In 2008, I was sent out to the Democratic convention to work on a piece for this magazine about Michelle Obama. I had just been hired on as a contributing editor, and was ecstatic. There was a community of young bloggers out there--Chris Bodenner, Alyssa Rosenberg, Dayo Olapade etc. Just a lot of good folks. But most of the week, I'd either been blogging, following Michelle Obama, or exploring Denver's beautiful trails.
Toward the end of the week, Alyssa invited me over to the National Journal tent where a lot of the reporters were watching some speeches, and having a few drinks. I had a couple myself and was generally having a good time. Also out there was my old buddy David Carr who, a few media tents over, was covering the convention for the Times. I was supposed to meet Carr after the speeches and grab dinner. But while I was in the National Journal area a person who I'd written about (not an employee of Atlantic Media) came into the tent and aggressively challenged me on something I'd written about him.
We spent ten frankly embarrassing minutes jawing back and forth. That's fine. People should aggressively challenge you. Toward the end, Carr, wondering where I was, came in and saw me in mid-argument, which by this point had gotten heated. He gave me that "you damn fool" look and said "I'm going to be there, [whatever the restaurant was] either you're coming or not. But this is stupid." He left, and shortly thereafter I started walking away with Alyssa and few of the other bloggers who were hanging out. The gentleman kept after me, even following me out the tent, and by this point, taunting.
At the door of the tent, and I looked at him and said, "You really need to back off."
He looked back and said, "Or what."
I closed in on him, and quietly but seriously, responded, "You really want to find out?"
He walked back inside.
I think as a younger man, I would have been proud of that moment. For surely, I had adhered to Article 2 of the Code Of The Streets--"Thou Shalt Not Be Found A Punk." Had the gentleman stepped outside, I had already made the decision that I was going to swing. I didn't believe in threatening people and then not following through. Perhaps as 14 year old, on the streets of West Baltimore, back at Mondawmin Mall, the response would have been correct. In fact, I was a 33-year old contributing editor at a well-regarded magazine who'd just implicitly threatened someone on the property of my brand new employer.