Boy, did you guys luck out. I was just sitting down to write about my recent open heart surgery (more, but only a little, about that later) and about finally turning 65 and being on Medicare (nine days too late for the surgery).
But my prewriting ritual was disturbed by my old Boss calling to tell me the Times is closing its Dade City bureau. (I think correct corporate-speak is "consolidating" with another, but I am pretty sure the doors will be just as closed.)
Talk about having different parts of your heart tugged at in the same month.
I'm not beating up my former employers over their refusal to hang on to an arcane piece of administration just to satisfy my rheumy-eyed sentimentality.
The reality of business today, the newspaper business in particular, and technological advancements make closing the bureau a smart move.
Won't stop me from ruminating, though.
I worked in each of the five Times Dade City bureaus over the past 3½ decades. The first one, across from the old courthouse, only had one chair, requiring persons being interviewed to stand. That changed the day a prehearing strategy meeting was held there prior to my colleague, Lucy Morgan, getting sentenced to jail, and I had to go borrow chairs from the Tampa Tribune bureau next door so the president of the Times Publishing Co. could sit. Next day, I had chairs. Oy, did I have chairs.
Later we moved to a motel room on Seventh Street and stayed there about nine years until the police chief got in trouble for doing fire and safety inspections on businesses on that main drag of town. Some big money names were irritated with him, and it made for fine stories until I pointed out that we had newspapers stacked to the ceiling and had a computer modem, answering machine, police scanner, coffee pot and lamp all plugged in to one receptacle.
That took us to a joint across the street from the busiest bar in town and an interesting flow of homeless, mentally ill, intoxicated and sometimes (when the County Commission was in town) hostile people.
When the lyrics from a next-door game room got too obscene for us to conduct interviews, we moved a couple of blocks into the Centennial building, where Times executives were horrified to learn that they had put me one glass elevator ride away from a cocktail lounge.
Two good friends from that time, Bryanna Latoof and Suzie Hayes, died after courageous battles with breast cancer, and it wasn't long until we moved into the bureau that is now closing, the old City Hall.
But the truth is, space isn't needed any more for things like photo darkrooms. All of that stuff is accomplished with a cable and a computer. Reporters work more and more from laptops and don't need desks as much as they did. Ad sales people are also much more mobile than when they were tied to desktop telephones.
I will miss the small-bureau concept of journalism. That's how it is. Retired old geezers grouse about missing stuff that the new kids never saw.
The only real void I can see unfilled is one that may be a little more specific to me than others.
Where will reporters go for naps? You just can't sleep right with your feet propped up on a laptop.
On the heart stuff: I had surgery Jan. 22 at the Morgan Heart Center at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, a great facility where the staff really does have the team approach that other places talk about. I had one arterial bypass and I have a new aortic heart valve which (insert joke here) comes from a pig. My recovery is moving along.
That stuff they keep telling you is bad for your heart — is bad for your heart.
If you are good enough at denial to convince yourself that your chest pain is no big deal and you don't get the proper tests to make sure, they will most likely find your body sitting upright with a bottle of antacid in your fist.
And, finally, don't get me around truffles. I get very excited.
See you next month.
You can contact Jan Glidewell at email@example.com.