Here begins a discursive, disorganized summer reverie that someday, in some other summer, I may unjumble a bit. It’s a river going over falls and around sand bars and debris with some serendipity, some hidden rocks. I scrape bottom now and then. The metaphor at times dries up completely, leaving cracked mud flats and dried out gullies (to continue with yet another, equally lame river metaphor).
Even my apology is beginning to ramble.
Read this if you’ve ever sat in accidental visitation of a resonant place. Who hasn’t? Pretend it’s you, not me. Go on your own river ramble. Empathize, identify, ignore. Enjoy, maybe. I just had to write it all down — and it’s far from complete….
Skipping it altogether might be best, until its complete and perhaps completely rewritten or deleted. Or, drop in at random places, read a paragraph or two if you’re up for a slice of someone’s recent and past life, that someone being me. And try not to be annoyed by the constant ( ) and –. That’s a lazy writer’s way around cleaning up a personal narrative, as one thought and memory overlaps another (you know (what) –I mean?
Late in June — June 28th, to be exact — of this summer that is quickly rolling by, I had memories stream out as if they were a river. Image and faces floated on the water; they opened like blossoms, still floating.
This river began to flow — by the side of a river. Let me explain:
I attended a funeral in Fort Myers, Florida that day. For Myers, as it happens, is where I began my broadcast news career — at WINK-TV. The father of a dear, long-time friend and former Cambridge, Mass roommate had passed away at the age of ninety-eight. He’s been a longtime resident of Fort Myers. He’d lived nearly a century. We’d become friends.
Ernie Gudridge — I’d once called him, Mr. Gudridge, then, finally, Ernie — had been a Midwest broadcast executive and had about him an enormous sense of dignity, a sense of humor, and great intelligence and affability that stayed with him to the end of his long life. What also stayed with him was a memorably deep and dulcet voice and the clear diction of a professional broadcaster . It is the voice that, early on in his career (if I’m not mistaken) had been heard for some period of time on the airwaves when he worked as an announcer/disc jockey before graduating into management and civic activism.
I began my broadcast television career — with my okay voice and face — in Fort Myers and had stayed ,initially and for just a few days, with Ernie and his wife Marian at their condo on Fort Myers Beach before getting my own place.
Before I forget to mention it – Ernie had also served as a bombardier aboard a B-17 during the American air offensive over Truk in the Pacific during World War II. He rarely, if ever, spoke of it, typical of that generation of citizen-soldiers/ airmen and Marines. He was the last surviving member of his crew of the Army Air Corps. That generation — great and radically dwindling in numbers — has dwindled by one more stalwart soul.
Ernie kept a relatively young look for much of his life, perhaps because he was blest with a full head of hair. And, as noted, kept his wits about him.
I saw Ernie G. rarely in person in recent years and spoke with him infrequently on the phone. But he never seemed to have lost an ounce of his mental acuity. He always stayed tuned in to topical matters, especially national politics and he occasionally politely, constructively and paternally critiqued by broadcast diction when I was working in his area — and on his TV screen — as a rank broadcast beginner, which criticism, therefore, I welcomed and valued. He loved to play golf. Having begun life as a Republican; he became at some point a dyed-in-new-wool G.O.P.-disdaining, decidedly liberal Democrat whose knowledge and grasp of the workings of Congress and the world was such that I challenged him to any topical discussion or debate only at my peril. He had once been director of Radio Liberty.
I loved the guy and will go on talking to him for all eternity.
I did the second reading at the funeral Mass, from 2nd Corinthians, and, at one point afterwards, was asked by the church administrator to lift the small, square urn containing his ashes and insert it into a cloth sack to be borne from the church for later burial in the family plot up in Indiana. In that moment, I thought, feeling that surprisingly heavy urn but also thinking of the man in full who was no longer on this earth — my! How is it that someone so grand in this life can be boiled down, to put it indelicately, to so little, materially speaking? I’ve had that thought often in this age when so many opt for cremation, including my late sister and brother-in-law — often for purely practical reasons. I guess it reminds us that we should make little of the passing material things in this life. But, then again, we must not neglect the material, either. Body and soul remain inextricable while we remain embodied souls. What we do to one, we do to the other. Therein lies a piece of rock-solid counter-cultural Roman Catholic Christian doctrine. I believe it.
