I cleaned out my desk this week and found some nice memorabilia. The items represent barely an iota of what I’ve gathered in nearly four decades in journalism and would mean little to anyone else. But the tidy-up came with a purpose.
Friday marked my final day as The Bee’s columnist, although my final column will appear on D-Day. Being The Bee’s columnist was the job I’ve held and loved for nearly half of my time at the paper, which began with a paid holiday – Independence Day – in 1988 and ended with another four-day holiday week (I like paid holidays). It never really seemed like a job. It was a way of life.
I took a voluntary retirement offer because it is time. I’m ready to see what new challenges await, or not. I’ve been fortunate to work with many incredible journalists. I’ve covered Super Bowls, World Series – sat in upper deck at Candlestick Park when the earthquake hit in 1989 – and title fights during my years in sports. After moving to news on Memorial Day 1996, I covered major stories including fires, floods and deadly rock slides, the Yosemite tourists murders in 1999, the Scott Peterson and Doug Porter murder cases.
I spent two months in Washington, D.C., in 1998 doing a poor impression of McClatchy reporter Michael Doyle while he was on a sabbatical, but my timing was great. The Clinton-Lewinsky scandal broke during my stint in our Capitol bureau. I spent a couple of years covering business somewhere in there, too.
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And I’ve had the privilege of holding three conversations each week with readers of The Bee and modbee.com.
Because there is no way to revisit nearly four decades in a single column, and because I promised Mike Dunbar – friend of 39 years and The Bee’s opinions page editor – that I wouldn’t go all maudlin on you here, I won’t try. Instead, these are some of the trinkets and treasures I packed up in a box and hauled home. They tell a story in bits and pieces:
A reporter’s notebook from the Evander Holyfield vs. George Foreman heavyweight title fight I covered at the Trump (yeah, him) Plaza in Atlantic City in 1991, and another from the Golden State Warriors when Chris Mullin was the team’s star player.
My old Rolodex loaded with phone numbers for everybody from Foreman, his brother and mother (no kidding) to former San Francisco Giants’ Manager Roger Craig to former University of Washington football coach Don James. I suspect most are no longer in service.
Old copies of The Bee that included my columns on the Doug Porter murder case and stories that led to the resignation of Stanislaus County CEO Reagan Wilson.
Buddy poppies, a Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action bracelet, an American flag and a medallion commemorating the opening of the Modesto Vet Center, all brought to me by veterans.
A 2006 Bee edition bearing a column I wrote after getting ripped to shreds in a letter by a reader who didn’t like my column photo, which is to say he didn’t like my looks, since I am like the guy in the column photo. A thick skin certainly helped in this business. Mike Plett, a Bee artist at the time, had some fun by giving my photo several alternative looks, including long hair, no hair, spiky hair, a van dyke beard and an Afro. The look he wasn’t able to finish in time for the edition? My face in Shrek’s head.
A photo that accompanied a 2004 column. It shows a “Stop” sign next to a “No Stopping at Any Time” sign at a corner near an elementary school no doubt full of conflicted kids somewhere in the county. I’d posted it next to a bumper sticker that reads, “Sarah Palin 2012: The World is Supposed to End, Anyway,” which was next to a “Vote for Kid Guitar” sticker.
A folder full of thank-you notes from schoolchildren from years of career-day presentations.
A small typewriter paperweight, a gift from my daughter to remind me of the olden, golden days of newspapers.
A desk fan. OK, so it’s not particularly nostalgic. But it sure certainly helped on days when the air conditioning faltered.
And finally, a coffee cup bearing the message, “A Bad Day Fishing Beats a Good Day Working.”
Thanks for reading. Thanks for the memories. My desk, for the first time in decades, is clean.