participant's point of view.

I participated in a few of these stories over the years.

One of the craziest things I ever did was to ride an elephant in a race at Valley Mall.

I'm not making this up.

I don't recall all of the circumstances, but there were elephants at the mall and I was on one.

The race was held on the straightaway in front of the mall.

I think my elephant was named Sue, not something more exotic like Timba.

There was another elephant named Mary.

I tried to use the universal Swahili-like command of "Umgowa" to control my elephant, but it was to no avail. I think this elephant must have been born in America. What I do remember was the elephant smelled, well, like an elephant, and it had a hairy back and head. It didn't help that I was wearing shorts.


In my race, my elephant overshot the finish line by about 100 feet as I held onto its hair with all of my might. It must have gone to the same school as those Northwest Airlines pilots. I was never so happy as to touch the ground when my elephant came to a stop.

Hey, anything for a story.

Another of my first-person stories occurred at Valley Mall as well.

I was Santa Claus for a weekend at the mall.

The woman who ran the Christmas display told me to remember one thing: Santa Claus is pure.

I got the picture when a couple of 18-year-old female college students sat on my lap.

Santa Claus is pure. Santa Claus is pure.

As I recall, most children at the time were asking for He-Man figures, Barbies, Transformers and GI Joes, which was in the mid-1980s.

There was one boy, about 12, who threw me a curve. I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he didn't want anything for himself, but he would like it if his mother received a dozen roses for Christmas.

That was really touching.

After he left my lap, I watched as he walked over to where his mother was standing with a group of people. I walked over to the group and told one of his mother's friends what the boy told me. I hope she got her roses.

In one other first-person story, I went to Chambersburg, Pa., for a day of sky-diving school. I went through all of the preparation work, but when it came time to go up, the sky-diving instructor said it was too windy that day and he gave me a rain check.

I came back to the newsroom and wrote the story, but it was a bit anticlimactic.

One of my co-workers, Tom Crowell, gave me a hard time for years after that one. First, he would kid me for not going back and jumping out of a plane and second, he couldn't believe I would write something about sky diving when I didn't jump.

I still have that rain check somewhere.

Tony Mulieri is community editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at

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