But, enough of that!
Ernie’s funeral was — unavoidably, given that so much of his family and peers were long gone — a quiet, lightly attended rite at a small Catholic Church. We called down the angels for a man who, after moving to Florida from Louisville with wife Marian — a beautiful woman, by the way, who died of a heart-related ailment and whom Ernie survived by well over a decade — ultimately wound up living out his life within a ten mile box. First there was the Gulf-front condo, then ( after losing Marian) a townhouse he shared with daughter Kathy; then in an assistant living facility — along with Kathy who has some health struggles that made that arrangement ideal for both of them.
There was a small gathering of family and friends after the funeral at a place on McGregor Boulevard, a lengthy, well-known Fort Myers byway lined and overshadowed by Royal Palms that, if memory serves me accurately, are part of the lasting heritage of Thomas Edison in For Myers. The genius’s splendid winter residence is on McGregor and is a tourist destination.
So –this visit back to the city where my broadcast career began in the fall of 1979 was an opportunity for old memories inevitably to surface, most of them good. Or only bittersweet. People — phantoms — would begin to flock my mind with my memories of them.
One such memory grew out of the place where I stayed for the occasion — the four-story motel right at the entrance to the north side of the bridge from North Fort Myers over the Caloosahatchee River, which forms a very wide, harbor-like basin at that point. I was on the ground floor in view of the bridge with its incessant sound of traffic. I had a great view of the river.
Thinking back, I was a little lonely and somewhat culture-shocked when first moving to the busy subtropics and to a fast-growing metropolitan area (the fastest-growing census tract in the nation was Fort Myers and Lee County, Florida in 1979). I’d spent summers in California, spent fourteen months in Korea in the service, but had never permanently lived outside Boston before. I wound up dating a few woman, including one who, after I moved to Tampa, would visit me and eventually become the mother of my only son. She is a great woman and I am privileged to have been given the gift of staying in touch with her and not losing that tender association — with her, and with my son who will be forty in September. Her name is Renee. My son’s name is Barrett. Renee is married and has a daughter named Ashley as well as our son.
Meeting Renee in Fort Myers and going back there from Boston right after my son’s birth was most memorable. There was, for me, some guilt, some shame; some joy, too, that I only slowly registered. I think of that time when I drive past Morrill Memorial Hospital on Cleveland Boulevard (U.S. 41) in Fort Myers. This is where Barrett was born in September 17, 1981.
This , above all reasons, is a very good reason for me to keep visiting Fort Myers. (Barrett lives in Charleston , South Carolina now. Renee lives on John’s Island, South Carolina. I can’t say it ever made me happy to be having a son out of wedlock to a woman who cared for me but whom I could not see my way clear to marry. But she is happily married and a loving mother. Nonetheless, Fort Myers will be a place where I received the grace of God even as I selfishly resisted it. May I forever be grateful.
And I will wondeer what, in all instances, past and in the future to come, I would not marry — or let myself enter circumstances where that was possible. Was I hiding?
Ultimately, I mostly just had and only sought friendships in that time and place known as Fort Myers. I was lonely. I was, in a sense, immature, despite being over thirty. There were important friendships, male and female. I’ve made a point of staying in touch with my last roommate, a broadcast time salesman like two, and, for a time, all three of my brothers. He is a devout Christian and we share, joyously, talk of faith matters. I must call him again soon. He was so much younger than me — by ten years — when we moved in together. There were times, seeing my depression, which was little more than an occasional sour disposition and desire to be alone, that he worked to cheer me up. He was selfless. I was selfish.
Now he, too, is approaching retirement. He married a beautiful woman who was a director at WINK. I must reach out to him.
Some of my friendships, male or female, eventually ended when I moved; or when they moved away, sometimes before I left Fort Myers. There are many who I will not think to mention here — or cannot mention unless I intend to write far too much, which I’m doing already.
(Let me say, I never intended this riverside memory to turn into this endless river. But It’s bearing me back, like Fitzgerald’s Nick Carroway, ceaselessly, relentlessly, against the courant, into the past….what can I do but be swept along?
