The American Press, through an offer extended by Roger Demary, gave me a chance to try to knock off the rust by writing an occasional blog for AmericanPress.com. Its initial description said it was about the games people play, whether in sports or not. The name, if memory serves, was From the Sideline. Later, it would become Scribbling Outside the Margins.
At first I wasn't sure what to write. Then a story introduced itself to me, and that was that. A young man walked up to me before a high school football game in Donaldsonville, where I arrived a couple of hours early for a freelance assignment.
"Radio Man," he said. I didn't know if that's what he was calling me or if that was his way of introducing himself. I had the tools of my trade with me, but in my mind none of it resembled radio equipment. That young taught me that the technology required for a radio broadcast is in the eye of the beholder.
His ink pen was his microphone as he sat next to me in the press box and did his one-man pregame show, loudly. As I recall, there were commercial breaks, although I didn't have the pleasure of hearing any of them. Magically, he knew when the spots were over and it was time to resume talking.
As I kept a play-by-play accounting of the game on the pages of my ledger, a system I learned many years earlier as a rookie sports writer for the American Press, he described the action for his listeners — me, the clock operator, the stadium announcer, the official in the press box, and anyone close enough to hear his calls.
He reminded me of "Radio," the movie inspired by the story of a man who attached himself to a high school football program, and he was not unlike people who can be found on the sidelines of many a football team across the country. He was looking to be a part of something, and he found it in a way that had meaning for him.
The story of "Radio Man" was my first post on the blog. I should have paced myself. It was probably the best thing I wrote in more than five years of trying to give you something to read. In fairness to myself, Radio Man was a tough act to follow.
There was a lot of silliness here. Seriousness too. Oh, and I probably wrote too much about my nephew, Gill Landry, and the successes he and his band mates in Old Crow Medicine Show have enjoyed over the years. I don't regret those proud-uncle posts, but I wish I had introduced you to my other nephews and my nieces. Their stories are all worth telling. In all likelihood, they probably appreciate being left out of the blog, as at times I'm sure I over-shared details about Gill.
When I became reunited with regular work and work weeks that exceeded 40, 50, 60 and sometimes 70 hours a week, the energy I was able to devote to the blog declined. But it was still fun when something would pop into my head and I could share it with you.
Now, the time is right to step away and move on to other challenges, perhaps allowing someone else to blog for you. As long as Jim Beam is doing his fantastic work for the site, any other blog here will have to settle for, at best, second-best, but I'm sure there is somebody out there who has stories to tell that will be worth your clicks and your time.
If that person moves from Louisiana to Oregon and decides to blog the drive with stories and photos — been there, done that. The posts are no longer accessible, but it was fun to keep you updated as I made my way to the Pacific Northwest.
One missed opportunity this year haunts me a bit. I realized I was days away from an anniversary of the first story I wrote for the American Press, and I wanted to acknowledge it. I nearly did, but after reading the story again via the electronic archives, I became less enthusiastic about the idea. For Pete's sake, don't call attention to it, I thought. Someone might find it and read it and see how lame it was, how formulaic, how amateurish. Better to let sleeping dogs lie. Better to let long-since-yellowed story clips embrown themselves quietly, out of sight and out of mind.
But it did give me the chance to remember the somewhat accidental way I stumbled into a career in newspapers and journalism. Bobby Dower took a chance on an unproven writer who wanted to be a reporter, and without that break perhaps I would still be moving in and out of ill-suited (for me) jobs, such as working at an auto parts store, or delivering supplies to oilfield businesses near the Gulf of Mexico.
It's a funny thing, really. My first two jobs were cleaning up and stocking shelves. While in high school, I worked after school for the custodian at St. Margaret Catholic School, which I'd attended. I helped him sweep and mop the floors, empty trash cans and do most of the things janitors do (I did not, for example, smoke a cigar after the work was done, as Mr. Claude did). I also worked at a Walgreens, stocking shelves and doing some cleaning there, too. I did that for years, extending into the first few years of college.
Now, I edit stories and place them on a website. I clean up grammatical errors, fix typos, and check for accuracy. As for the web version, when I click here, click there, assign to this, assign to that, it puts the stories in the right places on the site.
So, my career as a working man has come full circle. I am cleaning up and stocking shelves, again.
Thanks, Mr. Claude. Thanks, Bobby. Thanks, Roger. Everybody needs to start somewhere, and they all need someone to give them their first opportunity.
Thanks, Danny, for being a loyal reader and a more loyal friend than I deserve.
Thanks, anyone else who finds this, for reading. Many tips of the hat also to everyone who in one way or another was a part of making this possible for me. It's been fun, but it's time to move on.
Happy holidays. Enjoy the rest of 2013, and go into 2014 with positive energy and good thoughts. And to those who will get the reference: So long, and Thanks for All the Fish.
We now return you to your previously blank margins.
Carl Dubois, a former American Press reporter and assistant sports editor, is a journalist and editor now living and working near Portland, Ore.