It 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.