When I ultimately got my ultimate job in my hometown of Boston, a major TV market, I’d come back to Fort Myers visit and meet with a few people — my old colleagues on and off the air. Those visits eventually stopped. There were fewer and fewer people to visit. I’ve lost touch with many if not most of them. One, Kerry Sanders, actually started at WINK long after me — and went the farthest. He served an apprenticeship there and ultimately — speaking of ultimate jobs — became the Southeast correspondent for NBC news, appearing often on the nightly national news and now and then making appearances on major network shows such at The Today show. The first time I met Kerry, he picked my brain bare about how I’d made it to a major market. He made it to Tampa, then Miami, then NBC.
I guess I should have aspired to those heights, financial and professional. I didn’t. (Kerry was on Facebook today with a pensive picture of himself before going live and thinking about how he’s been thirty-two years with NBC. He’s much younger than me. He’s done well, and simply “wanted” it more than me. Maybe I should have “wanted” it, too. Too late now.
Congratulations, Kerry. I think my primary calling is as a writer. But I loved my broadcast career — every minute of it. And you are making the most of yours.
After my time at WINK (also, like my time in Korea, just fourteen months), I was off to a new job in Tampa (where I was Kerry Sander’s across-town colleague); that was for two years, then to Boston for four years. I didn’t leave voluntarily but made a soft landing in Providence as a noon anchor — until my contract was up, new owners came in — and I was replaced by a female blond.
Meanwhile, life had become painfully complicated for me. (I’ll say something odd here, given how I’m blathering on about the past with Proustian elan. I must say: I don’t want to talk about it, the complicated stuff. Not now. Not here. Maybe someday. )
But sitting on the little concrete patio outside the sliding doors of my motel room on the Caloosahatchee that evening, I was close to the crescent of river bank where I once spent time with a broadcast colleague named Nancy Dewer (then employed as a reporter at WBBH-TV, the NBC-affiliate in town). It might make you laugh, if you are considering the romantic possibilities of a boy and girl together by the riverside, when you hear what we were doing. As I watched and, when possible, helped, Nancy spent about an hour or more netting copious blue crabs from the river waters by a technique I, being essentially ignorant of crab-fishing, never knew of. It entailed the use of raw chicken necks attached to strings and staked out in the shallow river waters — and to my amazement, the crabs came flocking within reach of Nancy’s net in search of that bait. I did little more than watched, as it happened — as did a guy a little older than us (there was a time when there were more people older than younger than us). He was in Fort Myers for a job interview and was staying at the the very same riverfront motel where I was now staying — possibly — who knows? — in the same room, given that he’d taken a short walk and, out of curiosity, came upon us. (I don’t know why, remembering him now, that I get the sense this stranger may not have been planning on taking the job for which he’d interviewed, or was conflicted about the decision before him. So perhaps taking a little walk and joining a couple of younger folks fishing for blue crab on the river bank might have seemed a healthy mental diversion before he flew back to wherever he’d come from, anguishing over his choice. ( I suppose If he loved blue crab, this might have helped swing him toward a “yes” to his prospective employer. Doubtful, I suppose. Silly, actually. )
Nancy was a little taller than average, attractive but uninterested in me, as I was essentially uninterested in her, as a romantic partner. (Was that true? An unpleasant thing about my time in Fort Myers was that I was being a bit of the deplorable male-on-the-make. Were we, perhaps, sounding one another out just a little? Or, were we both just lonely, and on the conservative side. Nancy didn’t seem to have an abundance of friends, in or out of work. Nor did I, at that point. I knew sheattended an evangelical church. That would, happily for her sake, rule out a lot of morally dubious things. And she was intelligent, which, in the best of all worlds, rules out those same things.)
She lived in a four-or-five story high-rise near downtown and would invite me back to her apartment the following evening to dine on the crabs. (I can say that eating blue crabs seemed a mild exercise in masochism– cracking and pulling apart nearl sharp-as-glass shells, squeezing lemon onto already irritated and stinging fingertips and yielding precious little meat as the reward. I haven’t dined on blue crab since.)
