His name notwithstanding, Colorado Springs’ Noel Black has been among the most colorful media figures in the state during the past several years. But that’s all over, at least for now. On June 1, the man behind an aggressively twisted alternative publication called The Toilet Paper (read about it here), a short-lived online newspaper dubbed The High Plains Messenger (click for more details) and a still-surviving enterprise known as Newspeak! (the item about its launch can be found at this link) is relocating in New York City, where he’ll serve as the associate producer for The Fishko Files, a staple on public radio’s WNYC starring Sara Fishko, a well-respected arts-and-culture commentator and essayist.
Why? Black’s explanations are as plainspoken as ever.
“Basically, when my wife [print maker and artist Marina Eckler] and I moved here, she agreed to stay for a year – and it’s been seven,” says Black, a Colorado Springs native who spent time in Chicago, San Francisco and even South America before doing the prodigal son routine. “She’s never been entirely happy here in terms of her career; she was ready to go. And our son is now seven, and we feel like it’s a good age for us to go. He can be in school and we can both work and do what we need to do to live in New York.” The WNYC job offer cemented the scheme. He’d been producing arts-and-culture features and conducting interviews on KRCC, the public-radio station associated with Colorado College, where Eckler worked, for the past year and a half, and while he still considers himself primarily a writer, he saw the gig as a good fit.
Besides, he goes on, “I was going to leave Newspeak! whether we stayed or not. I just don’t want to be a publisher anymore. I’m 36-years old, and for all of my thirties, I’ve been running around making ends meet by the seat of my pants and hanging my family’s security on some pretty dubious enterprises. I feel like I really owe it to my family and my wife to move on to something a little more stable.” So he happily handed his share of the operation to Aaron Retka, who has a lot of ideas about how to build it up. “I’m thrilled to no longer be responsible for that,” Black says. “I’m very much of a starter where businesses are concerned… There are people who love to have a thing to maintain, and that’s great for them. But for me, as soon as the adrenaline wears off and it becomes a grind, at least where my own businesses are concerned, I tend to lose interest.”
Still, Black’s justifiably proud of what he’s accomplished with his various publications, all of which boasted an independent streak and a willingness to upset the powers-that-be in rightward-leaning Colorado Springs. He feels that The Toilet Paper and Newspeak!, in particular, offered “a voice of genuine rebellion against the status quo in this town. They showed it’s possible to speak up, possible to make it work. Even a guy with a house and a kid and no money could stand up on a soapbox and be heard in the face of overwhelming conservative power. Free speech is fine and good, but if you don’t exercise it and find out where the edges are, particularly in a place where that kind of speech isn’t necessarily practiced all that often, what good is it?
"I feel like the liberal-progressive community in Colorado Springs suffers from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome from living here for so long," he continues. "They sort of self-censor and don’t take the kinds of risks I think are important for a healthy community. I wanted to reintroduce that possibility, and I feel I did what I wanted to do when I came back to Colorado Springs, my hometown.”
Even so, he’s not saying definitively that he’ll never return. “We’re renting our house out with the idea that we could come back,” he says. “I love it here, and my family’s here. So I would feel more than happy to come back if things don’t work out in New York.”
No doubt the Colorado Springs residents who like the town just the way it is are rooting for his eastward move to be a smashing success. – Michael Roberts