The Backstroke

A swim club within the cradle of American Independence did the backstroke a few weeks ago, going back in time to when races were partitioned and swimming pools were segregated, just as Houston’s were in the 1950s.

Sixty-five children from a summer camp were turned away, asked to take their towels, their camp’s contract to use the Valley Swim Club pool and their black skin and get back on the bus.

The Valley Swim Club, it seems, failed to check the children’s skin color before issuing the membership contract to the summer camp.

As black children entered the water, white children were exiting, pulled out by their parents.  The parents then demanded that the swimming club staff make the camper kids leave. The staff did that, ordering the black children to get out of the pool.

The club cancelled the summer camp’s membership the next day, and told the camp its payment for membership would  be refunded.

The Valley Swim Club’s top official said that allowing the camp to have membership “would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.”

Color of Change, a nonprofit organization that is asking the Department of Justice to apply the law to this club under the 1981 provisions of the Civil Rights Act, has a petition people can sign to support their case.

In its petiton, Color of Change states: “We all know stories like this one — similar incidents play out quietly every day in different communities across the country. The difference in this case is that folks got caught and there was a contract in place that makes for a potentially illegal act. Standing up now isn’t just about making things right for these kids in Philadelphia or bringing consequences to this swim club. It’s about creating a climate of accountability everywhere.”

I signed it, and I am putting the web site here in case anyone else would like to join me:  http://www.colorofchange.org/swim/?id=2218-50059

I signed it in memory of two little boys in a big, otherwise empty pool, kids I almost swam with, but didn’t.

I was about  5 or 6, years old, excited to see that I would be one of the only children in MacGregor Park’s public swimming pool. There were only those two children in the entire pool that was usually so crowded that I’d hit five or six other children each time I tried out one of the swim stokes I’d recently learned in lessons at that pool.

But no sooner had I put on my plastic swimming cap and put a toe in the water than I heard my daddy’s booming voice, telling me to get out of the pool. He was standing on the other side of the fence — a position he and I would take metahorically on most every issue until his death.  On that day, I could tell that he was angry, because he used both of my names..   Still, I argued.  That beautiful expanse of blue-green water was just too enticing to ignore.

“Daddy, look!  There’s almost nobody here!” I remember yelling at his massive form through the metal-mesh fence.

“Betty Lou, you get out of there and get back in the car this minute,” he shouted. “You’re not swimming today.”

I didn’t know what I had done wrong, but I knew it must be something really bad.  I was embarrased in front of those little boys, about my age, who  had stopped splashing water and were now intently watching my father and me, their laughter gone..

They were among the first black children to integrate MacGregor Park’s pool, and they had that fabulous water playground all to themselves that day.

In the half-ceutury that followed, I sometimes wondered what they thought about it..

Fifty-five years after my last visit to the MacGregor Park pool, with the Civil Rights Act long part of American history and with a black man in the White House,, I still wonder what the 65 children turned away from the Valley Swim Club will think about the complexion of bigotry.

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Stardom does not fall lightly

It’s been a bleak week, still no job, IRS audit and now, Texas Workforce Commission has my unemployment checks on hold, asking me to call them at a special number where no one answers. (I know, because I’ve hit redial several thousand times today since 8 a.m. I know the sound of the busy signal better than the beat of my own heart. I think it’s B-flat).

So imagine my surprise when I took a break from redialing to give my poor numb finger a rest, and checked my e-mail to find that I am a blogging star!

While I may have only a modest 60-something visitors as my high point since March (apprently, a lot of ya’ll liked the vitriolic Piece of Cake and depair-driven Bulgaria or Jacksonville the best), one of those visitors is Jacob Peebles, the main man behind a web site for freelance writers, Get Freelance Journalistm Jobs, or http://www.getfreelancejournalismjob.com.

He quotes me on that site from when I started this blog in March aboutwhat I intended to do on it:

“My favorite blog right now — and the bane of my existence — is my new blog, Betty Martin, Writer. As planned, it is to have Our Town features about Houston, as well as things about writing and media, plus remedies for all of mankind’s problems, Betty Lou Saves the World.”

I couldn’t be more thrilled about being a Featured Blogger if the New York Times sent me roses. Well, not much more delighted,  anyway.

And all Jacob Peebles asked in return was that I post his web site address — somewhere on my page.

http://www.getfreelancejournalismjob.com/resources/betty-martin-writer-462.html

Hey, Mr. Peebles. does this work for you?

