[cb_profit_poster Beer2]Clinton, S.C., Saturday, January 4, 2014, 2:25 p.m.
I almost missed it. Today marks the one-year anniversary of losing my job. It was a Friday. I drove to Gastonia on January 4 to be told my final day at the Gazette was … January 4.
To paraphrase Bluto in “Animal House”: “Sixteen and a half years of sports writing (at the Gazette) … down the drain!”
As I was driving up, I was already, oh, 80 percent certain that doom was impending. The day before, I had been summoned. I didn’t get summoned to Gastonia often. When I asked what it was about, the answer was, “I’m not allowed to say.”
I figured that there was a 10-percent chance I’d be told I had to cut back on NASCAR and write about things like bowling tournaments and a five-percent chance they’d tell me I was going to write about NASCAR for the whole chain (again, but it was relatively new chain), and, oh, yeah, a five-percent chance I was going to be arraigned on trumped-up plagiarism charges.
Maybe they found out I had never actually signed “the Loyalty Oath.”
At this point, recalling the fateful events of a year ago, my thoughts turn to the old Johnny Cash song “I Got Stripes”:
On a Monday / I was arrested (uh, huh) / On a Tuesday / They locked me in the jail (oh, boy) / On a Wednesday / My trial was attested / On a Thursday they said guilty and the judge’s gavel fell.
Or my own song, “Furlough Blues”:
They told me that I had to go on furlough / I said, man, you know, that don’t seem so bad / Ain’t that when sailors go on shore leave? / Chase women, get arrested, stuff like that …
Sometimes it seems as if my songs come back to haunt me. I wrote one called “I Got Cash Money (and I’m Workin’ Steady).” In fact, I have T-shirts printed with that message.
I’ve still got cash money. I’m still working steady (correctly, I think, it’s “steadily”), but the next goal is to get the cash money from the steady work. Things are getting better, but they’re not there yet.
Which reminds me of the comedian Tim Wilson’s punch line: “Honest, Officer, I been thinking, but I ain’t thunk.”
It’s been a year of me against the world now. I haven’t been inside a race track or on a plane. I’ve spent 1/10th as many nights in motels, and they were about half as nice. Instead of averaging about two NASCAR stories a day, it’s about two blogs a week. Instead of writing fiction on the side, I’m cranking some of it out almost every day. Altogether, I wrote more in the past year than any before it, but the content changed radically.
I love writing fiction. It’s challenging, fulfilling, inspiring.
The movie “Arthur”:
Arthur: “Girls are great. Taking a bath is great.”
Hobson: “Imagine a girl who bathes.”
The night before Christmas, I had visions of successful novels dancing in my head.
I don’t get up as early in the morning. I drink a great deal more coffee. I’ve lost about 30 pounds but none lately. I’ll get back to that soon, but I’m going to wait another week or so to make it clear it’s not a damned New Year’s Resolution.
Am I poorer? Yes. Am I happier? Yes.
If I can figure out how to make more money, I’ll probably be ecstatic, or it might just complicate things again.
The world has passed me by, or at least my old one did. Now I’m virtually unemployable – there’s a dossier in my desk attesting to this – and I’m just doing what most people do when they get older.
I’m a writer. A writer has to write. I do it every day and trust that somehow, some way, it’ll all work out.