I guess I was 40
when I told Meredith to please just shoot me in the head if I were still
covering the Chesterton Town Council when I turned 45.
I had plans,
see. I was gonna shake the dust of this sleepy little town off my feet and
cover the world. Today Chesterton, tomorrow Chicago. Or L.A. Or D.C. Was
gonna make it to The Bigs, was gonna mix it up on the mean streets of
Yes, well. Itís
good to dream, as I tell my daughters. But far better to dream wisely. I"ve
long since learned that thereís no place like home, and that in coming
to Chesterton in July 1997 Iíd come home at last.
Letís be honest,
though. Iím 59 now and well past my expiration date as a beat reporter. Over
the last 23 years Iíve written millions of words of varying quality, from
leaden to yeomanlike to a lavishly purple shade of overwrought. Iíve filed
perhaps 4,000 bylined stories and tens of thousands of unattributed ones.
Iíve worked nearly 6,000 daily deadlines and have high blood pressure to
prove it. If I had a dollar for every fenderbender I reported, I could buy a
new car. If I had a dime for every ad insert Iíd hand-stuffed in the Tribís
basement, I could retire.
So here we are, and
this is it: the last piece Iíll ever write for the Tribís last issue
ever. Yet--push finally coming to shove, right between my shoulder blades--I
feel little of sadness, but instead a profound gratitude. Because I was
lucky enough to be able to do what nearly no one who yearns to write for a
living ever does: I wrote for a damn living.
It is fit and
proper, then, that on this occasion I should thank the people who made this
rare gift possible.
David and Warren, hired me on the slimmest of evidence that I could do the
job at all. But they welcomed me into their newsroom nonetheless, a dusty
ramshackle place once stalked by the giants Louis Menke and Jim Hale, and
then they gave me my head, with rope enough to loop a noose around it. I
throttled myself frequently, and years later Iím unable to reread scores of
my old stories because, frankly, theyíre unreadable. Still, the Canrights
tolerated my overreaching, and whatever success I can claim as a reporter I
owe to their encouragement and tutelage. For the Canrights family is sacred,
and for that my family thanks theirs from the bottom of our hearts.
I also want to
thank the hundreds of people who made my job easier. Who returned my calls,
faxed me reports, and shot me emails when the clock was ticking and I could
feel my editorís hot breath on the back of my neck. Who made me accurate.
Who kept me honest. I want to thank them too for making my job fun, funner
than youíd think working every morning with a gun to your head could
possibly be. Because part of my job was schmoozing. Maybe the best part of
my job was the schmoozing. Swapping war stories, horror stories, and tall
tales. Gossiping and kibitzing. Talking out of school, always off the
record. Guys, Iíd like to buy all of you a drink. The Johns. The Marks. The
Chucks. The Daves. The Bobs. Nate. Bill. Scotty. Sherry. Keith. Connor.
Shane. Bruce. Hilary. Randy. Aaron. Jennifer. Steph. Maura. Heather.
Lorelei. Amber. Tom. Red. Brandon. Bernie. Nick. Anthony. Cyndi. Wally.
Paul. Brandt. Robin. Alex. Kevin. Chris. Tim. Larry. Jamie. Ben. Jimmy.
Suzie. Greg. Terry. Clarence. Gary. Brian. Al. Karen. Joe. Amy. Ken. Maggie.
Alexandra. Pauline. Corrine. Dana. Margaret. Adam. Alisa. Katelin. Lora.
Nicole. TR. Ace. Small Axe. And all the ones I called Chief. There are more,
many more--you know who you are--and while sins of omission are as
unforgivable as the other kind, yet I can only ask you to forgive me for
Finally, and most
of all, I want to thank the readers of Duneland, who invited me into their
homes of an evening and trusted me to deliver their news, who made me part
of a vital ritual. In an easy chair, on the sofa, at the kitchen table, over
a beer or a smoke, taking that deep cleansing breath at the end of the
workday, as Octoberís winds rustled the leaves or Juneís fireflies
flickered, at the same moment in hundreds and hundreds of homes, we were all
of us together in quiet commune with our community. To read the paper was to
share an intimacy, to know--if we happened to think of it at all--that for
those few minutes we werenít alone in our joy or anguish or anger, but
partaking of the same with many others, as one.
Thank you, all of
you, itís been the honor and the privilege of my life.