As for fame, I would like to thank all the little people in life who have made this possible, beginning with the dear Hearst Corporation and the Houston Chronicle, without whose layoffs the page “betty martin, writer” could never have happened, much less risen to such acclaim.

And of course, no awards speech would be complete without giving tribute to my mom — and God. My mom has always been steadfast in her love and hope for me. The Almighty, not so much.

But I thank you. Thank you all. You have shown, through your visits and kind comments that even a gal raised near Denver Harbor, then Telephone Road, then Reed Road, then getting expelled from colleges across the state, then in the Navy in Japan and Hawaii and Italy, then winning awards at newspapers and magazines across the United States until Hearst decides to cut 200 people last March, can make good.

God Bless America!

Ode to the CPA

When dinossaurs and I ran around Texas college campuses in granny dresses and fringed leather vests, searching for meaning behind the words of Vonnegut , Lennon and Dylan, my nightmare was that one day, I’d wake up to find myself in suburbia with the average 2.3 children,  member of a civic association and married to a certified public accountant.

Forty years later, 2009 happened.  The year’s horrible events so far have quickly put things into perspective.  I am now fully aware that being a middle-class American — even a calculator-pushing accountant —  isn’t the worst of all possible outcomes.  In fact, a former and current CPA, along with my supportive former coworkers, have been my lifelines as I continue my freelance work and search fof a real job.

Let us review: 

January:  2009 — or as I now call it, the Cursed Year from Hell –begins.

February:  I turned 60, an event that all by itself is proof of life’s injustices.

Mid-March:  My cat, Elmo, dies after 16 years as my foot-warmer and best feline friend, leaving me haunted and reaching down to pet thin air.   One week later, my wheelchair-bound mama gets an intestinal ailment and is rushed to the hospital, the first of three home-hospital-nursing home cycles. 

March 24:  “Black Tuesday”:  I ‘m called into an office and told that I am  laid off from the Houston Chronicle, along with 200 other loyal, dedicated, brilliant reporters, editors, clerks, pressmen and other jobs that enhanced the sixth largest newspaper in the U.S..  It isn’t our fault, the human resources counselor says, but  due to the economy, drops in circulation and advertising. 

April: Spent in shock and anger (see entry for March 24) except for a photographer friend and former CPA who sets up this blog for me and single-handedly forces me to start freelancing as a writer/reporter for hire.  My sisters, who worship at the alter of Martha Stewart, tell me now — at the very moment I have lost my job, income and identity —  that I am doomed to a failed life of chaos  as long as I remain a messy housekeeper. We part ways in a manner that a sit-down over vodka sodas, even with Joni Mitchell on the stereo, won’t fix.

May:   I continue to send out resumes and samples of my work — news and feature stories published under my byline — like little messages in bottles tossed onto the ocean, with as much result.   I also learn that journalism has changed to “citizen journalists” who write for peanuts from all over the world, even places where peanuts make up major banquets. 

June:   Just as I am thinking that life cannot possibly get any worse, I receive a letter from  IRS, informing me that I owe back taxes for the past three years.  It seems that I wasn’t supposed to use the E-Z form, the only one I know how to use, because it didn’t include spaces for me to declare the pittance–per-month royalties from a 1/36th interest in an oil and gas well (a bequest from a great-aunt who mistakenly thought she was spreading joy with this gift)

It was at this point that my photographer-former accountant friend suggested I find a current CPA, and so I discovered the world of Maximilano Jambrina on Westcott Avenue,.  I simply asked them to help me fill out the more-complex tax form — the 1040A, but instead, they made magic.

They re-submitted all three years of my taxes, actually itemizing things, a feat I had never accomplished in this lifetime so far..

In what has been the first damn good thing to happen so far this year, they told me that I don’t owe the IRS money, they now — as accountant Brandon-something figured — will be sending me a check for a hefty chunk of change, more than my freelance career has provided thus far.

I now love CPAs..  I wouldn’t mind waking up and finding out I was married to the entire team at that firm. Especially  Maximilano Jambrina, the most gorgeous CPA, with the sexiest accent in the entire world.  (He can make “Thank you for your business” sound like pillow talk).

Brandon also told me that if I did have to move to Bulgaria or somewhere where living is inexpensive,  there could be tax breaks ahead on my U.S. returns.