After I left Fort Myers, I saw Nancy only one other time. These were the days well before cell phones but somehow I must have told her I’d be in Miami where she, either permanently or temporarily, had re-located. This may have been after I’d re-located to Tampa. She must have wanted to see me and have enjoyed my company during those few dates in Fort Myers. I don’t know why she was in Miami, nor, for that matter, do I recall where she came from originally; where she called home. I don’t think it was Florida.
I’d obviously given her the phone number of my friend who lived there in Miami, he being Ernie Gudridge’s son Pat. She called and I agreed to rendezvous immediately, before the night got too advanced, at the top-floor lounge of a hotel somewhere in that sprawling wilderness of motels and office parks out near Miami International Airport.
We shared a drink, we chatted — about what I forget. It soon became obvious that she was getting very drowsy in the wake of whatever professional or familial activity she’d been engaged in that day. She laughingly excused herself for almost dozing off at one point. At that less-than-auspicious juncture, we settled up with the waiter, left, said farewell — and I never again heard from her.
In fact, I’ve heard from very few people I’d known during those early Florida days of my career. That brief association with Nancy was not obviously the most important one I made in Fort Myers, considering, especially, that I’d have a child by Renee whom I met for the first time subsequent to meeting Nancy.
But as I sat looking out at the very nearby riverfront that night, it was that memory of Nancy crab-fishing that naturally came to mind, and seemed suddenly, after so many years, a very acute, perhaps transformative moment, because life in Fort Myers had finally become less lonely.
Nancy and I had also taken a trip to the beach down in Naples. So we were friends, however briefly. How sad, then, that I have no memory of what became of her. We were NOT destined to be “lovers” (that over-freighted word). But I think we meant to stay friends. We didn’t.
While I’m thinking about this — a confession: I almost didn’t want to move back here to the Sunshine State( for however long) for the precise reason that I wanted to leave intact the sense of place that made those early months of my fledgling television journalism career an inviolate, nostalgia-tainted memory book, tucked safely away in a mental closet, uncomplicated by any new pages.
I haven’t lost that feeling. I may move again.
But in Fort Myers, the good times — there were many — came to outweigh the bad. I’ve managed to soften or laugh at the memories of the “bad.” And, as I write, I realize I might have to think –and write — about some of those other memories, including one of a woman, the mutual friend of my roommate and his fiance, who I dated twice and who subsequently worked a number of years in New Orleans before moving back to Florida, long after I’d left the state, and who I’d learn, again years later, had died in her early thirties of cancer, leaving a husband and a small daughter who would be a grown woman now.
This lost soul’s name was Carol Kissel. She was a great person. We got close — too close — and one rainy night, had our only real date after spending time together at a party. I was a drinker, and drinking more. She aimed for a sane life. And true love. And Marriage. I wasns’t the guy. We both knew it.
And then, because — as noted — I liked to drink in those time (and, again, perhaps had begun doing so too much while also coming to like it less), there was a bar waitress who, seeing me on TV, called me at the television station, realizing I was the same guy she’d seen and chatted up a few times at a popular new pub where she worked and which I’d begun to frequent. She was attractive but was not, I’d say, quite my type. I see her with brown hair to the shoulders, Spandex pants. But I was flattered by the call, liked her looks, expected to see her at the pub again. I see her in my mind now, by herself, looking and seeing me on TV in my seersucker jacket, microphone, instead of drink in hand, although she might have had a drink in her hand. when she called. I don’t know. She sounded find, a pleased.
She had issued me a card — I still have it somewhere — that declared me a V.I.D. (okay to laugh here), which stood for Very Important Drinker and which, after about the fifth punch (i.e., drink), entitled me to a free drink. A gimmick, and now, a memory talisman tucked away somewhere — a reminder of those times of that false glow given off by alcohol.
I can still see her validating signature on the card. Her name was Connie Nelson and she came from up north. I’d learn, only weeks later (how, I forget) that she had committed suicide, shooting herself in the head. I called the police for information. A boyfriend had been questioned and foul play ruled out as a possibility. Powder burns on her temple were “consistent” with suicide, the police told me. Presumably there was other evidence. To this day, I don’t know. But I’ll sadly remember and pray for her now — and whenever I see that card, and her signature. I haven’t seen it in a while.
