Thirteen free years

LibertyIt was 13 years ago today that I quit working for a living: December 19, 1999.

I was a cubicle guy, never had an office, never had a secretary, never was a big shot, but the money was pretty good, and that’s what I was interested in. Money for rent, food and booze.

You’re looking at a simple man.

I was a newspaper copy editor. I began in 1969 in New Orleans as a reporter, but I discovered pretty darn quick that I was not cut out for that. I requested a desk job after six months on the bloody street, and they gave it to me.

I never had to deal with the public again, thank God.

Three newspapers over 30 years: Actually, there were seven, but I do not count the brief months in Jacksonville and San Antonio. They were merely layovers, and never were included in my resumé. Nor do I include the months at the Houston Post. I quickly switched to the Houston Chronicle where I stayed 15 years.

And I count the two newspapers in New Orleans as one. They were jointly owned and they shared the same building and newsroom. My very first paper, the flashy New Orleans States-Item, went out of business in 1980. I worked there on two occasions, and once on the now barely surviving Times-Picayune.

Of course, there was the San Juan Star. I worked there two times. I really loved working in Puerto Rico, and likely would have stayed forever except for strikes called too frequently by the communist-led* labor union.

What does a copy editor do? Mostly, puts stories that reporters write into better English, plus writing headlines, doing page layouts, that kind of stuff. I could do all of it blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back, a natural talent.

And I’ve never taken a single course in journalism.

The Houston Chronicle would let you retire at 55 if you’d worked there for 15 years. I reached both points almost simultaneously. I waved goodbye and left.

I immediately gave away or sold 99 percent of my possessions, packed two suitcases a month later and moved far south. Never a moment of regret.

It amuses me that many people, mostly men, feel adrift in retirement, lose their sense of self. They lack imagination — not a problem I share.

Thirteen: My lucky number today.

* * * *

* Literally, partly explaining my antipathy toward unions and commies. I enjoyed a little vengeance when the wife of the party’s leader took her clothes off for me on more than one occasion. He never knew, but I did. Sweet.

28 thoughts on “Thirteen free years”

  1. A nice milestone. I hope I will still be around to do the same.

    I am fully in your boat on retirement. It is turning out to be the best part of my life. I almost feel like one of those Dickensian characters — at peace with the world and myself.


  2. Felicidades! I, too, enjoy being adrift after some 42 years of staying the course. I think that for too many the job becomes their life, very sad. I used to tell my co-workers and superiors that this job is not my life. I do it so I can have a life, and a good life it is down here in beautiful MX.


  3. I knew a young woman who died of a brain tumor. She dreaded Sundays because they were followed by the Monday rat-race. I view retirement as Sundays seven days a week to do as I wish without worrying about Mondays.


  4. Congrats on the milestone, amazing how fast time flies. Your past job reminded me of one of the first serious jobs I did. Remind me to tell you about my stint as a editor at a paper in Coos Bay.

    Enjoy your time, the most precious thing we have now.


  5. Sometimes it takes over half a lifetime to become mature and to reach peak production. I am renting another casa this month and it has several mature avocado trees in the backyard loaded with fruit. Free guacamole. Many things improve with age.


  6. Andres is correct, “many things improve with age.”

    Congratulations — I’m sure you also give a lot of credit for your happiness to your wife. A wonderful thing.


  7. Of course your jobless state of retirement is to be envied.

    “I could do all of it blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back, a natural talent. And I’ve never taken a single course in journalism.”

    I would also say you were prudent (or is it fortunate?) to choose a profession that tapped into your core talent.


    1. Ms. Mommy: The strange thing is that I did not really choose that profession. Like most everything in my life (before age 55, that is), I stumbled into it. At age 24, I found myself married and a father. (How did that happen?!) I had just graduated from a university with a totally useless degree in history.

      My father, who had been in the newspaper business by choice, convinced the managing editor of the New Orleans paper to take me on. I got taken on, and I stayed on and on and on. In the occupation, that is, not that specific newspaper, though I was there for a good spell.

      If I could start over, I would choose to be an archaeologist.


  8. It is going on five years for me since I last worked for a paycheck of a regular sort. I still take on projects but nothing that has steel or union work in the title. I come and go as I please. That is the best part of retirement.


      1. The potatoes we bought yesterday, fresh from the ground, needed time to cook.

        We are resting up a bit. Our trip into the back country for the Maya calender rollover ceremonies was hard on these two retired people.


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