Isn’t that cute?

I never would have guessed that the one bright spot of 2009 — so far — would be brought by CPAs, a much more creative, imaginative bunch of folks — artists, even, with beautiful souls beneath those button-down shirts — than I would ever have guessed.

Love and peace to you, too,  guys!

Piece of Cake

This week, I’ve noticed that reality — the down side of being unemployed — is beginning to ooze through the veneer of my happy job-seeking world.

In my 14th or 15th week of being unemployed as of the Houston Chronicle’s massive layoffs in March AND with only one more month of unemployment compensation to go without a benefits extension AND with no job prospects in sight, I was still optimistic, mailing out my resume and news clippings packages to a world of hopeful prospects, when I got an interesting call from my career transition team counselor.

 This poor counselor is from the career transition company hired by the Chronicle’s parent company, Hearst Corporation, to help the estimated 200 people laid off from the Chronicle in March, many of us well over 45 years old.  They were to help us, the company’s downsized,  get jobs in this downsized economy, show us — even former reporters with 30-plus years of experience — how to do things like interview wth people and, most importantly, how to “network.”

 Networking is a major concern of career counselors these days. I took the advice, started this blog, signed up with Facebook, LinkedIn, JournalismJobs.com, and about 30 other job sites and social networks to at least be on the cutting edge of the job search as I face this depressed economy still in a state of depression.  I am well networked.

 The counselor was very upbeat, as usual, even perky.  She asked me how things were going, and she patiently listened to my littany of woes and horror stories from the job-search front.  Then she asked if I’d  come to the last day of the Hearst-sponsored training to say goodbye to her and to other team members, as well as other still-unemployed people in the group, while enjoying some refreshment, “a little party,” she said.”

 Just what are we celebrating? While I found it commendable that Hearst cared so much for its former employees, some with 10, 20 years of service or more, that it hired this company to come in with job tips to help us face prospective new employers and new advertures on the job horizons, I had to decline the counselor’s invitation. 

 I love party hats and noise makers and calorie-ladened cake as much as the next gal, but I just had to pass.

 Of the seven phases of grief, I’m still well locked into  shock and anger. I suspect Hearst is throwing the party for those who haven’t found jobs yet and the team that didn’t help me or anyone else I know find one for the same reason it spent the money to hire the career transition team in the first place — to mitigate its own guilt in firing — excuse me, laying off — so many of its most loyal, hard-working and talented employees.

I don’t want Hearst to lighten its guilt load that I suspect it doesn’t feel, but should.   I want that company to feel every bit of pain and gloom and despair and anxiety for its future that I do for mine.

 I told as much to the friendly counselor who obviously still sees the world as a glass half full.  She told me a couple of weeks ago that if I wasn’t getting any nibbles from prospective employers, perhaps it was time for me to “bring some money to bear in the situation.”

What money, I asked.  My source of money seemed to dry up along with my job.  I don’t have the big investment dollars that would help to set myself up in a new company.  I might as well send a resume to Buckingham Palace for the queen job.

What, excactly, are we supposed to be celebrating? The phones that don’t ring? The e-mails not received?  The employers who have shown no interest in hiring people well-versed in a dying industry? The ads on Google about how citizen journalists can make a fortune by writing key-word-ladened copy for less than 20 cents per article?

People were laid off from the Chronicle after Hearst spent the Houston Chronicle’s revenues in trying to prop up its flagging, sagging newspapers around the country, after the company paid lawyers for its legal battles over ownership of its Post Intelligencer, and after — and I’m not making this up — the study of window treatments for the multi-million makeover of the Hearst Building in New York that includes an executive gymnasium.

 I’m looking at having to sell my house before the bank gets the idea of repossessing it. I’m looking at a bank account that won’t cover bills I accrued when I thought my hard work would pay off in job security until I was able to retire. I’m looking at a family who suddenly acts as if I’m poison because they think this is my fault, that I must have done something wrong, even though the Chronicle human resources people  told me and others who were laid off that it was “just a matter of crunching the numbers, nothing personal, no reflection on your work.”

 Nothing personal.  It’s the economy, stupid.

 I wish someone would come up with a forumla that would prevent companies from laying off people near retirement age, and another law that would keep people from acting like hard-working people who suddenly lose their jobs are all rotten bums who are intent on picking their pockets. 