Back to last month again — there I was sitting, on that little nicely situated concrete patio on a sultry Southwest Florida June evening( flash forward four decades) within eighty yards of where Nancy (flash back) moved about, tall, thin, tanned, dark brown hair cropped below the ears. She was wearing a bikini — was making repeated forays into the river shallows, repeatedly returning with a large net laden, to my astonishment, with blue crab, depositing them in a Syrofoam container next to a separate container of chicken necks ( which, though memory does not serve me, she must have gotten from some butcher.) Our third party observer — from this very same motel — stayed and watched in admiration of Nancy’s crabbing prowess but was likely more preoccupied with the professional decision he faced as his wife waited for him back in the motel. (He left at some point. Then it was just Nancy and me again.)
That same area astride the bridge where all this happened has been developed. It was nothing but grass and mangrove and assorted bushes then. Now there is a park with picnic tables and benches and frequent visits by families on an expanse of neatly-trimmed and maintained bahia grass and there is a very solid railed wooden rampart leading out to a sheltered octagonal pier where a few people, morning and night, look out at the river at sunset or dawn or feed the birds or come with their rods and cast their lines and reel in what, on this night, looked to me like bass, as pelicans, seagulls, assorted other seabirds and ducks — mallards and muscovy –alight, fly off or, when fishing is going on, gather on land and on water waiting for handouts.
One is seldom alone in that spot now, as Nancy and I were alone that day. For a period in 2016, I owned a place just north of this little park in the Pine Lakes development off U.S. 41.(I wish I still owned it). I would, occassionally, during that summer, come down to that place with a cup of coffee and sit by the river –and, of course, think about the evening of the blue crabs as if it were an old movie playing out in front of me. (flashbacks, as I said, in a rather sad, faded-with-time color.)
On the evening last month, an Asian woman wearing a name tag — designating her, presumably, as a motel employee — and wearing a straw hat and a loose purple short sleeve top and gray capris was picking up liter with a pole and bucket along the concrete abutment bordering the river bank property of the motel with its restaurant and pool. ( I hope they pay her well.)
I watched her as a diversion for a good long while.
The Caloosahatchee is a brackish, tidal water body so far as I know as this point where it flows and mixes in its last mile or so with Gulf of Mexico waters. It was darkly silky and calm that evening as one looked across — over a considerable watery distance– to the edge of the downtown Fort Myers area with its five broad, expensive and, in all respects, huge riverfront high-rises that weren’t even dreamed of when I came to live and work in this once-much smaller town forty-two years ago. That’s the story of the 21st Century development of Florida far and wide and on both the Gulf and the Atlantic coasts. Many see it as an excessive and rapacious land grab. But it can’t be stopped — although much truly sensitive and otherwise undevelopable land is being preserved. Some would say, not enough.
At 7:20 p.m., it was still daylight, but dusk was coming on. The setting sun shone hard and bright orange on the otherwise low Fort Myers cityscape across the way. It would sink below the Gulf horizon, out of my view. The long, arching bridge out to Cape Coral was visible farther up the river, steadily full of traffic. In 1979, Cape Coral was an over-drained desolation of shaggy yellow grass and cracked and potholed streets and, canals and on many streets, devoid of houses. On others, it was sparsely marked by relatively newly-constructed houses. It was said if everyone who owned property in 1979 moved in, it would be the second most populous Florida city after Jacksonville. Its corporate developers had gone bust, if I recall.
But now, Cape Coral is a thriving populous city –and, indeed, gives any other Florida city a run for its money. It has made Fort Myers/Cape Coral one ever-expanding metropolitan area — and a much more sophisticated television market than it was when I arrived for work. (I watched a little of the local TV — just a little. Nothing great. It’s not really great anywhere anymore. )
(A final thing about Cape Coral: I visited a couple in 2016 who’d rented a luxurious house along a canal with a birdcage pool and boat dock. There was nothing like that in 1979 Yes, Cape Coral is quite a place now. It’s grown and changed. It has arrived. There’s still plenty of land; plenty of room for growth.
But…to speak of time….
Forty-two years since I’d worked in that area! Add that to my age and Nancy Dewer’s age when we were down there at the river’s edge. I was relatively old — thirty-two. Nancy, wherever she is, if still alive, was younger; still in her twenties. She’d be in her 60 or 70s now — like so many of us boomers.