While we’re at it, maybe somebody would find a way to bail out the profession of  journalism and keep the news industry, well the “media moguls,” anyway, from succumbing to bad management practices that are helping, along with a fickle public, to drive the nails in its coffin..

Cake?   No, thank you, Hearst.

 Eat THIS.

Michael, Farrah and Ed

I was getting a prescription filled when I was startled by a comment from a fellow patient who, like me, was watching the news as it cut between Iran riots and images of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon on the lobby’s wall-mounted TV screen.

“Why are the people in Iran doing this now?” she asked, apparently to anyone within ear-shot. ” Don’t they know that we just lost three icons in this country?  They should have more respect.”

I told her I didn’t think the Iranians knew — or cared very much — about Michael, Farrah or Ed.  And the small number of their Iranian fans probably didn’t choose Iran’s post-election turmoil as a platform for their grief.

“Well, that’s why they’re foreigners,” she said.

I didn’t have an answer for that one.   Not in small part because I had not been a true fan of any of the three who died within a day of one another last week.  That’s why I was surprised  to discover that I will miss them, for completely different reasons.

As one who dances like a chicken in the throes of death, I believe Disco should only be played on telephone recordings and in the elevators and grocery stores of Hell, so I was never a fan of  Michael Jackson’s music.   I was offended by his cratch-grabbing dance moves, his falsetto-orgasmic vocals, his lies about his race-denying pigmentation changes and refusal to be “black,” and finally, for the child-molestation charges that had been lodged against him.

I was too jealous of Farrah, the Angel with the smile and hair that I could never achieve if I had all the money in the world, to be in her fan club..  I also thought — and still do — that”Charlie’s Angel’s”was sexist,  no-substance giggle TV at its worst, the blueprint for Baywatch, etc..

Ed McMahon, I thought,  never had a real job. He made and lost a fortune for a single line introducing late-night king Johnny Carson, and spent the rest of the time sitting in a chair beside the Great One, or later, promising to show up with a Publishing Clearning House check that never seemed to arrive on my doorstep.

As one who had always prefrred John Lennon’s music,  grippingly dramatic acting from people with Brisish accents and the comedic stylings of Monty Python or Sasha Baron Cohen, I was at a loss as to why I should miss any one of them, much less all three.  It  puzzled me. 

I guess that once you see a glimpse or two  of a famous personality and the talent that lies beneath the TV tabloid veneer, you can’t turn away once that person and their talent are abruptly gone.

For Michael Jackson, who died while awaiting the launch of a come-back tour the Thriller was reportedly thrilled about, the tragedy of his life, his no-childhood slavery to a back-breaking, no-real-school schedule created by his reputedly abusive father, ARE mitigating factors in his own lack of parenting skills (i.e., dangling a baby out an upper window).

I  did admire his ability to excite his fans and win 13 Grammys..  And, in truth,  I got all misty-eyed at his ballad sung to a rat in the movie, “Ben.” I also thought that it was also impressive that Fred Astaire called him the world’s greatest dancer. Fred should know.

What could he have achieved without the weirdness?

My jelousy of Farrah’s blond locks in the late 1970s evaporated when my Navy public affairs officer spotted her at a tennis tournament in 1980, “her hair all stringy, dirty and straggly.” But  I didn’t get a single strand of joy or satisfaction from her hair’s condition after her chemo treatments, which she faced bravely, even as she faced her inevitable demise from annul cancer with grace and courage.

In between Poster Farrah and her death, she also became a good actress in complex roles such as “The Burning Bed,” an important film about spouse abuse, and her multi-layered portrayal of a real-life woman who murdered and attempted to kill her children to make herself more attractive to her married boyfriend.  As far as the substance of the plots she chose, Farrah went from male heart-throb in lighter-than-air, bubble-headed scripts to  air bubbles straight to the heart. 

I understand Farrah was a tough little girl from Corpus Christi who walked to school, as she later told Ryan O’Neal, stepping on scorpions along the way.

What a tough,  kind, spirited and beautiful woman, inside as well as outside,  she turned out to be.

And Ed. No, he never showed up with a check at my house, but he did keep his Budweiser pool clean and was reputed to be a really good family man, at least a good grandpa.  Late in life, he proved to be as bad a financial manager as I am, but he got to keep his mansion because of a a few truly good friends who came to his rescue.  Anyone who can generate friends that will pay off your mega-million manse has to have something going for him.