I hope she isa live. I hope she’s married, a mother, a grandmother….teaching those children how to fish for blue crab. But, given her somewhat independent, Evangelical church-going nature, perhaps she has stayed single. Did she stay in television?
Wherever you are, Nancy, God bless you.
And Lord rest the soul of Ernie Gudridge, Carol Kissel and Connie Nelson.
And perhaps it’s time I visited Jim McLaughlin, an esteemed and retired WINK colleague, still living in the Fort Myers area. And I’m in touch with Pat Malloy, another WINK colleague, but only now and then. She’d be interested to know that Ernie Gudridge has died. She knew him. She lives in Fort Lauderdale. I alway hoped to date her; did so just once after she’d come out of a marriage.
There was a woman I dated who worked at a rival station. She was an anchor. Here name — a married name (she was divorced) was Deborah Nolan. She would marry a disc jockey and become Deborah Ferraro and work in Jacksonville — and then one day, as my contract was not being renewed in Providence, I learned that she would soon arrive as an anchor there. I did not get to meet her, just talk, one last time, on the phone. ( But I happened to know, though we spent some intense time together, that she did not, before that phone call, remember me from Adam.)
For my part, I don’t know where Chere Avery is. I last saw her at the retirement party for Jim McLaughlin. We dated, even though she was, secretly, eager to get back in the the life of a local state attorney whom she would ultimately marry. Divorce would follow. She was a local star and I allowed myself to get wrapped up in her. We went to Miami for New Year’s Eve ( I think, in retrospect, she was just trying to get out of town with someone and make her true love jealous. At any rate, I began the 1980s in the company of Chere Avery on Dixie Highway in Miami. (When we met again at Jim Mc’s party, she did not seem to remember me at all.)
And all of us knew Harry Horn who was, briefly, our news director, a WBBH air talent — and then died much later of cancer. Another face, gone.
I now realize that perhaps my most sustained Fort Myers friendship was with Kathy Phelan who was a bold, free-spirit, very much in love with a WBBH photographer. But we spent some good times together, even went to the movies together, just her and me.
Then there was Marla Weech who joined me at dinner with my cousin Jack Wayland and his wife in Naples. Marla was raven-haired and beautiful. She was starting her career as an anchor. Her boyfriend was in Jacksonville. I’d met him. So we were just hanging out together — and I did enjoy her company. In fact, one of the happiest nights of my life was when Kathy Phelan and her photographer boyfriend and Marla and I doubled up, borrowed (without permission — and that could have been a big problem) a news car from WINK — and went to a county fair, dancing and generally enjoying ourselves. Yes, that was one of the freest, most self-possessed nights — but I was probably drinking rather freely, too.
Kathy went off with her boyfriend to Salt Lake to work as a reporter, then to Houston, where the relationship fell apart when the boyfriend/ photographer moved on to Denver. The last I heard of her, she was a producer for a CBS national magazine show called West 57th, and she was living in New York — and then, somebody said, in Portland….I don’t know. I’d love to know, because we had fun together. When I talked with her on the phone in Houston, I got the sense she’d been crushed by the break-up. I think, thought seeming a wild, free-spirit, she wanted love and marriage. I hope she found it.
Mary Cicarelli was radio reporter for WINK, new when I was new to the station. What’s become of her? We arrived at the same time. She went back toward her home turf — Virginia, I believe. Gone.
Then there was Kathy Fountain, a WINK magazine show host. This felt like love; a real relationship. Happily, I’m, still in touch with her from those WINK days. She lives nearby in Tampa, happily married to Frank. Maybe I’ll see them again — if this pandemic ever abates. I had nothing to offer her that I knew other men could and would. And I knew my Catholicism was a mystery wrapped in an enigma for her – and it was nothing I could change.
She and Frank are in love and have a beautiful home. I guess I could have had something like that.
(One thing Marla Weech and I did was go see the movie Urban Cowboy, with its theme, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places.” Marla had, I understand, a traumatic break-up with her boyfriend (whom I met once), went off to become a long-time, well-known anchor in Orlando. I did a live shot from flood waters in Punta Gorda after my second (this is my third) return to Florida to work for Channel 10. I did a live shot for an Orlando station — and Marla was the anchor; surely saw me out there in the rain. the producer said he’d send her my greetings (he was a bit of a wise guy.)
But we never actually spoke, Marla and me. And — has she forgotten me, too?
I knew, to the extent that I knew myself (and that was an open question in those days) that my religion had come to define me and that, if I was looking for someone, that would be a factor in the search. But the search ended. Here I am, wherever “here” is.
There will be other visits to Fort Myers. Again, I will think of the people I’ve known and still know who I met there or who came out to see me wherever I was staying during a revisit after winding up in Boston. (Kerry Sanders actually organized a very nice WINK reunion once. Perhaps I should suggest he organize another one. He’s good at it.)
Boston and Channel 7 would not last for me– to my considerable sorrow (though I worked four years there and consider myself a a proud alumnus and attend reunions.)
I worked in Providence — two memorable, productive years and new friendships. I’ve attended one reunion there. I was noon anchor. But it was such a short tenure. Still, a welcomed time in my life.
After Providence came, as noted in this cross-woven narrative, Channel 10 and Tampa/ St. Petersburg again. Six more years of Tampa Bay area TV. Then came pay turmoil for everyone; management chicanery. I left, as did others.
After a stint — a fascinating one — doing radio in the hills of North Carolina (long story how I got there), and realizing how my career had gone in circles — I compled the circle back in Boston: freelance for a short while for Channel 4 , then a seventeen-year career, the best years of my working life, at necn — until there was a change of management and I and others felt the value in which we had been held slip away, even on the part of middle managers who had been our biggest boosters. Perhaps I’d become complacent — too certain, against all wisdom, that I would survive. But I was getting up in years, anyway. Street reporting isn’t forever. It felt like the end was upon me, finally.
But I wanted there never to be such a turn of event where people again attacked my confidence — especially so late in my career. I wanted to feel uncomplicated support and esteem to the end. It was there — sort of. Only sort of…..I was older, did long-form, thoughtful stories. But TV news was changing — desperately changing. Still is, as it competes with the internet. It’s an asymmetrical battle.
Is there, somehow, still a place on the air for me?
Or should I be nothing but a writer, in search of that elusive discipline and productivity, facing that unavoidable obscurity and diminished returns.
For my retirement, I got a cake and an Amazon Fire tablet and a box with the essential Otter Box rubber protective case. I think it was just a promotional copy that had landed in the station, nothing special. Come to find out, the cover was gone. The box empty. I’ve yet to use the tablet — in six years. I got no real money. I plugged in the tablet last night. Maybe I can get some use out of it.
There are some broadcast colleagues, along with Kerry (and some B.U. Com School graduates, too) whose careers thrived in a national way. Their ambition and determination and daring was greater than mine, apparently, and perhaps, but not necessarily, their talent — not that they were without talent — and, among reporters, their on-air skills that got better and better. Television takes hard nerves, ambition, talent – and practice. I’ve counseled many interns most of them female, all of them doing very well, all of them saying I taught them a great deal. That makes me happy.
The night and darkness slowly came on that June night last month after that day of the funeral. I went indoors through the sliding door to my motel room. I went on thinking about the past. I wanted to think like that Oxford, Mississippi genius-storyteller and quirky laureate and drinker of too much bourbon, William Faulkner who made much of memory and said, “the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past.”
A creative way to think about it, for sure.
I know the past was present to me that June night along the Caloosahatchee, in the bittersweet light of the death of a very old mentor who was more than ready to enter the next life and in light of a lingering memory of all my lost or still embraced friendships — called to mind in this summer of 2021 that does, like every day and every month now, seem to be passing into the endless universe of summers. There will come an end of summers, and all seasons.
Just what madeleine did I bite into that brought on this river of memories and sketchy , rambling recherche le temp perdu?
Whatever is was, night and darkness got deeper that night nearly a month ago in June. And it’s coming on now at 7:16 p.m., July 30, 2021.
Time to stop. Whoever will read this?
Pretend it’s a long note stuffed in a bottle — that you found on a river.