On the Carson show, he did his job, which was to make the audience clamor to see the star and to laugh at Johnny’s jokes, even the frequent ones that lampooned McMahon. According to Larry King, he was the greatest second banana in the world.

If there’s any justice in Heaven — and, of course there must be, since it’s Heaven — Johnny Carson is intoducing Ed to St. Peter about now.

“Heeeeeeeere’s Ed,” he’ll say before he and McMahon go into a really good Carnac routine even Iranians could appreciate..

.

Jacksonville or Bulgaria?

Now in week 13 of unemployment during the Not-So-Great Recession, I can say with assurance that the idea of hiring this 60-year-old former reporter does not spark enthusiasm among the Houstonian elite doing the hiring.

As of last week, I decided to cast my net further afield. On Friday, I ventured as far as Jacksonville, Texas, in the heart of East Texas to see about the reporter opening at the town’s newspaper. I stopped for a great hamburger and milk shake in Madisonville on the way up. On the over-three-hour return trip, I moseyed into a tumbling-down joint known to have some of the best open-pit BBQ in the state.

In between, I re-discovered that small town newspapers must, by necessity, also think small when it comes to pay.  I learned that the job paid about the same salary as my first reporting job as a Journalist for the U.S. Navy.  In 1974.

My face must have registered my thoughts when I heard the figure; the editor didn’t bother making it an offer.

The rest of the town looked like it was either being boarded up or falling down, which made me sad, since my aunt, uncle and a few cousins still live there.  My dad, grandparents, great-grandparents and at least one great-great are all buried a stone’s throw down the road in Neches, an even smaller, blink-you-miss-it spot. 

Their graves all face the East so they’ll be facing the right direction on the Resurrection..  The morning my dad died, I remember that a cousin was pestering me about which way my mom had placed the grave marker stakes, in case my dad would rise on that Great Gettin’ Up Mornin’ facing the wrong way.  I told her that I didn’t know.

“But I do know that if my dad gets up and is facing away from all the beaming clouds and angels with trumpets, he had enough snap to damn well turn around,” I told her.

Half of my East Texas family– the Valley Baptists, not the Church of Christers — don’t speak to me to this day.

I decided to pay my graveside respects and drove past the old turn-of-the-century ghost town that “commercial” Neches once encompassed — about five narrow false-front storefronts that look like they came out of a TV Western, only without a saloon, of course. This is Bible country.

The town only has maybe 20 farmers who live off either of the former town’s two roads.  But although I’d been to my dad’s resting spot several times with my mom, I never did find the graveyard. Being the direction-challenged woman that I am, I managed to get lost in Neches.

Which brings me to Option 2 under the heading of My Future. If I continue to generate the excitement from prospective employers that my four to nine e-mails and snail-mail applications per week have elicited so far — read little to none — I’ve calculated that I will not be able to remain in my hometown of Houston. In a few months, according to my math skills, I’ll have to pack it in and go somewhere where the livin’ is cheaper, fish are jumpin’ and they’ve never seen cotton.

Bulgaria.

If I sell my condo and pay off the mortgage, I should have enough to buy a house and last a year and a half before early retirement kicks in at age 62 if I simply move to the Balkans.  I’ve gotten really red-eyed from staying up nights, looking at Bulgarian property on the Internet.  If you’re ever in Bulgaria, give a big Texas howdy to real estate agent Stanley Ivanov.  I’m not kidding.

Yep. I have located some beautiful homes in Bulgaria for $18,000 or less. Some look like mini-mansions, two stories amid orchards looking outward to majestic mountains or rolling hills. 

I was wondering why my daddy ever raised his family in Texas and not a domicille on the Danube until I started considering some drawbacks: 1)  I don’t speak a drop of Bulgarian, and 2) houses in that price range have no real indoor plumbing. Bulgarians seem to favor the outhouse approach, which my grandparents and other small dirt farmers did in Neches 30 years ago. 

I remember waking up in the night and getting my mom or dad, whoever would first acknowledge my pleas, to take me out along a moonless, country path past the barn to a small wooden shed with a crecent moon cut in the door and Sears & Roebuck catalog pages inside, just in case anyone should run out of toilet paper from the Jacksonville or Palestine Piggly-Wiggly stores.

Still, if labor is also inexpensive in Bulgaria, I might be able to have a toilet installed with enough money left over.

But drawback No. 3, I think, is the kicker:  If I fail to build that bathroom before winter, I will waking up, all sleepy  in the black of Bulgarian Nights out in the country, trying to naviage my direction-challenged self in the general direction of the outhouse — this time, in the snow.

I’ve recently started visiting sites listing distressed and tax-delinquent properties in Houston.

And I don’t feel a shred of guilt.

Why I’m not getting a job

Citizen journalism, a Google-spawned idea that everybody can do the job I’ve done during the past 35 years, is so very democratic. Just take a peek at my mail at internet jobsites for journalists looking for work:

“Talented writers for start up News website — Are you a good writer? Do topics like world events, business, cars, sports, entertainment, love, etc interest you? Ever wanted to voice your opinion on something you’re passionate about? If so, we have a great part time job for you!

“We are a small, start up website looking for talented, competent freelance writers to help us kick off. What we want to do is usher in a brand new era of journalism – citizen journalism. Articles that are written by the populace, by the people, on a vast variety of different topics pertinent to everyday life.

“Requirements: Be an active member of this news community, by publishing articles, and commenting on articles published.

“Qualifications: Able to create and write on poignant and creative topics. Unique writing style. Can write without error. No prior work experience needed.”

It’s that last bit — the qualifications — that gives me pause, or as a really Southern new journalist might say, gets my dander riled.

I went to school and learned libel laws, took every imaginable course for professional improvement and, as I mentioned, spent quite a few years at quite a few newspapers and magazines where I honed my skills.

At small newspapers, I was the reporter and also the photographer (including dark-room film and photo print processing), as well as the editor and the design/layout person), all for about $5.50 an hour in 1970’s-’80s dollars. I built a salary and a career, until the Houston Chronicle layoffs of March 24-25, and, yes, eventually I earned more.  But never, even in my best year, did I crack $50,000.

I was never sued, either, for being on the wrong side of a libel case or for getting the story so wrong that it prompted someone to take me to court — an important feat I’m not sure citizen journalists or their sponsors can appreciate just yet.

I’m guessing it will one day take the the court system to finally argue the legitimacy of the “citizen journalist” after they inadvertently and unknowingly libel someone.  It may be the courts that will decide if the citizen journalist or his/her sponsor site that is answerable for that mistake.

The people who went into real print journalism, and — by the way — pioneered the early online versions, didn’t do it for the money.  It was our job.  In some cases, an almost sacred duty to get the news out in a manner that was accurate and, yes, fair and balanced (before Fox News made those words a bad joke). 

The idea that the news had to also be entertaining came a lot later.

In my early years as a reporter, I traveled on my own dime or with some company mileage compensation, sometimes into territory most people wouldn’t enter on a bright, sunny day, to get the story, to cover or promote the event, to bring attention to a cause or individual or organization that deserved the credit or exposure.

Yes, we got paid enough money to live on, if we didn’t live too high on the hog.  We also got the reward of seeing our byline and, if we were good at this particular calling, in the knowledge we’d done a good job, that maybe we’d even helped somebody along the way.

Here’s the part I left out from that citizen-journalist job description:

“Compensation: $15 per article of at least 500 words long.”

And that posting on Elance represents the high end for the citizen journalist, who will doubtlessly have to hold down another day job and will only be a journalist as a lark or for pocket change. A side hobby.

Many of the sites offer substantially less than Elance. Examiner.com pays $10 per every 1,000 hits. Writers, copywriters and editors bidding for jobs on Helium and ODesk accept pennies, agreeing to do several hundred articles for less than a half-penny a word.

Of course, everything is more globalized and even experienced journalists on these sites are competing with people from Sri Lanka and other countries where people scramble over half a cent.

I just wish I’d known in 1974, when the U.S. Navy was at a loss as to where they could fit me in their Vietnam-era service, that this was going to happen.

Back then,  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had just cracked Watergate and had brought down a president, so being impressed with the power of the pen, I told the recruiter I wanted to be a journalist.

Had I known what my profession, vocation, great calling of my life would become — could I have foreseen that I would be thrown on my butt at age 60 during “downsizing” layoffs at legitimate but now-poor newspapers or have imagined the rise of the citizen journalist — I should have told them “Boatswain’s Mate.”